When Writing Is Magic by Farzana Doctor – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Farzana Doctor will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner and a print copy of the book to 10 randomly drawn winners (US Only) via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

When Writing is Magic
All Inclusive, my third novel, was a bitch to write. During its five-year journey, I often felt I was writing in circles or backing myself into dead ends. I whined to other authors who nodded knowingly about the infamous “third novel blues”. I nearly ditched the project.

Of course, it wasn’t all confusion and angst. I was excited to explore the main character, Ameera, who works as a foreign tour rep at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. While there, she stumbles into the swingers’ scene, and her sexuality is a metaphor for growth. The resort provided a complex setting that offered lots of tension and story possibilities.

But something was missing. Something wasn’t quite right.

I consulted with multiple early readers, hoping that someone would offer me a roadmap for what wasn’t working and how to fix it. I even took Ameera to a therapy session. I persisted, stumbling forward, writing and rewriting.

Finally clarity arrived. I was on my bike, returning home after teaching an emerging writers’ workshop. I was tired, yet inspired by the group’s enthusiasm.

As I careened down a steep hill, I heard a voice in my head say, “I am your missing character.” The voice then told me that his name was Azeez, and in a single long-winded sentence, summarized his story. Azeez was Ameera’s father.

“What?” I yelled into the wind. I pulled over and listened. But the voice was gone.

I concede that this is odd.

I pedaled home and revised the book. I threw out characters and plot lines that had taken years to write. Azeez’s story fit almost seamlessly into the spaces they’d left behind.

During the revisions, I listened for it, and heard snippets of that voice. I still wonder where it came from and why it’s advice worked so well. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

The biggest lesson from all of this? Writing is all about perseverance, and rewriting. But it’s also about magic.

Thanks for reading! If you pick up a copy of All Inclusive I hope you will enjoy Ameera’s and Azeez’s journeys.

A story about an all-inclusive resort, the ghost of an unknown father, and the tragedies we can’t forget.

What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of having to see them again.

Despite Ameera’s best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she’s being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and why he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her, and they both must come to terms with the reason why he abandoned her.

A moving new work from award-winning author Farzana Doctor, All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and death, and reminds us that love is neither easily lost nor found.

Enjoy an Excerpt

March 27, 2015, Huatulco, Mexico

A DC8 droned above.

“Here they come,” I announced. Friday was our departure-arrival day. One sunburned and grouchy group left for their northern homes, and another cohort, ecstatic and pale, touched down and took their place.

Roberto grabbed a plastic file-box and gestured for me to sit beside him. I lowered myself onto the makeshift seat and wiped away a slick of perspiration from the creases behind my knees.

“Ameera, you hear about that tour rep getting fired over at Waves?” Roberto stroked his thin moustache.

“Nancy? Yeah, I’m still in shock.” I hadn’t known her well, but I’d gone clubbing with her and the other tour reps from our sister resorts a few times. She’d seemed all right to me. The airplane circled closer, and, in unison, we clapped our hands over our ears and tilted our chins to the sky. After it had rolled across the tarmac and quieted its engines, we resumed our gossip.

“What I don’t get is why someone in their late twenties would want to have sex with a fifteen-year-old.” Roberto shook his head, as though trying to dislodge the idea.

“But didn’t the kid lie about his age? He told her he was eighteen, right?” While I’d never in a million years sleep with a teenager, I could imagine how booze and loneliness could have led Nancy to her mistake.

About the Author:Farzana Doctor is the author of three novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement (which was a 2012 Lambda Literary Award and the 2017 One Book One Brampton winner) and the recently released All Inclusive which was a Kobo and National Post Best Book of the Year. Farzana was named one of CBC Books’ “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now”. She is also a Registered Social Worker with a part-time psychotherapy practice. She curates the Brockton Writers Series.

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“China Girl” in China by Ho Lin – Guest Blog

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Ho Lin who is visiting with us to talk about his recent release China Girl.

“China Girl” in China
by Ho Lin
Where are you from?
America.
But you do not look like an American.

