Guest Post: Menagerie by Joan Hall #newrelease #shortstories @JoanHallWrites

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!

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

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.

Banner ad for Menagerie, short story collection shows jungle landscape with army helicopters overhead, book cover to right

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.

Banner ad for Menagerie, a short story collection by Joan Hall shows Civil War cannon on autumn battlefield, book cover to right

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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.”

Book cover for Menagerie, a collection of short stories by Joan Hall shows close up of old fashioned street lamp at night

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.

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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!

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The Midnight Rambler by C. S. Boyack #newrelease #paranormal #urbanfantasy #halloween #lizzzieandthehat

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 Bump Radio.

He delivered . . .


Spooky full moon with bats, bare tree branches and a blackbird illuminated in front
image courtesy of Pixabay

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.

book cover for The Midnight Rambler shows close up of spooky halloween scarecrow with jack-o-lantern face and witch's hat

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.

GET YOUR COPY HERE

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

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

MY REVIEW:

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!

GET YOUR COPY HERE

The Haunting of Chatham Hollow Blog Tour: Thank You Tour Hosts and Commenters!

Thank you banner for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow

Happy Monday! I hope yours is an awesome one!

Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who hosted me and Staci Troilo during our blog tour for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. I know I can speak for both of us when I say we had a blast making the rounds. If you missed any of the posts and would like to check them out, these links will get you to your destination:

Joan Hall
Jan Sikes
Harmony Kent
Gwen Plano
Craig Boyack
John Howell
Denise Finn
Sally Cronin

Thank you also to everyone who visited and commented. We hope you enjoyed following the tour and meeting our characters. It was so much fun introducing them.

Finally, thank you to everyone who purchased a copy of Chatham, and to those of you who have posted reviews. We’re thrilled by the positive reviews and are delighted you enjoyed our story.

With our utmost appreciation and gratitude—thank you, all!

Book Tour Day 8: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @dlfinnauthor @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats super-imposed on dark night sky with large full moon to left

Happy Thursday! It’s the next-to-last day of The Haunting of Chatham Hollow blog tour for this week (you can find Staci and me at Sally Cronin’s fabulous blog on Saturday). Thank you to everyone who has stuck with the tour, left comments, and shared your thoughts. Staci and I both appreciate your awesome support!

For my final stop, I’ll be visiting D. L. Finn, a wonderful friend and Story Empire colleague with a perpetually sunny disposition and a whimsical outlook on life. I love that she has never lost her magical sense of childhood, an outlook reflected in her writing. She’s a diverse author with a collection that spans novels to short stories, poetry, and children’s books.

Her most recent release, A Voice in the Silence is both suspenseful and highly imaginative. I loved the characters—including the four-legged ones! You can find all of Denise’s releases on her Amazon Author Page.

When you’ve finished browsing, I hope you’ll join me on her blog where I’ll be introducing my final character, and lead protagonist, Victor Rowe. By this point—if you’ve been following along on the tour—you’ve heard a lot about him!

Comments are closed on this post, but I hope you’ll join me THERE.

Book Tour Day 7: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @HowellWave @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats to right of old fashioned hurricane lantern with flame glowing from glass

Happy Hump Day! Thanks for joining Staci Troilo and me as we wind down our tour for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. After today, only one two stops remain, but Staci and I have saved two highly intriguing characters for last.

Staci is visiting John W. Howell, a highly supportive blogger, friend, and Story Empire colleague. John is a wonderful storyteller with a body of work that ranges from action thrillers—the John Cannon series—to paranormal suspense as evident in Eternal Road. I recommend them all and am eagerly awaiting the follow-up to Eternal Road. To browse John’s collection of novels, visit his Amazon Author Page.

After you’ve had a look-see, be sure to pop over to John’s blog where Staci will be introducing Rebekah Fetzinger, head of the Chamber of Commerce in Chatham Hollow. This is one lady you don’t want to miss—and should be very careful to cross paths with!

