Author Suzanne Lilly’s blog

Suzanne Lilly2013_THThanks for stopping by my blog, Suzanne Lilly blogging as the TeacherWriter.  I’m a teacher, an author, and an avid reader. I mostly blog about books I’ve read or teaching and writing, but occasionally something else sneaks onto the screen.

On social media, you’ll find me as Suzanne Lilly. So if you’re looking for the TeacherWriter, on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, here are the places I spend the most time:

Oh, and the person blogging as Suzanne Lilly on a blogspot? Yeah, that’s not me. I’m just letting you know.

Sign up for my occasional newsletter to win prizes and find out about my new releases before anyone else. One subscriber is chosen to win a $25 gift card each time the newsletter comes out.

You can also drop me a line through my contact page. I’d love to hear from you!


The Power of Storytelling

Do you sometimes think your stories don’t make a difference? Think again.

Storytelling has power. As teachers and writers, we can harness that power and use our storytelling for the good of all our listeners.

In an engaging TED talk, Princeton neuroscientist Uri  Hasson shows us what actually happens inside our brains when we are engaged in a story. That story might be a video, a book, or a memory your grandmother is sharing with you. It’s amazing to see how, across a wide spectrum, people’s brain patterns synced when presented with the same story. Even more amazing to me was how one small sentence could change the entire message and brain patterns of the listeners.


This has two implications for me:

  1. As a writer, I want to convey meaning to my readers/listeners that will improve their lives in some way. Perhaps it will help them to reach understanding of something in themselves, or open up a window into a new facet of their lives. Or perhaps they just need some downtime to relax. Words and communication have the power to connect us.
  2. As a teacher, one tiny sentence can change the entire meaning of a lesson I am giving. I’m always aware that what I say can have a deep impact on my little learners. This TED talk reemphasized that for me, and reminded me to always be careful of what I say to my students. I want them to love learning. I want them to be happy in my classroom. I want them to think they are geniuses.

This TED talk has been viewed over 1.5 million times in just under a year. It’s a message for our times, especially in our current political climate. Uri Hasson calls this neural entrainment. You can click the link and read the research, if you’re so inclined.

I hope you enjoy the presentation and hopefully take something away from it. I know I did.



Take a Trip to Hotel Safari

I have some good news and bad news for you. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that line before. But in this case, there’s no other way to state it. I’m going to get you psyched up and then I’m going to let you down. But gently, friends. Gently.

First the good news:

Hotel Safari is a brand new, absolutely original new series from my good friend Tori Knightwood. It’s so well written that I am now hooked on a series in a genre I never thought I’d like to read. Seriously, I would have never picked up a book in this genre. I’m more of a contemporary, historical fiction kind of reader. But when a writer is super talented, (and Tori Knightwood is,) she can suck you into a story and keep you there right up to the end. Think of Barbara Kingsolver and The Poisonwood Bible. Didn’t you imagine you were there in Africa with the Price family when you read it? When I read Tori’s book, I felt like I was standing in the lobby at the Hotel Safari.

Tori has lived in Africa and has written oodles of stories about that magnificent land and its people. I love being one of the lucky ones who get to beta read for her. So when she decided to write a book about something, let me just say unusual, I said to myself, “That’s not my cup of tea, but I’ll read it anyway.” I’m so glad I did! I’m hooked on this series. More good news is that she already has two more stories in this series lined up. The best good news is that Hotel Safari has branches all over the world, so the stories can keep coming as long as you want to read them. Boo-yah!

Now the bad news:

You have to pre-order the book and wait until June 1st to read it. I know, June 1rst is so far away! It’s like booking a room at the Hotel Safari for your next vacation, and you’re counting the days until you get there! But there is a way to visit the Hotel Safari before the series goes live on Amazon. Read on to find out how, and to get a peek at the fabulous cover and a glimpse of the story.

Cover Reveal: Pride of Africa

I’m happy to announce that Pride of Africa, the first book in the Hotel Safari series, will launch on June 1st, 2016.

Serena Fitzgerald, southern belle and student of animal behavior, comes to Kenya to study under a world-renowned biologist-turned-safari lodge owner. She expects to work hard. She expects to learn a lot. She expects a multitude of new experiences. But she didn’t expect to fall for her mentor’s son.

Colin Kemboi is a bored and rich playboy. Half British and half Kenyan, he fits everywhere and nowhere. But as a lion shifter, he yearns for the Kenyan bush. And he yearns for a woman who can love all of him, not just the jet-setting lifestyle he can provide.

Will Serena accept Colin’s lion half? Is Colin willing to settle down with a woman who isn’t among London’s elite? Can they find passion and happiness…together?

And here’s the beautiful cover, thanks to South Mountain Studio:

Hotel Safari _Pride of Africa_V_4

The pre-order is now live on Amazon.

Thanks to my critique partners, launch team, friends, and family. I couldn’t have done this without you!


PS If you’d like to join my launch team and receive a free digital ARC in exchange for your honest review, please join my mailing list and then email me at tori at toriknightwood dot com to request to join the team.

About Tori Knightwood

Tori 5 black and whiteTori Knightwood has been lucky enough to live and work in some fabulous exotic places around the world. She faced down angry forest elephants in Tanzania, got a henna tattoo in Kenya, and fell in love in Rwanda. She writes stories to bring a little spice into your life.

You can find Tori online at the following links:

Amazon author page

Facebook author page

Goodreads author page

Tori’s website

Twitter: @PocketRomance



Gabe’s Secret Release Day & Party

Grace and Asher are back as secondary characters in a new novel by Amy Durham called Gabe’s Secret. Amy is a talented writer who knows how to touch the heart of a subject in a sensitive way that keeps you turning the pages.

GabeAZPreOrderIt’s been two years since Grace and Asher figured out their relationship in the novel Asher’s Mark. (You can read my post about it here.) Now a young woman named Rachelle is working for the same tattoo shop where Asher works as an artist. She’s falling for Gabe, who runs a local coffee shop, and who also has some ink. But it wouldn’t be a story without complications, right?

Rachelle and Gabe jump off the pages of this book from the very beginning. I couldn’t help but want to see them get together. Hopefully, you’ll feel the same way. Amy Durham’s writing gets better with every book. You can order and enjoy this newest book in the Resolution Series, Gabe’s Secret from Amazon.

April 11, 2016 is the release day, and the author is having a Facebook release party from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Eastern time. It should be fun, so please consider popping in and chatting with Amy and some readers of her books.

About Amy Durham

After spending every work day with classrooms full of tweens and teens, then going home to three boys of hAmy Durham Authorer own, two of whom fall into the tween/teen category, you’d think that Amy Durham might like to leave the world of teenagers and young adults behind. Not so!

Instead, she spends her spare moments – which sometimes consist of waiting twenty minutes for her oldest kiddo to get out of band practice – with her laptop and a multitude of teenage characters trying to navigate their way through the twisted, difficult road of adolescence.

You might ask… “Why Young/New Adult Fiction”? Well, because it’s what she knows. As a teacher and a parent, Amy is around teens on an almost constant basis. And while it’s true they can be – ahem – challenging, they are also full of life, vision, and dreams. And that’s a really cool place to be.

Young Adult and New Adult Fiction allows young readers the opportunity to find hope for the situations they find themselves in, find determination to keep on going, and courage to pursue their dreams. It also allows adult readers the chance to revisit the exuberance of youth, remember the joy and poignancy of first love, and recall how it felt to dream with abandon.

Amy Durham is a wife and mother, an author, a teacher, an avid reader, and a musician. If she weren’t writing books, she’d be a celebrity chef!

Books by Amy Durham

Asher’s Mark – “Can love that begins so young stand the test of time?”

Dusk – “The road to forgiveness is filled with heartache… and love.”

Once Again (Sky Cove #1)

Once and For All (Sky Cove #2)

For Once: A Sky Cove Short Story (Sky Cove #1.5)


Gold Rush Barons Release Day


Gold Rush Barons, the last book in The California Argonauts series is here. Sure, the release day is on April 1, commonly known as April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke. Lucinda Martin York and George Arnold have left their pasts behind and reached their goals. Lucinda is now a medical doctor and George is the owner of a thriving hard rock gold mine. But the couple soon realizes that even when a goal is reached, there are still bigger hurdles to climb over. I hope you enjoy this last episode in their story.

I began writing Lucinda’s and George’s stories about ten years ago, and they’ve become such a part of my writing, that it’s hard to let them go. I have a feeling they’ll be showing up in my next novel, set in Sacramento in 1862. They might not be the main characters, but they’ll be sure to put in an appearance in the town they’ve grown to love.

