SJ Francis uncovers dangerous family secrets and old betrayals #suspense #giveaway #familysaga

Carole Avila:

Terrific interview of SJ Francis and the debut novel of “Shattered Lies”

Originally posted on Jami Gray's Blog:

*Warning: today’s excerpt steps into dangerous territory, so before you tread forward, you were warned.

Today we welcome SJ Francis and her debut novel, Shattered Lies, where digging into family secrets can be hazardous to your health and heart…Front cover

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…

Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.


She knew that bigotry existed, but she had never experienced it quite like this before…

Kate couldn’t say anything…

View original 1,489 more words

Help Child Refugees With Your Homemade Donation!

Sandra HurtesMy author friend, Sandy Hurtes, started THE MADE-BY-HAND PROJECT to raise funds for child migrants in Europe. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Save the Children’s Refugee Child Relief Crisis Fund.

LOGO--Save the ChildrenSandy is interested in donations that people have made–jewelry, crocheted/knitted items, paintings, sculpture, clothing, pottery, authors’ signed books–virtually any art or craft that is hand created. These items will be sold at a future event, some time in early March.

For more information on donations or how to get involved, contact Sandy at or visit The Made By Hand Project Facebook page.

SJ Francis “Shattered Lies” Debut!

Author Badge (Small)

Shattered Lies is the first novel by S. J. Francis, a women’s fiction/family saga. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, it’s all about family. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist.

Click on this link and enter to win a free personally autographed copy of Shattered Lies!

A frequent traveler, Francis has resided in 13 states and 3 countries. When not writing Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. The author currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places.

1) Who influenced you the most as far as writing goes?
Every writer I’ve read has had an influence somehow on my writing, including the guest authors I’ve hosted on my writing blog.

Jackie Collins

Novelist Jackie Collins, 2014 PHOTO: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

But the biggest influences were the late great Jackie Collins, romance author Leigh Michaels, and Multi-Published author Heather Neff. They’re all distinctly different in their writing styles, but all are great writers that personally inspired me in one way or another.

2) What drew you to the topic of racism in your novel?
Would you believe me if I said that it just happened? I never planned on writing a book about racism. I began a novel about a family living in the South with secrets and lies and how those secrets and lies come back to haunt them, as well as the repercussions that would result. The subject of racism evolved from that. Of course, Shattered Lies is a reflection of our times, our beliefs, our hatreds, our misconceptions. I couldn’t have planned for that if I had tried.

Gardening3) What are you doing when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m trying to catch my breath. I also lecture at my University in English, Creative Writing and Law. When I’m not working or writing, I love gardening, hiking and reading, but even when I’m doing something else, I’m always in some way writing in my head.

4) What would you say are some solid guidelines for writers?
A writer needs to write. Period. Any time and any chance one gets, even if it is just a sentence or a paragraph. These things eventually lead to something bigger. Never ignore an opportunity to write.

5) Is there any significance to you not posting any of your photos online or stating your gender?
Nope, except to say, what difference does it make? If you like my stories, what does it matter what I look like, or what gender I am. Besides, a little mystery never hurt anyone. I’m not writing for fame. I write because I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’m a writer and always have been, even as a child when I thought I didn’t like writing. You can also look at it as a metaphor. Do you really need to know who I am in order to enjoy my story?

6) Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
Yes, I do, Carole and thanks for asking. I already have a draft for a stand-alone sequel to Shattered Lies. I also have a draft for a novel about friendships and family in Hollywood. I also have a draft for a sequel to that one.

7) Who should read Shattered Lies and what should the reader expect?Front cover
The good thing about Shattered Lies is that it could be read and enjoyed by anyone. It may be labeled women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga, but that is just a label placed on it by the publisher. Is racism geared toward anyone in particular? No. Bigotry affects everyone in all walks of life. As my heroine Kate Thayer discovers, bigotry isn’t something just experienced around strangers. Sometimes bigotry is very close to home.