Many conversations I’ve had with people in China start like this. You can’t blame them—my hair, my clothes, and my mannerisms give me away as someone not from around these parts. I must be from Korea or Japan (probably Japan—the Japanese are into goatees, right?). And I’m certainly not your standard brawny, tan Yank with a Pepsodent smile, right? But no, I’m actually American. Or more specifically, Chinese-American; both my parents were born in China, grew up in Taiwan, and settled down in the US. I’m a U.S. citizen, and judging by most of my habits, I’m your typical binge TV-watching, rock-and-roll loving American. On the other hand, my Mandarin is passable if not especially good; I have an ongoing fascination with Chinese culture and cuisine; and my experiences living and working in Asia have informed my writing.

The sense of being both inside and outside China has stuck with me ever since I first stepped foot in the country almost twenty-five years ago. In those more innocent days, the Internet was something one heard vague whispers about, and CNN International was the only TV channel available in English (and even then you had to have access to a hotel room or live in an embassy compound to receive it). The Chinese’s knowledge of modern rock only went as far as Dylan in his pre-electric days (pretty much everything post-1966 and the Cultural Revolution was unknown to them at the time). China was only beginning to gain the modern conveniences we take for granted here in the West. Living there was not always easy, or pretty—how can it be when you have over a billion people learning how to grow together as a nation? But to be there was to feel engaged, to recognize and wrestle with our similarities as well as our differences.

Fast forward to the here and now in China, and it’s not uncommon to hear hip 80s tunes at the local expat bar (like us, the Chinese have adopted pop music nostalgia), or even up-to-the-second modern rock at the hipper clubs. Even though China’s Great Firewall blocks sites such as Google and Facebook, the Chinese have their local equivalent websites and VPN shortcuts to keep in contact with each other. So much has changed, and yet to be in China is still to be in a place with its own ways of thinking, of doing, of living. This leads me to wonder: What does it mean to be Chinese now? With all the newfound wealth and modernization, is China drawing ever closer to the West, save the language differences? Or could it be said that the West, which has absorbed so much from Chinese pop culture in recent years, is growing ever more similar to China?

It’s that intersection between East and West that interests me; this is what my short story collection “China Girl” is about. The book is not a straightforward document of what China and Asia are today, nor is it completely fantastical; every far-out tale in this collection contains some grains of reality, and every realistic story features a flight or two of fancy. These stories are about how East and West reflect off each other, how they influence each other, how they regard each other—sometimes with suspicion, sometimes with affection. Most of all, these stories are about people who may have different circumstances than what we’re accustomed to, but are searching for the same things we all are: love, connections, escape from regret. All around them, history, ghosts both literal and figurative, and tragedies rise like a wall, and all walls are made to be scaled and broken.

So now when I’m in China and a new acquaintance sees the cover of my book and asks who the China Girl is, or what I think about Chinese girls, I can only half-smile. Given the luxury of a longer explanation, I would say: The China Girl, Chinese girls, even China itself, can’t be easily classified. They’re keenly aware of the past, present, and future. They have something to say about both East and West, whether the story is about a modern woman in Beijing fighting to be her own person, or a writer in the US trying to make sense of historical atrocities, or even a woman just sitting in a café, hailing from a kingdom that no longer exists. Most of all, they demand to be engaged with. As long as different places and cultures continue to exist in this world, I hope we continue to engage with them, as I have engaged with China over the years.

In its nine tales, China Girl documents the collisions between East and West, the power of myth and the burden of history, and loves lost and almost found. The stories in this collection encompass everything from contemporary vignettes about urban life to fable-like musings on memories and the art of storytelling. Wide-ranging and playful, China Girl is a journey into today’s Asia as well as an Asia of the imagination.

About the Author: Ho Lin is an author, musician and filmmaker, and the co-editor of the literary journal Caveat Lector. He has degrees from Brown University and Johns Hopkins University, and he currently resides in San Francisco.

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Saving Nary by Carol DeMent – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Carol DeMent will be awarding $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Whose story is it?

As writers, we search for that one compelling theme that will carry our story from start to finish. And when the story is set within the confines of an historical event, the search for that one story becomes difficult. Our research reveals countless stories of hope, despair, greed, and love, all crying out to be told. Once we select “the one,” those other stories can add dimension and texture to our plot.

