Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Thank you, Jack, for taking the time to review my novel! Go to his blog because he is a great lover of books. Mahalo nui loa!
Genre: LGBT, Coming-of-age, Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: 3.5 / 5

“Despite the grounded daily activity of milking the herd . . . Ryan knew something terrible was about to happen.”
Ryan has been having visions. They come to him at random intervals, showing him suicide and murder. Will those visions save the man he loves?
Ryan Colton’s boredom of Wilson’s Ferry is shoved aside when he gets a vision of a murder of a high school peer. With the help of city boy, Skylar, he discovers how to control his visions in an attempt to uncover the truth behind the murder. While Ryan is in Boston, he comes to terms with his sexuality, embracing his identity for the first time.
I’ve not read LGBT fiction before. I’ll be honest, I was expecting to read explicit material – limbs akimbo and private parts waving. I breathed a sigh of relief when this was not the case. The characters’ orientation was not central to the story; it could have been taken out and the narrative would have stood by itself. This is what good LGBT fiction should be. A story about people who also happen to be gay. As a gay man myself, the book felt very authentic in its dealing with the issue of ‘coming out’ and handled the feelings of a person accepting themselves very well. This coming-of-age story has a well thought-out plot that threads everything together smoothly and the descriptions of small town life is clear, without unnecessary embellishment.
The writing is superb. There were a few lines that felt a little messy, such as “He grabbed his own books under his right arm and left.” It’s clear what was meant but the two directions did distract me from the natural rhythm – momentum – that was nicely built up throughout the story.
The characters were relatable and felt very authentic. If I was to sum the book up in a single word it would actually be ‘authentic’. There was no extravagant event included for the sake of entertainment. It was a real story about real people.
The Promise of Living is a book I wanted to read. Whenever I had to be somewhere, I wanted to take it with me. I needed to know what happened next. If you’re looking for your next read, here it is!
“I love you, Ryan. I’ll always remember the blond trombone player in the farmer t-shirts and the red John Deere cap.”
I was kindly gifted a Kindle version of this book, by the author, in return for an honest review. Thank you very much to J. Lee Graham.

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 18, 1906

In the week coming up, well, next week, too... such an 'odd' week of birthday and event anniversaries that all strangely fell during the same seven-ten days:
Hitler's Birthday: April 20
Titanic Sinking: April  14/15
The American Civil War, April 12
 and so many more!

On April 18, 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake occurred. That has always fascinated me, even when I walk the streets of that city, wondering what it would have been like. I did  a lot of research when I wrote THE TIME OF HIS LIFE, Andy Mackpeace's Second Time Travel Adventure, because he and Miranda accidentally end up there.

An excerpt from Chapter 6:
Opposite Andy was the stairway leading down to the first floor. It too was intact and still attached to the wall. At the top of the stairs was another bedroom door. Miranda stood in that doorway, motionless.
“Miranda!” Andy yelled. “Are you okay? What is this? What happened?” His friend didn’t respond. 
            Miranda was a very intelligent girl who clearly understood an earthquake when she saw one, but she was also a girl from New Hampshire where earthquakes were not likely to happen. Reading about them and experiencing one were two very different phenomena.
Miranda!!” Andy shouted again.
            “It’s an earthquake,” she yelled, snapping out of her shock and coming to her senses. “We have to get out of here!”
She headed for the stairs when the second, more deadly tremor hit. Miranda was thrown forward by the shock and her face hit the steps. At the same time, Andy was shoved to the ground backward toward his bed. He had no more control over where he landed than if a quarterback had picked him up and heaved him.
As much as he tried, Andy couldn’t get up. Another quick BOOM! and the massive bed lifted up, fell over and buried him up to his waist. The large wardrobe keeled over too, and Andy barely had time to cover his head with his hands. If it weren’t for the fullness of the bed acting as a cushion, Andy would have been crushed.
As the house rocked, a terrific screeching noise started to happen. The stairway was wrenching loose. With every BOOM! the stairs pulled away a bit, then slammed back into the wall. The nails holding it together were coming undone with each pull and slam. Like a stubborn dog playing tug of war with a toy, the stairs moved out from the wall, then back, then out, then back. With each tug, the stairs grew shakier and shakier.      
The house groaned and when the nails popped, the stairway came crashing down, the steps, the railing, the carpet, all of it. It folded into itself and landed with a giant heap on the first floor hall. Dust and dirt swept up and around Andy like someone had emptied out a giant vacuum cleaner bag.     
Once again, the earthquake stopped.
Andy opened his eyes. He coughed and spat out the dirt that filled his mouth.
The house, by now, was completely tilted. The room, the floor, everything was leaning toward the stairway, or rather, where the stairway used to be.  Andy pulled and struggled and squeezed out from under the bed and looked over at Miranda’s bedroom.
Miranda was gone.

