Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG & How To Climb The Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein

Today is the October meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted as always by our favorite Ninja Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's also the day that many writers are posting contributions to the IWSG Anthology! I'm not contributing to the book but I will definitely look forward to reading all the entries.

My IWSG post is going to be very short as my insecurity this month is the same as it was last month - blogging. I had hoped to get back into a rhythm of some kind last month but ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer my heart is simply not in it. We've had a lousy few weeks and my energy has gone out the window. I've been very lax about other social media as well but lately I find when I am not helping my mom I just want to spend time reading or engaging in other quiet activities that don't require much effort on my part.

I do have my novella The Turnagain Arm coming out next Monday, October 6, so I am happy about that and hope it will help me get some of my energy back. I'm excited to share the story and a related giveaway next week!

For now though I'm happy to be hosting Elizabeth Hein, who is here today talking about her new book How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. If you're not familiar with Elizabeth's blog Scribbling in the Storage Room I highly recommend checking it out.

Take it away, Elizabeth! :)

It’s a pleasure to be here on Julie Flanders’ blog today. When I sat down to write something for Julie’s blog, it seemed natural to talk about the sense of place within a novel. Julie’s books take you places like Martha’s Vineyard and Alaska and make you feel like you are there right alongside the characters. 
My novels are set in the fictitious town of Magnuson, North Carolina. Magnuson is nowhere in particular, yet shares the features of several cities in North Carolina. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting my adopted home state, North Carolina is unique. Just a few miles outside the cities that dot the interstates, life is still rural and rooted in tradition. In the cities, you’d find high-tech biomedical parks, cutting edge research hospitals, and banking hubs. It is a place where you can get a plate of barbecue cooked in a century old pit one day, then eat the trendiest of prix fixe meals the next.
Magnuson was the perfect place to set How To Climb The Eiffel Tower because I wanted Lara Blaine, the narrator of the story, to live in a place without a tremendous amount of history. Lara works in one of the many financial services companies and lives in one of the thousands of town houses that popped up in old tobacco fields during the last few decades. The city didn’t exist before the nearby river was dammed to provide electricity or the advent of highways. The handful of farming families were pushed out by the onslaught of newcomers that came to work in the new industries that grew in the state during the 60’s. Lara could disappear in the sea of people from somewhere else, yet still feel a sense of connection to the North Carolina that she remembered from her early childhood. 
Magnuson is also the home of the Ellery Cancer Center which was based on Duke Cancer Center, where I was treated for cancer in 2002, with touches of the Carolina Medical Center and the Baptist Hospital. Ellery plays a large part in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. The entire facility is color-coded with each department having its own color. The waiting rooms are all decorated in that color and the department staff all wear that color. The system is there to help patients find their way around the maze of hallways, yet it also makes Ellery feel impersonal and somewhat surreal. For instance, at one point Lara gets confused as to which way to go until she figures out that she needed to follow the colored tiles in the floor to get from department to department. I wanted the setting to reflect Lara’s sense of being detached from her illness yet completely surrounded by it. 
Readers, how much do you notice a sense of place when you are reading? What are your favorite settings to read about? Fellow writers, do you think about setting before plot, or do you come up with your plots and then figure out where they will happen?

Book blurb:

Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.


Elizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse. Prior to the new book’s publication, Elizabeth was invited to attend the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference and has received excellent advanced reviews on her break-out new book.
 Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up appearances. Elizabeth has published several short stories and is currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.

Buy links:
Amazon UK 

Twitter: @_ElizabethHein


  1. Hi Julie - Elizabeth's book seems to be just right for you to promote in the circumstances you are going through with your mother ...

    My thoughts - it's such a difficult time to keep the perspective, the balance and 'nod' on through life as we have to do ...

    Elizabeth's book sounds like it should be a great resource for many ...

    With many thoughts and peaceful energy to you and the family - Hilary

  2. Congratulations, Elizabeth!
    Don't worry Julie. Your mother needs you. That's more important. Visit when you feel inspired to do so.

  3. Congrats Elizabeth! I love the title.

    And Julie my thoughts are with you. Don't worry about blogging and all the social media. All of us understand.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your mom, Julie. I know what it's like to try and write when your heart isn't into it because of factors outside your control. Best of luck for you and your mom.

  5. Make sure you take care of yourself, too, Julie. Find the things that nurture you and help you relax a bit then do them. :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

  6. Sorry to hear about your mother. You're doing the right thing. Blogging is insignificant in comparison to taking care of your mother and your emotions. Take care, Julie.

    And congrats to Elizabeth!

  7. Thanks again for hosting me, Julie.
    Your mom is in my thoughts. I hope she is having a good day today.

    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

  8. When something like a cancer diagnosis or other hardship occurs in our life, many things get put on the back burner. Your mom is most important, Julie. We will all be here when you blog again. I'm sending my prayers!

  9. Hi, Julie,

    I know how you feel. I am so backlogged in my blogging as well. But I know that will change. Autumn is here and a new vitality is emerging.

    As always, my prayers for your mom.

    Hi, Elizabeth,

    Congrats on your new book! All the best!

    I love settings. I feel they are EXTREMELY important to any novel. "Setting the stage" properly adds to the flow of a story and is very much needed for our characters to maneuver properly. We are ALL affected by our surroundings. They play a MAJOR role in our lives.

  10. The book sounds amazing, but I can't read things about cancer. I know maybe that's sad. It's been ten years since I lost my Dad to cancer, but it's still a very tender subject with vivid memories.

    Anyhow, Julie, I completely understand. I'm sending you some cheese to help get you moving again. Stay strong and do what you need to to cope with the overwhelming emotions that come with a change like this.

  11. Congratulations to Elizabeth!

    You and your mom are in my thoughts. Blogging can wait.

  12. Congratulations on the book and to inspire courage, strength and hope from something as nasty as cancer is a great testament. Julie, when you have the wish to, then blog but do not feel bad as you are going through something very difficult and quite stressful. You must think of yourself first and do what you need to do to regenerate so you can there for your mom and your family. Your health is most important and that includes mental and spiritual health

  13. First, congrats to Elizabeth, I love the cover. Julie, at this time in your life it's normal to pull back. See the broader picture. I know you're with your mom, spend each day as a gift. Whether it be reading or just talking. Blogging will be here when you get back. Congrats on your book. Can't wait to read it!!!!

  14. I hope the lousy part is over. It think it's normal for your heart to not be in all of this at the moment.

    Congrats to Elizabeth! Setting is always important to me. It's like the unsung character in most books.

  15. Julie, I hope things get better for you. I'm looking forward to a blog break in a couple of months. I need 2-3 every year to keep going, even though I love it.

    Elizabeth, I have family and friends in North Carolina - it's a great state.

  16. Don't be so hard on yourself, Julie. Your priorities are in the right order. Compared to your mom, blogging and other social media simply aren't important. We all understand that.

    Elizabeth's book sounds wonderful. Best wishes to her for much success with it.

  17. Sorry about your mother and certainly understandable about your lack of enthusiasm for blogging. Good luck on your novella.

  18. Take the peace and quiet you need during this challenging time of life. Don't worry about blogging. Do whatever helps you to be a help to your mom.

    Elizabeth's book sounds wonderful, and appropriate to appear here right now.

  19. Congratulations, Elizabeth!!!

    Oh Julie, please don't worry about your blog right now. Your mom and your family are much more important, and it's OK if you have to be less active online right now. Life happens, and we all know it, and we'll all still be here, rooting you on, no matter when you have time to come back. *Hugs*

  20. Congratulations and best of luck to Elizabeth.

    I understand how you feel, Julie. I had to pretty much abandon blogging while I was spending time with my dad. He's been gone three weeks now and I'm still trying to get back to a normal routine. Take the time you need. Put your energy where it matters. I'll keep your mom in my prayers.

  21. Julie, don't worry about blogging. Taking care of you and your mum and family is what is important. My thoughts are with you x

  22. Congrats Elizabeth!

    Take it easy, Julie. It might be life telling you to step back from the digital world for a while. I hope things with your mother improve, and life in general returns to what you aspire it to be.

  23. I'm so sorry about your mom, Julie. No wonder you need to take it easy and be quiet. Do whatever it takes to get yourself through.

    Congrats to Elizabeth on her new book!

  24. Really sorry to hear about your mom, Julie. I'm not sure I'd care much about blogging if I were in your situation.

  25. Congrats to Elizabeth!

    Being with your mom is much more important than blogging and social media.

  26. Congratulations to Elizabeth!

    It is okay to take some time away from blogging and social media. As always, do what is best for you and your family first and if you need us, we are here for you. Wishing you and your family well.

  27. I'm so sorry your mom is going through this. You're a wonderful daughter, and she is very lucky to have you. I know how draining this can be, so please remember to take care of yourself too. I hope you're able to find a little time to celebrate Turnaround Arm. Sending good thoughts and prayers out to you, and your mom.

    Congrats to Elizabeth, and I wish her much success!


  28. Oops...I meant The Turnagain Arm. Sorry about that.

  29. Sorry to hear about your mom. I think keeping up with blogging is tiring even without anything like that going on.

    Congratulations on yet another novel. You're making me feel like a slacker. :)

  30. It's tough to do it all sometimes, and quiet activities are good ways to supplement. I'll be praying for you and your Mom. That's a tough one to deal with, I know. Congrats on your novella. Your book sounds really cool, Elizabeth. Wishing you every success with it.

  31. Congratulations to you both! I'm having blogging troubles, too. At least you have a book coming out keeping you busy. Me? Well, that's a talk for another day.


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