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Guest Host for Friday, May 24: Suzanne Palmieri May 22, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in paranormal, women's fiction.
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Suzanne Palmieri in #litchatIn Suzanne Palmieri’s charming debut, The Witch of Little Italy, young Eleanor Amore is called by “The Sight” to return home to her estranged family in the Bronx. Single, pregnant, and hurting, Eleanor feels drawn to the Amore women who recognize more than just a child growing within her. She has only been back once before when she was ten years old during a wonder-filled summer of sun-drenched beaches, laughter and cartwheels. But everyone remembers that summer except her. Eleanor can’t remember anything from before she left the house on her last day there. With her past now coming back to her in flashes, she becomes obsessed with recapturing those memories. The Witch of Little ItalyAided by her childhood sweetheart, she learns the secrets still haunting her magical family, secrets buried so deep they no longer know how they began. And, in the process, unlocks a mystery more than fifty years old—The Day the Amores Died—and reveals, once and for all, a truth that will either heal or shatter the Amore clan.

Suzanne Palmieri (AKA Suzanne Hayes) is an author, a teacher, and the mother of three. Her debut novel The Witch of Little Italy (Saint Martin’s/Griffin) is in stores now. It has sold internationally (publication dates in Italy and Brazil TBA.) Her co-authored novel, I’ll Be Seeing You (written as Suzanne Hayes with Loretta Nyhan) will be published by Mira books on May 28, 2013, and has also sold internationally. She lives by the ocean in Connecticut with her husband and three darling witches. Suzanne is represented by Anne Bohner of Pen and Ink Literary.

Follow Suzanne Palmieri on Twitter: @thelostwitch.

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Guest Host: Dana Sachs April 19, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in multi-cultural fiction, women's fiction.
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Guest host for Friday, April 19, 2013: Dana Sachs

Dana SachsWho wouldn’t want to drive across country in a classic Rolls Royce? In Dana Sach‘s aesthetic novel, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace,  Anna, a young widow still grieving the leukemia death of her husband and her feisty octogenarian grandmother, Goldie, do just that.

Comfortable in her widow’s weeds, Goldie can’t understand why Anna is still reeling from the harsh, drawn-out death of her husband two years before. However much she wants to move on, Anna has armored herself with undesirability and unworthiness—two attributes for which Goldie has no sympathy. When Goldie recruits—practically demands—Anna to drive her from New York to San Francisco to return a portfolio of rare Japanese prints to a friend sent to the Manzanar Concentration Camp during World War II, a fascinating tale of two widows of different eras unravels across the miles. The Secret of the Nightingale PalaceSachs deftly examines multi-cultural issues in romance, politics, and life.

Just when you think the book is going one place, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace turns a corner and goes an unexpected direction for an ending both unexpected and delightful for both of the women.

Sachs began her writing career as a journalist, publishing articles, essays, and reviews in, among other publications, National GeographicMother JonesTravel and Leisure Family, and The Boston Globe. Her first book, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (2000) was chosen as an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Pick (the precursor of the Indiebound Next List). Her first novel, If You Lived Here (2007) was also a Book Sense Pick and was chosen for inclusion in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program. Her nonfiction narrative The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam (2010) resulted from a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship in Vietnam. She is the co-author, with Nguyen Nguyet Cam and Bui Hoai Mai, of Two Cakes Fit for a King: Folktales from Vietnam (2003) and co-translator of numerous Vietnamese short stories into English. With her sister, filmmaker Lynne Sachs, she made the documentary about postwar Vietnam, “Which Way is East.”

Follow Dana Sachs on Twitter: @DanaSachs.

Mind Your Elders February 20, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in women's fiction.
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Lynda Rutledge in #litchatIn Rachel Joyce’s recent bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, we meet an elderly man who impulsively sets out on a walk across England. Although Harold’s journey provides present situational tension, it’s his backstory that reveals the true nature of Harold Fry and the circumstances leading to his 500-mile walk. Novels which feature protagonists of a certain age almost always place them in situations where the character must reveal something of the past to prop up the present story arc. Outside of the mystery genre—particularly cozy mysteries—there few novels whose protagonists are elderly characters living out a present crisis (other than dementia, cancer and other health issues). On Wednesday, February 20, we’ll discuss these questions and others in our topic “Mind Your Elders.” Friday’s guest host, Lynda Rutledge, joins us to talk about her debut novel, Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale.

Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage SaleFaith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale isn’t one of the few novels whose elderly protagonist has a vivid life in the present. Instead, we’re drawn into the world of a tormented matriarch whose dementia tells the backstory leading to the decay of a privileged Texas banking family.  On the last day of the old millennium, Faith Bass Darling gets a message from God to rid herself of the possessions she valued more than her family so she can die unencumbered before the clock strikes midnight. Although she’s never before had a garage sale, she hauls all of her precious antiques onto her once-manicured lawn and props up a hand-painted sign. Soon everyone in town wants a piece of the old Bass/Darling mansion, and at the prices Faith is asking, nothing is out of their price range. By the time Faith’s estranged daughter, Claudia, shows up to reason with her mother, Faith is so lost in her delusion she doesn’t even believe Claudia is real. Throw in an exorcism by an Episcopal priest, a tender reconciliation between mother and daughter, and a giant explosion at millennium midnight for a rollicking end to Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale.

Interwoven within the story are selected histories of the embittered old woman’s valuable antiques as touchstones to the backstory. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale provides a charming morality tale about putting people before pride and possessions.

A fifth generation Texan, Lynda Rutledge has hopped across literary and geographic boundaries in her writing career. She’s been a freelance journalist, travel writer, ghostwriter, restaurant and film reviewer, copywriter, college professor, book collaborator, and nonfiction author while living/​writing/​studying in Chicago, San Diego, New Orleans, Madrid, and lots of other heres and theres around the globe. As a freelance journalist, she’s petted baby rhinos, snorkeled with endangered sea turtles, hang-glided off a small Swiss mountain, dodged hurricanes, and interviewed the famous and not-so-famous to write dozens of articles for national and international magazines, newspapers and travel guides, her travel photographs often appearing with her work. She’s also crafted collaborative book-length nonfiction with people from all walks of life as well as a list of special charities and organizations such as the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.

Her creative writing, though, has always been the love of her writing life and the stuff of her literary dreams. She holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and has won awards and residencies from the Illinois Arts Council, Writers League of Texas, Ragdale Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers as well as juried attendance to Sewanee Writers Conference among others. Currently, she is behaving herself in front of her computer screen in the hill country outside Austin.

Follow Lynda Rutledge on Twitter: @LyndaRutledge.

Books Too Good To Finish December 17, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in historical fiction, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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MediaMonday for December 17, 2012: Michael Chabon Looks Back on 2012, source media from LA Times Sunday Conversation, December 16, 2012.

Patricia Harman in #litchat

Patricia Harman (photo: Bob Kosturko)

What was the last novel you read that you couldn’t put down, and yet dreaded the final page? A novel that occupied your mind like an addict jonesing for a fix? Was it the characters who grew to feel like friends, or did the setting draw you into a world of discovery, danger or desire? On Wednesday, December 19, 2012 we’ll discuss books too good to finish, but so good you can’t stop reading.

Friday’s guest host, Patricia Hartman, has written one of these books. The Midwife of Hope River, takes you into the hills of West Virginia during the depression, where a young midwife still reeling from her own personal tragedies, must overcome poverty, bigotry, racism, and the law itself on her journey to wholeness.

MidwifeofHopeRiverBabies are born in this novel, yet the story is about so much more than midwifery. Look at the setting, Appalachia during the Depression. Hartman forges conflicts such as steel mills, mines and the development of unions into the backstory and the present. Remember the era, 1930s, where divisions cut through all manners of society, from the rich to the poor, the immigrants and the native born, the whites and the coloreds.

Hartman deftly casts birth and death as the twin fires that refine people no matter their walk of life. Add historical elements such as the terrorist activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the work of the firebrand Mary Harris “Mother” Jones at unionizing labor, and even references to the anarchist revolutionary Emma Goldman.

Patricia Harman has spent more than 30 years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center. Harman still lives and works with her husband, Ob/Gyn Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia at their clinic, Partners in Women’s Health Care. Though she no longer attends births, she provides care for women in early pregnancy and through-out the life span. She brings to her writing the same dedication and compassion she brought to obstetrics. Her two previous nonfiction books, Arms Wide Open and The Blue Cotton Gown, both of them detailing her experiences in childbirth and delivery.

Follow Patricia Harman on Twitter: @PatsyHarman.

Powerless Women in Fiction November 5, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, MediaMonday, multi-cultural fiction, women's fiction.
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MediaMonday for November 5, 2012: Should Authors Write Consumer Book Reviews? Source media by Carolyn Kellogg from November 2, 2012 Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy, Why is Amazon Deleting Writers Reviews of Other Author’s Books?

