International Day of Awesomeness: Celebrating Sally Cronin @sgc58

A big company of colorful cats with top hats and flowers standing on the beautiful light green background
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Today is the International Day of Awesomeness! Who wouldn’t want to celebrate something so spectacular? I can think of plenty of things I consider awesome, and plenty of people. When you hang around in the blogosphere for any length of time, you get to know others.

One of the most generous and thoroughly supportive people I’ve “met” is Sally Cronin.

Author, Sally Cronin

My Story Empire colleagues and I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on Sally. She is an amazing individual who gives of her time selflessly, constantly sharing promo pieces which showcase others.

Her blog, Smorgasboard Blog Magazine, is filled with author spotlights, book reviews, weekly roundups, profiles and more—all in support of her fellow authors and bloggers. I seriously don’t know how she does it, but I’m thankful to have been touched by her generous spirit.

For the Story Empire group, today is all about Sally! It isn’t just the International Day of Awesomeness—it’s Sally Cronin Day! To celebrate, I’m sharing a trio of my reviews for Sally’s books. She has plenty more in her catalog, covering everything from fiction and non-fiction to short stories, and poetry. I’ve found her work to run the gamut from heartfelt to humorous, introspective to slice-of-life. Be sure to check out Sally’s work on her AMAZON PAGE, and find the book or books that speak to you.


Book cover for Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin shows colorful butterfly winging over landscape

FLIGHTS OF FANCY
by Sally Cronin

This is an entertaining collection of short stories and one novella. It takes a strong look at relationships, some flavored with reminiscing, others firmly rooted in the here and now. Each tale offers polished writing, unique characters, and engaging plot lines.

I enjoyed the cleverness of Getting Away with Murder and Psychic Parrot, and the emotional tug of The Other Side of Heaven and Curtains. Henry’s Story was a particular favorite of mine, having met Henry and Sam in one of the author’s other works. There’s nothing like a world-wise cat to share his story.

The title tale, Flights of Fancy is deftly executed and delivers a wonderful punch. The story of a woman (now much changed) encountering two people she knew during high school, left me grinning ear to ear.

Finally, closing out the book, The Sewing Circle, is a brilliant gem. In this novella, a group of senior ladies takes it upon themselves to right a horrible wrong. You can’t help cheering for these feisty women as they use grit, determination, and a few surprises to ensure justice is meted out. A great read all around!

AMAZON LINK


SAM, A SHAGGY DOG STORY
by Sally Cronin

Seriously. Who could resist that face?

This is a fun, heart-warming book that tells the story of Sam—the author’s collie—from the time he is a puppy through adult life. What makes the tale especially unique is the delivery. The book is told entirely from Sam’s POV. We learn about his early life after adoption, including his friendship with Henry, a feral cat who becomes a precious friend ultimately responsible for teaching Sam to speak “cat.” Sam also has two young kittens who become special friends during their short life span (that part broke my heart).

Sam shares how he learns to “speak” a few human words, about his favorite treats, trips to the vet, adventures on walks and even relocating to a different country. For anyone who loves animals, this is an enchanting story that leaves the reader with a feel-good glow. The author clearly loves her canine companion, an attachment that shines through in each page of this winning story. Photographs of Sam from puppy to adult collie are sprinkled throughout. He is such a beautiful dog!

AMAZON LINK


LIFE IS LIKE A BOWL OF CHERRIES: SOMETIMES BITTER, SOMETIMES SWEET
by Sally Cronin

a bowl of cherries on cream background with single cherry setting outside of bowl

This is an entertaining collection of short stories with several poems scattered throughout. The book is grouped into topics such as Technology, Animal Magic, and Connections (to name a few) with stories and poems related to their header topics appearing underneath. It’s cleverly presented and cleverly written. All of the stories are winners but there were some that really stood out for me, including The Weekly Shopping, The Nanny, The Scratch Card, and The Night Shift.

In The Weekly Shopping we get a taste of what ordering groceries might be like with when we come to rely too much on technology. It’s both hilariously funny and worrisome at the same time. I loved the argument related to the cat!

In The Nanny, a young couple discover who is watching over their baby at night. The Scratch Card left me with a lump in my throat at the generosity of others, and The Night Shift made me appreciate the special love pets have for their owners and the kindness of those who appreciate that bond.

