New Beginnings: Spring is Near

Butterfly II

Happy Wednesday! Today I am sharing a glimpse at a recent page in my smash book. I have always been drawn to butterflies and this coming Spring is inspiring me to create in depths I haven’t reached before. They’ve been bottled up inside me far too long and the Butterfly is about new beginnings. How fitting.


Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. -Nathaniel Hawthorne

Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th Century American writer whose literature of the Nation’s Colonial history is well noted. His writings focus is around new England and evokes moral Puritan inspiration.

What stories have you read by Hawthorne?


Next Up On The Reading Agenda

Here are two books I am planning on reading next. I can’t wait! Both of these books are by authors I adore and find their stories gripping. Aren’t the covers great?! -Stephanie M. Hopkins


until the day i die by emily carpenterUntil the Day I Die by Emily Carpenter

Pub Date 12 Mar 2019


From the bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls comes a riveting novel about a mother and daughter separated by grief, secrets, and a conspiracy that threatens to destroy their lives.

If there’s a healthy way to grieve, Erin Gaines hasn’t found it. After her husband’s sudden death, the runaway success of the tech company they built with their best friends has become overwhelming. Her nerves are frayed, she’s disengaged, and her frustrated daughter, Shorie, is pulling away from her. Maybe Erin’s friends and family are right. Maybe a few weeks at a spa resort in the Caribbean islands is just what she needs to hit the reset button…

Shorie is not only worried about her mother’s mental state but also for the future of her parents’ company. Especially when she begins to suspect that not all of Erin’s colleagues can be trusted. It seems someone is spinning an intricate web of deception—the foundation for a conspiracy that is putting everything, and everyone she loves, at risk. And she may be the only one who can stop it.

Now, thousands of miles away in a remote, and oftentimes menacing, tropical jungle, Erin is beginning to have similar fears. Things at the resort aren’t exactly how the brochure described, and unless she’s losing her mind, Erin’s pretty sure she wasn’t sent there to recover—she was sent to disappear.

the lost girls of paris by pam jenoffThe Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Pub Date 29 Jan 2019

1946, Manhattan


One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

Characters in Motion with Yancy Caruthers

Northwest of EdenII

Narrative Non-Fiction:

Turning Real People into Characters

Generating my characters was never hard, because they really exist.  I write narrative non-fiction, adaptations of true military stories.  The settings are predetermined, and the plots are part of history.  Some of the dialogue is invented, events reordered for clarity, and occasionally two or more real people are merged into an amalgam.  The goal is still to make the story as real as I can tell it.

My first book, Northwest of Eden, was my personal experience working as a trauma nurse in western Iraq.  I told it in first person, so I was the main character.  Each day after work, I would chisel the story based on the real happenings of the day and my reactions to them.  I didn’t know exactly how the story would unfold, but there were incidents that I knew I would write about.  For instance, I knew that some of the soldiers who came into the hospital would not survive their injuries.  I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew it would, so I wanted to record it.

The witnesses to that event had such intense reactions that I had to force myself to notice.  Since I was also experiencing it, I had to articulate my own emotions onto the page as well.  These were some of the most intense feelings I have ever had – shock, sadness, fear of inadequacy, and even some of the most intense anger and hatred imaginable.  I had to write all of that for both me and for my supporting cast.

Here’s what I didn’t anticipate – ever have a character go in a direction that you didn’t plan?  That’s sort of what happened with Northwest of Eden.  I was experiencing emotions firsthand and trying to write about them, when I hadn’t yet processed them.  The story ended up revealing character traits that I wasn’t aware of at the time.  I didn’t realize until I was almost six years into the project that the story was about my own personal transformation, my crucible.

This epiphany triggered a 50% rewrite, which while frustrating, also allowed me to round out some of the other characters – bringing out emotions that I had glossed over.  But again, there was something that facilitated this – I knew these characters personally, so I knew how they would react to fictional situations, as I had seen them in real ones.

My current work in progress is a six-part collection of real stories of an Army medic from each of the living wars.  The protagonists are real people, so getting to know them before I write about them is paramount.  They are veterans, like me, so we have some similarities. We are also very different.  My oldest veteran is 87 and the youngest 21.  One has vivid memories of Pearl Harbor just as haunting as my generation’s 9-11.  Some went to war as parents, but most were children.  My World War Two vet was fifteen when he exited a landing craft at Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.  To him it is not a movie.  It’s real.

Capturing that intensity and putting it into characters is easier in some ways and more difficult in others.  I can dive deeper to catch a feeling or a motive, but I have no control over the result.  The stories happened the way they happened, and while I can selectively include various scenes, there is seldom a traditional plot.  War is like that.  Few participants ever see any point beyond the myopic view of the battlefield of the day.  Tomorrow’s will be different.

The challenge as an author is to create characters the reader believes are real people, with real fears, goals, and emotions.  We write what we know, so often a protagonist is an autobiographical reflection.  The next level is being able to write a character substantially different than yourself – a single parent, a crime victim, or a victim of mental illness.  Imagine trying to write a character with opposing political views – he would have to think not the way you believe he thinks, but the way he actually thinks – to the extent that a member who shares those views would identify with him.