Roberta Gately in #litchatSome women’s lives read like fiction. Open a newspaper and stories of abuse, neglect, poverty, and a myriad of other devices rob women of voice and power in cruel and inhumane ways. On Wednesday in #litchat, Robyn McIntyre will lead discussion on how abused, displaced and/or powerless women feature in fiction. Friday’s guest host, Roberta Gately, will continue the topic with discussion of her new novel, The Bracelet.

While training in Geneva for her new position with a UN-sponsored program in Pakistan, Abby Monroe witnesses the death of an exotic young woman. The image and mystery of the death follows her to Peshawar, where she works amid danger and despair at a UNICEF clinic monitoring childhood immunizations. Sparks fly when Abby, fresh from a recent break-up, meets arrogant New York Times reporter Nick Sinclair. A caring person, Abby is swept into a human trafficking ring where women and children are enslaved and UN moguls double-play both sides for profit and power. The death Abby witnesses in Geneva becomes a chilling coincidence when she strings the details together and must flee for her life.

A nurse, humanitarian aid worker, and writer, Roberta Gately has served in third-world war zones ranging from Africa to Afghanistan. Her first novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan, imagines another nurse in a war-torn country, this time post-9/11 Afghanistan. Gately has written on the subject of refugees for the Journal of Emergency Nursing and the BBC World News Online.  She speaks regularly on the plight of the world’s refugees and displaced.

Follow Roberta Gately on Twitter: @RobertaGately.

Secrets, Lies and Love July 16, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, women's fiction.
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MediaMonday for July 16, 2012: A View from the Critics Seat, by New York Times opinion editor Arthur S. Brisbane, July 14, 2012.

Nichole Bernier in #litchatA good novel is like a nautilus shell. It appears to be one thing from the outside, smooth, luminous, alluring, but inside its hard shell are chambers of characters, situations, and secrets that flow from the fantastic to the finite. On Wednesday we’ll discuss novels that examine friendships or other relationships that are cloaked in deceit or masked by secrecy. Then on Friday, July 20, Nichole Bernier joins us to discuss her debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

How much do you want to know your friends? Really know them—their secrets, failures, personal prejudices? Would you really want to know what they think of your mutual friends, your children, your husband? You? Bernier’s novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, takes readers into the private live of Elizabeth D through journals she bequeaths to her best friend Kate after she is killed in a plane crash. Elizabeth asks Kate to read the journals and then decide what to do with them. Inside the journals that go back dozens of years, Kate discovers an Elizabeth quite different than the friend with whom she’d shared her intimate thoughts, a woman with secrets as fresh as where she was going and with whom she was meeting the day her plane crashed. Confronted by Elizabeth’s pointed observations of herself, Kate reads and recoils through the pages, taking to heart what is true and sloughing off what isn’t.

Nichole has written for magazines including Elle,SelfHealthMen’s JournalChild and Yankee. A 14-year contributing editor to Conde Nast Traveler magazine, she was previously on staff as a features writer, golf and ski editor and television spokesperson. After she married and moved to Boston, she joined Boston Magazine as a senior editor, where she supervised restaurant reviews, the annual Best of Boston feature, and wrote an investigative piece about environmental toxins in the suburbs that won the magazine a City and Regional Magazine Award. She is one of the founders of the literary blog Beyond the Margins, which features daily essays on the craft and business of publishing, and received her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, where she received the 1993 award for literary journalism. She is at work on her second novel, and lives outside of Boston with her husband and five children.

Follow Nichole Bernier on Twitter: @NicholeBernier.

Celebrating the Contributions of African-American Authors February 13, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, bestsellers, multi-cultural fiction, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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Truth in Memoir is today’s Media Monday discussion from this Associated Press piece on NPR’s site. Greg Mortenson is asking judge to overturn the civil lawsuit claiming he fabricated events in his bestselling memoir, Three Cups of Tea, saying other authors could be subjected to similar claims and the result would be a stifling of the free exchange of ideas.

Jacqueline E. Luckett, photo by Ashley SummerFebruary is Black History Month in America. Those who don’t study American literature rarely discover the poetry of the slave Phyllis Wheatley that predates the American Revolution. While they may have heard of Frederick Douglas, the average reader is unaware of the thousands of written slave narratives that give voices to the individuals trapped in that era. Booker T. Washington and  W. E. B. Du Bois wrote widely of the post-Civil-war black experience, influencing many of those who would later contribute to the brilliant arts, music and literature movement of the 1920s-40s that became the Harlem Renaissance. One can’t speak about African-American literature without recognizing Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou, some of which have passed and others are still contributing. This week in #litchat we’re celebrating the many contributions of Aftrican-American authors, both past and present, to the literary canon.