Monday, April 4, 2016

THE SCULPTURED ROCKS in Hebron, NH and Illustrator Ken Hornbeck

Sculptured Rocks, swimming hole: Hebron, NH
As a kid, I always loved a book cover that combined the various themes read within its pages. The fun part was looking at the cover and wondering what the various images had to do with each other.
When collaborating with Ken Hornbeck, illustrator for all my novels (Except THE PROMISE OF LIVING), he instantly understood my desires. 

For example, in THE SCULPTURED ROCKS, not only does the main character Dan go to the Rocks, a local swimming hole (the picture is above), but also deals with a haunted house and being on a baseball Little League Team. I wanted to incorporate all three major themes and Ken did this terrifically. In the cover you can see the house, the rocks and the baseball diamond. 
The big bonus is if you closely enough, well, can YOU find the ghost?

All my novels are available on Smashwords and on Amazon.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I love New Hampshire

I love New Hampshire. All my novels are set there and even to this day, the state gives me such pleasure. I really enjoy, as a writer, finding a setting I resonate with and have a heart connection so that my characters feel just as home there as I do.

J. Lee Graham

Monday, March 21, 2016

Life's changes and Elizabeth Strout

Spring is here. Birds, buds, flowers, bushes, and sunshine. It's all very, very sweet yet the sound of sadness does, at times, permeate the air.

A great time for reading a book, getting centered, doing some yoga and (perhaps the best cure of all) going OUTSIDE and planting things: flowers, vegetables, ideas. Rake, clean, cut the grass, volunteer to clean up your community, create a change that makes you feel like you contributed to something bigger than yourself.

I'm reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. I'm only five pages in and already I'm nodding my head saying, "You go, Ms. Strout!" Thank you for moving me with your writing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A great nod to Rebecca Stead

I just finished reading Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy and was very glad to see a male protagonist who actually has emotional, vibrant, living breathing, what else can I say, organic relationships with other characters in the novel. It was reassuring that a piece of work written for Middle Grade could still have the capacity to move me.

Frankly, I don't resonate with adventure stories where the protagonist (male or female) simply zips around from hair-raising adventure to another without a moment of reflection or emotional recovery. While I understand that sometimes an adventure is just an adventure, those types of stories are not for me. I think a truly good story has to have, at its center, a heart.

In my novels, my male protagonist has some kind of visceral connection with other people, especially another male. In the time travel series, Andy's best friend is Roger; in book 3, All the Time in the World, Andy also finds a role model in Eric. In The Sculptured Rocks, Dan has his best friend, Tom, as well as a bully named Krenshaw. Later he meets the young farmer, Nate. In The Time of His Life, Andy meets Jake Hollis at the camp and of course, in The Promise of Living, Ryan and Dave are inseparable.

But to continue with Stead. She has the ability to sum up a whole slew of emotions by one simple sentence. When the protagonist starts 7th grade, a minor character, Jason, has the ability for him to reflect:
"I go back to thinking about Jason, who was my every-day-after-school friend until the end of sixth grade, when he went to sleepaway camp for seven weeks and then started sitting at the cool table in September like he'd been there all along."

Way to go, Ms. Stead! That says so much and you do it so extremely gracefully without a bit of self-pity.
Here's another sample: if you've read the book, you'll know the backstory. If you don't, no worries, nothing is spoiled:
"Bob draws Candy's blue dot, making a perfect circle and then coloring it in.
When he's done, she looks at it up close. "So what does this mean again?"
Bob tells her. "It means you're not alone. No matter what."
The book is filled with extremely tender moments, and they often took me by surprise. While Ms. Stead certainly doesn't need my Seal Of Approval given her recent success, I can't wait for her next book.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Various thoughts as the sun warms up

Tomorrow, March 8, is my character Dave Calderwood's birthday from my YA Novel THE PROMISE OF LIVING.
Does it matter? Probably not. But, for me, creating a birthday helps create a character. Ask any one of us who as ever been on the stage: it's called the backstory, and whenever I had a part to play, I created that character's birthday as well.  

 Dave Calderwood was Ryan’s best friend since they had their first snowball fight in second grade, and they had been in the band since they were twelve, Ryan on trombone, Dave on percussion.

Dave was seven months older than Ryan and had turned seventeen in March. He inherited the Scottish genes from his dad, black curly hair, dark, brooding eyebrows, and green eyes that reflected the Outer Hebrides. He was the same 5’10’’ as Ryan, yet puberty had hit him early and by fourteen he was already shaving on a daily basis. Ryan had sat next to him in algebra class that freshmen year and jealously wished he could have been doing the same. Even now, with Dave’s long dark sideburns, thick with hair and epitomizing manhood, Ryan was envious. His own blond wisps on his face were embarrassingly juvenile.

