A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Susan Clayton-Goldner will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Willowood, Kentucky 1965 – Robin Lee Carter sets a fire that kills her rapist, then disappears. She reinvents herself and is living a respectable life as Catherine Henry, married to a medical school dean in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine must return to Willowood, face her family and the 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, she gave up for adoption. She knows her return will lead to a murder charge, but Michael needs a bone marrow transplant. Will she find forgiveness, and is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to save her dying son?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Tucson, Arizona
1985

Catherine Henry told her husband, Ben, many stories about her past, and to her ever-deepening shame, not one of them was true. Though she longed to tell him who she really was, where she’d come from and what she’d done to escape, with each passing year the truth grew more difficult to tell. And that made her a liar, something she’d never intended to become.

Anxious to finish their son’s party preparations, she bent over the kitchen counter, putting the final touches on a sheet cake of a glitzy cowboy on a rearing horse. To the beat of Tina Turner belting out What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Catherine set tiny balls of silver candy in the frosting bridle and reins, the pointed tips of chocolate spurs on tapered boot heels. When the garage door rumbled open, she readjusted the volume, then checked her progress against the sketch she’d drawn on a piece of drafting paper.

Ben breezed in, his cowboy boots clicking against the Saltillo tile floor. He wore a gray three-piece pinstriped suit with a cream-colored Stetson that made him look as distinguished as a Texas senator.

Pumpkin, their twelve-year-old cat the color of orange marmalade, ran into the kitchen and circled Ben’s legs. He reached down to rub the cat’s ears, then pulled a treat from his pocket and tossed it onto the floor. Pumpkin chased after the dime-sized nugget, batting it around with his front paws for a few seconds before devouring it.

Ben hung his hat on one of the horseshoe hooks beside the door. He eyed the cake, then dropped his briefcase on the barstool. “Does our son have any idea how awesome his mother is?” Ben stood behind her, parted her hair and kissed the nape of her neck. “And while you designed this masterpiece, guess what I got invited to do.”

She turned and smiled. “Texas Two Step at the governor’s mansion?”

He laughed, looking her straight in the eyes like he always did when they talked. “Give a presentation on admissions and diversity to the American Association of Medical Colleges. It will get my name out there, put me in a better position to become a dean.”

She raised her eyebrows, impressed. “You go, cowboy. But you do know your butt looks much sexier in jeans. Are wives invited?”

“Absolutely. Next spring. Cherry blossoms on Pennsylvania Avenue.” He pulled her against him. The top of her head fit perfectly under his chin. She nuzzled her face in his shoulder and breathed in the familiar scent of Irish Spring soap. That a man like Ben could love her never ceased to fill her with amazement and a silent anxiety he might discover who she really was and disappear.

About the Author: Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers’ Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.

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My Not-So-Secret M.O. by Hend Hegazi – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Hend Hegazi will be awarding one copy of Normal Calm and a copy of Behind Picket Fences (U.S. and International) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

My Not-So-Secret M.O.
By Hend Hegazi

Many writers have a unique modus operandi. Some must be seated in their favorite spot, others need music playing in the background, some need to smell the scent of their favorite tea wafting up to them from their favorite mug. For me, I can’t concentrate if music is playing in the background; I would end up singing along. And although I do tend to sit in the same spot to write, it is not my favorite spot; the dining table is simply the most practical spot. I often enjoy a snack or warm drink during my writing sessions, but these tend to be break times. Here is my real M.O.

When I’m sitting down to write a non-fiction piece, I usually just sit at my laptop and type my ideas. But when it’s fiction, I have a need to hold the pen, feel it scratch against the page. And it has to be black pen, blue ink is simply unacceptable. I have yelled at my kids before for taking my black pens (yes, I totally know that makes me at least a bit crazy.). I write about 10 to 20 pages, then transcribe them to my laptop. This extra step, although decidedly more time consuming, gives me an additional chance at creativity and improvement. Often as I’m transferring my ideas from paper to laptop, I find ways to improve the scene or the language. With my asterisks and labels all over the place (i.e. * on page 116: insert on page 94, * on page 94: insert from page 116, etc.), my notes guide me to tell the story I’m meant to. Many of my writer friends have recommended Scrivener, and although it sounds great, I’m reluctant to try it; having everything on paper, where I can flip back and forth instantly, gives me a sense of security. I’ve also been a loyal user of Word for about 20 years, so I’m not sure I can trust a different program. I do think I will have to try it one day…just not yet.

The worst part about my M.O. is that it awakens my worst personal habit. So there I am, my ideas manifesting into words on the page or on the screen, and, like I do often as I write, I stop to re-read what I’ve written. I consider how it sounds, what to write next, how to word it, the order of the words and of the scenes, and so on. Somewhere along the process, I begin to bite my fingernails. I’m not usually aware of it until I look down and see the skin to the sides of my nails bleeding or my nail bed peeking out. It drives me insane. And while chewing gum helps remedy this bad habit, my kids always manage to steal my gum supply, no matter how well I hide it! If you have any good hiding places, please let me know! (I’ll stash my pens there, too!)