We are delighted to have author Jacqueline E. Luckett join us as guest host on Friday, February 17. Luckett’s new novel, Passing Love, features the best of this week’s celebration of African-American literature. In Passing Love, two heroines pass through two timelines and two continents to come together for a bittersweet finish. The novel opens in contemporary California, with Nicole-Marie as primary caretaker to her embittered mother and Alzheimer’s stricken father. Still numb from her divorce several years ago, yet wrapped in guilt as the other woman to a married lover, Nicole-Marie is galvanized to take back her life after her best friend dies from cancer. Drop back sixty years to World War II-era Mississippi, when 16-year-old RubyMae, the wild and beautiful daughter of straight-laced parents, meets devilishly handsome sax player Arnett Dupree. Take both heroines across the Atlantic to Paris, where each of these determined women forge new lives that hardens one and softens the other, then combines them both through a shared history.

In between the lines of Passing Love, Luckett examines the treatment of blacks in Jim Crow America, with sensitive illumination of how black soldiers were segregated and undervalued by the American military during World War II and scoffed at by white America when they returned home, yet hailed as heroes—and rightly so—in post-war Europe. She deftly portrays the complexities of the African-American individual, in this case RubyMae, whose complexion, features and hair provide opportunity to “pass” as white. Within this miasma, Luckett recreates post-war Paris, with its jazz-age nightclubs, cafes, intrigues and challenges, contrasting the ordinary freedom available to blacks in Europe, against the racial prejudice and suffocating restrictions of America. The title, Passing Love, is drawn from a poem by Langston Hughes, to whom Nicole-Marie refers often, poetry being a link between her and her aging father. While RubyMae is seen from her teenage years, the bulk of her story occurs in her twenties, yet Nicole-Marie’s maturity as a woman of a certain age—she’s 57—is ballast to maintain the balance of this elegant novel.

Jacqueline E. Luckett’s first novel, Searching for Tina Turner, put her on the list of writers to watch. A lifelong storyteller, Luckett spent most of her professional life in corporate America. In 1999, she took a creative writing class on a dare, from herself, and happily found her love of writing reignited. By a lucky coincidence, that same year she discovered the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops and participated over the next four years in workshops with Christina Garcia, Danzy Senna, Junot Diaz, Ruth Forman and Terry McMillan. VONA provided a safe haven for a new writer still unsure of abilities, yet eager to learn. Luckett attributes much of her growth as a writer to the VONA workshops. In 2004, Luckett formed the Finish Party (featured in O Magazine, October 2007) along with seven other women writers–of–color. An avid reader and lover of books, Luckett is an excellent cook, aspiring photographer, and world traveler. She lives in Northern California and, though she loves all of the friends there, she takes frequent breaks to fly off to foreign destinations.

Follow Jacqueline E. Luckett on Twitter: @JackieLuckett.

Photo of Jacqueline E. Luckett (above): Ashley Summer.

Three’s A Crowd October 31, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, women's fiction.
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Gwendolen GrossIt begins in grade school, the adage “two’s company, three’s a crowd.” The refrain follows through adolescent rivalry for best friends, into the dating arenas of high school and college, and even into the competitive cubicles and offices of the professional world. It’s a common and fertile theme for artistic exploration, the canon of literature abounding with examples. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss books which feature themes leading to “three’s a crowd.”

This Friday’s guest host in #litchat, Gwendolen Gross, has explored this theme from a fresh and intriguing angle. Her latest novel, The Orphan Sister, is the story of triplet daughters born to a mercurial father and Stepford-like mother. Two of the twins are identical, leaving the odd one out to narrate what it’s like being the third wheel in a perfectly balanced family of pairs. The identicals, Olivia and Odette, given the O names after their polished and perfect mother Octavia, share the secret language of twins and are such mirror images they each follow their father into medicine, one becomes an ob-gyn, the other a pediatrician. They marry at the right time, to the right men, become pregnant within weeks of each other, and give birth to perfect babies. Clementine, the singleton within the triplets, shares a low-voltage intuition with her womb-mates, yet is conflicted with cravings for the intimacy of twinness and the individuality of marching to her own tune.

When the triplets’ father goes missing, leaving only the number of a lawyer behind, the story reveals another thread of odd-man out that threatens to unravel the tight-knit family. Layered between the triplet’s ongoing anxiety over their father’s disappearance, is Clementine’s internal struggle with self-confidence, rivalry with her sisters, hunger for approval from her father, the death of her first true love and why she has problems with love and commitment.

