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The Gods of Second ChancesApril 9, 2014

You know how I love to bring you a book I love. As an author, I get asked to blurb other books. Sometimes, I can't do it (I don't love the book enough or I just don't have the time to read it). Other times, I'm quite happy to put my name on a book. 

And sometimes I'm lucky enough to be thrilled to be one of the first few to read something amazing, something I can tell you about. The Gods of Second Chances is one of  those.

I love the way Dan Berne writes. His voice, while matter-of-fact and succinct, is unique. For example: When you live on an island as small as Yatki, it doesn’t take long for folks to hear about the latest chapter in your life. Part of that is natural gossip and part is because we look out for each other. We have this natural contradiction of believing that people should mind their own business, but as soon as the winds shift, it seems like everyone is giving you the fish eye. 

From the back of the book: 

Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter with help from a multitude of gods and goddesses--not to mention rituals ad-libbed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend. But statues and otter bone ceremonies aren't enough when Ray's estranged daughter returns from prison, her search for a safe harbor threatening everything he holds sacred.

Amazon* | Indiebound | B&N | Kobo

 I got a chance to interview Dan Berne, and Forest Avenue Press will give away a copy to someone who comments! 

TGOSC by Dan Berne cover 2014So happy to have you here, Dan! What I love about your book are the characters. They're real, vital, alive, and absolutely as flawed and vulnerable as real people. Even months later, I remember small details about them. 

What was your favorite scene while writing the book?

Early on in the novel, after receiving a letter from his wayward daughter, Ray goes to his local tavern and, uncharacteristically for him, gets drunk. He wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders outside his house. Still feeling the effects of the alcohol, he falls onto his back and looks up into the night sky. He imagines one of the constellations looks like his deceased wife. He pours out his longing and desire, fueled by the pain of loss. The raw emotion of that scene still gets to me every time I read it.

What was the hardest part of writing it?

The ending was the toughest. I had lost my wife to breast cancer when I was writing the first draft. I couldn't see my way through to an ending at that point and had to put the manuscript away for about six months. I think that is also what fueled the raw emotion in the scene above, which somehow was more cathartic to write.

Holy cow, I'm sorry to hear that. That explains the raw intensity, for sure. Can you tell us about your writing process?

I start with a pretty good idea of my main characters: what's motivating them, what’s getting in their way, and how I can make them human. Actually, I like to torture my characters a bit, bringing out their foibles even when their intentions are good. That being said, I am often surprised at where a character will take me. I don't outline but I do ask myself, "What ten things need to happen in this story?" Then I try to turn at least some of those upside down. For example, if I think two characters must get together romantically, I will ask myself, "Well, what if they don't?"

As I go along, I always ask myself what needs to change in the particular chapter I am working on.

I love to read other novels when I am writing. It keeps me inspired. Last, but not least, I love language. I love the sound of words. This can make me a slow writer. I will worry over a sentence and revise it several times, even during a first draft.

About Dan: 
DB__web3Dan Berne grew up in a working-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked in his way through college, with jobs in drugstores, warehouses, U-bolt factories, and cement plants. He moved to the west coast in 1979, settling in the Portland area in 1990. He has been an active member of a select writing workshop led by author Karen Karbo for ten years. His short stories and poetry have been published in literary magazines and he has won a literary award from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Dan owns a market strategy consultancy and is currently writing a book on market transformation. He lives with his wife Aliza in Portland, Oregon. The Gods of Second Chances is his debut novel. More can be found at his website danberne.com.
For a chance to win a copy of this gorgeous book, please leave a comment. I'll draw on 4/15. Any comment will do, but if you want to tell us the last book you loved, that would be swelligent, as well. 

 *Amazon associate link


I always love to hear about a good read. Yesterday I finished The Book Thief (did not see the movie; don't want to). Wonderful words, great character development, difficult subject (Hitler's Germany 1938 - 1943). It's not a new book (2005) but a great one.

Wow - that what a snippet to put out there! Grabs you. Congrats to Dan on a winner. My fingers are crossed for me too!

This one looks great, and I trust your recommendation, as you've never steered me wrong. The last book I loved is the one I'm in the middle of, the venerable "Kristin Lavransdatter" by Sigrid Undset. I came to this one after reading Larissa's "Beautiful Wreck." I raved about it on my facebook page and more literate friends recommended the sprawling tale of Kristin as my next read, and OMG, I am loving it.

I am on a major reading kick at the moment. Among others I have discovered Barbara Kingsolver and I am working on her back catalogue.

