Inerview with Nancy Brashear

Welcome to the blog, Nancy. Let’s get to know you.

I’m a Southern California gal who grew up in some pretty unusual settings and situations, one of which became the inspiration for Gunnysack Hell. Through life experience, I’ve learned two things (well, more than that!). The first is that God watches out for children. The second is not to judge others; they’re usually doing their best in the moment, and everyone has opportunities to grow into better versions of themselves. A little more about me? I’m living a pretty terrific life at the beach as a faith-filled wife and mother of grown children with seven grandgirls ranging in age from five to twelve. And the sunsets over Catalina Island are magnificent.

What’s the logline that describes your writing themes?

“The truth will set you free.” For example, in GH, one of my main characters struggles against a “big lie” fed to her by the perpetrator. If she can grasp the truth of the situation, she can free herself from silence, take action, and forgive herself. My writing usually includes a character who’s struggling with some kind of a “demon”—an untruth that’s keeping them captive to something.

Do you start with plot or characters first?

The characters usually find me and mull around in my subconscious for a while before they pop onto the page. I begin with the outside perimeter (the general story frame) before I assemble the smaller, interior scenes, which are character driven. It’s a little like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

During the final stages of editing, I morphed into an artistic conductor and orchestrated the visual feeling tone, lengths of paragraphs, and white spaces on the page. It was like I was using visual magic to create a book that would draw the reader’s eyes throughout it from beginning to end. I enjoyed this entirely different creative process after all the hard-core editing and line-by-line proofreading! (By the way, I took Linda Carroll-Bradd’s editing course, and it was very helpful in writing tighter and eliminating reader distractions in my text.)

What other genres do you write in?

I’ve published poetry (and won first place in a poetry contest recently!) as well as short stories in anthologies and stand-alones (a creepy, retold fairytale for grownups). I’ve written two unpublished adolescent novels (science fiction and time-slip fantasy), completed rough drafts of two contemporary adult novels, and have the beginning of another psychological thriller hiding in the wings. As a recently retired English and Education professor, I published in academic venues and designed content for educational publishers and websites. For the last several years, I’ve been reviewing new books for children and adolescents (International Literacy Association website).

What visual aids do you use when writing?

I love, love, love Pinterest! For almost every storyline, I have a separate board. Check out the one for GH (https://www.pinterest.com/nancybrashear/writing-ideas-gunnysack-hell/) with 136 pins, which even includes actors I would cast in character roles. For “Dare to Wish Upon a Star,” the prequel short story to GH (download here: www.nancybrashear.com), I compiled a 1940s board on Victorian mansions, furniture, clothing, tub claws, etc. (https://www.pinterest.com/nancybrashear/claires-story-gunnysack-hell/)

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope readers connect with my stories as “mirrors” that reflect their own experiences or “windows” that give them insights into the lives of others. Either way, I’d like them to come away from my writing with a renewed sense of compassion and hope for themselves and others.


“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.


Barnes & Noble buy link: Nook and Paperback


Amazon buy link: Kindle and Print



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.



“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. Visit www.nancybrashear.com to learn more.


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Enter Nancy’s Free eCopy Giveaway Drawing of Gunnysack Hell at her blog (ends February 26) by leaving your name and choice of the version you’d like if you’re one of the three winners: Mobi (Kindle), ePub (Nook), or [scrolling] PDF! Winners will also be mailed a postcard of Gunnysack Hell.


Also by Nancy Brashear – Ready or Not: A Creepy, Retold Fairytale for Grownups


Interview with J.A. Marx

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I grew up in Estes Park, Colorado where my back yard was an adventure land complete with climbing trees, rock fortresses, and horses. Stories have been rolling like movies through my head since I was little, but I never wrote one down until after I read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness at age thirty-something. My first-ever novel, written in 1990, is safely buried in some computer file. A decade passed, and, on the stage of my mind, a girl washed up on a beach unconscious. I had to do something with her, and that turned into the first book in The Destiny Series. Between homeschooling and domestic chores, I wrote all 6 books in the series. Another decade passed, and, when I’m not playing with the grandchildren, I’m re-writing & editing the last three books plus other publishing projects.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

Fiction that Heals the Soul

(The Destiny Series is a healing & redemption story of a former victim of sex trafficking – A fairytale-come-true for the oppressed)

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Painting, hiking/walking, fitness & nutrition. The first two vie for first place. One of my favorite things to do, especially if it’s too hot to be outside, is paint to worship music. And then I’m always wishing I could carry my paints with me whenever I go hiking, too, but that’s ridiculously unrealistic.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

Definitely a plot. But as soon as the story starts rolling (about 4 chapters into it), I have to stop and interview my characters and lay out the setting, which I consider another character. If I don’t know the characters, I get bogged down.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Both. I write purposefully and adventurously.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes. Most of the story takes place in Cleveland, where I lived for 8 years. And part of book 3 takes place in Colorado, where I grew up. I also traveled to the Caribbean where my protagonist came from. And I’ve often visited my parents on Kauai, HI, an island that helped me further form my setting for this and an upcoming romantic suspense.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Usually, as long as I have a solid moral premise—a complementary vice and virtue that unite the characters—I don’t get stuck. (I highly recommend reading “The Moral Premise,” by Stan Williams.) I also write by the seat-of-the-pants and without a filter about larger than life characters, which allows them to surprise me. For example, my peculiar protagonist (overcoming her sex trafficking background) spontaneously dances like a wild gypsy around a Zales store while trying on engagement rings (in partial rebellion), which draws security and forces Sedgwick the persnickety salesclerk to kick her out of the store.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

My first hour of the day is spent in the secret place with my Heavenly Father, the true inspiration behind why I write. After that I’ll write or edit a chapter, workout at the gym, then return to a book or blog, according to my deadline schedule. If I have obligations/chores/errands in the afternoon, I’ll often return that evening to finish whatever I didn’t get to earlier.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

I love nature, hiking, and foreign travel. So a combination of those three would be my dream vacay. Swiss Alps?