For those of you who have followed me on this book tour, I want to sincerely thank you all. To celebrate the blog tour, and as a small token of appreciation to my audience, the ebook of Behind Picket Fences is available for just $0.99 TODAY ONLY. Enjoy!

Behind Picket Fences exposes four families from behind their comfortable lifestyles and smiling faces. Sharing the same neighborhood, even spending time together, no family knows the truth about the difficulties the others face.

On the outside, Sidra and Farris have the biggest house and the most expensive cars. What no one sees is their struggle to accept an unfulfilled dream. If they do not adapt to the blows of fate, their malcontent may give birth to deception.

Mariam and Morgan’s modest home exudes the rich scent of family. With children playing in the yard, they seem picture perfect. But financial struggle is their continuous battle, and their only solution may produce an envy which is more destructive than hunger.

Summer and Porter enjoy youth and the freedom of self-employment. But discontentment and mental instability linger between them. If they are not able to bridge the gap, their search for happiness may have a fatal end.

May and Hasan enjoy peace and true happiness. Illness cares not, however, of letting them relish in their blessings. Only patience and time will prove if this unwelcome visitor is simply passing by, or if it will tear their world apart.

An honest portrayal of love and family, Behind Picket Fences opens our eyes to the difficult truths hidden behind each happy facade.

Read an excerpt:

“Actually,” Farris interrupted, “I’m just going to call it a night.” Farris began to walk away without saying goodbye or even recognizing the women. Faruq stood there for a second, jaw open, utterly embarrassed by his brother’s anti-social behavior. “I’ll be right back, ladies. Don’t go anywhere.”

He ran after his brother and quickly caught up with him. “Man, what are you doing?! This is the best thing for you right now.”

“I don’t want this. This has never been my scene, Faruq, and you know that. I’m just going to…”

But the sight of something beyond Farris made his brother interrupt, grabbing him by the shoulder. “That’s him! Farris, man, that’s him!” Faruq shouted, pointing in the direction he was looking.

Turning around so he could see what Faruq was pointing to, Farris narrowed his eyes. “What are you talking about, Faruq? That’s who?”

“That’s him!” Faruq repeated, excitedly grabbing Farris’ shirt at the shoulder. “That’s the man I saw with Sidra!”

The words forced Farris’ eyes into focus. He saw the tall, brown haired white man so vividly, as if he were the only one in the parking lot. He didn’t hesitate for even a split second; Faruq barely blinked, and suddenly Farris was sprinting toward James. He lunged at him, punching him square in the face. The man fell to the ground as the woman who was with him let out a gasp and crouched to the floor beside him.

Looking up at the attacker she screamed, “What the hell is wrong with you?! Why did you punch my husband?!”

Farris hovered over the couple, breathing heavily, rubbing his throbbing knuckles. Faruq, now standing beside his brother, held Farris’ arm back and spoke out, “Your husband is having an affair with his wife. Isn’t that right, James?”

“James?!” the woman yelled. “He’s not James!”

About the Author: Hend Hegazi was born and raised in Southeastern Massachusetts. Despite her desire to pursue writing as a profession, she graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology and a minor in religion. Shortly thereafter, the winds of life and love blew her to Egypt where she has been living for the past 14 years. She is a full time mother of four as well as a freelance writer and editor. Some of her work has been featured in SISTERS Magazine. Her fiction and poetry focus on the human condition, often shedding light on the Muslim American experience. Hend strives to be God-conscious and aims to raise that awareness in her readers. As a common theme in her pieces, the intimate relationship between God-consciousness and love is often explored. Hend’s debut novel, Normal Calm, was published in January 2014.

You can read her poetry and blog posts on her website, http://www.hendhegazi.com, and follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorHendHegazi. For updates on giveaways and special offers, kindly opt-in to her free newsletter at this link http://eepurl.com/bZa7fH.

Both of her novels are available through most major book distributors, or click here to purchase through Amazon:
Normal Calm
Behind Picket Fences

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Tales of Yosemite by Jonathan Williams – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jonathan Williams will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GCto a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A land of vast beauty and constant change, Yosemite National Park never ceases to amaze and inspire its visitors. And fiction writer Jonathan Williams, an avid camper and fan, is no exception. In four charming short stories, he captures the Park’s diverse landscape and unique wilderness, using it as backdrop in all its glory to tell his tales.

“The Condor Suit” tells the story of Tim whose life-long dreams of flying prompts him to move to a small town in the foothills of the Sierra to pursue his quest: building a bird suit and flying into the Park. In “Dog Lake,” a young boy on a Yosemite camping trip falls into the lake and disappears, only to discover another world lurking beneath its surface, and the lake magically comes to life. “The Rescue” tells the story of a hiker, and the unusual relationship he forms with a bear and her cub in the park. And with “The Old Man in the Sierra,” visitors in Yosemite National Park encounter a strange man leaving them wondering if he is the Park’s notorious mystery man? Does he exist, or is he the stuff of everyone’s imagination, and simply part legend, part ghost?