In Shattered Lies, the reader should expect an awakening of the senses, high-charged emotion, controversial language and thoughts. There are two sides to every story and in this novel, the reader will see two sides to a long standing family argument that reflects society’s beliefs. What happens to Kate Thayer can happen to anyone. We’re all different, unique and we should each appreciate that fact without basing it simply on what we see.

Thank you for sharing about yourself and the story behind the book, SJ! I’ve read your novel and found it filled with so many intriguing and unexpected plot developments. I wish you all the success in your writing ventures!

Pre-order your copy of Shattered Lies by clicking on the title anywhere in this interview! Here’s a an excerpt from Francis’ debut novel:

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…

Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.

“This is my mother’s journal,” Kate said and looked for a reaction.

“Is it? I had no idea.”

Katherine didn’t look at her, which puzzled Kate immediately. Whenever they spoke, her grandmother always gave her utmost attention.

“Where ever did you find it?” Katherine asked.

“In the attic,” Kate said.

Katherine’s eyes widened and she furrowed her eyebrows. Kate noticed her grandmother’s lower lip quiver or was it just her imagination?

“The attic?” Katherine asked. “What were you doing up there, darling?”

“I just felt like it. What difference does it make?”

“I don’t want anyone in the attic.” Katherine was abrupt. “It’s dangerous. You could have been hurt.”

Kate ignored her concern. She wanted answers. “Yes, she wrote this apparently just after she married my father.”

“Did she now? Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s nothing worth reading in there. You can burn it,” Katherine said.

“It belonged to my mother. Why would I want to burn it?”

Katherine faced her. Her gaze was steady and unmoving. “Your mother had very little to say when alive. I doubt there is anything of value in there.”

Kate shot to her feet. “How dare you, Gran?” Katherine had never mentioned Kate’s mother, ever, and to hear such coldness in the words about her astonished her. “She did say that you hated her. Why did you hate her?”

Katherine raised her hand. “Now calm down, darling. That is an exaggeration.”

“No, it isn’t. She said you hated her. You couldn’t stand her. That you actually tried to split her and my father up—more than once, as did her parents.”

Without warning, Katherine seized the journal and threw it into the nearby trashcan. “There is nothing in there for you to worry about. And that is where it belongs.”

Order your copy of Shattered Lies at your favorite book seller or at

Click on this link and enter to win a free autographed copy of Shattered Lies!

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Win a Free Copy of “A Baron for Becky!”

Picture1I am so pleased to present this interview with Jude Knight, a talented writer who is sharing some pearls of wisdom. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude has returned to her first love, fiction. I’d like to wish Jude a happy birthday and wish her every success in her writing career.

Leave a comment and you may win a copy of Jude’s wonderful new book, A Baron for Becky.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer?
I don’t remember, but my mother assures me I was seven. Certainly, for as long as I can remember, my twin ambitions were to be a mother and to be a writer of fiction. For a long time, raising children with disabilities while working as a commercial writer meant putting my fiction on the back burner. I greatly admire people who can do both. I couldn’t. Now that I’m in my 60s, I’m putting all I’ve learned in a lifetime of reading and writing into short stories, novellas, and novels. And I’m having so much fun!

What do you think a person needs to do or to have in order to be a professionalSnoopy Typing writer?
I think determination and persistence are the greatest assets a writer can have. Craft can be learned. Story ideas are everywhere. But setting a goal and going for it; keeping going when it means dragging each word kicking and screaming from your bleeding brain—that’s what makes a writer. I also think it important to strive for perfection: high quality editing, proofreading, and covers make the difference between an amateur effort and a professional one.

Do you have any long term writing goals?
I have a ten year plan. I have enough plot ideas to do three novels a year for 10 years. Since I keep having more ideas that need to be fitted in, that’s going to be a lot of novels. I would like to think that in ten years time I’ll look back at what I’m writing now targetand see a thousand ways to improve it. My overall long term goal is to keep improving.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?
My family would probably tell you that I’m thinking about writing, but I do pay attention to them from time to time, honest! I have the best husband in the universe, and I try to spend some time with him each day. And I have wonderful children and grandchildren, a friendly and sociable church and village community, and many friends at work. So I socialise. I also like to sew and to garden, but both have gone by the board since I began Farewell to Kindness about this time last year.