In Saving Nary, the central theme centers on a father’s search for his missing daughters. In this case, the father, Khath, is a Cambodian refugee, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. His daughters were taken from him and forced to labor in a Khmer Rouge youth camp and it has been four years since he saw them. Are they alive? Are they whole? Broken in mind and spirit by their ordeal, or miraculously unscathed? Khath’s search takes him from the refugee camps in Thailand to resettlement in the US, a process rife with its own challenges and setbacks.

Now that we have our protagonist and the elements of his struggle, we must decide the voices we will use to tell Khath’s story. Certainly, Khath can speak for himself, and often does. But is he always the best narrative voice? Sometimes, Khath’s actions are best seen from the outside, from someone who is puzzled by what he does and misinterprets it, or by someone who wishes him ill. At other times, we must set Khath’s struggle aside momentarily and peer into the life and motives of surrounding characters in order to see the big picture and fully understand the opposing forces that serve to build tension and intensify the drama of Khath’s situation. After all, life is not lived in a vacuum.

As a reader, be aware that writers will often choose to narrate a scene using the voice of the character with the most at stake in that particular situation. What does it mean, to use a character’s voice? Let’s suppose we have a scene in which someone intentionally and seriously injures another character. Told through the attacker’s voice, this scene will allow the reader to feel the hatred, or the love, or the avarice that caused the attacker to strike. We will learn how the attacker felt upon successfully overcoming the target. Was it triumph? Fear of being caught? Weariness or relief? Told through the injured character’s voice, we may feel the gritty pavement rending our clothing, we might smell the rank sweat of fear, or taste the coppery flavor of blood. We may struggle to breathe or writhe in pain; we may feel our life force ebb. Who has the most at stake in this scene? It depends on the story. Nothing is absolute in the writer’s world!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short post with its quick peek into just one small aspect of creating a novel. Thank you to Long and Short Reviews for the opportunity to share some thoughts on story development and narrative voice.

A Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Saving Nary explores the losses, loyalties and secrets held within families broken by war and genocide. This compelling novel presents a palette of unique characters who struggle to make sense of the events that led them to America, even as they ponder the bewildering culture and lifestyle of their new homeland.

Refugee Khath Sophal lost everything when the Khmer Rouge swept into power in Cambodia: his livelihood gone, his family dead or missing; his sanity barely intact from the brutality he has been forced to witness.

Now resettled in the Pacific Northwest, Khath treads a narrow path between the horrors of his past and the uncertainties of the present. His nights are filled with twisted dreams of torture and death. By day he must guard constantly against the flashbacks triggered by the simple acts of daily living, made strange in a culture he does not understand.

Then Khath meets Nary, a mysterious and troubled Cambodian girl whose presence is both an aching reminder of the daughters he has lost, and living proof that his girls, too, could still be alive. Nary’s mother Phally, however, is another matter. A terrible suspicion grows in Khath’s mind that Phally is not who or what she claims to be. A split develops in the community between those who believe Phally and those who believe Khath. And those, it seems, who don’t really care who is right but just want to stir up trouble for their own personal gain.

Khath’s search for the truth leads him to the brink of the brutality he so despises in the Khmer Rouge. His struggle to wrest a confession from Phally ultimately forces him to face his own past and unravel the mystery of his missing daughters.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As the sun rose, Khath sat cross-legged in a lotus position in the small Buddhist temple nestled below Khao I Dang Mountain. The barbed wire perimeter fence separated the mountain from the refugee camp, but the mountain lent its power to the area nonetheless. Pra Chhay and two other monks chanted the Heart Sutra, a prayer of enlightenment, the rhythmic drone rising and falling in a soothing and familiar hum as the scent of incense hung heavily in the hot, humid air. About thirty refugees sat on the straw mats covering the wooden floor of the bamboo temple. The lips of many were moving as they softly chanted along with the monks. Khath’s lips remained still, his heart empty. If asked, he would not disavow the teachings. He believed the teachings, yet the words of the Buddha had lost the power to move or to comfort him. He felt somehow distant from the teachings, as though they controlled behavior on a different world from the one he inhabited. It was a very lonely feeling. The monks chanted on, a background hum that began to irritate Khath. He might as well be listening to the drone of mosquitoes as he toiled on the dikes under the watchful eyes of the Khmer Rouge, their guns aimed and ready, afraid to brush the insects away from his face lest he be beaten for not putting full attention into his work.