Enjoy an Excerpt from “Condor Suit”

Tim was about twenty four miles into the flight and passing the main Park entrance when he noticed something strange. His vision became clearer, and things became brighter.

About the Author:Jonathan Williams has worked in Information Technology for over twenty years. He has spent most of his career working in the Financial and Pharmaceutical \ Biotech sectors. He specializes in Database Management Systems.

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Winter Blogfest: Dee Gatrell

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Sweet Sunset..

Merry Christmas

Christmas dinner 2016

Like in my book, my family has always gathered for Christmas dinners. As a child, we gathered with grandparents and cousins galore, aunts and uncles. As we grew older, our parents joined us. Now we have our family and grandchildren to gather together.

When my husband was in the military, we had no family around us. I recall the one Christmas when I was pregnant with my third child. My husband was on duty that Christmas Eve. Chris was four and Michelle was three years old. I had bathed them for church and went to the bathtub to bathe. But then Michelle came bouncing into the bathroom, her little pink curlers bouncing on her head, and announced, “Mommy, Chris took the fish out of the tank. They are on the floor.”

So there I was, very pregnant, getting out and dressed to pick up the flopping fish off the floor and get them back into the tank. We dressed and headed to church. Chris took a little car with him. And then I saw him run it up the leg of an older woman sitting beside him. I got him under control and was holding Michelle. She leaned over my shoulder and was making faces at the people behind us. I got her under control, but they were fidgety, waiting for Santa Clause.

My goal was to go home, read them a Christmas story, give them hot chocolate and cookies, and be like the mommies in the movies, all sweet and cheerful.

But by the time we got home with the two squirmy kids, we set the plate of cookies and milk out for Santa and all I wanted to do after a busy day was get them in bed. I sat down, and once they were sleeping, I sat up straight. “Oh, no! I forgot the read to them. I am not a good mother.”

But the next morning, all was forgiven. The kids were happy, we had other Air Force families join us and the guilt had left me.

Myrtle Sue Henderson, widowed, didn’t count on her mother-in-law moving in with her when her husband passed over. But Myrtle Sue’s loopy in-law troubles aren’t her only family baggage—she’s ailed with three adult children who use her like she’s a pair of Depends. With a daughter and two grandchildren attempting to escape an abusive husband, a second unmarried daughter who is pregnant with twins, and a son who refuses to grow up, she’s at her wits end.

Myrtle Sue didn’t figure she’d ever meet another man she’d care for, until she went to church to get away from her troubles, only to find more when her mother-in-law causes chaos and hits an elderly man with her cane and helps herself to money out of the collection plate. That’s how she meets Zack. She figures once he meets her dysfunctional family, he’ll run as fast as he can– away from them.

About the Author: Dee Gatrell is married and has four children and 12 grands, three dogs and many grand dogs. She was a journalist, a freelance writer, had a story in Chicken Soup For the Soul, write many stories for the confession magazines and now has her debut novel, Sweet Sunset, released on December 16. She refers to her novel as her disfunctional family book, sort of like her own family. Her story previously printed in Chicken Soup,My Beloved, Crazy Relatives, will be reprinted in A Plus ezine soon. Christmas dinners are a big affair for her family, with lots of food, lots of love and lots of kids.

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Winter Blogfest: Jacki Moss

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a free, signed paperback copy of my first Southern Lit mystery, With A Bullet...

Low-Tech, Peaceful, Country Christmas
By Jacki Moss

It seems to be more difficult each year to escape the incessant advertising blitz that tries to make us feel less than generous if we don’t buy the latest and greatest gadget or gizmo for a loved one or ourselves. I don’t react well to guilt trips or strong arm tactics any time, let alone during the time of the year when we are supposed to embrace our love of family and friends and community.

Maybe it’s my country roots laid bare by the years of sighs and tears striving for a simpler, more authentic life. My rural Georgia pine tree roots yearn for more love, less things.

More time, less rush. More reality, less technology.

More hugs and “I love yous.” More tastes, more smells, more chilly breezes and snuggly blankets. More loyal dogs, lap kitties, pine cones, and hot chocolate. More small town parades and local crafts bazaars. More thought-provoking discussions with friends and strangers.

I’m lucky enough to live in a small, rural town in the heart of some of the most beautiful country you’ll ever see. I chose this old farmhouse that sits atop a hill because it’s the very definition of bucolic. It’s quiet, except for the ongoing hum of animal life and breezes whispering through the cedar trees.

I also chose it because it looks like a Norman Rockwell setting. I have a view from my living room that most people have to visit a state park to get. Old timers tell me these majestic Tennessee hills are so similar to the rolling hills of France, they were used by the Army in World War II to simulate tank training preparatory to deployment to liberate France from the Nazis.

My little town, Lewisburg, is small enough that people know me on sight and I know them. They ask how my family is and if my dog’s arthritis is better. We are proud of our football teams, our library, our animal shelter, and our fine teachers. We pray for our local people who are in medical distress, we go to the plays at our local theater, wave at our neighbors in the holiday parades, and attend wreath ceremonies on patriotic holidays. We care about one another. We are a community, not just a bunch of people who happen to be clumped in a spot of geography.