In what genre do you read?

I prefer reading the genre I write. Suspense, particularly psychological suspense (B. Collins, T. Dekker, D. Koontz, F. Peretti to name a few); and spiritually intellectual fiction (i.e. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee; C.S. Lewis). Not much else holds my attention.

Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?

Domestic: Dogs top the list. However our shepherd mutt moved out with our daughter two years ago. I now happily live out my ‘puppy love’ vicariously through other dog owners.

Exotic: Penguins rock! Anyone acquainted with my quirky affection for penguins leaves posts and related pics/videos on my FB. My critique group in particular has become gifted at penguin comments.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

My heart is to see people healed, set free, and equipped in Christ. It’s hard for me to write a story that does NOT involve at least one if not all three of these elements. The most meaningful reviews and personal comments I’ve ever received are those that touch on any of these three areas. One of my readers/fans told me recently, “My friend really needs the healing your character experienced, so I gave her your book. She’s already asking for the next one in the series.” That blessed me!



Chiara escaped nineteen years captivity and is now rebuilding her life from scratch. Everything would be fine if there were no men around for her to hate.

Isaac goes overboard in trying to get the mysterious Chiara, a former sex slave, accepted into his community. Few are willing to look beyond her social bumbling to find her hidden worth.

Just when things couldn’t get worse, the FBI tracks Chiara down and coerces her into helping them catch a murderer/trafficker. Isaac’s wish to understand her unimaginable past comes true. He not only experiences her old world firsthand, he encounters the man who wants Chiara dead.


AMAZON (kindle and soft cover)

Barnes & Noble (soft cover only)


(June 1990)

Clutching the stiff white bedding, Chiara flexed her feet, working strength back into her sluggish extremities. Not one window adorned the walls of this room, and she desperately wanted to see the real world. Jase had filled her head with glorious descriptions of neighborhoods and parks of amusement, stuff she’d only dreamed existed. The promise of getting to Ohio had helped her weather the past twenty hours.

“Trust me, Princess,” Isaac whispered. “Dr. Macon isn’t scum.”

You wouldn’t recognize scum even if one kissed you. Trying not to scowl at Isaac took up the rest of her energy. “Got it. Now go, so I can book out of this sterile jail.”

Adapt and conquer. Her tutors had dropped her into a variety of testing situations over the years and expected her to survive. Waking up half-naked with numb limbs must have missed their list of scenarios—at least the numbness part.

Most of her paraesthesia was gone. Dr. Macon said she could travel as long as she got rest and took the elephant pills that made her gag. The man also promised her ice cream if she let him interrogate her. Privately.

If he touches me, I’ll— She looked around for scissors. Knife. Anything.

Her side and arm burned like acid. To stay alert, she’d faked taking the painkillers. The throbbing reminded her she was alive. Reminded her how much freedom had cost.

The doctor entered and stood at the end of the bed. More gray strands had blossomed in his hair since yesterday, and his crow’s feet had extra pleats.

He crept within a meter.

Chiara sat up. If necessary, she’d strangle him with his stethoscope. How many times had he hassled her with that evil gadget? “What do you want to know?”

Posing with his hands in his coat pocket, he evoked images of the doctors she’d seen pictures of in textbooks. “What happened to you?”

“I was shot.” Maybe she’d appreciate hospitals more if she didn’t feel so incapacitated. There had to be something good about them or Isaac wouldn’t have made her stay overnight.

Macon rubbed one sideburn. “Your friends obviously don’t know much about you.”

“I thought this was our private conversation.”

Crossing his arms, he nodded. “Working in the heart of Miami, I’ve encountered my share of the abused population. Victims of violence, unfortunate souls born to troubled families. I’m not ignorant to the symptoms. Who did this to you?”

His finger zoomed toward her shoulder.

Realizing which area he was targeting, she blocked his hand. Chiara had never given her Omeàlan souvenirs a second thought. “Is it not common in Florida?”

His jaw dropped. “What labor camp were you—?” He sucked in a breath. “It’s illegal. An injustice against you.”

She winced. What could he know about injustice if he’d never lived on Omeàla? If she didn’t answer his questions carefully, she might end up back in that hellhole.

Review quote

“It’s one of the few books that when I looked up from the pages it would take me a minute to realize I was sitting on my couch, not in Ohio helping Chiara adjust to her newfound freedom.” ~~Donna

Marx bwJ.A. holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. She’s presently the Vice President of ACFW – DFW Chapter. She has published several articles, devotionals, and writes a weekly blog supporting the Christian walk. J.A. resides in Texas, where she serves at Gateway Church and loves on her children and grandchildren.


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