What Kind of Writer Am I? by Joshua Hedges – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding three individual prizes, a $10, a $25 and a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to three randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What Kind of Writer Am I?

I’m a writer who loves tough drama. Characters and plots have an expiration date. For me a happy-ever-after might be a good death for a character, especially if it pushes another character in a more interesting direction. Flawed characters have more room to grow and their triumphs are more deserving of celebration. When creating a character, I put them on a scale of good to evil based on the decisions I envision them making. A believable, evil character won’t always make an evil decision. What drives a character has to be deeply rooted, ideally something the reader can relate to. I look at my scale and where a character fits, and I try to think of a situation that would push an evil character in a good direction and a good character evil. If I can then I feel I’ve built the core of a character.

Focusing your character’s personal drives doesn’t stop at what they say and do. It also requires the writing to be focused on the details. I stick to the point. We’re all busy and the vast majority of readers don’t have much free time. Describing a one-of-a-kind ballroom isn’t as important as what a character is thinking and feeling in that ballroom. Maybe the character is poor. Maybe they would do anything to not have to go back and live in their one bedroom, dirt-floor apartment. Between reading sessions, readers aren’t going to remember what the room’s crown-molding looked like, but they’ll recall how it changed the way the poor character views themselves and their circumstances. During revisions, I review each paragraph and ask myself two questions: Does this give me insight into a character? Will this paragraph advance the plot? If I can’t answer “yes” to one of those questions then I cut it. I can’t ever recall not liking a story because the author focused on advancing characters and plot.

The characters are the story. As a writer, it’s my job to convey what that character is in a way that makes the reader know them and want to learn more about them.

Joshua Hedges is a debut Science Fiction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Computer Science. When he’s not writing stories or code, he ventures outdoors with his wife and three-year-old son to hunt dragons in the forest. He is the author of “The Dealer.”

This gripping collection of stories – fiction, nonfiction, and narrative poem – will make your imagination run wild! Featuring stories by Sarah Smith Ducksworth, Elaine Crauder, Luanne Smith, Keith R. Fentonmiller, Lisa Montagne, Ann Stolinsky, A.J. O’Connell, Aimee LaBrie, Kristan Campbell, Jack Hillman, Bill Scruggs, Joshua Hedges, Gary Zenker. You will travel alternative planets, run away away like teens in search of adventure, solve a murderous mystery, come to grips with your fears, and much more.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The jumpsuit was a thing of beauty. Made of dark-blue, shiny denim, it had an orange zipper that spanned from the crotch to the cleavage. It even sparkled ever so slightly in the sun, like it had been dipped in a vat of finely grained fairy dust. It sported capped sleeves, a wide collar, and bellbottoms. It was worthy of Cher or Liza Minnelli— certainly a back-up singer for Diana Ross. Nonetheless, it made me queasy. But, the jumpsuit also made me feel sexy and daring, which incited an occasional wave of sweaty armpits. In it, I was anxious to flaunt my new body and my new image. Seventh grade, here I come! There was no stopping me. I would no longer be the nerdy, fat kid. I would be a star.

~From Lisa Montagne’s “The Jumpsuit”

About the Authors:

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Elaine Crauder’s fiction is also in Cooweescoowee, The Boston Literary Magazine, The Eastern Iowa Review , and Penumbra. Another story received the Westmoreland Short Story Award. Eleven of her short stories have been finalists or semi-finalists in contests, including finalists in the Tobias Wolff and Mark Twain House contests. ”The Price Of A Pony,” under the title”Christmas the Hard Way,” was a semi-finalist for both Ruminate Magazine’s short story prize and for the Salem College Center for Women Writers Reynolds Price short fiction award.

Richard D. “Ky” Owen is a lawyer with Goodwin & Goodwin, LLP, in Charleston, West Virginia. He earned a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University in 1981 and a J.D. from Hamline University in 1984. Coming from a family of writers, he considers himself a “writer by birth.” He is the author of
None Call Me Dad and he blogs about parenting and Michigan State sports on his website.

Keith R. Fentonmiller is a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. Before graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he toured with a professional comedy troupe, writing and performing sketch comedy at colleges in the Mid-Atlantic States. His Pushcart-nominated short story was recently published in the Stonecoast Review. His debut novel, Kasper Mützenmacher’s Cursed Hat, will be published March 20, 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press.