My little town and humble farmhouse are the perfect backdrop for peaceful, low-tech holidays.

Of course, I say all this while tapping away at a writer’s best friend: a notebook computer, using wireless technology to communicate across America with people I’ve never personally met, yet consider genuine friends. Somehow it all seems to come together.

Technology is just a tool for me to ferret out the goodness in other people, other places. I have found like minds and hearts who are supportive, who are avid animal rescuers, vegans or vegetarians, community-minded, compassionate, and passionate about their special cause. I see what other communities do to care for their citizens and animals. I gain a greater understanding of the world around me. My technology is just a means to an end, not the goal in and of itself. I don’t want or need the latest, greatest, biggest, smallest, thickest, thinnest whatchamacallit.

So while I peck away on my obligatory technology these holidays, I will balance that time with bundling up and sitting in the crystal clear, crisp air on my front porch swing, listening to the Cardinals and hawks, keeping my hands warm with a mug of Mexican hot chocolate.

My holiday wish for you is love, peace, and rest.

Cafton Merriepennie has the hottest country music record label in Nashville. He’s rich, powerful, and reclusive. He’s also a philanthropist and an animal rescuer. So why did someone firebomb his house?

That’s not the only thing that worries him these days. He’s getting threatening phone calls, and his recovering junkie sound engineer came up missing right before dropping the biggest record ever.

Plus, the star of his label, Bynum McCooter and the Dark Horse Band, and his opening act are being harassed by the New Orleans police after their tour kick-off during Mardi Gras.

But on the bright side, Cafton has stumbled upon a woman who he believes is his soulmate. He’s finding it difficult to balance his joy with his stress. And then he gets devastating news about a murder.

Who does he turn to now?

About the Author: If there is such a thing as a human Swiss Army knife of publishing, I’m it. Over my last 30 years of publishing experience, I have done it all. I have dug up the stories, written copy, edited copy, managed magazines, been a reporter, written Web content, and written a few books.

My curiosity drives me. I want to know everything about everything. I believe that everyone is interesting; it’s just a matter of getting their story out. Scratch someone’s history surface and you have the recipe for a novel.

My Southern Lit murder mysteries, With A Bullet and High Strung, are available from The Wild Rose Press.

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Winter Blogfest: Marilyn Baron

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card..

Hanukkah—The Festival of Lights
By Marilyn Baron

This year, Hanukkah begins on December 24, the night before Christmas. What do I remember most about Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights? During this time of the year, our family used to drive around Miami, where I was born, and look at the beautiful display of Christmas lights.

The Hanukkah tradition is to light the menorah, a 9-candle ceremonial lamp with space for eight candles, representing one for each night of the holiday, and one candle to light the rest. Hanukkah is a festive holiday. Families sing songs, play a game called dreidel, a spinning top and exchange gifts. The holiday lasts eight days.

When I had younger children, we would give them one gift each night. Now that they’re grown and out of the house, we typically give them one big gift. In the old days, I remember my grandparents lining up the grandchildren and handing out a dollar each. Now the money comes in the form of chocolate coins—Hanukkah Gelt—you can buy at the grocery store.

The thing I love most about Hanukkah is eating the traditional potato pancakes or latkes. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy potato latkes. My sister Elaine makes great latkes. They require a lot of effort, but when done right, they are crispy and delicious. My mother made great latkes when we were growing up. Today, I just buy them out of a box in the grocery freezer section. They’re not nearly as good. It is traditional to top the latkes with a little sour cream and some applesauce. I prefer applesauce and I also like mine sprinkled with sugar.

Here is my sister’s recipe. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a happy holiday season.

Potato Latkes
Ingredients:
1 onion
4-5 Idaho potatoes
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup matzoh meal
Salt: 1 teaspoon, then sprinkle more on as they fry
Pepper, freshly ground, several twists
Cheesecloth

Directions:
Mix the salt, pepper and baking powder together with the matzoh meal.
Peel the potatoes and drop them right away into a large bowl of icy water.
Chop onion: Use a food processor. Decide how fine to chop.
Do not drain liquid from the onion.
In a large bowl, crack the eggs and beat (not too much).
Heat large skillets: Cast iron or any good pan. Use more than one to speed up the cooking. Start low, and when almost ready with the completed mixture, raise the heat. During frying, constantly monitor the heat level, starting on medium high, then adding the mixture, and then turning down to about medium. Then back up to medium high with the next batch, and so on.
Cut the potatoes lengthwise, and in a food processor, using the shred attachment, shred a few at a time. Then, take out the shredded potatoes into a big bowl, put the chop attachment on and put the shredded potatoes back into the processor, then give just a few pulses (5-10), until a nice chopped consistency (not too big, but not too finely chopped, either).
Then put the potatoes into a cheesecloth (in the sink), and squeeze as much liquid starch as you can! Then put the squeezed potatoes right into the eggs, and mix around with your hands to absorb the potato mixture.
Then repeat this process until all the potatoes are in the egg mixture.
Add the onions and dry mixture to the egg and potato mixture, and mix: Use your hands.
Add oil to the fry pan(s) and wait until the oil is hot (but not burning). Add mixture by tablespoons, not too thick. Fry in hot oil. Turn when golden. Keep adding oil to pan before each new batch. The more oil, the better it tastes. The first batch never tastes as good as the rest.

