Tuesday, March 03, 2015

VIGIL AT THE TOP


Photo by Annisa Lam (former member of Stock.exchng)
Licensed photo DO NOT COPY


Currently I am keeping the following in my thoughts &  prayers:



Husband is trying again to give up cigarettes...starting by doing an electronic cigarette that should work better than the last few he has tried. He will be trying to quit under a doctor's supervision. This is one of MANY attempts and I hope it works...and that we can move on to their not even being the e-cigarette.

-----I need to be in better physical shape and beat the symptoms of several thyroid problems. I also need to find a place that does a digital mammogram (my Mother died of breast cancer).
-----All who battle mental illness. There are a three people whose mental/emotional stability I am worried about right now.
-----A couple I know who would like to afford getting married.


__________________________

Note:
This post is in no particular order. Prayer/thought requests just go to the top as I hear more about what is going on. If you can think of a way to help these people, PLEASE do so. This post will be second-from-the-top during the midst of an emergency (such as an Amber Alert).

Note: I would not advise linking to this post...you will wind up with a broken link each time I have to change the post-dating to keep this a Vigil at the Top.




At JPUSA. Summer 2011.


 

A Flower in the Snow


Non-Fiction / Memoir
Date Published: July 2014

My daughter. Berlyn, was asleep on a fold-out couch at her high school prom party when a former classmate and high school dropout shot her in the head for no apparent reason. Her murder prompted me to leave the rubble of my beliefs and assumptions to go in search of answers to the most profound questions we ask ourselves. “A Flower in the Snow” is the result of that odyssey.


MY THOUGHTS:
A deep portrayal of grief and what the healing process was like for one father after having a child murdered. A brave sharing that will maybe help others come to terms after the unexpected death of a loved one. Though, Mr. Cosman and I are of very different religions, I will be re-reading this book (I have found that meaningful memoirs and reality-based fiction help with some of my own grief over loved ones). Two big things from this book....moving on from a death to become the deceased person's legacy is a long process and mercy is an ongoing decision. Thank you to Beryln's father for sharing!
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Again, thank you to the author!


BUY IT:



Mark Cosman



Friday, February 27, 2015

Rise of the House of Usher



Ride into the Wild West with ten steampunked expansions of classic American tales.

A Princess of Jasoom: An intrepid young researcher reaches for the stars from the Arizona desert, and finds love where she least expects it.

Winged Hope: The widow of a brilliant inventor fights insurmountable odds to see her husband’s dreams realized and save the life of her daughter.

The Van Tassel Legacy: A stranger arrives in Sleepy Hollow to unearth old conspiracies and bring the Van Brunts to justice.

Invested Charm: A mysterious woman doles out justice in Boston society, but who will catch her first: organized crime or the law?

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete: A pair of train-robbing outlaws bite off more than they can chew when they kidnap the son of a railroad bigwig.

Rise of the House of Usher: A mad scientist gains power over life and death at the cost of his family’s sanity, if not their very lives. 


The Silver Scams: A fast-talking confidence man ensnares all of Holland in his scheme to eliminate dikes forever . . . for a price.


Nautilus Redux: Captain Nemo’s crew stumble upon an island castaway who claims to be Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Only Moby Dick knows the truth.

Mr. Thornton: Hounded by tragedy and betrayal, a gifted young blacksmith wanders from The Ohio to The Yukon searching for honor, loyalty, and justice.

West End: A heartbroken Theodore Laurence follows the siren song of steam to Jamaica, where love and law collide with explosive results.



Interesting horror and steampunk combination. Maddy tells the story in letters to her brother, Roderick. Maddy goes through a horrible experience after her brother moves away from home.The head of the House of Usher has decided that he needs to compile human beings (it is only at the end that we are given a possible clue as to why). Maddy is put in physical and mental peril because of her father's obsession with creating "life." This tale reads a bit like Bram Stoker in style and, of course, reminds me of Frankenstein.
My rating:5 out of 5 stars. It took me a moment to understand what happened at the end and I am still not sure I understand fully...many layers of understanding and it would be very interesting to see what the author would write for a continuation.



AUTHOR BIO:
J.R. Potter gravitated towards the paranormal world from an early age. Watching the first episode of The X-Files was a transformative experience, and an education in great storytelling and mythmaking.

Since “growing up,” James has devoted his time to finding his voice through writing, publishing short fiction in The Portland Review, and winning two international short story competitions for science fiction and horror. When he's not writing, he tours with his incredible wife Amy as “The Crooked Angels,” an Americana duo specializing in rocking your socks off.

Potter is currently collaborating with artist Klaus “Plaid Klaus” Shmidheiser in the graphic novel series Glimmer Society. His first short story with Xchyler, “Dr. Pax’s Great Unsinkable Bird,” appeared in Terra Mechanica. A full-length novel, Pneumatica: Harbinger of the Skies, is slated for 2015 release.
Website      Facebook      Twitter      Google+      Goodreads







Available for pre-order on Amazon. The book will be auto-delivered February 28th.

This book is from Xchyler Publishing who graciously gave me an Advanced Reader Copy.
---Xchyler's books



Nautilus Redux



Ride into the Wild West with ten steampunked expansions of classic American tales.

A Princess of Jasoom: An intrepid young researcher reaches for the stars from the Arizona desert, and finds love where she least expects it.

Winged Hope: The widow of a brilliant inventor fights insurmountable odds to see her husband’s dreams realized and save the life of her daughter.

The Van Tassel Legacy: A stranger arrives in Sleepy Hollow to unearth old conspiracies and bring the Van Brunts to justice.

Invested Charm: A mysterious woman doles out justice in Boston society, but who will catch her first: organized crime or the law?

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete: A pair of train-robbing outlaws bite off more than they can chew when they kidnap the son of a railroad bigwig.

Rise of the House of Usher: A mad scientist gains power over life and death at the cost of his family’s sanity, if not their very lives.

The Silver Scams: A fast-talking confidence man ensnares all of Holland in his scheme to eliminate dikes forever . . . for a price.


