mailto:jhartsell1152@gmail.com

I’ve been told my writing has an Appalachian flavor; not surprising, since I am a lifelong resident of East Tennessee. My work with teenagers who were challenged with a variety of serious issues has given me some insight into the complexities of character and the struggles, both inner and outer, that we all deal with and that inform much of my writing.

THE BOX OF TOYS
Genre: Children’s

An illustrated children’s story about generosity and kindness. A little girl shares her toys with someone less fortunate, and he does the same with her gift.

PUSHING BACK
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction

Tormented by an abusive father, Boone spends most of his time second-guessing himself and looking over his shoulder. He’s almost seventeen, old enough to walk out, but that would mean abandoning his mother and younger sister. Then, in a single weekend, everything changes. Boone is left struggling to come to terms with what just tore his family apart and the guilt he still feels about what happened to his brother Frankie. And to top it all, he sees the parts of his father that he hates most in some of his own thoughts and actions. With no one in his small farming community to turn to except maybe the old man who lives up the road, Boone’s options are limited. School is a waste of time, his money is almost gone, and if there’s one thing his daddy taught him, it’s not to trust anybody.
Pushing Back:  “(In a well-plotted story) . . . Boone struggles with everyday survival and almost unbelievably horrific family circumstances. . . . a truly satisfying novel.” Rated 10 for Character/Execution. — The Booklife Prize in Fiction (10/3/16)

MATCHING SCARS
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction

“Matching Scars” –continuing Boone’s story begun in “Pushing Back”
Boone has a place to stay and enough to eat, but Gamaliel is back in the hospital and Boone’s getting more pressure from Jerry the longer he stays in Gamaliel’s house. Jerry wants him out, Carrie isn’t fighting for him as hard as she should, and the thought that a chance encounter with a rabid raccoon might take Frankie away from him devastates Boone.
His friend Nancy’s reappearance is a shocker, but he quickly grows to depend on her and also on Tiny, a neighbor a few years older and a hell of a lot bigger than Boone is.
As Gamaliel’s health worsens and Jerry gets bolder in his attempts to run Boone off, Boone also has to deal with the fact that he’s getting low on moonshine and his partner is lying in a hospital bed, unable to help him with the next batch.
The secrets lying just under the surface in Nancy’s family and the revelation of just how far Jerry is willing to go to get rid of him show Boone that he’s not the only person bearing scars from the past.

KEEPING SECRETS
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction

All (well, most) of the old folks love Frankie, and one of them, Melvin, reminds Boone a lot of Gamaliel. He’s got a place to set up shop with Tiny in the woods on the edge of the Thompson farm and it’s still a while before Nancy moves off to college, so things are pretty good. Then he sees a figure at the edge of the main building that looks a lot like Jerry. With Jerry back in the picture and Aunt Claire making impossible demands on him, things are starting to close in on Boone.
When Tiny shows up at his door exhausted, smelling of smoke, and needing Boone’s help to get a wildfire under control, Boone’s first question is whether he and Tiny had something to do with starting the fire. The discovery of a dead body in the scorched woods calls up memories Boone had hoped were successfully buried in his past, and things get worse when he finds out he knows the man. It’s starting to feel like sooner or later all his secrets are going to come out, and Boone is getting worried.

FATHER & SISTER RADISH & THE ROSE COLORED GLASSES
​       Genre: Children’s

Sometimes it helps to look at the world a little differently.

My new illustrated children’s book, about a flock of chickens, a little girl, and some rose-colored glasses. A story of friendship.

GLIMPSES
Genre: Non-Fiction

Glimpses is a non-fiction collection, with a touch of poetic license thrown in. From the uplifting experience of a friend’s confirmation service to a first-hand account of the church shooting in 2008, from the narrow world of small town life to the unexpected diagnostic techniques of a new doctor, these eleven short pieces – ten stories and one poem – sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes horrific, sometimes inspiring, offer brief looks into my life and the lives of those around me. Drawn from the past half century or so, these vignettes illustrate some of the breadth and depth of what can be seen and experienced in an ordinary life’s journey. Of course the beauty and mystery of it all is that there is so much more, it is so wide and so deep, that what we can see and hear and feel are only glimpses.
“Insights into loneliness, and love, and quiet despair left me touched and sobered and subdued.  Powerful and real.” — Customer review.

JOURNEY
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction

Journey is a fictional work about an anonymous teenager living on the fringes of society. Assigned to an alternative school, minimally functional in academics, he spends much of his time spoiling for a fight. Angry, resistant, and mistrustful, he is at first unaware of the fact that he is changing, as he begins a journey of self-examination and gains a more balanced view of himself. This book frequently uses realistic language and depicts his struggles with peers, staff members, and most of all within himself, and ends with many issues still to be resolved; Journey is about a young man’s first steps, and the fact that he realizes that he is only beginning ends the book on a hopeful note. The structure of the book was inspired by one version of the Native American Medicine Wheel. The cover art is by Karah Tull.

“The prose has something I’ve seen a lot of authors try for but rarely achieve- absolutely no bulls***. The level of straight up truth telling reminds me a lot of the writing style of Paulo Cuelho’s The Alchemist.”  — Customer review.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS
Genre: YA /Teen/Fiction

Edward, a twenty-something part-time college student, lives an uneventful life and likes it that way. Then his relationships with Joey, a friend Edward is tutoring in math, and Melissa, a casual acquaintance, both take unexpected turns and complicate his life in ways that he never imagined, and he discovers things about Joey and Melissa (and himself) that completely change him.

TANGO
Genre: Romance/Suspense

When Sam Reston answers his phone and Harry, his best friend from college, tells him he is in town, Sam agrees to meet him for a drink (or two) and a chance to catch up. This reunion sets in motion a chain of events that eventually uncovers the real story of how Lawrence, the third member of their trio, died that night in Memphis sixteen years ago. Sam works at a bookstore and the local public radio station, and only has one secret – he’s learning the tango. The classes are an hour-long exercise in sensuality, a distinct and welcome contrast to the rest of his weekly routine. The unexpected visit from Harry leaves Sam literally holding the bag, a satchel that puts an unwilling Sam on the edge of one of Harry’s shady schemes. When Rochelle, a casual friend, finds out about the dance lessons, Sam’s life gets even more complicated, and the revelation of Rochelle’s secret from her past and Harry’s bombshell about Lawrence’s death leave Sam wishing he could escape to the mysterious valley just outside of town he had stumbled upon during a late night drive. Tango is a short suspense novel with a light touch of romance.