Book Promo and Excerpt: Mistletoe Christmas

It’s that time of the year when Christmas books are coming out! It’s my favorite time to be a reviewer because I often get a peek at them first. This is an anthology of four Christmas stories by different best-selling authors, all surrounding the Duke of Greystoke’s annual Christmas Revelry. Make sure and check out the excerpt below. My review will be posted separately on Sunday.

The Duke of Greystoke’s Christmas Revelry is famous throughout the British Isles for its plays, dancing, magical grotto… not to mention scandals leading to the marriage licenses he hands out like confetti.

But not everyone welcomes a visit from Cupid.

Lady Cressida, the duke’s daughter, is too busy managing the entertainments—and besides, her own father has called her dowdy. Her cousin, Lady Isabelle Wilkshire, is directing Cinderella and has no interest in marriage. Lady Caroline Whitmore is already (unhappily) married; the fact that she and her estranged husband have to pretend to be together just makes her dread the party all the more. But not as much as Miss Louisa Harcourt, whose mother bluntly tells her that this is her last chance to escape the horrors of being an old maid.

A house party so large that mothers lose track of their charges leads to a delightful, seductive quartet of stories that you will savor for the Season!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Eloisa James, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, wrote her first novel after graduating from Harvard, but alas, it was rejected by every possible publisher. After she got an MPhil from Oxford, a PhD from Yale, and a job as a Shakespeare professor, she tried again, with much greater success. In 2013 she won a Rita Award for Best Romance Novella. She teaches Shakespeare in the English department at Fordham University in New York. She is the mother of two children and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.

Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She is the author of The Bad Luck Bride. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.

Christi Caldwell is the USA Today bestselling author of more than ten series, including Lost Lords of London, Sinful Brides, The Wicked Wallflowers, and Heart of a Duke. She blames novelist Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love–ones where even the most perfect heroes and heroines had imperfections. She learned to enjoy torturing her couples before they earned their well-deserved happily ever after. Christi lives in Southern Connecticut, where she spends her time writing, chasing after her son, and taking care of her twin princesses-in-training. Fans who want to keep up with the latest news and information can sign up for her newsletter at www.ChristiCaldwell.com.

Erica Ridley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty historical romance novels. Her popular series include the Dukes of War, Rogues to Riches, and Magic and Mayhem.

BOOK EXCERPT

EXCERPT from “A Mistletoe Kiss” by Eloisa James

Prologue

Lady Elizabeth Childe to her American cousin, Mrs. Sarah Darby

November 25, 1815

My dearest Sarah,

I’m so thrilled to tell you that after years of hoping, Lord Childe and I have finally received an invitation to the Duke of Greystoke’s Revelry! ’Tis a magnificent Christmastide house party featuring every amusement and wonder. I’ve heard there are plays, dancing, a magical grotto . . . His Grace has a genius for bringing together the finest in England: the aristocracy mingles with artists, politicians, commoners—even journalists and opera dancers!

As you can imagine, such a Revelry does lend itself to scandalous behavior. For mothers, though, it’s as important as the Season: a girl who has failed to attract a husband might find success in its less formal atmosphere. We shan’t discover the other names on the guest list until it is printed in the Morning Chronicle.

My husband grumps that Greystoke thinks too highly of his party, but the Revelry has been labeled a cornerstone of British society. Now that the duke is on his deathbed, though, no one knows what will happen next year. If this is to be the final gathering, I’ve no doubt it will be a Revelry to remember.

LINKS TO BUY

APPLE | AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | GOOGLE PLAY | TARGET | WAL-MART

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Spirited Mrs. Pringle

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Upon the death of her husband, self-involved social climber Cora Pringle assumes her recent dalliance with a wealthy gentleman will be her second chance at a happily ever after. That is until her paramour turns out to be a penniless imposter. Despite his betrayal, Cora can’t quite let go of the tug the handsome playwright has on her heart.

Desperate for an income, Cora becomes a séance-performing spiritualist and gets a taste for celebrity—and it’s so delicious. So what if she can’t actually communicate with the dead? Her eager patrons don’t need to know that.

Amelia Baxter, an ambitious journalist and suffragist, is discouraged when her editor refuses to let her cover the horrific Jack the Ripper murders. Instead, Amelia pours her frustrations into bringing Cora’s deceptive and manipulative act to an end, even if it means risking her family’s reputation.