Observing the others in the temple, Khath envied them their faith. Pra Chhay often said there were two levels of Buddhism, one being the simple devotions taught to uneducated villagers; the other consisting of the higher practices and theories studied by the scholar monks.

About the Author:Carol DeMent worked in the field of South East Asian refugee resettlement for seven years, and completed master’s level research into international refugee resettlement policy. She lived for two years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer and has traveled extensively in South East Asia. Her first novel, Saving Nary, was a Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

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The Diplomat’s Daughter by Karin Tanabe – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Karin Tanabe will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Author Karin Tanabe’s Japanese father was three years old when the firebombing of Tokyo and Yokohama occurred in May of 1945—his very first memory was seeing his city on fire and hearing the cries of babies on the shore, where they had been carried for safety. While many Americans associate World War II with a parent or grandparent who fought bravely in Europe, Karin’s understanding of the war started with her father being attacked by American bombs.

These memories, as well as those of a family friend whose own wife and family were interned in a war relocation center, and additional friends who were born in captivity, piqued Karin’s curiosity, and spurred her to write a love story born out of one of the most unlikely places: a mixed-race internment camp. THE DIPLOMAT’S DAUGHTER is a captivating and informed tale of three young people divided by the horrors of World War II and their journey back to one another.

Enjoy an Excerpt

A week later, Helene started to feel the baby kick. Christian was walking back from his second day at the German school when he saw his mother approaching. She had a smile on her face that belied her dismal surroundings. Christian had planned to tell her how his German abilities did not extend to writing essays in the language, but when he saw her happiness, he decided to delay the bad news. Within just a few days of his arrival, he’d learned why he couldn’t attend the American school. The elected spokesman for their side of the camp was intensely pro-German and anyone who sent their children to the American-style Federal School was deemed a traitor. There were whispers that one family’s food had been withheld for several days because their daughter, who spoke no German, enrolled there.

“Put your hand here,” Helene said when she’d reached Christian. She placed his right hand on the top of her stomach. She was wearing the dress that was given to women when they arrived, and Christian thought it made her look plain and homespun, definitely more Mrs. Tomato Soup than Mrs. Country Club.

They waited a few minutes, but nothing happened. Christian started to fidget, and his mother laughed at him. “Do you have somewhere to be? Wait to feel the baby.”

So they waited. Mothers walked by them and smiled, teenagers coming out of school slowed down and whispered, and finally, when Christian was about to pull his hand away, embarrassed, the baby kicked.

“I felt it!” he said, pressing his hand harder against his mother’s belly.

“I told you it would be worth the wait,” said Helene, her voice full of delight.

Christian thought of the tiny body inside his mother bursting with life. He imagined the growing organs, the heartbeat, the developing brain and he felt sorry for it. He wished it could be born far from loaded guns and barbed wire. At least it would have love, he thought, looking at his mother’s joyful face.

Helene kissed her son’s hand and walked off, letting him catch up to the other boys who were making their way from the school to the German mess hall, where they worked prepping the next day’s milk delivery. Internees in the camp woke up to a bottle of fresh milk on their stoop every day, one of the measures that the camp’s warden took to show that he was going well beyond the laws of the Geneva Convention.

The camp, it was whispered among the internees, was one President Roosevelt took great pride in, and the guards didn’t want any suicides or fence jumpers to ruin his vision. “They want happy prisoners,” his father had told him. “So just remember, it could be much worse.”

For Christian, sharing seven hundred square feet with another family and sleeping on floors with scorpions did not make for a happy prisoner. The view of miles of barbed-wire fencing him in did not help, either. The orphanage had changed him—he felt it in his newfound patience. Even gentleness. The way he felt toward Inge, had guarded her on the train, he was sure the old Christian would not have been as kind. But it didn’t mean he was elated about his circumstances.

