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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Life Without Shoes Book Tour + Giveaway

Life Without Shoes
by Emma Cyrus


GENRE: Mystery




In the great tradition of The Name of the Rose, the Brother Cadfael mysteries and Grantchester, Life Without Shoes confronts a modern-day monastic with a horrifying crime.

Father Ambrose has found a simple life leading a spiritual community in Northern California. He spends his days on guiding the farming and teaching meditation. Then, someone dumps a body in one of their orchards.

Now, the violence of the modern world has come crashing through the gates. He wants Sheriff Charlie Cormley to believe the body has nothing to do with them, but it’s not that easy. He must take on the role of sleuth to protect his community and find the truth. He finds himself moving out into the world in ways he never imagined, and life at New Life will never be the same.

NOTE: This book is on sale for $0.99.



What inspired you to write this story?

I’ve been involved with spiritual communities for more than thirty years. Once that commitment was made, an ongoing tension existed between that world and the everyday material world. I didn’t set out intentionally to explore that tension in fiction—but it developed out of the circumstance of confronting a monastic community with a murder.

I’ve been reading mysteries as my go-to reading entertainment since I first picked up a Nancy Drew book in my childhood. Even though I never considered myself a writer until I started on Life Without Shoes, if you’d asked me when I was young if I were a writer, what I would write, I would have answered ‘mysteries’ without a second thought.

Finally, when I got ‘inspired’ to start this book, it was literally that. The first chapter just poured out of me without thinking, and my research notebook filled up quickly with subjects like the California county sheriff structure, agriculture in Northern California and school colors for UCLA. Writers have long talked about their ‘muses,’ and this phenomenon of ‘being inspired’ must be the same. It’s like the story, the people and the settings are being presented to me. My job is to articulate them in words.

What was your favorite part to write?

What an interesting question! I guess I’d have to say that the most enjoyable parts were those that came easily. Also, I think those parts where a sudden twist presented itself and surprised me. One place that’s coming to mind is when Father Ambrose is interviewed by Terry Morgan, the editor for the local paper, the Green Butte Monitor.

Ambrose is suddenly thrown into the spotlight and it’s uncomfortable for him. As he expresses his discomfort, everyone else teases and cajoles him. How he and the others react was a complete surprise to me until I was in the middle of writing it. Later, I loved it. It added dimension to his character and how others perceived him that I couldn’t have planned.

I think those surprises are some of the most joyful in writing—when you have no idea in advance what’s coming. It’s also humbling and makes me not claim too much credit for it. That inspiration piece can’t be evoked mechanically—you just have to know how to be quiet and let that voice speak.
What was the hardest part to write?

I’d like to re-frame that to ask, ‘what was the hardest thing to do?’

That’s easy to answer, but it was agonizing at the time. I was working on the book’s early chapters while I was taking Mystery II at Gotham Writers Workshop. We’d been studying Point of View (POV). I’d got myself started in omniscient POV and had quite a lot of material done.

All of a sudden, I realized the story was getting away from me—going in too many different directions, with too many threads to follow. I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t strong enough to tame that beast. I decided to constrain my POV to Father Ambrose and Sheriff Charlie Cormley. It meant going back in and pulling out massive amounts of material and re-casting them in the new approach or eliminating them altogether. Ouch!

I also had a mysterious allusion to a piece of New Life’s past that my BETA readers wanted to know more about. I looked back at it and decided it really had little to do with the story and would leave a loose end dangling that I wouldn’t know how to tie off. Again, CUT!

I continue to study writing intensively with master teachers, and I understand better why this critical eye and ruthless editing are key to the craft. It’s important to love your story and characters, but not to get too attached. If something isn’t really key, your readers will know it and not be all that forgiving (unless you’re already famous with a twenty-volume series to your credit!).

How did you come up with your characters?

One of my writing coaches talks about two kinds of fiction writers, planners and ‘pantsers’ (writing by the seat of your pants). Life Without Shoes was definitely written by a pantser. Father Ambrose, Mother Francine, Brother Jeremy and Sheriff Charlie Cormley all showed up on Day 1, when I wrote the first chapter, the one that came out in a ‘whoosh.’

