I’m going to apologize in advance because I’m not going to be available to answer comments on my post, but I’m leaving them open in the hopes that you’ll support author Vera Day with her debut release, When Did We Lose Sylvia? Oh, how I chuckled through this one! The tongue-in-cheek humor, built around small town living, and quirky characters is off the scales!
BLURB: Southern humor, faith, and murder intersect in the tiny town of Tulip, Texas.
Betty Bell is a famous poet, or at least a local celebrity, in the tiny town of Tulip, Texas. Gossip runs amok when a Goth teenager, Sylvia Smith, and her elderly grandfather arrive. Even worse, they’ve moved into the creepy, old Sanchez place on the outskirts of town.
Betty volunteers to teach a summer poetry class to restless Tulip teens. Soon, the kids are expressing themselves in stellar stanzas and heart-rending rhymes. But what was supposed to be a summer of ministering to the teens becomes a season of sleuthing when one of Betty’s students, the spooky Sylvia, goes missing.
When Sylvia turns up dead, suspicions point to Sylvia’s reclusive grandfather. Deputy Miller is a good man and excellent investigator, but after a second death shakes the small town, Betty is convinced the deputy is after the wrong suspect. Betty, her left-brained husband Larry, and her quirky friend Flora must use haunting haikus, couplet clues, and lots of prayer to track down the real killer.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
What a delightful debut! I was hooked from page one. This small-town cozy is big on quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek humor. Betty Bell is a quasi-famous poet who teaches a summer class to a collection of high school students, one of whom—Sylvia–is a goth-like social outcast. When Sylvia goes missing, Betty is drawn into the search to discover what happened to the moody but talented teenager. Aided by her best friend, Flora (who is on a perpetual diet), supported by her low-key but loving husband L.B., and often thwarted by her sometimes friend, prima donna cashier, Jacqueline, Betty unearths a spiderweb of suspects and motives.
The plot moves along at an engaging clip, leaping from one highly entertaining scenario to the next, all the while ramping up the mystery. Things that really stood out for me include the snippets of poetry peppered throughout. Each chapter begins with a verse, plus samples of the students’ creative efforts are scattered among sections. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I was enthralled by how cleverly these were worded and how they played into the plot.
And did I mention the humor? It won’t clobber you over the head, but I guarantee you’ll be grinning at how skillfully it underpins each scene. I loved that Betty is a heroine approaching social security age, and I adored her relationship with L.B. (not to mention Flora’s constant wordplay on his initials). The ending is wholly satisfying and left me looking forward to seeing more of these colorful characters and their small Texas town.
Thank you for visiting today and helping me cheer on Vera with her debut release, which I highly recommend for fans of cozy mysteries, engaging humor, and small-town tales. On a side note, I will be updating my writing progress with a post in July. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of me online after this month is over! 🙂
Hello everyone! I know I’m hit or miss on blogging these days, but I hope to have some announcements to share in the near future that may change some of that. In the meantime, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote my latest read—which I devoured in a single day.
I’ve read most of Craig Boyack’s books, but—OH MY WORD!!!—he really outdid himself with this. He’s not touring this book, which is a shame, because it deserves plenty of buzz. If you’re a fan of good guys vs. bad guys, imaginative adventure, or old spaghetti westerns, this is pure gold. I could almost hear “wah-wah-wah” in the background. 🙂
I am doing double duty today, covering my own job and a second position, so I don’t know if or when I’ll be available to answer comments, but I’m keeping them open for cheering on Craig! 🎉
Once Upon a Time in the Swamp By C. S. Boyack
Mari and her husband opted for a simple life as farmers. It’s been decades since the world tore itself apart, pitting neighbor against neighbor and family against each other. They were happy in this re-emerging world, until disaster struck.
Mari sets out on a solo quest to avenge the deaths of her family and loss of everything she holds dear. She’s ill equipped for the task, but seems to have time on her hands. Time alone in the wilderness to deal with her personal demons along the way.
She is helped by a few sympathetic elders and a couple of animal companions with lessons Mari can use if she pays attention. Can Mari find justice for her family?
Set in a post apocalyptic, Gulf Coast world, this is a story for fans of the old Spaghetti Westerns.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
C. S. Boyack is known for creating imaginative worlds populated by colorful characters, and amazing creatures. This time, he transfers his inventive paintbrush to the Golf Coast of the U.S., in a post-apocalyptic world. The area is riddled with fledgling towns and outposts, much like the scattered cow towns of the Old West.
Raiders attack the farm Mari shares with her husband and young son, killing both while she is off hunting turkey. When the local sheriff brushes her off, too busy to help, Mari sets out on her own in a quest for vengeance. Her trek is long and arduous, fraught with danger. Victimized by the raiders, she’s left for dead—until assisted by Miss Kelilah, who offers friendship and wisdom along with her aid.
If you’re squeamish, no worries. Boyack kept the violence against Mari “off screen” and it was only referenced after the fact, something I truly appreciated.
Next, we meet Mr. Vance, my favorite secondary character. Kelilah teaches Mari knife-fighting and throwing, while Vance teaches her the nitty-gritty about handguns. All of this plays wonderfully, as Mari is tough and determined, eager to learn. Though vengeance is her driving goal, there are splashes of humor throughout. I Loved (with a capital “L”!!) Worthless, the dog, and Dirt, the ox. Boyack always delivers amazing animal characters, but he outdid himself this time around.
If you’re looking for a book that delivers adventure, amazing characters, gritty descriptions, and settings that ooze texture, don’t pass this up. I’ve read many works by this author, but consider Once Upon a Time in the Swamp Boyack’s best. He’s created a strong, relatable character in Mari and a good vs. evil tale that delivers frontier justice. The ending couldn’t have been better. I would love to see more stories with Mari’s ongoing adventures. Bravo, Mr. Boyack!!!
Today, I’ve got Story Empire colleague, D.L. Finn on my blog with her latest collection of short stories. No matter what Denise writes—novel-length fiction, short stories, poetry, or tales for children—she keeps her readers enthralled. In the Tree’s Shadow is no exception (see my review at the end of this post). In the meantime… are you ready for goose bumps?
Take it away, Denise!
Thank you, Mae, for having me here today to share the release of my short story collection, In the Tree’s Shadow.
“When the Lights Go Out” is a story I started writing while sitting on the deck during one of our power shutdowns for fire protection. Those shutdowns have slowed down, and the fires weren’t as bad last year, but each year provides its own challenge.
During one of these outages, with only the rumble of generators, my mind wanders. Like Bea in the story, I don’t like the dark. There is always a night light to counter the darkness and the perceived evil within it. Not wanting to waste batteries or leave candles unattended with curious cats around, it is completely dark in the house during these times.
As Bea discovers, when her generator doesn’t work, things that live in these shadows have an agenda. But as I have learned, where there is evil, good is somewhere nearby.
Knowing evil lurks, Bea has some choices to make to survive.
A collection of short stories where dreams and nightmares coexist.
Nestled inside these pages, you’ll meet a couple in their golden years who take a trip with an unexpected detour, a boy desperate to give his brother the Christmas gift he asked for, a girl with a small glass dragon who is at the mercy of her cruel uncles, and a young mother who has a recurring dream about murder. You’ll be introduced to worlds where people get second chances and monsters might be allowed their desires, while angels and dragons try to help. Happy endings occur, but perspective can blur the line between good and evil in these twenty-seven tales. Since the stories vary between 99 and 12,000 words, whether you have only five minutes or an entire evening to settle into reading, there is something that will suit your time and taste.
People will tell you that fiction is only make-believe. Don’t let them fool you. Some of it is real. But maybe if you knew the truth, you’d never sleep again. Right now, I’m resting but hooked on monitors and medication, with a different perspective on life.
Sleep has been hard for a long time because fantasy has become a reality for me. Oddly, they have always been okay with me discussing them as fiction. I would have gone crazy if I hadn’t written it down. They were so confident that no one would believe me. I think it amused them that my stories talked about the cliché things that go bump in the night.
What I’m about to tell you is not a fictional story. Whether or not you believe me, I can do nothing about it. I hope that those who have seen what I have will be comforted by my words.
Some of our darkest nightmares and things we imagine in the shadows are real. This knowledge prevented me from leaving my home at night. I stayed safely inside my brightly lit house. Could they get in? Of course, but it was the best I could do. Luckily, they preferred the darkness. I knew I was being watched whenever I fell asleep, even with all the lights on. Illumination only encouraged them to keep their distance. Still, I never understood what they were waiting for until that night. Before that moment, I figured they enjoyed the hunt or just liked observing.
Two black cats, Luna and Coco, and two tiger-striped, Zuzu and Chester, share our house.
I saw spin dolphins jumping around our boat in Hawaii. Amazing.
D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include children’s books, adult fiction, a unique autobiography, and poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.
Now that you’ve enjoyed this wonderful GOOSE BUMP ALERT, I hope you’ll take a moment to drop Denise a comment below and join in her release celebration. Please use the sharing buttons to help spread the word about In the Tree’s Shadow, then don’t forget to grab your own copy from AMAZON.
MY REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories that run the gamut from mild horror, slice-of-life, and sci-fi, to fantasy and paranormal. Creatures, angels, and animals populate the pages along with protagonists and villains. There is darkness, but also whimsy and plenty of hope. With a variety of micro-fics, shorts, and one novella-length work, the mixture will keep you flipping pages.
My favorite stories included Old Gray Cat, In That Moment, Effervescent Potion, Bonsai, and most especially, The Bike. In many places, I had to pause to savor the author’s deft turn of phrase. These are but a few that stood out for me:
“The other man, dressed all in black that matched his mesmerizing night eyes, had a voice like a bass guitar.”
“The dragon’s red eyes softly glowed like an autumn-toned sunset.”
“Tears mixed with her blood in a tie-dye swirl of insanity.”
If you enjoy speculative fiction that straddles lines of peril and hope, shadows and light, this is a collection that checks all the boxes.
Hello, everyone, and happy Monday! I hope you had a blessed and happy Easter.
Today, I’m happy to share a new release from friend and author N.A. Granger. If you haven’t read one of Noelle’s books before, you’re missing something special. From her polished and clever Rhe Brewster series, to her meticulously researched The Last Pilgrim, Noelle delivers stories that keep you glued to the pages. Today, I’m happy to spotlight her latest release, Death at the Asylum. Look for my 5-Star review at the bottom!
