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The Allure of Anticipation: A Southern Perspective

Today our own Kristy Woodson Harvey, Author of Dear Carolina, Lies and Other Acts of Love, and the upcoming Slightly South of Simple takes us on a trip down memory lane as she remembers the anticipation during the Christmas season of her youth. This sweet anecdote could find itself nestled cozily in any of Kristy’s wonderful stories, and the Tall Poppies are happy to share this holiday narrative with our readers.
I know the feeling of wanting to be something that you know in your heart is totally unrealistic, of pining for a life that will always narrowly escape you. For some little girls, it’s the dream of being a princess, of discovering that perhaps your parents are the king and queen of some far-off country. Or that maybe, finally, you will dive into the swimming pool, and, instead of just your regular old feet driving you to the bottom, your will suddenly develop a mermaid tail.
For me, it was none of those things. I didn’t want to be a mermaid or a princess. No, my wish was much simpler. I wanted to be a Catholic. Despite the fact that we were Episcopalian—Southern Episcopalian at that, which I believe carries with it an entirely different set of traditions, responsibilities and realizatimage1ions that this is your religion for life—my parents sent me to Catholic school.
They wanted me to have the benefit of learning to diagram a sentence and master perfect penmanship under the tutelage of Sister Mary John, to grow up with a strict code of morals and values, like the virtue espoused by Sister Josephine that there is no such thing as a “white lie” in the eyes of God. (I am comforted by the fact that she is gone and could not have read my latest novel in which contradicts this idea.)
I watched with envy as the Catholic children donned their white gloves, veils and dresses for their First Communion, were cleansed each week as they told their sins to the priest, were a part of a club that I understood, as a Protestant, I would never be a part of.
Don’t get me wrong: I was never treated as “less than” in the confines of my school. If anything, it was the opposite. Sister Mary John might have dedicated her life to Christ, but, like any good wife, she knew how to balance a checkbook. Non-Catholic children paid higher tuition, and we were catered to as such.
Never was my desire to enter the realm of my Catholic peers stronger than during Advent. Every week, I would sit in Mass and watch as an acolyte (Another role that, as a mere Protestant, I could never hold in the Catholic church.) lit one of the five candles in the Advent wreath. There were four purple candles, one for each week leading up to the blessed event, and then one pink one in the middle, to be lit on the occasion of Christ’s birth.
I have to admit that on those late Friday mornings, with the smell of greasy grilled cheese and canned chicken noodle soup rising up from the church basement, my stomach growling in anticipation of what awaited me after church, that pink candle had me dreaming of Christmas Eve dinner with my family at my parent’s house, of opening gifts afterward, of Santa coming, in all his glory, the next morning.  
The weeks in which those candles were lit seemed interminable, dragged on for what seemed like months and months. The anticipation would nearly kill me, it felt like at the time.
In retrospect, that anticipation was the very best part of the holiday season. To this day, I realize that I have an odd respect and wish for anticipation of that sort, a feeling that is adequately provided for me daily being a writer, waiting to hear if my next book has been bought, if my editor liked the idea, if the novel itself resonated with readers, how many copies have been sold, and hundreds if not thousands of other daily minutiae that tie my stomach up in knots in the best possible way.
Now, decades later, that feeling of anticipation, is something I try to create for my five-year-old, not only through traditions and rituals that mark the passage of time, the coming of our favorite season. We have a beautiful Advent calendar downstairs, a gift from my mother that is, quite frankly, the bane of my existence some days. Because, you see, though I may be a creator in a lot of ways, I am not a crafter. And every opening of a window, every day of Advent, extols the virtue of some homespun treasure. Make homemade cards to send to neighborsCreate your own snowflake Christmas ornaments out of cut paper. 
But my son loves it, and I can see in his eyes, when he opens another window each day, that he is counting down the days until Christmas, until all the family is together again and Santa makes his arrival. 
Last Sunday, we sat in the back row of our, yes, Episcopal church. And I was excited to see that they had an advent wreath, much like the one that caused all those butterflies all those years ago. As they lit the second candle, my little son looked up at me and said, “Mommy, is Christmas ever going to get here?” And, although, in my grown-up life, time flies far too quickly, this season seems to be gone in a blink of an eye, I can relate to that feeling, I can remember the magic of it, I am inexplicably happy that my son feels it too.
And I realize all at once that maybe my mom was right all those years ago when she told me that I didn’t need to be Catholic to have the feeling of anticipation welling up inside of me. Maybe, instead, I needed to design a life that filled me with wonder and a sense of expectation. And so, I have to consider that maybe that I life I had always dreamed of? Maybe it didn’t escape me after all.
b1qjscl3zos-_ux250_Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at She is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Domino magazine, Our State, Houzz, the Salisbury Post and the New Bern Sun Journal. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and four-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