I knew right away what Father Ambrose looked like and pretty much what he was like as a person. He reminded me of some men in the communities in which I’ve been involved, although his voice and thoughts are probably mine. Mother Francine combines qualities of women I’ve known in my communities, but she isn’t me at all, except perhaps in her background (spiritually eclectic, I’d have to call it).

The other characters just presented themselves as I needed them, not fully formed necessarily, but with characteristics that were key to their role in the story.

Do you have anything coming up and can you tell us about it?

I’m almost finished with the BETA version of the second book in the series, tentatively called Blaze. It’ll be made available to my BETA readers in December. It’s my plan to publish it in February.

It’s set again in Father Ambrose’s world. He’s going through changes in his role as Abbot of New Life Ecumenical Retreat, and these changes intertwine with the story of a fire and a dream he has about it.

Even though I’m still in the middle of producing it, I think I can say this book is coming out differently from Shoes. It’s definitely more planned than ‘pantsed,’ and in many ways I like it better. Still, I know it needs work, and my BETA readers will help me find the holes.

I’ll be looking for ARC (Advance Review Copy) reviewers, most likely in mid-February, so if your readers are interested, they can let me know at

Thanks very much for hosting me and Life Without Shoes today.


She slipped the paper out of the sleeve and looked with amusement at the cover story: “Exclusive: Interview with Father Ambrose at New Life!” Under the headline was a large photo of Ambrose sitting at his desk, smiling at the camera. The text started below, continuing to page two.

“Do you want me to read it to you?” she asked.

“No, I signed off on it last night. I’ll look at it later. If it’s different from what I approved, that’s likely to ruin my day, so I’ll just postpone it awhile. He’s got this thing about picturing me heroically. I can’t fault his logic from a journalistic standpoint, but it’s very uncomfortable for me. I just hope New Life benefits from all the attention.”

“If the only one who doesn’t see you as a hero is you, we’ll be fine. Like you said, we’re faced with an opportunity. You might not like it, but this is the way it’s playing itself out. We don’t want reporters accosting our folks at the Farmers’ Market or banging down the gate here, so we have to give them a story that satisfies their readers. Just remember, you can create pretty much any picture you want to. Let’s tell our story by telling stories about you!”

Ambrose groaned. “I don’t want to be famous! I just want a nice, quiet harvest with good sales, no drama, no bodies in bags, no policemen.”

“We’re a little beyond that, don’t you think? I don’t usually say things like ‘suck it up,’ but that’s what I mean. We all need you to do this, and we appreciate that you have the capacity.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Emma was born in West Virginia and lived there until she was in high school, when her family moved to Pittsburgh. After high school, she went to Boston to go to college. She worked in different small and startup businesses until she moved into a yoga community in Pennsylvania. There, she’s worked on various projects and taught yoga.

She started the Father Ambrose series as a way of pulling together her love of good mystery stories with her deepening appreciation of the real-life magic and mystery of inner work. Father Ambrose has many characteristics in common with the leaders of her community, but his voice is probably hers, or at least what she thinks her voice would be, if she were living inside the parameters of his life.

She’s discovering the compelling nature of writing fiction and the surprises of working with what other writers have called their ‘muse.’ The creative process seems to have its own timetable and logic. The best results seem to come from stilling her own personal voice and allowing that ‘muse’ to speak.


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Emma Cyrus will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Kim,
      Nice to see you again!
      I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback on the book. You can reach me here:

  2. Are any of the characters in the book based off of real people? I hope that your book is a success. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

    1. Hi Bernie,
      Thanks for your good wishes.
      To answer your question, the characters have some similarities to members of the spiritual communities I've been part of, but no exact matches. There are aspects of Sheriff Cormley's character that remind me of Walt Longmire in Netflix's series.
      Thanks again,

  3. Hi DanieX,
    Thanks! If you visit the book's page on Amazon page, you can read a more extensive excerpt there.
    I hope to hear how you liked the book. You can send me an email here:
    Thanks again,

  4. Thanks to Books, Dreams, Life for hosting me on the tour today!

  5. Hi Victoria,
    Nice to see you again!
    I'm looking forward to getting your feedback on the book: