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Paths Meant To Be Traveled

Gary Lee Miller
Gary Lee Miller Author Interview

Finding Grace follows one woman traveling by bus to see her dying grandmother but the trip becomes a life changing and inspirational journey. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

An old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That was how Finding Grace came to be. With a single step. Unfortunately, the cause of that step was the passing of my wife of 45 years, Sharee, from leukemia. Thus began a long winding road of dealing with loss and finding an outlet for my grief. I don’t believe in coincidence, and there were an extraordinary number of occurrences which could have been attributed to coincidence. I know that sometimes we have an angel (or angels) on our shoulder which lead us down paths meant to be traveled. And so began my journey. They say to write what you know, so I did. While Finding Grace is a fiction novel, there is a tremendous amount of detail based on my first-hand experience with Sharee and her illness. The characters Judith meets on her journey materialized quickly, as did the idea for the cross-country trip. Then came the two main characters of Judith and Grace. The reason for a cross-country trip was easy, based on my losing Sharee. Grace was dying from leukemia and wanted Judith to come home to visit her before it was too late.

Judith Lee is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

Judith had a challenging childhood, facing poverty, bullying, and the loss of her parents at age 10. As adults we carry the baggage of the negative events of our childhood so Finding Grace explores how Judith compensated, as a child and as an adult, to survive her personal challenges. The bus trip forces her, unwillingly, to see what’s been missing from her life. As she meets the other characters on the trip, Judith begins to realize just how far she has removed herself from the real world, using her incredible wealth as a shield.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One of the things I truly enjoyed while writing Finding Grace was using it as a vehicle to introduce a wide variety of themes that we, as a society and many individuals, face every day. While not deep dives into each, my characters each have different challenges, such as poverty, bullying, physical & mental abuse, alcohol & drug abuse, racial issues, serious disease, end-of-life caretaking, grief & loss, and others. While these are heavy subjects, the narrative of Finding Grace is mixed liberally with humor and laugh-out-loud moments that balance the journey for the reader. Plus, the bus trip gave me the opportunity to provide a travelogue of sorts, providing fun, interesting details about the places Judith sees and visits during her journey.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have written the screenplay for Finding Grace, with the goal of bringing it to the movie or TV screen. Right now I’m in the process of edits and rewrites. My hope is to get the attention of some production companies, believing an adaptation of the book would be highly entertaining and appealing to a very broad audience, demographically.

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The award-winning novel Finding Grace follows a young girl, Judith Lee, who grew up with her very poor grandmother, Grace, and grandfather, Virgil, in Nashville. She is bullied and mocked in school, but she is smart. She goes on full scholarship to Vanderbilt and upon graduation, moves to California, eventually starting her own tech company which becomes extraordinarily successful. As the story progresses, readers learn these facts in bits and pieces, not realizing until the very end that Judith is a highly successful woman of immense wealth.

Grace calls Judith with a dying wish…for Judith to travel from Los Angeles to Nashville to come visit her. But there’s a catch. Judith must make the journey by bus.

Each day of Judith’s journey becomes a story on its own, as the people she meets and places she visits along the way challenge her to rethink her life. Finding Grace is about Judith’s transformation back into the real world during this journey as a result of the people she meets on the bus, how she deals with the imminent passing of her grandmother, and how all this changes her life’s future plans. There are tears and laughter throughout, with interesting characters whom readers would recognize from their own lives. Today, more people are reflecting on what is and is not important. Finding Grace provides food for thought on many levels.


Leaving Phoenix follows the journey of Phoebe and her journey of self-discovery. There are a handful of important characters in Leaving Phoenix; the main character is Phoebe, a young woman who has been raised by her adoptive father Pop. She is a strong, capable young women, who has an interest in cars and music. Her character is well developed and authentic- this is achieved through the use of dialogue between characters, her physical descriptions and her thoughts and feelings. Other characters are also important, these include her adoptive father Pop, her biological Grandfather Liam and new friend Curt. Last but not least, Phoebe’s two pets, a dog and a parrot, are also an integral part of the story, they are always by her side, and thus help to fully develop her character.

The themes of this novel are interesting, predominantly it is a story about self-discovery, learning about one’s history, family ties and developing a sense of belonging. Although the story is sometimes heart wrenching, there are many uplifting moments in Phoebe’s journey. Other issues delved into include domestic abuse, and abortion.

