Judy Mollen Walters is the author of seven novels about strong women struggling to help their families and themselves. Her latest book, The In-Between Place, was released on March 19, and can be found on Amazon. In her spare time, Judy likes to spend time with her family, bake, and read. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and pet rabbit.
I still remember my father coming into the classroom. It was around noon on an ordinary Saturday, and I had been in the rec center at a Creative Writing class for about an hour. I’d been going there for a few weeks and I liked so much about it. The teacher was nice and all the kids just wanted to write stories, like me. I was nine years old.
The teacher pulled my father aside, but I overheard anyway. “I asked the kids to write a story making an inanimate object become animate,” she said, “and most of them chose the usual things. Your daughter, though, she chose to use George Washington’s wig. She has real talent.”
I don’t recall how my father responded or if he responded at all. I just remember feeling very proud. I was in fourth grade then, and had realized I would never, ever be good at math or science and was sort of average in most other subjects. But this writing thing – this I could do.
Growing up, I didn’t have allusions of a career as a novelist. I knew what I had been told – you can’t make a living as a novelist. So, for a while, as a teenager, I thought I would be a photojournalist for Life magazine. Of course, I didn’t have the photography skills, nor was I interested in learning them. When I left high school, I went into college a student with no major and no idea what I wanted to do.
After a semester in college, I declared English as my major. I loved to read and write. I discovered, through an internship, that I could have a role in publishing. I could put together other people’s books. I could meet authors. I could work at some of the best publishing houses in the country.
After college I got a job in real publishing. Through several stints as an editor and then as a Managing Editor for various small publishing companies, I realized, with great dismay, that the business of publishing was not for me. By then I was the mother of a three-year-old with another on the way. My husband and I discussed it and hoped that if we were really careful with money, I could be a Stay-at-Home Mom for a while, which I wound up doing for nineteen years, until my kids left home.
Writing never left me, though. When my girls were in school, sometimes I would write. I was the one who wrote and edited the PTO newsletter. I always had an idea for a story in my head.
Without noticing, I wrote a novel. It was so bad. I laugh now at how bad it was. At the time, of course, I thought it was fabulous. When I showed it to a couple of people in the business, I learned it was not. I wrote another good three or four books before I wrote the one I thought was good enough for the world to see. That became my “first” book, Child of Mine.
Since then I’ve published six more books, one a year, each spring. My books are about strong women struggling in their families with real problems – serious medical issues, career struggles, divorces, family divides.
My latest book, just published on March 19, is The In-Between Place. It’s the story of a mother who finds out her four-month-old son has a terminal illness called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, considered the ALS of children. He’s supposed to die by the age of two but mysteriously lives on for many more years. How does this mother balance caring for him while raising his sisters? How does she manage to hold on, day after day, knowing the end will come, but not knowing when that will be?
I like to write about the things we never can imagine happening to us, yet sometimes they do. When they do, it’s all about holding on, about fighting for love over despair. I believe in that. I hope my readers do, too.
The In Between Place
Alice Connelly was headed for the perfect life, with her steady-as-a-rock husband, Ryan, a successful architect, her beautiful, smart toddler daughter, Olivia, and a great career of her own, which she was sure was about to include a promotion and raise.But when Alice has her second child, Oliver, from the beginning, it seems like everything is wrong. At four months, Oliver is diagnosed with a rare condition, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, and given only two years to live.But Oliver surprises everyone by[ living much longer than anyone predicted. Although he can’t move any of his muscles, his is brilliant, funny, and takes his limitations in stride. His mother, Alice, has given up her career to care for him, and his sisters, Olivia and Poppy, are forced to pretend he will live forever, even when they know the real truth, while Ryan keeps pushing his raw feelings away, staying disconnected from everyone around him.Filled with surprising twists and turns, The In-Between Place will have you up reading until the wee hours. It makes us ask: How much can one family endure without being shattered and how do you pick up the pieces when life throws too much at you? You’ll laugh and cry and wish for something better for the Connelleys and think about your own family and feel grateful for it.
Where to Buy The In Between Place
Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. Nanette never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn't stop. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need).
Authentic writing comes not from the mind but from the heart. When you embrace your vulnerability, that’s when you truly connect with your readers. A huge fan of food and cooking, Nanette acts as the master chef. Sometimes writing thrills and lifts the soul. Sometimes it’s a lot like chocolate—temperamental. With over 25 years of experience guiding authors to achieve more clarity and authenticity in their writing, Nanette shows you how to turn the elements of your story into a mouth-watering delight. A story that comes from the heart and inspires others.
