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I am not a big scented candle person except for this time of year. Apple cinnamon, pine, mulled cider--the aromas of the holiday season can lighten my mood on the dreariest of days. I hope this month's featured authors bring you a bit of joy this November as well. We are joined this month by mystery writer Carol Pouliot, who offers interesting insights on the value of community for writers, and author Kathryn Craft, whose novels dig deeply onto her readers' souls.  You will also find updates on my own writing journey and a few photos from the Foster homestead in North Central Pennsylvania. 

I hope you enjoy it!

Congratulations to Jennifer Diamond, winner of the October drawing! 

Jennifer won a copy of Dirty Old Town: A Shane Cleary Mystery by Gabriel Valjan.

Meet Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy, and the author of chapters in Author in Progress and The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing from Writers Digest Books. Her fourteen years as a freelance developmental editor at follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she is an active member of Pennwriters; the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, serving as its 2020 Guiding Scribe; and an award-winning marketing cooperative of women authors, Tall Poppy Writers. Kathryn leads writing workshops and retreats, mentors novelists through her Your Novel Year program, teaches for Drexel University’s MFA program, and is a regular contributor to top writing blog WriterUnboxed.

About her books

The Art of Falling: All Penny ever wanted to do was dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

The Far End of Happy: Ronnie's husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned. The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage—and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie's fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family's lives depend on the choices she will make—but is what's best for her best for everyone?

A Conversation with Kathryn

Q: What drew you to fiction after so many years in dance and as a dance critic?

Kathryn: During my first marriage, back when I was a dance critic, I was known for saying, “With so many real stories in the world to tell, why make one up?” Hardly an intro to a career as a novelist, right?

Then, s**t got real. My sons (8 and 10 at the time) and I lived through the unfolding drama of my husband’s suicide standoff against a massive police presence. What does a writer do with an experience like that? Well, if she wants to learn and grow and create meaning, she writes about it.

But what to write—nonfiction? Turns out, I didn’t want to cite statistics or convince or warn. I wanted to write to show how, in the face of one of the most unconscionable acts to be taken by someone who says they love you, the characters in this family sustained hope.

Life can seem random and chaotic. People come to fiction in search of a world ordered through consistent characterization. A carefully constructed story gives us a chance to point readers toward an equally true, yet better ending.

So, in the end, I wrote fiction.

Q: Your novels are informed by your own life experiences (your dance/choreography/critic career and your husband’s death by suicide), yet you succeed in ensuring that they do not feel autobiographical. Your characters are unique, and they own their experiences. How difficult was that, to draw so strongly from your own life, but remain true to the craft of fiction?

Kathryn: Thank you for these kind, very hard-won words!

How I did it is best exemplified by THE FAR END OF HAPPY, since that story was hung on the frame of my first husband’s suicide standoff. For each change away from “fact,” I had to ask myself, “How does this change improve the kind of story I want to tell?” For instance, my mom and dad were sequestered with me during the real-life standoff. It was comforting to see their faces that day, but they could have been framed pictures on the wall for all they did to impact the unfolding drama—that doesn’t fly in fiction. What characters could I create, that could better drive the narrative?

For the novel, I placed in the same room Ronnie, the wife whose self-actualization will cause her to leave her husband; her mother, with an unresolved past as concerns both suicide and elusive love; and a mother-in-law who judged worth through monetary value. I did this to show that the three women closest to Jeff didn’t really know him at all. They hadn’t seen the threat of suicide coming, and yet they were left behind to clean up the mess. Each of them also kept shameful secrets that blow up from the standoff’s tensions, exploring the very real phenomena of blame after a suicide.

Once I changed who Ronnie was with, I changed Ronnie, too, as she interacts with these characters. My sub-genre is called “psychological women’s fiction” and I pay close attention to the development of these relationship arcs.

Q: Do you have a favorite character or scene in either your novels? Could you tell us about it?

Kathryn: I still miss Marty Kandelbaum, the baker, whose car and doughnuts helped save Penelope Sparrow’s life. He believes in comfort food, love, and the unconditional support of and responsibility for people God has placed in his path, even when that becomes exceedingly difficult. His unexpected wisdom delighted me.