Kerstin March: A Year After ‘Branching Out’

Today we’re ma61idprvfrjl
rking the one-year anniversary of Kerstin March’s novel, BRANCHING OUT, which is the sequel to FAMILY TREES.

Nestled along the shores of Lake Superior, Meyers Orchard is where Shelby Meyers found unexpected love and strength—and now must forge a new life on her own terms…

Marriage marks both a happy ending and a new chapter for Shelby Meyers. She and Ryan Chambers have overcome tremendous odds to stand together in her grandparents’ orchard on the bluffs of Lake Superior, exchanging vows. Still, there are challenges old and new to contend with. Shelby struggles to find her niche among Ryan’s prominent Chicago family, while her own mother remains unreliable and unpredictable, impacting her life even from afar.

Though Shelby’s love for Ryan is as deep-rooted as the orchard, her rocky upbringing makes her hesitant to start a family. Before she can reconcile those feelings, a personal tragedy throws Shelby’s confidence, and her marriage, into crisis. To move forward she’ll have to go back—to her Lake Superior hometown and her mother, and to secrets she could never have guessed at, as she resolves to branch out on her own…


Kerstin March

It’s that time of year again. The trees are sparkling with lights, doorways are dressed in ribbons and wreaths, and on the radio Perry Como croons, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”

As I write this, a snowstorm is brewing outside while I’m curled up in a big chair in the living room. I’m thinking about the word “home.” Literally speaking, a home is the place where people live their lives. Some people reflect upon the past and their childhood when they think of home. And for others, it is that intuitive sense of well-being and the feeling of being “at home.” For me, home also means family.

Looking back to last year, I think it was fitting that my novel Branching Out was released in December because it’s a story about importance of “home,” as well as family roots and how a person’s upbringing influences their life decisions.

Branching Out is the second book in the “Meyers Orchard” series, which began with Family Trees and a character named Shelby Meyers. Home is a safe haven for Shelby. She grew up under the care of her grandparents in a small northern Wisconsin town on Lake Superior, a place that was a blessing for her as a child, but is now a crutch that prevents her from moving on as a young adult. She meets an aspiring photographer named Ryan Chambers, an “out-of-towner” who’s grappling with his own sense of home and belonging. Over time, he inspires her to take a chance on a life that exists beyond the limits of her hometown.

“If your dream is to continue the life your family started for you here, then embrace it,” [Ryan] said gently. “But if it is to do something more, then don’t be afraid to pull up your roots and follow your own dreams. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s why I’m here.” (Family Trees)

When I set out to write the sequel, Branching Out, I wanted to further explore the relationship between Shelby and her estranged mother, Jackie. It was a fascinating process as a writer, because I could really delve into what motivated Jackie to mistreat Shelby in the first novel. I realized that while her actions were unforgivable, her intentions had always been good. Jackie wanted Shelby to have something she couldn’t provide – a loving home. And when Jackie and Shelby return home during the holidays, with Shelby now married and living in Chicago, there is a shift between them.

“You’re never gone, Shelby. Your presence is everywhere in that house, as it should be,” [Jackie] said. “I’m comfortable there because, for the first time in a very long time, it feels like home to me as well.”

Shelby let that sink in for a moment, the idea of home. It was ironic that her mother was now the one who felt settled on the family property, while Shelby was the one who felt detached. (Branching Out)

In Branching Out, when life becomes too much for Shelby, she retreats back to that safe haven. In fiction, as in life, there are times when you try to return to a place from your past, but it’s never truly the same. Life evolves. I decided that Shelby needed return to the comfort of her childhood home to escape a crisis, only to realize that her feelings of being “at home” had changed. In that moment, she was able to reconcile her past with her future.