Who should buy A Baron for Becky and why?Book Cover-A Baron for Becky
People who love stories of a happy ending against the odds should buy A Baron for Becky. Becky has the cards stacked against her. Only obscurity will give her a respectable future.

Thank you Jude, for your wonderful interview!

See all of Jude’s contact information below. Here is a lovely excerpt from A Baron for Becky:

Aldridge was early. She crossed to the sideboard where she kept his favourite brandy, and was pouring him a glass by the time she heard his steps in the hall. Two sets of steps? Who did Aldridge have with him?

The other man was as tall as Aldridge, but dark to his fair. He must once have been stunningly handsome, and one side of his face was still carved by a master; subtle curves and strong planes combining in a harmonious whole that spoke of strength and, in the almost invisible network of lines at the corners of his eyes, suffering.

profileOn the other side, dozens of scars pitted and ridged the skin, as if it had been torn and chewed by an animal; an animal with jaws of flame by the tell-tale burn puckers. Thankfully, whatever it was had spared his eye, which, she suddenly realised, was glaring at her.

“Well,” he demanded, and she was shaken anew by his voice, rich and mellow. She had been staring. How rude. But for some reason, she didn’t apologise as she should, but instead blurted, “I was just feeling glad that what injured you spared your eye.”

He looked startled, and suddenly a lot friendlier. “Thank you. I am glad too.”

That voice! He could charm bird from the trees with it. Becky wondered if he sang.

Take a look at Jude’s other fabulous works: Farewell to Kindness and Candle’s Christmas Chair.

Buy links:Candle's Christmas Chair Cover Farewell to Kindness
Amazon UK
Amazon Aus
Barnes & Noble

Visit Jude Online!
Visit Jude’s Website
Like Jude on Facebook
Follow Jude on Twitter
Subscribe to Jude’s newsletter
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Follow Jude on Goodreads



Carole Avila Receives “Perfect Ending Award” in Micro Fiction

VC Reporter CoverHow wonderful to receive an Honorable Mention for my micro fiction story, One Way Out, from the VCReporter for their 2015 Fiction 101 writing competition. The contest requires that a story contain all the elements of a regular full length novel, including plot, main character, and setting in 101 words or less. I thank my friend, Patty Guerrero, for letting me know I won when she saw my story in the VC Reporter!

~ The Perfect Ending Award ~
One Way Out
by Carole Avila

On bended knee, Clive handed Becka a diamond ring. She pressed her lips together and glanced about the café.

“Uhm, I’ll gladly accept your proposal, Clive, but not until you’ve developed a firmer resolve to fulfill your own desires.” He frowned. “Don’t be that way. It’s just that you’re sort of wishy-washy. I’m sure you can change your shortcomings and be the man I know you are. And I’m always here for you to help inspire your needed transformation.”

“You’re right, Becka,” he said.

Clive threw the ring into the gutter, paid the bill and took his lunch to go.

J.J. DiBenedetto’s Latest Release: Fever Dream, Book 9 of the Dream Series!

Cropped photoI’m pleased to have J.J. “James” DiBenedetto as my guest. Book 9 of the Dream Series, Fever Dream, is now available, and I’m sure you’ll find the author just as interesting as his book.

James, did your dream series literally begin with a dream? How did the idea come about?
The idea came from asking a question.  Why do people in mystery stories always try to solve a crime themselves, when most sane people would just go to the police?  The answer I came up with was: if the only evidence they had was in their head.  If they were seeing the crimes from inside the mind of the criminal.  What could you tell the police then?  If you wanted to stop the crimes, you’d have to investigate yourself, at least to find some physical proof you could then go to the authorities with.  And the main characters – Sara, the heroine, and Brian, her boyfriend (and husband as the series goes on), sprung fully-formed from that idea.  The setting of the first book (a very thinly veiled version of where I went to school) also came to life right away with the initial idea. 

rose [2]Men aren’t normally known for romance adventures. To what do you credit being able to write good romance?
I don’t know, honestly.  I just try to be true to the characters.  Writing in first person, I’ve had to try and get into Sara’s head, and after nine books, I know her better than I know myself (which is sort of frightening, but I’m sure my fellow authors can relate to that!).

