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Monday, December 10, 2018

Who built the dollhouse?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Jordan Elizabeth to my blog. She's the author of Clockwork Dollhouse (see my review here), and, since she and I both enjoy fantasy novels, I thought I'd offer her a warm drink on this cold morning and find out what else we might have in common. Please pour yourself a drink and join us:

First of all, who is in the picture?

The man in it is Aaron, the illustrator for FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD

And the woman is presumably you. What sort of book do you most like to read, Jordan? 

I love fantasy books. I just get sucked right into the new worlds.  I also enjoy historical fiction and anything young adult.

What sort do you most like to write, and if the two answers are different, why might that be?

I've tried to write something that wasn't fantasy, and magic worked its way in anyway. I'm still trying to branch out and try different things.

I know what you mean. Sometimes stories demand to exist just the way they choose, whatever the writer was planning, don't they? 
Do you prefer short stories or longer fiction? Standalone or series?

I prefer standalone.I like to know the story is done.  I do have a series, though - Treasure Chronicles.I tend to write longer fiction, but I've been dabbling in short stories and novellas to mix things up.

Novellas like Clockwork Dollhouse I guess. So, which came first in that one, the doll's house or the characters? And how did you write the story? 

The doll's house came first. My grandmother bought me a dollhouse kit when I was young and no one ever put it together. A friend's husband finally constructed it a few years ago.Since then, I've been obsessed with decorating it and finding miniatures.

I'm told my dad spent many secret hours putting my dollhouse together before Christmas when I was a kid. Now you've got me itching to write him into a story. But how much of yourself do you write into your characters? 

Occasionally, I tend to base a character on me, but usually I write about other people I know.

My characters all end up living inside my head when I write about them, which I suppose means they're all parts of me. Anyway, time's up so one final question: What do you wish people would ask you? 

"Can I buy your book?" Haha!

I wish they'd ask me that too! Thanks for visiting, Jordan, and good luck with book sales. Here are a few links:

Meet Jordan and find her books at:

Clockwork Dollhouse on Amazon:

Treasure Chronicles on Amazon:

FANYA in the Underworld on Amazon:

And Jordan's Amazon page:

Monday, December 3, 2018

What happened in Alexandria 272 AD?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Richard Hacker--author of the fantasy historical novel, Die Back--to my blog. He's going to take us Behind the Curtain... to Alexandria 272 AD, and I'm eager to see what we'll find... But first, let me introduce him:

Richard Hacker is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas who now writes and lives in Seattle. (Hurray for the Pacific Northwest!)

His writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. In addition to his writing, he provides editing services to other writers and is the editor of an online science fiction and fantasy journal, Del Sol Review. His three published humorous crime novels ride the sometimes thin line between fact and fiction in Texas. DIE BACK, his first fantasy thriller novel, has been published by Del Sol Press.

When not writing he’s singing in a vocal jazz ensemble, cooking with a sous vide and a blow torch, or exploring the Pacific Northwest with his wife and his springer spaniel, Jazz.

Find him at...

Website Link:
Twitter Link: @Richard_Hacker
Facebook Link:

And now...let's go...

Behind the Curtain of DIE BACK: Alexandria 272 AD

In the fantasy thriller DIE, League ‘Inkers’ use the knowledge revealed to them in the Alchimeia to protect the time continuum. Using alchemical ink, they write themselves into past lives, leaving their bodies in the present. To return home, they must die in the past, breaking the link with their host. All of these journeys into the past have a foundation in actual events, from a battlefield near Cantigny, France in WWI to the flight test of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft for the Army at Fort Myer to the Inca encounter with Pizarro in Peru.

The opening scene of DIE BACK unfolds in 272 AD at the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. The city, founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, quickly became a center of culture, learning and commerce due to its harbor and geographic position. The Great Library, purported to have housed the most extensive collection of writings on the planet at the time, was damaged by a besieged Julius Caesar in 48 AD. Apparently setting fire to your ships near a library full of flammable materials does not bode well for the library. Go figure.

The year the League inkers enter the city, 272 AD, the Roman emperor Aurelius was in the process of putting down a revolt led by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, destroying much of the remaining library buildings and contents. At its height, the library acted to gather as much of the knowledge in the world within its buildings as possible, housing from an estimated 40,000 to 400,000 papyrus scrolls. Librarians would depart Alexandria in search of new writings and ships coming into the harbor were asked to surrender their books for copying by the library.

The League Inkers have ‘inked’ to this place and time in order to keep the dangerous knowledge of the Alchimeia from those who want to control the time continuum and reality itself. So, the League has found an excellent location to hide the Alchimeia among the many scrolls. Not only is the document hidden among thousands of others, more importantly, it has been placed in a ‘time lock’. In 272 AD the Alchimeia will be destroyed within twenty-four hours of placing the scroll on the shelf. Only an inker with specific knowledge of the time and location will be able to reacquire the document.

Sounds like a very good strategy and I’m sure we have nothing to worry about…

Oh, indeed. Why do I get the feeling there'll be plenty to worry about. Sounds very intriguing...
Thank you so much for visiting my blog Richard, and now, let's leave readers with an excerpt to enjoy over their coffee.

Title: DIE BACK (Book One of the Alchimeia)
Author: Richard Hacker
Publisher: Del Sol Press
Pages: 332
Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

In 272 AD Egypt, an enemy thwarts an attempt by League Inkers, Thomas Shaw and Nikki Babineaux, to obtain the Alchįmeia, a document holding alchemical secrets. Sensing his impending death, Thomas secures Nikki’s promise to keep his son, Addison, from the League, an organization defending the time continuum. After his father’s death, Addison inherits a mysterious pen, accidentally inking himself into the consciousness of a man who dies on a muddy WWI battlefield in France. Hoping to make sense of his experience, he confides in Nikki, his best friend and unknown to Addison, an Inker. Keeping her promise to Thomas, she discounts Addison’s experience.
Fixated on the pen, Addison inks into a B-17 bombardier in 1943. The pilot, whose consciousness has been taken over by someone calling himself Kairos, gloats over killing Addison’s father and boasts of plans to destroy the League. As Kairos attempts to wrest Addison’s consciousness, Nikki shocks Addison out of the Inking. She confesses her knowledge of  the League. When Kairos threatens to steal aviation technology, she she sends Addison and his partner, Jules, to an Army test of the Wright Flyer in 1908. Believing they have succeeded, they return to find the continuum shifted and Nikki knowing nothing about the League.