Here’s a teaser excerpt from Gold Rush Barons.

The sun rose high in the sky as the horse pulled the carriage up the road into the low-lying hills outside of Sacramento. Lucinda could hear the stamper pounding the ore before they even cleared the crest of the hill bordering their land. As they rounded the edge of the hill, George guided the carriage to the left, where a field of blossoms spattered the land with purple.

“Lavender!” Lucinda cried out. “Is it wild?”

“Not a bit.” George pulled the carriage to a stop. “I planted all of this for you.”

“I remember the day you came home from working on the levees; I was so worried about you. You brought me lavender.”

“And I kissed you for the first time.”

Lucinda leaned in. “Kiss me again.”

George looked into her eyes. He placed his hands on her cheeks, featherlight, and kissed her lips. She returned his kiss with the passion of a starving woman. She reached up and pulled him closer, tangling her fingers in the curls of his hair. A moan escaped him as he wrapped his arms around the small of her back and lifted her feet off the floorboards, drinking in her kiss like sweet wine.

She opened her eyes. “I’ll never tire of that, George Arnold.”

“Nor I, Dr. Arnold.”

“How quickly can you drive me home?”

“After two years, not quickly enough.”

He reached into a picnic basket and brought out a large napkin. He shook it out and folded it on the diagonal. “Let me blindfold you.”

Lucinda sputtered and scooted back. “Do what?”

George smiled. “You’ll only have the blindfold on for a short while. I want to surprise you with something.”

“You’ve already surprised me, George. I’ll not be blindfolded while riding in a carriage.”

“But then you’ll spoil the surprise. You trust me, don’t you?”

Lucinda scanned his eyes for artifice. She did trust him. However, a blindfold seemed insane to her. She hadn’t worn one since playing blindman’s bluff with her cousins when she was twelve, back in Missouri.

George smiled at her in that heart-melting way he had, the dimple deepening his grin.

She sighed. “Yes, I do trust you. I trust you with my life, to eternity and back. Why I must wear a blindfold to prove it, I don’t know.” She took the blindfold from him and tied it behind her bonnet. She stretched out her hands in front of her.

“You’re safe with me,” George whispered, so close she could feel his breath lift a wisp of her hair. “You’re going to love this surprise.”


You can read more by downloading a sample or purchasing Gold Rush Barons.

The introductory price is $0.99 through April 4th. After that, the price goes to $2.99.

Thank you for reading this far!

The Alchemist’s Daughter Release Day Book Review

The Alchemists Daughter cover

In The Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Lawrence brings the world of London 1543 to dark life. It begins with the rats. Rats may have been more numerous than people in that era. As the story opens, someone is collecting the vermin for an unseemly purpose.

I chose to read this novel because the main character is similar in personality to Lucinda Martin York, the main character of my books Gold Rush Girl and Gold Rush Deluge. She’s an herbalist, she’s motherless, and she’s a strong female protagonist.

Bianca Goddard, the main character, lives a precarious existence, a 16th century equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck. She creates potions and salves to cure her customers of what ails them. One of her biggest customers runs a house of ill repute where Bianca’s best friend Jolyn was employed. Jolyn is engaged in a relationship with a well-to-do gentleman and is about to embark on a fairy tale life. The fairy tale is cut short when she dies suddenly in Bianca’s apartment. Due to the circumstances surrounding her death, Bianca becomes the prime suspect, and must solve the mystery of her friend’s death or face the gallows herself.

As the story unfolds, Bianca goes deeper into London’s underworld and discovers the secret of the rat collector. She’s accused of witchcraft, and ends up in a place no one would ever want to go. Once she escapes, she has to go back to that place again to prove her innocence and to prove what dark events are happening in the London shipyards.

This is a well-done mystery, with plenty of twists and turns. The language, customs, and events are all authentic to the time, proving the author did her research. Bianca Goddard stands out as a woman ahead of her era, pursuing herbal studies and a career, preferring to support herself rather than marry young. This novel is a perfect choice for readers who enjoy Tudor history and mysteries with a strong female protagonist.

Full disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Follow this link to read more about The Alchemist’s Daughter on Goodreads.


