“Growth occurs outside your comfort zone” from Guest Liz Milliron

News Flash: Liz’s lucky winner is Kay Garrett! Congrats, Kay, and please check your email.

Edith/Maddie here, still adjusting to the time change. But I’m not too bleary to welcome Liz Milliron with her latest historical Homefront Mystery. I love this series and particularly look forward to reading The Truth We Hide, which comes out today. One lucky commenter will win a copy of the book!

Here’s the cover copy: May 1943. Betty Ahern is studying for her private investigator’s license when a new client—Edward Kettle—hires her to clear his name after he was dismissed from his job at the American Shipbuilding Company. When Edward is brutally murdered, the dead man’s sister hires Betty to finish the original job and find the killer. The job hurls Betty back into the world of wartime espionage, but with a twist: Edward Kettle was a homosexual. Did he know something about underhanded activities at American Shipbuilding? Or was his secret life the motive for murder?

Once again, Betty must unravel the mystery, which requires uncovering truths that others would prefer to keep hidden—a job that threatens not only her morals and beliefs, but also her life.

“Growth occurs outside your comfort zone.”

That was what a friend of mine, who does endurance events, told me once. What she meant was that it’s only when we feel a little uncomfortable do we really push ourselves to change and be better.

Last year about this time, I signed the contract for books 4-6 of The Homefront Mysteries series. Which meant I had to start thinking of an arc for the books and an idea for the fourth book. I forget exactly how it happened, but an idea occurred to me of how I could both push my protagonist, Betty Ahern, ahead in both her chosen career and as a person.

The problem was, I found the idea rather daunting.

I wanted Betty to have a client who was gay. That wouldn’t be very challenging today, but the series is set in the early 1940s. The LGBT+ community was not just underground, it was submerged. People did anything and everything they could not to be discovered.

Not only that, but Betty is also Catholic. Pre-Vatican II Catholic. It would have been taught to her from a very early age that homosexuality is sinful. She’d be getting in from all sides. What better way to push her out of her comfort zone that provide a client who is the opposite of everything she’s ever learned was right?

I liked the idea, but I hesitated. Was I the right person to tell this story? I didn’t know anything about the LGBT community in the 40s. Sure, I wasn’t going to attempt to tell the story using the POV of someone in that group, but still. Could I do this?

This is where the power and beauty of Sisters in Crime comes in. I had conversations with Edwin Hill and John Copenhaver, both great authors in their own right.

Edwin Hill (left), John Copenhaver (right)

I told them my idea. Both supported me without hesitation. Not only could I write this story, I should. John gave me sources to learn about gay culture of the times. We talked about what I wanted the resolution to be – and what I wanted to stay away from. I began writing.

When I finished, I sent the manuscript off to my editor at Level Best. She liked it. But she questioned some of my choices. I’d touched on some hot-button issues. Did I really want to go there?

My heart did, but again, I was afraid. Maybe I’d gone too far and crossed the line I hadn’t wanted to cross. I reached out to John and Edwin again. And again, they confirmed I was on solid ground. Yes, I’d written some ugly truths. But they were truths. And they needed to be told.

Fiction is like that. As someone said, it’s a lie that tells the truth. And while I wasn’t part of the LGBT community, I had a right, and a duty, to tell that truth. Because before you can grow, you have to face facts.

Facts, the truth, are often uncomfortable. But as my friend pointed out, that’s where real growth begins.

Readers: What’s a time you found yourself in an uncomfortable spot. How did it help you grow? I’ll send one commenter an ebook or signed print copy of The Truth We Hide.

Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands, and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Pennwriters, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and The Historical Novel Society. She is the current vice-president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and is on the National Board as the Education Liaison.  Liz splits her time between Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands, where she lives with her husband and a very spoiled retired-racer greyhound.

25 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations, Liz! I can attest to what a great and important book this is. (And don’t enter me in the giveaway. I’d rather see someone who hasn’t read it yet be the winner.)

  2. Congratulations, Liz! I loved reading how this new story pushed you and Betty Ahern out of your comfort zones. Can’t wait to read The Truth We Hide.