As for favorite scene, it has to be the dance that Penelope choreographs for her friend Angela in THE ART OF FALLING. In that one scene, I had to tap my experience as a dancer, choreographer, and dance critic.

Q: You spend a great deal of time giving back to the writing and reading communities. Why is this so important to you?

Kathryn: Because I believe:

The arts are crucial to our humanity.

Without volunteerism in the arts, the world would stop spinning and we’d all fly off.

If you want to live forever, mentor someone. They will never forget you.

Writers may write on their own, but they cannot be published, well, all on their own.

There is no better way to network (find critique partners, meet agents and editors, find published authors who might one day blurb your book) than to roll up your sleeves and volunteer.

So, I do!

Q: I understand you are working on a third novel. Can you tell us more about it and when we can expect to see it one the shelves?

Kathryn: I am not writing this one under contract, so I have no publication date, nor do I know if it will ever get published. (Ah, the vagaries of the writing life!) I do love it though and have been writing it for four years.

In the end, we all must write to please ourselves. Otherwise, writing novels is just too hard to be sustainable.

In its broadest sense, this next one is a story of a woman who seeks to reclaim her true nature after trauma, set within Nature’s own violent reclamation during a Northeastern ice storm. It is a love story grounded in place and belonging, in which trees play major characters.

On writing and reading ...

Each month, I ask an author for thoughts about writing, reading or the writing life. This month's featured author is Carol Pouliot, who lives and writes in Central New York and is a fellow Level Best Books author. In her past life, Carol taught French and Spanish and owned a business. Now, she is author of Doorway to Murder and Threshold of Deceit, Books 1 and 2 of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries. The third installment, Death Rang the Bell, will be released in September 2021. When not working on her series, Carol can be found reaching for her passport and packing a suitcase for her next adventure.

Carol offers this advice:

"If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

When I began writing, I’d been retired from teaching for several years. After decades of spending my days with teenagers, I reveled in the peace and quiet of my home in the country surrounded by acres of woods. As I sat at my computer, steam drifting above a mug of coffee and snow gently falling, I imagined myself alone in a Paris attic writing my magnum opus. Key word alone.

Well...not exactly. I quickly learned that going from the idea to the published book is anything but a solitary activity. Writers need each other for a lot of things. Luckily, there is a wonderful, warm mystery writers’ community just waiting to welcome new members into the fold.

The single most important thing that I did for my writing career was to join Sisters in Crime. SinC is a professional crime writers’ association founded to promote the advancement, recognition, and development of women crime writers. It is open to both published and unpublished mystery writers (women and men), librarians, bookstore owners, and lovers of the genre.

Although I’ve always been a reader and have university degrees, I had never taken a writing course. I didn’t know anything about the publishing industry or the fine points of writing a mystery. As I began attending monthly meetings of my SinC chapter, I met other writers and started networking. I learned there were annual mystery writers’ conferences. (Who knew??) I went to many of these conferences, attended workshops, asked questions, and learned.

As I said, writers need other writers. We listen and commiserate when someone has writer’s block and struggles to put words on paper. We support each other during the submission process when our writer-friend is looking for an agent or publisher, cheering her/him on during the often long and arduous journey. We write blurbs for each other’s books, share news and triumphs on social media, spread the word, buy books, and read each other’s works. Whether we’re writing book number three or thirty-three, we continue to learn, hone our craft, and network, network, network.

I wish I had joined Sisters in Crime before I’d typed the first word of chapter one of my first novel. But I’m so glad that I eventually did join. Whether being published is still a dream or you’re well on your way to the end of your first draft or you have a drawer filled with manuscripts waiting to be edited, I urge you to get involved in the organization that supports your genre−whether it be Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, or another such group. You’ll be so glad you did. Until then...

Happy Writing!!"

Happenings on the Foster homestead

The deer have darkened and the bucks have shed the velvet from their fully grown antlers. It is fireplace season in Northern Central Pennsylvania, and that means it is almost turkey time, too. Happy Thanksgiving a few weeks in advance from our family to yours.

