Zetty

I’m so pleased to welcome the winner of the WILLA award, Debra Whiting Alexander. Debra is giving away a print copy of Zetty, a novel that goes deep into loss, deep into the power of friendship, and deep Into joy. Deb is offering one free book to a potential fan who leaves a comment here.

  1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I was raised on the warm sandy beaches of San Diego and grew up on a steady diet of western movies and musicals. My debut novel, Zetty, takes place in Windansea, California, a little beach community in San Diego. Like the main character in the story, I grew up with a love for the ocean, cowgirls, neighborhood dance shows, pianos, golden retrievers, and art. Friendship and motherhood are the central themes in my life, and in my characters’ lives as well. I miss the San Diego coast, but our home in Oregon backs up to lush green fields, horses, stunning sunsets, and hazelnut orchards. Southern California was the inspiration for my first novel, but it’s here in the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest that I’ve found my vision for the next one!

  1. Do you have another job aside from being an author?

I do, and I love my day job as a mental health therapist and clinical supervisor. I hold a Ph.D. in Psychology and am a Licensed Marriage and Child Therapist. I’ve specialized in post trauma treatment for over 30 years and only recently cut back my hours to allow more time to write and care for my granddaughter.

  1. Tell us about your award-winning, debut novel, Zetty. What inspired you to write this book?

Zetty is the story of a mother lost to a rare form of Schizophrenia, and a daughter’s quest to find her. It begins in 1963 when Marjorie McGee suddenly disappears from her home, leaving nine-year-old Zetty motherless and confused. In alternating points of view, the story follows the lives of both mother and daughter as Marjorie’s mental illness progresses, and Zetty’s hope for her return diminishes. But at seventeen, Zetty wants answers. She finds herself in a circle of unconventional women—opinionated, endearing, courageous and keen-eyed women—who offer Zetty their heart and backbone. As unexpected friendships form, Zetty begins an emotional, psychological and spiritual journey in search of her mother—never imagining the joy and tragedy yet to come, the undeniable power of early childhood bonds, and the secret that will change their lives forever.

Inspired by my grandmother who died in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 41, Zetty blends personal history with my professional background. It was important to me to shine a light on the stigma of mental illness, especially in the 1960’s and 70’s. My grandmother’s life experience was a powerful one; she suffered the consequences of a stigmatizing mental illness in the 1940’s. And even though the story isn’t about her, she was important inspiration that kept me going as I labored over this book for fourteen years! It was also important to me to write about the challenges of despair. Trauma is a part of life, but not all of it. The idea that joy can coexist alongside tragedy is a message we don’t often hear or believe. I wanted Zetty to address this idea and other points of view that empower us. That’s what keeps me uplifted and excited about writing.

  1. Tell us about the awards Zetty has received.

Zetty was recently named the 2018 WILLA Literary Award Winner in Contemporary Fiction by the Women Writing the West organization and the 2018 Winner in Women’s Fiction and a Finalist in Regional/West Fiction from the National Indie Excellence Awards.

  1. Zetty is your debut novel, although you have written non-fiction. How has this experience been different from when your other books were published?

After years of writing nonfiction books related to post trauma recovery, I finally gave birth to fiction. People ask all the time why I made the switch. The answer is easy: I couldn’t wait to make things up! It’s fun to lie for a change.

When I was nine, I read the poem, “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died”, by Emily Dickinson. That little poem stirred something in me—a desire to capture on paper compelling moments of life in a simple way. So I wrote little books of poetry from then on. But non-fiction was a natural place for me to start with my writing career. At 31, a publisher in New York offered me a contract to write two series of books for children and teens healing from trauma. My nonfiction career took off from there.

One of my most meaningful projects, The Emotional Recovery Resource Kit, was created at the request of my publishers in response to 9/11. Writing it was an honor and deeply satisfying. But I never lost the desire to venture into fiction. Writing Zettywas equally rewarding, but in a different way. I tell my clients all the time how important it is to our brains to engage in activities we feel passionate about and interests that are new and unfamiliar, but meaningful to us. So, for me, writing Zetty was a great aerobics workout for my brain because fiction is so different than non-fiction. I had to learn, study, read, receive critiques, hear a wide range of feedback, take risks, and revise, and revise, and revise.

