Thursday, October 3, 2013

So What Exactly Is Happening with the 2nd Set, Anyway?

We have so many wonderful readers who have followed the women in the Newport Ladies Book Club on the first leg of their journeys, and now some readers are eagerly asking for clarification about what's happening with the second set because they don't want to miss a single book. (Hooray!)

For a brief period, several parts of the publishing equation were in flux, so we couldn't answer the questions with clarity. While we still don't have exact dates, we do have some solid information and thought it would be good to pass it along to our fans!

A brief refresher: 
The first set of Newport Ladies titles cover October through February, and feature Olivia, Daisy, Paige, and Athena. While they were published in that order, they are parallel stories, so they can be read in any order.

Those who have read them all will know how you'll see the other characters pop up in each book, along with elements of what happens in their stories, but you won't know the end of their story until you read their book, and you won't know what they're really thinking and feeling and all of that without reading their book.

Now for the second set! 
We get to focus on the other four ladies in the book club, and the timeline begins where the first set left off, beginning in February and covering the next four months. These are also parallel novels, but you'll find some differences from the last set.

For one thing, there is less cross-over in plots this time. Some of that was a result of logistics: the four of us weren't able to get together for planning and writing sessions quite as much as with the first set. This means that as before, each book stands alone; it may stand even more alone than the titles in the first set, if that makes sense.

Another change is in the covers, which have a slightly different feel to them, and which don't include the series banner. The titles are now more than the main character's name.

Here's the current lineup:

Shannon's Hope, by Josi S. Kilpack. Release date: July 2013
On sale now, in both paperback and e-book on Kindle or on the Deseret Book e-bookshelf!

Ruby's Secret, by Heather B. Moore. Release date: Fall 2013.

Victoria's Promise, by Julie Wright. Release date: Early 2014.

Ilana's Wish, by Annette Lyon. Release date: Spring 2014.

This series has been an absolute labor of love for us. We've all learned so much in the process, and the stories these books tell are ones dear to our hearts.

As always, thank you so much for your support of the series! We had a feeling that there were readers itching for women's fiction, and seeing the concept of the series turn into published books read by excited fans has been enormously fulfilling!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Signing September 28, 2013

With the recent release of Shannon's Hope by Josi Kilpack, we'll be doing a book signing at the Seagull Book in Sandy, UT, in conjunction with the Celebrating Sisterhood event. Location is 10673 So. State Street in Sandy.

September 28, 9:00 am - 11:00 am. 

Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Heather's Review of SHANNON'S HOPE

It might sound strange, but I hadn't read SHANNON'S HOPE by Josi S. Kilpack straight through until it was released last month. The character I was writing at the time (Ruby) has a lot of interaction with Shannon, so Josi and I were continually hammering out scenes together. But I didn't know "the end" of Shannon's journey, or some of the steps along the way.

Before I met Josi, I was a fan of hers. And when she told me she read one of my books and enjoyed it, I was pretty excited since I thought she was a fabulous author. Over the years, I read everything she put out and became an avid Sadie Hoffmiller fan as well, often buying the book the first few days it hit the store, then neglecting other duties for a weekend while I read the latest Sadie adventure.

So, even though I'd read portions of SHANNON'S HOPE (heck, I even wrote a few scenes that Josi then transposed into Shannon's point of view), I went all "fan girl" when the book came out. And... I love it. Josi has a way of endearing the reader to her characters, and her characters are completely flawed, sometimes broken, but always relatable.

I hope you'll love the book as much as I did! Here's my official review:

"SHANNON'S HOPE kicks off the 2nd set in the Newport Ladies Book Club series. You can start with this one, or read the 1st set (Daisy, Olivia, Paige, Athena). Shannon is a pharmacist, married, with a 12 year old son. She's also Ruby Crenshaw's niece and gets roped into attending the book club by her aunt. Just before one of the meetings, her step-daughter comes back into her life after a failed stint in rehab. Determined to help Keisha in anyway she can, Shannon brings her step-daughter to book club.

What follows it a gripping, heart-wrenching story of a woman who only wants to help her step-daughter overcome her addictions and get her life back on track. In the author's introduction to the novel, she says, 'In my years of writing there are few books I've written that have explored things that are a part of my personal experience. SHANNON was one of those books for me . . . I have been a participant in the 'dance' of addiction and codependency and boundaries and letting go and forgiving . . . There is a fine line between hope and hopelessness sometimes; between love and self-preservation; between kindness and enabling . . . If you are a dancer, on any side of the issue, of which there are many sides, I wish you peace and perspective as you figure out your own steps.'