These stories are heartwarming and touching, with scattered poetry further enriching the sections. A lovely collection and a quick read, the stories will lodge in your heart and linger.

AMAZON LINK


Cheers and a cyber toast with a clink of champagne glasses to Sally!
I invite you to connect with her on her

Amazon Page | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Thanks for joining the Story Empire gang for our
International Day of Awesomeness shout-out to Sally!

Collage of photos of the authors from Story Empire, with blog title in center with the tag line "Exploring the World of Fiction"

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Reunion by Kiersten Modglin, Among the Headstones, An anthology of Gothic Horror Stories edited by Rayne Hall @RayneHall

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

Book cover for The Reunion shows standing broken wine glass over red background

THE REUNION
by Kiersten Modgllin

I’m a fan reunion books, so it was a no brainer to scoop this one up. Cait DuBois, shunned by “the Populars” in her high school, is now a celebrated novelist with an amazing husband and lovely twins. Ten years after graduation she returns to her hometown and the hotel that hosted her senior prom—the scene of a tragedy that still haunts her. Returning to Hotel Lilith means encountering the girls that made her life miserable in the past, plus reconnecting with one of her oldest friends. Not long after arriving at Hotel Lilith, she meets a woman claiming to be a fan. Anna’s presence seems to be the catalyst for a series of mysterious events that grow increasingly threatening.

The story didn’t follow the path I expected, but it held my interest and kept me flipping pages. The plot moves at a crisp pace with chapters alternating between Cait’s high school years and the present. We get a group of bitchy girls both in past and present, replete with underlying pettiness and snark. There’s also relationship angst and a dark secret Cait has harbored since the night of the prom but has never shared.

I admit being frustrated with Cait’s behavior in the last quarter of the book but without giving away spoilers the reasons are hard to address. There’s also a plot hole at the end, but it’s relatively small and doesn’t distract from the climatic scenes. If you’re looking for a quick read that plays out like a Lifetime movie, The Reunion is a good fit.

AMAZON LINK


book cover for Among the Headstones shows illustration of old tombstones in a graveyard, black cat sitting atop one stone

AMONG THE HEADSTONES
Creepy Tales from the Graveyard: Gothic and Horror Stories
Edited by Rayne Hall


This fantastic collection of short stories, centered around graveyards and burials, is beautifully atmospheric. By turns spooky, dark, and lyrical—a few even tongue-in-cheek—the tales range from classic to contemporary, bringing together a variety of voices and styles. As someone who finds cemeteries equally restful and mysterious, imbued with the echoes of those who’ve lived before, I was enthralled.

Rayne Hall has done a stellar job with presentation. The entire work is professional and polished. I especially liked how each author is given a moment to share their thoughts at the end of their specific story regarding the inspiration behind it. Overall, it’s a rare anthology when almost every single work delivers.

Although I enjoyed this collection cover to cover, the following stood out as my personal favorites: Dead Person Collection, The Story of Salome, The New Catacomb, Lucretia’s Hum, Another Oldie but Goodie, The Shortcut, and Behind Him.

Take a walk among the headstones—you won’t regret it!

AMAZON LINK

Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: The Banshee

stack of book with round wire-frame eyeglasses on top, beside lighted vintage brass candle, carnivale mask in background

Weeds and thistles are woven into portents,
a funeral of the fallen is a soul to collect,
bound to the river by a fragile, pale vision,
are the shards of a life fate failed to protect.
*

The keening wail of a banshee is said to herald death. The name comes from the Irish “bean sidhe” (or Scottish Gaelic “bean sith”) which relates to a woman of faerie blood. She is “the woman of the fairy mound.”

Blessed with foresight, the banshee knows of a loved one’s demise prior to their passage, and loudly lamented their departure with sorrowful weeping and moaning.

She often appears in the guise of an old crone on the side of a stream or river, washing the blood-drenched clothing of the one doomed to die. Other times, she may be young and beautiful, or appear in the form of a hooded crow, hare or weasel. Sometimes she is not seen, only heard, her eerie wailing enough to make those who catch it on the night air, cower in terror. 

