Book Review: Once Upon a Time in the Swamp by C. S. Boyack #newrelease #postapocalyptic #adventure @Virgilante

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

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! 🎉


Long-horned ox pulling cart, swamp and large satellite dishes in background

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.


MY REVIEW

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!!!


PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Guest Post – The Last Drive by John W. Howell #newbook @HowellWave

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!


Book cover for The Last Drive by John W. Howell,  shows dirt road headed toward sea, greenery on either side

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.

Banner ad for The Last Drive shows tablet with book cover beside cup of coffee and cell phone

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

Buy Links

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.

Kindle  | Paper

Author, John W. Howell

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.

Author links
Blog: Fiction Favorites  | Facebook  | Twitter | Goodreads Amazon Author’s page | BookBub

Eternal Road Buy links
Kindle Universal link  | Paper Universal Link 

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!

Meet Lizzie from The Hat by C. S. Boyack

Ready for some author fun? Today, Lisa, the robot girl, the spokesmodel for C. S. Boyack is back on my blog to talk about Craig’s latest release, The Hat. She’s even brought along a fabulous new poster to share. Seriously—no one rocks hats like Lisa. Well, except maybe her author and Lizzie St. Laurent.

And just exactly who is Lizzie, you ask? I’ll let Lisa explain…

Hi, everyone, and thanks for inviting me over again, Mae. What’s with all this snow? Idaho has almost none this year.

On a tour like this one, we talk about all kinds of things. Today, I want to talk about Lizzie St. Laurent.

Lizzie is a young woman, working multiple jobs to hold things together. She has two legitimate jobs, and one under-the-table kind of thing where her apartment is.

It all started when her parents bought her a car and shipped her off to college. She lived for a year with her grandmother, but Grandma had to go into assisted living. Lizzie had to make new arrangements, and life got ahead of her as it often does. She dropped out, and took on any work she could find to make ends meet.

After her grandmother died, Lizzie asked for a memento from her grandmother’s things, but her greedy-assed uncle said no. That’s when she stole a random box. This box turned out to have an old hat inside. A hat with deep ties to her grandfather and previous members of her family.

The hat turned out to be a creature from another dimension, trapped in the form of a hat for all time. He can transform into any kind of headwear, and Lizzie tests him on that skill. He isn’t up on women’s fashion or the fact that hats are out of style.

When a ring of baby snatchers take her best friend’s newborn, the hat convinces Lizzie they are uniquely equipped to do something about it. The hat has a few abilities beyond just being fashionable.

To pull this off requires a combination of skills. Some Lizzie has, and some the hat possesses. The hat hasn’t seen modern society for twenty years; he’s not used to our electronic world or modern sensibilities. Lizzie hasn’t seen people at their worst, like they were dating back to the Bronze Age, but the hat has. They’re both going to have to adapt and trust each other to rescue the missing babies.

Craig wants me to remind folks The Hat is novella length, so you can read it in an afternoon. It’s priced at 99¢ and is an incredible deal.

Today, I’m handing out this fun poster. It’s me, wearing the hat on a crisp autumn morning. Nothing paranormal happening, just a nice portrait. This version of The Hat does appear in the story though. Feel free to use it as your iPad background or whatever you like.

Lisa Burton artwork shows Lisa in a green off-the-shoulder sweater, wearing a pink hat and drinking a steaming beverage from a cup

 

Cover for the novella, The Hat by C. S. BoyackBlurb:
Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

Purchase The Hat HERE  

Author C. S. BoyackAbout the Author:
I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novels | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest