Author Archives: Jennifer B. Duffey

The Hardest 3 Paragraphs to Write

Most people think that the process of writing a book is difficult. Sometimes it is. Sometimes, on those rare occasions when the stars and planets all align in perfect order, it isn’t.

But what few people realize is writing the book is only half the battle.

Once the book is written, once it’s edited and prepped for publication, then the truly difficult writing begins. For then, a writer has to write the most difficult three paragraphs of any project.

You have to write the dreaded back cover copy!

We’re told that this small insight into our current masterpiece should be about three paragraphs in length and should be between 150 and 200 words. Less than 200 words to tell the world how amazing your novel truly is.

Let’s be perfectly honest, most writers hate writing the back cover copy. I know I do. I put it off until the bitter end and then procrastinate a few hours more hoping against hope that I’ll come up with something clever at the last moment.

Inspiration never happens. I always flounder around in the dark forgetting how to form an actual sentence. It’s a horrible but necessary exercise that I go through with each new writing project.

And yet here’s what the back cover copy would actually say if we were truly free to write exactly what we want readers to know about our book.

“Dear Reader,

Buy my book. It’s the greatest thing you’ve ever read. I know because I wrote it. I spent (insert number) weeks/months/years/decades of my life toiling over every single word to make it perfect. And it’s AWESOME! Even my mom said so.

I can’t tell you about the plot because I don’t want to give away the super secret ending that’s guaranteed to make you laugh/cry/scream in terror. But trust me, you’ll never guess what happens. Be prepared to be amazed.

So anyway, but my book because like I said, it’s awesome. And you’ll love it. I promise. And if you don’t, we’ll just keep that little tidbit between ourselves. Thanks.”

Now that’s the most honest back cover copy that you’ll never read it anywhere but here. The reason is simple, readers would never buy that book. As a reader, I wouldn’t buy that book but as a writer, I wish it was that simple.

Alas, nothing is ever as simple as you’d like it to be. So now I need to spend the next few hours struggling to write three paragraphs for my current project.  Hopefully, it’ll be brilliant!

Good luck with your own writing projects. May inspiration shine down upon us all!

Happy writing!






Don’t Thank Me

Today is Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of summer. A day of great celebration across our country. There will be barbeques and picnics, hours by the lake, or tanning by the pool. Time spent with family and friends.

It’s also a time of remembrance for all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. A day when we honor our fallen heroes, those men and women who gave their lives so that we may live in the greatest country on earth.

As many of you may know, I’m a veteran. Once a long time ago, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic. It’s an oath that never expires and a promise I’ll carry to my grave.

And yet, my time in the Army was as uneventful as it’s possible to be. I never saw combat. I was never deployed to a hostile area. I never faced the nightmares that often come after impossibly stressful decisions are made in a split second of chaos.

I am a very average peacetime veteran who served my time and got out to go onto other things. There are millions of us all across this country. We’re the ones who put on the uniform for a few years and then went on with our lives.

I’m very proud that I made the choice to serve. I learned a lot of difficult lessons. I gained a new confidence I never would have found without the Army. I got to travel to Europe and see places I may never have visited.

But I’m no hero.

I’m just your typical, average one term Vet.

I understand the desire to show appreciation for those who served and I accept those sentiments when they’re offered. But I do so on behalf of my brothers and sisters who gave so much more than I did. I do so for the Seamen who were lost in Pearl Harbor and for the soldiers who never returned from Normandy Beach. I remember those who came back from Iraq draped under a flag covered coffin. I remember the soldiers like my father-in-law who served four tours in Nam.

Those are the people I thank for my freedom. They’re the real heroes who deserve our honor.

So while I appreciate the sentiment behind the gesture, on this Memorial Day, stop and say a quick prayer for those souls we lost along the way. And thank God that they were there for all of us.

But don’t thank me because I stand in awe of those great men and women too.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day filled will good health, beautiful weather, family, and friends. And let’s not forget those who gave everything so that we all might enjoy another day of freedom.

God Bless you all and God Bless America!

Andrea Patten Wants You to Love Your Inner Critic

Author Andrea Patten

Like many of us, Andrea Patten has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother’s desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram’s classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

So, of course, one of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to “have a look” at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience.”