Inking back to his father’s mission in Alexandria, Addison and Jules hope to get his help in returning the time continuum to its original state. Instead, Addison’s father gives him the Alchįmeia to hide in a crypt at the Great Lighthouse on Phalos. On their return to the present a Kairos agent murders Jules, her consciousness Inked into the past. Addison follows the clues, Inking into Pizarro in 16th century Peru. He finds Jules in the child bride of the Inca emperor. His plan to find the technology and save Jules without destroying the Inca civilization is thwarted by a fleet of Inca airships. Captured, he is taken to Machu Picchu. With Jules help, they find the stolen schematics, but are confronted by Kairos. He stabs Addison, forcing Addison’s consciousness back to the present and traps Jules in the 16th Century. Addison returns to another altered world. Nikki no longer exists, the world is at war with the Inca, and Manhattan lay in ruins.

Addison Inks his father, learning the origins of the League. Thomas urges Addison to uncover their enemy with the help of his colleague, Maya. Putting suspicion on another inker,  Cameron, she insists he must be killing Inkers and acquiring Pens. In a final attempt to stop him, they entrap Cameron, only for Addison to discover Maya is Kairos, his enemy.  She kills Cameron, also wounding Addison.  He chases Maya, who intimates that she holds his mother’s, Rebecca’s, consciousness. Confused he delays, giving her time to scrawl a name with her pen before shooting her dead.

Inked away when Maya died, Kairos finds himself, not in his intended host, Hitler, but in a German infantry soldier POW in the Ardenne during the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. Hoping to repair the shift in the time continuum, Addison brings the League Pens together with the fate of the world and everyone he loves at stake. He awakens to a dissimilar world, but Jules and Nikki exist. And with life there is always hope.

First Chapter

I am an Inker. Without death my job goes undone. Like other Inkers, I plan for it, yearn for it while never loving it, but this time, death might well prove to be my doom. Alchemic algorithms placed my partner Nikki and I at the historic burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, in 272 AD. We had inked ourselves into the consciousness of the right people—an arthritic librarian and his slave boy—and stole the Alchi̱meía papyrus scrolls for their rare alchemical formulas.
Our plan should have worked without a hitch. Instead, we are now faced with a severe obstacle: a massive Roman centurion in heavy scale armor, a member of Aurelian's legions currently sacking the city in an effort to defeat and demoralize Queen Zenobia. The centurion stands at least six foot three, his armor smeared with Egyptian blood, his mouth open and yelling at me, not in Latin, but with a voice oddly reminiscent of twentieth century New York:
"Stop, Inkahs!"
He blocks a narrow passageway of the library, holding an infantry gladius, a short-sword with a golden hilt, sunlight from the open courtyard glinting off his blade. There is no way forward or around him. White limestone walls on my left, stonework railing and black marble pillars on my right, and a long drop over those rails into the quadrangle. We are so screwed. I speak in the librarian's Coptic dialect.
"You must be mistaken, brave centurion." I nod to my partner, Nikki Babineaux, an athletic twenty-something woman present-side, but a small, twelve-year-old boy in this passageway. In our robes and sandals, an old man and a boy, we define defenseless. "I am a librarian and this boy is my slave."
American English with a New Jersey accent. Who is this guy? I feign confusion, continuing in Coptic, hoping to buy some time. "What is this word you use? Are you a foreigner?"
"Enough, Inkahs. Gimme the satchel!"
Nikki drops the pretense, shifting to twenty-first century English, "You know killing us won't do you any good."
"The satchel, ya little prick!"
Before I can stall, the New Jersey centurion surges forward, scale armor clattering against leather, his short sword poised to strike. Nikki dives to the right while I hurl myself toward the son of a bitch. His powerful forearm catches me in the chest like a cinder block, slamming me back against the wall. My vision blurs, but I see the boy jump to his feet, the satchel hanging from his shoulder. He tries an evasive head fake, but the centurion proves too quick in this narrow space, his blade piercing Nikki's side. The crack of breaking ribs echo down the passageway. Nikki sprawls to the floor with a shriek, and lies there moaning, crimson blood spreading from the wound. No, this was not going well at all.
"Goodbye, Inkahs." With a clean sweep of his blade, the centurion cuts the satchel loose. He rips the bag from Nikki, turns, and runs.
Who is this guy working for?
Whoever he is, I hope the bastard runs face first into a flaming arrow for his die back. I’m still winded and dazed, but I crawl over to Nikki. The boy opens his eyes, color draining from his face, the savage wound foaming with blood.
"Thomas—" He coughs a red mist. "We failed."
"We'll get another chance." I tear a piece of my robe away, placing the cloth under the boy's head. "We didn't expect a fight with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Roman centurion gear. I thought Aurelian's men were still out in the harbor burning the docks."
"Merde." The boy closes his eyes, grimacing. He swallows, opening his eyes again. "Wrong time, too."
An early die back is always a potential problem for Inkers, especially if the premature death alters the temporal flow. "You're supposed to get run over by a cart later today, but this will do."
Nikki manages a smile, a rivulet of blood dripping from the boy's mouth. "Bummed 'cause you won't get to throw me," he grimaces, taking in several quick breaths, “…under the wheels, mon ami?"
We always die, but I never get used to the final moments. "You're still pissed about me garroting you with a string from one of Puccini's violins? Thought you'd be honored. It was Puccini's string. Of course, you're the one who shoved me in the path of the Starlight Express."
Nikki, in the boy’s body, labors with each shallow breath. Reaching with a weak hand, the boy touches my arm. "Mind yourself, Thomas Shaw."
"I'll do my best." I lean in, the boy, just a few years younger than my own son, dying in front of me. I thought I would pass my legacy on to my son, but now I know differently. I can't let him walk into this hell. "Nikki, there's something you need to know, just in case."
"What are you talking about?"
"Just a hunch, but be on your guard present-side."
Nikki fought for another breath. "Compromised?"
I hold his gaze. "Someone I trust told me I'm dead."
"Does it matter?" Dying back into a dead body equals dead. Permanently dead.
“Who…kills you, Thomas?"
"My friend didn't know. But keep an eye on Cameron."
Nikki winces, blood oozing between lips thin with pain. "I know…you have history, but Cameron?"
Yeah, we definitely have some history. "I'll never forgive him, but the League sanctioned his actions, so that's the end of it. Besides, I don't even know if he's the threat. It could be anyone. But Cameron has…well, he's killed before. Just watch your six. Five bucks says we'll be drinking a beer together, laughing about all this, in a few minutes. And if not…"
Nikki tugs at my sleeve. "No, mon ami."
We lock eyes. "If not, I made some arrangements. Renascentia is safe, but…my son. I've changed my mind. Find someone else. He's been through enough already."
"He's stronger…than you think."
"No. We assumed we were just dealing with a rogue, but our enemy is proving far more malicious than we thought possible. Addison would be risking everything. His very existence. You have to promise you'll keep him away from all of this, Nikki. Promise me."
Nikki glances at the wound, sucking in air through clenched teeth, then exhales. "I don't know, Thomas… Ahhh.” The boy moans, squeezing my hand with his remaining strength. "Doesn't know League. When he does…" His chest rattles with each breath.
"Addison's strong, but he's in pain. If I'm gone he'll need you, Nikki. I'm counting on you. Keep him out. Got it?"
"Copacetíc…," he chokes up more blood, "mon…ami."
“There’s a letter. You’ve got to get it from my lawyer.” A hiss of breath leaves the boy’s blue tinged lips. “Nikki?”
His grip slackens and I’m looking into vacant eyes. I stop talking.
Nikki has died back. I should have held her after we'd made love on her favorite red chaise lounge last night, her scent still a precious memory. I should have stayed the night with you, Nikki.
"Forgive me, my darling."
Footfalls echo around me. I rise turning just in time to see another Roman soldier close enough to smell his sour sweat mixed with blood. Without a word, he drives his blade through my heart. A savage pain explodes in my chest, dissolving to nothingness as my mind leaves the old man’s body.