Go out and write those characters.  Make them real.  In the process, you might learn something about yourself.

Yancy Caruthers BRAG II

Yancy Caruthers (1971- ) is an Iraq war veteran, registered nurse, and retired Army Reserve officer.  After 9/11, he was mobilized to active duty three times, two of which were in a war zone.  While he wasn’t off doing something with the Army, he worked on a helicopter ambulance service in southern Missouri, where he grew up.  After leaving the service in 2008, he continued to serve his country as a diplomat assigned to tours in Peru and The Bahamas.  He retired and returned to Missouri in July 2015, but is currently looking for things to keep himself busy.

Author Links:  


Facebook: Northwest of Eden 

Twitter: @yancycaruthers


Interview with Award Winning Author M. Catherine Berg

Miriam Berg BRAG

I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree M. Catherine Berg today to talk with me about her book, REVEALING MAY. Berg is a contemporary writer of murder mystery. Berg has a history in the world of TV promotional advertising and TV syndication. She lives with her husband in a small beach community along the coast of California.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG when searching the Internet. I read their requirements for accepting books. I sent mine in and held my breath. How honored I feel to have Revealing May accepted into this wonderful group of books and authors. In addition, how appreciative I am for all that the organization does in helping to promote authors.

Please tell me about your book, REVEALING MAY.

REVEALING MAY is a Gracie Wentworth murder mystery. Gracie works for her uncle, the owner of Montgomery Group, a small, private investigation firm. In this book, Gracie reluctantly goes undercover as a reporter at the prestigious boutique winery Somerset Hills to find out who is framing her client, the owner Elliot Somerset, for murder. Elliot, fond of drinking more bourbon than wine, becomes a person of interest in the gruesome murder of a drug dealer who is found dead in Elliot’s private wine cellar. Elliot’s wife, May Somerset, is alluring and fragile, coping with a past that now threatens her family’s future. People start disappearing without a trace and the body count keeps growing. Gracie becomes deeply involved not only professionally, but also personally and starts to uncover a world of drugs, blackmail, money, sex, and lies.

Revealing may BRAG

Will you tell me a little about what Gracie and her mother, Lillian Wentworth’s relationship is like?

Gracie’s mother, Lillian Wentworth, is a world famous, wealthy author of lascivious sex and salacious murder novels. She is a very private, bestselling author and lives on a beach compound in Buena Del Mar. Lillian built Gracie a small beach cottage on the compound after Gracie’s tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce. Mother and daughter have a strong bond and solid relationship. They not only relate as mother and daughter, but as single women with a strong work ethic. Both share a strong sense of justice being served, and they are sometime drinking buddies.

Tell me a little about Paso Robles wine country as the setting for your story.

My husband has been in the wine and liquor business his entire career. I have visited many wineries from Southern California, Northern California to France. I have seen the big commercial wineries, the small family owned wineries and everything in between. I love the Paso Robles wine country and enjoy visiting the wineries in that area. I knew that I wanted this book to be located there. For the book, I changed the name to Paso Miguel as the setting.

Who is Simon?

Simon is the winemaker of Somerset Hills winery. In a small boutique winery, the winemaker and owner work closely. Not only in proximity, but also in their vision of how they want the wines they are producing to taste. I found that relationship interesting. Not only the intimacy of the work but also what would happen if either one faltered in their attention to that relationship. Simon became the character and the catalyst of that idea.

How did you come up with the book title?

Each book will have a month in the title. The month will represent either a person’s name or time of year. The corresponding word will represent the story in some way.

Who did your book cover?

I work with a lady named Tara at Fantasia Frog Designs. I usually tell her my idea then sketch it out in a very primitive manner. I can’t draw worth beans so there is usually a good laugh involved. However, she works up a cover and she is usually dead-on. We do some minor tweaking and then go for it. I trust her and she is incredibly easy to work with.

How long did it take to write your story and what was your process?

The entire book from start to finish was approximately seven to eight months. My process is one that I am comfortable with and continue to use. I am a four-part structure girl. In addition, I always know my beginning, middle and end before I start. I usually have a vague overview of the story and a vision of the bad guy. Then I write a short version of the story from the bad guy’s perspective because he or she drives the story. I need to know what he hopes to accomplish with his evil ways. I then write what each character hopes to accomplish. Then I do a one or two line beat sheet for each scene from first to last. That could take me weeks. Once I have that done, I embellish each scene with a Scene Worksheet that will have everything from the time of day, characters in that scene, what is going to happen, the subplots, I throw it all in there as much as I can. When that is finished, that becomes my outline. I can flip through and read the story from beginning to end. If I need to rearrange, I move the pages around. Once I am comfortable with that, I start writing the rough draft. As the process moves along and other ideas pop up that I like and can use, I write them on the Scene Worksheet. I also keep a “Don’t Forget” list for each character that I need to fit in or mention. I try to be as organized as I can. As you can see, I am not a panster!  In addition, since this is a series, I need to keep track of things mentioned in previous books that carry over. I keep it all in a notebook in front of me.

Author Website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview M. Catherine Berg who is the author of, REVEALING MAY, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, REVEALING MAY, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.