“Like the most memorable of its vividly drawn characters, The Spirited Mrs. Pringle is clever, lively, and unabashedly entertaining. Perhaps most enjoyable of all is the seemingly endless series of surprises. A string of sometimes astonishing pleasures to the last page.” – Award-Winning Author Leo McKay Jr.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | KOBO

BOOK REVIEW

The Spirited Mrs. Pringle is a witty, fun, and engaging look at a woman thrown into hard times in Victorian London, the way she rises to fame, and the lessons she learns along the way. It is also the story of a reporter, Amelia Baxter, who is hot on Cora Pringle’s heels, determined to rip away the facade, no matter what the cost. The characters jump off the page, and the reader is caught up immediately in the wit, sarcasm, and romance. The cunning and ambitious Cora Pringle is a manipulative delight of a character who is surrounded by a superb cast. Fans of Victorian romance with a clever twist will not want to pass this up.

I received a free copy of this book via HFVBT Blog Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Farmhouse

BOOK DESCRIPTION

The house, for all of its solitude, seemed incredibly noisy

The Farmhouse, having stood against time and history for nearly 160 years in the Virginia countryside, was forgotten and abandoned until Kyle and Jenny Dowling moved in during the summer of 1972. 

The Dowlings, married just a year, were struggling to repair their broken marriage. It was to be the perfect place, away from it all, to heal their relationship. Jenny would write and Kyle would tend to minor renovations. The rent was cheap. 

The realtor warned them, however, against staying beyond the final days of fall. 

BOOK REVIEW

I must confess that I don’t usually read straight-up horror. I do read magical realism and the paranormal as long as it doesn’t scare me or affect my dreams. I am sensitive to books like that, and this book pushed all those buttons. I was scared, freaked out, and not looking forward to going to sleep, which is why I don’t usually read horror. However, I am not holding that against the book, which was extremely well written. Those characters that haunted me afterwards were supposed to do so, and although I don’t enjoy the creeped out feeling, I applaud the author for creating characters and a story that were so well done in the horror genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L.B. Stimson

L.B. grew up in a one stop-light town in central Idaho. After earning a Bachelor of Art’s degree in cultural anthropology from California State University-Chico, she uprooted herself to begin a new life in Washington, D.C., where she began a varied career in professional communications in private business and education.

“I’ve always had a passion for photography, travel, writing, and history. I am thrilled to now be creating works of fiction that allow me to share these passions with others. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is the historical research required to bring authenticity to my characters’ lives.”

This is her fifth book and the second in her standalone series: Tales from the Parlor Room–a collection of gothic and ghostly tales.

She currently resides in Virginia where she enjoys cemetery walks, visiting abandoned and haunted places and working on more ghostly tales.

Follow her at:

Instagram

Website

Amazon

Pinterest

Twitter

BUY LINKS

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Self-Published Saturday/Grief Songs

Self-Published Saturday is my attempt to showcase works by self-published authors. Saturdays are dedicated solely to self-published/indie authors and their works. These authors have to do it all, from editing to cover design to marketing. Self-published Saturday (or SPS) is my effort to try and help with the marketing side of things as much as I can. I also need your help in the form of sharing this post with your social media followers to give these authors more exposure. Today I want to bring your attention to a wonderful book of poems by Elizabeth Gaffreau. Written in Tanka style, they are a tribute to her departed family members. Liz also agreed to answer some questions for us, so don’t miss the Q&A below!

BOOK REVIEW

Grief Songs is a beautiful collection of Tanka poems, accompanied by family photographs. Each poem pays tribute to a family member and often goes behind the scenes, telling us what is happening “beyond the frame.” It is a wonderful and unique look at a family, both good times and bad.

To anyone who is unfamiliar with tanka poems, here is a quick definition: Tanka poems are Japanese in origin. They are very specifically 31 syllables, 5 lines. The first line has five syllables, the second 7, the third 5, and the last two lines have 7. The first three lines are supposed to evoke an image, and the last two describe an action or emotion based on that image.