Thomas stirred, now removed from the “I” of the old librarian, after-images of Alexandria flashing in his mind: Nikki’s dying breath, the grand sweep of sunlight outside the Great Library, the intense burning pain of a sword tip thrust through his host’s chest. He took in a gulp of air, his eyes fluttering open. A moment of disorientation before the tumblers fell into place.
He scanned the desk of his study, pen still in hand, his eyes registering a figure across from him. Blue jeans, tee-shirt, Asian, leaning on the desk, his veined arms rippled with lean muscle. The figure spoke.
“Don’t you want to ask me who I am, Thomas?”
Their eyes locked on each other’s. Thomas suspected the mind behind those eyes belonged to another—an Inker from the past.
“Not really.”
The man laughed, stepping back from the desk as if he had dropped by for a casual visit.
“I’ll give you one thing, Thomas. You do have…what is the word…a man in Juarez begged me not to cut them off. What was it? Cojones! Yes, you have cojones.” He scowled. “Your feigned courage in the face of certain destruction. Very moving.” His eyes flashed to the pen in Thomas’ right hand. “Good, I see you’ve got your pen for me. Excellent.”
Thomas kept his eyes on the intruder, all the while inching his left hand toward the gun in his desk drawer. The man’s eyes flitted to Thomas’ gun hand as he swung the weapon up. With a speed Thomas didn’t anticipate, the man leaped on the desk, and with a violent swipe of his foot, sent the gun smashing into the wall, the knee of his other leg crashing into Thomas’ face, slamming him, chair and all, to the floor.
Thomas lay still for a moment, dazed. Then he rose with slow, deliberate movements, pain hammering his head.
“So, who do you think I am, Thomas?” His attacker had stepped off the desk and now danced like a boxer waiting for an opportune moment to plant a combination punch.
Nose broken, blood pouring down his face, Thomas maneuvered to keep the desk between them. “One of Cameron’s hired guns, I imagine. Been expecting you.”
The man stopped dancing, putting his hands on his hips, cocking his head. “Expecting me? Oh, you’re talking about the two dead sentinels in your back garden.”
Thomas had posted two Inkers at the house to prevent this very thing. Crap. “What did you do?”
He glared at Thomas. “Terrible how some people lose their heads at the first sign of trouble.”
“You didn’t?”
He smiled with a chuckle. “I’m afraid I did.”
“My…God. Cameron wouldn’t…Who are you?”
“My name is Kairos. I’m the one who is going to kill you and destroy your League.”
Kairos had been a threat in the past, but the League had stopped him. No, it can’t be. Too much has been sacrificed. Rage and grief exploded from Thomas. Crying out, he hurled himself at the man, but a fist slammed into his chest with an unexpected ferocity, the sternum fracturing with a loud, crack! Reeling back, his knee exploded in agony as he went airborne, slamming to the floor on his back with a forceful thud. He tried to move, but the grinding of his fractured sternum and the throbbing jolts of pain from his knee slowed him down. Kairos grabbed Thomas’ feet. He heard the sound of his own agonized cry of pain as something outside of his body. He took in a breath, willing himself to focus. Kairos dragged him down the hallway. Thomas’ head banging across the floor, he reached for door jambs, furniture, anything to slow Kairos’ progress. But each time he resisted, Kairos twisted the broken knee, causing Thomas to break his hold, screaming in torment.
At the open basement door, Kairos dropped Thomas’ legs. The world constricted to a small dark space filled with anguish. In the distance he heard his attacker.
“Stay with me, Thomas. I don’t want you to miss the finale!”
Kairos levered him up against the wall, each movement a hundred knife wounds slashing his broken body. He opened his eyes to his attacker’s dark, angry gaze. In a labored voice, Thomas spoke.
“You. Won’t. Succeed.”
“Oh, but I will, Thomas. After I kill you, I will kill every League Inker until I have possession of the five pens.”
Every League Inker? No! Through the pain, a panic crossed Thomas’ face.
“Not…Addison. Not…Inker.”
“The son of the great Thomas Shaw?”
He grabbed Thomas by the shirt, dragging him to the open door.
“Don’t worry another moment. Once I have your pen which you have so kindly left for me—” He shoved Thomas down the staircase. Slamming into a wall, Thomas’ ribs cracking against a handrail only for his battered body to flip, shattering his jaw against a stair tread, Kairos’ words taunting him as he fell.
He slid across several steps upside down, and rolled, the broken knee punching a hole with explosive force in the wall.
Thomas tumbled, limbs askew, the concrete floor rushing toward him…