Then there was the camp’s segregation. In two days, Christian had learned how bad it was. Though he had seen the large group of Japanese internees when he came in, invisible lines kept them apart inside. The Germans and Japanese, despite being allies in the war, occupied separate sections of the camp, ate in separate facilities, worked different jobs, and played different sports. The only places where they mixed were the hospital—as illness never discriminated—and the swimming pool. The few Italians were sprinkled among the Germans, but they kept to themselves, too.

About the Author:Karin Tanabe is the author of The Gilded Years, The Price of Inheritance, and The List. A former Politico reporter, her writing has also appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and The Washington Post. She has made frequent appearances as a celebrity and politics expert on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and The CBS Early Show. A graduate of Vassar College, Karin lives in Washington, DC.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Everything I’ve Dreamed Of by Norah Bennett


Thanks for joining us on our anniversary scavenger hunt! It’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon/BN GC.

Kate Willowbrook dreamed of a life filled with beauty –– a man who loves her, friends, and a home. At eighteen, Kate’s dreams were replaced by nightmares when she witnessed a crime. Kate fled, never settling down and never trusting anyone until at the age of the thirty, she discovers the small town of Lakes Crossing and CEO, Noah Reed.

When Noah’s wife was killed in an accident, his world exploded. Noah settled for an empty, loveless life until the day he met Kate. When he learns about Kate’s past and finds she is still in danger, Noah takes over, becoming over-protective—to the point Kate feels stifled and controlled.

As Noah and Kate struggle to put the past behind them and find a balance that fulfills both their needs, they learn that there are no guarantees in life, but in Lakes Crossing they have been given a second chance at love.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: On the Home Front by Barb Warner Deane


Thanks for joining us on our anniversary scavenger hunt! It’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon/BN GC.

In 1941, WWII begins for the United States, and life will never be the same for three women as they send their husbands, brothers, and friends off to war. Ruth, a young wife and teacher, Lilly her teenaged sister-in-law, and Helen, a British war bride, learn to cope with rationing, change, fear, loss, humiliation, and brutality while they forge an impenetrable bond and grow to be stronger than any of them ever dreamed possible. They lean on each other for support, aided by the family and friends who surround them, but when one decides to go to the front lines as part of the American Red Cross Clubmobile program, how can they cope with her absence—and more telegrams reporting loss?

Buy the book at The Wild Rose Press.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Never Done by Ginger Dehlinger


Thanks for joining us on our anniversary scavenger hunt! It’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon/BN GC.

Clara, fourteen and Geneva, sixteen are close friends until Geneva secretly marries Clara’s widowed father. Feeling betrayed by her pa and a girl she idolizes, Clara wants nothing to do with her new young stepmother. Geneva retaliates, beginning a clash of wills that lasts from 1884 to the flu epidemic of 1918.

Years go by without them speaking to one another. Geneva, bolder of the two, lives a life of ease in elegant homes with piped water and domestic help. She shops for the latest in women’s fashions and plays pinochle with lady friends.

For spite, Clara marries a handsome cowboy Geneva fancies, but ends up living in a freezing cold cabin and a house infested with bugs. She takes in ironing and feeds miners to make ends meet, discovering love and purpose in the process.

It takes a tragedy to bring her and her family together again. Can she and Geneva see this as an opportunity to put aside the past? Can they salvage a relationship that was once the center of their world?

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The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore – Spotlight

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Santa Montefiore who is visiting with us to celebrate today’s release of The Daughters of Ireland, the second book in the unforgettable Deverill Chronicles trilogy, which follows three women in Ireland through the decades of the twentieth century.

In Ireland 1925, the Anglo-Irish war is long over, but life will never be the same. Castle Deverill has been home to the Deverill family in West Cork for hundreds of years, until it fell prey to a devastating attack during the war. Young Celia (Deverill) Mayberry and her husband bought the estate, determined to restore it to its former glory. But not everyone is elated. Although Kitty is grateful to her cousin for ensuring the castle will remain in the family, she cannot help but be wistful for the days when she was the mistress of Castle Deverill. While she is content in her new life, her heart still yearns for Jack O’Leary. As Kitty struggles with her choices, she must make a heartbreaking decision that could hurt those closest to her.