Thank you, Josi. I hope my journey will be stronger from learning about Shannon's hope...

SHANNON'S HOPE is available on Amazon and Deseret Book and Barnes and Noble in both paperback and e-book!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cover Reveal! Ruby's Secret

Coming October 2013...

At age sixty-two, life is finally beginning for newly widowed Ruby Crenshaw. Her son is grown and gone, and after long years spent as a loyal wife to her charming but unfaithful husband, she’s ready to live the life she’s always dreamed of. Her resolve is firm: she’ll never make the mistake of giving her heart to another man.

The first step in Ruby’s quest for a carefree lifestyle was to create the Newport Ladies Book Club, an unlikely gathering of women who have been her haven. Now she’s ready to take her newfound independence a step further—along with her friends from the local senior center, Ruby is jetting off to a much-needed Greece adventure. What she isn’t prepared for is Gabriel—the group’s tour guide—a native Greek and a true gentleman. His unquestionable charm is hard to resist. But resist she must—because no matter their growing attraction, Ruby is not about to fall for charming again!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Excerpt from Shannon's Hope

*Shannon is Ruby's niece, a pharmacist, a wife, a mother, and a step-mom. When her step daughter, Keisha, needs a place to live, Shannon is quick to volunteer their home, certain that with her help, Keisha can overcome her past issues with addiction and meet the potential Shannon has always seen in her.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter Five:

{Shannon arrives home from book group, after choosing next month's book on the fly. She's allowed Keisha to borrow her car to spend the evening with a friend.}

All the anxiety from the book group was finished and the pending discussion about the book I’d suggested was a month away. My two favorite men were in the other room and life was just good and calm and peaceful here. That’s why I’d wanted Keisha to come stay with us. I wanted her to feel the feeling I felt in our home. I wanted her to know what it was like to be a part of a family so that she could see a different, better future for herself. I spent a few minutes cleaning up the kitchen before John came in for a soda.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, leaning down to kiss me as he passed me on his way to the fridge.
“I just got back,” I said, adding soap to the dishwasher.
“I was going to clean up,” he said, taking in the clean counters and sinks. Tonight was his night to do dinner and dishes.
“I really didn’t mind."
He leaned in and kissed me on the neck, making me smile. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, looking over my shoulder and giving him a flirty smile. “How was Landon’s game?”
“Great. He was two for three with his shots, and made both free throws. He’s come a long way.”
“I’m so glad,” I said as I rummaged in the fridge for a yogurt—Keisha ate two a day and I was having a hard time keeping up the supply. “I wish I’d been there. That’s the second game I’ve missed.” I didn’t say “Since Keisha had come,” but we both knew that’s what I meant.
“Where’s Keish?” John asked.
I paused for half a second, then kept any hesitation out of my voice when I spoke. “I let her borrow my car to meet up with a friend.”
“A friend?” John said, pulling up on the tab of his soda until it made the pop-hiss sound. He sipped the soda from the rim. “What friend?”
“Her name is Jessica, I guess they were in rehab together.”
Distrust pulled his eyebrows together. “She’s never said anything about Jessica.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. Jessica’s going to college; Keisha says she’s a good influence.” I turned my attention to pulling the foil top off the yogurt. “She’ll be back by 11:00.” I said the lie before I even realized I was doing it. I knew why I’d lied, though; because John would be in bed before 11:00 and I didn’t want him to know I’d allowed his daughter to stay out later than that without consulting him. My face went hot with the lie, though. It wasn’t like me to be dishonest.
“Hmmm,” he said before taking another drink. He looked at the clock on the stove. “I’ll wait up for her and make sure everything’s okay when she comes in.”
“Don’t do that,” I said quickly, finding a spoon in the drawer. “You don’t want her to think we’re checking up on her.”
“Why not?” he said as I took my first bite. We were both leaning against opposite counters. “She needs to be accountable, and know we’re paying attention.”
“She is accountable,” I said, waving my spoon through the air. “And this is the first time she’s asked for the car; we knew it would happen sooner or later. It’s okay. She needs to build herself a new life here, and that means we have to let go enough for her to do that. She’s with someone who’s clean and goal-oriented. Let’s not make too big a deal out of this.”
He was contemplative for a few more seconds, but then he gave me a playful smile. He reached across the space between us to grab my belt loop and pull me closer. I offered no resistance even though I almost dropped my spoon as I crossed the floor. “It’s good you’re here,” he said, putting his pop down on the counter behind him and placing both hands at my waist, moving my hips as though we were dancing. It was kinda sexy. “I’m always thinking the worst and you’re always willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
It felt good to have his compliments, or at least it would have felt good if I deserved them, but the lie I’d told sat heavy in my stomach. I did like seeing him softening toward this experience, though, and held on hard to that justification for what I’d done. I reached up and tapped him on the nose with my spoon. “If we don’t give her a chance to prove herself, she’ll never feel successful or know how strong she can be.”
John arched one eyebrow. “You don’t think keeping her locked up in a tower will help her prove her strength?”
I laughed. “Probably not.”
He leaned in and kissed me. I put my arms around his neck even though I was still holding my yogurt and spoon and kissed him back. “Thanks for loving my girl,” he whispered against my lips before pulling me into a hug.
His girl? Wasn’t she our girl?
John held me against him for a few seconds until Landon came in and made gagging sounds, then John dipped me and kissed me hard on the mouth, causing Landon to leave the room completely and me to drop my yogurt. He stood me back up, kissed me once more and helped me clean up the mess before returning to the game, leaving me with a smile and a reminder of why I’d married this wonderful man. He had always brought out the best in me and I liked to think I did the same for him. Especially with Keisha. I could tell him over and over again that he’d done the best he could at the time, but her drug issues had really done a number on his confidence as a father.
“It’s different this time,” I said to the cupboards and dishes hanging out with me in the kitchen. That was why I’d fudged on the curfew, because I needed things to be different and I could see how easy it would be for John to lose all hope. I could think of nothing worse than John giving up on her when she was unsteady on these new legs. So I would hold her hand through this, and hold John’s too and one day we’d all raise our hands triumphantly over our heads and know that we made it work. Keisha couldn’t do this without us, and John couldn’t support her without me. I would make this work. I had to.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Round Robin

