by Merida Johns
GENRE: Women's fiction, romance
Under another hand, Blackhorse Road could all
too easily have been a singular romance. Johns provides more as she follows
Luci down the rabbit hole and out the other side of life experience, bringing
readers into a world where . . . transgression changes everything and
challenges carefully-constructed foundations of belief and values. As Luci lets
go of her lifesavers and navigates obstacles to happiness, her story becomes a
vivid portrait of hope and self-examination which ultimately moves into
unexpected territory. Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers
deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome
the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a
satisfyingly unexpected way. - D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.
The cranky engine revved as the driver shifted gears, and the military bus crawled forward exiting the air force base. Along a narrow and dark roadway, the vehicle increased its speed and left the MPs at the gate standing immobile and mute in the glow of the rising moon. Drifting through the open windows, the Southern California desert air blew like pixie dust across the faces of the thirty young women headed home from the street dance. A few hours ago, they were preening and adjusting their bouffant hairdos, reapplying creamy pink lipstick, and placing the last twirls of mascara on their eyelashes to prepare for a street dance with cadets from the elite Air Force Academy. Then, the atmosphere buzzed with gossip, chatter, laughter, and anticipation. Now, the glimmering night sky created the perfect backdrop that lulled each into a contented silence to fantasize about the handsome men they had met.
“This is the beginning of my story about love and betrayal and a journey toward empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. It is also a story of choice—my choice to be inspired by the resilience of a great-grandmother, the values of a father, and the wisdom of a spouse. But in the end, it is a story of how a letter of gratitude . . . reminded me to open my heart to love and kindness.”
The Worthy Villain
Who is the loathsome villain in Blackhorse Road that makes our protagonist, Luci, shine in the end?
To avoid a spoiler, I will not share who plays the villain. But I will share the five thresholds that any villain of mine must cross before being worthy of the role!
· The first bar is that my villain must be relatable. I ask myself, What is the villain’s hook? What draws the readers to the villain’s web? Who in the reader’s life might the villain represent. It could be a crazy uncle, an overcontrolling parent, a bully, an unfaithful spouse, a deceitful friend, a competitive sibling. On the other hand, the villain can easily be an inanimate object that dredges up readers’ visceral feelings—a storm, a sickness, a haunted house, an imaginary monster. Haven’t most of us been there?
· The next threshold is all about relationships. My villain has to have a close personal connection with the hero. Whether the villain is a person or an inanimate object, the relationship between the hero the villain must make the reader feel the connection, too. The villain must get into the hero’s space, in her head, and obstruct her way, and readers must feel the villain getting into their space, in their heads, and obstructing them too.
· The villain has to be a strong adversary. In other words, the villain must be a worthy opponent—no sissies or milk toasts for my heroes!
· The villain must push the reader’s buttons, making the reader want to reach into the book’s pages and shake sense into or evil out of the villain.
· The final threshold is that the villain must evoke readers’ empathy—there’s something more to villains than painting them in evil. This doesn’t mean that readers excuse the villain’s behaviors or fail to demand justice for the hero. Instead, it means that readers must grow with the hero. Readers must walk the same path as the hero in transformation and come to understand the villain’s perspective and what makes the villain tick. Blackhorse Road will make readers hate the villain. But it also leaves many breadcrumbs along the hero’s path so that readers come to understand the villain and hopefully have a wee bit of empathy for the villain even as they celebrate the hero.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
For three decades, I was a university professor who taught classes and wrote textbooks on “nerdy” subjects centering on computer systems in healthcare.
But a decade ago, informed by my experience in a male-dominated area, I started my practice as a leadership coach to help women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. Consequently, during the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.
About a year ago, I was on a conference call discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life with fellow life coaches. Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, I thought, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great prophets fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers. No! They got their message across through stories.
Motivational books and textbooks give frameworks, theories, and ideas, but they don’t immerse us in the human experience. They don’t show us how others face challenges, embrace their passions, overcome sorrow, celebrate achievement, quash self-doubts, develop positive emotions and relationships, handle betrayal, or act on aspirations.
Storytelling ignites our imagination and emotion. We experience being part of the story rather than being served up a platter of facts, exercises, and information.
This eye-opener was enough for me to take on the challenge of novel writing. My passion is to help people catapult beyond concepts and theories and jump into the wonderment of imagination in designing a flourishing life for themselves. Storytelling does this best.
Happily, as a fiction writer, I have jettisoned learning objectives and test questions. Ah…the freedom makes me feel as light as a balloon on a summer breeze.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE:Merida Johns will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.