I relish the opportunity to write about women, friendships, motherhood, mental health, and to do it with spiritual substance —matters of the heart and soul. It’s important to me to write about issues I feel inspired by and care deeply about. Women’s fiction allows me to do that. I’m hooked!

Debra loves to hear from readers! Contact Info:

www.facebook.com/TheAuthorDebraWhitingAlexander

To learn more about Debra’s books:

https://www.amazon.com/author/dwaamazon.17

Part of a book club? Consider asking Debra to join you for a discussion of Zetty!

 

 

 

 

The Dog Days

Learned something new today: the Latin word canicular, meaning “small dog”, originates in Canis, from which we get our word canine.

Sirius, the star that represents the hunter Orion’s hound in the constellation, was also called Canicula. Because we first see Sirius rise during summer, the hot sultry days from early July to early September came to be called dies caniculares, i.e. “the dog days.”

Isn’t it fun to discover all the ins and outs of our vocabulary? All of what I’ve written so far is to introduce more photos from our England trip. The first, from Bletchley Park, shows some women dishing up corned beef hash. They offered tastes, and sent the recipe home with all comers.

Note the authentic 40’s clothing, enamelware, and head gear. Now, picture British women like these sweating over a hot stove in a cramped flat with no air conditioning, not even a fan. In one of England’s industrial cities, with bombs being dropped night after night.

The hash wasn’t bad…exactly. Just very bland, but spices were hard to come by. That’s why the black market managed such a thriving business, despite severe reprisals if the seller were caught in the act.

Here are some items he (or she) would carry…I personally would have a TOUGH TIME if tea were rationed, and know some people who might be highly tempted to go black market for precious coffee!

The oppressive heat of dog days makes many of us crabby, but we can find a cool place to spell us through the worst. The citizens of England could not, but they KEPT CALM and CARRIED ON. And can you imagine how relieved they were when one by one, items became unrationed? Keep in mind, this took years AFTER the war…my hat is off to all who toughed it out!

Keep Calm and Carry On

That’s a mouthful at times. I have a friend who’s facing surgery with extensive recuperation, plus two dreadful diseases in her close family.

Keep calm, you say?

With another friend, we have an ongoing discussion about how people make it through suffering, sorrow, illness, and loss. Sometimes I think it’s a combination of this “carry on” attitude plus faith, of course, and a good dose of everyday concerns that keep us going.

 

On our recent trip, Lance ordered bangers and mash, also known as sausages and mash, a traditional British and Irish dish combining sausages and mashed potatoes. The flavored sausages may be pork, lamb, or beef (often specifically Cumberland sausage. The dish is sometimes served with onion gravy, fried onions, or peas.

This dish, even when cooked at home, may be thought of as an example of pub grub, quick and easy to make in large quantities. I’ve read accounts of wartime children being sent to pick up the family’s order of this dish at a local restaurant, since both of their parents were working.

During World War II, I wonder if, in addition to seeking divine comfort, the necessary constant task of providing food for their families helped everyone make it through. Here in the states, women survived dire Depression-era poverty and went on to endure the wait for their loved ones to return from the second world war.

Maybe it’s no wonder that generation taught us to eat everything on our plates and placed high value on a good, solid meal followed by a lush dessert.

April Surprises

April fools came a couple of days late this year, and yes, I snapped a picture of these birdie prints just outside our door. Maybe a sparrow seeking sustenance between the cracks in our deck.

I consider myself fortunate. My husband shoulders the work snow brings. Early this morning, he was out creating walkable paths for the likes of moi.

 

Why so bundled up? Try seven degrees F.

He also takes amazing photographs of the flora and fauna around here–we used to comment that we’d know when we’re old when we started watching birds. Weeel…

A humble sparrow, fluffed against the cold. She thought she’d be building her nest and laying her eggs by now.