Traditional folklore paints the banshee as an ancestral spirit attached to the five great families of Irish heritage—the Kavanghs, O’Briens, O’Gradys, O’Connors, and the O’Neills. She would only wail for members of these families, with some believing each had its own banshee. Likely more curse than blessing.

woman dressed in black wailing on bank of stream, among tangled trees and briars

As with most legends, myth is contorted and changed over time as it passes from generation to generation.  I don’t recall my first exposure to the banshee myth but whenever I hear the name, I picture a woman with unkempt red hair, keening as she washes bloody clothes on the bank of a rock-strewn stream or river.

Why red hair? I’m not sure. Maybe it meshes with the idea of blood-soaked garments. Maybe I associate her with battle, as attributed in some ancient myths. There are other folktales that depict the banshee as a young woman who uses a silver comb to attend to her flowing white hair as she weeps. Certainly, the more poetic of the two versions. Somewhere among my many years of reading fantasy and myth, the weeping washer-woman must have ingrained her image into my subconscious.

I’m a visual person whether I’m reading, writing or having a discussion. What about you? What do you see when you hear the word banshee?


*Verse taken from the poem, Funeral for the Fallen
Copyright Mae Clair


Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Prince and the Prodigal by Jill Eileen Smith @JillEileenSmith #Biblicalfiction #OldTestamentFiction #HistoricalFiction

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

I have a number of book reviews to catch up on, but I so enjoyed my most recent read, I couldn’t resist bumping it to the top of the list. The Biblical account of Joseph’s life has always ranked among my favorite of the Old Testament (David is a close second), but strangely, there are few offerings. I pre-ordered this book the moment I saw it, and hated for it to end. One of those books where you want to reach the end, but you don’t because then the story is finished. You know what I mean, right?


Book cover for The Prince and the Prodigal shows profile of young man in Egyptian dress from shoulders up, sunset and pyramid in background

THE PRINCE AND THE PRODIGAL
BY Jill Eileen Smith


BLURB:
Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.

While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

Bestselling and award-winning author Jill Eileen Smith brings her considerable research and imaginative skills to bear in this vivid retelling of one of the most popular stories found in Scripture–a story of jealousy, betrayal, and a reconciliation that only God could bring about.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY REVIEW:
For a long time, I’ve looked for a novel about Joseph, my favorite person from the Old Testament, but there are few to be found. I was therefore ecstatic when I learned about the release of The Prince and the Prodigal, and immediately placed it on pre-order. The book is everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

Anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows the animosity Joseph’s eleven brothers felt for him as the first son of Rachel and the favored firstborn of Jacob. Not everyone, however, may realize the role Judah played in Joseph’s being sold into slavery, or the guilt Leah’s fourth-born surely carried afterward for years. Smith uses this as the basis for his splitting off to start his own tribe.

Joseph’s story is shown side-by-side with Judah’s, revealing the tribulations and growth of both men—as Joseph goes from slave to ruler of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, and Judah learns to return to God only after years of strife within his own family. The story of Tamar and Judah is covered in detail (Tamar is one of only four women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew).

While Dinah’s backstory with Shechem is hinted at, the events are set before The Prince and the Prodigal takes place, but Dinah (Jacob’s only daughter) is also a POV character.

From the dusty tents of Jacob to the confinement of Pharaoh’s prison and the lavish palaces and gardens of Egypt, scenes are painted with vivid detail. Chapters are short and keep the action moving forward at a brisk but engaging pace. The people who populate the narrative (both historical and fictional) are given depth that draws the reader into the struggles they face, both spiritual and physical. I loved the way Joseph and Judah are portrayed, and as the two female POV characters, Dinah and Tamar are equally well defined.

This is a story of family. Of brotherhood, forgiveness, and redemption. Strength in the face of adversity, healing, and most of all, the belief that God is ever faithful and will deliver. Old Testament fiction is one of my favorite genres. I rank this book as a favorite, not only in the genre, but among my favorite reads of all time. I will certainly go back and read this again. A superb retelling of Joseph’s story and one I highly recommended.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Murder They Wrote #FreeEbook #ShortStories #Anthology #Mysteries #WritingCommunity

Book banner ad for Murder They Wrote shows ebook lying on sweater, old watch nearby

Murder They Wrote is FREE through Saturday, 2/26

I’m pleased to have my short story, Winter Reckoning, among the tales in this anthology. A straight mystery set in Medieval England (no supernatural elements or the cryptids I favor), the story takes place at a holiday gathering in a snow-bound castle. Did I mention there’s a body, scheming nobles, plenty of suspects, and a killer to identify?

