Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Posts tagged ‘memoir’

Grace Revealed: A Powerful, Haunting Memoir

Grace Revealed

by , author of FOR I HAVE SINNED A Cate Harlow Private Investigation    

Published in The Huffington Post, 1/13/15

Grace Revealed FrontCvr FINALThere is something in the human heart that has an unconscious yearning to know about the past, most specifically our own family’s past. Who hasn’t looked at old, faded pictures of relatives long gone and wondered about their lives? Who were these people? What were their lives like? What were the joys and sorrows of those lives? The need to know is palpable.

It is also a matter of curiosity. It is part of our heritage, and part of who we are.

We have all heard childhood stories about our parents and grandparents. Greg Archer was a child of 5 when he first heard stories of how his mother, her sisters, and three of her brothers had endured some type of “adventure” when they were children. But the adventures of our parents and grandparents seem so distant; hearing about them is similar to hearing fairy tales that begin, “Long, long ago….”

Even when we become adults, the fairy-tale guise of what happened to the past generation keeps us safe from reality. Archer so perfectly captures this feeling: He says that when he received a floppy disc from his mother’s brother detailing an account of the “adventure,” “it smacked of an ethereal fairy-tale filled with a mythic villain in dark corners of the universe. It had been comfortably out of reach, a safe distance away from me.”

Still, impressive and exotic-sounding words like “Siberia,” “Uzbekistan,” and “Tanganyika” piqued his interest and settled in his subconscious. The subconscious has a way of remembering for us and retrieves what we once heard or saw at some future given time.

In Grace Revealed: A Memoir, Archer first takes us on his own prolific journey of self-discovery as a journalist, an adventure that all writers seem to take at one time or another. From his Polish-American roots in Chicago to California to Hawaii and back, he experiences an interesting, eclectic mix of life and people. It is perhaps this journey of self that eventually leads him to another journey, a very human one to discover the reality of his family’s strength and endurance under harsh and extreme circumstances.

Archer, author and award-winning journalist, has brought to bear all his remarkable journalistic skills to tell the story of the haunting and heart-wrenching journey he undertook to discover his Polish family’s past during the terror-filled time of Stalin and the Russian ruler’s ruthless actions across Eastern Europe. Stalin was a monster whose actions were soul-destroying and dignity-shredding. Those who survived were forever scarred, emotionally and physically.

greg-archer 2Whatever journey we undertake usually begins with some small detail. The first step of Archer’s journey began with a broken picture frame that held pictures of his grandmother, his mother, and his aunts. Broken glass, possibly symbolic of freeing those held within the frame, the author muses. A spark has been lit, and the need to know more about these relatives and what they experienced grows. Is the broken frame a sign from the divine, gently pushing him to research his family? A sure sign from the universe? Possibly so. And so the story begins, and it is a memorable one.

Archer’s family in Poland lived through the horror of Joseph Stalin’s mass deportation of nearly 2 million Polish citizens to the Siberian gulags, and from there to the Middle East and Eastern Africa. Stalin’s reign of terror is an incredibly under-reported atrocity of the 1940s, a time when most of the world was preoccupied with World War II. As Archer’s Uncle John often told him, “Most of the world knows what Hitler did to the Jews, but hardly anybody knows what Stalin did to our people.”

The author admirably bridges the present and the past as he undertakes an overseas trek to the ancestral country hoping that he himself can become a saving grace to the past generation and hoping that, by telling their story, he might bring them some type of peace.

Greg Archer does bring a healing to his family and others like them by writing the story, because, like all stories of life, no matter how cruel and heartbreaking the adventure may be, there are always some parts of it that hold hope and even laughter. The author asks only that we not forget the truth of the past. He says:

“I think in this current era in which we live, especially in America, we all seem to be so busy and so wrapped up in social media and technology. I think it’s vital we continue to share stories of historical significance and nuance that illuminate the power of the human spirit and what it is capable of, that pure radiance within us that can overcome and face anything, no matter what.”

Out of the ashes of despair and heartache, the author creates a must-read story of the indomitable spirit of humanity that he finds in abundance in his own family.

Purchase Grace Revealed    Learn more about the book:    Learn more about the author:  

Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton

Read Kristen’s award-winning new thriller For I Have Sinned (A Cate Harlow Private Investigation), available now.

The Last of the Living Blue

Living Blue Front Cover FINALNorLightsPress is proud to announce our newest book: The Last of the Living Blue: A Year of Living and Dying Among the Trees.

This book is an intimate, intense look at the effects of the changing climate in our big back yard: Colorado’s majestic mountains and the Weminuche Wilderness.  This is a story real and raw, told in a soft, yet powerful voice, taking readers along through one year of drought, fires, floods, and the healing of mountain and mind.