Based in Southern California, Dr. Lisa Montagne currently divides her time between writing poetry and prose, teaching writing to (mostly) willing college students, and overseeing educational technology projects and support at Fullerton College. She is also a Swing, Blues, and Argentine Tango dancer, host, DJ, and instructor. She likes to drink Champagne in as many places as she can, including Europe; to read poetry aloud to anybody who will listen; to cook for anybody who is willing to sit down long enough to enjoy her food; to dabble in drawing, painting, and photography; and to read anything plopped in front of her, ranging from D.H. Lawrence to Vogue magazine. She also likes to watch television and movies, and to imagine how much better she would have produced them herself. She lived in Las Vegas at one time, so she likes to tell people that she was a stripper there. She was really just a graduate student and high school teacher, but it’s more fun to let people wonder. Although rumored to be a direct descendent of Oompa Loompas, Lisa is actually the offspring of a college professor and a circus dwarf. You can find some more of her writing at archive405.com and her website and see evidence of her adventures on Instagram.

Ann Stolinsky is a Pennsylvania-based word and game expert. She is the founder and owner of Gontza Games, an independent board and card game company, and three of her games are currently in the marketplace: “MINDFIELD, The Game of United States Military Trivia”; “Pass the Grogger!”; and “Christmas Cards.” Check out her website. She is also a partner in Gemini Wordsmiths, a full-service copyediting and content creating company. Visit the site for more information and testimonials. Ann reviews books for Amazing Stories Magazine, an online sci-fi magazine, and is an Assistant Editor for Red Sun Magazine. Her most recent publishing credit is a poem in the Fall 2015 issue of Space and Time Magazine. She is a graduate of the Bram Stoker award-winning author Jonathan Maberry’s short story writing class.

Lisa Diane Kastner is a former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theatre Review and Features Editor for the Picolata Review, her short stories have appeared in magazines and journals such as StraightJackets Magazine and HESA Inprint. In 2007 Kastner was featured in the Fresh Lines @ Fresh Nine, a public reading hosted by Gross McCleaf Art Gallery. She founded Running Wild Writers and is the former president of Pennwriters, Inc. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University, her MBA from Pennsylvania State and her BS from Drexel University (She’s definitely full of it). Her novel THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS was shortlisted in the fiction category of the William Faulkner Words and Wisdom Award and her memoir BREATHE was a semi-finalist in the nonfiction category of the same award. Born and raised in Camden, New Jersey she migrated to Philadelphia in her twenties and eventually transported to Los Angeles, California with her partner-in-crime and ever-talented husband. They nurture two felonious felines who anxiously engage in little sparks of anarchy.

Aimee LaBrie works as a communications director at Rutgers University. She earned her MFA in fiction from Penn State, and her MLA from University of Pennsylvania. Her short story collection, Wonderful Girl, was awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and published by the University of North Texas Press in 2007. Her second collection of stories, A Good Thing, placed as a finalist in the BOA Short Fiction Contest. Her short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Pleiades, Minnesota Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Permafrost, and other literary journals. In 2012, she won first place in Zoetrope’s All-Story Fiction contest. You can read her blog.

Kristan Campbell is a short story writer born in Washington, D.C. but has only visited her grandmother there during some of the summers of her childhood. She’s more familiar with Philadelphia, New York City, and Paris than her native city and aims to weave her experiences in those places into tales based on places and people that are out of the ordinary. She studied Journalism at Temple University (what seemed like a practical approach to writing at the time) and Comparative Literature at Hunter College (which seemed like a fun idea at the time) before accepting that she should have been an English major all along. Kristan completed her B.A. in English at Temple University in 2010 and an MFA in Fiction at Fairfield
University in 2016. She’s currently attempting to eke out a living doing freelance editing with the help of her cat, Fishy, who manages her desktop printer with enthusiasm.

Bill Ed Scruggs spent his younger years meeting the Southern mountain countryside and exploring the people, taking time out as needed for work in various occupations. He lives (temporarily) in Connecticut and has one child, a psychiatrist. Presently he is reconstructing his memories and imaginings in a series of novels and short stories (Facebook page Foothills Fiction – Bill Ed Scruggs) Warrensburg is a fictional photo of a country village in the illumination of fireflies.

Joshua Hedges is a debut Science Fiction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Computer Science. When he’s not writing stories or code, he ventures outdoors with his wife and three-year-old son to hunt dragons in the forest.

Gary Zenker is a marketing professional whose days are filled with creating business and marketing plans, and writing ad copy and media content. By night, he applies his imagination to flash fiction tales that cross genre and focus on revealing various facets of human nature. He is the author of Meetup Leader, a book on running successful groups; is editor and publisher of 19 books in the rock & roll Archives series; and co-author of Says Seth, a humorous collection written with his then six-year-old son. His work has earned a dozen marketing awards and placed in four writers’ contests, including a first place recognition from Oxford University Press. He founded and continues to lead two writers groups in southeastern PA, assisting others to develop their skills and achieve their writing goals. Zenker Marketing

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The Call House by C.P. Stiles – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $15 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.

A war on vice In Washington, DC—a city constantly awash in scandals? Hard to believe, but it really happened. Only not exactly the way it’s told here.

All Mattie Simon knows is that she wants adventure and her hometown doesn’t have any. She wants independence, maybe some romance.
All Andrew Stevens wants is to do his job as a newly-elected congressman.