BLURB:: Attending the opening of a new commercial center, Rhe Brewster, an ER nurse and police investigator, and her husband Sam, chief of the Pequod police department, save the governor of Maine from a sniper attack. They are assigned to a task force to find the sniper, at the same time trying to identify the person who has stolen Rhe’s personal data and is using it to run up thousands of dollars in debt and even steal their home. Rhe treats a student from Pequod University raped following a night at a local bar and soon discovers there is a serial rapist on the loose. The threats to Rhe and Sam escalate as a sociopath from Rhe’s past reemerges in a strange twist. Are any of these perpetrators linked?
Maine’s most tenacious sleuth is back, surrounded by the colorful characters who populate the coastal town of Pequod. In this fifth installment of the Rhe Brewster Mysteries, Rhe’s strength and determination are tested to their limits while she tries to protect her unborn child.
EXCERPT: The sniper had been in the attic of the empty house across the river for nearly a day, lying on a table pushed up to a window, with his gun resting on the window sill. The view was perfect. Habit kept him there, virtually unmoving, diapered to take care of his needs, and stoked on coffee until earlier this morning.
Now he needed steady hands. Gravity, wind speed and direction, altitude, barometric pressure and humidity could all affect the bullet trajectory, and he’d taken each one of those factors into account.
Just one shot. He’d done it before with deadly accuracy in Iraq—twenty-three times. Just one more. He could do this. Maybe then the gnawing pain of his loss would lessen.
He slowed his breathing, slowed his heart rate, stilled every muscle except for those in his trigger finger, and focused on the grinning head now in the crosshairs of the telescopic lens. He heard his former spotter’s voice whispering quietly, ‘Now.” He gently, slowly, squeezed the trigger, felt the solid push back against his shoulder. And waited. It takes time for a bullet to get to its target from that far away.
AUTHOR BIO: N.A. GRANGER is a Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. After forty years of research and teaching undergraduates and medical students, plus earning her EMT licence, she decided to use her knowledge of human anatomy and emergency medicine in mystery writing. In addition to the Rhe Brewster mystery series (Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Death in a Dacron Sail, Death by Pumpkin, Death in a Mudflat), she has written for Coastal Living and Sea Level magazines and several times for the Bella Online Literary Review. She recently published her first historical fiction novel, The Last Pilgrim, which received critical acclaim. The mystery series has its own website: http:www.na-granger.com. You can find more of her writing at saylingaway.wordpress.com. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and a Maine coon cat who blogs.
MY REVIEW: This intriguing mystery juggles multiple plot lines but the author handles them all with finesses. Although this is the fifth entry in the Rhe Brewster mystery series, you needn’t be familiar with any of the previous titles (though I do recommend them). Character relationships are clearly defined both before the story in a Forward by the author, and throughout the engrossing chapters that follow.
Things begin with a bang—literally—when ER nurse, Rhe, and her Chief of Police husband, Sam, attend a speech given by the governor, and a sniper targets him. As a part-time investigator with the police, Rhe gets caught up in the resulting investigation led by Sam. Multiple suspects complicate matters, but that’s only the beginning. A stalker reemerges from Rhe’s past, drug thefts occur at the hospital, and a serial rapist is on the loose.
If that sounds like a handful, trust me—it will keep you flipping pages. The plot is like an octopus with arms, each branching in a different direction, each given the proper amount of attention to keep the reader puzzling out possibilities. This is a clever mystery with strong characters. Rhe and Sam are wonderful together, and even supporting characters, like Rhe’s BFF, and co-workers at both the hospital and police department get to shine. I loved the Maine setting and the back-and-forth between investigative work, hospital cases, and home life.
If you enjoy intelligent plots, polished writing, and layered mysteries with characters who settle into your heart, you’re sure to like this latest entry in the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series. Highly recommended for fans of female sleuths!
Thanks for joining me today as I spotlight this wonderful new release from a gifted writer. Please use the sharing buttons to help spread the word on Noelle’s latest. Drop a comment with your thoughts to join in the release celebration, and don’t forget to grab your own copy of Death at the Asylum from Amazon!
Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Gwen M. Plano, who has just released a novel of psychological intrigue. I’ve read all of Gwen’s work, and immediately snatched this up the moment it became available for pre-order. Look for my five star review at the end of this post.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Gwen as she gives us a glimpse into this compelling and powerful read.
Thank you, Mae, for inviting me to your site today. It’s a pleasure to visit your readers and share a bit about my new release.
Redemption, A Father’s Fatal Decision takes place in the Southeast corner of New York state, in the towns of New Rochelle and Cortlandt. On occasion, the characters journey to Old Lyme, Connecticut, but for the most part, the drama is in New York. Having spent about twenty years in and around that area, it was exciting to visit as a writer.
The book tackles themes of forgiveness, redemption, and absolution through a psychological thriller. We accompany the son and daughter of the deceased as they try to uncover the reason for their father’s murder. What they discover prompts them to ask if they even knew him.
Sometimes complicated situations help us see our own challenges in a different light. That is my hope for this book. Most of us won’t experience threats like those of my characters, but pain is universal, as is joy. Seeing either in the extreme helps us recognize our own—and severe or elated, those emotions are impactful.