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

“I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces… Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have,” says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

“I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book’s purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults.”

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn’t work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that’s not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side… to make it an ally. You can learn to use its’ energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

“A few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:

  • loves you and wants to keep you safe,
  • is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
  • constantly scans your environment for threats, and • will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage?”

Check with your local indie bookstore for the softcover version of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. It is also available in e-book or softcover on

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

The Little Things

The other day I was chatting with a lady who was very curious about my writing career. I’ll offer you a condensed version of the conversation.

Lady: So, how do you become a writer?

Me: You write.

Lady: That part doesn’t sound hard because I have some great ideas but what about all the little stuff?

Me: What little stuff?

Lady: You know, like commas and quotes and stuff like that.

Me: You mean grammar?

Lady: Yeah, all that stuff. I don’t know where any of that stuff goes.

Me: Ummm… tactful, tactful, tactful…Yeah, grammar is kind of important.

Lady: But don’t you just send it off and the people do all that stuff?

Me: People?

Lady: Yeah, the people who publish it.

Me: Well, I’m an independent writer so I am the people.

She was somewhat deflated after that but we continued to chat for a few more minutes before we parted company. I’m not sure writing is in her future. Especially since the little stuff she kept referring to is actually pretty big stuff.

In fact it’s major stuff.

In a way, the conversation with this lady reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother about a year ago. He’s a construction expert who specializes in foundation repair. He was telling me about a client of his who noticed the walls of his house were shifting.

The home was not very old and had been built by the previous owner.  It was a nice house, valued well over $250k, which for the area is a substantial size. The client was the poor soul unfortunate enough to purchase the home. You see, as my brother began to investigate the cause to the problem, he found that there was no foundation. For reasons only known to God, the previous owner/builder had not poured any footings. Not one. He had merely laid some crossties or beams down and started building.

I mean, who needs footings anyway, right?

As you can imagine, the solution to this problem was not pleasant. My brother recommended contacting a good attorney.

Grammar is the foundation for good writing. Without it there is nothing to build on.

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. Joan Didion Click To Tweet

Of course, artistic expression comes into play, but the basic grammatical foundation is always there. Can you imagine opening a book and finding one long continuous block of words without the first hint of punctuation? How would the reader differentiate between characters or settings? Who is speaking and when? Where are they and what are they doing?

The mere idea makes head hurt.

I would actually argue that for independent writers, grammar is more important than for traditionally published authors. Why would I say that? It’s simple. The idea of an independent writer comes with a heavy stigma. Many readers assume that the only reason authors go the independent route is because they can’t get a traditional publishing deal. Somehow their work isn’t quite good enough to make the cut. These readers are hesitant to give our work a try from the beginning because they already think it’s going to be of a poor quality and why should anyone waste their money on poor quality?

That stereotype is changing, but change comes slowly in the minds of the masses.

Unfortunately, there are a great number of independents out there who prove that point. Every single day, thousands of new titles hit the marketplace. With those types of numbers, some bad ones are bound to slip by, like the books written by someone who wasn’t worried about the little things, such good grammar. Alas, that just goes to further alienate mainstream readership.

Look, I get it writing is a hard, especially if you choose to go the independent route. EVERYTHING falls squarely on your shoulders. Story and character development, writing, editing, rewriting, quality control, layout and design, publication, distribution, and marketing. Whether you do it yourself or hire a team to assist you, it is all ultimately your responsibility.

And THAT’S a lot of responsibility and work. It’s easy to be tempted to skip something.

Personally, I love being an independent writer. I enjoy learning more about the process with each new project.

But I would NEVER, EVER try to take on a writing project without a firm grammatical foundation. I wouldn’t consider editing it. I wouldn’t want to read it. And I pray to God that I would never write it.

As I said before, the idea makes my head hurt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to go diagram some sentences and brush up on my comma usage.

Here’s hoping you never find a book without its foundation!

Happy Writing!

My Favorite Books Blog Hop: A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.A.A. Milne

As today is the last day for our blog hop, I’d like to get a bit sentimental for a moment and discuss one of my favorite literary works, Winnie the Pooh.

I understand that when most people discuss favorite books, they tend to think of literary giants like Gone With the Wind or Fahrenheit 451. They may expound on the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, or Austen. And, make no mistake, all of these fine classics are deserving of the merit they have received.