But Washington has a way of changing people—even when they get what they want.

Fast-paced and funny, The Call House takes you back to a time of relative innocence, when people flocked to the nation’s capital to do good works and instead got caught up in sex, money, and politics. What else would you expect?

Enjoy an Excerpt

IN the mornings, the bathroom was crowded with the sweet smells of lavender soap, gardenia perfume, and lilac dusting powder, with the bright colors of pink-red lipsticks and near-orange rouge, with drying stockings and still damp lingerie. With five women in one apartment, even an apartment as grand as Flo’s on the top floor of the building on Connecticut Avenue, mornings were hectic.

Awake early but unsure what to do, Mattie ended up being last in line for the bathroom. She wasn’t used to waiting.

She’d grown up with only her mother; her father had been wounded in the last war, his lungs badly damaged by gas. She barely remembered the man who died when she was four, but his absence lingered in the white clapboard house. Upstairs, her mother kept always to one side of the bed and lived so quietly, Mattie almost felt as if she’d grown up on her own.

A tall girl, with soft ash-blond curls, walked past Mattie waiting in the hall.

“You’ll have to learn to be pretty fast around here if you want to get in the shower while we’ve still got hot water.”

“That’s all right,” Mattie said. She’d never showered in hot water back home. Her momma hadn’t wanted to trouble anyone to fix the water heater after it broke. She didn’t like troubling anyone for anything, so when something broke, and it couldn’t be fixed by prayer, it stayed broken. Mattie thought her momma’s whole life stayed broken after her daddy died.

“I’ll show you how it’s done,” the tall girl said.

She banged on the bathroom door. “Vera, there’s exactly one of those jelly donuts left. If you want it, you’d better come grab it fast.” She had to step back, the door opened so quickly.

About the Author:

C. P. Stiles is a fiction writer living in Washington, DC. This is her first novel.

From the Author

I’ve been writing all my life.

When I first heard the story about the best-known, high-priced call house on the East Coast located right in the middle of a nice residential neighborhood – I was intrigued. I’m still not sure why. Even after spending a few years researching and many more years writing. Maybe it’s the idea of having something sort of shady going on right down the street and none of the neighbors had the faintest idea. (Warning: No sex or even steamy scenes)

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Why I Value Negative Criticism as a Writer by Kate Brandes – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kate Brandes will be awarding a $25 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.

Why I Value Negative Criticism as a Writer

I’ve spent most of my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my mid-thirties. I’ve always loved stories about complicated families and relationships. When I learned about fracking through my environmental science career, one of my first thoughts was that it would make a great metaphor in a novel about a fractured family. So that’s how I began writing my first novel, The Promise of Pierson Orchard. It took me seven years from the time I started writing to get a publisher and I couldn’t have done it without a lot of negative criticism between then and now.

When I started writing, I had to learn to tell a story in the novel form. In order to do that, I asked for and received a lot of feedback from acquaintances, friends, other writers, and professional editors.

For me, especially in the beginning, the worst kind of feedback was, “Yes, this looks good. I just found a few typos and corrected those for you…”

When I was starting the novel, I was completely new to creative writing. I knew my writing needed more than just typo help. I truly wanted to get better and what I was really looking for was complete honesty, even if that was something like, “I understood nothing after page one and I don’t really know why.” That’s not great feedback because it’s not very useful in terms of where to go with it, but it was always better than a patronizing pat on the back or someone who didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

What I’ve learned over the years is that the quality of the feedback is often dependent on how much experience the reader has with writing. I’ve also learned over time to trust my gut. Often for me, I have to give critical feedback a week or more to stew before I know which advice to take and which to discard.

Giving honest critical feedback takes time and deep consideration from a good reviewer. I’ve never seen it as a personal attack, but instead a well-intentioned hand extended trying to show me the way.

In the novel, Green Energy arrives, offering the impoverished rural community of Minden, Pennsylvania, the dream of making more money from their land by leasing natural gas rights for drilling. But orchardist, Jack Pierson, fears his brother, Wade, who now works for Green Energy, has returned to town after a shame-filled twenty-year absence so desperate to be the hero that he’ll blind their hometown to the potential dangers. Jack also worries his brother will try to rekindle his relationship with LeeAnn, Jack’s wife, who’s recently left him. To protect his hometown and to fulfill a promise to himself, Jack seeks out his mother and environmental lawyer Stella Brantley, who abandoned Minden—and Jack and Wade–years ago.

When LeeAnn’s parents have good reason to lease their land, but their decision leads to tragedy, Jack must fight to find a common ground that will save his fractured family, their land, and the way of life they love.

