Birds, Books, and the Sky Above…

The geese have returned, flying in from Canada as the weather turns colder up north. The honking above each morning and evening signals the changing seasons.

Photo credits: Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

As autumn accelerates with in-person meetings and events in Washington and New York, many for the first time in almost three years, I’ve been away from this haven on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. But I have now arrived back for a few days, and in the morning quiet before the birds awake, my eyes and thoughts are drawn to the water and sky and larger vistas.

This coming spring 2023 I have a new novel coming out and anticipate going on the road a bit. During the pandemic my two nonfiction books published were limited to zoom calls and meetings. I’ll be glad to get out to meet readers again. Burning Distance, my first novel published in many years with a second novel—The Far Side of the Desert—coming out in 2024, moves into new territory. A thriller/mystery/love story set between 1981-1996, Burning Distance’s promo copy heralds: “Jane Austen meets John le Carré in this cross-cultural love story and political thriller. A modern Romeo and Juliet set in…the dark world of arms trafficking.”

The novel took years of research and writing. Like many writers, I write even if not immediately published just as artists paint or musicians make music. I have several novels at the ready, and the gate is finally opening. I hope you’ll step through it with me and enjoy.

I’m sharing here the cover of Burning Distance and some of the generous responses from writers who have read the novel. The book officially comes out March 7 but can be preordered on links here. I hope you’ll order, read and share with friends. Friend-to-friend, reader-to-reader word of mouth is how writing finds its home. Thank you in advance for your support.


Burning Distance is a double helix of a book, carefully plotted and beautifully told. It’s a spy story interwoven with a love story, and the strands fit together in a way that moves the reader effortlessly from chapter to chapter. While fiction, its narrative of the CIA and the Middle East arms trade are very close to fact. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman observes the world of American spies and Arab fixers through the eyes of a young woman who keeps asking questions about her mysterious past until she gets all the revelatory answers. A subtle and satisfying novel.”—David Ignatius, New York Times best-selling author, Washington Post columnist and novelist

Burning Distance opens with a mystery, glides into a love story, and unfolds into a political thriller. Set against the backdrop of 1980s and 90s global politics, readers will be up way past their bedtimes eagerly turning pages to discover what happens to Lizzy and Adil. A story of war, family, history, politics, and passion. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman’s evocation of the era is pitch-perfect. A great read!”—Susan Isaacs, New York Times best-selling author of It Takes One To Know One

“Running the gamut of emotions from fear to love, this plot surges along as  unpredictable as a riptide. Romance and thriller readers will both find plenty of mischief and mayhem.”—Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author of The Omega Factor

“I entered the world of Burning Distance—of the characters Lizzy and Jane and Sophie and their mother and the family of Winston, Pickles and Dennis and the world of Adil Hasan and his father—and I didn’t want to leave. I cared what happened to them and was pulled along without being able to stop until the book was over, and even then I didn’t want to leave. The narrative voice unfolds the story both poetically and realistically. The story it tells is also the story of a political and historical time (1981-1996) that is relevant to the times we are living through. The narrative opens for the reader some of the history that has taken us to the current events in the Middle East and Europe and America. But first and foremost the reader will want to read Burning Distance to know the characters, particularly Lizzy as she makes her way and follows her heart through the conflicts of history and culture and family to find ‘the music’ that is in her life.”—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

“Lizzy is ten when her father’s plane explodes over the Persian Gulf and her life is set in motion. In the background of the narrative is the Gulf War and in Lizzy’s life, her father’s death marks the beginning of a search to peel away secrets, betrayals, international intrigue, dangerous associations which bring all the characters in this book under one umbrella. Burning Distance is a mystery, a complicated, story-driven drama of lives lived amidst the high risk of life and death in international arms trading and the book is grounded by the unlikely love story between Lizzy and Adil Hasan. Her obsession is to uncover the secrets which led to her father’s death and in her quest she comes to find that everyone in this story is linked by danger, everyone is at risk. This is a real page turner which also informs, excites and moves us.”—Susan Richards Shreve, author of More News Tomorrow

“I was immediately engrossed in the lives of Joanne Leedom-Ackerman’s characters and their fascinating and compelling stories. Joanne has the ability to take the big issues of contemporary life (including the clash of cultures and a remarkable grasp of the weapons trade) and render them in the contexts of love, conscience, and the consequence of choice. She reminds us as did Donne that we each are a piece of the continent, a part of the whole of humanity, and that no matter how difficult the time, that love and peace and hope can be realities rather than abstracts.”—Eric Lax, author of Faith Interrupted

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