  3. Two situations come to mind. One, for a person who doesn’t take change very well, the thought of picking up and moving (when it was my decision and not someone else’s) leaving behind all I knew and was comfortable in, deciding to downsize and take the plunge to move to our dream destination was not only uncomfortable but terrifying. However, I learned that change (even as a senior citizen) can be ok and maybe even down right fun. It meant lots of steps along the way that were very uneasy – like picking a builder we knew nothing at all about and trusting him with our money to fulfill our dreams. Second, would be when I entered the photography world with hubby and having to enter some of my first photos at a photo expo to be critiqued. Yes, I learned from it and it helped me along my route to taking better photos, but I was very uncomfortable both in showing my very unskilled photos to the public and then allowing myself to criticism.

    “The Truth We Hide” sounds amazing and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review it. Thank you for the wonderful chance to win a copy!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, I can imagine moving would be terrifying indeed. Especially if you’d been in one place for a while! But good for you and kudos on the photography. I think when you are any kind of “creator,” showing your work to others can be quite daunting.


  4. I have a magnet on my file cabinet with a quote attributed to Neale Donald Walsch – “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Whenever I’m in over my head – I take comfort from the quote.

    THE TRUTH WE HIDE sounds amazing. Looking forward to reading it.

  5. I can’t wait to read this. I love this series! I think Betty and my protag, Irene, would be great friends. I don’t need to be entered in the contest. I’ll pick up my copy at Mystery Lovers when I get there in a couple of weeks.

      1. We’re currently in two different years, so Irene has to jump forward or Betty has to back – as well as travel the 200+ miles between Buffalo and Progress. LOL

  6. Welcome Liz!!! Your new book sounds intriguing. I love mysteries with a historical setting, and especially if they take place during the 30s’ or 40s’! The most uncomfortable event in my life was when I came to the US as an exchange student from Chile, and landed in Des Moines, Iowa during a blizzard only to find out that all the kids’ host families were there, picked up their exchange kids and left…I was left alone, wondering what’s next…then this nice couple with 2 small children approached me and told me their girl exchange student had not arrived. They heard my story, called the organization, and got the OK to take me home temporarily while they got things sorted out…58 years later the family is still my second family and the 2 children are still my siblings. It turned out that I was to have flown to Detroit, because my original parents were not able to host a student due to illness. The girl who did not show up in Des Moines ended up in Detroit…This fork in the road opened the door to my extraordinary life, and allowed me to eventually meet and marry the love of my life…we just celebrated 54 years of wedded bliss. What a blessing that came out of a horrifying night for a 15-year-old! Thank you for sharing your writing talents with us eager readers. luis at ole dot travel

    1. Wow, Luis! What a story! But it sounds like it was meant to be. So wonderful you are still in touch with your host family after all these years.

  7. Thank you for this post, Liz. It reflects so many conversations I’ve had with writers over the last decade. You want your books to reflect the rich diversity of human experience in our world and real lives, yet you also know the limits of your own personal experience. The Truth We Hide sounds absolutely amazing. Best wishes for its success.

  8. Wow! This really hits home with me. A number of years ago, my brother opened up to me that he was a transgender male-to-female. I was shocked, but I quickly realized that it had no effect on my love for my brother. When the rest of my immediate family learned of the situation, they fought against it strongly. I supported my brother, not because I agreed with his lifestyle (because I don’t), but because I understood that he was not going to change, and I wanted to continue a good relationship with him. My decision caused a great deal of friction within my family. They thought that my brother would go back to being a man if we ALL rejected him. In reality, he was going to do what he was doing whether or not we accepted his lifestyle. Today he is living as a woman on a full-time basis. I no longer have a brother. I have another sister. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but it is what it is.

  9. Every time I change jobs (and I do it more often than I thought I would even 10 years ago) has been stretching. But the changes have all been important stepping stones to something else.

    1. I’m one of the outliers that I’ve worked for only 2 companies in my day-job career. But I can completely understand how job changes are excellent opportunities for growth.

  10. There have been plenty of uncomfortable moments in my life. One that comes to mind is when my husband introduced me as his wife, Barb. She was his ex-wife.

  11. I was outside my comfort zone when I became hurt, lost my job of 18 years, and forgotten by my coworkers. I ended up tearing the quad tendon off my left knee cap. I was in a straight leg brace for numerous months. The doctor held back PT because he was afraid I would have another tear. I ended up having a second surgery to put in a cadaver graph. It was very hard. I am grateful for all the new friends who I have met online. Many fabulous writers. It has become a huge blessing. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

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