Her books include F.A.I.T.H. - Finding Answers in the Heart, Volumes I and II, the historical novel The Sacred Flame, and the contemporary sequel Bella Toscana. And a new book is in the works, a YA fantasy about healing the heart of the planet. In her spare time, she works with the Conscious Life Journal as Editor in Chief, managing authors and articles for this magazine that helps people journey into higher conscious awareness through the five stages of Mind, Body, Spirit, Integration, and Balance.
When I was in high school, my mother suggested that I write stories. She might as well have suggested I be an astronaut. (There were no women in the space program then.) I loved to read voraciously, but writing was an unimaginable concept surrounded by an enormous black void.
Sometimes creativity needs forceful encouragement.
Fast forward to 1994. I still loved to read. One sunny Saturday afternoon I was sitting on my futon in my bedroom minding my own business when I heard my name. Just my name. No neon sign or burning bush or ferocious clap of thunder. When nothing else happened, I shrugged and let it go. The following week the same thing happened. Ticked off, I yelled, “What? What do you want?” And again, there were no visible signs. But this time I felt a knowing, a sense that I was supposed to write. So I began. I wrote my first novel by hand in nine months. The second novel took less than three months. The third novel took several years. And so on.
When I moved to Atlanta in 2002, I committed to a writing career and joined a critique group. I’d never read my writing in public and it was disastrous. I do believe that everyone said something positive, but everyone also said something negative. And, of course, I focused on the negative. After the third person’s critique, my head swam, my eyes blurred, and I couldn’t hear a thing. When the meeting ended I ran to my car and swore I wouldn’t come back. Ever.
Two weeks later I returned to the group. The best decision I could have made. Six months later I became the new leader.
I continued to write novels but something was missing. A lot, actually. I couldn’t plot worth a darn. All the books I read seemed to come together effortlessly. How did the authors do that? At long last help arrived in the form of a class on plotting. I was working on my historical novel (The Sacred Flame) about a Vestal Virgin and all the love scenes were written but how did I connect them? When the teacher introduced the concept of GMC (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict) I felt an ember glow. We filled out a chart for our major characters with their default behavior, inner motivation, outer and inner goals, and outer and inner conflict. We talked about their wants, their needs, their fears. And over all of this, the teacher told us to use the character’s default behavior to create conflict.
Huh? I just didn’t get it.
I struggled through the entire class. Every week we would build on the previous week, but the conflict in my story would not gel. Slippery as egg whites, that stuff.
In the last week, when I’d run out of hope, another student asked the same question about default behavior and conflict. And suddenly the ember caught flame and began to blaze. If my heroine followed the rules, what could make her do the opposite? If my hero wanted his father’s respect, what would cause his father to reject him? Such a simple strategy when you understand how it works.
That revelation blasted open the doors to my creativity and Spirit rejoiced. I had such fun developing untenable situations for my characters, pitting them against each other, creating misunderstandings and slights and jealousy and betrayal, and also finding hope and compassion and forgiveness and love.
Since The Sacred Flame, in all my writing and professional editing, I require myself and my clients to fill out a GMC chart. I love to explore relationships and want to know why people do what they do. I want to read about the emotional side of the characters—how do they think, how do they feel, why do they make the decisions they make? I write stories about women because I am a woman and my path in life is challenging and mysterious and enchanting. The more I honor myself with love and respect and compassion, the more I open the way to the bounty the universe is waiting to bestow. So the themes in my stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need).
The theme in The Sacred Flame explores what people would sacrifice for love. The theme in Bella Toscana, the sequel to The Sacred Flame, looks at having the courage to follow your heart. The new story I’m working on, which involves an 18-year-old heroine (Help!, I’ve never written a teen story before), is about healing old pain and fear through love and acceptance.
Writing is one of the most thrilling things that I do. When inspiration beckons and the words flow, it’s almost as good as the satisfaction that comes from eating rich dark chocolate. Or maybe better, because the bliss from writing is beneficial for mind, body, and spirit. I’d love to meet Nora Roberts to thank her for inspiring me. Her ability to pack so much into one or two words helped me hone my skill. And I would love to chat with Susan Meissner and Kristin Hannah about story development and research. Their writing is sensitive and heartfelt and so emotionally impressive.
An explosive yearning that can’t be denied.
Disturbing visions from an ancient past.
A mysterious stranger that somehow feels familiar.
On the night of her fiftieth birthday, the comfortable ride of Toscana’s life takes an alarming plunge. Haunted by seductive visions, she tries to push aside the desire and focus on the husband who adores her. Then she falls for Flynn, a younger man with an eye for adventure and a heart full of romance, who leaves her doubting everything she’s believed about love and passion.
In Atlanta, Rome, and the lush scenery of Tuscany, Toscana searches for answers to the mysteries of her life while she faces her biggest question. If she listens to her feelings will she lose everything she holds dear, or does her heart hold the key to love and joy?
Find Nanette on her website, Goodreads and Facebook!
Where to Buy Bella Toscana
Ginny Fite is the author of the thriller No End of Bad, the dark mystery/thrillers Cromwell's Folly, No Good Deed Left Undone, and Lying, Cheating, and Occasionally Murder, a humorous book on aging, I Should Be Dead by Now, a collection of short stories, What Goes Around, and three books of poetry. An award-winning journalist, her short stories have been published in numerous literary journals. She earned her degrees at Rutgers University and Johns Hopkins University and also studied at The School for Women Healers and the Maryland Institute for Poetry Therapy. She lives in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Forty years ago, at a self-actualization seminar, I wrote down three life goals as part of an exercise. I only remember two of those goals: to have all my novels published and have a car that works. There was one main problem with my first goal. I hadn’t written any novels.
I was a working poet at the time. A chapbook of my poetry, The Last Thousand Years, had been published as a university prize. My poems were appearing in small literary journals. I could imagine a maximum of fifty words at a time on a page. I write short poems. I like white space around words.
The world of work closed around me. For 20 years as a journalist and communicator I wrote news stories, features, press releases, speeches, position papers, and hundreds and hundreds of poems. If you write, then you know that stories ping off everything you hear or see or do, every second-hand observation by a stranger, every moment standing in line listening in on someone else’s conversation, every sudden pop of an idea while you’re washing the dishes. All that time, I was gathering material.
But the question of how one made fiction out of one’s own experience baffled me. As far as I could see, there was only so much I could say—like two sentences—about my life that would matter to anyone else. Where did the ideas come from that yielded a novel?
A novel needs desire, anticipation, conflict and epiphanies. Even if I understood the three-act structure and how to build to a climax from studying Greek tragedies, how did I translate that to any fiction I would write? But if that little bit of magic–writing down my goal on a piece of paper decades before–has anything to teach me, it’s that something in me already knew there were novels lurking in my brain.
Being a journalist taught me how to put more than fifty words on a page. The world of prose—with all its dependent clauses, its multiple lines of inquiry, as well as how editors cut from the bottom—opened to me on pages of newsprint and magazine spreads. It’s possible that if I’d become a journalist in the digital age, with its tiny screens and foreshortened stories, I would never have become a novelist.
Still, going from fifty to 800 or even 2,000 words was not as huge a leap as going from there to 70,000 words. I needed another stepping stone. I wrote essays and short stories. Little by little, I wrote a novel—the typical semi-autobiographical work of a novice writer—and rewrote it and rewrote it, and then sent it out to agents and got lovely rejection notes. They told me I wrote beautifully but they weren’t interested in my project.
“Project?” I growled. “It’s not a project; it’s a novel!”
I tore the novel apart, salvaged what I could, and wrote more short stories. It’s easier on the heart to abandon 2,000 words than it is to let go of 80,000. Rejection makes each word seem worth less than it did when you typed it, but rejection is a constant part of a writer’s life. “You better have a rhinoceros hide,” wrote one kind editor who published a poem. I learned writers are stubborn, and persistent. We write because we write. To breathe.
I was still thinking about short stories when Cromwell’s Folly hit me full force as I was driving to the bank. I heard the beginning of that novel in my head as if the story were being told to me by someone the passenger seat. I turned to look at the speaker, expecting to see Detective Sam Lagarde in his tan felt Stetson outback hat, barn jacket and corduroy slacks. He existed only in my imagination. When I got home, I typed down the words he said as fast as I could and waited for the next installment.
After years of reading Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Barbara Kingsolver, the last thing I ever expected to be writing was a murder mystery, and yet here it was, being delivered right into my fingers. All I had to do was tap the keys. Cromwell’s Folly got me an agent. That agent got me a publisher. It still seems like magic. Three more novels followed in quick succession, an experience similar to having quadruplets complete with sleepless nights and lots of messes to clean up.
I am now waiting for my publisher’s edits and notes on a new women’s fiction novel, Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea. [Sneak peek: To save her own life, Elena, a 21st century police commando, must save Hana, who has trekked across Bronze Age Lebanon to prevent a king from destroying her tribe. They’re stronger together. The problem is they’re 4,000 years and 6,000 miles apart.]