Kairos went down the steps to the body crumpled at the lower landing, his victim’s head and limbs twisted awkwardly. After checking for a pulse to be certain the deed had been done, Kairos returned to the study for Thomas’ pen. The League had five pens which, individually, enabled an Inker to transfer his consciousness to someone living in the past. But together… Ah, together the pens will create new continua. Imagine, the power to forge a new world at my fingertips! He expected to gather Thomas’ pen from his desk, but instead, he found a green puddle of melted acrylic, alloy, and ink.
The son of a bitch built a self-destructing pen?
Enraged, he tore through the study, pulling out drawers, ripping books off shelves, checking floorboards, but turned up nothing. Even in death Thomas had managed to be a thorn in his side. He considered scouring the entire house, but if Thomas had the forethought to create a self-destructing pen, he certainly wouldn’t leave the real pen somewhere vulnerable. Besides, he had a better idea.
His current host, Kwan, a martial arts instructor from San Francisco, had come in handy, killing Thomas and the other two Inkers. But now he needed a host with a bit more finesse. He got in Kwan’s car, driving the short distance to Seattle’s Sunset Park overlooking Puget Sound. With Thomas dead, surely his son would take up his duty as an Inker, which means, the young man would certainly have the pen. He pulled a Glock 17 from the glovebox, and dropped the sun visor to gaze into the vanity mirror, Kairos’ consciousness giving fire to Kwan’s eyes. He smiled at the thought of ripping the life out of Thomas’ boy, Addison, once he had acquired his pen.
Time to get to work.
Placing the gun’s muzzle over Kwan’s heart, he fired. For a brief moment Kwan’s consciousness rose to the surface, filled with the panic of a man who had no idea of where he was, how he got there, or why a gaping hole gushed crimson blood all over him and the dash of his car. His last awareness, a consciousness not his own whispering by, as his own life sputtered to darkness.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How do you relax with a book?

Things have been so hectic around here. Reading is what I do while the microwave turns (walking from room to room with a well-lit tablet screen). I read while I wait for the computer to boot, for the washing to take that final spin, the onions to soften in the pan. Sometimes paper, sometimes electronic... what matters is the words, the story, the characters, the voice. Thinking about it, what matters when I want to relax is a voice that will help me relax; a voice that, even when it's telling of the power going out and raging hotel customers, or love going wrong, or murder and mayhem and more... that even then gives me the sense that all will yet be well, and I should just read on. So what do I read when I need to relax? I read a book with a voice that soothes, that makes me believe my problems too will pass. And I drink coffee.

Fill your mug with your favorite brew and see what you think of the following... They're not all outwardly relaxing, but inside, behind the mug of cocoa...?

Winter at the Beach by Sheila Roberts starts warm and welcoming, but then that winter storm rolls in. Life's not perfect, and neither are the people of this Oregon coastal town. But the snow will ease, the power will come back on, and maybe the lights in relationships will reawaken too. A comfortably stormy read, enjoy with some smooth full-flavored three-star coffee.

Nell Goddin's The Third Girl, followed by The Luckiest Woman Ever, take the reader, very pleasingly, to smalltown France instead of smalltown America. Switches in language are implied very smoothly without ever taxing the reader, as a divorced, not necessarily seeking love, American tries to make a go of renting out a guest house. Rather like Miss Marple in France, both books are really fun reads. Enjoy with from (French roasted) lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

A great collection of romantic suspense novels and novellas came out recently, called Love Under Fire. I've only read two of the entries so far, but both qualify as being told in the kind of voice that allows me to relax even while speeding my heartbeat and scaring me. Virtually Lace by Uvi Poznansky blends art and computers, bending reality and threatening death. Meanwhile Aaron Paul Lazar's The Asylum invites readers behind the scenes at an asylum for the rich, where someone is maybe striving a little too hard to get richer. Enjoy these complex reads with some complex four-star coffee.

Exposed Fury by Marie Flanigan has a grittier feel to it, as an excop, recoving from injuries on the force, tries to keep life simple with quiet surveillance and background checks. But murder intervenes. The action feels authentic, the mystery is intriguing, and the portrayal of post-traumatic stress feels timely and convincing. Meanwhile there's always the possibility of romance, plus touches of wisdom. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Post Facto by Darryl Wimberley wouldn't qualify as relaxing at all, except that its protagonist, suffering a heart complaint, might have to relax before something worse happens. She's a former big-city journalist, now running a local rag. Once muzzled by the bosses, now she is the boss and is muzzled by the need to sell advertising space. Just the same, she has character a voice, great headlines heading each chapter, and a fascinating tale to tell of a post-factual world where, sometimes, its easier to believe in little green men than in political goodwill. So no, it shouldn't be relaxing; with action, mystery, mayhem and threat... But the voice is perfect and the tale rings true. Enjoy with some richly elegant four-star coffee.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Is it time to read?