Comments are closed on this post, but you can join in the fun HERE.

Book Tour Day 6: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @Virgilante @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats to left of fat squat candle, dripping wax

Happy Thursday! Today is the last stop this week for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow blog tour. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a particularly chameleon-like character. If you’ve been following the tour, you’ve heard the name Benedict Fletcher creep up more than once.

Today, Benedict makes an appearance at Craig Boyack’s blog.

Craig is one of my oldest online friends. Story Empire initially grew from Craig and I discussing Halloween promo for our book releases way back in the day. We roped Staci Troilo and Harmony Kent into the discussion, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Craig keeps things imaginative and lively at SE, as well as in his work. He’s known for a vivid imagination with genres that cross speculative fiction, cyberpunk, science-fiction, fantasy and all things odd. He’s the author of the ongoing Lizzie and the Hat Series but you can discover all his work on his Amazon Author Page. Take some time and browse his release. I guarantee they’re colorful and entertaining (my favorite is Grinders).

When you’re through browsing, join me at Craig’s place, where my shifty spiritualist, Benedict Fletcher sits down to chat with another medium. Comments are closed on this post, but I hope to see you THERE.

Book Tour Day 5: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @gmplano @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats, lighted park path in background

Hello, friends, and thank you for joining me on the short blog tour Staci Troilo and I are rolling out for our co-authored release, The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. We’ve been taking turns introducing various characters, and today I’m up!

I’ll be visiting Story Empire colleague and friend, Gwen Plano. I am so thankful to know Gwen, one of the kindest and most respectful people you’re likely to meet online. In addition to being a sweetheart of a person, she’s also a talented author of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

I’ve been swept away by both her memoir (written as Gwendolyn M. Plano) and her fictional series, the latest entry being The Culmination which I found particularly strong. The entire series can be found on her Amazon Author Page.

After you’ve had a look-see at Gwen’s titles, hop over and join us on her blog where I’ll be introducing the second set of sisters who factor into my 1888 timeline in The Haunting of Chatham Hollow.

Comments are closed on this post, but I hope to see you THERE.

Book Tour Day 4: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @stacitroilo @harmony_kent

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats on table beside ornate candle holder, window with sheer curtains in background

It’s day four of The Haunting of Chatham Hollow book tour! Thank you for visiting with me and Staci during our short tour for our co-authored release. We’re highly chuffed (“chuffed” in honor of our Brit friend, Harmony Kent) about this book and excited that Harmony is hosting today.

Harmony is a brilliant multi-genre author, with a wonderful sense of humor. She’s also one of the founding members of Story Empire. Her most recent release, Life & Soul: Book 2 in the Soul Poetry Series is an exquisite and reflective collection that I highly recommend.

I’ve read numerous releases by Harmony, all of which you can find on her Amazon Author Page. Be sure to browse her many titles which span the gamut from fiction and non-fiction, to short stories, poetry, and novels. When you’re through, be sure to visit Staci and Harmony as Staci introduces her female protagonist Greer Faraday, editor of the Chatham Hollow Chronicle.

Comments are closed on this post, but you can join in the fun HERE.

Book Tour Day 2: The Haunting of Chatham Hollow #newrelease #ghoststory #spiritualism #mystery @JanSikes3 @stacitroilo

Promo ad for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow shows book in various formats on black marble background

Happy Thursday! Today is day two of the short blog tour Staci Troilo and I are unrolling for our new release, The Haunting of Chatham Hollow.

Today is my turn for visiting, and I’m kicking things off with a talented lady, friend, and Story Empire colleague—Jan Sikes.

Jan’s latest collection of books is her White Rune Series. I’ve already pre-ordered book three, Saddled Hearts, the final release in this romantic suspense trilogy, and can’t wait for it’s October 19th release.

You can see all of Jan’s books on her Amazon Author Page, including her Flowers and Stone series, a fictional retelling of her life with musician, Rick Sikes. Be sure to check out her work, then hop over to visit us on her blog, where I’ll be introducing Aaron Brock, a newspaper editor from the town of Chatham Hollow—in 1888!

