Book Signing at Bay Area Book Festival

Come join me at the Bay Area Book Festival

I’ll be signing and selling books all day Saturday, June 3rd on Allston Way in Berkeley at the festival. Walking around is free. I’d love to see you!


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How Does It End?

You’ve probably heard the mantra, “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s become so cliche, that it’s almost lost its value. We say it, but do mean it? I’ve been thinking about this phrase lately and what it really means to me.

As an author, endings are everything to me. At a recent book signing, I was having a short discussion with a fellow author. We were sharing how we plan out the endings of our books at the start, way before much of the main plot is fleshed out. I go so far as to write the concluding chapter or chapters very early in the writing process. Those final images are so vivid in my head that they demand to be put on paper. Then everything in the story leads to that ending.

I’ve heard other authors lament that they’re not sure how to end a particular book. I am no help to them in these cases whatsoever. How can you even start writing a book if you don’t know how it’s going to end? I’m not trying to disrespect my fellow authors, I honestly just don’t understand. By having the ending in mind, I know how to focus and drive the story, with everything building up to the final chapters. It’s where I, as the author, have determined to take you on this particular reading journey.

Life, I’ve found, is much like my writing. If I don’t have an end in mind, then where the journey goes doesn’t much matter. I’m a religious person, so my end goal is a life righteously lived with no unresolved regrets. That ending drives and focuses my behavior. For example, if I’m rude to someone, I make a point to apologize and fix it. And I try to never be rude in the first place. Just like a novel, there are bumps along my path – some of my own making and some not. But to get to where I want to be, I find a way to make it through and over those bumps.

Turning again to books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland says it well when Alice meets the Cheshire cat:

“Which road do I take?” she asked.

“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

Enough said. Your thoughts?


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Upcoming Book Signing!

Join me for a book signing:

This Saturday, February 25th
noon – 4 p.m.

Barnes and Noble
5249 S. State Street
Murray, UT 84107

Hope to see you there!

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Unexpected Joy

It’s been some time since I made a post here, and (obviously) my most recent posts have been about my books. As an author, that seems to be an occupational hazard – you always feel a need to market those books. So, today, I thought I’d take a break from that – for your benefit and mine.

This time of year can rush by us in such a hurry. There are so many errands to run, gifts to buy, treats to make, people to visit. For some, this is their favorite time of year, while for others it’s a difficult time for various reasons. I happen to fall into the earlier category, although some current situations threatened to throw me headlong into the later one instead. That’s when I started to find joy in unexpected places.

I’ve begun to notice how easy it is to have joy, regardless of our circumstances. Let me give you a few examples.

Earlier this year, our family made a trip that took us to an amazing museum. As we pulled into the underground parking lot across the street, my husband asked if we wanted to take an umbrella. It had  been completely dry above ground, so I shrugged off the suggestion. Boy, was that a mistake! Before we made it to the museum entrance, we got caught it a downpour of epic proportions (and no, I’m not exaggerating). We took shelter in a child’s play tunnel – until it started to flood. It was at this point that I grabbed my son and we made a mad dash for the museum entrance – not as easy or successful as it sounds. The roadway we had to cross was flooded, and cars did not want to let us cross even though we were in a crosswalk. Once safely across, we picked a pathway to the entrance that was flooded worse than the street had been. Meanwhile, VERY LOUD thunder was crashing all around us. By the time we made it to the entrance, we were completely drenched. (And despite buying dry t-shirts inside, we didn’t dry off until late that afternoon.) We could have been mad, distressed, or any number of things. Instead, as we sat there dripping, I started to laugh. My son, taking his cue from me, joined in. We laughed and laughed, even when my husband joined us – relatively dry, having retrieved the umbrella. It’s now one of our son’s favorite memories of the museum.

A more recent example comes from yesterday – the day I was originally going to write this post. Out of necessity, I replaced my old laptop last week. It was great for a couple of days, at which point, let’s just say – it wasn’t. So, I spent the entire day yesterday on the phone with tech support and in reinstalling everything after we did a complete system restore. But, I’m not upset. I’m grateful for my new computer. I’m grateful for a patient IT person on the other end of the line. Fortunately, while I have deadlines coming up, those deadlines weren’t yesterday. Sometimes things happen – that’s part of life. I’m just glad that they were fixable.

I guess the bottom line is that joy comes from gratitude and a decision to look for those things we can be grateful for. While I couldn’t afford the presents I wanted to give this year, I was able to give presents that were still from the heart. While my life isn’t as ordered as I thought it would be at this time, it does have order to it.

There is so much joy in everything around us. I’ve had several opportunities to walk past a Christmas tree lot in the last few weeks – It smells AMAZING! My children aren’t close around me, but I get to talk to them on a regular basis. I ended up sick on the day we were going to bake one of our traditional Christmas cookies, but my son sent some in the mail that arrived that very day. And for all of these examples, I could list dozens more.