Time to read, time to write, time to dream... I have friends whose Nanowrimo dreams are rapidly nearing completion, and others who, like me, didn't even dream of writing a novel this month... This month being November, Thanksgiving, the leadup to Christmas and more, I didn't feel like I'd ever find time, and I was right. But I did read some, and even wrote book reviews; I just didn't post them. So now, quickly, before I get busy with assigning ISBNs and uploading my own books, here are some of the things I've read for relaxation recently:

Find some coffee. Relax with me.

Children's books that I've enjoyed recently include:

The Secret of Big A by Ofra Peled is the first in a series of alphabet books. It's like a cross between a picture book and a chapter book, with enough text to read like a real story, and bright but old-fashioned color images. The question of what the letter A, and little a, might look like is fun, and the the other books promise interesting integration of letters into images. Pour a large mug of lively easy-drinking coffee to keep you going through the final section, which describes the author's and publisher's purpose.

A Heartbroken Father by Paula Rose starts the 10 year old Gracie and the save a soul prayer team series. Aimed at slightly older children, these books introduce faith, angels and God's voice and love to elementary age and middlegrade children, using good-humored, sweetly-authentic dialog, Touched by an Angel type situations, and very pleasing protagonists. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech takes another wounded child on a journey, blending mystical, mystery and vividly real characters as the different absences and causes for absent parents are explored. Coming of age, coming of wisdom and coming in hope - another to enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Then there's The Witching Well by S. D. Hintz. Another novel for mature middle-grade readers, this tale is set in a macabre world where a grandmother's neighbors might have evil intent and witchly powers. It's not for the squeamish, but it balances its scares very nicely with wisdom and comfort. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

For young adults:

Jordan Elizabeth's Clockwork Dollhouse is as cleverly constructed as the mechanical device of its title, a haunting steampunk tale of corrupted power and motherless child building to a finely tuned ending. Enjoy with more five-star coffee.

Time to Live, also by Jordan Elizabeth, blends magic and superpowers in a tale of a conflicted 17-year-old protagonist, rebelling against her parents, falling in love, and powerfully protecting the innocent. Teenaged Banon is a great snarky protagonist, and the story, though sometimes confusing, is fun. It's also often dark, so more five-star dark coffee I guess.

Then there's the Aegis Chronicles by S. S. Segran--Gwen Mboya, Tony Cross, Kenzo Igarashi, and Hutar of Dema-Ki. Set in the world of the author's longer novels, these are short stories with a mature, young-adult feel, introducing characters and providing a somewhat disjointed picture of backstories to flesh out longer novels. Not have read the longer novels, I'd have to say the characters and situations are fascinating, and I'd like to know more, so they serve as a suitable enticement I guess. Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee - they deal with dark themes.

And for slightly older young adults, there's Depths of Night by Stephen Zimmer. A cool blend of history of myth, the novella brings Viking longships to life and adds a touch of magic and mysticism to a novel of men, women and monsters. Enjoy with more bold five-star coffee; it's definitely dark.

Now I need to go brew more coffee, and read perhaps, and write, perchance to dream...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Buried letters, buried bombshells perhaps?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Jack Woodville London to my blog. He's touring the internet with his novel, French Letters: Children of a Good War, and the title intrigued me enough to encourage a "yes" when asked if he could drop in here. I hope you'll agree.

So, find some good coffee, and maybe a gluten free snack, then sit and enjoy our conversation:

  • So, first of all, I'd like to know where you're from (my accent gives you an unfair advantage otherwise)?
I grew up in Groom, Texas, a town near Amarillo.  I live in Austin with my wife, Alice, and Junebug the writing cat.
  • Ah, a cat. And a writing cat too. So, did you and/or your cat always want to be a writer?
I wanted to race sports cars until I was about 14, then wanted to be a basketball player. Then I wanted to be a history professor.  I always wanted to be a writer.

  • Always? That's the same answer I'd give. So what first inspired you to write seriously?
8th grade.  I was enrolled in a ‘Ready Writing’ competition and won a prize of some kind for a story about someone very like me who somehow fixed up a wrecked sports car, then had lots of adventures in places whose names I misspelled. I was taken by the craft of writing when I read a number of books in which the word choices the authors made were extraordinary.  Examples were the romance poem ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (“The hound?  The hound did nothing.” “Exactly.”)

  • Oh, great examples. What inspired your story?
    1. I thought that there should be a story that reflects three conditions of the cycle (cyclone?) of life:  being taken for granted (and attempting revenge); being utterly alone in the world, no matter how many people are around you; and, learning that you really don’t know who you are, then setting out to find out. 
    2. I found the meanness of the Biblical story of the brothers Jacob and Esau and the things they did to their father to also be timeless.  I build a family saga around parents who were not always completely blameless, their friends, their enemies, and their children, creating a story in which there are individual bits that all of us will recognize from our family, friends, or, shudder, ourselves.  And, as Jacob and Esau feuded and lied, so do brothers feud and lie today, with lasting consequences.  Finally, one of the great narratives of sibling rivalries is the accusation that one of them is not really a sibling at all, but a foundling, a child dug up under a cabbage patch, or a bastard that someone brought home to raise. 
  • Wow! How does a story idea like this come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you? 
Characters are wonderful devices.  You can create them, then drop them into nearly any period or event and they will act as such characters would act at any time in history, whether it is ancient Greece, Tudor England, baby boomers in the 1980s, or Trump America.
  • Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope that the notion comes through that finding out who we are is something each of us must find out for himself or herself; while we may or may not know who our parents are, we almost never know who they were.
  • What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
When drawing complex characters with richly detailed individual lives, it takes a great deal of focus to keep their individual story lines arranged so that they become a part of the real story.  There are clues buried in most of the characters’ roles that readers often breeze through as minor details of daily life, then realize some time downstream that they are important pieces of the story.
  • What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My wife and I really like each other; we take long walks together, go to summer school together, I accompany her on her photography classes and shoots.  And, beyond my control, nearly everything I do becomes a seed of an idea or research for a project.  I once rode with two friends for 3700 miles over six days through the Texas desert, New Mexico and Colorado mountains, the plains of Wyoming, back to Colorado, into Kansas, down to Oklahoma, and finally back to Texas.  I went to keep them from driving off a mountain or into the Rio Grande; it ended when I discovered that no one, absolutely no one, not Lewis and Clark or Kit Carson or Zebulon Pike or Sam Houston, had done anything close to it.  What if we had been spies?
  • Sounds an amazing trip! And I can see how stories might be seeded there. So... now you've made me jealous of your travels, I suppose I should ask you to make me jealous of your writing life too. Have you won any awards or honors (not just for writing of course)?
a.    Author of the Year for 2011-2012; Indie Excellence Award; e-Lit gold award,
b.    Trial lawyer of the year, SuperLawyer.