Comments are closed on this post but I hope to see you THERE.

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New Release: No Such Luck by Staci Troilo #sweetromance #holidayromance #novella

Happy Tuesday! Although I’m mostly offline this month to concentrate on NaNoWriMo, I’ve made several exceptions to host new releases on my blog. First up, is No Such Luck a sweet holiday romance from Staci Troilo.

Staci is a dear friend and one of the founding members of Story Empire. She’s also a super talented author who always delivers a phenomenal story. Her latest is no exception. Look for my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, say hello to Staci!


I appreciate you inviting me here today, Mae. Hi, everyone. Thank you for chatting with me about my new release, No Such Luck. It’s a fast and fun clean romance perfect for the holiday season.

Piper Seidel’s life-long best friend is Jack Rhodes. He’s always been there for her, and even though she moved away right after high school—first for college, then for her career—he never stopped staying in touch with her. When he says, “I’ll always be there for you,” he means it. They have history, even if she can’t remember it. This brief excerpt shows how far back it goes.

Teaser Graphic for or No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette with background of red carnation, teaser text over top

“Where’d you park?”

“At the lodge.”

“At the—How do you get the tree down there?”

“We drag it.”

“You and your father drag a tree down the side of a mountain?”

Piper nodded and smiled.

“It’s no wonder it takes you so long.”

She shrugged.

“Grab the top, Pea.” 

“Stop calling me that.”

“Never. You earned it.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“How?”

“Third grade.

“How?”

“Guess you don’t remember that one.” Jack shook his head and sighed. “Grab your end.” When she complied, he hefted the trunk, then started down the hill. He called over his shoulder, “Come on, Frank.” 

She worried about her Dad. He was still on the phone with Pam and didn’t look happy. 

The three of them made their way back to the lodge. 

While her father paid for the tree and got it loaded in the bed of his truck, she thanked Jack again. “I’m really sorry about Pam. You didn’t need to come here.”

Jack got a bottle of water and bandana from his center console, then turned to her. He dabbed at the cut on her head, cleaning the blood off her face. “I’ll always come for you if you need me, Pea. Always.”

“Stop calling me that.”

He smiled. “No.”

She shook her head, but he kept wiping at it. 

“There. That’s better.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking care of you. The way you should be cared for.”

“I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Think about it. Think about third grade, too. You need a better good luck charm.”


I have to admit, I’ve sustained an injury or two Christmas tree shopping. But I never walked away with my forehead bleeding. Good thing Piper had help. 

I hope you enjoyed that quick sneak peek. No Such Luck, the first installment of the Keystone Couples series, is available now on Amazon.

Book cover for No Suck Luck by Staci Troilo shows couple in silhouette  with background of red carnation

Blurb:

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

Bio box for Staci Troilo

Website | Blog | Social Media | Newsletter | Amazon ​| BookBub ​| Goodreads

MY REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a sweet, breezy romance that instills a feel-good glow. Piper Seidel has lost her job as a journalist and ends up returning to her hometown for an extended winter vacation, uncertain of her future. Reconnecting with her past includes crossing paths with her old high school crush, Tommy Burnett, and her childhood best friend, Jack Rhodes. Both bring complications into her life and have her re-examining what matters most to her.

This is a short read, but one that is tightly written with a fully fleshed out plot. I loved the near-to-Christmas time frame (especially when Piper and her dad go searching for a Christmas tree) and the small-town feel. Piper grows over this story, learning truths that she was too blind to see previously, but I like to think the other characters (one in particular) experienced personal growth, too. Definitely a charmer!


Thanks for joining Staci and me today as we celebrate the release of No Suck Luck, Pop the virtual bubbly, and drop a comment to cheer on Staci with her newest book, the first in the Keystone Couple Series. I for one am definitely looking forward to more!