In Grief Songs, Gauffreau gives heartfelt tributes to her mother, father, and brother George. Some will make you laugh, and some will draw a tear. My absolute favorite is Angelic, which is aptly named. It is accompanied by the most adorable, and yes, angelic, portrait of two children I have ever seen. Liz and her brother George look like the most beautiful, well-behaved kids ever to sit for a portrait in the history of time. However, the the last two lines of the accompanying tanka read: “George had cried piteous tears/while I railed against my bangs.” This made me laugh out loud–maybe not so angelic! The bangs in question remind me of a lot of pictures in my own family album of home haircuts where the bangs ended up a little too short, usually right before a school picture. This is just one example of the way Gauffreau brings the photos to life with her poetry.

Gauffreau’s ability to weave poems, even poems with strict guidelines, into very descriptive stories is quite evident in this book. A Goodwill Love Story is a great example of that. She describes her parents’ meeting, courtship, and marriage in 5 lines, 31 syllables, and we see pictures in our minds that go far beyond the accompanying photo.

Grief Songs will inspire you to pull out your own family album, remember your lost loved ones, and think about the stories behind the photos. It is a beautifully constructed book of memories full of joy, admiration, and pain.

I received a pdf from the author and also purchased the ebook. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Grief Songs will be released tomorrow, September 26, 2021.

BUY GRIEF SONGS

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BOOK TRAILER

Q&A WITH ELIZABETH GAUFFREAU

Thanks so much Liz, for answering my questions today.  I am so pleased to review your book, and I’ve become a big fan of your writing.

Thank you very much, Bonnie. I’m delighted to be here. I enjoy following your book review blog. You are a voracious reader!

Let’s go beyond the bio.  Could you tell us a little more about yourself?.  What are your hobbies and interests outside of writing? 

I lived in Virginia for a number of years when my husband was in the Navy. While living there, he and I developed a keen interest in exploring historic sites and historic homes. The Colonial Parkway and Jamestown Island outside of Williamsburg were our favorite spots to visit. 

We also enjoy being out in Nature and exploring the back roads of northern New Hampshire and Vermont. After being away for so long, I was very surprised to discover how many dirt roads still remain.

Grief Songs is a collection of Tanka poetry that delves into the grieving process.  What was your inspiration for this book, and why did you decide on Tanka poetry?

I had no intention of writing a book of tanka until two things in my life converged. The first was reading Colleen Chesebro’s syllabic poetry blog and trying my hand at writing a tanka just out of curiosity to see if I could do it. Up until that point, I had resisted syllabic poetry as being too restrictive. I tried one poem and was pleased with the result.

Then, two months later, my mother died, leaving me the only person in my immediate family still alive. As I was going through our family photograph albums, poems started coming to me, and I soon had enough for a book. Writing the poems was a way to stay with my family just a little longer.    

Tanka poems have a very specific set of rules.  Did that inhibit in any way the message you wanted to convey in your book?  

The confines of the tanka form were actually a saving grace because I had to focus at the line, word, and syllable level. I found those confines comforting, like an infant being swaddled. 

Tell us a little about one or two of the poems that are your favorites.  

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “In the Wilderness,” inspired by a photograph of my mother snowshoeing in a state park outside Presque Isle, Maine. When she initially mailed me the photo, my immediate thought was, “Kay in an Alien Universe,” because she looked so small. The other reason the poem is one of my favorites is that readers have told me it prompted fond memories of their own mothers.

I’ve been a fan of your work since I read your book “Telling Sonny.”  You’ve also had many short stories published.  Could you give the readers a description of “Telling Sonny” and your other work, including any current project you might be working on.  Is another novel on the horizon?  

Thank you, Bonnie! I’m so glad you enjoy my work. Telling Sonny began with an odd little note from my mother after she had asked me to write a biography of my dad for our extended family. The note, on a sheet of lined notebook paper, read, “Elliott I. committed suicide and had a sister Dorothy.” It seemed such an odd juxtaposition of facts, I had to write a poem about it: “My Father’s Side of the Family.” 

However, the poem wasn’t enough to get that line out of my head. It rolled around in there for months, until the inciting incident for a novel came to me: Sonny’s mother put in the position of informing him of his father’s death because he had become an afterthought to his father’s family. The novel tells the story of how Sonny’s parents met and parted, all in the setting of small-time vaudeville. 

Much of my short fiction is set in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, where I grew up. Right after I graduated from high school, I got it into my head that I could be the Sherwood Anderson of Enosburg because no other writer had given the village a voice. Then, many years later, I discovered writer Hildreth Wriston, who was born there. Well! She wrote children’s books, however, so I’m telling myself I can still be the Sherwood Anderson of Enosburg. Youthful illusions aside, I’m planning a short story collection titled Enosburg Stories.