Nautilus Redux: Captain Nemo’s crew stumble upon an island castaway who claims to be Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Only Moby Dick knows the truth.

Mr. Thornton: Hounded by tragedy and betrayal, a gifted young blacksmith wanders from The Ohio to The Yukon searching for honor, loyalty, and justice.

West End: A heartbroken Theodore Laurence follows the siren song of steam to Jamaica, where love and law collide with explosive results.



"2o,ooo Leagues Under the Sea" meets "Moby Dick" meets steampunk. A great choice as to who the journalist the story is being told to is (being a former English Lit major and a fan of said author I smiled as I quickly recognized the references). Expert sailor Ned Land voyages on the Nautalis with Captain Nemo, Professor Pierre Arronax and crew. One day, while out catching dinner, a man claiming to be the thought-to-be-dead Captain Ahab is met in an unexpected way...and Ahab's tale continues where it left off. An interesting altered storyline to contemplate.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I would have liked a little more heft to the encounters with some of the famous characters. The story is obviously very well researched there was just something a little bit disappointing in the action when conflict occurs. The end was fitting for Ahab and interesting for what might happen with other characters in the future. Definitely, hoping any future tales in this storyline keep the same journalist. :-)


AUTHOR BIO:
Scott Tarbet is the author of a growing number of published short stories and a debut novel. He writes in several speculative fiction genres, including Steampunk, fantasy, paranormal, and techno-thriller. He sings opera professionally, and was married in full Elizabethan regalia. He loves Steampunk waltzes,cosplay conventions of all flavors, and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of authentic Texas-style barbeque. An avid skier, hiker,golfer, and tandem kayaker, he makes his home in the mountains of Utah.


Q & A with Scott Tarbet!
1. Please share how you came up with the concept for your story?
My story in Mechanized Masterpieces 2: American Anthology, is Nautilus Redux. When the challenge went out for a story Steampunking a piece of classic American lit, choosing to take off from Moby Dick, one of the clear landmarks of AmLit, was a no-brainer. From there, Nemo meets Ahab/Nautilus meets Moby Dick followed quickly. I did the research and figured out what it would take for Nemo to encounter Ahab in his travels, and Nautilus Redux is the result.

2. Please name some of your other published works?
My debut novel is entitled A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (Xchyler, 2013), a Steampunk twist on the Shakespeare play. A genius young artificer is betrothed against her will to a young patrician she does not love, and becomes entangled in international intrigue and danger in the streets, sewers, and skies of Victorian London.

I also have several short stories (novelettes, by the common length definition): Tombstone, the story of an old East Texas farmer too ornery to take murder lying down (in the anthology Shades & Shadows); Ganesh, the back-story of a fun character in A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (the Terra Mechanica anthology); The Year of No Foals, where a young girl’s life is changed forever when her family farm is saved by a miraculous colt and a mysterious old man (The Toll of Another Bell anthology).
Another Xchyler anthology, as yet unnamed, will also have my story Sindisiwe, a Steampunk retelling of the Cinderella fairytale, set in the Midsummer Night’s Steampunk universe, in the island Sultanate of Zanzibar.

3. What is your preferred writing genre?
Being a speculative fiction author gives me the freedom to write in several different genres simultaneously. For instance, on the day I write the answers to these interview questions, I have a techno-thriller novel project, a Steampunk short story project, and a Mormon young adult historical fiction novel project going simultaneously.

4. And preferred reading genre?
Again, speculative fiction—pretty much anything within it that tickles my brain. Let me amend that: anything well written that tickles my brain. I see tons of interesting concepts out there, but too many of them are poorly executed. I prefer a less-than-original idea, executed well, any day.

5. What are your top 3 favorite books?
My brain rebels at trying to narrow it down that far, because there is no absolute right answer, and it would change day to day. Right this very moment, shooting from the hip, the answers would be The Lord of the Ring, Ender’s Game, and The Life of Pi. But ask me again in an hour and I’ll probably give you a different answer. Already looking back at that answer I want to change it, but that could go on all day.

6. Do you have any particular writing habits?
I think I’m a little unusual, maybe even unique, in having multiple, widely-varied projects going simultaneously. I literally have three or four writing project documents open on my computer at the same time, along with their supporting outlines. Right now have three: Dragon Moon, a near-future techno-thriller that will be released this November, The Three Sprockets, a Steampunked version of a Grimm fairy tale, and Rise of the Stripling Warriors, a Mormon young adult offering. When I’m working on one project and the juice starts to run down, or I run into a dramatic situation that I need to let gestate a while, I switch to another project. This seemingly weird way of doing things lets me write for long periods without getting mentally fatigued—or at least without staying mentally fatigued.

7. Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?
I’m a big fan of the “Writer’s Trance” channel on Pandora. Of course I have modified it to my own liking over the years by skipping and liking various pieces. It is instrumental—orchestral and classical, mostly—from various eras. I have it going for hours on end while I write. Like right now.

8. Pantser or outliner?
Big time outliner. I truly admire good writers who just let it flow, but I think they’re vanishingly rare.

AND: I don’t believe pantsing and outlining are mutually exclusive. To me they’re a continuum that nearly all writers (all good ones, anyway) are on. Very few successful writers are exclusively one or the other. Even those who completely shun writing down an outline have a basic plot line in their heads, and they feel free to depart from it liberally. But it’s there.

By the same token, those who have a detailed outline written down before they start their narrative find that the story grows and changes as they write. And that means departing from the outline. For me it means going back to my outline, which I have open as I write, and making adjustments. That is the only way I know of to keep a complex set of events, characters, and settings straight.

9. Advice for writers?
BIC/FOK. “Butt In Chair/Fingers On Keyboard”. Writers gotta write. Discipline yourself. Sit down and do it. Don’t stop just because the Big 5 aren’t (yet) ringing your phone off the hook begging for your book. Know that you must develop your craft, and that takes time, and lots and lots of writing. Even the most talented of writers have to hone the craft.

I think lots of readers get a false expectation that just because they can pick up a book and read and enjoy it, that a writer just sits down and writes and it flows out with the same facility as reading. Not so. It’s work. Writing is not just a talent, but a craft and a profession. Be professional.