Wealthy and the toast of the town in New York City, Bridie Doyle has come a long way since she was the daughter of one of the cooks at Castle Deverill. But all her money cannot ease the pain over having given away her baby or from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago.

As Celia wastes no time, or expense, in hiring workers to renovate Castle Deverill, dark shadows are gathering once more, as the financial markets begin to shake. Now everything that felt so certain is cast into doubt as this daughter of Ireland must find the inner strength to build a new future.

Enjoy an Excerpt

At last the castle came into view. The western tower where her grandmother had set up residence until her death was intact but the rest of it resembled the bones of a great beast gradually decaying into the forest. Ivy and bindweed pulled on the remaining walls, crept in through the empty windows and endeavored to claim every last stone. And yet, for Kitty, the castle still held a mesmeric allure.

She trotted across the ground that had once been the croquet lawn but was now covered in long grasses and weeds. She dismounted and led her horse around to the front, where her cousin was waiting for her beside a shiny black car. Celia Mayberry stood alone, dressed in an elegant cloche hat beneath which her blond hair was tied into a neat chignon, and a long black coat that almost reached the ground. When she saw Kitty her face broke into a wide, excited smile.

“Oh my darling Kitty!” she gushed, striding up and throwing her arms around her. She smelled strongly of tuberose and money and Kitty embraced her fiercely.

“This is a lovely surprise,” Kitty exclaimed truthfully, for Celia loved Castle Deverill almost as much as she did, having spent every summer of her childhood there with the rest of the “London Deverills,” as their English cousins had been known. Kitty felt the need to cling to her with the same ferocity with which she clung to her memories, for Celia was one of the few people in her life who hadn’t changed, and as she grew older and further away from the past, Kitty felt ever more grateful for that. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? You could have stayed with us.”

“I wanted to surprise you,” said Celia, who looked like a child about to burst with a secret.

“Well, you certainly did that.” Kitty looked up at the facade. “It’s like a ghost, isn’t it? A ghost of our childhood.”

“But it will be rebuilt,” said Celia firmly.

Kitty looked anxiously at her cousin. “Do you know who bought it? I’m not sure I can bear to know.”

Celia laughed. “Me!” she exclaimed. “I have bought it. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m going to bring back the ghosts of the past and you and I can relive the glorious moments all over again through our children.

“You, Celia?” Kitty gasped in astonishment. “You bought Castle Deverill?”

“Well, technically Archie bought it. What a generous husband he is!” She beamed with happiness. “Isn’t it a riot, Kitty? Well, I’m a Deverill too! I have just as much right as anyone else in the family. Say you’re happy, do!”

“Of course I’m happy. I’m relieved it’s you and not a stranger, but I admit I’m a little jealous too,” Kitty said sheepishly.

Celia flung her arms around her cousin again. “Please don’t hate me. I did it for us. For the family. The castle couldn’t possibly go to a stranger. It would be like giving away one’s own child. I couldn’t bear to think of someone else building over our memories. This way we can all enjoy it. You can continue to live in the White House, Uncle Bertie in the Hunting Lodge if he so wishes and we can all be terribly happy again. After everything we’ve suffered we deserve to find happiness, don’t you think?”

Kitty laughed affectionately at her cousin’s fondness of the dramatic. “You’re so right, Celia. It will be wonderful to see the castle brought back to life and by a Deverill no less. It’s the way it should be. I only wish it were me.”

Celia put a gloved hand on her stomach. “I’m going to have a baby, Kitty,” she announced, smiling.

“Goodness, Celia, how many more surprises have you in store for me?”

“Just that and the castle. How about you? Do hurry up. I pray we are both blessed with girls so that they can grow up here at Castle Deverill just like we did.” And Kitty realized then that Celia had placed herself here within these castle walls for more than merely the annual month of August. She was one of those shallow people who rewrote their own history and believed in the absolute truth of their version. “Come on,” Celia continued, taking Kitty’s hand and pulling her through the doorframe into the space where once the great hall had been. “Let’s explore. I have grand plans, you know. I want it to be just the same as it was when we were girls, but better. Do you remember the last Summer Ball? Wasn’t it marvelous?”