Leaving Phoenix is set in the U.S., spanning differing time periods and states. The novel begins in Phoenix in 1974, in what can only be described as an emotional setting. The setting is described in excellent detail, from the emotions it conveys to the sterile environment. The following chapters progress through a couple of years, and then jump to 1999 where the rest of the story is set. The setting descriptions are rich, with descriptions of the weather in Arizona, as well as significant buildings such as Phoebe’s cottage. Each setting is described with just enough detail to draw the reader into the story. These descriptions continue as the settings change as Phoebe beings her road trip – or journey of self-discovery. The chapters are headed with each setting to ensure an easy transition. Overall, the setting draws the reader into the story quickly, and continues to keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

Leaving Phoenix is a psychological thriller that takes its time to build up an enthralling character and set her on wild journey of self discovery that gives her, and the readers, an experience that is unforgettable.

Pages: 346 | ASIN: B09BKQTWR4

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No Birds Sing Here

No Birds Sing Here by [Daniel V. Jr. Meier]

No Birds Sing Here is a satire that follows two young aspiring authors, Beckman and Malany. The duo tries to escape the mundanity of their everyday lives when one day Beckman decides he has had enough. They flee through an apartment window and hit the road! Along the way, they discuss how they’ll actually make it as writers. And in an effort to get their names out there, they pull some wild antics and play up all the artistic clichés.

Author Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has created a complex plot compared to most satirically driven stories. And there are many highs and lows to this riveting story. Where one part lacks another shines so bright it’s blinding. Meier’s character building left me with mixed emotions. Due to the lack of descriptions of Beckman and Malany, I had a hard time visualizing them in my mind. Although, when it came to the construction of their personalities, I felt that Meier was spot on with details. Within the first few chapters I could tell what kind of people Beckman and Malany were. That also lent to me being able to figure out what their story arcs would be. I appreciate Meier’s sharp satirical take on artists and what their audiences truly want. His incisive portrayal of human desire and all of its clichés is wildly fascinating. With nimble writing and refreshing viewpoints the story gave me off beat poet generation vibes, which I adore. His metaphors mimicked the style of that generation and overall gives the story some color.

No Birds Sing Here is a literary adventure that I heartily enjoyed for its savvy dialogue and intriguing views. But I would have loved to have gotten more backstory within the early pages because the characters are captivating and I wanted more of them. Author Daniel V. Meier gives readers a road trip they won’t soon forget.

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B08GZGFYLF

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A Love Letter to Alice

Pat Patterson Author Interview

Pat Patterson Author Interview

Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a heartwarming book?

This book was a love letter to Alice that wouldn’t stop flowing until it was a book – actually two books. Shortly after returning from our journey which actually was six weeks driving from Austin, Texas, to the Blue Ridge Mountains and back I took note of how much fonder I was of both our cats Tuffy and Munchie. Intrigued by this new found affection for Alice’s little prima donnas I decided to put in narrative all that I remembered about the trip. Funny thing was no sooner had I begun to write than the story took shape around Alice and how much she had meant to me for all these years. So I began to write about the very things Alice loves best after me – her cats. Only now, after our trip, I could feel they were our cats and that’s when I at last realized what Alice had been trying to help me understand all these years – that when you love another with an all-consuming passion you will love the things they love as well.

As the couple travel the country the tone is kept lite and is easy to read. What were the themes you were trying to capture as you wrote this story?

I attempted to tell through story a truth that life’s greatest joys can often be discovered and experienced by tuning in to the everyday things we often overlook. Sharing a meal in a crowded room or wincing when a cats claws catch your toes can be the occasion and should be the occasion for rekindling our love and feelings for one another. Celebratory moments are awaiting in almost every moment of the day if we only stop and feel the excitement of being alive.

It seems like you had a lot of fun writing this book. What was your favorite scene to write and why?

Actually writing about the manner in which Alice and I first met and how her spy almost cost us a life together was the most intoxicating scene for me as I penned the scenes. Alice only read the book after its conclusion and this part of the story was her favorite as well.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book is a sequel – Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Rising. It is the story of our journey on from Atlanta into the Blue Ridge Mountains. In this one the reader is afforded
an in depth view to Alice’s intensity for living on life’s edge and how.

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Dining and Driving With Cats – Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life’s hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse’s detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.

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Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged

Dining and Driving with Cats - Alice Unplugged

Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged by Pat Paterson tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. Along the way they use the opportunity to sample as much as they can from their pre-researched food-stops. The book will take you on a journey as they try countless dishes, meet unexpected people and attempt to tame their two beloved cats – who, there is no doubt, are definitely in charge.