In the meantime, I’ve begun work on a novel about the last poor house in Vermont, which wasn’t closed down until 1968. I expect it will take me awhile, as I need to do a fair chunk of research.

Your first book, “Telling Sonny,” was traditionally published.  “Grief Songs” is a self-published work.  Tell us a little bit about the differences you have experienced between the two.  Do you prefer one over the other?

I would have to say that the experience of being traditionally published and the experience of self-publishing have both been an education at the School of Hard Knocks. I went through my undergraduate creative writing program, as well as my graduate program, at a time when the focus was on the craft of writing. The business of writing and self-promotion was not addressed in the curriculum and barely mentioned in passing by my professors. 

As many other authors have noted, even when traditionally published, the lion’s share of marketing and promotion for the book falls on the author. That being the case, I prefer self-publishing because I am in control of each phase.  

What advice would you give to new authors who are just starting their journey?

I will pass on the writing advice that my first writing professor gave us: Master your craft before seeking publication. I found that advice incredibly liberating because I was able to focus on what I enjoyed most without being distracted by rejection slips. 

Thanks again, Liz!  I so much appreciate you following my blog, and I am so happy I was introduced to your writing. 

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Book Review: When Ghosts Come Home

Winston Barnes, Sheriff of a Coastal North Carolina town in the 1980s, is investigating a plane crash. The pilot, passengers, and cargo have disappeared, a young black man is dead, and everyone is a suspect. At the same time, racial tension is exploding in the town, and the Sheriff’s daughter has left her husband and returned home. To top it all off, the Sheriff is in the middle of running for re-election.

This is a mystery told from multiple points of view, but also the story of a town torn apart by racism and corruption. Racism is the main theme, but the issue of grief is also explored. The author gives us a look deep into the hearts of the characters, especially Jay, Ed Bellamy, Winston, and Colleen. Not many mysteries can touch the heart, but this one does by baring the souls of the characters so well. 
It is written with the slow, rhythmical pace of a small town, but will occasionally reach out and slap you in the face with a shock or surprise, just as life will sometimes do. Fans of mysteries will enjoy this novel, but anyone who loves a well-developed story with complex characters should give this a read.

I received a free copy of this book from William Morrow and Custom House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

COVER RATING

The photo on the cover is very relevant to the book. I’ve gotten used to graphic design on the covers, which I think might pop a little more than photos, but the colors in the clouds do stand out. Since Cash is already a best-selling author, is the cover still just as important? What does everyone else think?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wiley Cash is the New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home. He’s been a fellow at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and he teaches fiction writing and literature at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where he serves as Alumni Author-in-Residence. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, will be available September 21. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, photographer Mallory Cash, and their daughters.

BUY WHEN GHOSTS COME HOME

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APPLE BOOKS

BARNES AND NOBLE

MY AMAZON REVIEW (“HELPFUL” VOTES APPRECIATED)

Book Tour and Q&A With Author Wes Verde: Jalopy

Jalopy by Wes Verde

Publication Date: May 9, 2021 Paperback & eBook; 499 pages Genre: Historical Fiction     New Jersey, 1928. All her life, Etta Wozniak has toiled on her family’s small farm, located on the outskirts of a lake resort town. After losing her mother and siblings to one misfortune or another, life has fallen into a rut of drudgery and predictability. That is, until the day she discovers something in an unlikely place; an old car. Energized by the prospects of a world beyond the one she knows, she decides to make this her last summer on the farm. However, disaster is not through with Etta yet, and there will be consequences for her upcoming departure. Art Adams, a recent college man, arrives in town for a family reunion. After years of moving from one city to another and avoiding conflict whenever it tries to find him, he becomes enamored with the lake. However, there is another reason for Art’s visit. He is to marry a woman he has never met before; an arrangement that was made on his behalf and without his knowledge. More comfortable around numbers and machines than people, Art is reluctant to confront his parents on the matter. But if he decides to do nothing, he risks losing who and what he has come to love. In a small town of farmers and firemen, musicians and moonshiners, bossy parents and barn parties, two people will come to understand what they must give up in order to have the chance to build something new.

Amazon

About the Author

Wes Verde is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy. Writing has been a hobby in one form or another since 2006 when he started drawing 3-panel comics. When he is not putting words down, he is picking them up; the “to-read” pile only seems to grow larger. A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Enter to win a paperback copy of Jalopy by Wes Verde! The giveaway is open internationally and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. Jalopy https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js

Q&A WITH AUTHOR WES VERDE

Wes Verde graciously agreed to answer some questions and gave us great insight into the book and himself. Check out the Q&A below:

Hello Wes and thanks so much for agreeing to answer my questions.

Happy to do it. Hope your readers enjoy it as well.

What inspired you to write Jalopy?

It’s difficult to pin down one particular thing, but the prime driving force was probably a general interest in the topic. A couple years ago, I started reading history books in my spare time. You’ve probably seen the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing that specializes in collections of old photographs from around the US. On a whim, I picked up a bunch of the ones for New Jersey towns – mostly out of curiosity for what some of my old stomping grounds looked like a century ago. A few buildings had survived to the current day, but most had been lost at one time or another. “Lost to fire,” was something that I kept seeing.

It was during this time that I rediscovered the fact that NJ was a vacation destination around this time. This had been mentioned to me previously, but it was always in passing and I never really gave it much thought. Now I was seeing the pictures. Places that today are commuter suburbs, but 100 years ago were places for residents of New York City to escape the pollution, noise, and crowds for a short while. Many of these towns – to varying degrees – had a Coney Island or Atlantic City feel, albeit on a smaller scale.

That got me wondering if there was ever a “city mouse/country mouse” moment between a vacationer and a local who got together and how they sorted out who had the better situation. From there, enough of these elements started coming together where I finally decided to put pencil to paper.

The “Jalopy” in question is an abandoned car where Etta dreams of her future.  Cars often inspire dreams for many of us–dreams of travel, adventure, success, and/or  escape.  What would you like the reader to take away from Jalopy and Etta’s dreams vs. her life experiences?

Totally agree. Cars were absolute game changers for the early 20th Century and I chose one for this reason. Travel and adventure are the obvious ones. It’s faster than walking. It carries more people than a bicycle. It’s not locked on a schedule like a train. Within practical limits you can take it off the road. In a pinch, you can sleep in it.

Escape is an interesting one. You don’t often hear about the “getaway horse” now do you? And of course, there is the less dramatic use of the word, where one is merely escaping monotony and drudgery in hopes that the grass is greener on the other side.

As for success, it will certainly expand your options for where you can work vs. where you want to live (I expect that we will see a transition of comparable significance resulting from the doozy that started in 2020). Per my earlier comment about commuter towns, it was the car that made it possible to live among trees and nature but still be able to commute east for employment. You can debate the wisdom and drawbacks of our car-dependent culture, but there’s no overstating what the automobile has accomplished for individual liberty.

At the end of the day, it’s just a tool.

When we meet Etta, she is not in a good way living in the past and trudging along, thinking only of how to get a fresh start somewhere new. On the surface, this is what she wants but not what she needs. Helen is her near opposite, and embraces her place in the social network almost to the exclusion of all other concerns. That’s not to say that we should settle for an untenable situation with people who are not worthy of our affection. Consider Art, who starts in what today we might call an unhealthy familial situation, but later (possibly spoilerish?) finds a place among people who embrace him and to whom he also contributes.

That’s probably the main thing I would hope someone takes from this story. Have dreams. Figure out where you want to be and – just as importantly – how to get there, but also recognize that it is the relationships we have with other people that give our lives meaning. I believe that this is why the trope of the small town is so enduring; it’s an idyllic model of this idea.

Your depiction of the drudgery and worry of trying to get by in the late 1920s captured the era perfectly.  What was your research process for this time period?

Aside from the local history books which I mentioned previously, a lot of it came from discussions with my grandmother. She was born in 1932, a few years after the events of the novel, but she grew up on a farm in a then-rural part of New Jersey. I attempted to remain as authentic to her experiences as possible. They grew their own vegetables and raised chickens and pigs – what soap they had was made from the tallow of their own animals. The incident with the chickens pouncing on Etta was inspired by something that actually happened to Grandma. To this day, she still uses the term “ice box” to refer to the refrigerator. The division and specialization of labor was far different than what most of us know today. They did much of it themselves – some might call that drudgery.