Yet, in my humble opinion, there are few written works that can touch a heart so deeply as Winnie the Pooh.

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” Winnie the Pooh Click To Tweet

Winnie the Pooh was originally published in 1926, with Now We Are Six following in 1927 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. For me, it’s often difficult to separate these stories from one another. They just blend into the Pooh universe. These stories are so wonderfully crafted and offer a rare glimpse of innocence that’s lost in today’s cynical world.

Stop and think about it for a moment. All of the truly important lessons in life can all be learned through the adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

For me, these stories remind me of story time when my children were young. I yearn to see their innocent faces once again and hear their cute little giggles. That time passed far too quickly and before I knew it, I woke up with teenagers.

Pooh takes me back and for a moment I’m holding my little ones in my arms again.

That’s why Pooh is my favorite silly ol’ bear.  And the older I get, the more wisdom I find within his adventures.

I’m not anticipating grandchildren anytime within the near future. I think I still have many more years before I face that adventure. But I know that my future grandchildren will sit in my lap as we travel to the Hundred Acre Wood and experience the world of Winnie the Pooh together.

And that will be the greatest adventure of all!

Blessings to all of you and Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

Remembering Dachau

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

There are those who would argue that the Holocaust never happened, that it’s a figment of imagination or propaganda. They would profess supposed facts and documents supporting their theories. They would try to convince you that the worst atrocity in human history never happened.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 1984 Click To Tweet

I’m not one of those people. I can never live so blindly, nor would I want to.

As a student of history with a particular fondness for the 30s and 40s, I’ve studied WWII and am always fascinated to learn new tidbits about that time. But even my years of studying couldn’t prepare me for my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp.

It was in September of 1995 and I was very pregnant with my daughter. My husband and I were stationed in Germany and it was our first trip to the Munich Germany area. We planned a short holiday with a stop to tour the concentration camp before heading down to Neuschwanstein Castle (better known as Cinderella’s Castle).

The day was absolutely gorgeous. A perfect blue sky overhead. Not too hot nor cold. I could not have planned a more beautiful day.

And then we arrived in Dachau. I’m not sure what happened with the weather, but as we neared the site of the concentration camp, an eerie cloud fall over us like a wet blanket. There was a chill in the air and the sunny afternoon evaporated before our eyes.

I have never visited a more haunted place. Sorrow and death draped over the entrance and from the moment I stepped foot through the gates I felt a heaviness unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since. It was one of complete and utter despair.

The camp itself was smaller than I imagined. It was also much closer to town than I envisioned. In my mind, I always pictured this large complex well away from the center of everything. This place butted right up to the city. Granted things had changed in the 50 years since WWII, but the closeness of the town angered me greatly. How could anyone say they didn’t know? How could anyone deny the atrocities?

Outside the visitors center, there’s a sculpture. At first, I couldn’t make out the shapes but as I turned to a different angle, I could clearly see it was a sculpture of people caught in bobbed wire fencing. It was overpowering to say the least.

Most of the living quarters, if you can truly call the huts that, have been removed. Only a few still remain. Inside, they briefly reminded me of some of the cabins I’d stayed in during my youth group camping trips to various locations. There was a bathroom and shower in the center with two large open rooms on either side.

That’s where the similarities stopped. The cots remained in place. I remember those cots being so small. Guessing back, I’d say each one was no bigger than a standard sheet of plywood (about 4′ x 8′ if that big) which would have been uncomfortable for one person to sleep on. When Dachau was at maximum capacity, three prisoners were assigned to each cot. There were three cots to a rack of bunks.

And the room was filled with racks.

I also noted that there were only three toilets, sinks, and showers per hut. Provided all the facilities were working, it would have been virtually impossible for each prisoner to utilize the facilities every day. There were just too many people crammed into the space without adequate accommodations.

Then we visited the ovens.

As I said, we visited in September of 1995, some 50 years after the end of WWII. The smell of burned flesh was still there. There was no mistaking what had occurred in that place.

I can remember as clear as day, my husband and I were talking quietly about what we were seeing and the horrors that were honestly too awful to truly comprehend when an older gentleman who had been standing a few yards away walked over and gave us a weak smile.

