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Spotlight on Gunnysack Hell by Nancy Brashear

March 25, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Spotlight tagged as , , , ,

Spotlight on Gunnysack Hell

“There’s more to fear in the desert than scorpions and rattlesnakes.”

It’s the summer of 1962, middle of the Cold War, and the O’Brien family has moved off-grid to the Mojave Desert in Southern California. After all, the desert has to be a safer place to raise a family than the crime-ridden city, and there they can build a new future. But evil also stalks dusty desert roads, and eight-year-old Nonni finds herself harboring a terrible secret: Only she can identify the predator who has been terrorizing the community.

And he knows where she lives.

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Excerpt

Gunnysack Hell

Nancy Brashear

I read this morning that Donald Fricker was granted parole after serving twenty years in prison. Once I saw his name in print, the decades disappeared in the flick of a newspaper page. My childhood flooded back to eight-year-old me, too scared to identify him and save my family.

It was May of 1962. My family had recently moved to our new home, our grandparents’ one-room homestead cabin in the California high desert with tarpaper and chicken-wire lining the walls. It never occurred to me to ask my father why we had moved from our three-bedroom suburban home by the beach to “off the grid.”

All I knew was that we used kerosene lanterns, the chemical outhouse under the tall water tank, a wood- burning stove, and an old-fashioned ice-box that our father replenished daily with a big block of ice from Jolly’s Corner.

Tessa, my six-year-old sister, and I walked home alone, every school day, from the bus stop, a mile and a half down an isolated dirt road.

That’s when it happened, the thing that changed our family. I’ll never forget that day. I protected Tessa even though I broke all of my promises to Mama I’d made just the night before. To walk directly home from the bus stop, not to talk to strangers, and to stay away from open wells.

That afternoon, when the bus’s hissing air brakes signaled our stop, we leapt from the bottom step onto the dirt shoulder of the road.

I picked the perfect stone from the side of the road. It had to be small and round, with no sharp edges, and light enough to kick all the way home.

Tessa followed on my heels, talking my ear off, and stepping on the heel of one of my tennies. “Gave you a flat!”

“Back off!” I glared at her. Mama said those shoes were like gold, and we were to protect them. I gave the rock a punt and forged ahead.

Oblivious to things going on out there in the desert, we were lulled into a sense of safety and routine. Like Eve, we didn’t feel the danger around us until it was too late to escape. Instead, I should have been paying attention to the truck following us slowly.

Down the deserted road.

Yes, this is our story.

My story.

Endorsement:

“I can’t recall the last time I was so impressed with someone’s writing style. It’s pure genius! Gunnysack Hell, told through the various family members’ point of view, takes the readers down a tunnel filled with mystery, thrills, and excitement. This masterpiece is not to be missed.”

~L. C. Hayden, Award-winning and best-selling author, http://www.lchayden.com/
(The Harry Bronson Thriller Series, When Memory Fails as seen on NBC and ABC, and others)

Nancy Brashear lives in Orange County, California, with her husband, Patrick, and their rescue dog, Goldie, where her grown children and seven grandgirls have supported her writing adventures. A professor emeritus in English, she has published short stories, poems, academic articles, textbook chapters as well as website content and writing projects with educational publishers. Gunnysack Hell is her debut fiction novel and was inspired by a true-crime event. And, yes, she did live off-grid with her family in a homestead cabin in the Mojave Desert when she was a child.

Read Jann Ryan’s interview of Nancy.

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Author Nancy Brashear debuts her Psychological Thriller!!

March 2, 2021 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , ,

Nancy Brashear lives in Orange County, California, with her husband, Patrick, and their rescue dog, Goldie, where her grown children and seven grandgirls have supported her writing adventures. A professor emeritus in English, she has published short stories, poems, academic articles, textbook chapters as well as website content and writing projects with educational publishers. Gunnysack Hell is her debut fiction novel and was inspired by a true-crime event. And, yes, she did live off-grid with her family in a homestead cabin in the Mojave Desert when she was a child.

We’re here today talking to author, Nancy Brashear, about her debut psychological thriller novel. Gunnysack Hell has received fantastic reviews. So let’s see what all the excitement is about.

Jann: Tell us about your journey to publication?

Nancy: I’ve always loved to write. I vividly remember the experience of writing a poem about sitting in the fog on a bench and searching for just the right word to express a specific feeling when I was only about-eight-years old. In more recent times, as a professor in Education and English, I’ve published many academically-related writings along with occasional short stories and poetry. However, Gunnysack Hell is my first full-length published novel, and I’ve had to learn much about the craft of writing longer works of fiction to get this debut novel published.

Jann: Gunnysack Hell made its publication debut in February. How did it feel? 

Nancy: It felt great! I signed my contract with The Wild Rose Press in April of 2020 (with a big thanks to Ally Robertson, my editor, for being my advocate and steward), and, now, less than a year later, it’s been released world-wide. It’s been exciting to introduce my “baby” to the world during the pandemic, and I’ve gotten a lot of support from my writing communities, especially my critique group, Serious Scribblers.