In the excerpt below, Lisa and Trace Holmes, meet with Father O’Brien, who is the confidant of their mother. The siblings’ youngest brother, Robbie, died when he was just a couple years old. They will soon understand why.
“She reminded me several times that you’d visit someday, but I never imagined these circumstances.” He shakes his head in disbelief and touches the cross hanging from his neck. “Please, follow me.”
Slowly, he walks outside to a flower garden, where a vast spread of daisies covers the perimeter abutting the stone fence. “Several times a year, your mother visits. She weeds, trims, and sometimes cuts the daisies to take home with her. She keeps her tools in the shed to the left.”
While strolling through the flowers, Lisa notices a memorial sign and stops. It reads Robbie’s Garden, My Beloved Angel. She takes Trace’s hand and points to the sign.
The priest sees their interest. “Katherine likes to say that her baby Robbie is playing happily in Heaven. She buried a remembrance box next to the sign. That’s what she wants you to have now.” He turns to Trace, “There’s a trowel in the shed if you’d like to dig it up.”
Trace tilts his head to the side and considers the priest’s offer. For a moment he hesitates then fetches the garden tool. After a quick glance at Lisa, he digs. A few strong thrusts later, he hits something hard—a steel box inside a sealed plastic container. Trace pulls it out, brushes off the dirt, and gives it to his sister.
Lisa unseals the mystery container and peeks inside. Her face drops. “It’s filled with documents and other papers.”
The priest nods, “If you’d like to go through the box in our reading room, you’re welcome to do so. It’s private, and you can close the doors.”
“Thank you, Father. We’d appreciate that.”
Father O’Brien takes them through a side door of the Parish Center to the room. “Your mother likes to sit in here and read. The upholstered chair by the window is her favorite spot. She claims Robbie joins her. I don’t know about that, but she always leaves smiling.”
BLURB Family secrets can be deadly. When Lisa Holmes visits her parents one fateful Saturday morning, she hugs her father and walks to her childhood bedroom. The doorbell rings. Her father opens the door, and one minute later, he lies dead on the floor—three bullets to the chest.
The Holmes family lives on a quiet street, but no one really knows Eric Holmes. He travels for business and comes home a few days each month. Unbeknown to all, Eric has multiple lives.
In this fast-paced psychological thriller, Lisa and her brother, Trace, embark on a quest to solve the mystery involving the murder of their father. The journey takes them into a secret world where nothing is as it seems. As the puzzle pieces begin to coalesce, they discover the meaning of Redemption.
What an excellent excerpt! I’m already wondering what mysteries all those documents contain. Please help me spread the word about Redemption, A Father’s Fatal Decision by using the sharing buttons below. Drop Gwen a comment to join in her launch celebration, then snatch up your own copy through one of the purchase links. I wish you happy reading!
Part family drama, part thriller, Redemption moves at a swift pace with events occurring in rapid succession. Lisa has barely arrived at her parents’ home for a visit when an assailant murders her father, Eric, and sends her mother to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Never truly close with her father, Lisa soon realizes his past was filled with secrets—shadows of a dangerous life that threaten her safety and the lives of her family.
Along with her brother, Trace, and his friend, Ryan, they attempt to unearth her father’s secrets, but there are hurdles at every turn. Stalkers trail them, a hotel room that should be a safe haven is bugged, and even the police and FBI are suspect.
The author did a great job of keeping things moving at a fast clip. One scene spirals into the next as Eric’s life unravels. It’s almost as if he left puzzle pieces behind, laying out a trail for his children to follow. The three main characters—Lisa, Trace, and Ryan—make an excellent team. All are likeable individually but have great chemistry when together. And there is one supporting character I truly loved (I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling a thread).
The message of redemption and the way things wrap at the end make this not only an exciting read, but a heartwarming one too. A polished book with a fast plot, wonderful characters, and a beautiful message!
Welcome friends! I have a special guest on my blog today—good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall. I’m super-excited to be taking part in the blog tour for her newest release, Menagerie, a collection of short stories that spans multiple genres. Trust me folks, this one is a gem you don’t want to miss. I’ll be sharing my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, please give a big welcome to Joan!
A Moment in Time
Thank you for hosting me today, Mae, and helping me kick on the tour of my latest release. It’s always a pleasure to visit with your readers. Menagerie is a mixed-genre collection of thirteen short stories. For each tour stop, I’ll feature one story and tell what inspired me to write it.
A Moment in Time is a dual timeline story set during the American Civil war in the 1860s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Two women, Joanna and Maggie, deal with life as their husbands are away fighting. Despite living a century apart, Joanna and Maggie have much in common. Both are young wives left on the home front to face the realities of war, and they live on the same farm.
The idea for A Moment in Time came from a childhood memory. In the late 1960s, there was a nearby farm that was once known as the County Farm. At one time, people could drive through the place, but it’s now privately owned.
The owners raised cattle, but there was also a large grove of pecan trees. In the fall, when the pecans were mature, area residents were able to help with the harvest. One year, my parents decided to take part. I went to the farm a few times after school while waiting for them to finish the day.
The property had an old two-story building that I later learned served as a jail. As I recall, it had stucco sides and a covered front porch with ornate railings. Although it didn’t date as far back as the 1860s, for some reason I always envisioned it during the time of the American Civil War.
