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I had a lot of fun putting together my first newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it, too! This month's edition features a Q&A interview with debut author Patricia McAlexander, and thoughts on writing from acclaimed thriller author Lori Rader-Day, winner of the Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Awards and an Edgar nominee. You will also find book recommendations from readers and updates on my own writing journey.

Congratulations to the winners of the August drawing!

Jill Pearce won a copy of The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman!

Kimberly Hon Kurth-Gray won a 20-minute virtual coaching session with Jenny!

Meet Author Patricia McAlexander

The setting of Patricia McAlexander’s novella is what first drew me in. Stranger in the Storm takes place in the foothills of New York State’s Adirondack Mountains, where I was born and raised. Patricia lived in Upstate New York as a child and spent summers at her parents’ cottage on Great Sacandaga Lake, where her main character takes refuge after leaving an abusive boyfriend. Patricia is currently working on an historical novel, Second Wives, which is inspired by her ancestors, who came from Baden (now part ​of Germany) to New York in 1850 and settled in Boonville in the western part of the state. Patricia is retired from the University of Georgia, where she taught English. She and her husband live in Athens, Georgia.

About the book:

After she discovers the abusive side of his personality, Janet Mitchell leaves the professor who swept her off her feet. Will she discover the same darkness in Wes, the handsome young man who rescues her during a hurricane?
​Years before, Wes Corbett vowed not to get romantically involved again, fearing anyone close to him might be harmed by his brother William, a born criminal. Now, as he weathers the storm with Janet, their mutual attraction becomes clear. Can he keep that vow--even though he knows William is on the loose and may be headed directly for them?

Stranger in the Storm was released as an ebook in June by The Wild Rose Press.

A conversation with Patricia

Q: What inspired you to write fiction?

Patricia: I think writing stories/fiction was in my genes. When I was in first grade, we learned to read with Dick and Jane stories. I went home and wrote my own story series, named Jean and Jerry. I kept writing fiction through my undergraduate college days. In graduate school and during my college teaching years, I had no time for that kind of writing, but when I retired, I wrote a history of my family. That became the bridge between my academic publications and my old love, fiction, for, though the family history was researched and documented, it took the form of a narrative.

Q: Your novella is both a romance and a thriller. What made you decide on this combination of genres?

Patricia: Those are my two favorite genres. Romantic love is something most of us need and hope for in our lives—look at the themes of songs, movies, literature. Also, romance can involve personal growth, something I’m interested in as a teacher. “Thrillers” involve adventure, suspense, conflict between good and evil forces, and thrill can add to the drama of love. One inspiration for Stranger was a thriller I read as a teenager—The Floods of Fear by John and Ward Hawkins. It was three people caught in a huge flood—a good escaped convict, an evil fellow convict, and a young woman. After reading it, I wrote a short story with similar characters but in a hurricane rather than a flood. Decades later, in my retirement, I found that early story and turned it, with major changes, into Stranger in the Storm.

Q: Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Patricia: That’s hard to answer because I love them all, even the bad ones. But if I have to choose, I’ll say Janet, who is partially autobiographical. She has earned a masters of fine arts at NYU; I earned a masters in English at Columbia University in New York City. Janet’s parents have a lake house on Great Sacandaga Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York, where she spent her childhood summers; my parents had a cottage there where we spent our summers. Janet aspires to be a novelist, as, now, so do I (though at a much later stage of my life). Needless to say, I identify with Janet and cheer her in her aspirations.

Q: Why did you choose Great Sacandaga Lake as the setting?

Patricia: I could close my eyes and see scenes of that lake from my childhood—the sights, the sounds, the smells. Setting the story there made the events very real to me—and I think that communicated to many of the novella’s readers. One wrote, “The upstate setting with its big lake, small towns and dairy farms is used effectively to expose and develop the characters.” Another, “The specific detail [of a novel] is what always decides for me. If I am told that something happens at a lake, I want to know what the lake looks like, how the boat is tied to the dock, and so on. Otherwise it’s like a little kid’s drawing that misses all the crucial details. So thank you, Pat, for a proper book.”

Q: Has anything surprised you about your experience as a debut author?

Patricia: Actually, that Stranger in the Storm WAS my debut novel surprised me. Almost two years earlier, my historical fiction Second Wives, about my nineteenth-century ancestors (inspired by the research into my family history), had been accepted by a press, and I thought that would be my debut. As I waited for it to go through the editing process, I wrote Stranger in the Storm, which was accepted by The Wild Rose Press and released in June 2020. Meanwhile, that first press had been sold. Second Wives had languished so long in its editorial queue that I asked for and received my rights back. So Stranger in the Storm was my debut novel after all.

Q: What can we expect from you next?

Patricia:  I hope to find a home for that novel about my ancestors. And I am working on another romance that has elements of thrill, this one set where I am living now—in Athens, Georgia.

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 Lori Rader-Day. Lori is the Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony Award- and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. Her most recent thriller, The Lucky One, is set in a true-crime amateur online sleuth community. Lori lives in Chicago, where she is co-chair of the city's mystery readers’ conference Murder and Mayhem and national president of Sisters in Crime.

"The thing about writing is that no one else cares if you do it, or if you don’t. You have to find the discipline and focus within yourself to get it done. Isn’t that the worst news? Having a community helps. Having a supportive family or a door you can lock helps. Deadlines work really well. Otherwise, it’s you. That’s why writing—not even talking about publishing here—gives you a sense of accomplishment, because when you do the work, you made this thing that wouldn’t have existed but you also battled it into being, you against you. You get the self-satisfaction of tricking yourself into doing something difficult, against the odds.

Now, do it again tomorrow."

Happenings on the Foster homestead

Marco (that giant sweet thing on the left) is the perfect distraction when I am alone in the house and I need an excuse for making no progress. Ash (the sly one on the right) is probably going to write her own best seller someday,

What's up with my books?

The manuscript for A Dead Man's Eyes, the first book in my Lisa Jamison mystery/suspense series, is not due to my publisher until October, but I am itching to wrap up the third book in the series, which is well underway. So I am taking this week to reread A Dead Man's Eyes, make any necessary changes and pass it on to the wise and talented editors at Level Best Books well ahead of the deadline. I should be nervous about the first round of edits, but I find I am excited instead. I know the editors will only make it better and I can't wait to see what suggestions they have for me.

Once book three is finished, I will start mapping out my next project while also focusing on three other completed novels that still need homes - an historical courtroom drama and two stand-alone thrillers.

I am getting nervous and excited as I watch fellow authors successfully launch books during this pandemic. It has been inspiring to see that authors are still managing to connect with readers and that book sales have not really suffered. With limits on entertainment options and many television programs on suspended production schedules , more people are returning to books when they want to escape for a bit. That's pretty cool.

What's up at home?

The two older kids are back at college, though most of their classes are online, and the twins are preparing to return to junior high five days a week with masks in hand and new rules in place. The twins don't seem bothered by the social distancing rules and I guess the new rules mean I won't have to worry about them sitting too close to each other in their classrooms. They are fortunate that they attend a tiny school district that has the space and the staff to socially distance. It won't be the same, but they will be thrilled to see their friends and their teachers again, and they know it is not forever. 
Their optimism about the future is refreshing.
Me? I am anxious to get back on a regular schedule with my day job and my writing, and I am taking nothing for granted. In the past, I have given in to the people who see writing a hobby, something I can push off for whatever they feel is more important. It's wasn't their fault. My own insecurities were to blame.
No more.
I vow to be more protective of my time. My husband will also be working from home, which will help ensure that I do not get pulled off track. For now, we are both enjoying the last full days at home with our boys. We picked apples from the property and made pie last week (I have a lot to learn about baking with wild apples!). We will go school shopping Friday and celebrate my husband's birthday over the weekend.
We look forward to the cooler temperatures to come.

Book recommendations from readers to readers

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

Dreamland (historical suspense) by Nancy Bilyeau

- Emilya N.

The Roxane Weary series (thriller) by Kristen Lepionka

- Lori R-D

My Dark Vanessa (psychological fiction) by Kate Elizabeth Russell

- Emilya N.

The Cass Raines series (mystery) by Tracy Clark

- Lori R-D

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (Creative nonfiction) by Samantha Irby

- Aubrey E.

The Truth According to Us (Historical fiction) by Annie


- Dee G.

Still Life (Mystery) by Louise Penny

- Karoline B.

The Blackwell and Watson Time Travel Mysteries (Mystery) by Carol Pouliot

- Tina D.

This quote from my nonfiction book, Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years, seems appropriate as we begin a new school year:

"A sense of self is a product of discovery and discovery occurs when children have choices. Forcing individuality upon identical twins --making them pursue separate activities, separating them in school for no reason other than the notion that separate is better, denying them the chance to decide their own sleeping arrangements as they get older -- is no more admirable than forcing them to be alike.

Like the rest of us, Matthew and Jonathan might never fully understand who they are, but they already know who they are not. Matthew knows he is not Jonathan. Jonathan knows he is not Matthew. To me, that's a successful start.."

Happy writing and reading!
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Lori Duffy Foster Author

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