I hope you’ll join in the sleuthing! 🙂

BLURB:
Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors.

Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder. 

For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues. 

Book cover shows two figures in black silhouette in an empty room with large windows and curtains behind, gunman shooting victim in back

How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath. 

Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party. 

Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection. 

And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts. 

Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.


Murder They Wrote offers a variety of clever tales in which there are clues to be found, red herrings to avoid, and villains to unmask. And because each short story is a complete mystery, you can engage your detective skills a little at a time, or all at once as your mood dictates.

I’ve closed comments on this post, but hope you’ll. . .

GRAB A COPY FROM AMAZON

New Release: Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes @jansikes3 #RomanticSuspense #MilitaryRomance #WhiteRuneSeries

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Happy Guest Author Thursday! It’s my pleasure to welcome friend and Story Empire colleague, Jan Sikes with her newest release Jagged Feathers.

Jan has been burning up the blogosphere with the launch of book 2 in her White Rune Series, and I’m delighted to participate in her tour. You can find my review of Jagged Feathers (which BTW, reads perfectly fine as a standalone) HERE. I was smitten with her two leads, Vann and Nakina, and Vann’s dog, Champion. I also enjoyed the layers of symbolism and folklore in the book. Today, Jan shares how some of that came about in her post below. Take it away, Jan!


Thank you, Mae, for inviting me to your blog site today to talk about my new book, JAGGED FEATHERS! I appreciate your generosity.

I have always been fascinated by Native American Folklore and spent a lot of time reading and researching different beliefs, especially concerning animals. Birds are believed to be messengers between worlds. My late husband had a strong connection with owls. To some tribes, the owl is an omen of death while to others it is a sign of wisdom.

In my story, Nakina Bird spent many summers of her youth on the reservation with her grandmother, so it was natural that she’d adhere to some of the Native American beliefs and traditions. The blue jay held special significance for Nakina. Not only are the blue feathers striking, but they are unique songbirds in that they mate for life. She recalled many of her grandmother’s teachings throughout the book, but this one seemed to stand out.

Banner ad for Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes on shows book on chipped, painted wooden floorboards

EXCERPT:

“Tell me about the shooting incident in your past that freaked you out so much.”

Nakina recounted the incident when the boys taunted her, and then how she accidentally shot the bird. “It made me physically sick. When the blue jay fell to the ground after I fired, it took every ounce of energy in me not to throw up right there in front of those boys.” She drew in a sharp breath. “After they left, I performed a sacred ceremony and buried the bird, but not before taking a special feather from him.” She twisted her hands together on her lap. “And now you understand why I reacted the way I did when you found the blue feather in the bottom of the boat. Ever since that day, blue feathers have been a good sign for me. Almost like the bird’s way of forgiveness.”

Vann whistled. “I can understand how you felt when you shot the jay.”

She stared out the window. “When I told Grandmother what happened with the bird, she said that to Native Americans, the blue jay represents trickery or mischievousness. Then she told me that blue jays mate for life, and that was symbolic for me. Of course, as a teenager, I dismissed all of it as folklore. But I did keep the beautiful blue feather to always remind me of what I’d done. And I never painted on it.”

“That’s quite some story. I’ve observed plenty of jays, and they’re generally aggressive and noisy birds, but I never thought of them as being symbolic of anything. I’ve watched them run off birds twice their size to get a ripe berry.”

“The Native American people have a story or some sort of symbolism for most everything, and they believe in spirit animals that walk with us and help us on our journey.”

***

Have you ever had a spirit animal or an experience with an animal that went beyond the norm? I know D.L. Finn has with bears and C.S. Boyack with Eagles. I’d love to hear about your affinity to a certain animal and what it means to you.

BLURB:
Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.  

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive, but find an unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?

UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Connect with Jan Sikes at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Bookbub | LinkedIn | Amazon Page


bio box for author, Jan Sikes

I had no idea blue jays mated for life. Yes, they can be aggressive and noisy as Vann points out, but they’re also amazing birds. I always liked watching them flit around the feeder in my rear yard.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post as much as I did, and will help me in cheering on Jan with her new release. Drop her a comment, then hop over to Amazon to ONE-CLICK your copy of Jagged Feathers!

Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: From Wonder Room to Cabinets

Stack of books with round eyeglasses on top, brass vintage candle, and carnivale mask in background

Today’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a look at… well, cabinet of curiosities! 

I have a curio cabinet in my home that’s filled with all manner of odd collectibles—an antique teacup, a crystal lion, a hand-painted wine glass, a beautiful carousel horse, a kachina doll I picked up in Arizona, an antique stein and shaving cup that belonged to my grandfather—you get the idea. It’s an assortment of items that mean something to me, many of them gifted or dating back generations in my family. 

The modern curio cabinet has a history that begins in the sixteenth century, a time when a “cabinet of curiosities” was the be-all/end-all of after dinner entertainment. With little to do for amusement, aristocrats began collecting oddities which they displayed in a “wonder room.” This became a place of diversion, alleviating boredom, while astounding guests.

The German name for these rooms was wunderkammers. Collectible objects were tucked wherever they might fit and be displayed—walls, floor, even ceilings. Imagine walking through a room where most every surface is covered with peculiar and eclectic oddities. Can you hear the oohs and aahs from awestruck visitors?

A forerunner to museums, wonder rooms usually focused on science and/or history, often including a slant toward the bizarre. This was especially true as centuries progressed. You might find the skeletal remains of a mythical creature, or perhaps a unicorn horn, side by side with experimental medical instruments, dried insects, fossils, and shells. Eventually, rooms became smaller cabinets ideal for displaying curiosities. Taxidermy animals, feathers, and “monsters” including animals with multiple heads were a particular favorite. The same with quirky science devices. 

Vintage photo of young Myrtle Corbin, known as the four legged girl, seated in a chair
Myrtle Corbin. Image in public domain, courtesy Wikimedia commons*
Vintage photo of Issac W. Sprague, the human skeleton taken in 1867
Isaac W. Sprague. Image in Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons**

P.T. Barnum took that interest in the bizarre and unusual and expanded it with sideshow attractions like Myrtle Corbin, the Four-Legged GirlJosephine Clofullia, the Bearded Lady, and Isaac W. Sprague, the Human Skeleton, to name a few. 

Robert Ripley followed with his “Believe it or Not” museums which showcased the weird and wonderful. Who hasn’t been in a Ripley’s museum? Still popular today, they’re a staple at many beach towns in the U.S., with twenty-nine locations (including Ripley aquariums) around the world. 

Our passion for the strange and the unusual has carried from the sixteenth century to modern day and shows no sign of abating. Maybe we don’t gather in “wonder rooms,” strolling among exotic plants, dried fish heads and dragon scales, but we easily reach for Google, books, or TV, to feed our interest in the peculiar.

To me, it says we’ve never lost our sense of wonder. Moving forward, I’ll be diving back into specific curiosities again, but I thought a tip of the hat to the cabinet of curiosities in general was due. We owe a lot to those bored aristocrats of the sixteenth century who had no idea how to pass the time after a dinner party. And to Mr. Barnum and Mr. Ripley.

What are your thoughts on curiosities?


*Photo of Myrtle Corbin: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myrtle_Corbin_by_JR_Applegate_c1880.JPG

**Photo of Isaac W. Sprague:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Isaac_W_Sprague,_living_skeleton,_1867.jpg

New Release: Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow @KarinaBartow @WildRosePress #mystery #familylifefiction #detectivefiction

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hello and thanks for joining me today as I welcome Karina Bartow to my blog. Karina is a first time guest who reached out to ask if I would be interested in taking part in her blog tour. Of course, I said “yes!” I hope you’ll make her feel welcome as she shares a story I think all writers can relate to…


The Power of Perseverance in Publishing
By Karina Bartow

Yesterday, The Wild Rose Press released Brother of Interest, the sequel to my debut novel, Husband in Hiding! This was the culmination of five years of waiting, hoping, and yes, a little crying. But a lot more work went into it than that.


I’d already finished the sequel when Husband in Hiding was released in 2015. My publisher at the time seemed eager to continue the mystery series, so I thought I was set to have a new installment out every year like the big-time authors do. I broadcasted it to just about everyone who bought the book, which began an endless game of hearing, “When’s the sequel coming out?” The anticipation thrilled me, but as matters started to fizzle out with the company and the sequel’s publication appeared ever more unlikely, the question became wearisome to discuss.