by Annette Lyon

If there's anything that writing something a extensive as the Newport Ladies Book Club has taught the four of  us, it's how to write differently. We've set aside our typical ways of writing and plotting and learned from each other as we've come up entirely new ways of writing as we've collaborated on the series.

The second set of books (about Shannon, Victoria, Ilana, and Ruby), are already written, and as Josi mentioned recently, some this set will have some changes, including titles that are more than the characters' names.

We're now in the stage of drafting the long-promised reunion book, which has been a total blast . . . in yet a totally different way.

Picture this: The reunion book (as yet untitled), will be written by all four series authors. And it will feature all eight book club members, showing  where they've traveled since we last saw them, and where they end up.

All in one book.

(Daunting, no? A little bit!)

I know that with Daisy and Paige not ending all tied up in pretty bows, readers are eager to learn where they end up. I have a feeling that when readers see the next set of books, they'll have similar questions about some of the other characters, too.

Because the reunion book is totally different than the series itself, we needed a new way of working on it.

We started out by meeting together one day and hammering out an outline that included the entire arc for each character and how the different characters interact and influence each other. The challenge: Finding a way to resolve all eight stories in a short space in a way that will feel organic and satisfying rather than overwhelming and chaotic to the reader.

By the end of that first day, we'd taken a ton of notes, and, I think, had a solid game plan for creating an awesome final volume.

Up next came actually writing the book, which is in progress but moving right along. The master file began with Heather as she began the book with a chapter about Athena. Then she passed it on to the next person, and the next, and the next, round-robin style. Each writer edits and comments on the chapters that came before to help polish them up and  maintain consistency in timeline and plot, and then they move forward with  drafting the next chapter of their character's story before passing the file on to the author in charge of the next chapter's main character.

Each chapter begins with the name of the character it focuses on, and those chapters are written by the same authors of the original books about those characters. (So I write the chapters about Paige and Ilana, and Josi writes about Daisy and Shannon, and so on.)

By the time we're done with the round-robin drafting phase, we should have a solid book that's already been revised on some level three or four times.

It's so much fun to be working on these stories, especially after looking back over the years and seeing what a long way this project has come, from a germ of an idea back in 2008 to a series that will have nine total volumes.