He quickly learned that we were Americans and began chatting with us in broken English. I remember he looked at us and asked if we believed this happened. I thought he was missing something in translation so I asked him to repeat himself. When he again asked the same question, both my husband and I answered without a shadow of doubt that what had happened there was beyond terrible.

He kept going with his line of questioning, again in broken English.

We began to think that perhaps he was one of those doubters, one of the ones who wanted others to question the reality of the holocaust. We were ready to defend our position as only Americans can do, when we finally realized that he was a Jewish man from Israel. He was visiting Dachau because he’d lost loved ones there and he had spent many years defending history from the ignorant. He wanted to make sure that we understood the past.

He was a nice guy. Very kind and polite but passionate in his stance. We chatted with him for quite awhile that day.  As we parted ways, I remember the utter sadness in his eyes. I can only imagine the pain that visit caused him.

Ironically, the feeling of despair and hopelessness seemed to evaporate the further we ventured from the camp that day. It was as though the sorrow only hung around that place. As if the souls of long ago were crying out.

I didn’t get the opportunity to visit other concentration camps while I lived in Europe. But I’m not sure I needed to see any others. I will never forget that day not because it was a good memory but because it provided a tactile example of the extremes of evil we can inflict on one another. I had learned about those extremes in school. Visiting Dachau drove those lessons home.

For those who say the holocaust never happened, I say you’re a fool. Hide behind your ignorance if you want to, but I will never be one of your sheeple.

And for those who have endured the horrors of the holocaust, for the families affected by the darkest period of history, I pray that God has granted you peace and happiness throughout the rest of your lives. God bless you!

All the best,


(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

Meet Award Winning Author Nancy Blanton

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Florida author Nancy Blanton, whose award-winning historical novels are set primarily in 17th century Ireland. her latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, has won three awards since its July 2016 publication, and is a finalist for two others. She chose the setting not only because of an Irish heritage, but also because it’s a period not heavily covered in fiction. For Nancy, it’s not just a passion, it’s a strategy. She explains why in the following interview.

First of all, what made you choose to write historical fiction?

It is what I love to read. I like to learn as I read, and I feel my time is well-spent. Recently I posted a blog about my favorite book, the first historical novel I read: Gone with the Wind. I learned so much from that book about America’s Civil War and its aftermath. I was both fascinated and hooked. Many writers avoid historical fiction because it requires so much research, but for me that’s the best part. It’s a treasure hunt to discover details most people have never seen or heard before, that will bring history to life.

Why did you pick 17th century Ireland?

My father emphasized our Irish heritage when I was growing up. We heard the music, sang the songs, wore the green, marched in the parade—all that. Our family toured Ireland when I was 15, and he sent me to Ireland for a summer study during my junior year in college. That I would want to write about it seems only natural. But when I started researching, I realized books about the 16th and 18th centuries were prominent, but not so much the 17th. A study for the Historical Novel Society found that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose when buying a book. This surprised me because it’s an exciting time of sweeping change, when the Irish clan system is overtaken by the English plantation system, when Cromwell led his bloody march. I saw a niche for myself, and made it my mission to illuminate this period.

Most novels set out to explore a question. What question did you have in mind when writing The Prince of Glencurragh?

In 17th century Ireland, many hopes and dreams were destroyed as the English took control of the island. So I was asking, “Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?” The book is about a young Irishman facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest to realize his father’s dream of a castle and estate called Glencurragh.

The premise is interesting to me on two levels. First, everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. And second, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later in life that it doesn’t satisfy. And dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we had not expected.

What is setting for this story?

It takes place in southwest Ireland, primarily County Cork, in 1634. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, lands that have been in clan ownership for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service. Even castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now have fallen against the power of the siege and cannon.

Faolán Burke will try almost anything to make his father’s castle a reality, including abducting an heiress to elevate his station and his income. But the heiress has a mind of her own, and they are drawn into the crossfire between the most powerful noblemen in Ireland—each with his own agenda.

What themes does the book address?

In many ways, this book is about friendship, the relationship between best friends from childhood. The story is narrated by Faolan’s best friend Aengus O’Daly. I have some very deep and lasting friendships of this kind, and those relationships informed this story in ways I didn’t even realize until the end. I am deeply grateful to my friends for that.