Maybe it was because I’d recently seen the movie Shenandoah, but I felt connected to those days. Almost like I was back in time. I would sit on the porch looking over the farm and imagine what life was like during the war.
About a year ago, the idea came to write a story with a similar setting. Instead of an unused building, I decided on a house. My 1860s character, Joanna lived in the home. While it was still standing in the 1960s, Maggie could only dream about what it was like a century earlier. After discovering an old family cemetery, Maggie feels bonded to Joanna, particularly when she sits on the steps of the old house.
What Maggie couldn’t know is that Joanna often sat on the porch, reading letters her husband wrote to her while he was away at war. The two women shared many things—fear their husbands wouldn’t make it home alive, worry the wars would drag on forever, and loneliness.
I wish I had photos of the old building I remembered as a child. Writing A Moment in Time enabled me to recall fond memories of that time and place.
Excerpt: Joanna observed her husband’s expression as he absorbed everything the officer said. “You’re enlisting, aren’t you?”
Caleb nodded. “Do you understand why?”
“I want to.”
“It’s the only way we’re going to save this country. I can’t, in good conscience, not do my duty.”
They had talked at length about the possibility but hearing him say the words made it real.
“I have to do this. It’s only for three months.”
Ninety days a wasn’t long time. But even as Joanna mulled the idea, she couldn’t shake the feeling this war would last a lot longer.
Lloyd pulled a letter from his pocket as he sat opposite her.
Maggie feared what it said but ignoring it wouldn’t make the problem go away. She took the envelope from him, opened it, then began to read.
You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States and to report to Centerville Greyhound Bus Station on June 10, 1968, at 6: 00 a.m. for forwarding to an Armed Forces Induction Station.
“You’ve been drafted?”
“Honey, we knew this was a strong possibility. College is the only thing that kept me out of the war this long.”
Tears filled her eyes. “I know, but I hoped they wouldn’t call you so soon.”
“I’m not the only one. Two others in my class got their notices today.”
Maggie looked at the letter again. “June 10. Lloyd, that’s only three weeks away.”
Blurb: King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?
Each is a famous menagerie.
While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.
Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.
These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.
REVIEW FROM MAE CLAIR: This wonderful collection offers thirteen tales spanning multiple genres, the heart of each rooted round strong characters and up-close glimpses into small-town life. Several are set in earlier decades evoking simpler times, others are twinned around legends. One even involves a tale told around a campfire. The writing is polished, and the scenes flow easily, packing fully formed and satisfying stories into gems that can be read over coffee breaks, a long afternoon, or as a way to wind down in the evening.
Each reader will find their personal favorites. For me, those include A Moment in Time, in which two women in different centuries try to remain strong during the long years while their husbands are away at war.
The Dare is a brilliant take on a town legend. Add an old cemetery, a skeptical journalist, and a dare on Halloween night, and I was glued to the pages. Storm Rider also resonated with me by tapping into my love of urban legends.
In an entirely different vein, The Homecoming is a moving story spun around several generations of a military family who have gathered to honor a fallen hero. Told from several POVs, it’s both a family drama and a beautiful salute to military veterans.
Finally, at the top of my list is Hot August Night in which the author skillfully captures a snapshot of small-town Americana—especially when she delves into a past decade. From the sultry summer air to the odor wafting from a nearby paper mill, to railroad tracks, old records, and family relationships, this is a superb story. The descriptions alone make it a delight to read, and the characterizations are pure gold.
I highly recommend this thoroughly bewitching collection of tales!
I love learning how authors develop their ideas for stories and books. Isn’t it great how we can take a memory from childhood, hold onto it for years, then use it as a springboard for a tale decades later? I’m so glad to be able to host Joan today, and hope you’ll take a moment to drop her a comment.
Afterward, don’t forget to hop over and grab your own copy of Menagerie. It’s a gem!
Hello, and thanks for joining me today while I welcome Story Empire colleague, and fantastic author, John Howell. I’ve enjoyed all of John’s books but when he wrote Eternal Road, an unusual blend of history and the supernatural, which addresses the conflict between good and evil, I was smitten. So much, that I hinted around—erm, repeatedly—that the characters needed a sequel. I’m happy he agreed.
Today, I’m delighted to host John during his tour for The Last Drive, the long-awaited sequel. You can find my five-star review at the end of this post. In the meantime, please welcome, John!
I am so pleased to be with you today, Mae. First, I want to thank you for helping to spread the word about The Last Drive. Although I had not planned to write a sequel to Eternal Road, I have you to thank for pushing me to return to the characters and the situation. It was an advantageous experience, and I must take a moment to thank you for convincing me it would be a good thing to do. As a result, I could explore additional areas of the relationship between Lucifer, Sam, and James. So, thank you, Mae.
Here is the blurb, and then we can get to a short excerpt from the book.
The Blurb: In the sequel to Eternal Road – The final stop, Sam and James are reunited to look for two souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.
The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey take the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.
This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.
An Excerpt: The Archangel touches his temple. “I’ll come right to the point.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Sam’s eyes lock on the Archangel’s.
“We’re missing a soul and his guide.”
Sam’s hand goes to her mouth. “Missing? How is that possible?”