While I’m waiting, I’m also completely revising a family saga that resists its confines, doing the final edits on a contemporary re-telling of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and polishing a novel in which a crotchety old woman prevents a young writer’s suicide and in return asks for a story every day as she’s dying. I’m also seeking a publisher for a novel told in linked short stories. Clearly all those years ago my unconscious was prompting me to listen up. There are a lot of stories that need telling.
No End of Bad
Washington, DC, housewife Margaret Turnbull's world literally blows up after her husband, FBI agent Clay Turnbull, is falsely arrested and killed by agents working for an international drug cartel. Unbeknownst to Margaret, her enemy's tentacles reach all the way to the White House and control senior personnel. Their powerful enterprise in jeopardy, the assassins will stop at nothing to cover their tracks. Even as they grieve, Margaret and her daughter Melissa must learn on the fly how to survive against cutting-edge surveillance and NSA technology when there is nowhere to hide, and no one to trust. No one is safe--anywhere.
Find Ginny on her website and Facebook
Where to Buy No End of Bad
Ryanne Glenn is a member of the Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins, CO, where she attends Colorado State University. She is pursuing a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. She loves to golf, though after playing for twelve years, her handicap should be much lower than it is. Between writing and classes, she often visits her hometown of Fruita, Colorado, to spend time with her family and two dogs, Coco and Pebbles.
Ryanne started writing short stories when she was ten and was first published in Fruita’s local newspaper. She took her first creative writing class in high school, and was inspired to expand her writing into poetry and longer stories. After struggling with depression in her first year at college, she turned back to writing as a healthy outlet for her emotions. She wants to write strong female role models and is excited to share her stories with the world.
I like to say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing short horror stories when I was in fifth grade and creating a little writing club with a few of my friends. We all loved R. L. Stine’s books and were convinced we could be just like him. That of course, did not happen.
Shortly after starting middle school, I found out how much I enjoyed math and science. I started taking every science elective I could all the way up to my senior year of high school. But to graduate, you had to take an English elective. I remembered how much I used to love creating stories, and chose creative writing. After that class, I was convinced I was going to be a famous poet. That didn’t happen either.
I started college pursuing a degree in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. I could take my love of all things math and science and turn that into a career. I thought I was well on my way to a solid future with nothing in my way. If you’ve noticed a theme by now, you’ll know that did not happen.
After my first few semesters, I found my mood and mental state tank. I developed a major depressive disorder. I barely went to class, I stopped talking to people, I didn’t care if I ate, and I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes, it took all my effort just to get up and get dressed in the morning. My thoughts got darker and darker. The voice in my head screamed at me every minute of every day.
You’re not good enough. You’re worthless. You’re a horrible person. You don’t deserve to be here. Why are you still trying? Why are you even alive?
Over and over again, I heard this in my mind. I couldn’t make these thoughts go away, I couldn’t mute them, I couldn’t do anything. I thought of suicide every single day. As time passed, I thought about it multiple times a day, and finally, I had made up my mind to make that permanent decision. I’m proud to say that didn’t happen.
I started getting the help I needed. With my parent’s support, I started making the change to live a healthier life. My therapist recommended journaling to help rid my mind of all those terrible thoughts. I’m not great at writing out feelings. I didn’t enjoy it and most of the time, I just forgot to do it. But one day, I started writing, not my feelings, but a story. I created a world from a dream I had many years ago. I made a character who had to go through some tough times and come out okay. When I wrote, I could lose myself in a fantasy world and those awful voices in my head shut off. I found that if my characters could go through all these challenges and end up okay, then I could succeed in my own challenges.
Now, I still struggle with depression, but it’s under control. At first, I was afraid to talk about what I’d gone through, but I realized that a lot of people face the same challenges I did. By not hiding my experiences, I hope to encourage others to seek comfort and help. And now, I’ve turned my focus to helping others overcome their own issues. I think it’s so important to represent characters and their mental states accurately.
I know now that I don’t just want to be a writer. I need to be a writer.
Descent of Shadows
At the heart of her family’s war against the wraith king, Anna makes the only decision she can—to fight back.
Humans have always called the land of Istamba home, yet Roland, King of the Wraiths, is intent on claiming it for himself. When Fort Lieay is attacked, thirteen-year-old Anna Lieay is the only survivor. Distraught from the death of her parents, she makes the dangerous journey to the Sanctuary, the last free human settlement. There, she vows to join the army, despite her age, to help save her home from the wraiths and restore peace to humanity.
Find Ryanne at her website and Twitter
Where to Buy Descent of Shadows
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
Be My Guest!
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