This story is also about hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a circumstance that gives you pain, hope is what we rely on to get through, and it is the most human part of us.

What will readers find most appealing about this book?

This book captivates readers right away because it is fast-paced and rich with interesting historical detail. The 17th century is rife with conflict, disaster, invention and change.

The story also is relevant because it focuses on issues we still face today, such as oppression of ethnic groups and women, the struggle for survival and the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It is also a very personal struggle that most of us can relate to. Faolán is tested, just as anyone is who aspires to a goal. You want this thing, and it seems the mountain grows suddenly higher, the road more rugged, forcing you to show just how much you’re willing to fight for what you want.

Does the protagonist achieve his father’s vision for the Castle Glencurragh?

Without revealing the ending, I will say that Faolán adapts. The end is hopeful, as should be any story that deals with dreams.

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in e-book, soft cover and hard cover on, and from other online booksellers.

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Favorite Books Blog Hop – Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

They looked at each other for a long time — probably only seconds, but that can be a long time….Maeve Binchy

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Maeve Binchy’s first novel, Light a Penny Candle. Some critics have called it her finest work, although I’d personally say for me it’s a tie with The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends, both of which I enjoy immensely.

Originally published in 1982, the novel takes readers on the journey of two young girls who are forced together thanks to the perils of WWII. Elizabeth White is as timid as it is possible to be. She is totally unprepared for the rough and tumble O’Connor clan and their fiery red-headed daughter, Aisling. Although they are the same age, they are polar opposites in every sense of the word. And yet, the bond that they form is unshakable.

I was born well after WWII ended, but have always had a soft spot for that period of history. This work deftly allows the reader to experience some of the tragedies of war from a unique and often underrepresented point of view, the Irish who hoped to remain neutral during that time.

I’ve often commented on my love of Binchy novels. She is one of my favorite authors. Her command of character development is unrivaled in my humble opinion. There is a realness to the people she writes. You know them. You can see them. They become your friends. These two wonderful characters are no exception.

Through the course of the work, we get to see these two girls grow and mature into confident, determined women. That may be the reason I enjoy this book so much, it’s utterly relatable in almost every aspect. These women suffer the heartbreaks of love, face difficult family circumstances, and struggle to balance work with personal responsibilities. There are tears intermingled with laughter and adventure fraught with painful consequences.

In short, it’s just like real life.

And honestly, like so many other Binchy novels, I didn’t want their story to end. I wanted to see what happened next, what was the next great adventure these two went on together.

I once heard an interview that Binchy gave were she stated that her writing was great to relax with and take to the beach. I believe that’s true. I wouldn’t consider it the hallmark of great literature. And I don’t believe she set out to write such a novel.

What I would consider her novel to be is an in depth snapshot of human nature with all its flaws, insecurities, hopes, and dreams. And that may be the finest aspect of a great storyteller.

Until next week,

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

New Beginnings

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.Aristotle

Photo courtesy of Greg Gatliff, Greg Gatliff Farms

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a gentleman. He was discussing his upcoming anniversary (24 years!) and telling me about the adventures he had at his wedding.

Apparently, it was quite the event.

It had already been a fairly long day, so I didn’t stop to do the math to find out the year of his wedding. It wasn’t until he mentioned he was married in 1993 that I paused.

I was married in 1993.

It turns out, he wed about a month after I did. Small world isn’t it?

I congratulated him on his upcoming anniversary and wished him and his family well. I truly hope that he and his wife have many, many more wonderful years together.

And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking of my past. Not of my wedding but of my divorce and the time leading up to that point. It’s been five years since my ex and I separated. Five years since my life began again.

Life can be very tumultuous at times. That was certainly a roller coaster episode for me and one that I’m in no hurry to repeat. But the thing that truly struck me was how bleak things were leading up to the final separation. I can remember wondering if I’d ever make it through that period of time. Was my life over? Would I ever be able to move on? Would I ever come out the other side of that nightmare?

Now, it’s five years later.

While I was busy trying to be a single mom with all the responsibilities that entails and start a writing career, while I was busy living life, time moved on, almost without me noticing.

Sure, my kids grew taller, my daughter graduated high school and joined the Marines, and my son is now a freshman in high school. Those milestones are how I normally measure the passage of time. I don’t normally think about my anniversaries.