Gwendolen Gross grew up in Newton, Mass. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied science writing and voice performance. She spent a semester in Australia with a field studies program, studying spectacled fruit bats in the rainforest remnants of Northern Queensland. After college, she moved to San Francisco, then San Diego, and worked in publishing, as well as performing with the San Diego Opera Chorus. Through the San Diego Writing Center, she was selected for the PEN West Emerging Writers Program.  Gross received an M.F.A. in fiction and poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have been published in dozens of literary magazines, and won the 1999 Adrienne Lee Award.

Her first novel, Field Guide, was issued by Henry Holt in April 2001 (Harvest paperback 2002), and her second, Getting Out, in spring 2002. These two women’s adventure fiction novels received critical acclaim. She then shifted her focus to the dramas of motherhood. with her third novel, The Other Mother (Random House, 2007).

An award-winning writing instructor, Gross has led workshops at Sarah Lawrence College and the UCLA Extension online. Gross has worked as a snake and kinkajou demonstrator, naturalist, opera singer, editor, and mom. She lives in northern New Jersey with her family.

Therapeutic Literature October 17, 2011

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Deanna RoyTherapists have long prescribed writing as a means of understanding and eventually overcoming personal crises. Roman a clef novels, those novelographies that mask real life events through fictional characters and settings, sometimes arise from an author’s need to understand the feelings that events provoke. Some therapeutic writing in journals, have evolved into published memoirs of great respect. This week in #litchat we’re going to discuss the value, methods and benefits of reading and writing through difficult times.

Baby Dust, a novel by Deanna RoyFriday’s guest host, Deanna Roy, understands the value of therapeutic literature, both as a reader and a writer. After suffering her first miscarriage, Roy began a website, www.pregnancyloss.info, to connect with other women who share this bewildering experience. Miscarriage and other types of fetal death are topics most people are uncomfortable talking about, often because of the misunderstood value of the unborn. Women who experience miscarriages often return to work only days afterwards with barely a nod or note of concern for their loss. Drawing from the stories of thousands of women, Roy set out to write a novel that would lift the cloaking taboo from miscarriage. Her novel, Baby Dust, throws five women in different stages of life, culture, and economic conditions, into a pregnancy loss support group where they share, uplift and counsel one another through more than just the loss of a baby. While her characters may seem melodramatic in their reactions to their losses, many women who have endured a failed pregnancy—and the men who stood beside them—will see something of their own experience in Baby Dust.

Watch the Baby Dust trailer here.

Deanna Roy’s stories have appeared in several literary magazines, including 34th Parallel,Farfelu, and The First Line. Her writing credits are lengthy due to her background in journalism and freelance, but one of her favorite articles is a humorous piece about skydiving, published by The Writer in March 2009. She’s been a waitress, a free-sample girl, backstage security for a concert venue (please don’t ask about the time she threw R.E.M. off the elevator and made them late to their own concert) , a high school teacher, an editor for a publishing company, and now, a professional photographer and instructor at the University of Texas.

Follow Deanna Roy on Twitter: @DeannaRoy

Truth Deferred July 18, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in weekly topics, women's fiction.
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Kristina Riggle (photo by John H. Riggle)

Withholding information that would change someone’s perception of a person, place or thing; hiding one’s actions to protect or mislead; couching words away from the facts. It’s not lying, but it can be as painful, destructive, or damaging as a bold faced lie. Consider some of the world’s best-known literary classics: Hamlet; Anna Karenina, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice; Jane Eyre and it’s mirroring Wide Saragasso Sea. Where would these stories be without the great mask that hides the truth? There would be plenty of words, perhaps, but the story would be nothing but letters on the page. This week in #litchat we are discussing novels where truth is deferred.

Returning to #litchat this Friday, June 22, is Kristina Riggle, whose latest novel, Things We Didn’t Say, is a study on family and foes, with a knot of deception, repression, and good old substance abuse. The morning Casey decides to leave her fiance and move out of the house she shares with him and his three children becomes the day the middle child, 14-year-old Dylan, goes missing. The family drama becomes a crucible when ex-wife Mallory encamps at the family home to share in the mystery and stir the misery. Layered between the two women is repressed Michael, the fiance and the ex-husband, whose compass is true to his kids at the expense of his own needs. Casey’s past infects the present when the truth she’d meant to reveal all along erupts in a shameful showdown before all eyes in the family.

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. Her second novel, The Life You’ve Imagined, was honored by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” book. Riggle has published short stories in the Cimarron ReviewLiterary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere, and she works as co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter before turning her attention to creative writing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.

Follow Kristina Riggle on Twitter: @KrisRiggle.