Other aspects were things I extrapolated from standalone facts. For example, in 1908 – when Etta would have been born – there were 2 cars per 1,000 people in the US. By the events of the novel in 1928, that number had jumped to over 200. Her formative years would have been during a time when parts of the country were surging ahead while others were being left behind. 

If you were of limited means but still wanted to hear music, church was probably your best bet. Alternatively, options for consumer radios were quickly expanding for those who could afford one. A cabinet radio like the one described in the novel would be about $1,500 adjusted for inflation. Even then, not everyone was hooked up to the electrical grid. While refrigeration was starting to become the standard, ice was largely harvested during the winter months and in some places would remain so for decades. There were many more farmers: about 30 per 100 workers at the time compared to just 2 per 100 today.

Additionally, the 18th Amendment obliged many to add beer and wine making to their list of chores… All told, that’s a lot of manual labor.

Jalopy is your first novel. What will you be working on next?

The Interwar Period in New Jersey is my literary home for the moment. There’s just so much worth exploring. As mentioned previously, it was the home of many lakeside vacation towns where residents of New York City would go to let their hair down. Novel #2 will mostly keep with this setting, but in a different direction thematically and tonally.

Not long after I started Jalopy I had this idea for a story about a heist involving a band of rogues and shysters who bite off more than they can chew. Mostly staying within the Garden State, this novel will be somewhat greater in scope and include locations of historical interest. It will also delve more into the social, industrial, and commercial concerns of the time.

Your bio describes you as an Engineer by trade.  How do your experiences as an Engineer reflect in the novel and how does an Engineer become a writer of Historical Fiction?  It’s not necessarily a traditional path for an Engineer.

Indeed, it is not a traditional path, but neither is it completely unheard of. While he doesn’t do HisFic, Andy Weir worked on software before his success with The Martian and later Project Hail Mary.

As for how such a background translates into writing – well… there’s a reason I include details like how many pedals are on a 1926 Model T vs. a 1914 Studebaker. Mechanical engineering is my specific discipline which is great for the setting of the novel. The time before electronic controls and digitization inspired many novel solutions that often blurred the line between careful design and whimsical tinkering – I love stuff like that. Early automobilists were more pilot or operator than modern drivers.

I also love to learn, especially when it comes to old machines. The description of the menagerie of farm equipment lining the walk up to Gregory’s workshop was heavily based on my experience at a farm museum in Northern New Jersey. In fact, the same place features a 1918 burgundy REO which served as the model used for the cover image.

In short, I’d say that I’m a gear head first, an engineer second, and an author as time allows. 

You self-published this novel.  What advice can you give new authors who want to self-publish?

Be patient. The time from my first handwritten notes to publication was about 25 months. That was setting aside about an hour or so each day, but even 15 minutes will add up over time if you are consistent and stick with it.

The barrier to entry has never been lower. If you have an idea and something to write with (I wrote two chapters on my phone) you can find an audience.

The cover artwork is fantastic.  Who created the cover for your first novel, and what is your opinion of the importance of the book cover in overall sales?

Angela Fernot, a friend of mine for many years and – as luck would have it – a professional artist. I believe she has something like ten years of experience (not including school) mostly doing portraits and fantasy work as well as graphic design (Link to her website is below). This may have been her first car, but you can see she’s got the hand for it. I cannot recommend her enough and will most certainly look to commission her for my own future books.

As for importance of the cover, there’s a reason we have to tell people not to judge a book by it because that’s exactly what everyone does. It’s not entirely without good reason. After all, if the author didn’t care enough to make it look good, how much effort could they have possibly put into the content?

The current trend for HisFic covers is an individual woman, often looking away from the viewer and toward a sepia-toned city or landscape. For the romance-centric, it’s a woman in a flowing gown which tells you exactly what you need to know (you Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean fans know what I’m talking about).

To its credit, this quickly informs the potential reader what you’re about. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between looking professional (like every other book) and standing out (possibly in a bad way). There’s a whole thread somewhere featuring a bunch of book covers that are woefully apparent in their do-it-yourself quality.

If you must cut expenses somewhere in the process of getting to print, don’t do it on the cover.

Thanks Again, Wes, for taking the time out to let us get to know you better.

LINK TO MY PREVIOUS REVIEW OF JALOPY

LINK TO ART OF ANGELA (ANGELA FERNOT)

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Book Promo: Centotaphs

**Not a Book Review

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Cenotaphs copy

Welcome to the book tour for Cenotaphs by Rich Marcello! Read on for details and a chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

Cenotaphs FRont Cover FinalCenotaphs

Publication Date: July 26th, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

AFTER A CHANCE MEETING, AN OLD MAN AND A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN CHART AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH FORWARD.

When Ben Sanna, a contemplative retiree with a penchant for helping people, and Samantha Beckett, a secretive New York City hedge fund manager, meet by chance in a small Vermont town, they enter into a tenuous relationship. Over several weeks, Samantha and Ben open their pasts inch by inch, sift through their futures consciously, and come to terms with the strength and depth of their bond. A meditation on redemption told in alternating chapters of musings and scenes, Cenotaphs is about platonic love; the ways we close ourselves off in reaction to pain and what happens when we open ourselves up again; and the deep, painful legacy of loss.

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A SORTING

The parts recur––the son, the lover, the husband, the father, the friend, the citizen. They come in whispers and fragments, in the unwinding of memory. They come in your smile, in the laughter of our children, in nightmares, in bursts of violence against once precious objects. How do you gauge the parts of a life? Did I perform any of them well? How do you summon them into an unfettered whole?

I am old now. I’d hoped I would’ve figured out a few answers by this point, but the truth is I spend more time each day watching the Red Sox than thinking about such things. In the summer and fall, the games are on every day, often twice a day, and watching them gives Zeke and me something to do. Something zen exists about the game, something appealing to me as I age, something about the stillness, the waiting, the bursts of energy, all mimicking the best and worst times in life. And I like the red, blue, and gray uniforms. They remind me of a more structured time.

Zeke, a big black, brown, and white mutt I rescued about ten years ago, keeps me company in our cabin. When I first got him, he liked digging holes in my yard, searching deep and dirty, with only a rare unearthing. His record: twenty-two holes. Twenty-two! In one of them, he found an empty wine bottle, message-less. Now, Zeke mostly sleeps in the same worn spot on the living room rug. I’m not sure which one of us will die first.

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About the Author

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Rich is the author of five novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, The Beauty of the Fall, The Latecomers, and Cenotaphs, and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, self-discovery and forgiveness. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to at least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his wife and Newfoundland Shaman. He is currently working on his sixth and seventh novels, The Means of Keeping and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.

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Book Promo: The Shepherd’s Burden

**Not a Book Review

The SheperdsBurden copy

Welcome to the book tour for award-winning novel, The Shepherd’s Burden by Ryan Young. Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed copy of the book (North America) or a digital edition if your are international!

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The Shepherd’s Burden

Publication Date: June 18th, 2020

Genre: Paranormal Thriller

1st Place Winner, 2020 Chanticleer International Book Awards, Paranormal Awards for Supernatural Fiction Category

Staff Sergeant Daniel Jefferies has returned home to upstate NY after nearly being killed in an ambush in Iraq. Plagued by the trauma of war, he struggles to find his place in a world that he no longer recognizes. He feels disconnected from his family and friends. But, none of his burdens are heavier than the terrifying secret that he has kept about a mysterious encounter from his youth. When a suspicious murder occurs, he will discover that he has been chosen for a purpose that transcends life and death, forcing him to confront his past. In order to stop the killer, he will have to make choices that will change the fate of the people he loves the most. Can Daniel summon the strength of mind and body, that he once had as a soldier, to face the most profound and consequential challenge of his life?

Excerpt

Daniel took the main route out of town. It took them through the city center and back to the site of Nella’s murder. As they approached the site, they saw a man and his young son crossing the road with their donkey. The donkey was towing a wooden cart full of produce. There was an open-air market in the city center. People traveled there to sell their goods. For many of them, it was their only source of income. The boy was four or five years old and the cart was fully loaded, so they were moving slowly. Daniel pulled to a complete stop to allow them to cross.

“Keep an eye out,” Keith yelled up to Aashirya.

It was always dangerous to be stopped in the middle of a road in Iraq. Instead of the vehicle being a moving target, which could be hard to hit, it became a stationary target, which was much easier to hit. The chances of an ambush greatly increased.