At a crossroads, I decided to shift my focus until the dust settled and pursue my second novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You. In fact, I first discovered Wild Rose when I was shopping that to companies in 2017, but it didn’t end up being the right match for them. I proceeded with Vinspire Publishing and hoped they might be a good home for the Brother of Interest, but they didn’t feel that it was right for their catalog. Nonetheless, they gave me input that helped the plot along. While it changed the way I originally wanted the beginning to unfold, I saw the advantages of implementing their advice and how it would better attract readers and prospective publishers.

Fast-forward a year, I came across Wild Rose again and realized they also publish mysteries, so I figured I’d give it another shot. After reading the first three chapters, the editor wanted me to make some tweaks but said she’d be willing to look at it again once I did so. When I resubmitted it to her, she complimented me on my adjustments, but she felt the story still needed some work. She suggested I read Revision and Self-Editing for Publication as I continued to sculpt it further, so I ordered the book that day.

Between its guidance and hers, I looked at the plot with clearer vision and adjusted elements I may never have thought to without it. I didn’t even intend to submit it to her again, but I didn’t want to waste the insight she gave me. I knew it’d benefit me regardless.  The week I resumed sending out queries, I mustered the nerve to contact her to thank her for her help and ask if she’d like to review it once more. To my surprise, she did, and it led to a long-awaited acceptance letter.

I wanted to share this experience for the hard-working, often frustrated, aspiring authors like me—and dreamers of all sorts. Perseverance and persistence does pay off, but it involves more than pure willpower. You can’t close the door on a company just because of past rejections. You also can’t squander the wisdom the right people provide. When it comes to publishing, very few editors/agents give you anything past a straightforward rejection, so you should appreciate it when someone takes the time to give you tips. They could give you just the leg-up you need to find success…sometimes where you least suspect it!


Book cover for Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow shows old-fashioned baby buggy with handcuffs dangling from handle

Brother of Interest
(Unde(a)feted Detective Series Book 2)

BOOK BLURB:
When Minka Avery left the police department and her life as a deaf detective, she thought chasing after her toddler daughter and keeping tabs on her mischievous husband would be the extent of her excitement. Before long, however, her brother lands on the list of suspects in a high-profile crime and throws her world into chaos.

Torn between her conflicted feelings for him and her desire to see justice carried out, she decides to unofficially explore the matter on her own. She begins to see that the case is bigger than it seemed at first glance, but before she can unravel it further, she discovers Robin using her garage as a hideout from the authorities! Now forced together, can Minka overcome the many distractions to figure out the massive scheme that’s really playing out? And can the bizarre circumstances somehow improve her and Robin’s chilly relationship?


PURCHASE FROM
The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Walmart | Books-A-Million

Author, Karina Bartow

AUTHOR BIO:
Karina Bartow grew up and still lives in Northern Ohio.  Though born with Cerebral Palsy, she’s never allowed her disability to define her.  Rather, she’s used her experiences to breathe life into characters who have physical limitations, but like her, are determined not to let them stand in the way of the life they want.  Her debut novel, Husband in Hiding came out in 2015, followed by Forgetting My Way Back to You, 2018.  She may only be able to type with one hand, but she writes with her whole heart!

To learn more, visit https://karinabartow.com/

Social media:
Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


I love celebrating new releases, and am delighted to be hosting Karina just a day after the release of Brother of Interest. Don’t you just love that book cover? And how about that post? We all know this is a tough business with a lot of ups and downs. I’m glad Karina stuck with her dream and didn’t give up. It just goes to show that bridges are never burnt, doors are never closed, and there’s always room to keep trying. Happy book birthday to Karina!

PURCHASE BROTHER OF INTEREST FROM
The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Walmart | Books-A-Million


Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect House by R.P. Bolton, Kittens and Kisses at the Cat Cafe by Kris Bock @RachintheFax @Kris_Bock #fictionreviews #bookish

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

Today I’m sharing two books I read toward the end of 2021 (yes, I’m still catching up). These are on opposite ends of the fiction spectrum, but both deserve a splash in the spotlight for keeping me entertained and flipping pages!