Part of that professionalism is getting all the training you can. That means reading voraciously, especially the opinions of other writers working in your genre. I myself am wary of “how-to’s” written for profit by people who don’t write the same kind of fiction that I do. If you must, but one good one, read and absorb it, and know that all the rest are pretty much just rehashes of the same hackneyed how-to tropes. But free advice from people who are actually successful at what it is I am trying to do is gold.

Writers’ conferences are good, especially when you are starting out. That’s where you’re most likely to find not only kindred spirits who are trying to do what you’re doing, but kindred spirits who have already done it. And everybody is there to share.
Being professional also means paying attention to your editor. I firmly believe that every, and I do mean every, writer deserves a good editor. Find one you respect, who has previous work you like, put your ego on hold, and listen. They won’t be 100% right 100% of the time, but then you’re not either, right? Make it a team effort.

10. What's up next for you?
I’m on deadline to turn in the first draft of Dragon Moon, which is a techno-thriller about a newly-reignited space race. It’s a Work In Progress (WIP) that I’ve been building toward for something like fifteen years. The past several of those years I’ve been consciously building my writing skills in preparation for doing justice to this high concept. I’m very excited about how it is shaping up.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Available for pre-order on Amazon. The book will be auto-delivered February 28th.

This book is from Xchyler Publishing who graciously gave me an Advanced Reader Copy.
---Xchyler's books





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete



Ride into the Wild West with ten steampunked expansions of classic American tales.

A Princess of Jasoom: An intrepid young researcher reaches for the stars from the Arizona desert, and finds love where she least expects it.

Winged Hope: The widow of a brilliant inventor fights insurmountable odds to see her husband’s dreams realized and save the life of her daughter.

The Van Tassel Legacy: A stranger arrives in Sleepy Hollow to unearth old conspiracies and bring the Van Brunts to justice.

Invested Charm: A mysterious woman doles out justice in Boston society, but who will catch her first: organized crime or the law?

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete: A pair of train-robbing outlaws bite off more than they can chew when they kidnap the son of a railroad bigwig.

Rise of the House of Usher: A mad scientist gains power over life and death at the cost of his family’s sanity, if not their very lives.

The Silver Scams: A fast-talking confidence man ensnares all of Holland in his scheme to eliminate dikes forever . . . for a price.

Nautilus Redux: Captain Nemo’s crew stumble upon an island castaway who claims to be Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Only Moby Dick knows the truth.

Mr. Thornton: Hounded by tragedy and betrayal, a gifted young blacksmith wanders from The Ohio to The Yukon searching for honor, loyalty, and justice.

West End: A heartbroken Theodore Laurence follows the siren song of steam to Jamaica, where love and law collide with explosive results.


Effie and Clayton are pirates who dare to dream...and chase each dream they hear of. Effie would like to start fulfilling her dream of having a family but first they must raise more funds (classic life story). The airship owned by the pirate duo needs a costly repair with an almost impossible to obtain part to continue operating...hence a kidnap and ransom plot is born. Pete, their young hostage, makes the most of a bad situation.....the very most.
Sanity-clutching, decision-making and wayward ships.
My rating: 4.65 out of 5 stars



AUTHOR BIO:
Playing with imaginary friends and writing and directing plays in the neighbor's garage filled D. Lee Jortner's childhood. Today she lets her imagination flow onto her keyboard as she writes mystery, fantasy and steampunk stories and novels. "Payoff for Air-Pirate Pete" is her first short story for Xchyler Publishing. She also enjoys her marketing role with the company and teaching English composition at Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso, Indiana. When not writing or working, Jortner is usually busy with her husband, children or grandchildren.
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Q & A with D.Lee Jortner!
1. Please share how you came up with the concept for your story? 
I always loved O.Henry.  I remember my Dad reading me his stories when I was a child. My favorite was The Ransom of Red Chief.

2. Please name some of your other published works?
My one short work available on Amazon is Chimmeken Crossing the Delaware, An American Historical Fantasy

3. What is your preferred writing genre?
Genre doesn't matter to me, but it has to ring true.

4. And preferred reading genre?
I love historical fiction, of all types.

5. Do you have any particular writing habits?
I stay up very very late writing when my muse hits me, then try to sleep, and look at it in the morning.  Often it is so full of error, I can't stand myself, but I usually find some nuggets I can use.

6. Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?
Total quiet.  And if I put on music, I could not tell you what is was, I am in the zone and I hear nor see anything else.

7. Panster or plotter?
Panster for sure.

8. Advice for writers?
Get lots of eyes to look at your work, and then keep the parts you love, in spite of the advice.

10. What's up next for you?
I want to take Effie and Clayton on another adventure.





AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON...the publication date is the 28th.
---Mechanized Masterpieces 2 is published by Xchyler Publishing. And these are the books they offer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology
The Van Tassel Legacy




Ride into the Wild West with ten steampunked expansions of classic American tales.

A Princess of Jasoom: An intrepid young researcher reaches for the stars from the Arizona desert, and finds love where she least expects it.

Winged Hope: The widow of a brilliant inventor fights insurmountable odds to see her husband’s dreams realized and save the life of her daughter.

The Van Tassel Legacy: A stranger arrives in Sleepy Hollow to unearth old conspiracies and bring the Van Brunts to justice.

Invested Charm: A mysterious woman doles out justice in Boston society, but who will catch her first: organized crime or the law?

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete: A pair of train-robbing outlaws bite off more than they can chew when they kidnap the son of a railroad bigwig.

Rise of the House of Usher: A mad scientist gains power over life and death at the cost of his family’s sanity, if not their very lives.

The Silver Scams: A fast-talking confidence man ensnares all of Holland in his scheme to eliminate dikes forever . . . for a price.

Nautilus Redux: Captain Nemo’s crew stumble upon an island castaway who claims to be Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Only Moby Dick knows the truth.

Mr. Thornton: Hounded by tragedy and betrayal, a gifted young blacksmith wanders from The Ohio to The Yukon searching for honor, loyalty, and justice.

West End: A heartbroken Theodore Laurence follows the siren song of steam to Jamaica, where love and law collide with explosive results.





So, was there really a headless horseman? An answer is given in this short story. And we see if he can ride again. In this retelling Ichabod lives to a ripe old age and many descendants...among them the talented scientist Samuel Chase. Samuel is busy helping the family of Brom Bones so that Brom can die with dignity and valor. Love, regret and rejuvenation.
My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars


AUTHOR BIO:
Software engineer, video game developer, and father, Jay Barnson is a transplant to the state of Utah from the East Coast. He grew up on a diet of science fiction and fantasy ranging from Howard, Heinlein, and Tolkien to Lucas and Spielberg. His wife and daughters had to drag him to his first steampunk convention. And now they can’t drag him away from the genre. Jay’s first short story with The X, “Dots, Dashes and Deceit,” appeared in Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology (2014).

Webpage    Blog    Facebook    Twitter    Google+    LinkedIn    Goodreads


Q & A

1. Please share how you came up with the concept for your story?
Almost every modern story based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - movies, TV shows, whatever - makes the assumption that the headless horseman was a supernatural entity. I thought, "how about a follow-up story based on the idea that there was nothing supernatural going on?" The horseman was Brom the whole time. Ichabod Crane did go to New York City and became a successful lawyer, and eventually a judge, as was suggested in the original story. Maybe he raised a family - that was definitely a dream of his. Assume a steampunk twist to the story - with some fun pseudo-science - and move forward a few decades into the middle 1800s, and what kind of story could be told?

Originally, Brom wasn't even going to be a character in the story. But when I imagined the strapping, athletic, sometimes bullying prankster Brom in his waning years - literally, the waning days of his life in this story - I fell in love with the concept. Here's a guy whose body has betrayed him, his regrets weighing down his soul. What would he do for one more day of youthful vigor? And what would he do with it if he got it?

2. Please name some of your other published works?
As far as fiction is concerned, I had a steampunk short story published by Xchyler last year in Terra Mechanica called "Dots, Dashes, and Deceit." I'm also an indie game developer, and my most recent release is a tongue-in-cheek fantasy role-playing game for Windows called "Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon." Yeah, it is pronounced "Smack Down." We're talking subtle, high-brow humor here.

3. What is your preferred writing genre?
At this point, with two steampunk stories published, I'd have to say steampunk. I love it and want to keep writing more of it, if only because it's something fun and relatively different. But I'm a fan of all kinds of speculative fiction, so I'm really happy working with several subgenres.

4. And preferred reading genre?
That's kind of like asking me to name my favorite child, isn't it? I could say, "Speculative Fiction" and leave it at that, I guess, because I love everything from horror to space opera to steampunk to sword-and-sandals fantasy. While I definitely have a preference for the fantastic, it still comes down more to author and story for me than genre.

5. What are your top 3 favorite books?
If I were to limit myself to fiction, I'd say... Neuromancer by William Gibson, The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Small Favor by Jim Butcher. Although all three of those are part of a series of books and short stories, and I couldn't possibly just recommend anyone read one book without reading the rest...

6. Do you have any particular writing habits?
Bad ones, mainly. My wife is amused by my habit of pacing while I'm thinking. If I get stuck trying to figure out how to say something or how to get to point B from point A, I apparently need to move my feet to resolve it.

7. Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?
The theme song for The Van Tassel Legacy was "Last Ride of the Day" by Nightwish, from their Imaginaerium album.

8. Panster or plotter?
I'm a poser panster and a poor plotter. How's that? I like to think that I can write by the seat of my pants and my muse just cuts loose, but that never happens. I need a solid foundation to work from. It's like I don't know what to write until I've already written it... in the form of an outline. But then the story never follows the outline. It starts there, but inevitably runs off in its own direction about halfway through.

9. Advice for writers?
Write.

10. What's up next for you?
More short stories, for the time being.

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Amazon currently has the book available for pre-order.

Xychler Publishing
and their books. :-)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the Menu This Month!
Recipes and food of the next 30 days.

-----Chicken with Apples and Sage. Skipping the pounding of chicken breasts and using chicken tenderloins (usually cheaper at our Walmart and Aldi's). There will be 3 cups of chicken broth left over from the box for us to use in another recipe. The recipe was adapted from "Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less."
-----Bacon and Roasted Garlic Spinach Dip. We are making two batches...the first to go over chicken and served in such a way that our picky eater Preschooler might eat it. The second batch will be served with pigskins...Husband and I both dislike pigskins but I always revisit disliked foods to find some way I might enjoy them. I really want to like pigskins (my Father loved them).
-----French Onion Garlic Bread. This is our next experiment in garlic bread. We had Sourdough Garlic Bread a few nights ago and enjoyed that. I will serve this with some sort of slow cooker beef stew. A Taste of Home recipe.

-----Tamale Meatballs. In a couple of months I will also try the (easy) Chicken Tamale Bake that is on the same site. :-)


-----Kerala-Style Beef Stew. This was our yummy late night project. The spices were very fragrant during the stage where they were added...we used chipotle chili powder in  place of the serranos and cooked some green pepper and onion for around 10 minutes at the spice stage. Since we used a lot more meat and veggies, we did 8 cups of chicken broth). 
The finished stew! 

-----Chicken with Apples in Honey Mustard Sauce. One we have made and enjoyed before (hence the picture from the Timehop app for Android below). Bonus: There will be apple cider left over for mulling! We have plenty of Martinelli's Gold Medal Mulling Spices to use up.




Husband always buys me a box of Paczkis for Fat Tuesday.
I found several Paczki recipes in an article in Polish American Journal.
I settled down with my Paczki and coffee with heavy cream to do a re-read of "I Am Lincoln."
I had the good fortune to interview Jerome Charyn and that post will be appearing on this blog soon.
The plate and mug were things we bought my Mother.
I was in a nostalgic mood and longing for Spring.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Amber Gifts


Fantasy / Science Fiction / Time Travel
Published by:  Champagne Books
Amber Gifts, begins with the introduction of Mitchell, a man who never expected to become a time traveler. He never believed such a thing was possible. After a decades long downward spiral, Mitchell was at the bottom of life’s rungs. Until the stranger handed him a simple, amber vial he expected life to only get worse.
The Man told him to drink it. He did and Mitchell’s life changed drastically, but was it a change for the better? Now he was a time traveler and when asked to help some fresh acquaintances, he gladly agrees. A simple request to just find some items they had left scattered throughout time. How hard could it be?
All they wanted were the artifacts returned to them, but someone wants to stop him. It will take more than luck for Mitchell to find all the items and survive to complete his mission.

