The road ends, but the journey continues...

New Book Release: Home to Cedar Branch by Brenda Bevan Remmes

                                 Waiting for Brenda
Of course wouldn’t you know, the day’s dark grey skies decided to pour forth a drenching rain the moment I stepped out of the car. Brenda and I were meeting that morning at the FloTown Starbucks on Palmetto for a quasi-interview, so I wanted to get there a bit before the appointed time.
After my mad dash into the tiny building, I quickly scanned the area for an available table. As a veteran of numerous coffee shops, I know that claiming one’s territory is best done first.  I planted my book bag atop my find as evidence of ownership then proceeded to redeem my empty bean bag* for a free cup of coffee.
Returning to ‘our’ table with java in hand, I settled in to read a few pages of ‘Home to Cedar Branch’ while waiting for Brenda’s arrival…

Home to Cedar Branch is Brenda’s second novel in the ‘Quaker Café’ series.  While not intended to be a part of an actual series, this stand-alone book clamors to be part of something larger than itself. Writing has a way of making demands on its author and Brenda is accommodating those demands by crafting yet a third book in the ‘Quaker Café’ series as of this posting.
Both novels, along with an in-progress third, are centered around the fictional community of Cedar Branch.  I asked Brenda if she would like to live in Cedar Branch.  Surprisingly, she told me that she already had…only in the real town equivalent of Woodland, NC.
What’s more, most of the characters in both books are based upon composites/blends of real life residents. Even more amazing is that the flesh and blood residents of Woodland, NC love to dissect each character and event, trying to figure out who’s who and what real life events relate to the stories written. All this nakedness on the written, published page and yet – they still love Brenda, their semi-native daughter.
Much like Brenda’s books, our conversation at the FloTown Starbucks was comfy, cozy and studded with intriguing exchanges of personal information.  Ever since reading her first book, The Quaker Café I was most curious about her Quaker connection.  Her website provides a wealth of info about Quakers in the South and the differences between Quakers and the Amish, but not about her own Quaker identity.  So I asked her how she came to be a Quaker.
In the 1960’s Brenda was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. It was there she met her future husband.  As they both came from different religious backgrounds, they decided to find a Christian denomination in which to blend their beliefs and raise their children.  Interestingly, there was a large West African Quaker settlement near where they worked. For two years they gathered with a multi-cultural array of Quakers in a West African hut, marking the beginning of their new life together.
My favorite sections of Home to Cedar Branch are in fact related to the Quakers and their interactions within the larger community of Cedar Branch. As the tension heightens within the story line, Brenda weaves Quaker faith-in-action with a deft hand. Viewed by the community-at-large as an unconventional approach to justice being served, it’s a fascinating and believable scenario played out in values rooted in non-violence.
Early on in my reading of Home to Cedar Branch some of the scenes seemed vaguely familiar. Words and phrases from certain passages nagged at me, reminding me that Brenda brought a few of her later rewrites for the group to critique before submitting final copy to her editor. Further into the novel, I came across an entire scene sequence that kept unfolding as remembered right before my reading eyes. Here’s a snippet:

Dickel kegKaty walked around the dancers and squeezed behind the backs of two intertwined groups who shouted conversations between one another. She pulled a Mountain Dew out of the cooler, flipped the tab, and picked up a few chips from a side table.
“Dickel and Dew?” a man next to her said.
Katy turned to make sure he was speaking to her. “Sorry?”
“You like Dickel and Dew?” He nodded to her soda can and raised his own.
She flushed. “It’s just Mountain Dew, that’s all.”
“I could put a little Dickel in it for you, if you like. It’s good stuff.”
“I don’t know.”
He didn’t push it, just tilted his head slightly and grinned…”

Ah, yes, the Dickel and Dew guy!
I recall the meeting where we of the Camden Writers Group critiqued that scene.  I think Brenda was contemplating eliminating it completely, though I could be wrong about that. I do know, we all loved the Dickel and Dew guy and went about offering our usual critique comments and suggestions.  What’s fun is to see that most of what was discussed turned up in the final published version of her book.
What’s also exciting for me is that a few months before the release of Home to Cedar Branch, Brenda asked permission to use my piece, In Him, reprise as the background music for the book promo trailer.
I consider it an honor and a thrill to support her in this manner.