Enjoy.

Hallelujah Weiss, writer for the steamy sudser As the Planet Spins, gets a second chance at love when she flees to Italy to get over her recent divorce, courtesy of her cheating ex-husband’s credit card. A woman scorned, Hallelujah has sworn off men and is determined to reinvent herself. The new Hallelujah is eager to live life on the edge, more like Polly, a character she writes and idolizes.

Lonely Berlin hedge fund manager Alexander Stone, a number cruncher who puts his faith in numerical data, still believes in destiny, despite the fact his fiancée just dumped him. Always a man with a plan, Alexander did not plan on Hallelujah.

After a chance encounter on a flight to Rome, the unlikely pair faces danger when they team up to return to their rightful owner a stash of WW II vintage jewels. The hidden diamonds hold the key to an unsolved mystery and a promise of love.

About the Author: Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres, from humorous coming-of-middle age women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy. Stumble Stones: A Novel is her 11th book with The Wild Rose Press, Inc. AmazonEncore republished her book Sixth Sense on September 15, 2015. She has published five short stories with TWB Press and self-published two books and a musical. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel With Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal//Fantasy Romance. She is a Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) Maggie Award winner. She’s a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and GRW and winner of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, Marilyn graduated with a BS in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. She worked in Public Relations for AT&T in Atlanta for 13 years before starting her own PR firm. She has served on the Roswell Reads Steering Committee for three years. She was selected as a featured author in the 2016 Atlanta Authors Series.

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Winter Blogfest: Fleeta Cunningham

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of “Innocent Journey”..

It Just Isn’t Christmas

Christmas in the Panhandle of Texas when I was a child was about as predictable as sunrise and sunset. I’d be up at the first light of day to check out the Christmas tree for Santa’s special gift—usually a doll in a ruffled dress created by my mother. It was understood that I could take the doll back to bed with me if I waited quietly until my Christmas-beleagured parents, fueled by coffee and rolls, could deal with my headlong dash into the bright boxes beneath the tree. Mom worked in a department store and Dad carried the mail. Christmas was tough on them.

Once the presents were out of the way, the family would begin to gather, either at our house or the homes of one of my uncles, where the kids would dash to the den for games and treats and the adults would convene in the kitchen. Best part of the day was Grandmother coming from her little house to join us with her special ‘candy cake’, a concoction of orange-slice candy, nuts, raisins, dates, and a dash of something slightly alcoholic—probably peach brandy. It just wasn’t Christmas until Grandmother cut that first slice of cake.

Time passed and, as things are prone to happen, I grew up, went off to school, and married. Had a little girl of my own. Grandmother aged, gracefully and almost imperceptibly. She still made the candy cake for me for Christmas, even when she was far into her eighties. We couldn’t have Christmas without our special cake. And she’d chuckle when, from time to time, she’d say I really should learn to make that cake myself. I’d smile and say, “Maybe next year.” I was never much good in the kitchen. I could manage to wash dishes without breaking the silverware, and my family swears I raised them on three dishes—soup, enchiladas, and meatloaf, three things even I couldn’t ruin.

Then one year, there was no candy cake. Grandmother, at the advanced age of ninety-six, was gone. I’d never really believed in a world where there was no Grandmother, where her tiny, busy self wasn’t bustling about, always ready sit and visit. To pour coffee and concern in equal portions. To put her soft little hands over mine and say, “Now tell me about your day.” Certainly there couldn’t be Christmas without her presence—and her cake. But there was. Life did go on, not quite so sweetly, perhaps, but it went on. And I never had learned to make that cake.

It’s been a long time now since Grandmother crossed that last bridge. Long enough that I’m now the grandmother who comes for Christmas. I love sharing the holidays with my children and grandchildren. As the grandchildren are now adults, I suppose I’ll be sharing the festivities with great grandchildren in the near future. I think they look forward to seeing me and like the things I bring. But even now, half a century later, it somehow still isn’t quite the same. It just isn’t Christmas without Grandmother and her special candy cake.

INNOCENT AS A GEORGIA ROSE…

Meg Brown vows her life and dreams won’t follow the narrow aristocratic Southern pretensions of her parents. She’ll never be a debutante nor make a dynastic marriage. Her brother escapes to the Air Force and is sent to Vietnam, while a distant college offers her freedom of another kind.

There, too young and reserved for most social activities, Meg is involved with her colorful roommates and their friends. Two men challenge her deeply held values. Ferrel, with his dancing blue eyes, exemplifies the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy of the era. Cass, a grad student of hard experience, regards everything with world-weary cynicism. One offers Meg friendship that survives the hardest test and lasts forever. The other leads her to a breaking point where everything she believes about herself comes to a shattering halt. Only one thing will keep her going—the infant conceived on the worst night of her life.

About the Author: A fifth generation Texan, Fleeta Cunningham has lived her entire life in Texas, both small towns and big cities. Drawing on her southern roots for this series, she writes about the unique character of the South in the latter third of the 20th Century. After a career as a law librarian for a major Texas law firm, writing a monthly column for a professional newsletter and other legal publications, she returned to her home in Central Texas to write full time. Fleeta has been writing in one form or another since the age of eight. When she isn’t writing, she teaches creative writing classes, makes quilts, and designs miniature gowns for her huge collection of fashion dolls. She loves to hear from readers.

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Scattered Ashes by Dona Sarkar and Unraveling the Pieces by Terri DuLong – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding digital copies of the books on tour to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

scattered-ashesSCATTERED ASHES by Dona Sarkar

Sometimes facing the future means saying goodbye to the past.

A remarkable story of love and loss, Dona Sarkar’s latest novel explores the timely subject of cultural diversity and the timeless matters of trust, faith, and grief through the eyes of one extraordinary young woman.

Mars Alexander is the girl who has everything—the right clothes, the perfect boyfriend, the best grades. But when her military father is declared dead, Mars refuses to believe it—and refuses to say goodbye. With no body to bury, she’s convinced her father will return from Afghanistan, and she’s determined to make him proud. But when she meets the young Middle Eastern instructor of her essay prep class, a door to a whole new world opens.

Zayed Anwar has lived a life Mars can barely imagine, or understand. But as he challenges both her intellect and her emotions, she finds herself making bold new choices, and looking at everything through a new lens. Falling in love is as frightening as it is exciting, until she realizes that Zayed is keeping painful secrets from her—secrets that could shatter her all over again.

unraveling-the-pieces UNRAVELING THE PIECES by Terri DuLong

New York Times bestselling author Terri DuLong casts on her newest tale of heartbreak and hope in Ormond Beach, Florida, a sun-dappled haven where one woman finds the comfort she’s always needed…

Petra Garfield has no real attachments tying her down to one place. She’s ready for an adventure, so what could be better than an extended stay at Koi House with new friends and old in enchanting Ormond Beach. Having recently lost her mother, Petra is riddled with questions about the father she never knew. She certainly never thought she’d begin to find the answers in a tiny town in Florida…

As much as she wants to search for the truth, Petra knows she can’t spend all her time wallowing in the past, and her friends at the Dreamweaver yarn shop aren’t about to let her. The ladies encourage her to volunteer at a local animal shelter, where she hits it off with a young boy—and his handsome father. Tangled in secrets she didn’t even know she had, Petra must learn to stitch her life back together even as she unravels lifelong mysteries—and perhaps she’ll find unexpected happiness along the way…

Enjoy an Excerpt from Scattered Ashes:

“What’s happened out there?” I asked. “There’s so much chaos.” The woman did an eye-roll. “Some war protesters. They set fire to a garbage can or something around the corner.”

“Thanks.”

As I ran across the street to avoid the smoky air, I saw a slight movement, like the fluttering of a giant bird’s wing, in the window alcove of my favorite coffee shop.

I stopped. It wasn’t a bird. There was a guy sitting in my usual spot, flipping rapidly through the pages of a book.

The guy in the window seemed completely unaffected by everything going on outside. He was nineteen, twenty at the most, with hurricane-colored eyes, the most incredible I had ever seen. His knife-like cheekbone ridges were even more distinct.

He was a stranger to me, yet I couldn’t stop staring at him. I stood paralyzed on the sidewalk. The crossing signal flickered, and I couldn’t persuade my feet to move.

He was reading a book with a familiar-looking burgundy cover but must have sensed someone staring and looked up. Saying that our gazes met was an understatement. In one incredible, heart-stopping second, he seemed to commit to memory every aspect of my face. His abundantly large eyes, too wide-set, seemed out of place in his sharp, tawny-colored features.

The sidewalk activity seemed to dull into the background as we stared at each other. Without a smile or any other expression, he returned to his book, as if the exchange had taken place only in my mind.

I felt the ridiculous desire to knock on the window to get his attention. I wanted to see the color of those eyes again.
This was insane. Snapping to my senses, I crossed 45th Street and headed to my car, not daring to look back at the coffee shop. . . .

About the Authors:

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Dona Sarkar wishes she’d been born as a cat so she could have had 9 lives. Since that didn’t work out, she decided to live 9 lives in this one. She spends her days making holograms at Microsoft, celebrates diversity in STEM fields as a fashion blogger at Fibonacci Sequins and is launching her first fashion line called Prima Dona Style this year.

She is also the published author of three novels and one non-fiction book.

Dona lives in Seattle with her really patient husband and her muse, a very bossy tabby cat named Ash.

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Buy the book at Kensington Books

 

 

Terri DuLong

dulong-terriBorn and raised north of Boston, Terri DuLong was a previous resident of Cedar Key, Florida. She now resides on the east coast of the state in Ormond Beach with her husband, three dogs and two cats. A retired Registered Nurse, she began her writing career as a contributing writer for Bonjour Paris, where she shared her travel experiences to France in over forty articles with a fictional canine narrator. Terri’s love of knitting provides quiet time to develop her characters and plots as she works on her new Ormond Beach novels.

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Buy the book at Kensington Books.

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A Regular Day in My Life by Phillip Cornell – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Phillip Cornell will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A Regular Day in My Life

My days are mostly generic. I got this girl I text. We have what I call a flirtationship, but there is always tension between us. It goes like this; first we text back and forth, then I offer to link up with her, she agrees and makes plans, then she manages to ruin the plans by canceling abruptly. I respond to the cancelation by getting mad. We do not talk to each other for a week or so, then we make up. So depending on the day, I am either in an OK mood or frustrated with the inconsistency in my dating life.

This situation I just explained happens throughout the week. So on a typical week day, I wake up and try to figure out how I am going to deal with this girl. I stop at my mom’s house, and pick up my work uniform. I keep my uniform at my mom’s house, because my sister, who lives with her, washes it for me. After I pick up and put my uniform on, I head to work.

Once I show up to work, I drink a Mountain Dew Kick Start, then proceed to do an excess amount of work. The work is excessive, because the company I work for, wants to see how much work we can do with the least amount of man power. Me in return, I just accept the situation, and do the best I can to do a good job.

Somewhere during the course of the day, I create snaps on snapchat. Because work is stressful, I do snaps on the way to work, and during my lunch break. My snaps consist mostly of me talking about how I am either late to work, or how I do not want to be at work. In between my complaining, I post very appetizing food pics of the food my sister cooks at home.

When work is over, I run out of the building. I stop by my mom’s house again, eat a meal, and then drop my uniform off to be washed. After that, I talk to my niece and nephew for bit then take a nap. The nap last about 45 minutes to an hour, so I head home after I awake from my slumber.

While at my house, I either text the girl I mentioned earlier, or watch TV and make snaps about what I am watching. I then do 50 push-ups, and write in my notebook until I get tired. Some writing days never get under way, others go well into the night. I can never tell until I start writing, and establish flow and rhythm in my writing.

Lastly my eyes get droopy, and I go to sleep. I wake up, and start all over again the next day. This happens on repeat until the weekend. On the weekend I sleep in on Saturday, and have the option of getting drunk.

mediakit_bookcover_vacationtogracelandA man, his mother, his sister, his granny, his niece, and his nephew make a trip to Memphis Tennessee for a family reunion. During the course of the trip, the family encounter a series of circumstances that mold the trip into an unforgettable experience. Through the arguing and internal bickering within the group, they come together and strengthen the blood bond they share with each other. Reflecting on each and every situation encountered, the man realizes the trip is an overall social, emotional, and educational journey.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The idea of a family trip started, when my mom devised a plan to take my granny on a weekend trip. This was difficult because my granny was on a weekly dialysis schedule, so my mom had to come up with a way to keep her schedule and transport her from one city to the next without any problems. My grandma had been on dialysis for the past 2 ½ years, and with her increasing age and decreasing health, she needed more attention from care givers and family members.

The living arrangement in my mom’s house was setup like this. My mom, my sister Brandi, and my granny all lived there constantly. My other sister Crissy and her children did not live there, but they would visit often. I myself would visit quite often also. My job was 2 miles from my mom’s house, so it was nothing for me to visit on my lunch break or when I got off work. My granny anticipated me coming over many times. She would cook a meal for me, and place my name on the plate. It was not the perfect living arrangement, but it definitely had a strong family feel tied into it.

My granny kept close tabs on what my mom and sister were always doing, because that is just who she was. She still liked to get out the house ever once in a while. Her favorite pastime was people watching. If there was one thing that she enjoyed, it was talking about other people. This is a trait that has been handed down from generation to generation, and I myself am guilty of doing it also. Discussing people in a humorous light, that downgrades their physical appearance or personality, is second nature to me now. I can easily do it without any effort or stress. The thoughts just come to my head, and I let the mild form of slander flow. I have never been embarrassed of this, and like me, my granny has never been either.

About the Author:mediakit_authorphoto_vacationtogracelandPhillip Cornell is a college graduate. He gained his degree in Biological Sciences, and currently works at a local pharmacy. He is the only son of Harron and Connie Cornell, and the youngest of 3 children. In 2006 his father passed away due to colon cancer, and his mom became an inspiration to him and his family in the way she supported everyone. He has a passion for all types of competitive activity, with sports being the favorite. Overall he lives for different experiences to stimulate the mind, and firmly believes that life is something that has to be lived, read about, and dissected. His biggest weakness is beautiful women, and the thought of being a failure. Firmly believing everyone deserves their moment no matter how long or short it is, Phillip listens to anyone who has something to say. The more he writes. The more he realizes what he creates, is something that needs to be shared with someone other than himself.