  • Trial lawyer. Wow! (And yes, I'm seriously jealous of your Indie Excellence Award!) Thank you so much for visiting here, and I'll wish you many good readers for your book (which I also plan to read as soon as I can.)

About the Author:
Honored as Author of the Year, Military Writers Society of America 2011-2012, and winner, Indie Excellence Award, 2013, Jack Woodville London is the author of A Novel Approach (To Writing Your First Book, 2014, a cheeky and thoughtful book on the craft of writing for authors tackling their first novel. He also is the author of the award-winning French Letters fiction series. His World War II-era novel Virginia's War was a Finalist for Best Novel of the South and the Dear Author Novel with a Romantic Element contest. His 'parallel-quel' novel Engaged in War won the silver medal in General Fiction at the London Book Festival and the Silver prize in the Stars and Flags Historical Fiction competition. It was the Book of the Month by both Good Reads and Military Writers Society of America and reached Number One on Amazon. He has published some thirty literary articles and sixty book reviews, all in addition to a lengthy career as a courtroom lawyer and a forty year writing career as the author of technical legal articles, and as editor during law school of the University of Texas International Law Journal. His fiction work in progress includes French Letters: Children of a Good War.

He grew up in small-town Texas before earning degrees at the University of Texas and West Texas State University and earning certificates at the Fiction Academy, St. Céré, France and Ecole Francaise, Trois Ponts, France, and at Oxford University, England, UK.

Ha! The "other place!"

Find him at:

and Children of a Good War is available at:

About the book:
Eleanor Hastings knew from experience that some bombs lie buried for decades before blowing up to hurt someone. Now, forty years after World War II, a cache of faded wartime letters is discovered in a cellar, causing Eleanor's husband, Frank, to understand that he really was a bastard and sending him on a quest to find out who he really is — and to uncover his family's long-buried secrets.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lace, the Asylum, and Pets...?

Love Under Fire comes out today, and every sale helps a veteran get a pet! How can you resist - lots of great reads, lots of great people, and lots of great pets.

Of course, looking at the graphic, I find myself trying to figure out which authors I've already read, but I'm looking forward to all the tales. I know they'll be good because I've already enjoyed two of them:

Virtually Lace by Uvi Poznansky

Michael has been working on a virtual reality model in his garage. The military might be interested of course, but Michael’s interest lies more in the question of beauty—“Could beauty be taken apart… Would its data be synthesized, somehow, into a lifelike experience?” And how many different angles and points of view would one need to create that simulation? Then he sees real beauty and ugliness, life and death alongside the Pacific Coast Highway.

The police are investigating of course, but the tale is told from Michael’s point of view, with beautiful scenery, complex mystery, fascinating art, and a touch of romance. The artist’s hand of the author is readily apparent in the character’s creations, both real and virtual. Suspicions grow. Reality intersects with the virtual. And a well-sculpted plot tells it all. A fast, fun and enticing read.

... and...

The Asylum by Aaron Paul Lazar

From gripping first sentence to final resolution, Aaron Paul Lazar’s The Asylum is a mystery filled with warm characters and great sense of Maine coast locations. The story grows from the author’s mystery series, giving life to side characters in a very pleasing way as a young Mexican-American woman loses her job and starts to work at an… asylum. Of course, this is not the old-style asylum. Patients are treated and cared for here, in luxury and safety… But Carmen’s soon convinced there’s something hidden behind the scenes.

Warm family life, honest emotions, great dialog, and some thoroughly scary scenes all add together to make an enticing mystery that feels like being invite to the home of friends. Sitting around the fire, comfortable with the assurance of good writing, which has to mean a good ending, learning what happened, how and why… it’s a dark cozy mystery or a warm dark mystery or… just a seriously good read.

Intrigued yet? Here's where to find the book:

And a list of titles in the collection. Enjoy!

Judith Lucci - RUN for your life
"Besieged by threats and haunted by memories, can Alex and Jacob survive another fiery attack?"

Stephany Tullis - Blue Lady's MISSION UNDER FIRE
"The mission changed. Her cover is blown. With no where to run and nowhere to hide, what can she do to survive?"

Fiona Quinn - Cold Red
"Undercover, under fire, under arrest, it's hard to save a special agent's life while handcuffed."

Anna Celeste Burke - Lily's Homecoming Under Fire
"When Lily returns home to California's wine country, sparks fly amid a hail of bullets as she and US Marshal Austin Jennings take cover. Who wants Lily dead?"

Margaret A. Daly- Monsters in my Closet
"No one knows her secrets, not even her best friend. Can she keep her secrets and her monsters at bay long enough to give love a chance again?"

Linda Watkins - The Witches of Storm Island, Book I: The Turning
"In 1685, a forbidden love catapults young Maude Prichard into a life fraught with danger...."

Tamara Ferguson - Two Hearts Under Fire
"Will Two Wounded Hearts Under Fire Survive LOVE?"