What's up with my books?

Creativity has not come easily during this pandemic. I had counted on having six hours to myself on school days, time I could split between my part-time job and writing. That hasn't happened.

My twins are thirteen and are fairly self-sufficient. Still, they need me when they are learning at home. I keep them on track and I keep them fed. I help them navigate confusion, uncertainly and misunderstandings with their teachers and their assignments. I make sure they move throughout the day, and actually shower and dress. I find I have just enough time for my part-time job and that I reserve errands for days when they are physically in school.

My writing time has taken a huge hit.

Still, I have passed the halfway point with the third novel in the Lisa Jamison series and I expect to finish it before Christmas. My mind is swarming with thoughts of another historical crime novel set in the Adirondacks, where I grew up. My editor has started working on my debut novel, A Dead Man's Eyes. She will toss it back into my hands for revisions in just over two weeks.

I think I am not writing, but I am.

Somehow, creativity always fights its way to the surface and I write.

What's up at home?

As our house was nearing completion more than seven years ago, I told my husband I would paint the exterior doors myself. I still needed to decide on the colors. I didn't want to rush the decision just so the contractor could do it.

I definitely did not rush.

I will paint the final door (There are six, in my defense, and two of those are French doors.) this week in the earthy hues of Adirondack green, brown and red. I will have spent more time avoiding door paint than I spent writing my first novel.

Otherwise, life is moving fast in our household. The twins will wrap up cross-country season this week and our daughter will complete the fall semester at NC State before Thanksgiving. Our oldest will come home from Penn State for the holiday, but he will return to his apartment for more classes and finals.

My husband relies on a kerosene heater to keep him warm in his tree house/office these days, but he is determined to work in the midst of nature as long as possible. Someday, he might have to return to his windowless office 40 minutes away. He wants to enjoy the opportunity to choose his work environment as long as possible.

This year has flown by. Sometimes, I wish I could slow it down, but I always get excited to see what is next. When you hear from me again, our Christmas tree will be up because I am one of those people. We select and decorate our tree Thanksgiving weekend because I crave that coziness. Best of wishes from our family to yours in the month ahead.

Book recommendations from readers to readers

(Email me at with your recommendations for next month's newsletter or message me on Facebook.)

The Book of Longings (Historical Fiction) by Sue Monk Kidd

- Marsha M.

Circe (Historical Fiction/Fantasy) by Madeline Miller

- Patricia A.

The Evening and The Morning (Historical Fiction/Saga) by Ken Follett

- Marsha M.

Night Film (Mystery/Thriller) by Marisha Pessl

- Dee G.

Crossing to Safety (Domestic Fiction) by Wallace Stegner

- Heather Y.

In the Lake of the Woods (Mystery/Domestic Fiction by Tim O'Brien

- Heather Y.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Self-Help) by Robin DiAngelo

- Vikki M.

Deadly Travel (Historical Mystery) by Kate Parker

- Kathleen K.

Monogamy (Domestic Fiction) by Susan Miller

- Mally B.

Southern California Mysteries series (Mystery) By Lida Sideris

- Carol P.

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant (Non-Fiction/Business) by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

- Ed D.

Enjoy this quote from my nonfiction book, Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years:

"My guys sleep, eat and even poop on the same schedule. No significant variations so far and they are three months old. I still get next-to-no sleep as I attempt to nurse while also taking the older kids back and forth to school, transporting them to various activities, keeping up with their homework, running errands, cleaning the house and providing meals, but I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult my life would be if one twin were colicky or one habitually rose early and fell asleep early while other did the opposite.

If I change one baby, I know the other needs changing, too. If I feed one, I know the other is hungry as well. When one naps or crashes for the night, I know the other will, too. No staying up late with one while getting up early with the other. No feeding one only to feed the other an hour later. No continuous diaper changes.

I salute those parents. Compared to them, I have it easy."

Happy writing and reading!
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Lori Duffy Foster Author

2399 Austinburg Road, Westfield
PA 16950 United States

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