It seemed there was no length his adversary would go to bring Mitchell’s travels and his life to an abrupt end.
A scavenger hunt through time turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse.


EXCERPT:
1938: San Francisco
Impromptu Escape Artist

I spun in the chair. My flight instincts kicked in and I dove for the floor behind the desk. My hand grasped the vial before I escaped the target that was once a comfortable chair. I felt the second shot miss my head by inches. I gathered the package to me on my way to the floor.
“Wait. Stop!” I stammered on the way to the floor. I didn’t believe for a second that he would.
I uncapped the vial with a flip of my thumb while securing the package in my inner coat pocket. I recovered the rubber stopper in midair. My dexterity surprised me. What circus had I escaped from where I learned these tricks? I raised the vial to my waiting mouth. As I sipped, I took a quick look at my assailant. I wanted to be able to describe him to the Wilsons when next I saw them. He had bon vivant written all over him. He sparkled for the entire world like a fourth of July firework. I needed to ask about the meaning of that if I lived long enough. He dressed in a burgundy velvet smoking jacket, white tombstone shirt with a brown medallion ascot.
His face appeared cold and insensitive, if that’s possible. His blond, short-trimmed hair seemed not to move, despite his trying violently to get through the door and in a better location for the kill shot. When his mouth opened I would have sworn I saw his teeth gleam like one of those Crest toothpaste commercials. A scowl of bewilderment appeared on his face as he rushed through the threshold. Perhaps he felt as amazed at my continued existence as I. He must have taken his first shot from across the hall and through the office entryway. I didn’t understand how he managed to miss the second shot.
“Sorry, mate.” He said in an Australian accent.
He had a gun in his hand, aimed straight at my head. It appeared to be a Remington Model 95 Derringer. I tend to notice deadly items pointed at me with such professional accuracy. I wasn’t going to trust my life that it was only an authentic double shot model. He had the look of someone intent on firing again very soon. How fast could he pull the trigger? How fast could I dissolve? I hate life or death experiments.
“1643,” I spoke softly. Instantly, I lay on an empty, white, sand beach.




MY THOUGHTS:
A book that gets you thinking "what would I do?" While the amber vial is certainly a gift compared to where Mitchell's life had gone, it was also a source of considerable stress and tension. I would certainly not be surprised if going back in time to events leading to Mitchell's depression regarding life to find that Mitchell had problems with trusting the wrong people....this seems to be one of his major ongoing flaws. The way the time travel is conducted and how travelers keep track of the results is a great touch. The ending was something I have seen before but not for these genres...and it made me smile. :-)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars



AUTHOR BIO:
From an early age, Kevin B. Henry was a voracious reader. His collection of science fiction, fantasy and mystery books bring tears of envy to the eyes of many small community libraries.

Kevin has worked as an educator, technology specialist and day laborer most of his adult life. During all that time he lived the life of a frustrated author. That it took 30 years for him to piece together Amber Gifts is a testament that the best meals need slow cooking to bring out the flavor.

The Amber Gifts Series begins with Amber Gifts. The second story, which is really the first, is Amber Prelude, scheduled to be published in June, 2015. The third story, Amber Legacy continues where Amber Gifts left off. It will be available in November 2015. All are published by the wonderful folks at the Champagne Book Group. A fourth story is in the process of being written.

Kevin is a natural story teller, so it’s logical that he lectures occasionally. Topics range from the implementation of cutting edge technology hardware to the creation, modification and use of e-books within education. He constantly pursues research to expand his range of possible topics. His most recent research revolved around the aerodynamic properties of reindeer. He’s also been known to include little known facts and trivia within his presentations. Did you know just 146 years ago today the Union Army marched into Atlanta. It took longer than anticipated. They were delayed by a traffic jam on I-75 and the toll booth on Ga. 400

He continues to live in the Mid-West without human or domesticated mammal companionship.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Portal and the Panther



YA Fantasy / Science-Fiction

The only thing seventeen year-old Jon Parker wants is to escape his sleepy hometown of Mecksville, Arkansas. But everything changes when Jon stumbles into the boys’ bathroom and transforms into a black panther.

Without choice, Jon is thrust into a world where parallel universes are real, shapeshifters exist, and dangerous “intruders” can control the elements with a mere thought. Jon learns he’s inherited his shapeshifting ability from his long-dead mother, and now, like it or not, his mission is to protect our world from invaders from other worlds.

But is it a mission Jon will accept? His decision will determine the fate of the people he loves -- and our whole world.




EXCERPT:
The big one back-handed me again, harder this time.  I tasted blood and the cut on my bottom lip grew longer.

In that strange, computerized accent, he repeated, "You will tell us everything."

"I will tell you nothing," I answered again.  Admittedly, I felt more nervous than I sounded, but I kept a smirk on my swollen face anyway.  Our stubborn back-and-forth had been going on like this for at least five or six minutes now.  He'd say, "Tell us everything," I'd say "No," he'd hit me, and then we'd start again.  Hoping he wouldn't notice, I gently pulled again at the duct tape that wound around my wrists and bound my hands behind the chair.  Nope.  It definitely wasn't something I could tear free, especially not in the weakened condition I was in.

I wouldn't be able to use brawn to get out of this, I realized.  But that was ok.  I had brains, too.

The Big Guy looked over at his three companions, who were lined up along the wall underneath the mantlepiece like the obedient little soldiers they were.  It was an odd contrast to see -- the Krull family's photos and trinkets behind their heads on the white mantle, while these three monsters looked on at me and the tied-up family impassively.  I'd named the one with the red hair and brilliant green eyes, the fire-user, Red.  The other two, the air-users who looked like they had to be twins, I thought of as Blond 1 and Blond 2.  I was pleased to see that Blond 1 was still bleeding from the long gash I'd put on his arm.  Hopefully that meant he wouldn't be using that arm for the rest of the night.

When Big Guy met Red's eyes, Red nodded curtly and, stepping away from the twins, he produced a ball of blue and orange flame, dancing in the palm of his hand.  He walked across the room and stopped next to Kristin's father, Joe Krull, who was still out cold.  Mr. Krull's head lolled behind him, and his mouth hung open like a passed-out drunkard.  Then Red lightly rested the hand that wasn't holding the flame on Mr. Krull's shoulder and stared at me.

"You will tell us everything," Big Guy said again.  "Or this family dies."  

Uh-oh.  How much longer would I be able to stall them?



The prologue for the Portal and the Panther can be read here!





MY THOUGHTS:
For me this book started out on a truly high school tone and I thought that it was going to continue that way...luckily, it shifted from high school dramas into deeper topics at just the right time. Still, I felt there was something lacking in the preparations to fight intruders and the amount of time actually fending off these invaders. There were many, many cliff hangers in the relationship dynamics that the hero, Jon has...and I am hoping that I have not guessed the end of these stories...hoping there are few a stunning surprises left like there were in The Portal and the Panther. Jon was a very real character and I felt great empathy for him and even wanted to advise him at times.
There were not many pages but this turned out to be a long read packed with content. A multi-faceted plot with much suspense that easily came to mind (vs. labored efforts by the author to establish suspense). Also of interest was some deep dialogue on forgiveness.
My rating: 4.65 out of 5 stars



Email sign-up. If you sign up before March 15, you will get the third book for free. :-) 




AUTHOR BIO:
My first attempt at novel writing was when I was ten years old.  At the time, I was writing fan fiction, without realizing what fan fiction actually was (I don’t think the term existed yet).  I had just finished reading Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein for the second time and, for the second time, couldn’t stand that the book was ending.  I needed some sort of sequel. I think I got about 12 handwritten pages into my Tunnel in the Sky sequel before my father pointed out that I’d never be able to publish it.
I tried writing novels again some time in college, but that was the period in my life when I took myself faaaaaar too seriously. If you’re over the age of 23, you’ll know what I mean by that.  I was only interested in writing something Important, something that Mattered, and consequently wrote no more than about 10,000 words before giving up.  In my heart, I didn’t want to write Les Mis or War and Peace, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
When Kindle came along and I stopped buying actual paper books, I realized that there was a revolution going on in the publishing world.  As I heard tales of self-published authors meeting with unprecedented success, I decided it was time to dust off my fiction writing skills and join their ranks.  I could finally just write for the hell of it and never have to worry about what a publisher would think or what anyone else would think.
I finished the first draft of The Portal and the Panther in April 2014; I plan to publish it in January 2015.  Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on the second book in the Guardians of the Portal series, The Girl Between Worlds.  I hope to also have it ready at the same time as The P and the P.


Twitter: RAMarshall78

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Some reading progress.....

32% through A March of Kings (Book #2 in the Sorcerer's Ring) by Rice, Morgan on Kindle for Android! http://www.amazon.com/kindleforandroid/

Friday, February 13, 2015

Telemachus and Homer


Genre:   YA Fantasy
Publisher: Malachite Quills Publishing
Pub. date: Sept 2012

For every boy who grew up in his father’s shadow and every girl who has been underestimated, there comes a time to look within themselves to see if they have the strength to meet the challenges of their lives. For Telemachus this time arrives soon after Odysseus returns from his twenty year absence, when Telemachus comes to appreciate that his own life needs to be about more than waiting for his father to guide him. On the verge of embarking on an adventure, he learns that his community has been threatened and realizes that he does not know how to help. Swallowing his pride, he recognizes that Homer, a young blind woman is a necessary ally. Homer, like Telemachus has something to prove, for although she is respected for her knowledge, she feels unfairly defined by her community. Together, as the people of Ithaca’s last hope, they begin their quest.



EXCERPT:
By the time that Telemachus was nineteen, he had had enough of Homer’s attempts to help him to get in touch with his feelings. He was living his loneliness, and he did not see any value in brooding over it as Homer wanted him to do. Consequently, he spent longer times in a state of silence that was loud and clear to Homer.
However, even in silence, Telemachus could not hide his discomfort. During these times, Homer heard Telemachus’ breathing rate change as she asked questions that made him feel ill at ease, and she could smell the sweat that accumulated on his brow. Finally, Homer stopped following him to the shoreline.
Telemachus had been Homer’s only true friend. He was the only person who did not ever question why she spent so many hours studying, and he never asked her how she could learn so much even though she was blind. She always wanted people to treat her as Homer, and not the blind girl. In receiving the cold shoulder from Telemachus, her wish came true, and it hurt.
By contrast, Telemachus had mixed emotions about not having Homer as a companion. He missed the company, but he also felt relieved that no one forced him to confront his feelings. Homer had been the only one in all of Ithaca to press him on these issues. Even Telemachus’ own mother did not press him. He wondered whether Homer was the only one who could not appreciate that her questions were inappropriate to ask the son of Odysseus, or whether she was the only one who cared enough to ask the questions that despite his unease and desire not to hear, needed to be asked.
In the first few days after Homer stopped shadowing Telemachus, Homer sulked and Telemachus became even more introverted. But Homer was too determined to make something of herself to allow her rift with Telemachus to bring her down. Accordingly, whereas Telemachus remained focused on waiting for news of his father, Homer threw herself into her interests, and she increased the intensity of her training in the medicinal arts. She also spent her free time, the time that she had previously spent with Telemachus, interviewing travelers and veterans of the Trojan War. Quickly, she became Ithaca’s most worldly citizen, despite never having left its shores.




MY THOUGHTS:
Growing up was difficult for both Telemachus and Homer. Telemachus dealt with his father's absence by waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Telemachus basically put large portions of growing up on hold until the day his father, the legendary Odysseus returned. Telemachus' friend Homer dealt with her childhood hardships in a different way. She tried to excel in order to counteract prejudice toward her disability and gender. Both friends would need every ounce of strength and ingenuity to save the people of Ithaca!