Suzanne Jenkins - Running with Horses
"Moving horses to the high country comes just in time when Mindy and her coffee date witness murder at a Mojave Desert cafe."

Inge-Lise Goss - Diamonds and Lies
"When murder upends a diamond heist, can the jewel thief trust the mark who vows to protect her?"

S.R. Mallery - Tender Enemies
"When Lily sets up a spy trap, she faces great danger--of falling in love."

Jinx Schwartz - Baja Get Away
"Sometimes love is... Murder."

Uvi Poznansky - Virtually Lace
"Michael creates a virtual reality simulation of the murder. Can he solve it in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves?"

Kathryn Knight - The Haunting of Hillwood Farm
"A dangerous ghost brings them together...but will they survive long enough to find happiness?"

Stephanie Queen - Ace Under Fire 
"Can this bad boy make a come back to save an old flame?"

Casi McLean - Reign Of Fire
"Lies, Corruption, and Murder... exposing the truth leads to love--and a ghostly encounter. "

Valerie J. Clarizio -The Code Enforcer
"Can they overcome their painful pasts--and a murder investigation--to find happiness together?"

Chris Patchell - Deception Bay
"She's armed. He's dangerous. Together, can they stop a killer from tearing a small island community apart?"

Aaron Paul Lazar - The Asylum: A Carmen Garcia romantic suspense novel
"Carmen has a secret, and his name is Dr. Micah Worthy."

Alyssa Richards - Chasing Secrets
"Her husband's secret is priceless, her attempts to retrieve it could be deadly."

K.M. Hodge - Summer of '78
"Susan Evenbright, pledges to make her last summer in Texas a killer one."

Pamela Fagan Hutchins - Buckle Bunny
"The last guy to call Maggie a buckle bunny didn't make his eight seconds."

Monday, November 12, 2018

Winter is Coming?

It's cold outside. I love the blue skies, gold sunshine, and red leaves of fall. But I'm not so sure about the ice-cold mornings, tomato plants frost-bit (I bought in the last of the green...), and the "snow" of falling shapes across the window-pane. I need to rake them into piles or else they'll block the drains (and after last year's flood, I've no desire to see any drains start blocking). I need to wear an extra sweater. I need to drink hot cocoa... Okay, now that's a serious advantage of winter's approach; I do like hot cocoa.

Anyway, the sky's blue, the sunshine's gold, the leaves are red, and everywhere is cold. But what's life at the beach like when winter winds come in?

I was given a copy of Sheila Roberts' "Winter at the Beach" to read, and it certainly got me into the mood for Christmas, family warmth, and cold winds of adversity turned around to peace. Here's my review:

Winter at the Beach by Sheila Roberts

Christmas is approaching in Sheila Roberts’ Winter at the Beach, making it a perfect read for the season, with its enticing blend of sand and sea with winter snow. If you haven’t always wondered what happens at the seaside when the season’s done, you’ll still be delighted to learn. Though whether you’ll want to visit Santa on a snowy beach may still be in doubt.

Characters from this and other series’ weave naturally into this tale, and their very human concerns blend smoothly with the community spirit of a Christmas vacation. Life is not perfect here, or in any of the families involved. But life is never perfectly broken either, and the author, through her characters, offers haunting touches of wisdom, the gentle persuasion of situation and need, and the promise of true love.

Not quite romance, not quite adventure, not quite road-trip, Winter at the Beach weaves several stories into one warm tapestry, the perfect reading blanket for a cold winter’s day. It leaves me wanting to read more, but perfectly satisfied with a conclusion well reached. Like a vacation at a good seaside B&B, it introduces me to strangers, lets me share their lives, and promises all will be okay, even if all might never quite be well. Heartwarming, honestly soul-searching, and vividly real.

Disclosure: I was given a copy and I offer my honest review.

WINTER AT THE BEACH by Sheila Roberts, Women's Fiction, 384pp., $5.98 (paperback) $6.99 (kindle)

Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin/Mira
Pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Jenna Jones, manager of the Driftwood Inn, a vintage motel in the Washington beach town of Moonlight Harbor, is convinced that a winter festival would be a great way to draw visitors (and tourist business) to town during those off-season months. Everyone in the local chamber of commerce is on board with her Seaside with Santa festival idea except one naysayer, local sour lemon, Susan Frank, who owns a women’s clothing boutique in town. The beach gets hit with storms in the winter, no one will come, too close to Christmas. Blah, blah. What does Susan know?
It turns out that Susan knows a lot. A big storm hits during the weekend of the festival, wreaking havoc with the parade and producing power outages all over town. Including at the Driftwood Inn.
Jenna finds herself with a motel filled with people, all with no power. What to do? Enlist the help of friends, of course. Her friends take in many of the stranded visitors, and Jenna and her Aunt Edie take in the others, stuffing them into Aunt Edie’s house next door to the Driftwood.

All the guests come with their own unique stories. The last thing Taylor Marsh wanted was a getaway with her husband. His refusal to give up on his dying business is taking them down financially and killing their marriage. But her sister Sarah (she who has her financial act together and never lets her sister forget it) insists this will be fun for both their families. It will only be fun for Taylor if her husband gets eaten by a giant squid. Then there’s Darrel Wilson, who planned the perfect anniversary getaway for his wife, who’s been undergoing chemo. So much for the perfect anniversary. And the sisters, Lisa and Karen, who can’t seem to go on a sister outing without it turning into a Lucy and Ethel adventure. Unlikely roommates, all of them. But perhaps each one has a valuable lesson to share with the others. And perhaps, what looked like a disaster will prove to be the best holiday adventure of all.