I'm reading Rebecca Stead again.. enjoying her work: where she is strong and where she is 'weak'... and I love the way she creates a plot that draws me in.

I love my new Instagram account: jleegraham79. It's fun to create.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March 5, 1770 and Andy Mackpeace

I've always been intrigued by the Boston Massacre: March 5, 1770. I put it in my first Middle Grade Time Travel Adventure novel IN THE NICK OF TIME with my main character Andy traveling back to 18th century Boston to experience it firsthand.

I've always disliked time travel stories where the character travels and then lives in a kind of bubble and never really connects to anyone from the past. They deal with the past, but not emotionally connect. I wanted to change that.
In IN THE NICK OF TIME, Andy meets Samuel Maverick, one of the victims of the massacre, and in this excerpt, Andy doesn't quite know what is going on until it's too late:

Andy watched as more boys gathered and pitched the rock-laden snowballs.        
I've seen this before. In history class. Snowballs. Snow and crowds and...
His stomach lurched. He knew what this was! It was 1770. This was the Boston Massacre.
            Andy grabbed Samuel's arm and pulled him hard. “Get out of here. You have to get out of here. This is dangerous. They're going to start shooting!” he screamed.
            “Don't be an ass! They're not going to do anything,” Samuel pushed back. He joined the crowd in their taunts. “I dare you! Fire! Go ahead. Fire!” He threw a brick and then more snowballs with rocks in them. “Fire!”
            The crowd grew braver and began throwing harder objects at the soldiers. The noise was louder and louder. Andy tried again. He screamed at Samuel. “We have to get out of here! I'm serious!”

             “Stop grabbing me!” Samuel yelled. He pushed Andy who fell down onto the feet of the people behind him. Then one of the soldiers (and we know it was one of two), heard the word “Fire!”, mistook it as an order from Preston, and pulled the trigger.

Follow me on Instagram: jleegraham79.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Zodiac Signs and Characters

As a professional astrologer, one thing I like to do in creating the back story for my characters is to give them a birthday, which of course, is their zodiac sign. It helps me tremendously to see the archetypes of the sign play out in the character's actions, decision making, thoughts, perspectives, and overall dialogue.

For example, in all of my time travel novels, the lead character, Andy Mackpeace, is a Gemini. His birthday is celebrated in Book I, In the Nick of Time. Andy is cerebral, (the Air sign), and thinks tremendously too much about his own flaws and foibles. Yet he is extremely intuitive and that is what not only gives him the doorway to time travel, but to connect with the bigger picture of the universe. He most likely has a Moon in Pisces.

His friends, Miranda Roberts and Roger Stanley are a different matter. I see Miranda as a strong Virgo: organized, level-headed, logical and prone to get upset over changes. Perhaps she has a strong Taurus influence as well. She must have a strong Mars or Jupiter in Gemini to give her her caustic wit.

Roger is a Leo. Ready for adventure, has the brawn to back it up, and has the deep rooted desire to be loved.

In THE PROMISE OF LIVING, Ryan is a Libra and Dave is a Pisces. Ryan has all the characteristics of a Libra with a little sadness thrown in for good measure. In this passage, he talks to his friend Nancy:
            “When’s your birthday again?” Nancy asked. “I forgot.”
            “October 8th."
              “That’s right. Libra.”
            “January 3rd. Capricorn.”
             “You do astrology?” Ryan winced at the bad grammar, the cheesy, awkward way he was feeling.
             “No, not really, just curious sometimes, about the way people act. Libra, hmmm, sensitive, good looking, artistic, vain. Yep, that’s you.”

In The Sculptured Rocks, Dan Buchanan is a Sagittarius. It makes sense: he's adventurous, ready to explore the ghost world that surrounds him as well as the loneliness that lies within him. He's gregarious enough to befriend a stranger and he sees the greater scheme of living in this life. Here is an excerpt from the novel:
            But the Sculptured Rocks was rarely crowded and today an older couple who lived around the corner from Corgie Street were sitting at the base of the third pool eating sandwiches. The woman looked up and yelled, “Hi, Dan!” and her voice echoed and bounced off the rock walls. I couldn’t remember her name so I just waved back.
The sun was hot and strong and I sat in the stillness and listened to the river flow by. The wind moved through the pine trees and their boughs bended and swayed, and I felt as if I had been alive for a million years. Sometimes I clambered down to the bottom and sat among the big boulders and dangled my feet in the water, like the couple were doing now, and sometimes I just laid down my towel and read a book until I fell asleep. When that happened, I was usually out for twenty minutes and I’d eventually open my eyes and sit up to a fresh new world, smelling the river water, the moss, the cool air as it swirled off the pools and I never felt more peaceful.