The exquisite prose of author Gin Getz is an inspiration to people who love nature, writers, fellow bloggers, and her many friends throughout the world.  Ashley Kent Carrithers says, “Gin steps TCOW-Author-Imageout of the pages at us,naked, as she does at 10,000 feet, baring her emotional soul courageously while challenging us to embrace her love of the wilds.”

I recommend that readers double their pleasure by purchasing The Last of the Living Blue AND Gin’s first book, The Color of the Wild.  I guarantee you’ll enjoy both books.  Also follow Gin’s wonderful blog at:      Purchase this new book on Amazon at:

For a review copy of either book, contact

The Color of the Wild

Memories are Made of This

I recently started working on a memoir, and at the same time I’ve discovered how difficult this genre can be. Fiction seems much easier—just make stuff up as you go along.  Need a villain?  Create one and give him both good and bad traits to make him believable.  Need a handsome hero?  Find a photo and invent a personality and a past.  Need a happy ending?  No problem!  But memoir is another story, with so many things to consider:

  • Who will read it?
  •  Where should I begin?
  •  What should I include—how much detail?
  • Will people be hurt or angry about the things I reveal
  • Will they think less of me?
  • Is my story even worth writing about?

I have many questions, yet I know people have already walked this path and left clear directions.  So I spent an hour shopping for books on memoir writing. I finally settled on one that suits me best: Fearless Confessions: AFearless-confessions6 Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman.   This book is fun to read and addressed all my concerns about how to dredge up memories and turn them into fascinating (or in my case, at least tolerably interesting) stories that will resonate with readers. She answers such questions as:

  •  How do you identify and combine the voice of your younger, less experienced self with your wiser, reflective voice?
  •  How do you devise plot powerful enough to make the leap from mere story to universal meaning?
  •  How do you sift through thousands of memories to find expressive metaphors?

The exercises in Silverman’s book are deceptively simple and progressively lead readers to dig more deeply into the past and use richer language to describe it.  As the author of a writing guide, I know it isn’t easy know what, and how much, to tell your readers. Sue Silverman seems to intuitively know what matters most to a memoirist, and she provided all of that in Fearless Confessions.

deanmartin-logoMemories are Made of This

Take one fresh and tender kiss

Add one stolen night of bliss
One girl, one boy
Some grief, some joy

Memories are made of this

Don’t forget a small moonbeam
Fold in lightly with a dream
Your lips and mine
Two sips of wine

Memories are made of this

Then add the wedding bells
One house where lovers dwell
Three little kids for the flavor

Stir carefully through the days
See how the flavor stays
These are the dreams you’ll savor

With his blessings from above
Serve it generously with love
One man, one wife
One love through life

Memories are made of this
Memories are made of this

Sammie Justesen is the author of Dialogue for Writers, a new book from NorLightsPress.

FRONT cover final

Sammie is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association

From a recent review:

Did you know dialogue matters even for poetry? I didn’t, and I am so glad I do now! This small book packs a punch. It easily and accessibly convinced me of just how and why good dialogue matters, why many pieces could use more of it, and when not to use it. The author also helps the reader learn to plainly identify what makes good dialogue good and what does and doesn’t work through the use of a plethora of useful examples. It is also full of different kinds of useful information for writers of all sorts. There are gems in it such as “Usually the best point of view character is the one with most to lose.” (page 83) If your writing could benefit from some good editing, try this book. If your writing could benefit from some new tricks, try this book. It won’t disappoint. I think of it as a course on dialogue in itself and there are exercises at the end of each chapter.

Author Interview with Gin Getz

Indie House Books was delighted to interview Gin Getz. She’s the author of The Color of the Wild, a stunning and inspiring memoir, whose use of powerful poetry, prose, and stunning photography creates a unique, passionate, and creative voice. Stop, read, and learn a bit more about this great indie author.

What have you written before your latest project?memoir

I’m one of those who always had to write–poetry, journals, old fashioned letters, short stories. Most of them I burned; the rest hold little value to anyone but me.  Through these I solidified my commitment and attachment to writing.  It wasn’t until I started sharing my writing through blogging and magazine articles that my voice began to emerge.  By that I mean my style of writing, the way I write, the way I “talk” to my readers.  Writing became a conversation, if you will.  I live remotely yet believe strongly in reaching other people and in the responsibility we all have of doing what we can for others.  Sharing my world through my writing is the best way I can reach others.

The Color of the Wild is my first full length manuscript.  It took me many years of waking before my family and day job to complete.  Blogging helped.  Regular posting was my discipline, and the people I met – some just online, others who came here to meet me and have over time become dear friends – they were my motivation.

 Tell us about your journey in writing The Color of the Wild.  How did the mix between photography, prose, and poetry come about?

Good question.  I’m not sure how to answer this as it’s just my normal day. I’m out there working on the ranch with my camera close by hanging on a gate post “just in case,” or out hiking with a notebook and pencil ready for when the right words come to mind. I figure it’s all intertwined. The more we express ourselves in any creative means, the more we enliven the entire creative process.  Creativity is all related.