But April or no April, expectations or no expectations, iNature dumps a snowstorm when she pleases. These days prove perfect for researching.

As usual, I’ve been studying WWII history, and am so impressed by British citizens’ tenacity. They took hit after hit after hit, long before we Americans even entered the war. Entire towns leveled by the Luftwaffe…thousands of lives lost. Attacks foiled, with unbearable losses.

But those losses would mount far higher…the war had only begun, and words like unbearable would take on new levels of meaning.

Yet in the historical annals, photo after photo attests to ordinary British citizens’ pluck. It seemed that as suffering and challenges increased, so did people’s stamina, endurance, and proactivity: in a word, their pluck. 

We don’t use this word much any more, but pluckiness will get you through a lot. Yesterday I came across a picture of two women emerging from the rubble of their bombed out homes, each with a houseplant in her hands…and they both wore a smile. 

There’s a lot to be said for pluck…it’s fluffing out your feathers in the face of a storm. It’s picking up your shovel and starting in…or keeping on. It’s that indefatigable hope dwelling inside that keeps you going, no matter what.

The Calling of Ella McFarland

Now, there’s a title! Calling carries several connotations, and Ella’s cover photograph entices me, too. As the 2014 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, debuted on December 1, 2015.

LBD_calling-of-ella-mcfarland-6 copy-enhanced 2

Linda set this romantic historical set in 1905 Indian Territory, when women were silenced in public and often stifled at home, when illiteracy ran rampant and women could not participate in their governance. As  compulsory education, woman’s suffrage, and temperance debates rage, Ella Jane McFarland pursues her dream: a teaching position at prestigious Worthington School for Girls.

But scandal clouds her family name and may limit her to grueling labor on her family’s Indian Territory farm. Her fate lies in the hands of the male Worthington board. Will they overlook the illegitimate son recently borne by her sister
Viola? Might handsome Mr. Evans help her reach her dream?

As hope of Oklahoma statehood rises and the citizens anticipate a new state constitution, Ella comes to the rescue of a young, abused sharecropper’s daughter. Forced to make decisions about her faith, family, and aspirations, her calling takes shape in ways she never imagined.

With a new love budding in her heart, can Ella find God’s will amid the tumultuous storm that surrounds her?

This family-and-faith story explores one woman’s devotion to a serendipitous calling, the transforming effect of unlikely friendship, and the healing power of love.

 LInda, I’m hooked! Please tell us why you wrote this book. 

My Indian Territory grandmother and Oklahoma mother lived lives rife with hardship, trial, and grief. Rather than weakening them, such experiences empowered them and strengthened their faith.

My grandmother Ella Jane—Mama to me—had a 3rd grade education. She never drove a car, but could handle a team of mules just fine. She never shopped for the latest fashion, but sewed up a dress in a day. She never considered the benefits of tile over wood laminate, but made a home in a corner of a barn. She swept the dirt floor. She never worked outside her home, except in a cotton patch, picking 100 pounds a day. Mama buried 2 husbands and 5 daughters but never lost her faith.

My mother progressed only to 9th grade, and accepted nothing less than a college education for her children. Nor would she depend on a man to do something she could do herself. Mother buried a son, tended an ailing husband for 10 grueling years, and battled the weather and creditors to save the family farm, yet never blamed God.

I consider my ancestors’ stories treasures of which I am a steward. Hence, The Calling of Ella McFarland. While not the actual life story of any family member, this debut novel is saturated in reality. The writing represents my love and high esteem for two strong matriarchs, and reflects my longing for my granddaughter–also named Ella Jane–to believe in herself as a daughter of the King of Heaven and to cast herself upon the mercies of God to hold her up, make her strong, and give her His purpose.

LBD-4v2 3-enhanced

Thanks so much, Linda–you’ve piqued my interest. Please make a note in your comment that you’re willing to write a review, and Linda will provide you an e-book.

Purchase links: http://bit.ly/1NqmYtF

Email: linda@lindabrooksdavis.com

Website: http://lindabrooksdavis.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1QZSvoT

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1LsI19s

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1Nj1oZX