Snowbound by Richard S. Wheeler

Snowbound cover

Not many people know about the disastrous 1848-1849 winter trek of John C. Frémont and his men. Thirty-three men with one hundred thirty mules and plenty of supplies set out for California along the 38th parallel. Frémont brought along an expert topographer, a doctor, an artist, and many loyal men from his previous California campaigns. John C. Frémont was one of the premiere trailblazers of his time, yet through arrogance or poor judgement, or a little of both, he incurred devastating losses in this fateful journey.

The author develops the story through multiple viewpoints; that of John C. Frémont, Dr. Andrew Cathcart, Edward Kern, Bill Williams, and others. I especially enjoyed the chapters in the doctor’s point of view. All of these men lent a different slant to the story, but throughout it all, the reader is led to believe that Frémont had an oversized ego and a distance from human emotion and connection. Yet, he still managed to make him appear to care about his men and their condition.

The story begins with the team heading westward across the mountains in good cheer and good health. Bill Williams, the guide, tells Frémont the route along the 38th parallel is too dangerous, but Frémont doesn’t listen and instead pushes forward. Later, as the mental acuity of the guide begins to wane, they find themselves boxed into an impassable area buried deep under snow in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, fighting to keep themselves alive. By the time Frémont understands that Bill Williams is lost, he has one option. He leaves most of his men behind in small camps and goes to New Mexico for relief. The story of the relief efforts is heartrending.

This biographical novel is engaging and thoroughly researched. Snowbound was my introduction to the author Richard S. Wheeler, and I’m quite happy to have discovered his book. I’ll be looking for more books by this author.

Laura Morelli’s Authentic Arts Series: Florence

Dear Reader,

Laura Morelli has two new books out today in her Authentic Arts series. The reasons I love these books are many fold:

  • She excels at sharing with her readers the beauty of Italy.
  • She knows how to share the history of the region in an engaging manner.
  • Her books’ photos of the topics are stunning.
  • She knows how to bring Italy to life, both past and present.

Morelli-Florence-AAThe two new books out today are Florence: A Travel Guide to Fabric, Frames, Jewelry, Leather Goods, Maiolica, Paper, Silk, Fabrics, Woodcrafts, and More and the accompanying shopper’s guide, Artisans of Florence.

In the first book, the reader learns about the living traditions of the artisans. Some work out of their shops where they sell their crafts, and you can watch them work as you peruse their wares. Others work in a private shop and sell their wares at traditional and yearly festivals. Reading about the artisans gives you a glimpse into the history and process of their work, and a new respect for the high quality craftsmanship.

This book is all about learning how to find authentic souvenirs to bring or ship home. “Authentic doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will be the most valuable souvenir of your trip,” says the author.

Of course, if you’re going to visit and shop in Florence, you need to know how to get around town. Ms. Morelli explains that the neighborhoods are identified by the main church anchoring it. For example, Duomo and San Lorenzo are named for the churches in those neighborhoods. Also, if you’re looking for a house number, you’ll get lost immediately unless you know the secret of the door colors. Red, or rosso, after the street number tells you the place is a business. Black, or nero, after the street number tells you it’s a residence.

Morelli-FlorenceNow that you know those two important things, you’re ready for the shopper’s companion, Artisans of FlorenceIn it, the author lists artisans and museums by neighborhood. She also listed the artisans and museums by their traditional arts. You’ll find the contact information and addresses for each one.

Shoppers will be happy to learn how to tell if something is authentic, made in the traditional way. Also, determining price can be a confusing matter, but not once you’ve read Ms. Morelli’s book. Before you begin your shopping adventures, she suggests you visit several museums to help train your eye in the traditional arts of the area and see for yourself what is truly authentic.

I’ve reviewed two other books by Laura Morelli, Venice: A Travel Guide to Murano Glass, Carnival Masks, Gondolas, Lace, Paper, & More and her novel, The Gondola MakerIf you love history, travel, and shopping, I highly recommend the Authentic Arts series. You can click on the covers below to read my reviews.

Morelli-Venice-cover     The Gondola Maker

About Laura Morelli

Laura Morelli, author photoLaura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, andMade in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.

Disclaimer: I received e-ARCs of the two books reviewed today from the author in exchange for an honest review.

You can see more of Laura Morelli’s books on her author page at Amazon.

You might also like to read my review of Laura Morelli’s Venice and her novel, The Gondola Maker.