I am continually amazed at what we've accomplished working as a team, and with the reunion book, we're once again writing something unique in a way totally new to us.

I'm excited for the end product, and I'm positive readers will come away happy with where their favorite characters ended up!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cover Reveal: Shannon's Hope

With the second set of books in this series, the publisher has chosen to go a different direction with covers. Therefore, the look is different, but hopefully it will communicate the genre just as well. Click on the cover to read more about the book. The release date is set for the first week of July! Stay tuned for more details.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Title Changes

        With the production for the second set in the Newport series ramping up we have all been trying to gather what we learned from the first set so as to ensure success of the next four books. There was a lot learned in the process of the first books. For instance, while we all loved the beach/reading scenes on the covers for the first set, some readers had expected the books to be light fun-loving romance novels due to the bright colors and 'soft' scenes. Even Athena, which is the only romance of those first four books, wasn't a light fun-loving story as much as it was a woman's journey to make peace with hard changes in her life. That there was an attractive man who pushed some of those issues into the spotlight for her, wasn't the only driving force of her story. While we had great response from our readers to the stories, the cover confusion is something we want to remedy with this second set. We're not yet sure what the covers will be, but we know they will still 'match' the first set, but be more reflective of the depth of story we're telling. It is interesting to note that Victoria (Julie Wright 2013) Ruby (Heather Moore 2014) do deal with fabulous love stories. Ilana (Annette Lyon 2014) and Shannon (July 2013), however, are solid women's fiction.

The other change that was suggested, to better reflect the content was to change the titles a little bit. While the first set were just the names of the character that book was about, the second set will be two word titles that include the main character's name, but also have a descriptive word. For Shannon, the title has been changed to Shannon's Hope. I will admit that I'm not in love with the change--I really like the idea of all eight books in the series matching through the single name title thing. But, I also realize that while I like to think I know how everything should be done, my part of this process is writing a really great story. The publisher studies trends and marketing aspects and reader feedback and all the other details that go in to choosing a title. So, Shannon's Hope it is and though I don't personally love it, I do see that it might better explain the story contained inside the pages and I am hopeful that it will help the readers as they dive into the pages.

Shannon's Hope will be published in July of this year. I'll post a cover and a pre-order link as soon as they are available.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Club in Orem, Utah

By Heather Moore

Last night I spent a great evening at a book club in Orem, Utah. It took place in the neighborhood I grew up in, and most of the ladies remembered me as a child and teenager. It's a bit disconcerting to meet up with someone 20 years later and wonder, "Was I a brat in their church class?" I think I was pretty good overall. I was fairly shy growing up, and I'm not as shy now, but I'm also not usually the loud one in the room :-)

The women had all read the Newport Ladies Book Club books, some of them had read all four. I updated them on the next set of books coming out, and told them a bit about the writing process. I was very impressed with this book group. They plan well in advance, and they were already planning out their fall books.

Here are some pictures from the evening.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Who Will Publish Shannon?