A team of four friends who are unlikely heroes. A tale of almost Paul Bunyan proportions...where you constantly wonder what the characters (and the author) will think of next. A wholesome story that can be read as soon as our homeschoolers reach the right reading level.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

-----Amazon. Paperback. Can currently add to wishlist right now.
-----An excellent review on IndieReader.
-----Goodreads. I plan to get a review up there soon. :-)
-----Myth Forum thread. Some discussion of why Homer is female.



AUTHOR BIO:
Scott Locke is a graduate of Brown University with a concentration in biology and of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where he earned his J.D. Scott has published many articles on various aspects of intellectual property. Telemachus and Homer is Scott's first publication of fiction.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Shadow of Loss


Publisher: BookBaby

Evelyn Gonzalez keeps losing people, which is always hard, but has she lost something much more?  Has she lost her soul?  Evelyn has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized, after months of sorrow and pain she is thrust back into the world.  The world of teenage angst and Calculus.  But can she trust people again?  Especially after hurtful assumptions and judgments made her miss her junior year of high school.  Evelyn is just trying to heal what she lost and graduate from high school.



EXCERPT:
I follow her to the back room—a room I haven’t set foot in since I started working here. It’s been a few weeks and I still don’t know what she does or why she is only open in the afternoons. Beatrice scampers behind another curtain still muttering to herself. I slowly walk around the room looking at the saints and herbs scattered on shelves. I peek my head in the small opening of the curtain and I see her boiling water.
She walks back into the room and sits down. “Sit por favor.”
I sit down, mildly freaking out about what’s happening. I pat down my mousy hair puff, so I look more presentable and put together.
“I am sure you may have guessed what I do, sí?”
“Oh not really. I mean you’re a curandera, I know that, but I don’t really know much else.”
“Ah I see. Well I am a healer. I practice an art I learned long ago from my mother,” she says, mixing ingredients together.
“Okay,” I tell her, unsure of what to say.
“I don’t want to burden you, but you must know this,” she clasps her hands together—never a good sign.
“Know what?”
“You are lost.”
“Huh?” I ask confused.
“I sense you have lost something precious, yourself.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. How can I lose myself, I’m right here,” I point to myself for the desired effect.
“One can lose thyself, and have their shell remain. It is what we call Susto.”



MY THOUGHTS:
This is amazing in some of its conveyance of what it is like to lose loved ones close together when you are a young person. No matter how much counseling, medicine, or even institutionalization, there will always be that shadow in your heart and look in your eye that you feel and perceptive people can see.

Evelyn has problems with people tearing her down for her heritage and appearance. At the core, she has always been a strong person but everyone has their limits. This is a journey of self-discovery after several close losses that are revealed in flashbacks and thoughts throughout the book.

Evelyn has an amazing support person in her sister Olive...simply amazing. Evelyn is also blessed by new support-a charismatic young man named Matt, a hard-for-Evey-to-figure-out boy named Brody and a compassionate employer. Though she has people who want to help, Evelyn must look within herself to figure out how she is going to deal with "the shadow of loss."

My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars.
---I identified with Evelyn in many, many ways. One of the things is multiple losses. I did not "get over" these losses as people like to so callously phrase the healing process but I did heal through time, effort and choice.
---My mind is wandering through both a mental prequel and sequel to this book...pondering the parental relationships prior to loss and what the future might look like for Evey.



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BUY IT:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble    Kobo

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AUTHOR BIO:
Josefina Gutierrez is a Young Adult eBook author and a forever student.  Josefina writes Young Adult Multicultural, Sci-fi, and Fantasy literature in her free time when she’s not embarking on adventures with her son and gnomes Fitzgerald and Bartholomew. Josefina’s current projects in the works are a New-Adult fiction eBook and a Fantasy dystopian eBook, the first in a series, due out in 2015.




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INTERVIEW!

This book is a realistic fiction. What was your inspiration?
My family and childhood is the foundation for a lot of my stories. My family is very culturally diverse and alternative, and on top of that, I stood out to a lot of people because I’m different. I relate to Evelyn going through all the changes, while trying to find her identity. I wanted to tell a story with a ray of light in all the madness, a short blurb in the minds of youth.


I see that you are working on a Masters in Bilingual and Bicultural Studies. Congratulations on a lot of hard work! What resources and advice would you point out to those trying to learn a foreign language?
Thank you! If you really want to learn a language, dive into the culture and community don’t be interested in the superficial aspects, move to an area where you are forced to interact and be involved. I wish I had more advice than that, my experience is more with learning English as a second language than other foreign languages. My son is learning Chinese at the moment, it kind of just happened, there are so many outlets now on the internet, but if it’s not a natural progression then it won’t stick in the mind. Rote memorization is NOT the key to learning languages, I know how the school system works with their textbooks and repetition.


It would seem you either speak a great deal of or are fluent in English, German and Spanish? Were any of these a second language and, if so, what was the learning process like for you?
Oh no, I’m fluent in English, and dabble in various languages. Fluency covers all three areas and I have yet to access the last one. I grew up with Spanish and English. Growing up in San Antonio, gave me a wider awareness of languages and its importance for people. Languages are more challenging to learn as I get older, while not impossible, they are harder to work towards than other skills. Communication and visuals are how I learned the best.


In real life, what is the most beautiful thing you have seen someone do to memorialize a loved one?
I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering such a beautiful thing yet, I hope one day I will.


What is your advice to those dealing with grief?
It was hard for me, one of those TV moments where you get a call and find out, then realize the last thing you said to them. It hurts in the aftermath, and it will for a long time, but it really does get better. I wrote in a journal and ate a lot of chocolate.