Jann: How long did it take for you to write this story?

 Nancy: I began writing Gunnysack Hell when I was working at a more-than-fulltime job and had to set it aside. Once I picked it back up in calmer times, I worked on it, on and off, for about three years including taking it through beta readers, multiple edits, and the publishing process. I’ve learned a lot through this process about how to write, polish, and publish a book. I have a few other projects backed up in the pipeline waiting for the same treatment—but on a quicker timeline!

Jann: Will you give our readers the premise of the story? I understand the idea for the book came from a childhood stint in the desert.

 Nancy: My story was inspired by a true-crime event in my family when I was young and our family lived in my grandmother’s homestead cabin in Apple Valley. A predator who had been terrorizing our desert community stopped my sister and me when we were walking home, a mile and a half down an isolated, dirt road. Needless to say, this led to a lot of drama in our family!

Jann: Why multiple points of view?

 Nancy: It didn’t start out that way. I began writing this story from a 3rd person POV, focusing on the young girl, Nonni. About a third of the way in, I discovered she had her own story she wanted to tell in 1st person. However, after I made this conversion, I discovered that her limited perspective was too restrictive to tell a full story. Other characters were bursting with their own secrets. In the long run, I think it made for a much richer story to have rotating 1st person POVs—but it wasn’t an easy task for me to accomplish, and it took a lot of rewriting to get it right.

Jann: Which character has the biggest arc?

 Nancy: Although there are several adult characters in the novel, Nonni, the older child, probably experiences the most dynamic growth in this thriller, which was definitely not written for children. Through her personal epiphany, the truth will set you free, she emerges a much wiser young woman who finally finds her “voice” and can finally take action.

Jann: In your acknowledgment you mention your mother, Peggy Powell. Do you mind sharing with us today about her and how she inspired you?

Nancy: Although my mom had a challenging childhood, throughout her life, she fully embraced the idea that life was an adventure, even the gruddy parts, and, with a little faith, you could get through anything. This attitude embodies Claire, the mother in Gunnysack Hell. At my website (www.nancybrashear.com), my free prequel short story, “Dare to Wish Upon a Star,” is based upon Claire, as a ten-year-old living in Santa Ana with her mother, a singer in a 40s girl-band who also runs a boarding house out of a Victorian mansion. This backstory was also inspired by my mom’s young life, and provides insight into Claire’s personality.

Jann: What motivated you to write Ready or Not, A Creepy, Retold Fairytale for Grownups?

Nancy: I enjoy writing twisty things with elements of psychological suspense, and this short story for adults was inspired by “Hansel and Gretel.” At this point, I’m planning to continue this series with short-story retellings of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Jann: What’s next?

 Nancy: I have a couple of rough draft novels completed, awaiting some tender, loving care. Probably the next one out will be Love on the Fly, a psychological thriller about a flight attendant who becomes agoraphobic after losing part of her family in a mysterious housefire. That’s all I’m saying for now.

Jann: What’s the best thing about being an author?

 Nancy: I love letting my mind run wild as I create the interior landscapes of characters and put them into impossible situations in which they have to use all their resources to survive.

Jann: How can we learn more about you and your writing?

 Nancy: Please sign up for my newsletter and blog (author interviews, reviews of books for children and adolescents, and other topics) at my website; follow me on social media! Email me if you’re interested in featuring Gunnysack Hell in your book group (as a SoCal-based thriller) and/or would like to do a Zoom author talk with me.

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 Jann: What sound or noise do you love?

 Nancy: Bird songs (lots of them in our back yard)

Jann: What sound or noise do you hate?

Nancy: People chewing.

Jann: What profession would you hate to do?

 Nancy: Politician

Jann: What is the one thing you have never been asked, but you wish someone would?

 Nancy: What it was like to live in a UFO commune, as a child, for six months

Jann: What‘s on your To-Be-Read pile?

 Nancy: The psychological thriller, You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz (the novel that inspired the short Netflix series, The Undoing)

Jann: Favorite song?

 Nancy: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles

Jann: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

 Nancy: I taught for a month in Zimbabwe during a period of deadly civil unrest, and my family and I were almost kidnapped on our return to the airport afterwards.

Jann: If you could travel back in time with whom would you like to meet and why?

Nancy: I’d like to meet Christopher Wren (1632-1723, distantly related) and talk to him about his contributions as an architect in the rebuilding 52 churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666, his anatomical and autopsy work, and his connection to other events that happened in Great Britain during those years. (And my son’s name is Christopher Wren Brashear.)

 Thank you Nancy for your time here today. It’s been an adventure getting to hear about Gunnysack Hell and your exciting life. Stay well!!

Enter new Rafflecopter drawing (ends March 7) by following Nancy Brashear on Amazon to enter (and meet new authors and their books, too): Enter Here.

 


Gunnysack Hell

GUNNYSACK HELL
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