Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

What a debut! It’s been awhile since I’ve been incredibly impressed with a debut! Mystery, intrigue, more mystery, romance and a totally captivating story.

This was one of those reads I had to finish in one sitting. It was haunting, unique and not all characters turned out as you thought. There were a couple pieces I wanted to know more about at the end, but even with that, I so enjoyed this journey.

I also loved that many characters were not exactly as they first appeared. With each new layer peeled back, Politano revealed deeper levels and deeper reasons for a character’s behavior. Misunderstandings, revelations, and faith all make up this entertaining and fantastic debut!

Have you had the chance to read this debut?

(Thank you to Revell for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Book Reviews, Fiction

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden | Book Review

Another book by Elizabeth Camden means another excellent read! What makes her such a strong writer, is her ability to remain fitting and true to the time period she chooses, but also makes the plot intriguing and gives you a heroine you can root for.

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

I enjoyed the relationship between Colin and Lucy. There were some frustrations (which again, were very fitting for the time period), but I thought Camden did an excellent job with that part of the story.

I really liked Lucy (and Colin too!). But Lucy, there was a realness to her that’s sometimes missing in heroines. She was hardworking, committed, loyal, and brave. I thought her development was honest and encouraging. Plus her relationship with her brother? Loved it!

And the story had me intrigued the whole time – I was curious with each new piece revealed and enjoyed the satisfying ending. Once again, the unique piece of history Camden focused on was fascinating and I love learning new bits of history, especially with my background of journalism.

What characteristics make you like a heroine?

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Space Between the Words by Michèle Phoenix | Book Review

“Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, and pressing on in faith.”

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Books dealing with recent horrific and tragic events will never be an easy read. It’s a painful revisit and a reminder of the broken world we live in. Phoenix’s story of loss, pain and the path to healing though, not only had me fully engaged, I was reminded that life is beautiful and precious. I enjoyed the modern day story, but also really enjoyed the historic piece of this novel. It was a piece of history I didn’t know and glad I now do.

We’ll never escape terrible events while we’re on earth. It’s a hard reality, but I’m thankful of the hope I have that this isn’t it. Dealing with grief, how our minds respond, to the healing we need and the time it takes, this novel will remind you to never waste a moment and when life deals us a heavy blow, all hope is not lost.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys.

Look who is on the blog today. Look! Yep, the very same I always mention is absolutely hilarious and how I love all her books. The bestselling author herself, Deeanne Gist! Do you know how exciting it is for me to be able to host my favorite authors on this little corner of the web? All I’m saying is I’ve been known to dance around the room from excitement. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and be sure to pick up one of her books stat!

Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary love stories. Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

You can connect with Deeanne on at her website, Twitter or Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
In the last five years we’ve seen 2 kids get married, 2 graduate college, and 1 move to the other side of the country to pursue a career in music. In that time, as Greg and I became empty nesters, our sweet border collie suddenly moved way up in the pecking order. He’s not *quite* top dog, but he’s close. Never did I dream we’d let him on the furniture with us, on our bed, in our hotel rooms, and hardly ever out of our sight. Our kids are all shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Oh, goodness. There are too many to count, much less narrow down to one. So many words I’ve let spill out that I’d love to recapture. So many decisions I’ve made that I so wish I’d never fallen through on. So many falls I took that could have so been avoided. One thing? Hardly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I remember looking out the window above the kitchen sink while washing up some dishes. The day was glorious and the girls were playing hula-hoop on the deck and the boys were eating popsicles while they watched Greg work on a fort he was building for them. I remember resting my hands against the sink and thinking, “You know, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Before
After

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I hope the next generation never forgets that though they are connected to “friends” all over the globe with a touch of their fingers, that it is still extremely important to have friends they spend time with, play with, and share with–live and in person. No amount of texting, tweeting, or facebooking can ever replace the rewards which come from those face-to-face, day-to-day relationships.

Thank you so much Deeanne! Such a pleasure to host you at Books and Beverages!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Kim Vogel Sawyer

I’ll be honest, I haven’t dived into one of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s books yet, but I promise that is going to change asap! I have no doubt I’ll fall in love with her stories as everyone recommends her books! I have Waiting For Summer’s Return hollerin’ at me every time I turn on my kindle, so soon friends, soon.

She also blogs over at Writes of Passage, which is a blog of all awesome historical fiction authors, so like I said, I know she’s legit. I’m so excited for her to join us!