“Before we get to that, please have a seat, and let me give you the preliminary details.” He points to a chair.
Sam perches upright on the seat’s edge.
“You can relax, Samantha. This may take a while.”
Sam eases back into the chair. For the first time, she notices small lines on the Archangel’s forehead.
The Archangel sits heavily in his chair, sighs deeply, and looks Sam in the eyes. “The soul belongs to an American Air Force pilot. His aircraft got disabled over the Afghanistan countryside.” He pauses. “A lucky shot from an insurgent hit a vital place in his machine. Long story short, the damage forced him to bail out of the crippled craft, since it was on fire and no longer viable.”
A Link to the Trailer
The Last Drive is available in paper and Kindle editions on Amazon. Here are the universal links. The Kindle edition is on sale for 99¢ through mid-February.
Author Bio: John is an award-winning author who after an extensive business career began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written Six other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.
John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.
I hope you enjoyed this post from John. Before you hop over to Amazon to snatch up your copy of The Last Drive, check out my review below and be sure to drop John a comment to wish him well. Thanks for visiting!
My Review of The Last Drive In this follow up to the Eternal Road, departed souls, Samantha (Sam) and James are reunited to help a recently deceased pilot. Airforce captain, Ryan Sanders, died in a selfless act. Eddie Rickenbacker (yes, THAT Eddie Rickenbacker) is assigned as his guide on the Eternal Road but when the two veer off course, it’s up to Sam and James to get them back on track.
The four eventually connect, but their problems are far from over. Determined to claim Ryan’s soul, Lucifer lays trap after trap as the four hop through time using a 1956 Buick Oldsmobile as transport (trust me, the car is a brilliant touch).
It’s obvious Howell did his research—and there was certainly a lot! The reader visits Super Bowl I, the Battle of Britain, Gettysburg, Hiroshima, the California Gold Rush and ancient Rome, to name just a few of the highlights. I found the scenes onboard the Titanic remarkably touching, especially when Sam and James interact with the captain and crew.
S & J have excellent chemistry and their devotion to each other (especially when pitted against Lucifer) is part of what makes them such excellent characters. Captain Sanders also gets a personal spotlight, when the four journey into his past to discover what became of a woman he loved before entering the service.
An entertaining mix of history and the supernatural, The Last Drive offers a unique journey with four great characters as guides. The ending is wholly satisfying and left me with a wonderful warm feeling. If you’re ready for adventure, sit back and buckle in while James revs up the Olds. Next stop—history!
Hello, and happy November! I’ve got a great way for you to kick off the month—with a fabulous book that combines romantic suspense, horses, rodeo, music, and even a murder mystery! Jan Sikes is visiting today with her newest release, Saddled Hearts.
Jan is a dear friend, a sweetheart of a person, and a talented author. Saddled Hearts is the final novel in her White Rune series, but reads perfectly as a stand alone. Look for my five-star review at the end of this post. In the meantime, please welcome Jan!
I am thrilled to visit your blog today, Mae, to talk about my new book, Saddled Hearts. Thank you so much for allowing me to take it over. I deeply appreciate your generosity and support!
When Colt Layne decided to visit the New Age Life Center and consult a medium for communication with his grandfather from beyond the grave, he was in for a shock. I loved writing this scene so much because I could easily recall the first time I stepped inside a New Age store. I’ll share a little bit of his first impression.
EXCERPT: Inside a small metaphysical shop that led into the New Age Life Center, incense tickled Colt’s nostrils while flute music filtered through small wall-mounted speakers. Crystals and other gemstones lined one wall, while books, tarot and oracle cards, essential oils, and incense lined another.
He twirled his Stetson and shifted from one booted foot to the other as he waited for Sage Coventry.
Maybe this was a bad idea. He couldn’t be more out of place if he’d landed in the middle of a foreign country that spoke an entirely different language.
A young girl with a long, tie-dyed scarf wrapped around her head perched behind the counter, munching on an apple. “You can have a seat if you want, Mr. Layne. Sage will be with you shortly.”
Colt glanced around the space and spied no chairs, only colorful cushions scattered on a rug in front of a bookcase. “I’ll just stand if that’s okay.”
The girl shrugged.
In the uncomfortable silence that followed, he meandered to the bookcase and perused the titles. Every subject, from learning to harness the energy of gemstones to reading tarot cards and something called akashic records, filled the shelves. He cleared his throat, put his hat under his arm, then slid out a book entitled Animal Speak by Ted Berner. Now there was something he could relate to.
How much longer? He glanced at his watch. It was already ten minutes past his appointment time. Even though Jag thought highly of the woman’s talents, Colt had his doubts. Sage Coventry was probably an old crone with a pointed witch’s hat and moles on her chin. One of those con artists that tricked desperate folks out of their money.
Yes, this was a bad idea. He slid the book back onto the shelf and headed toward the door.
Have you ever visited a metaphysical store? If so, what were your first impressions? The first one I walked into was in Austin, Texas, in the seventies. I remember being a little overwhelmed but oh, so very curious. Let’s chat.
BOOK BLURB: Colt Layne owns the Layne Horse Sanctuary. He lives an idyllic life between caring for the animals and playing music with his band. That is until a stranger appears with unreasonable demands. When someone murders the man, Colt is arrested. He’s been framed, but by whom and why?