     Back in 2010, after Annette, Heather, Julie, and I had developed this idea and written the first 50 pages of the first set of Newport Ladies Bookclub books, we had a meeting with our publishers. I was under contract with Deseret Book and the three of them were under contract with Covenant so we brought them together to notify them of this project which was unlike anything any of us (including the publishers) had ever done.
     We pitched the idea of the series to them and brainstormed how this would work with two publishers interests to consider. We all then went our separate ways and for almost a year we had no idea how it would all work out. We expected that one publisher would end up doing all the books--of which we only had four planned at the time--but that's not how it came together. Instead, Deseret Book and Covenant agreed to work together on the books. They would coordinate covers and typesetting and release dates and marketing but, in the end, focus on the book(s) they were producing by the author(s) they had under contract. And it worked great. I was very pleased with the way they worked together and, from my perspective, things went quite smoothly.
     When all four books were done, Covenant purchased some copies of Daisy in order to make a 'set' of the books, and then we began exploring an e-book bundle. That's where things started to struggle. Would Covenant 'buy' some e-books of Daisy and bundle them with their titles? How would that work with copyrights and listings and permissions? Would they pay Deseret Book for every digital copy of Daisy, and if so, how much? If Deseret Book then sold the bundle, would they subtract the portion of profit from Daisy and pay Covenant for the other three? How would they track this? How would it work with combining ISBNs assigned to different entities? This was uncharted territory and many a brain was working on how to do this fairly, smoothly, and in the best way possible.
     Meanwhile, I had turned in Shannon and Lisa Mangum, my editor, was polishing it up for publication in May of 2013. Some weeks ago I got a call from Deseret Book exploring the idea of letting Covenant publish Shannon. Because of the issues that had arisen in regard to Daisy not being produced by the same company as the other three, they were wondering if it wouldn't make everything simpler to have Covenant do all four. While Daisy had "worked" it had created some time consuming considerations none of us had anticipated. I wanted whatever would work best for the book and the series and all the people involved and the more we had talked, the more it sounded like my working with Covenant would be the best solution.
     It was a few more weeks before the shift was made but as of now, Shannon is in the hands of the talented Samantha Millburn. It had already been edited by Lisa Mangum, so Sam is focusing mostly on typesetting and overall production. Because of the change, Shannon was pushed back to July of 2013 for release. Tori (by Julie Wright) is slated for October 2013, with Ilana (by Annette Lyon) and Ruby (by Heather Moore) to be released in 2014. I'm positive about the change and very much appreciate Deseret Book's willingness to forgo their position (which meant giving up significant revenue) and Covenant's willingness to take on the project (which meant shifting their production schedules.) I'm grateful to both companies for doing such a great job with the first set of books and I'm eager to have the second set come out as well.
     The whole thing has also been a reminder of how much goes into a published work. So many people, so much investment, so much ability and time and passion and thought--all so that words can go out into the world and, hopefully, do some good.
     Onward and upward, I hope you'll mark your calendars to get to know Shannon come July. :-)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Meeting with Book Club in Gilbert AZ

A couple of weeks ago I went to the ANWA Writers Conference in Mesa, AZ. My sis-in-law organized her book club to meet while I was in town. Members of her book club read at least one of the books from The Newport Ladies Book Club series.

The women took turns talking about one of the characters/books, and it was really interesting to hear what they had to say about each of the characters.We agreed that Daisy, Paige, Olivia and Athena felt like out friend.

I was able to share the news that we'd just plotted the REUNION book a few days before, and I was in the process of writing the first couple of chapters (before handing it off to the next co-author).

My sis-in-law served pumpkin pie and homemade hot chocolate after :-)

Some pics from the evening.

Recent reads from the Gilbert book club include Edenbrook by Julianne Donaldson and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I've actually read both books and enjoyed them both.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What's Coming Next

With Athena, the last of the four 2012 books in the series, being released in November, we have many readers asking, "what's next?" We've been asked about whether or not there will be second installments of the four books or if we'll write about the other women in the group. The answer is yes and yes.

We have all completed our second 'set' of books in the series:

Ruby by Heather Moore (Romance)
Shannon by Josi S. Kilpack (Women's Fiction)
Ilana by Annette Lyon (Women's Fiction)
Victoria by Julie Wright (Romance)

They are all in the hands of our editors and timetables are being decided, covers coordinated, and semi-colons fixed (except for Annette's cause she knows her punctuation.) Shannon is expected for release in May, but we're unsure if one of the other books will beat it to press. Each of our careers are continuing forward and moving us in new directions that didn't allow us the same time together that we enjoyed so much the first time around, but we still very much enjoyed taking the journey with these new women as

These four books will be the final 'set' in the series, but we're not quite done yet. Because most of the books do not end with a tidy little bow in top, we will be working on a Reunion Book, where all eight women will get a few chapters each to give readers an update on what's happened since we last left them. We are very excited to put this volume together and hope that it will come out shortly after book 8. Stay tuned for more details. We'll have book information, release dates, first chapters, and covers posted here as soon as we get that information.

Thanks for all the great feedback we've had on the books--we sure do appreciate the support. It's been a labor of love and brought each of us so much enjoyment. Knowing it does the same for readers is frosting on the cake.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Interview with Deseret News, with reporter Hikari Loftus

In December, we had a great meeting with Deseret News reporter, Hikari Loftus. She was fascinated by the idea of a parallel-series written by four authors. We met at Mini's Cupcakes in Salt Lake City, which is incidentally a Cupcake Wars finalist.

Eating a few too many cupcakes, we had a great time recalling all that went into the series. As I listened to everyone chat, I marveled at how we pulled it all over. It was a three-year journey from idea to when the first 4 books in the series was completed and released.