Thanks for reviewing this! I'd love to read it.

"The Gods of Second Chances" sounds like a book I'd enjoy very much. The last book I loved was Gary Shteyngart's first novel, "The Russian Debutante's Handbook." It's not as good as his later works, but demonstrates how his writing has developed.

Rachael, as always, thanks for this recommendation. You are the only author who's recommended books I actually get, and I usually buy them. Reason? As I've told you previously, your books are the ONLY ones I've ever read where, throughout the entire book, I never once had the very disruptive experience of stopping cold, and moaning (in my mind), "That's the wrong word!" or "Really??!!! That character would never say/do that. C'mon!" So, I have a great respect for what you think is a good book, and I haven't been disappointed. ;-)


Intriguing interview with Dan. Sounds like an interesting book! Thanks for the review; I look forward to finding and reading the book.

This looks really interesting. I am on the lookout for books to take on my next vacation and this is definitely going on the list.

The last book I loved was for my book club last month, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison - I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

I am an avid reader. This book sounds amazing. I also like to read from local authors and Cincy is pretty local to me.

Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful review, Rachel! I'd love to sign the copy of the book for whoever wins.

This sounds like a great book! I'm adding it to my To-Read list. Thanks!

Forgot to add that I just finished "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell. Loved it - a collection of romantic, but Kafkaesque, short stories, wonderfully written.

I would love to read this! The last book I read (and highly recommend): The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey.


That's an intriguing sounding book. It's going on my "to read" list and I'd love a copy. Thanks for the interview. You ask good questions.

I recently finished "The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes" by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It's a collection of essays more about life than knitting.

I would love to read this too! My last fave book was...yours! :o)

I love being introduced to new authors, thank you! The last thing I read (and by read, I mean devoured) was Divergent by Veronica Roth. I loved it so much that my husband bought me second installment before I finished the first... granted, I read the first in just under 24 hours so he had a pretty big clue that I was enthralled... lol.

There must be something about Alaska in the air. One of my favorite recent reads was John Straley's Cold Storage, Alaska. I'd love to read another good Alaska tale.

Hi Rachael! I am fortunate to already have Dan's book, so don't enter me to win it, but I want to write and say that the most recent book I loved was The Birds by Daphne du Maurier. It's short, something like a novella length maybe. And it SCARED me. I read it all before bed last night, and I kept feeling like things were moving around in my dark room. Incredibly creepy. I highly recommend it.

Thank you, Kim! I also have that book on my list. People have recommended Kristin Lavransdatter to me. I have such a great reading list right now, I'm working up to it. It sounds epic.

Ha! When I read your first excerpt about the island I thought " too funny...sounds like Alaska"...read on and it IS about Alaska!
Will keep an eye out for this one.

Thanks for offering a copy for someone else to enjoy.

I just finished the Divergent series. I read them in 3 days. I loved them but the ending surprised me completely...

I'm currently in the middle of the Outlander series. So much history to contemplate.

I love reading authors' processes and thoughts on their work. Great post!

I am looking forward to reading Dan's book. His description of his character pouring out his heart to his deceased wife really got me. The most recent book I read was Lisa Unger's Heart-broken and I kept wanting to slap some sense into a couple of the characters.

This sounds like a great book. You always reccomend the best books. The last book I read and loved was yours! I read "Pack Up the Moon" so quickly, I am planning on reading it again. Soon!

I love getting great reading recommendations.

Two books actually. Pack Up the Moon and The Fault in Our Stars. Love both.

I'd love to win, and coincidentally the 15th is my b'day! Just saying... Love your books!

This book sounds wonderful! I'm currently reading A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger. I had the pleasure of hearing him read from it recently. It's a medieval historical thriller, and he's a trained medievalist, so every note is ringing true for me. I'd recommend it highly!

I love Alaska. I have been there three times and would go back in heartbeat. It is a beautiful peaceful place. Thank you for this opportunity. I also enjoyed getting to my Rachael!

I am trying to read what my kids are reading for school so right now I am reading The Hobbit, My Family and Other Animals, and Up from Slavery. All great books!

Thanks for the review. I'm excited to find this title at my local bookstore.

Congratulations to Dan on putting himself out there for the world to know.

I just read "The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes" by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I laughed so hard during the skunk story that my husband asked me to keep the laughing to a minimum the next night when I picked up the book again to read before retiring for the evening.

I love the interview you had with the author. I am surprised it only took 6 months to be able to go back and deal with a death in the book after his loss. I love how he describes his process! Would love to win this; no matter what, it will go on my list to read!