When did you first know you wanted to write?
Ever since junior high school.  But I didn’t finish the first really long thing (the initial draft of Dream Student) until after college, and then it sat on my computer for years because I didn’t know what to do with it.  In 2012, a friend sold her first novel to a small publisher, and I thought, “why can’t I do it, too?” and I dusted off that draft, rewrote it from the beginning, and all of a sudden I’ve got nine books now!

handwritingWhat is your writing process? Do you have a special place to write, are you alone, do you have a favorite drink by your side?
I don’t have any special process.  Basically, since I have a full-time job, I write whenever I can find a free moment (this is being written while my wife is getting ready for church, for example!)  I write on my desktop PC – I’d love to use my iPad, but I can’t work for any length of time on the virtual keyboard.  And I know some writers use a notebook and write ideas down longhand, but that would be pointless for me – I can’t read my own writing! I usually have music (classical, so it’s familiar and not distracting) and if I have any drink, it’s water.

What are your preferred methods for promoting and marketing your books?
Writing more books!  That’s the first thing – keeping the series going and providing new material for people who’ve discovered it.  I’m on social media (mainly FB and Twitter – I still have yet to really understand Pinterest), I advertise regularly, and just anything else I can think of.  I’ve had the books recorded for Audible audiobooks, I’m having them translated (so far there’s an Italian version of Dream Student, and there are Portugese, French, German and Spanish versions in the works, too).

Thank you, James, for visiting my blog!

James has quite a collection of adventures in the Dream Series that start with the question: What if you could see everyone else’s dreams?

Dr. Sara Alderson can. And her gift–or curse–will lead her on an extraordinary journey. Follow Sara as her newfo und ability leads her into adventures she never imagined while she finishes college, becomes a doctor and falls in love.

In book 9, Sara isn’t used to her patients dying for no reason. She refuses to accept thatFeverDream Smlaller her young patient succumbs to a mysterious illness that defies all efforts to treat him. She probes into the boy’s background and soon discovers a greater threat to even her own life. Enemies she didn’t know she had, powerful people who don’t want their secrets uncovered, threaten her career, family and freedom. Time is running out as Sara must act fast before anyone else falls victim to the mysterious illness or before she falls victim to those who want to stop her.

Enjoy an excerpt from Fever Dream:

     “Laurie, calm down. Just tell me. Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.” I try and push calm thoughts through the line, across a few hundred miles to her down there in Washington. I don’t succeed.
      “They were – he doesn’t know. There were two of them, a man and a woman. They showed him badges, and they threatened him. They wanted – he said they wanted all my financial records – everything for the practice, going back to when we first bought it. He said they told him to make copies of everything, give it to them, and not to say a word to anyone else about it.”
      “Obviously he didn’t.” I see why she’s upset. What happened to Craig is illegal. It has to be. If whoever came to his house – if they do have real badges, if they are police – they have to have a warrant. And there’s nothing to find in the records anyway. At least, I know for sure there’s nothing as of the spring of 2002 when I left the practice. And I can’t believe Laurie would ever do anything illegal or even slightly questionable.
      “That’s not all,” she says. “He said they were asking about legal problems we’ve had. Criminal matters.”
      I pinch my arm as hard as I can; I don’t want to drift back to what happened almost a decade ago. That has to be what she means – what these mysterious people, whoever they were, meant. I ask, in a small, faraway voice, “Did he get their names?” but I already know the answer.