He needs to talk with his deceased grandfather. But that’s impossible. Or is it?
Sage Coventry is gifted with the ability to communicate with the deceased. Skeptical but desperate, when Colt consults with her, he gets more than messages from beyond the grave as she breezes into his heart with sweet patchouli fragrance and tempting lips he longs to kiss.
The race against time to clear his name and save the ranch launches them on a mission that brings shocking revelations.
Awesome, right? If you’re not already intrigued by Jan’s excerpt, and the blurb, let me entice you further with . . .
MY REVIEW: Saddled Hearts wraps up Jan Sikes White Rune series in spectacular fashion. Colt Layne, who had a small role in the previous novel, takes center stage along with Sage Coventry, a young widow who can communicate with the dead. When a stranger shows up on Colt’s ranch claiming to have won it in a card game from Colt’s uncle years ago, Colt contacts Sage to try to reach his uncle beyond the Veil.
Although the novel has a supernatural thread woven throughout, it’s the mystery in the physical world I found most compelling. Colt is framed for murder, then freed on bail, but his troubles don’t end there. The ranch—which he uses to run a horse sanctuary—is plagued by a series of unexplained mishaps and accidents. If that’s not enough, his estranged father, an alcoholic who deserted Colt when he was a boy, shows up claiming to be a changed man thanks to his new wife.
From romance to family dynamics, friendships to rivalries, old grudges and buried secrets, there are a plethora of threads twined throughout this engaging novel. I loved the strength of the character relationships, as well as the care and attention the author put into showing the daily operation of a horse sanctuary. I was enchanted with Ghost, an abused horse who arrives part way through the story and was on pins and needles until that thread resolved itself. The overall arc of who framed Colt played out in a manner I did not suspect. A wonderful blend of romance, mystery, danger, and even music, Saddled Hearts is the perfect ending to a wonderful series. Highly recommended!
Thanks for visiting today. Don’t forget Jan has a scavenger hunt going on for extra fun (see block after the blurb for details). You can connect with Jan at all her social media sites.
It’s exciting to have so many new releases coming out among friends! Thanks for joining me for the third guest author visit of this week. Today, I’m happy to welcome Sandra Cox with her latest release, Geller’s Find. Look for my review at the end of this post, but in the interim, sit back and enjoy as Sandra share’s an excerpt and tells us a little about this fabulous time-travel western!
The hair on the back of his neck rose and his nerves twitched. He’d never seen anything like that rock before. He nudged it with his foot. When it didn’t budge, he bent to pick it up.
The ground under his feet trembled.
The chiastolite glowed. The markings shimmered.
What the hell?
He flapped his arms, trying to balance himself as the ground dropped an inch. A perfect circle below his feet gave way. The stone stayed in place.
He fell into a cylinder of rock and stone.
The bottom dropped.
His stomach flopped and he swirled down.
The wind whistled in his ears as he tumbled into a deep black hole that went on forever. The chill in the air fell away. The further down he went, the hotter the air. The rocks around him began to glow. Good God. Either he was heading for hell or the earth’s core, and neither was where he wanted to be. His grip on the rifle tightened as he bounced off the hot stones that closed around him as he whirled in a tube of rock.
Time had no meaning. Seconds, minutes, maybe more passed as the cyclone of air spun him around. His stomach pushed up to his throat and he fought off nausea.
With a scraping sound, the spinning lurched to a stop.
Then as if an elevator button was punched, he started upward. Only unlike an elevator there was no floor, just rough rock gravity glued him against.
Up. Up. Up. Faster and faster. Then momentum stopped. His body quivered. A force thrust upward and opened.
Hard earth rose to meet him.
With a thud, he landed.
Doctor Luke Geller is a full-time history professor and part-time archeologist. His specialty is Native American artifacts. Instead of a gun, he carries a Hopi throwing stick. He likes cats, horses with a sense of humor, and women who aren’t looking for a commitment.
Bio: Sandra, who also writes as S. Cox, is a vegetarian, animal lover and avid gardener. She liveswith her husband, their dog and cats in sunny North Carolina.
An award-winning author, her stories consist of all things Western and more.
Foodie Facts: She spent a number of years in the Midwest chasing down good Southern BBQ. By the time she moved to North Carolina where Southern BBQ is practically a staple, she’d become a vegetarian.
Pineapple is a must-have on pizza, along with black olives and onions.
She loves pumpkin waffles. Pumpkin cream cheese, not so much.
Geller’s Find is pure, delightful escapist reading.
Dr. Luke Geller is a history professor with an interest in archeology. While digging for potsherds, he stumbles across an old Winchester rifle that inadvertently tosses him back in time to the No Gold Ranch, owned by Lily Winter Tremaine. The ranch is run by Lily and her two closest friends. Luke soon finds himself hired on as a ranch hand, helping the three women defend the property against possible takeover. If that sounds like the set up for an old fashioned western mixed with time travel–yes and no.
Some things play out as expected but there are several surprises along the way. The strength of the book lies in its characters, its feel good vibe, and a huge heartwarming HEA ending. There’s even a cat who factors into the action! You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s guaranteed to leave you with a contented and sloppy grin at the end. A winner!