Kitty and Celia waded through the weeds that grew up to their knees, marveling at the small trees that had seeded themselves among the thistles and thorns and stretched their spindly branches toward the light. The ground was soft against their boots as they moved from room to room, disturbing the odd rook and magpie that flew indignantly into the air. Celia chattered on, reliving the past in colorful anecdotes and fond reminiscences, while Kitty was unable to stop the desolation of her ruined home falling upon her like a heavy black veil. With a leaden heart she remembered her grandfather Hubert, killed in the fire, and her grandmother Adeline who had died alone in the western tower only a month ago. She thought of Bridie’s brother, Michael Doyle, who had set the castle ablaze, and her own foolish thirst for recrimination, which had only led to her shame in his farmhouse where no one had heard her cries. Her thoughts drifted to her lover, Jack O’Leary, and their meeting at the wall where he had held her tightly and begged her to flee with him to America, then later, on the station platform, when he had been arrested and dragged away. Her head began to spin. Her heart contracted with fear as the monsters of the past were roused from sleep.

About the Author: Born in England in 1970 Santa Montefiore grew up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at Sherborne School for Girls. She read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University and spent much of the 90s in Buenos Aires, where her mother grew up. She converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha in London.

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Marilyn, Music, and Top Tens by John Herrick – Guest Blog and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. John Herrick will be awarding a Kindle version of Beautiful Mess, plus free Kindle versions of entire John Herrick backlist to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Marilyn, Music and Top Tens

Although Beautiful Mess is a romantic comedy centered around a modern-day ensemble cast, my main character, Del Corwyn, is an aging actor who shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Her backstory triggers much of the novel’s action.

Despite her persona as a dumb blonde bombshell, Marilyn was a driven, thinking individual. Her third husband was Arthur Miller, playwright of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Like you, she was a frequent reader. And she helped break down racism in the arts. She worked behind the scenes to gain entry for Ella Fitzgerald to perform at the Mocambo, a popular Hollywood venue. Prior to Marilyn’s intervention, Fitzgerald was denied the opportunity to perform because of segregation.

I’m a music fan. To prepare myself to write the novel’s flashback scenes, I checked Billboard magazine’s archives for August 5, 1962—the day Marilyn passed away. So to get you into the mood for Beautiful Mess, here’s a list of the Top 10 songs on that day:

  1. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” – Neil Sedaka
  2.  “Roses are Red (My Love)” – Bobby Vinton
  3.  “The Wah Watusi” – The Orions
  4.  “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva
  5.  “Ahab, the Arab” – Ray Stevens
  6.  “Speedy Gonzales” – Pat Boone
  7.  “Sealed with a Kiss” – Brian Hyland
  8.  “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” – Barbara Lynn
  9.  “Things” – Bobby Darin
  10.  “The Stripper” – David Rose and His Orchestra

I often get asked what music inspires me as a writer. So to personalize this guest post—and at the risk of embarrassing myself—I’ll post my personal Top 10 album list here, greatest hits collections excluded, in no particular order:

Automatic for the People – R.E.M.

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

One More Story – Peter Cetera

Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

August and Everything After – Counting Crows

Wilson Phillips – Wilson Phillips

World Falling Down – Peter Cetera

Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Rhythm Nation 1814 – Janet Jackson

Listen Without Prejudice – George Michael

If you’re in the mood for a laugh with a twist of pop-culture history and a group of modern misfits, check out Beautiful Mess. Of all the novels I’ve written, this one was, by far, the most fun to write.

Thanks for letting me stop by for a visit!

 

 

A fallen star. Four Los Angeles misfits.
And the Marilyn Monroe you only thought you knew.

Del Corwyn is an aging relic. An actor who advanced from errand boy to Academy Award nominee, Del kept company with the elite of Hollywood’s golden era and shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Today, however, he faces bankruptcy.

Humiliated, Del is forced to downgrade his lifestyle, sell the home he’s long cherished, and fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian.

Del surges to the top of Hollywood’s A-list overnight. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream?

A story of warmth, humor and honesty, Beautiful Mess follows one man’s journey toward love and relevance where he least expects it—and proves coming-of-age isn’t just for the young.

Enjoy an Excerpt

I have an intriguing prospect for a new film,” Del replied as he took a seat. He tapped the manila envelope tucked under his arm, which contained Marilyn’s script.

He could’ve sworn he caught Arnie in the onset of an eye roll brought to a sudden halt.

“What kind of project?”

“A pop-culture type of thing. You could say it has a retro feel to it.”

Arnie sighed. “Del, I realize you like to relive the past—”

“This is a winner, Arnie. I guarantee it.”

“And what does this winning project involve?”

“Marilyn Monroe. It’s a screenplay.”

“With all due respect, isn’t that a bit clichéd? This would need to be an angle no one else has covered. Many people have done films about Marilyn Monroe, not to mention books and memorabilia and everything else under the sun.”

“You don’t understand. This isn’t about Marilyn Monroe.” Del felt a surge of adrenaline and couldn’t contain himself. He leaned forward and, with great pomp, planted the thick package on Arnie’s desk. It landed with a thump. “It’s by Marilyn Monroe.”

Arnie sat open-mouthed as he tried to follow along. His eyes widened in perplexity. “By Marilyn Monroe,” he repeated.

“That’s right.”

“Del, what the hell are you talking about?”

With a lighthearted laugh, Del eased back into the chair. “Last night, I rummaged through some boxes I’d stored away long ago. Hadn’t looked through them in years. Relics from my heyday. Things I’d forgotten I’d saved. And at the bottom of one of those boxes, I found this.”

He patted the envelope, which crinkled at his touch.

“It’s a script, given to me in 1962.” Del caught Arnie’s eye to make sure the man paid full attention. “Written by Marilyn Monroe.”

About the Author:

A self-described “broken Christian,” John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.

Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri—Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his novel-writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.

The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick’s From the Dead as “a solid debut novel.” Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed. Publishers Weekly predicted “Herrick will make waves” with his novel Between These Walls.

Herrick’s nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free e-book surpassed 150,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.

His latest novel, Beautiful Mess, folds the legend of Marilyn Monroe into an ensemble romantic-comedy.

Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. “It was a challenge but also a growth process,” he acknowledges. “But in retrospect, I can see God’s fingerprints all over it.”

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Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin – Spotlight and Giveaway


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

While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war. She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for a client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s at first drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers. Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery about a client causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.

Contemporary fiction with elements of suspense, Among the Branded explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood, or our beliefs.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It all started with the Moo Shoo Chicken, wreaking havoc on one of the moms in the upstairs bathroom. I felt for Jane, but had no desire to wear the shaggy costume meant for her. Svetlana stood next to me while the kids ran around, some playing tag, others spilling punch on the kitchen floor.

“Hey, guys,” she said, “put down the juice boxes, or somebody’s going to get hurt.”

She grabbed a sponge and bent down to clean up the mess.

“Rockin’ party,” I joked.

“More like raucous. Put a bunch of four-year-olds together, and I’m having a love fest with the linoleum.”

Sveta, as I’d called her for years, stood up and gave me a mischievous look, as if she was about to share some juicy gossip about a neighbor on her cul-de-sac. Instead, she asked me to take Jane’s place and dress up as Ripsie the Retriever. She asked twice then begged. It brought me back to when we first met, and she insisted I tag along for a Thursday-night Happy Hour.

“Why can’t you wear it?”

“Because I’m reading the book. And you’re taller—it’ll fit better.”

I washed my hands and reached for some pretzels. “Uh-huh, great excuse.”

There wasn’t enough birthday cake to make me agree. I’m claustrophobic, I could say. I’m allergic to dogs, crossed my mind, even though I had my own version at home, a German Shepherd named Ginger. But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t disappoint Sveta’s grandson, Evan, on his fourth birthday. So on a Sunday afternoon, I became Ripsie.

About the Author:Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an advertising agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She’s the author of the novels Among the Branded (May 2017) and The Arrival of Elsa (March 2018). When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog. She grew up on the East Coast and currently calls Virginia home.

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