We met on a December day in 2009 at Amber's Restaurant in Spanish Fork. That was the beginning of our brainstorming session:

Today, Hikari's article was released. I loved what she said here: "It is easy to make assumptions when you don't know the full story."

This is referring to meeting someone new and making an assumption about their lives or personalities. Once you get to know that person, you almost always change your first impression and your understanding and compassion for the person expands. This is a central theme of The Newport Ladies Book Club series. Compassion, friendship, and understanding.

For the full article in the Deseret News, go HERE.

Thanks, Hikari!

Monday, January 7, 2013

We Just Don't Know

by Annette Lyon

I imagine that I'm like many writers in that often a certain theme will latch on to my psyche and find its way into my writing in different ways.

For me, the current theme my brain apparently loves looking at from different angles is that of judging others, and how no matter how much we think we know another person, including who they are and what they're going through, we really don't. Even when we have a lot of information. We just don't know.

I explored that theme extensively in my novel Band of Sisters, and it was something that came up again and again from readers who appreciated the book. (It went on to win a Whitney Award in its category; I think the idea hit a nerve for many people, in a good way.)

Going into the Newport Ladies series, I didn't realize how much the same concept would become a dominating element of not only my book, Paige, but of all the books.

For that matter, at its core, these books are about seeing the world, and often the very same situation, from a different point of view. I remember one reader saying that after reading Olivia, they felt that Paige was rather spineless and mousy. Until they read Daisy, and saw more scenes with her and realized that there was more to Paige than Olivia saw. That reader looked forward to the release of Paige so they could see the story from her perspective.

Fans of the books seem to frequently come back to the same thing. They appreciate the rare opportunity to see into someone else's head to understand what is really going on in there.

As time has gone on, I've wondered why this theme has resonated so much with me personally. After some time of pondering, I realized that, like so many of us, I've been misjudged at times in my life, and have wished I could explain, that I could crack open my brain so someone else could see what I see, feel what I feel, think what I think.

Part of my problem (and I'm aware it's mine, not something I can blame on anyone else) is that I'm horribly shy, but not in the classic way. If I'm in a room with even one good friend, I can be chatty and comfortable and look like I'm totally in my element. Just don't ask me to interact with the other 50 strangers in the room, and I won't have an anxiety attack.

I've realized that in some situations, people have viewed my behavior as stuck-up (their word, not mine), because, as far as they can see, I'm deliberately leaving others out of the conversation, that I'm "too good" for them.

The reality: I am paralyzed by shyness to the point that I have a painful time opening my mouth around people I don't know. The one exception is when I'm teaching a workshop. Somehow lecturing a room of people is different than engaging on an individual level. It's a different kind of scary. Instead of thinking I'm somehow better than others, I almost always see myself as not good enough, that I'm lucky to be allowed into the group of friends I have or other circles I'm in, and that at any moment, I could get kicked right out.

An example: My senior year of high school, I was walking across the commons with a friend I'd been on the drill team with for three years. Her mother was with us, and she said something like this: "I'm so glad we've gotten to know you over the years. You've been such a good friend to my daughter. You're just great. Good thing we had a chance to get to know you, though, because when I first met you, I thought you were totally stuck up."

I was 18, stunned, and ready to burst into tears. I had no idea why she'd thought those things about me (although I have my suspicions now--it was the shy thing), but to this day, I'm still stumped as to why she'd tell a teenager such a thing. I was devastated.

More than two decades later, I can look back and see her words as a blessing of sorts. This wasn't the first or the last time someone said something similar to me, but it was enough of a pattern for me to finally see that people viewed me a specific way even though it wasn't remotely close to reality.

Understanding how others have viewed me, and how they may view me in the future, has helped me in a couple of ways, but the most important is to recognize exactly what the Newport Ladies books have hammered home to me so well: That I shouldn't judge others, because chances are, I have no clue what's really going on in their heads and hearts.

For all I know, they could be inwardly shy, like me, and show it differently than I do.

In short, I'm reminded to give others the benefit of the doubt. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm learning. I hope that in some small way, our readers may look on other women, whether in their family, their neighborhood, or their community--and view them with a softer lens too.

I know doing so has been a great thing for me. Seeing people and the world from new perspectives is a wonderful gift fiction writers receive in spades.