Hi! I just added this book to my Amazon wishlist so I do not forget about it,but it sure would be nice to win it. The last book I read that really resonated with me was Stephanie Pearl McPhee's The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes, especially the Swiss cheese approach to large unwieldy projects. Thanks for the chance

Oh, thanks to you I have read wonderful books, your own and your recommendations. The God of Second Chances will go on my wishlist. I just finished Barbara Vine's "The Chimney Sweeper's Boy", a mystery which had me captivated from the first page.

I love books that express deep emotion. The last book I LOVED was Pack Up The Moon!

I have enjoyed all your recommendations, and have suggested them for the local library. I look forward to The God of Second Chances!

I read constantly...right now I'm reading a lighthearted laugh called "Sushi for Beginners" by Marian Keyes. I just finished reading all of Barbra O'Neal's books, which were great. Next I get to pick up (wait for it) a tome on how to run 401ks. Yep. That ought to be a page turner. (the last one is for work in case you didn't guess.)

Thanks for the heads-up on this one, Rachel! I'm getting ready for some travel and was just making sure my Kindle has lots of good content---I like series by Tana French and Elizabeth George, and (of course!) Rachel Herron:)

"I love to read other novels when I am writing. It keeps me inspired."

I'm always on the look out for how writers deal with this. Some never read when they're writing (Hemingway used to talk about this), and I understand why it can be dicey (I can always look back and see things I've written when I was reading Douglas Adams), but I'm really never not writing, so I have to fit the reading in where I can. :-)

I already have a copy of Dan's book, so please don't enter me in the contest.

I am currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, A Kingdom Lost, by Barbara Ann Wright. And I don't think it's having any effect on what I'm writing...

The last book I read and loved was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbough. I still can't put my finger on it, but I was so salad when the bookended and there was no more to read.

I love when you tell about books you like and then ask your readers to do so! I check out all the recommendations and it keeps me in reading for several months! It's nice to know something about an author when reading their book. Nice interview. This book sounds special.

PS The last book I loved was "The Invention of Wings". I love everything Sue Monk Kidd writes!

Thank you for reviewing books - I'm always on the lookout for new reading material.

The last book I read was Pack Up the Moon, by this fabulous author, Rachael Herron. :-) I'm currently re-reading the Anne of Green Gables books. I loved them when I read them (in elementary school?) and wanted to re-read them, to see if I still loved them. I do. AND there's knitting in those books!

Oo, sounds like a good reason to curl up on the sofa. Sadly, I don't get the chance to do that often so have several books on the go in several formats. Am loving 'World's Collider, a Shared-World anthology at the moment; a collection of short stories on a shared theme.

Hi Rachael,
I really feel like I need to read this book by Dan. I like that you interviewed him....gives a more personal touch to the book. Thank you for the great work you do! 911 and all the rest :-)

The last book I read that I loved is Pack Up The Moon. Have you heard of it? :)

How interesting that he says that he reads other books while he is writing. So many authors don't because they don't want to be affected by and start channelling the other authors' style. Either he is very confident of the strength of his own style, or unafraid of unconscious intrusions (or maybe something else). I was very moved by his description of talking to the constellation. How brave of him and how perceptive of you to ask the question.

My 12 yr-old niece always asks me to read what she is reading. Right now I am reading the Percy Jackson series.

sounds poignant and real. looking forward to reading it!

I just added it to my Kindle wishlist. I am currently reading Still Life With Bread Crumbs and am enjoying it but I think the word love would go to far. I did love Pack Up The Moon, though... couldn't put it down.

I just finished Larissa's book and checked one of yours out from the library. Love me a good library book!

I am currently reading The Ha-Ha by Dave King about a wounded warrior (from Vietnam) trying to cope with caring for a child. My last book was about WW2, and I'm also listening to a book about WW1. Is there a theme here?

Oooo, this sounds like a fascinating book! And I love anything Alaska! The latest book I read that I really enjoyed was yours, Pack up the Moon. All time faves are I Know This Much is True, Shantaram, Joy Luck Club, and many more. I actually printed out the Pulitzer Prize list of books over the last 15 years and read most of those. Fantastic!

Sounds like a wonderful book; loved the descriptive passage you shared at the top. Even nicer that Dan's a local author since I grew up in Portland, OR and now live in Salem, OR. The last book I read that I loved was "Death Come Quickly," by Susan Wittig Albert; I've loved all her China Bayles mysteries and think this is number 22 in the series.

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