THE PERFECT HOUSE
by R.P. Bolton

Book cover with key on key ring with a house-shaped fob

Ellie and Tom move into what they believe will be the house of their dreams. It’s in a great neighborhood and the price can’t be beat. Sure, the property requires fixing up and the garden is overgrown, but as new parents of a beautiful baby girl, it’s the perfect place for them to raise Trinity and be a family. If only Tom’s job as a police officer weren’t so demanding, often leaving Ellie in isolation with the baby in an empty house. It isn’t long before Ellie learns the property has a history, one that has made it a pariah in the neighborhood.

Ellie starts experiencing strange happenings, hearing things and seeing things, all instances that escape Tom’s notice. Then she begins sleepwalking and begins to question her sanity—especially given she’s never made peace with a tragic incident in her past that left her suffering from PTSD ten years ago.

The book shifts chapters between “Then” and “Now” gradually unfolding the history of the house and the incident from Ellie’s past. If you enjoy a mystery with supernatural elements, this book delivers. It’s easy to read, moves at a fast clip and ties everything together neatly at the end. Ellie and Tom are both good characters and the history of 6 Moss Lane (the house they bought) makes for interesting backstory.

There were times I grew frustrated with Ellie for not speaking up, and some of the “happenings” felt repetitious after a time, but the mystery kept me flipping pages and reading late. An intriguing supernatural mystery.

AMAZON LINK


KITTENS AND KISSES AT THE CAT CAFE
by Kris Bock
#2 Furrever Friends

As someone who has always loved cats and kittens, I was drawn to this book the moment I saw it. Single mother, Marley, is a baker at a cat café—a coffee shop/eatery/bakery that also has a set-up allowing patrons to mingle with cats which are awaiting adoption (real cat cafes exist in a number of cities though I have never had the good fortune to visit one).

One morning, someone leaves a box with five, week-old kittens on the doorstep. Adam, who has carried a flame for Marley since his tween years, when he knew her as the older sister of his best friend, volunteers to take the kittens to the vet. When all is said and done, Adam becomes their caregiver. He recruits Marley, her nine-year-old son, Brian, and other friends to help him in nurturing the kittens. In the process, Adam finds opportunities to reveal his feelings to Marley, and she begins to see him in a new light.

Naturally, there are complications, as the path to true love is never smooth, but the reader knows an HEA awaits at the end. This is a sweet romance in which the kittens have almost as much page time as the characters. There are several secondary threads, involving a restaurant reviewer, a singing contest, and Adam’s passion for writing. The way in which Marley finally reveals her feelings to Adam is flirty and clever, guaranteed to leave the reader with a smile.

This is the second book in a series in which characters cross over, but each story is complete. I had no problem being grounded in this book despite not having read the first book. After finishing it, I immediately bought three more. I could do no less as someone who loves books and cats—a match made in Heaven!

AMAZON LINK

Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: Myths of the Ebb Tide

Art concept. Vintage still life with old book near lighting candle

Happy Tuesday! Today’s Cabinet of Curiosities post is short, but one that speaks to my heart for many years of acquaintance with the subject.

If you’re like most people, the thought of an ebb tide brings a feeling of tranquility. Who doesn’t love to walk along a barren stretch of beach with the glittering hem of the ocean gently receding from shore?

The eastern seaboard has been my second home through countless springs, summers, autumns and even winters. I know areas of it as intimately as my own backyard. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked on sunbaked beaches or sand cooled by twilight after the sun was swallowed by the vulture-beaked rim of the Atlantic.

Sunset over the ocean with waves rolling into shore

I’ve picked up shells, stones, and pieces of driftwood, scattered souvenirs left by the lap and kiss of the receding tide. Although I find those strolls on the beach rejuvenating, the myths of yesteryear would have me believe differently.

In days of yore, people thought an ebb tide capable of draining someone’s spirit. Anyone who dwelled by the sea knew the receding tide would steal the spirit from the body. New ventures were best embraced when the tide was high. By the same token should someone fall ill, their soul was likely to depart with the ebb tide. Plantings of any kind were done when the waters were high so that their essence was not whittled away and carried off by the vanishing waters.

Old wives’ tales aside, there is something magical about an ebb tide. To this day, it’s one of the visual images I embrace during nightly meditation. Superstitions about the give and take of the ocean may have changed over time, but the music is much the same.

Are you a fan of seaside strolls and ocean folklore?