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Why I Wrote The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Maddie Dawson, whose latest book The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, releases today. Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to win a copy of the book.  See our review here.

Why I Wrote THE SURVIVOR’S GUIDE TO FAMILY HAPPINESS
by Maddie Dawson
I remember the precise moment I knew I needed to write The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness. I was writing a feature story for Connecticut Magazine about adoptees who wanted to be allowed to see their birth records, which are sealed in Connecticut. I interviewed a woman in her sixties who told me, her voice halting, about how she had always searched strangers’ faces, hoping she’d find out where she belonged.

She ached for the whole experience that so many of us take for granted: to know our birth story.

One day she actually found her birth mother and wrote her a letter, asking if they could talk on the phone. And her mother called her! They had a giddy, excited phone call, weeping at their surprise at finding one another. They agreed to meet.

But the mother didn’t show up.

I got that prickly, goose-bump feeling that a novel was nearby, and slowly, a character came into my head—a younger, fictional character named Nina—who had that same longing to know who her birth parents had been and who felt she had been thrown away.

I talked to other adoptees, people who said they’d had good lives and that they didn’t care to know the people who’d given them away.

A novel always comes from what-if questions. What if, I wondered, Nina had a sister who didn’t want to know the past? What if these two sisters finally do come across their mother, and then she’s nothing like they pictured?

The story that unfolded is about how families can form from attachment instead of DNA, and how in the end, it’s the power of love that comes to save us all and show us we belong.

10_25-book-cover-survivors-guide-to-family-happinessA woman’s quest to find her birth mother takes her in an unexpected direction. Nina Popkin always wondered where she came from, but after her adoptive mother’s death and her own recent divorce she feels more untethered to the world than usual. Before she died, Nina’s mother was only able to provide her with three clues regarding her origin: the names of the orphanage and a potentially helpful nun and an allusion to a mysterious photograph squirreled away somewhere in the house. Unfortunately for Nina, her adoption records are technically sealed, though Sister Germaine doesn’t exactly follow the rules. She finds out that she has a younger sister who was also given up for adoption, and the orphanage arranges a meeting. Turns out, Nina already knew her sister: they went to grammar school together. Though sharing her vibrant red hair, Nina’s sister, Lindy, does not share her enthusiasm for putting her birth family back together. After finding out more about her early days than she wanted to know, Lindy storms out of the office and Sister Germaine follows, leaving Nina alone with all her records. She learns both her mother’s name and the fact that she was only 15 when Nina was born. But from there, her mother’s story gets a bit more complicated: she had been moderately famous, the lead singer of a girl band in the ’80s. And when Nina decides to contact her, it appears at first that she wants nothing to do with the daughters she gave up so many years earlier. Told from the perspectives of Nina, Lindy, and their mother, Phoebe, the novel navigates their often twisting paths back to one another, as all the women realize that the bonds of family develop both by choice and by DNA.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Last week he’d said to her, “We’ll get married when I finish college. We’ll have a lot of money, and we’ll make more babies,” and A.J., sitting beside them at the time, had snorted and given Phoebe that look again.

The guys pushed the car out of the O’Malleys’ garage so the engine noise wouldn’t wake Tilton’s parents.

“You have to drive,” Tilton whispered to her. “We’ll push while you pop the clutch.”

She stared at him, but he went in and out of focus.

“Can you do it, Pheebs?”

She got in carefully, ran her hands over the soft leather seats where they had made love so many times. It always smelled like money, this car.

“Do you hear me? Pop the clutch!”

The car was moving, and she slammed her foot on the pedal, and the engine roared to life, and in an instant the boys were piling into the car, sweating, laughing, slamming the doors, Tilton in her ear hissing, “Drive! Go! Go!”

She drove slowly, like she was maneuvering a parade float, but he was saying, “Go faster! Christ, there’s a car coming! Floor it!”

She looked at him, stunned by a miraculous thought. What if they simply . . . left town? Tonight! They could leave tonight! She felt like this thought had been traveling to her from across the universe for so long and had only now arrived, in the nick of time. They could run away! Yes, the three of them—they’d head to the beach and then keep on going, up to Maine, maybe to Canada. She’d arrange for Kate to come; Phoebe’s sister would gladly send her.

She said, “Tilty, listen,” and his eyes were looking directly into hers so deeply he might have been able to see where the hate and the hope were fighting to the death.

He said, “Baby, can you drive faster?” and there was a loud crash and bright, spinning lights, and screaming—so much screaming—and then it was as though somebody had pulled some giant power cord to the world or something, because everything just turned . . . off.

About the Author:

(Peter Casolino-New Haven Register) Guilford author Sandi Kahn Shelton, who also writes under the pen name of Maddie Dawson. 3/31/14

(Peter Casolino-New Haven Register) Guilford author Sandi Kahn Shelton, who also writes under the pen name of Maddie Dawson. 3/31/14

Maddie Dawson lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of four previous novels: The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal. Her fifth novel The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, will be published on October 25th by Lake Union.

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