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the bestselling author of more than 20 novels and has won numerous awards for her gentle stories of hope. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas and have three daughters and nine grandchildren. Learn more at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Running a Bed and Breakfast Inn! Such an opportunity we have to share our 1905 railroad hotel with travelers. It’s beyond anything either my husband or I envisioned. :o)

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Raising my children. I wish I’d played more and stressed less…the way I do with my grandchildren.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Outside of becoming a Christian, a wife, a mother, or a grandmother…receiving the call from Bethany House about their wish to purchase my first novel. Getting to call my Dad and say, “Daddy, I’m going to be published!” gave me tremendous joy.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Nothing of this world will bring long-lasting joy or fulfillment except a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If you’re seeking satisfaction in early relationships, “things,” fame, or recognition, you’ll never be complete. Seek Him, and everything else will fall into place.

Thank you so much Kim! Always a pleasure to connect with authors! Have y’all read any of Kim’s work? What should I add to the list? Be sure to check out her latest, Sweet Sanctuary!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With New York Times Bestseller Tosca Lee

She’s an incredible and engaging storyteller who brings to life whatever subject she chooses to write on. Poignant, fascinating, impactful and engaging are a few more words to describe the work Lee creates. And she’s a New York Times bestseller, so guess what? It isn’t me just being nice ;)! So excited to have her on the blog today!

Tosca Lee is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose works include the critically acclaimed Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and The Books of Mortals series (Forbidden, Mortal, Sovereign) with best-selling author Ted Dekker. Iscariot, Tosca’s highly-anticipated novel about the infamous betrayer of Christ was recently released. She is best known for her exploration of maligned characters, lyrical prose and meticulous research. Tosca received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College and has also studied at Oxford University. A former first runner-up to Mrs. United States and lifelong world adventure-traveler, Tosca makes her home in the Midwest.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
That I’d be doing what I love (writing stories) for a living and have the words “New York Times Bestseller” in front of my name. How crazy is that??

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
You know, I would have finished my last semester of college. I graduated a semester early just because I could, and because I somehow thought that was better, but it’s such a special time in life with friends that you never get back–if I could do it all over, I’d enjoy those few extra months before venturing into the real world. 🙂

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
This may sound cheesy, but they’re all happy in some way. I love going to eat brunch with my friends. Or going to ballet (after being quite serious about becoming a ballerina as a teen, I now do it just for fun and the spiritual practice of returning to the barre). Making dinner, or meeting my readers out on the road–that is a real highlight. But I choose to be happy every moment that I think of it!

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
That we all get to make choices, but we don’t need to take them so seriously. There are a few really important ones–about faith, about our life partners–that are big ones. But in general we need to lighten up. Choose to be happy. Don’t be a victim. Do what you love. Make no excuses. Love extravagantly and without condition. Be love to all you meet.

Thanks so much Tosca for joining the blog today! You can connect with Tosca through Facebook, Twitter and her website!

 

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Award-Winning Author Jocelyn Green

Unless you just met me 12 seconds ago, my love for history is a pretty well known fact. Two of my favorite eras include WWII and the Civil War. So if an author covers either one of those topics, I’m in for the win.

And y’all Jocelyn Green knows a thing or two about writing, military and the Civil War! I really enjoyed Green’s first book, Wedded to War, in Heroines Behind the Lines series and the second just came out! She also writes non-fiction, encouraging army wives across the globe. So pretty much she’s awesome. I’m so glad to have her here on the blog with 4 Questions!

Award-winning author Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage in her readers through both fiction and nonfiction. A former military wife herself, she offers encouragement and hope to military wives worldwide through her Faith Deployed ministry. Her novels, inspired by real heroines on America’s home front, are marked by their historical integrity and gritty inspiration.

Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association, Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America.

She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at http://www.jocelyngreen.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Well, five years ago, I didn’t have my first book published yet. (Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives was my first and released in November 2008.) So I would never have imagined that in five years, I would have written or co-authored four nonfiction titles, a devotional Bible, and two novels, with three more contracted and scheduled to release in the next 18 months.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
I imagine that every author, when rereading a book she/he has published, can point to a passage and think of a better way to write it after it’s been printed. But as far as genuine life regrets, or publishing journey regrets, I wouldn’t change anything. There are some lessons you have to learn the hard way, or through hard work, so I don’t wish that my past was different.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
My two happiest days of my life were the days my children were born. Of course my wedding day was a joyous occasion too, but there are so many details and people to please on one’s wedding day. When our babies were born, it was just a much more intimate joy that I shared with my husband—and it was centered not on me, but on the miracle of new life.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The value of true, flesh-and-blood community, and how to joyfully serve others. We live in such a me-first society, and it’s easy for each of us to be the stars of our own lives. Facebook has changed the meaning of the word “friend” and Twitter tells us we deserve to have “followers.” I use social media too, and I value it as a tool, but it’s no substitute for genuine friendships. I want the next generation to know how to get beyond themselves and reach out to others in need.