Regardless of what holidays you celebrate this season – or even if you don’t celebrate any – there is joy to be found. Open your eyes and find it!



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E-book now available!


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When I Was Seven is available on Amazon!

ebook coming soon …

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When I Was Seven can now be preordered!

My book, When I Was Seven, is available for preorder NOW and ONLY at If you purchase it before the publication date of September 29, 2016, you can use the promo code: PREORDER2016 to receive a 10% discount.

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Coming September 29th …

When I Was Seven full cover (1)

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To review or not to review, that is the question.

I have to say that I love writing. I love creating characters whose lives I care about. I want them to succeed and overcome; I want them to come out the other side of their trials better than when they began. And because I care so much about them, I’m confident that as least some of the readers out there will come to care about them too.

That brings up the other side of writing – the reader. If readers don’t like your books, they  won’t tell their friends to read your books, and they certainly won’t buy any of your other books. In the Amazon era that we live in, the view (or “review”) of other readers has become an important part of sales.

I have been guilty of asking (or encouraging, cajoling, begging) people for reviews on Amazon. Most of it came to naught. Why, I wondered, could I not get more people to post a review, even after they came to me raving about my book?

I answered my own question the other day when I was visiting a store. One particular employee had been quite helpful. So, I made a point of hunting down the manager to tell him about his stellar employee. He thanked me and then asked if I had gone to their website to post a review. I had not. He then informed me that it really made a difference, and he hoped that I would do so. I dismissed that thought … until I got home. How could I deny the very thing that I desired from others?

Everywhere we turn these days we are asked for feedback – from our doctors (necessary with Obamacare), grocery stores, online merchants, mechanics, gas stations, and so on. We are inundated with requests for our thoughts. I know I hesitate because I don’t want to take the time and I don’t think it will make a difference. As far as the time issue, I have to say one of my favorite five-star reviews was a single word: “Brilliant.” And I’m rethinking that it will make a difference, especially for some small fry. So I’m making an attempt to provide more feedback.

So, here’s the end of the story. (To forewarn you – it’s a surprise ending.) I went back to that store on a small errand but with the intention of writing down the employee’s name who had been so helpful. I ended up having a colossally terrible customer service experience. So, I figured this time around, the best thing I could do was let my experiences cancel each other out, and I did not write a review. However, I did post a book review last week. Does that count?

What do you think? If you don’t mind leaving a comment – I know it takes time – I’d love to hear about why or when you do or do not leave reviews.


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Are you happy to be you?

It’s been an interesting week. Since my BookBub ad ran last Monday, I’ve had a lot of activity with my ebook – a large number of downloads and a jump in the number of reviews on Amazon. This is good.

So, here’s the thing – I’ve been reading all those reviews. They are, by in large, very positive, with the majority of them being 5-star reviews. I like that. Who wouldn’t? But I also read the 3-star reviews and the one 2-star review. They weren’t so flattering (even if the 2-star review actually made me laugh). How should I feel about those?

As we go through life, a test of our character is how we respond to criticism. I don’t think anyone likes it, but are we willing to learn from it? I tried to read those reviews with that in mind. Was there something I could glean to apply to my second book (and my third)? Is there improvement that can be made? The answer is, of course, yes. But I went beyond that. I started to feel discouraged about those reviews. They had morphed from something that could help me to something that just brought me down.

I had to take a step back and remind myself that those negative reviews were a very small percentage of the total reviews. Not everyone is going to love my book, right? So, was I going to pay more attention to that small percentage or the much, much larger percentage of positive comments?

The answer was – neither.

Yes, I’ll still read the reviews and see what there is to learn, but I had to remind myself of something I decided or accepted when I first began this journey. It came about because of a conversation I had in my head. As I wrote that first book I wondered and worried about how it would be received. I recognized it was a good story, but that it wasn’t Pulitzer material. Then I thought about the Pulitzer winners that I’ve read. Those books have struck me with their mastery of words, but I have often disliked the story. It dawned on me that the books I enjoy the most are more about the story than the words.

As I realized this, I accepted the fact that I will never win a Pulitzer. Wow! I said it. And it’s not even a shock to anyone. So, that’s what I had to remember, to tell myself all over again. And, once again, I knew that I was okay with that. I recently won a prestigious award for my writing which does give me some validation, but it’s not the final say on who I am or what I think of myself.

What matters to me at the end of the day is whether I did my best. My best writing will never win me the Pulitzer, but that’s okay because I’m still doing the best I know how. I’m working hard – writing, rewriting, editing, reading, writing some more. I’m focused and determined. I am Mary Ellen Bramwell – nothing more and nothing less, and that’s going to be good enough for me.


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