 What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your journey writing it? 

Re-writing. Editing.  And miraculously, with each time going over my writing, my work improved!  You’re always told the more you do something the better you’ll be at it. Well, I believe it’s true.

 Can you give us a description of the book?

The Color of the Wild is an intimate view of life in an untamed land, an unconventional memoir of person and place. It’s a personal account of one year, one woman, her family, and the wild mountain they call home told in a lyrical and lilting, powerful and passionate voice. 

What inspires you to write?

I’m inspired by the wild world around me.  And the wild places within us all. The magnificent beauty around me, and the deep, dark stuff inside. Writing allows me to share this and still be alone in the wild.  As for authors who have inspired me, I can stop to read Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry any day and every time hope someday someone will read my writing and feel the way their writing makes me feel.

Gin GetzWhat do you love most about writing, and what do you hate the most about it?

Writing centers, grounds, and balances me.  I like the inwardness, quietness, discipline, the reflection, and the creative process of striving to paint a picture of what I see (and feel) in words.  What do I hate?  Making the same spelling mistakes over and over again and overlooking my own typos.

 What benefits do you think indie publishing gives you? Do you feel the benefits outweigh any disadvantages?

The first great part of the growing world of indie publishing is the people you get to work with.  The people make a huge difference.  My publisher is like my family and friend. These things matter to me. I enjoy liking who I work with.  Further, I think it is absolutely amazing how many books there are available today thanks to the opportunity indie publishing presents.  Some fear this floods the market, but I don’t.  I think it shows great hope for how huge the market is, for how many readers are out there, and how many people still love books, reading and writing.

 What are your passions other than writing?

For better or for worse (I know this is debatable), I believe everything we do should be done with passion.  Writing, art, cooking, hiking, horseback riding… living.

 How did you get into photography?

The concept of learning to see, focusing, drew me in.  My first photography course was at NYU back in the 1980’s with a classic Nikon SLR, developing film and prints in the darkroom.

What are five things you’d absolutely have to have in your dream house?          

Funny you ask because we’re building it now–our new log cabin along the headwaters of the Rio Grande!  We drew up the plans ourselves based on many, many years of dreaming, moving, and dreaming some more.  Now, all those dreams get built into this one place.  Small, efficient, warm and cozy, lots of light, French doors, sky light over the bed, big bookshelves and a claw foot tub are some of those dreams we’re including.

 IHB: If there were only one thing you could tell your readers, what would it be?

Read!  Share the passion of reading and the written word!

 The Color of the Wild is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and through Gin Getz’s publisher NorLightsPress.

This interview was shared courtesy of Indie House Books: A Place for Readers and Writers to Call Home     Indie house books

 We highly recommend their website.

Almost Spring: The Color of the Wild

Spring is arriving in southern Indiana after a long, harsh winter. Our snow pack melted this week, letting the creeks and rivers run free and leave their banks. The ground feels squishy underfoot. Rivulets of fresh water trickle across the roads. Everything is moist and dripping.

ImageThe birds I feed every day are suddenly busy elsewhere, looking for tasty seeds and berries left over from last fall. Our prissy hens won’t venture out when snow covers the ground, but today they’re swooping across the yard with their winds spread like children playing Superman. Egg production is down, but that’s okay. The term cooped up obviously came from someone who keeps chickens, because my flock was literally cooped up for several weeks.

NorLightsPress author Gin Getz is writing about spring from her home at 10,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  Read her amazing nature writing and view stunning wilderness photos at .

We’re proud of this new book, The Color of the Wild: An Intimate Look at Life in an Untamed Land. An review by Preston Hathaway caught our attention this week:

 The Color of the Wild provides readers a glimpse and feel of what living on a ranch in the wilderness, far away and cut off from neighbors, is like. It is rough and challenging. But the healing, peace, and solitude within is met with unexpected seasonal rewards; such as the songs of frogs in a mountain pond.

As a boy and young man I grew up in the San Luis Valley, in the long shadows of the San Juan mountains where Gin works, lives, and loves. The sun went to bed there. Water, white gold to farmers there and elsewhere along the Rio Grande, came from the mountains. Violent summer hail storms brought random ruin. The constant green coupled with an ever changing palette of red, yellow and gold marked the passing seasons.

Gin Getz has created a multilayered artwork as timeless as the mighty Rio Grande that flows from the Great Divide. Like the river giving life on its journey, Gin’s work gives a voice to mountains that cannot speak for themselves as she shares the wounds, healing, and love of her journey. A must read for anyone that needs to step away from the busyness of life into the healing solitude of the wilderness.

The Color of the Wild    If you’re looking for a book to savor in front of a warm fire; a book you’ll read twice and then order for your friends, try The Color of the Wild. You won’t be sorry.


The Color of the Wild

The Color of the Wild

Newest book from NorLightsPress

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