It was Keith’s job to keep his team on alert, but the heightened state of awareness didn’t change his demeanor. He was perfectly calm. He pulled out another cigarette and lit it while they waited for the man and his son to cross the road. He offered one to Daniel, but he turned it down.

“I can’t understand how nothing seems to bother you. I’ve been doing this just as long as you have. No matter how many times I’m out here, I still get nervous. I wish I knew your secret,” Daniel said.

Keith laughed it off.

“There is no secret, Danny. I told you before, nothing lasts forever. Everyone dies at some point. It’s a foregone conclusion. It’s not a question of if, but when. What’s the difference if we die now or fifty years from now? We shouldn’t fear death. We should embrace it.”

“I think you have been out here too long. You are really starting to trip me out. I think you need a long nap and a cold beer. After that, you need to get laid and seriously rethink that no-fear, embrace death bullshit. Personally, I would much rather be afraid and alive than calm and dead.”

Daniel turned his attention back towards the road. The man and his son were now directly in front of the vehicle. The boy stopped walking and turned to look at him. When they made eye contact, Daniel got an eerie feeling that something was wrong. Before he could react, a large explosion went off underneath the Humvee. The blast tossed the vehicle fifteen feet into the air, landing it on its side.

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About the Author

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Ryan Young is a former Army Captain and Iraq War Veteran. He is a lover of all things fantasy and sci-fi. A native of Utica, NY, he now calls New England home.

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Self-Published Saturday/Silent Rise: A City, the Arts, and a Blue Collar Kid

Self-published Saturday is my attempt to help Self-Published/Indie authors. These authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to marketing and more. Saturdays are reserved for giving them a little bit of help with the marketing side. This week’s first offering is Silent Rise by Rick H. Jones. It is about his life and his path to becoming the Director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, OH. As an additional note, I have stopped putting dates on Self-Published Saturday reviews. I think it’s better that they remain timeless.

BOOK REVIEW

This is the author’s memoir of growing up in Dayton, Ohio, his talent for painting and love for the arts, and the path that led him to become Director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, OH.

I found this book to be part memoir and part “how to” book, as a lot of the mechanics of setting up, conceptualizing, and funding an arts center were discussed in the book. There are a lot of personal anecdotes as well. Jones pays well-earned homage to the leaders in Hamilton who helped him to bring the idea of an arts center to fruition and help it become the center of a thriving community. For anyone interested in setting up an arts center or any kind of nonprofit, this will be a fascinating read. 

Jones mentions his extended family in the “hollers” (or hollows) of the Eastern Kentucky mountains, and I appreciated the beautiful quote he provided about “the definition of a holler,” written by Roberta Stephens. The full article by Stephens is at https://www.marshmallowranch.com/defi…. I completely understood that quote. I grew up in Cincinnati, but my late Mom is from Western Carolina, and we spent summers with her relatives in Bryson City. I will be living in the very holler my Mom grew up in after I retire.

While the author said some of his family and acquaintances in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky were racist, I have not experienced that at all. My Western North Carolina mountain family includes cousins of Native American and African American heritage, not just Caucasian, and I haven’t seen racism there. Cherokee, home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, is just 10 miles away. I can only speak to my experience, but I just didn’t want people to think all of Appalachia is racist, because that is not so.

Overall, this is a detailed memoir about the arts and what they can do for a community. The author’s love and care for his adopted community of Hamilton, OH, are very evident and appreciated.

COVER RATING

Cover Rating is a new feature where I give my opinion as to whether or not the cover will be noticeable when readers are scrolling through millions of offerings on Amazon. It does not reflect in the overall rating of the book review. I asked the author, who is an artist, if this was abstract art, and he said “No. It’s rusting metal.” This is to symbolize the rust belt and Hamilton OH. I thought that was pretty cool! I think the cover is very noticeable, especially for a non-fiction book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick H. Jones

Rick got his start in the arts when his mother enrolled him in Saturday morning art classes at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio. He continued for nearly a decade. With two degrees in painting, having taught college art for six years, and forty years’ experience in arts administration, he is now an exhibited painter, author, and sometimes poet. He has consulted on board development, fund development, grantsmanship, and arts management for numerous arts centers, councils, and organizations. In retirement, he and his family own an art supply and framing store in Hamilton, Ohio. In 1991 he was awarded the Ohio Governor’s Award in Arts Administration.

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