The Dream Series by J.J. DiBenedetto! Book #9, FEVER DREAM, is available now at these retailers:

Amazon (Kindle or Paperback)

Barnes & Noble (Nook or Paperback)
Apple iBookstore

Box of Dreams CoverThe first five books in the Dream Series are collected in one Kindle Box Set, and it’s on sale Memorial Day weekend for just $0.99!

Barnes & Noble
Apple iBookstore
Google Play

The first five novels and a short story are all available on Audible. Books #6, 7 and 8 are all available at Amazon, too!

J.J. DiBenedetto is a native New Yorker and has lived in the Washington, DC area for the last 20 years. He loves the opera, reading, photography, science fiction, fondue, travel and the New York Giants. He lives with his lovely and talented wife and amazing cat, Danny. Visit James at his website, on Facebook, on Twitter and at his Amazon Author Page.

Your Opinion–Please! YA or Adult Fiction?

Bloody knifeI need to walk away from my current work to get a fresh perspective, so in the mean time, I started to write a new book, a serial murder story. At first I thought it was too violent for young adult readers, but then when I thought of all the death and blood and gore in Hunger Games and Harry Potter, it didn’t seem so bad.

 My question is, should I keep this for a Young Adult audience or switch it up to a mainstream adult thriller?

 Here’s a brief excerpt from the first page. 

* * * * * *

“Hey, the elevator is going down to the basement! Did you press the wrong button?”

“Oh, crap!” Jenna’s eyes flew open, and her confidence dropped with the elevator.

“I hate the basement. It’s so creepy,” Carley moaned. “You know they don’t like us going down there.”

Jenna punched the number two button, but the decrepit elevator continued its descent.elevator buttons “It’s not like anybody wants to go down there in the first place.” She tore her eyes from the lit-up button marked with a one and stared at her friend. “I know I pressed two when we got on the elevator.”

“That means someone must have called for it from the basement!” Carley said. “Who do you think did that?”

“Calm down. It’s probably just Mr. Fieldsgate. That old janitor is no one to be afraid of.”

“I don’t know…”

“You sound like a baby. Just like Abigail. There’s nothing down there!” Jenna said.

The elevator shuddered to a stop, and Jenna gulped at the lump in her throat. She tapped the button for the second floor several times in quick succession.

“They think we might get hurt tripping over something in the dark. That’s all,” Jenna whispered, and her bravado faded into nothing as the doors slid open.

Each girl pinned herself back into the corner, and Jenna slowly reached out and pressed the ‘Close Door’ button. Nothing happened, but then the doors finally started to slide close. The girls exhaled, but two large hands, gnarled and bloody, reached into the elevator and pushed the doors apart. Jenna and Carley gaped wide mouthed, but neither could utter a sound. Carley glanced at her friend, whose round fearful eyes mirrored her own.

Scary SkeletonThe hands disappeared, but not a second later, from the black engulfed basement a carcass tilted forward. Crimson covered the back of its knotted gray hair, and the body splattered halfway inside the elevator onto the floor. Guttural sounds gargled up the girls’ throats, and screams finally let loose at the sight of the old school janitor.

His bulging eyes stared up at Jenna, as frightened in death as she was in life, and his mouth had dropped wide open to his chin, just like Carley’s. Blood saturated the front of his pine green one-piece uniform. Carley held both hands fisted prayer-like against her mouth, unable to speak.

The doors slid closed but bounced open as they hit the legs of the graying corpse. The moment the doors fully retracted, they drew toward the janitor’s body again. This time, battered hands latched onto the metal edges of the doors and pushed them open. Carley wailed and tucked herself hard inside the corner as a man peered at her with red facial scars curving like a chaotic map over half his face. Only one eye moved as he dragged it over Carley, then he glared at Jenna, who pressed her back into the handrail.

He growled when he spoke, more like an animal than a man.

“Well, well. What the hell do we have here?”

* * * * * *Question mark

What do you honestly think? Should this be written for a young adult or adult audience? Other murders in the story will include adults, both male and female, maybe another student. Please feel free to comment on the content, too. Thank you!