Looking back, a lot has happened that I would have never dreamed about. I’ve published two novels and a collection of short stories. That’s a dream fulfilled which never would have happened if I’d stayed married. If I hadn’t begun again.

I’m also happy, truly happy with myself.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of things I want to accomplish. There are goals that I’ve set and want to see to fruition. I have many more milestones to meet.

But when I look in the mirror, I like the person I am. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m at peace with my past and I’m looking forward to my future.

That’s no easy feat to accomplish.

Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m no longer in a relationship that tended to bring out the worst possible qualities in both of us. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve lived through hardships and understand my own ability to survive.

Maybe it’s a culmination of all of these things.

For many people, they’d like to turn back the clock to an earlier age. They’d like to erase the mistakes of the past and avoid a mountain of regrets.

I’m not one of those people. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than waking up as a teenager and having to go through all that again. Even with what I know now, I’d hate for something like that to happen.

Erasing certain decisions of my past would greatly alter where I currently am on my journey. It would change everything about who I met along the way and which relationships I fostered. Would my kids be the same people they are now? Probably not. And they’re pretty awesome people. I wouldn’t want to change them in the slightest bit.

And I wouldn’t want to change the person that I am now.

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to begin again, despite all the pain and suffering that I went through to get there. Those battle scars were hard fought and won at great expense. They are worth more to me than gold because they created a foundation from which I’m building the rest of my life. A life that I cherish.

I can’t say what the future will hold. I have no idea of the challenges I’ll face along the way or the pains that may greet me in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. But I know that I can survive because I’ve already survived. I know that whatever curve ball I’m thrown, I can adjust and create something positive.

Starting over again is scary. It’s fraught with uncertainty. But when we embrace the change, we open ourselves up to experience new joys that we never imagined.

And I truly hope that whatever challenges you’re facing, whatever new beginnings are on your horizon, I pray they bring with them a mountain of happiness and self-fulfillment. I hope you create the life you’ve always wanted, the one you’ve always dreamed about.

All the best!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Favorite Book Blog Hop: Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth

And roots, if they are to bear fruits, must be kept well in the soil of the land.Pearl Buck

In last week’s blog hop post, my friend Andrea Patten asked, “How many times have you picked up a book and fallen in love simply because it was exactly what you needed at the time?” Well, that got me thinking about some of the books that have fallen into my life at precisely the right moment.

One such book is Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. It was during a particularly difficult period in my life. I was eating lunch with a friend and she began to tell me about a book she had just finished reading. She looked at me and said, “You’ll love it.”

She was right.

I had never ventured into  Buck’s novels before. A novel about China seemed unfathomable to a simple country girl from rural Georgia. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Buck’s novel takes us on a journey of a poor Chinese farmer, Wang Lung and his wife O-lan. Society looks down on Wang because he has nothing but through hard work and gritty determination, he is able to become prosperous. With each successful crop, he is able to buy more land from those who no longer wish to farm. Eventually, those who looked down on him come to see him as an equal, if not a superior.

But he also faces struggles along the way. There is drought and famine, temptation and corruption. We see a good, pious farmer fall victim to the trappings of wealth and opportunity. We see a family lose and try to regain its spiritual foundation.

In many ways, this novel helped shine a light on some issues that I had been facing. Not that I’d ever experienced precisely the same events that unfolded in the book, but his experience had mirrored some of my own difficulties in life. I had grown up on a farm and had a deep rooted appreciation for the land and those who work it. I had been determined to make something of myself in my youth. I had worked hard and had created a successful business. And I had watched everything I worked for disappear when that business failed during the last recession.

I had lived through my own personal famine and was emerging on the other side when I read this book.

I can’t say what impact this novel would have had on me if I’d read it at any other time. There’s no way to know if it would have held the same influence. I’m sure I would have appreciated the work, as it is an amazing literary read. Yet I’m also sure that the overall impact would have been different.

This book was originally published in 1931 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. A movie followed in 1937 starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. The movie is entertaining but it’s not on par with the classics like Gone With the Wind or Casablanca. And it is nowhere close to the book.

After all, you shouldn’t judge a book by the movie.

I’d highly recommend taking a journey to historical China through Buck’s novel. Whether you’re facing difficulty or not, this book has immense wealth to offer the reader.

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)