The ferry was making its way to the marina, where she could see a line of cars waiting for their turn to cross Chequamegon Bay to Madeline Island. Farther out on the lake, a cluster of half a dozen sailboats were catching the last of the day’s winds before twilight set in. Their sails were full and bright against the steel-blue Lake Superior waters. [Shelby] heard the call of a gull in the distance and children laughing as they raced barefoot through the grass behind her.

She was home. (Branching Out)

Wishing you a happy holiday, from my home to yours.

– Kerstin


Kerstin March is the author of Family Trees and Branching Out (Kensington Publishing, 2015), which were also released in German by LYX Egmont. She a member of the Tall Poppy Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, and The Loft Literary Center. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and their three children.




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Best Gifts for the Book Lover on your List!


It’s the time of year when we agonize over finding the perfect gifts that show our nearest and dearest how much we care. If you have a book lover (or author!) on your list, the Tall Poppies have some ideas for you!

  • Books: (Obviously!) Gift them your favorite titles of 2016, or if you’re not sure what books are up their alley, a gift card to your favorite indy bookstore or big box book vendor will always be appreciated. If your reader prefers e-books or audio, snoop around to find their format of choice.
  • Warm beverages: Premium coffee, tea, or cocoa, along with their associated gadgets (and snarky mugs) find happy homes with readers. Nothing staves off the winter blues like a “cuppa” and a good book!
  • Decadent throw blankets: The chair next to the fireplace is the reader’s natural winter habitat! Help them curl up in style!
  • Bookplates: Is your reader an avid collector? Personalized bookplates or embossing tools that elegantly tag the volumes in their home library are a lovely and unusual gift.
  • Literary scarves, gloves, etc.: New companies such as Storiarts and Litographs have infinity scarves, tees, fingerless gloves, and more with classic texts. If your reader is a passionate Austen fan, you can help her take Pride and Prejudice wherever she goes! Another neat feature of these sites are customizable items… fantastic gifts for authors to commemorate their work!
  • Snazzy book marks and book lights: Fantastic stocking stuffers!
  • Candles: Helps invoke a lovely ambiance for reading. Consider “old book” scented candles or those with flickering wooden wicks for a nice touch!
  • Literary perfume: Yes, this is a thing! There are scents matched with books (A Room with a View and Game of Thrones!) as well as “eau de paperback” and “dead writers perfume” to be found with a simple online search.
  • Book art: You can find beautiful creations made from classic books that will be appreciated on any book lover’s shelf. Some are folded into words, others are carved into designs–all of them are unique and lovely!
  • Is your book lover an author, too? The kindest gift you can give is a review! The feedback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and other sites make all help your favorite authors gain visibility!


So share with us, what other gifts have been hits with your bibliophile friends and family?


Amy Impellizzeri on the ups and not so ups of release day

Today we’re celebrating the release of Amy Impellizzeri’s second novel, Secrets of Worry Dolls. Here’s a bit about the book (isn’t that cover gorgeous?!):

secrets-of-worry-dollsAccording to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you–therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .

On the eve of the end of the world–according to the Mayan calendar–Mari Guarez Roselli’s secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.

Lu’s worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past–including loved ones stolen on 9/11–by traveling through her mother’s homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend

Amy shared her thoughts on release day … 

read more…

Melissa Marino’s Debut is SO TWISTED

I’m so excited to have Melissa Marino here today. Her debut, SO TWISTED, came out November 1, 2016. It’s fun, swoony, and a little bit steamy (okay, not just a little bit). Read more about her first novel below. 

51rsinc2wxlCallie has found the perfect job. As nanny for a single dad and his adorable daughter, she can pay off her student loans and live in a nice house in the heart of Chicago. There’s just one problem-her new boss. Definitely no dad bod here. Just six-plus feet of raw, sexual energy. Whoever heard of a dad being so hot? read more…

What Amy E. Reichert Learned While Writing THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER

Today on the Tall Poppy blog, Amy E. Reichert is sharing some fun facts she learned while writing her newest book, THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER (May 2017). Here’s a bit about the story. 

cover_cider_reichertFall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Isaac Banks has spent years singlehandedly trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country from California where chance led them to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident, leaving her to care for him while running the orchard. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm. 

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

Here’s Amy to share her thoughts. 

THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER is my third novel. That’s hard to wrap my head around. While writing, I learned a few things about my own writing process, plus some fun facts about the novel’s subject matter. So, dear reader, here’s what I learned…

  • Everything in my writing life is better when I have a detailed synopsis to work from. With the help of my dear friend, Karma Brown–who helped me ask the right questions–I knew most of the story before I started writing page one. I knew my character arcs, I knew my setting, I sort of knew my timeline (I need to work on that), and I knew the big plot points. I still had plenty of surprises as I wrote, but having a map to follow made the entire process so much more fun.
  • Most of California doesn’t have fireflies. This saddens me, but made for a sweet scene in my book.
  • The US is the only country that refers to apple juice as cider. Anywhere else, if people are talking about cider, they mean hard cider, not the non-alcoholic stuff. And to be very clear, the titular cider in my book is definitely the hard stuff.
  • I write very lean drafts. I like to make sure my plot and core character arcs work, then I add in all the meaty descriptions and internal drama. I really hate to cut words or rewrite large chunks of text–so this is my work around. I also come from a tech writing background, so I like to write efficiently. In cider, I added 20,000 new words during revisions–that’s 25% of the book.
  • I can write a moderately decent first draft in about four months. This is good information to know when you’re on a tight deadline.
  • Prohibition changed the apple industry in the US. Before prohibition, orchards were comprised of eating and cider apples, but once prohibition took effect, the cider apple trees were replaced with more eating apple trees. Therefore, many American ciders are made with eating apples rather than the more complex cider varieties. This is changing–which will result in a wider range of ciders in the future.
  • Cider is closer to wine. IT IS NOT BEER! I feel quite strongly about this.
  • I couldn’t do this without my fantastic editor, Kate Dresser. Her feedback and guidance is always the right combination of constructive without ever making me feel like I’m a talentless hack. Without her, I would need to write many more drafts to achieve the same result.
  • There are no chain businesses in Door County north of Sturgeon Bay (the last big city as you enter the peninsula). This is one of my favorite things about Door County–every business is local!
  • No matter how much time you give me to revise, there will always be at least one all-nighter per book. There’s something about that late-night, early-morning adrenaline kick that leads to some amazing words.

Reichert Amy PortraitAmy E. Reichert, author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE, and THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her local library’s board of directors.

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Orly Konig Picks Favorites

As parents, we’re not supposed to have favorites between our kids. Not that I have personal experience with this – I have one. He’s definitely my favorite! I do have two cats, though, and while I’ll adamantly swear that I love them equally, there probably is a slight bias (I have a weak spot for the bigger boy and his soft, over-groomed belly).

As authors, we have lots and lots of kids. Every book has a motley collection of main characters, secondary characters, and even those incidental characters you pass in a scene with little more than a second thought. They’re all there for a reason and they were all “birthed” with love. read more…

Are You an Author in Progress? Listen Up!

Whether you’re hoping to publish your first novel or a veteran author looking to enhance your career, we’re thrilled to announce a new resource for all on the Tall Poppy blog today! AUTHOR IN PROGRESS — a book full of tips, tricks and valuable insights — was created by and put together thanks to Writer’s Digest, Writer Unboxed, and a dedicated group of authors who share their own experiences. Here’s the book’s editor, Therese Walsh, with more on the project and the book (which includes some of our own Tall Poppy writers, too)…

read more…

Aimie K. Runyan Revisits Old Friends with DUTY TO THE CROWN

It’s Tuesday, which here on the Tall Poppy Blog means it’s time to celebrate awesome books and their fantastic authors! This week we cheer loudly for Aimie K. Runyan’s fantastic follow up to PROMISED TO THE CROWN. Welcome, DUTY TO THE CROWN! Aimie stopped by to share her experience and reasons for revisiting her characters!

duty-cover-runyanConfession time: I never liked sequels. When I was a kid, so often my favorite movies and stories would get revisited and I ended up not only dissatisfied with the new installment, but also finding less enjoyment in the original for reasons I still can’t fully articulate. An aversion to selling out that tainted the original is my best guess. read more…

Meet suspense author Laura McNeill & SISTER DEAR!

We’re excited to welcome Laura McNeill to the Tall Poppy blog today! Author of two suspense novels, Laura’s latest–SISTER DEAR–hit shelves April 2016, and RT Book Reviews had this to say about it: “… it’s an original twist on the wrongly accused victim trying to exonerate herself, and will keep readers interested throughout.” We’ve read it and couldn’t agree more!

Here’s more about SISTER DEAR … read more…

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