*Upon presenting an empty Starbucks coffee bean bag to the barista, (s)he will give you a free cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Brenda Bevan Remmes author

Brenda Bevan Remmes

I first met Brenda in 2014 after joining the Camden Writers critique group.  At the time, she was in the midst of marketing her debut novel, The Quaker Café. Since then, she completed, secured a publishing contract for and released her second novel, Home to Cedar Branch.  And, lest she rest on the laurels of a successful publishing career, she is currently in the throes of writing up early drafts of yet a third novel.
Both books are available on Amazon


  1. Janis

    Sounds like a good book! I really enjoyed Brenda’s discussion of her plot creation in her comment. I am not a writer of fiction but the process fascinates me. Lovely music, Laura!

    • laura bruno lilly

      It is a good book and Brenda’s comment added alot to the discussion here.
      Thanks for the kudos on my music!

  2. L. Marie

    So glad to see that you provided the music, Laura. That’s one of my favorites of yours. And Brenda’s book sounds great! I love the premise.

  3. Andy

    I was interested by the fact that Cedar Branch is the fictional equivalent of a place where Brenda lived. I’m currently attempting to write a novel set in the housing estate that I live on, in the north of England. I was going to be explicit about it, but in the end decided to create a fictional version of it. I just wondered at the reasons Brenda went down that route?
    And Laura I loved the music. Lovely in an understated, melodic way.

    • laura bruno lilly

      The writing question is a good one. I don’t know the answer, but have asked Brenda respond.
      And thank you Andy for the music appreciation comment!

      • Andy

        Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to the comments-I didn’t receive any notifications so came back hunting you down!

        • laura bruno lilly

          I wonder why that is? WP can be pretty squirrely (that’s a nice way to say aggravating) Glad you kept checking in, Andy.

    • Brenda Bevan Remmes

      I just flew in from England last night and a lovely week with my grandchildren who live there. How nice to find this blog by Laura Lilly waiting for me on my computer and to know that people in England are reading it. Andy…in answer to your question. It involves THE PLOT. I have learned the hard way that editors are looking for a plot that builds and holds the novel together…keeping the reader’s interest from beginning to the very last page. I had many many stories I wanted to share about this small town where I raised my family and the wonderful people who are a part of it and I wanted a strong Quaker presence. BUT, to enhance the plot I needed to stretch the truth. If you are a writer you will probably pick up the fact that I built my plot in The Quaker Cafe by going back and adding scenes to keep the thread moving after I’d already written much of the novel. I did a “cleaner” job of it in my second novel, Home to Cedar Branch, by figuring out my plot ahead of time and then working the action around the plot as it developed. The second novel is heavily fiction. The first novel is heavily factual. My third novel plot is heavily factual, but I’m creating characters around it who are all fictional. I guess, because I always want to be able to go home to Cedar Branch and be welcomed. Many authors would say that the truth is more powerful than fiction and you should stick to the facts. Personally, I prefer to blend feeling that it gives me more flexibility. Good luck with your book. Let us know how it goes.

      • Andy

        Thank you for that, Brenda. I can empathise with you saying your first novel is heavily factual. I’m setting my story in a fictionalised version of my town, and, though the characters aren’t based on anybody ‘real’ some of the events included are derived from real things that happened. With a little tweak 🙂

    • L. Marie

      Andy, I’m thrilled that you’re writing a novel! Would love to hear more about that!

      • Andy

        I think it’s going to be a long haul, Linda. Keep getting interrupted by kids being sent home from school due to snow, school holidays, etc!

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