The Shadows We Make – Reader Question #2

As you may know if you’ve read prior posts, I invited the followers on the Jo Allen Ash Facebook page to send me questions they might have about The Shadows We Make—characters, settings, something they might be wondering about the writing process, or whatever (within reason) interested them. The second question, from Bella M., is:

You mention that Grace and her brothers get their names (as well as Grace’s green eyes) from her mother’s side. Who is her mother? Where do the names come from?

Answer: Although not explained in this book (The Shadows We Make) and only touched on in the next (The Thrice-Gifted Child), Grace’s mother, whose name is Aine, is a descendant of an extremely ancient line with ties to Earth. When her ancestry is discussed, the land from which her mother’s people are said to have originated is referred to by the ancient name of Eire. There will be more about this lineage and what it means to Grace.

Thanks, Bella M.! Who’s next?

Small Batch? Splendid!

Last weekend, my eldest son drove me around for some errand running. It was quite a bit past lunch time and we were contemplating whether we should stop and grab something or head home. Well, by chance (not really by chance, I insisted we head over that way) we pulled into the parking lot for Hometown Creamery over on Gravel Pike in East Greenville—Pennsylvania, for those who aren’t familiar. We’d both been talking about checking it out. Not a place for lunch, as far as I could tell, but, hey, you gotta live a little, right?

Egads, try live a lot, especially if you’re an ice cream lover.

In high anticipation, we exited my son’s vehicle and strode up to the front door of a building that has been many things over time, but which now houses, as the sign indicates, Hometown Creamery – Small Batch Ice Cream – Donuts – More. Like I said, not exactly a place for lunch. Definitely a place to satisfy a sweet tooth in the most wonderful way.

We paused beneath the green awning, glanced at the store hours, agreed we were skipping lunch after all and going straight to dessert, and went inside. Oh my. Oh, oh, oh my.

It’s a wide-open area upon entry (I believe all the seating is outside on park-type benches and an umbrellaed picnic table or two, but I may be mistaken—might have to go back again to check and, yeah, get some more ice cream) with a very friendly young woman directly ahead at the register. She instructed us with a smile to go to our left where we would await our turn to order. We happily complied, perusing the menu of delights with mouths open and an occasional swipe at drool.

I ended up after much indecision getting myself a fudge brownie with chocolate ice cream sundae, complete with whipped cream and maraschino cherries (I did say we hadn’t had lunch, didn’t I?) and my son had something called Tootie-Fruity with more words to follow. I can’t remember them right now. I have a feeling I was way too concerned with my own choice.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take this picture until I’d scarfed down a good bit of it!

Initially, and why I had delayed in trying out this wonderful new establishment, was a fear the ice cream would be stale. That happens sometimes in places where the flavors that don’t get eaten sit awhile. No such worries here. They mix their specialty ice creams in small batches, ensuring freshness every time. Add to that the wonderful creaminess, the sweetness, the OMG goodness and a rather old-time atmosphere, and, well, can you say ‘hooked’?

I’ll definitely be going back. In fact, once we’d finished our delectable, small-batch, ahem, lunches, I did return inside to take pictures for this blog. What I hadn’t noticed the first time around (due to my hyper-focus on the ice cream) was the long table covered with baskets of old-fashioned individual candies (nostalgia, anyone?) and the refrigerator filled with other dairy delights.

So, people, if you’re fans of ice cream, especially fans of the best darned small batch ice cream, head on over! It’s worth the trip, even if you’re not around the corner.

You can also check them out on their Facebook page (which I looked up) at: facebook.com/hometowncreamerypa

Happy eating!

The Shadows We Make – Reader Question #1

I recently invited the followers on the Jo Allen Ash Facebook page to send me questions they might have about The Shadows We Make—characters, settings, something they might be wondering about the writing process, or whatever (within reason) interested them. The first questions, from Don J., is:

How do you decide when to switch from one character to another during the story?

For those of you who have not yet read the book, The Shadows We Make is written entirely in the first person through the point of view of three different characters. Each character has her or his own unique voice. What Don wants to know is how I choose to switch the character/point of view throughout.

Answer: It’s not unusual to switch back and forth between points of view (POV) in fiction, but in this case, the switching is taking place between characters speaking in first person, making the task a little more challenging. As to how the decision is made to switch from one person to another, it is, after all my years writing, a matter of instinct, so it took me a while to figure out how to answer Don’s question.

I’ll start with the reason a writer (or at least this writer) switches from one character/POV to another character/POV. The switching over from one character to another helps to keep the pace going, keeps the tension up and, especially in the case of first person POV, offers glimpses into another character’s thoughts. Thoughts which are otherwise hidden to the reader, especially if what a character says and what he or she thinks, feels and does is entirely different from their verbal cues, or even their physical actions.

I am not an outliner (although, I’ve occasionally been forced into it), so I am unable to describe the switch as a decisive point along the storyline. For me, an answer to Don’s question is going to run something like this: The switch is not a concrete, has-to-be-this-way decision. The switch comes when the story and the characters demand it. It’s sort of like driving. You make a turn in the road when the time comes, when you subconsciously (or consciously) recognize the needed change in direction. It’s as though I find the characters waving me down, saying, yes, yes, this is the way. Wait until you discover what we have in store for you down here. As long as I don’t diverge too far off the path, the story I’m carrying in my head together with all the characters’ voices, emotions, motivations, contrariness, will get me and them where we’re meant to go.

Thanks, Don! Who’s next?

Again, with the peonies?

Of course. I love my peonies. I’m probably boring everyone with photos of peonies, but every year they fill the air with the most wondrous fragrance and the blooms grow more abundantly each season. I love the ethereal look of them, the way the ants industriously get them to bloom, the delicate, soft feel, the way they sit in a container so prettily… Okay, enough already, right?

I can’t help it. I love my peonies. And I guess they’re not really mine. They’re nature’s peonies, but they happen to reside in my garden.

This magenta variety has a different scent then the others, a much lighter one, but still nice.
I set them outside on the porch so I could brush the ants away as they appeared, then brought the bouquet inside to place on the windowsill.

Might I boast?

Silly thing to ask, but I’m not used to tooting my own horn. However, I received the most fantastic review for my upcoming release (July 14, 2022) of my debut as a young adult author with the dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy novel, The Shadows We Make, written using the pen name Jo Allen Ash.

When I first received the email advising the review had been completed, I actually got a bit sick to my stomach because, true to form, I wasn’t sure what to expect and felt nervous about looking at it. In fact, I delayed until hours later. What I found when I opened it made me grin until my cheeks ached and caused me to quickly text the exciting news to, well, everyone.

This is the quote I am using (although there are plenty I can pull, because it was all so wonderful, and I likely will for varying purposes):

“…intricate worldbuilding … complex characters … beautifully crafted … will appeal to readers of all ages.” – BookLife review

If you’re interested in reading the whole review, you can find it here.

Grace Irese, sixteen-year-old desert warrior with a chip on her shoulder, is gifted in ways she does not yet realize. Duncan Oaks, teenage member of the Grif-Drif con-artist guild, is a boy who has made one bad choice too many. Finding themselves remanded to an off-world juvenile facility with lifetime sentences, Grace and Duncan plot an escape into the horrific environment beyond, determined to save Duncan’s young sister from Grace’s war-torn world.  Can they and their unlikely companions survive their quest unscathed, or will they find they’ve been forever altered?

Set in dark alien worlds and told in the first person with three separate voices, The Shadows We Make is a fast-paced tale filled with conflict, bravery, a touch of strange magic and characters bound by unexpected friendship.

(PS: The Shadows We Make is available for pre-order now at on-line retailers and also from brick-and-mortar bookstores.)

Rainy Days and Fridays

I know the song is Rainy Days and Mondays, but it happened to be a rainy Friday when these pictures were taken. I walked around in a rain that had turned to mist, noting how green the plants have all become, how lush the ferns, how the droplets clung to the surfaces, especially the hosta’s broad leaves. The shade garden looks a bit like a secret world calling to me.

hostas have a way of thriving, even these that get more sunshine than they used to since the tree once shading them is no longer standing
the ferns weren’t this lush last year – I could hide in them now
an inviting path

Spring…finally

and just in time for summer. Right now, the temperature is nearing eighty degrees and some heavy storms are due to come in from the southwest. Spring in the Northeast, however, (or at least my portion of the Northeast) has been a bit sporadic and slow in coming, with a hard freeze less than two weeks ago. Yes, in May. In the past two weeks, though, the trees have really begun filling in and this past week my flowers are showing their promise.

Can I remember what this flower is called? No. The tag I kept in the soil is long gone, but I am so happy to see they have returned to grace my somewhat unkempt garden.

The tiny ants are hard at work on my peonies. They haven’t yet reached the “marshmallow” stage, but I am hoping to see them begin blooming soon.

These are usually among the earliest to appear in my garden and I love their purple hue. A couple of days ago, there were only a few buds.
And we can never discount the lovely wildflowers. They may not be growing quite where I’d like them to be, but they nurture so many creatures I wouldn’t dream of removing them.
And my old favorite from my blog about the Chicken Teapot has become quite abundant, spreading beautifully and with no assistance from me–only nature.