While reading the book, Pat and Alice’s Honda Fit feels somewhat like home – you can almost feel yourself squished into the back with the two cats roaming around, as the two of them drive to their next destination. The tone is always kept light, making this an easy read and giving the reader a sense of comfort. While there are many descriptions of the food they eat and the antics of their two cats, the real theme in this novel is storytelling.

Patterson’s goal is to use their long trek to Georgia to tell stories along the way. The stories of the people they meet are interesting to a point, but you do find yourself feeling slightly removed as there is no real tie to them.

The best stories told are the ones about Pat and Alice; how they met and eventually fell in love. Not only does this insight make the reader feel more connected to them, but the stories themselves are sweet and witty and good enough material to be made into a Hollywood romance.

The best thing about the whole book is definitely Alice. I almost want to call her a ‘character’ of the book because that’s what she feels like. Her smarts and determination, coupled with her calm composure and uncanny ability to cajole the cats to bend to her will, makes her seem almost too good to be true. She seems the type of person who, if you were married to them, you would want to write about.

The only down side to the novel is the actual travel aspects. While mildly interesting to start with, it becomes slightly mundane, and all the descriptions of the food they eat becomes repetitive – it can’t all be as delicious as described, surely? However, this may just be because the Alice and Pat stories are so good that it leaves you craving more. The food is unimportant; you just want to hear about Alice and Pat!

Overall this is an enjoyable read, and the way the stories of the couple are intertwined with them visiting familiar places, is expertly done. The cats are sweet and their antics add an entertaining element. This is a great book for storytelling and memories, and will leave you feeling sentimental and warm and fuzzy inside.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06XD7XGGH

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Just Shut Up and Drive

Just Shut Up and Drive

It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.

Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.

Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.

While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8

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Sex Hell

Sex Hell4 Stars Sex Hell is a madcap, bizarro romp through the sex lives of four people caught up in a witch’s spell. Debbie has a boyfriend, a hunk of a man named Mike. Debbie’s problem is that she’s more turned on by the idea of popcorn and a book than she is by her muscle-bound boyfriend. When a witch shows up in the diner where Debbie works as a waitress, the old woman makes her an offer. Debbie can trade in the last three years of her life and get great sex in return. Anxious that Mike will see through her excuses for not having sex, she agonizes over the offer. Her friend and co-worker Cynthia is all for it, and after Mike leaves town for work, much agonizing and a bit of shady bargaining, the deal is done.

Before the night is over, Debbie finds herself in a car crash—and then in bed—with Juan, a handsome guitar player. She feels terrible, Mike seems to know that she cheated on him, and she wants to find a way to get out of the deal. This setup topples the dominoes in a hilarious chain of events involving demons, bizarre sex, a Love Goddess, magical bongos, bad German accents, true love, and a road trip from hell.

If you’re looking for something wildly out of the ordinary, Sex Hell is right up your alley. The book reads like a 1930’s screwball comedy gone horribly awry in a so-wrong-it’s-right way, and if you’ve read anything described as “bizarro”, you’ll find plenty to like here. It’s definitely not for readers who are put off by graphic sex and language and you have to completely suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy the delightful absurdity of the whole thing.

Debbie de La Fontaine is a geeky, overly-anxious woman who takes “overthinking” to a whole new level. She’s the kind of hot mess who wonders if she should rush to change her clothes as soon as her boyfriend knocks on the door. Mike adores her, but Debbie goes to extreme lengths to keep from having sex with him. Cynthia is a good friend, but as a wing man, she’s terrible, and prone to leaving Debbie hanging.

Her boyfriend Mike is a caricature, superhero-like in his quest to save Debbie from the “evil witch” but equally tone deaf to the realities of the situation. Juan is handsome and cocky and desperate to avoid any kind of commitment, but since the demon sentenced him and Debbie to Sex Hell, he can’t get away from her, no matter how hard he tries. Their quest to get out of Sex Hell is the best part of the book. The situations they get into, and out of, and back into, are utterly cartoonish, but what else would you expect of a woman who keeps a portrait of Wile E. Coyote on her wall?

I’d recommend this as a great vacation read. It’s a fun, totally illogical but ultimately satisfying romantic adventure. Take it to the beach where you won’t be afraid to laugh out loud.

Pages: 320 pages | ISBN: 9780990636557

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