ARC Review: After We Were Stolen by Brooke Beyfuss

My Review:
A book that will cut to the quick but not leave its reader emotionally abandoned. After We Were Stolen is an intelligent and heartrending story of vulnerability, power, resistance, and redemption. It explores the many facets of love, for ourselves, for those we call family, and what it means to rebuild a sense of identity from the ashes of systematic abuse and betrayal. Brooke Beyfuss has crafted a beautiful book that ultimately fosters hope founded on the belief that paths can be found to guide us away from even the darkest of pasts. An excellent read that is sure to be a favorite book club pick.

From the Publisher:

An emotionally wrought debut novel perfect for book clubs about a girl who escapes from a cult after a deadly fire destroys her family’s compound, only to be haunted by That Night as she tries to build a new life for herself.

A fire. Her escape. And the realization her entire life has been a lie.

When nineteen-year-old Avery awakens to flames consuming her family’s remote compound, she knows it’s her only chance to escape her father’s grueling survival training, bizarre rules, and gruesome punishments. She and her brother Cole flee the grounds for the first time in their lives, suddenly homeless in a world they know nothing about. After months of hiding out, they are arrested for shoplifting and a shocking discovery is made―Avery and Cole were kidnapped fifteen years earlier, stolen by cult leaders they knew as Mom and Dad.

Cole is immediately returned to his birth family, leaving Avery alone and desperate. She is uncertain if her “parents” survived the fire and is terrified to find out. The loss of Cole and the trauma of her former life threaten to undo her, but when the police investigation reveals there may be more survivors, Avery must uncover the truth about the fire to truly be free.

Suspenseful, emotionally charged, and deeply thought-provoking, After We Were Stolen delves into the idea of family―those we’re born into and those we make―resilience, and the lengths a cult survivor will go to finally be free of her painful past. Brooke Beyfuss’s powerful debut novel sparkles with heart, grit, and extraordinary characters who will stay with you long after the last page.

The Tree is Up and an Early Present Arrived

I wanted to share a picture of my tree this year. I’ve obviously been watching YouTube Christmas ribbon tutorials and working on my decorating game.

And remember back in September when I found out that Her Perfect Life won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR award for outstanding women’s fiction? Well, the award arrived in the mail last week. Early Christmas present! I’ll need to find a place in the house to display this beauty.

5 Tips For Writing Your Book: Get it Started, Get it Finished

There are as many different ways to approach writing a book as there are individuals capable of reinventing the process. By no means am I suggesting my way is the only or best way (because that’s ridiculous) but if you find yourself procrastinating, stuck, or just plain unable to get to your writing lately, my hope is that you’ll find a suggestion or two here that can help you out. Because it’s impossible to write a book that you never show up for, today I’m sharing my top five tips for getting yourself to the page

Write Early in the Day: First Thing

It’s true, books can be written at any time of the day. But if you find yourself always making “I swear I’ll will write today” promises to yourself that you never or rarely seem to keep, try writing first thing in the morning. Before you check your phone, open social media, work out, make breakfast…before you do anything that will pull you out of that near sleep/dream headspace, sit down and commit to writing for at least 30 minutes. If you have young kids or have to get ready for a day job, get up an hour earlier than usual in order to give yourself some time and space to create in peace before the day steamrolls all over your creativity.

Create a Writing Habit: Write Every Day

Maybe you’ve simply been away from your story too long. Or too many days pass in between your writing days. Either way, you find yourself having to regularly play catch up with your book to rediscover where you’ve left off. You spend all your precious writing time refiguring where you are and so you’re unable to make as much progress during that time as you could if this weren’t an issue. By committing to a daily routine you will always be up to speed with your story. You don’t have to write a ton of words for this to work, even 100 words a day would keep you in the flow of your timeline and plot. The point is that you’re in connection with your book every day.

Keep Your Book With You: In Your Head And In Your Hands

Even though my writing career has run parallel to working a full-time job and raising a family, when I’m working on a new book, it’s a priority for me. I often will carry my laptop with me and write during my lunch hour at work. When my kids were little, I would often write while they were at sports practices or while waiting for them in that enormous pick-up line at school. Whether you type or handwrite, taking your book with you throughout your day allows you to take advantage of downtime throughout your day. Even if it’s only 15-20 minutes, it’s keeping you in your story and you’ll probably be surprised at how many words you can write during that time. Years and years ago I used to write on a desktop machine…I would always have my most recent couple of chapters printed out and that way I could handwrite the next scene or two onto those pages. I would then type it into Word later in the evening.

Minimize Distractions, Especially Your Favorites

Unless you are published and actively marketing yourself and your book that already exists, social media is an enemy of your writing. Maybe you are the rare individual that is capable of honestly only spending a few minutes on each platform just to keep up, and if so, this advice isn’t for you. But if like so many others, myself included, you find 5-10 minutes of scrolling magically leading to a lost 1-2 hours, well then that’s 1-2 hours (maybe more) of valuable time that was spent wasted instead of working on your book. This holds true for Netflix, Hulu, internet news…however you spend your free time, if you really want to write that book and finish it then you’re going to need to work on developing some internet/media self-discipline. One trick you might try is the If/Then strategy. IF you write for ______ number of minutes, THEN you can watch/check ___________ for ___________ number of minutes. Note: this only works if the reward FOLLOWS the writing. And you MUST stop watching and scrolling when your stated time is up.

Don’t Stop

Invariably there comes a time with every book (for me it’s usually somewhere around the middle) where we stop and think, “What the hell am I doing? What is this book even about? Why am I wasting my time? This is terrible. I’m terrible. The world is already filled to overflowing with books, who even cares if I write one more?” And at the bottom of this negative spiral is generally when the writing is in danger of stopping. DON’T. STOP. These negative feelings almost always pass, but if we’ve allowed ourselves to wallow (and I have wallowed, believe me) two things happen. One: you step away from the story and lose the continuity and flow. Two: you waste time that could have been spent working on your book. Weeks, months even may pass before you decide you’re being ridiculous. Once the depressive clouds lift from your brain you’ll realize you don’t care how many other books already exist, you STILL want to write THIS book and you’ll get excited about it again. When this happens to me, I return to my pages but discover I’ve lost my way and have to find the thread again. If I hadn’t stopped writing and instead continued to push past my feelings, I could be 1-2 months closer to a completed draft instead of exactly where I was sixty days ago. You started writing your book for a reason. You were excited to tell this story and you believed in it enough to begin. The doubt that trickles in while we’re crafting that first draft seems to be a fairly normal part of the process. Don’t let it sidetrack you and knock you completely off course. Remember, we all have to go back and make our books better once that first draft is complete anyway. And we can’t fix what we don’t allow to exist in the first place.

My Book is in Target!

I’ve been working at this writing career for quite some time. Nineteen years to be exact. Over those nearly two decades, there have been high-highs and low-lows. I have felt proud, discouraged, elated, depressed, extremely dedicated, and like giving it all up. One thing I’ve learned is that if you want to make it in this business you have to be able to celebrate your wins, and find an emotional ballast through the hard times.

This month I’ve been celebrating a big, big win.

In addition to riding this rollercoaster of a writing career, I’ve also been a suburban mom raising two kids. A suburban mom who has spent her fair share of time and money at her local Target. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve browsed and purchased books from their shelves. Or how many times, while selecting the works of other writers I admire, I’ve dreamed and visualized seeing my own book sitting on the shelf sporting that white circular sticker with the Target logo and standard 20% off discount.

Just so you know, I have always loved seeing my books on the shelf at my local indie retailers, Barns and Noble, and Borders (when it was still in business) but in my mind, being able to place a book in Target was some next level, oh-my-God, it FINALLY happened step in my career.

When I found out a few months ago that it “may happen” with The Secret Next Door, I didn’t allow myself to freak out or get too excited. Because “may happen” is significantly different from “is for sure happening” and I didn’t think that after so many years of hoping for this particular something I wanted to navigate the emotional storm of only “almost” accomplishing it. So it wasn’t until I walked into my local Target and actually saw my book physically on the shelf that I let my excitement break loose.

This was a big dream realized.

It Was a Wonderful Thanksgiving

I hosted Thanksgiving at my house this year for eleven people. It was a gorgeous, sunny day here in Colorado. It started for me around five-thirty AM, largely because I had decided that I NEEDED to repaint both my dining room and living room BEFORE Thanksgiving. I was still finishing up this project the morning before everyone came over…but I got it done with plenty of time to spare for cleaning up, cooking, and entertaining! I’m not sure if the difference shows up so well in these pictures, but the in-real-life difference is huge. It was so dark in these rooms before because they don’t get much natural light. Now they are bright and cheery for most of the day.

The color before was Moose Moose by Valspar
The color after was Alabaster by Sherwin Williams

I made a twenty-two pound beast of a turkey, roasted brussel sprouts (I’ve had these several times at restaurants and now love them), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a homemade apple pie (I used the recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook which is absolutely perfect). My brother-in-law (who is a smoker aficionado) made a smoked mac-and-cheese which was delicious.)

It was wonderful having both my kids here. Beth came home from college for the week and it’s been both lovely and strange to again have all her clothes, shoes, and cosmetics all over the place. One of my fellow empty nest friends advised that I would probably find this annoying, but honestly, it’s been comforting to have this messy evidence of her presence in my house again. I still miss her being around all the time. I can’t imagine how quiet my house will be when my youngest graduates from high school in the spring!

Beth and Matthew (photobombed by my youngest niece.)
Almost everyone (group selfies are hard).

Today I’m going to work on getting the Christmas decorations hauled out of the basement and put up–pictures to come!

I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely and that you were able to spend it in a way that brings you joy.

Apple Best Books List for November: THE SECRET NEXT DOOR!

For this book’s launch, there have been several very cool opportunities that have happened for The Secret Next Door. One of which was when Apple Books selected The Secret Next Door as one of their Best Books for November! When my publicist emailed me the news I practically fell on the floor. I’m so grateful for this amazing opportunity. Thank you Apple Books for noticing and recognizing my latest title. Here is the link to the full list and you can find the Apple Books Review of The Secret Next Door below (they compare it to Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty!!)

Apple Books Review:

APPLE BOOKS REVIEWS

The Secret Next Door: 

Appearances can be deceiving in Rebecca Taylor’s eerie domestic thriller. Alyson is elated when she and her family first move into an exclusive Denver suburb, but the perfect façade quickly unravels. As the town rumbles over the development of a nearby golf facility and a 13-year-old boy turns up tragically (and suspiciously) dead, skeletons start tumbling out of the elite subdivision’s walk-in closets. We love how relatable and down-to-earth Alyson is as she fumbles her way through the infighting and panic that envelop the town. Taylor draws us into her heroine’s burgeoning friendships (and rivalries) with her new neighbors, especially with wannabe state senator Bonnie and friendly gossip Gabby. If you loved the engrossing, suspenseful feel of Big Little Lies, this showstopping suburban mystery’s for you.