Happy Tuesday! I’ve got a great guest for you today, but before we kick things off, I need to mention that I am over at Teri Polen’s place for Bad Moon Rising. Staci Troilo and I are joining in the Halloween bash Teri throws every year.
The enormity of work behind Bad Moon Rising boggles my mind, but Teri gladly tackles it each year, showcasing the work of other authors. She’s a fantastic teller of tales herself. I can personally vouch, as I’ve read everything she’s released—from her spooky ghost story, Sarah, to her sci-fi adventure, The Gemini Connection, and dystopian duology Subject A36 and The Insurgent, they’re all wonderfully entertaining. You can find Teri’s complete catalog on her Amazon Author Page.
And now . . . Drum roll, please!
‘Tis the season to kick back with Halloween, and I’ve got just the read for you! The Midnight Rambler is the latest entry in Craig Boyack’s Lizzie and the Hat series (look for my review at the end of this post). I’ve enjoyed all the entries in this highly imaginative series.
Although each of these novellas are standalone, there are some reoccurring characters and themes for long time followers. My absolute favorite is something called Night Bump Radio. I love the whole conspiracy theory element and most especially, the callers. I could go on about this little gem that pops up in each Lizzie and the Hat novella, but I’ll let Craig take it from here. Craig is a long-time, good friend, so I felt fine in specifically asking him for a post on Night BumpRadio.
He delivered . . .
Thanks for inviting me over, Mae. I’m always willing to return the favor and am thrilled to be here. Mae requested a specific topic for this stop and it kind of surprised me. Today, we’re talking about Night Bump Radio.
I have to drop a little history, because The Hat Series includes a lot of cameos and Easter eggs. Nobody has to be aware of what came before, but it’s kind of fun for long-term fans. Pete Rogers originated in a novel called Will O’ the Wisp. Eventually, I recycled him and wrote a short story called Night Bump Radio.
This involved Pete broadcasting a late-night show about things that go bump in the night. As a Nevada native, I’m not embarrassed to admit I designed it after a broadcaster from Pahrump, Nevada whose show was kind of like Sea to Sea. If you know, you’ll get it.
Anyway, I was looking for crazy things to include in The Hat Series, and the hat is kind of technology impaired. He understands the radio, and found this broadcast. Pete interviews people about the craziest conspiracy theories I can discover online. I’m always looking for a good conspiracy, but it has to involve aliens, cryptids, or the paranormal.
Eventually, the locals invented a cryptic monster to blame for the actions of Lizzie and the hat. Things that seem crazy in their locality are blamed on Hellpox. (Kudos to Staci Troilo for that one, because she was always poxing those annoying things in our top secret Story Empire fortress.)
The fictional Hellpox is about as far from Lizzie as you can get. He’s a towering monster covered with boils and sores. She’s a cute girl in her twenties. This provides a lot of fun when she gets annoyed by the comparisons.
I try to have Pete interview people who are way off base, but also some that are pretty close to the mark about the capers my heroes get involved in. The hat thinks Night Bump Radio is a good source of evidence.
In the new story, Pete gets to talk about Reptile Blood, which is a kind of alien takeover conspiracy. There’s a bit about the big storm being a government conspiracy involving black planes and mind control drug that get blamed for rising inflation. I enjoyed that caller lamenting the price of malt liquor and hope you will, too. The hat even tries to call in this time to get Pete to help gather evidence.
Night Bump Radio has a lot of fans, but the stories are about Lizzie and the hat fighting against monsters. Night Bump is a fixture in these tales.
Cover Blurb: Something evil is after the hat. The ageless enemies have battled many times, but this time Lizzie is wearing the hat. She’s also up against a ticking clock, in that if she can’t find the maker of her new friend’s medicine he will die.
The Rambler has kidnapped the only witch capable of making Ray’s medicine in an attempt to make the hat sloppy in his efforts. He’s also flooded the streets with deadly minions to impede any progress our heroes might make.
As if that weren’t enough, Lizzie is facing more of life’s struggles, both financially and mechanically. This all goes down in the middle of a huge flood event that she’s ill equipped to handle.
Join Lizzie and the hat as they battle the elements, the paranormal, and a being of pure evil. Lizzie might be battling some personal demons along the way as she and Ray grow closer.
If you enjoy good, campy fun you’re sure to be entertained by the latest entry in the Lizzie and the Hat universe. This time an old nemesis of the hat shows up to wreak havoc and even scores. In order to flush the hat from hiding, “the rambler” kidnaps the only person capable of producing medicine for a new friend of Lizzie’s—well, maybe a little more than a friend. Ray is a Frankenstein-like monster, and like Frankenstein’s monster, he has a great heart.
Long time followers of the series will recognize certain repeat characters and elements (like Night Bump Radio), but this, like others in the series, is designed to be read as a standalone. There’s plenty of monster-hunting, music (Lizze and the hat front a cover band), great snarky dialogue, and even a few moments to tug heartstrings.
Highly imaginative, this is a great Halloweenish-adventure that can be read any time of year, but is guaranteed to make an extra splash during jack-o-lantern season.
Now that you know all about Lizzie, the Hat, and their latest challenge, are you ready to go Rambling? Hop over to Amazon and one-click to join in the Halloween fun!