 

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Sandra Byrd

Here’s 4 things you need to know about the wonderful Sandra Byrd:

1. She knows how to write a story…in any genre too. As I’ve mentioned, I absolutely loved her Ladies in Waiting Series and French Twist Series. Totally different eras, people, stories lines, but each fantastic.

2. She’s really awesome and one of my favorite authors.

3. In case you don’t believe #2, here’s this: She helps so many authors as a writing coach, how great is that?!

4. She’s 100% legit and you should read all her books. For real. Do it.

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I will publish in April, 2013. Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Now on to the interview!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Ebooks! Holy smokes. Who would have imagined that we’d be carrying our books around on a small tablet, or that they’d look so good, or that we could simultaneously read a book and also look up a picture of Queen Elizabeth I online? I love it.

It also makes way for lots of really high quality Indie books that might not have made it to the market otherwise. Readers are the new gatekeepers, as it should be.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
I would trust my instincts sooner, and not second guess so much. A lot of time is wasted wondering, should I have? What if? Not that it’s not a good thing to learn from past mistakes, but spending too much time on what’s already passed prevents a person from moving on and it can be really self-focused.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
The births of my children, without a doubt.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Love more and judge less. Tell others what they are doing right, not what you think they are doing wrong. Replace a critical word with an encouraging word. All of this applies to self talk, as well as what we say and do to others!

Thank you so much Sandra! In case you missed it, she has a new book out (released just last week) and it is fabulous!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Jody Hedlund

The minute I finished The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund, I immediately needed to get her other books. Like A to the SAP. The publisher offered Unending Devotion for FREE a week later, so I passed out of joy and then downloaded it. It’s in my to-be-read-on-the-next-plane-ride pile (which is next month) as well as her other ones :).

As if being an amazing author wasn’t enough, I recently discovered that portions of Unending Devotion goes to stopping human trafficking. You can check out more organizations Jody supports here, but my level of respect just jumped 87 points. Not only does she use words to truly change people, she acts of her convictions and beliefs. To me that’s awesome.

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher’s Bride and Unending Devotion. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her latest book, A Noble Groom, just released.

To find out more about Jody and her books, visit her website at jodyhedlund.com

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
I would never have imagined that I’d be writing so prolifically! I was only writing about 500 words a day five years ago. I was lucky to eke out one book in a year’s time. And now I’m writing 1500 to 2000 words a day (close to 10,000 a week). The last couple of years I’ve written two full length novels per year. And this year, I’m on track to write three if not four books.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
I wish I hadn’t worried so much about my future. This is a really tough one. Because I think it’s natural for us to be excited and nervous when we send a manuscript out there whether to an agent or publisher.

But in hindsight, I realize all my fretting didn’t make the process move faster or make things turn out better. It didn’t change WHAT happened. But it did make me more tense. I’m still learning to work hard at the things I can control (like continually striving to improve my writing), and to let go of the things I can’t (like how quickly I achieve success).

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I’ve had plenty of writing-related happy moments! But a personal happy moment was when I was newly married and had just moved near my parents, my dad came over for dinner one night. It was just him with me and my husband. I made a pot of really spicy chili (too spicy, actually!). We had a wonderful evening together. Two nights later he died of a massive heart attack. That dinner was the last time I saw him, and now when I look back at it, I see the time we had together as a gift.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams! Dreams can come true. But be prepared to work really hard. Really, really hard. Learn all you can. Be teachable. But also be true to yourself. And persevere until you reach your dreams and beyond.

Thank you so much Jody for joining me here at Books and Beverages!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Julie Lessman

Let’s just start off by saying this: I secretly want to be friends with Julie. All you have to do is read this interview and you’ll understand why. Seriously, I’m just going to stop talking so you can enjoy this encouraging and uplifting interview! (P.S. I have A Hope Undaunted, patiently waiting on my Kindle to be read and I can’t wait to start it!)

Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was ACFW’s 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, #1 Historical Fiction Author, #3 Author, #4 Novel, #3 Series, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and recipient of 14 RWA awards. Contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
I never, EVER imagined being a typical doting grandmother. My prayer partner kept telling me that being a grandmother was THE BEST thing ever, but to be honest, I didn’t buy it. When I used to work at a large company as a travel writer, women would bring their babies in and while all the other ladies would crowd around, I’d head for the ladies’ room because I am just not one to fawn over babies or kids. But … I will say that this little gal (Rory) has made me eat my words and then some. I still remember the day my daughter came home and found me on all fours, gooing and fawning in a high-pitched chipmunk voice over my granddaughter on a blanket, making a royal fool out of myself. “Never thought I’d see the day,” she said with a shake of her head, then promptly got down on all fours and joined me. 🙂

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Well, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20, but the one thing I would do differently if I could is to truly listen to and take seriously what Francine Rivers said at an American Christian Fiction Writers Conference when she was the keynote speaker. She basically said, point blank, that she never entered contests even though her publisher wanted her to, and she would never look at reviews or royalty statements either, leaving the latter to her hubby. I believe she even took a break from writing for a while, to focus more on God. I still remember sitting in the audience, staring with mouth agape, thinking, is she crazy?? As an aspiring author, I couldn’t imagine laying writing aside for anything, nor taking such a disinterest in important things like contests, reviews, book sales.

Oh, WOW, what a dipstick I was!! Or actually, just a really green writer with pie-in-the-sky dreams of Christy Awards, a boatload of 5-star reviews, and a permanent spot on the CBA bestseller list. You see, despite Francine’s very wise words, I had absolutely NO idea what an emotional roller-coaster it was going to be AFTER I got published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, right? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor, bestseller status, or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture among others: 2 Corinthians ll:3: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

Five years down the road in my published career, the most significant thing I have learned—and the toughest challenge—has been the critical truth that I have to stay grounded in what God wants for me versus what I want for me. Sure, I would love to be a bestselling author, but what does God want? I am learning (very painfully, I might add) that I must become less so that He can become more. I often tell fellow writer friends that I would give anything to have a spiritual lobotomy of sorts, where I could surgically remove that part of my writer’s brain that focuses on good reviews, book sales and contest wins. But the reality is that I am a human being with a lot of flaws, and quite frankly, that’s the way God wants us—so flawed that we are forced to cling to Him, which I do, trust me!

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Oh, without question, when my children were born!! For a gal not overly partial to little kids, I sure loved having my own, especially since I was an infertility patient. You see, not only did I have trouble getting pregnant (I wrote a blog about infertility called CLEAN HEART, DIRTY DIAPERS), but when I finally did after almost five years, I started bleeding and the fertility specialist told me he thought I was going to self-abort. I was devastated and immediately had my prayer partners lay hands on me, and the bleeding stopped.

About a month later, it happened again, and the fertility doctor told me the same thing—he was convinced I would self-abort because my pregnancy hormone levels were too low. “Let me take another blood test,” he said, but he was pretty certain I would lose the baby. Once again, I not only had my prayer partners pray and lay hands on me, but a group at church as well.

I still remember the day I was waiting for his phone call for the results of the blood test, a nervous wreck because he was taking so long to get back to me. “He’s probably just too confused because your levels are perfect,” my friend said with confidence. Would you believe the doctor called right after that and his first words were, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Lessman, but I am very confused—your levels are near perfect, and I don’t understand it, so I want to take one more blood test, just to double-check.” Needless to say, I now have a beautiful 25-year-old daughter who is a lawyer and loves God with all of her heart, so take that, Dr. Infertility!! 🙂

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The MOST important thing I want the next generation to know and the message that permeates every book I write is the reality of how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. My books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the God of the Universe. He’s crazy about us, and if most people really understood that, their lives would turn on a dime and blessings would overtake them. Believe me, I KNOW this firsthand—I used to be a hard, cynical, coarse human being before God pulled me up by the scruff of the neck and said, “Yo, Julie! Get a clue—you’re the apple of my eye!” J He’s been the love of my life ever since.

Thank you again Julie! Be sure to connect with Julie through her website, by sending an e-mail, signing up for my newsletter or her blog called “Journal Jots”, a very laid-back Friday journal. You can also check out Julie’s favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of her books on the “Excerpts” tab.  And if you’re an aspiring writer, join Julie daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.