Please tell us about your other books-in-progress.
Right now I’m working on a New-Adult contemporary love story. It involves more than romance, it is familial love. A synopsis from my next book:
I thought my life began when I graduated high school and moved far, far away—okay three hours away. But I was wrong. My life didn’t start till it almost ended.
I’m Cristal Escobedo, twenty-two years old and a former wild child who favors tequila far too much. But that all changed when life happened, and I ended up being responsible for my younger brothers. To top it all off, I think I’m falling in love with my best friend—dammit.
This is my not-so-happy story of how I grew up and got my shit together. It isn’t filled with a bunch of pretty analogies or hyperboles. The people are real, the hurt is deep, and the love is complicated. People are flawed in the ways that matter, it’s what makes us human.

Friday, February 06, 2015

In My Life.....

Photo by Bennie Bos
Taking the kids to this festival is one of my dreams. I have seen several balloons against the Sandias Peaks during non-festival time and that was amazing. I like this photo.
I think we will go to the National Balloon Classic first (Indianola, Iowa). That will be a beautiful camping week.


-----You can tell Toddler has an artist Daddy-she thought Grandpa made the shoes he brought her.
-----Advanced Reader ecopy for a March review arrived "Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver"...it was not given away in the description but I am assuming the parent has dementia or, maybe, Alzheimer's. I am hoping to find some really good resource links on both caregiving and elderly mental health to include in that review.


Yeah, getting Preschooler to remember not to put Playdoh, and now clay, on his action figures is a constant effort. He held out with the clay a whole 24 hours, decorated Batman a bit and taught his sister a lot.
---Preschooler often tries to make molds of his toys. Sculptor's son.


Preschooler gets to build models with Daddy. Battery and LED mobiles, aliens and pets. Like moving pencil boxes.


Murder mystery set in the aftermath of the Civil War. Sounds like it might be an interesting read. Free download on Amazon right now.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Blood Divide

02_Blood Divide Cover


Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Lion Fiction
Paperback; 352p


Gripping, visceral, and accessible historical fiction.

The Battle of Flodden in September 1513 was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on British soil, in which James IV, King of Scots, and virtually the whole of his nobility and gentry were annihilated in an afternoon along with 15,000 soldiers. Five centuries later, the slaughter still occupies a core position in the Scottish nationalist debate and in the pantheon of heroic failures. This novel puts you in the heart of the action; you’ll feel the sweat and the fear, the curtain of red mist.

The narrative covers April through September 1513, focusing around a handful of key characters: John Heron, Bastard of Ford, swaggering, violent, and disreputable, the black sheep of a good English family; Sir Thomas Howard, leader of the English forces and skilled strategist; Alexander, 3rd Lord Hume, leader of the Scots, bold but impetuous; Isabella Hoppringle, Abbess of Coldstream, hub of a web of influential women throughout the Scottish borders, a woman of significant influence and charisma.

Laced with dark humor and fascinating period detail, Blood Divide reminder readers that political intrigue and human folly are timeless.



MY THOUGHTS:
A cold and harrowing battle on difficult terrain. The fight is joined by seasoned and unseasoned warriors, those who will be utterly shocked by their new daily reality and plenty of noble people who are all of the above. Henry VIII of England is arrogant (imagine that) and James IV is determined that he must defend his country's pride (imagine that). Some plead for peace and others manipulate conditions into a war that they stand to gain from (a political game that many have been playing for some time before Flodden).

Perhaps the two shrewdest players in the war game are Isabella Hoppringle and John Heron, "Bastard" of Ford. Isabella has always been a survivor but the realities of this war will bring her many harsh epiphanies. John Heron is a bastard by lineage but his actions also generally fit this word quit well. Isabella is one of the few weaknesses in the reputation as a mercenary that Johnny has so carefully cultivated. If this were a Lucas film, there would be a Han and Leia cliffhanger here.

Told from many perspectives and pulling many emotions out. Educational, to say the least. Battle behind the scenes so complex that it deserves a second read for full understanding. I was once criticized for saying that a comphrensive war encyclopedia was beautiful....and I supposed I might be criticized by the same person for saying it, but the way this story is handled has much beauty to it....realism and simplicity with a smile here and there.

Definitively 5 out of 5 stars for me. This will be used for homeschooling in our later years. Thank you, Mr. Sadler.


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Buy the Book

Kregel Publications
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03_John Sadler Author

AUTHOR BIO:

John Sadler is an experienced military historian, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and the author of more than two dozen books. He is also a much traveled battlefield tour guide covering most major conflicts in the UK, Europe, and North Africa.

For more information please visit John Sadler's website.

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INTERVIEW!
Describe your first visit to the battlefield. 
I first went there as a boy aged say 13, early September and dank late summer, intimations of autumn in the air, perfect for atmosphere.

Do you think the outcome would have been different had the battle been fought on Milfield Plain as Surrey wanted? 
Surrey didn’t want to fight on Millfield Plain unless James abandoned the higher ground, he wanted James to come down onto the plain, he had no intention of complying. The English would probably have won the battle but perhaps less decisively. The superior English gunnery and the arrow storm might have still won the day.

We are homeschooling (and live in The States). What European battles do you recommend we study? Of the medieval era? I’d suggest Courtrai, Mortgarten, Bicocca & Pavia, plus someof the 100 Years war battles – Crecy, Poitiers, Najara & Agincourt (I began my re-enactment career as a page boy in a reply of Agincourt).

What authors, fiction and non-fiction, do you enjoy on the topic of the Battle of Flodden?
It’s underwritten, of non-fiction authors (other than myself) I recommend Niall Barr and Peter Reese.

What weapon do you find most interesting from this battle?
The English bill – an ancient hybrid from an agricultural pedigree yet proved decisively superior to the pike.

If you could sit down a few hours before the battle and give James IV advice, what would you say?
It would only need minutes – stay in Scotland. I’d tell him he was an untried commander of limited capacity with an army that was less strong than it appeared relying on untried tactics he failed fully to understand.

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Blood Divide: A Novel of Flodden Field Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, January 27

Wednesday, January 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, January 30
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Sunday, February 1
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, February 2

Tuesday, February 3
Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Thursday, February 5

Saturday, February 6
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, February 9

Tuesday, February 10
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 11
Review at Forever Ashley

Thursday, February 12
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, February 13



:-)



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