Jenna Jones, who manages a vintage motel, the Driftwood Inn, is sure her idea for a holiday festival will bring business to her Washington coast beach town of Moonlight Harbor. Let’s see how her proposal goes over with the Moonlight Harbor Chamber of Commerce…
 “Okay, that takes care of old business,” Brody said. “Now, I think Jenna has some new business.”
Oh, boy. She could hardly wait to see what Susan would have to say about this.
She cleared her throat. “Actually, I have a suggestion for a way to bring down more visitors during our slow time.”
“We’re all for that,” said Patricia Whiteside.
Susan clamped her thin lips together and gave Jenna a look that dared her, the newbie, to come up with something.
Jenna’s nervous twitch put in an appearance. Don’t blink. She blinked one last time and cleared her throat again. “Well, I was just thinking about other towns I’ve visited in the past and one that came to mind was Icicle Falls.”
Susan rolled her eyes. “The cheesy German town.”
“A lot of people find it charming,” Jenna said. “It’s awfully pretty, and they’ve done a great job of making themselves as authentic as possible. They always have something going to get people up there. In fact, I did some research online. They have festivals all year long, including a chocolate festival. Their tree-lighting ceremonies on the weekends in December bring in thou- sands of people.”
“So, are you proposing we have a tree-lighting ceremony?” Susan mocked.
“No, but I am proposing we have a holiday festival.”
“We just had a festival in August in case you forgot,” Susan said snidely.
What was with this woman anyway? The town had done a good deed by putting on a festival to help Jenna raise money to restore the Driftwood after she experienced a financial setback. It had been such a success that the chamber had decided to make the Blue Moon Festival a tradition, with proceeds going to help other businesses in town in need of assistance. Jenna had benefited and other local businesses would as well, and Susan resented it? She was a crab in the pot. If she couldn’t succeed, she didn’t want anyone else to, either. And everyone knew her shop wasn’t doing that well, especially now that Courtney was selling her own designs over at the Oyster Inn.
Well, pooh on her. Jenna handed papers to both Tyrella and Brody to start passing around the table.
 “People love festivals. Remember how many came down for the Blue Moon one?”
“That was in the summer,” Susan reminded her.
“I know. But people also love holiday festivals. We’re looking for ways to get visitors down here in the winter. Why not put together a giant holiday party in Moonlight Harbor?”
Patricia Whiteside was reading Jenna’s handout. “Seaside with Santa, that’s cute. And I like all the suggestions you’ve made for activities. I really like the idea of making use of the pier.”
“The weekend before Christmas?” Susan objected, frowning at her handout. “Who’s going to want to come to something then? People will be getting ready to go see family, and they’ll be finishing up their shopping.”
“Why shouldn’t they finish it here?” Jenna argued. “We have all kinds of cute shops. We have great places for them to stay while they shop and plenty of restau- rants where they can eat. They may even want to stay here for the holidays. All we need is an event to lure them down. A festival could do it. And who doesn’t like a parade? Look how many people turn out for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.”
“Look at the floats they have in that parade,” Susan countered. “What sort of floats would we be able to put together down here?”
“Okay, maybe not the most impressive parade ever,” Jenna admitted, “but I bet we could come up with some- thing.”
“I could get some of my employees to dress up as mermaids,” said Kiki, “and stick ’em on a flatbed truck strung with fake seaweed.” She grinned, clearly taken with her idea.
“We need more for our Moonlight Harbor Queen and her princesses to do,” put in Nora. “They love riding in those old convertibles. You’ll let us use your vintage Caddy, right, Ellis?”
“Well...” Ellis hesitated. “If it rains...”
“Which it probably will,” said Susan. “Come on, people, be practical. You know what it’s like down here in the winter, all wind and rain.”
Patricia pooh-poohed that objection. “We’ve survived plenty of storms.”
“Well, I think it’s a bad idea,” Susan said, scowling across the table at Jenna.
Maybe it was. Jenna’s left eye began to twitch.
“I think it sounds great,” said Elizabeth MacDowell. She and her twin sister, K.J., were new members of the chamber. They’d opened their arts and crafts store, Crafty Just Cuz, in September, and it was already one of Jenna’s favorite places to hang out.
“We do need more business in the winter,” said Cindy Redmond. “There’s no getting around it. And doing something for the holidays could be fun. I say we give it a try,” she added, and Jenna’s eye stopped twitching.
“We’d have to get moving right away,” Nora said, pulling another sheet of paper from her yellow tablet. “Who can help?”
“I can,” said Ellis.
“Me, too,” Brody said, smiling at Jenna. “Jenna, it’s your idea. You’ll have to chair the committee.”
“Me?” she squeaked. Not that she couldn’t take charge. She was a firstborn, and Responsibility was her middle name. (Although her sister, Celeste, would probably argue that her middle name was Bossy.) She didn’t have a problem with rolling up her sleeves and getting to work, but she also didn’t want to offend old- timers like Susan Frank. “I’m sure someone else...” she began.
“Your idea, you have to do it,” Susan goaded.
Jenna raised her chin. “I can do it.” She’d survived rehabbing the Driftwood Inn. How much harder could it be to organize a festival?
In three months. Blink. Blink, blink, blink.
“Do I have a motion that we sponsor a Seaside with Santa Festival for the weekend before Christmas?” Brody asked.
“So moved,” said Ellis. “I’m with you, kid,” he told Jenna.
“I’ll second,” Nora said and reached across the back of Tyrella’s chair to give Jenna’s shoulder an encouraging pat.
“All in favor?” Brody asked.
“Aye,” chorused almost everyone.
“Nay,” Susan Frank said. “I’m telling you all, this is a bad idea. Make sure you put that in the minutes,” she told Cindy.
“Motion carries,” said Brody. He smiled down at Jenna. “Looks like we’re going to be putting on a holiday bash.”
“Holiday disaster,” Susan grumbled from her side of the table.
What did Susan know? Blink, blink, blink.

USA Today best-selling author Sheila Roberts has seen over fifty books, both fiction and non-fiction in print. Her novels have appeared in many different languages and been made into movies for both the Lifetime and Hallmark Channels. She writes about things near and dear to women’s hearts – love, friendship, family and chocolate.

Her latest book is the women’s fiction, Winter at the Beach.

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