Enjoy an Excerpt

A brand new black pickup was parked between LeeAnn’s red Chevy and Jack’s old beater. A man stood beside it, with his hand raised in greeting, but he said nothing more. Coming from the bright light of the barn into the dusk prevented Jack from making out the man’s face. Jack stared in his direction. Some tug of memory caused him to hesitate. There was something familiar about the slight curl in his shoulders.

LeeAnn emerged from the edge of the orchard and the man turned at the sound of her boots on the gravel drive. “LeeAnn?” the man said.

She stopped. “Wade Pierson?” She hesitated a moment more and then walked slowly toward him. “Is it really you?”

There, right in front of him, was his brother. Wade. Back after twenty years. He was still alive, at least. Wade’s arms encircled LeeAnn.

Jack clenched his fists and went back into the barn. He offloaded the fruit from the wagon, bruising most of it. He washed apples with shaky hands and then crushed them for the cider press. LeeAnn and Wade came through the doorway.

“Jack, look who’s here.” Jack glanced up and then couldn’t take his eyes from his brother’s face for a long moment. He wasn’t a sixteen year-old kid anymore. He’d grown taller than Jack and filled out. Damn if he didn’t look even more like their dad now, with that same dark red hair and fair skin. That curl of the shoulder used to give Wade the look of someone unsure of whether he belonged. But now Wade stood there smiling, like he would be welcome. Like he could just show up after all this time with as much warning as he gave on the night he left.

About the Author: An environmental scientist with over 20 years of experience, Kate Brandes is also a watercolor painter and a writer of women’s fiction with an environmental bent. Her short stories have been published in The Binnacle, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal. Kate is a member of the Arts Community of Easton (ACE), the Lehigh Art Alliance, Artsbridge, the Pennwriters, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Kate lives in a small town along the Delaware River with her husband, David, and their two sons. When she’s not working, she’s outside on the river or chasing wildflowers.

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Five Down and Glory by James Young – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. James Young will be awarding a 9 x 12 print of the cover painting, “Death of Kongo” signed by the author and the artist Wayne Scarpaci (US ONLY GIVEAWAY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Five Down and Glory

I’d like to thank the folks here at Long and Short Reviews for letting me come in to guest blog. By way of introduction, I’m an award-winning author of both non-fiction and fiction. Since starting off in December 2012 with my short story “Ride of the Late Rain,” I have sold over 15,000 books and reached the top of Amazon’s alternative history genre list twice with my novels Acts of War and Collisions of the Damned. I was asked to share some advice for new authors. As a fan and author regarding aerial combat, I decided if five kills is good enough to be an ace, five things I’ve learned should be just about right to list out. So, with apologies to Stephen Gurney, here in no particular order are five things I’ve learned being an indie:

There is no substitute for time in chair—Almost everything else you do can be farmed out. However, unless you’ve got a team of ghost writers, the only person who can actually write the story is you. Be ruthless about carving out your time, as it’s amazing how suddenly everything else in your life will try to be a priority. If you’re not working on the next project in some form, you’re going to find yourself behind rather quickly.

Do not “own goal” yourself—In soccer, an “own goal” is where a team accidentally puts the ball past their own goalie. While there are several places this applies, I’ll cover the two most common to writers. First, it is often tempting, especially on the internet, to let the communications flow before the brain engages. Remember that you are now a brand, and once you’ve let that salvo fly it’s gone forever. A good friend of mind has a saying: “You do not have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” This goes double when your brand is at stake. To quote Seether, “Words are weapons…”, and we writers tend to traffic in rhetorical fissionable materials. Don’t let the momentary joy of going Nagasaki lead to months of regret from the fallout.

Second, try to avoid putting yourself in any situation that is going to make people question your integrity, work ethic or, at the furthest extreme, whether you’re even worth the trouble of associating with. Yes, I have seen the latter, and once an author crosses that particular Rubicon it becomes very hard to get back on the river’s safe side. There are going to be enough people who will actively work to hinder your progress out of jealousy and spite. One does not need to help them.

<,b>Customers say they don’t judge a book by its cover. Customers lie.—Yes, there are plenty of people who will tell you in guides, person, or via their blog that people “do not judge a book by its cover.” In this case, I will use a photo illustration. Below is the first cover to the Kraken Edition of my sci-fi novel, An Unproven Concept:

Guess what happened when I went to the ballroom cover? Sales spiked, and stayed spiked for about three months. I also had customers contact me or tell me in person that they were not so sure about the old cover, but decided to give the book a try once I switched. I personally thank Jon Holland did a good job on the one featuring the Titanic, but Justin Adams’ work seemed to attract the eye. You can call it shallow, curse at the unfairness of it, and grit your teeth about how Amazon’s thumbnails are ruining writing as we know it. Fact of the matter is, no matter how good your novel is, covers are the reason that people click on the book. I did a whole post on covers (and where to find cheap and good ones) over at my home blog.

Introversion is not a curse—Most writers, I’ve been told often and archly, are introverts. I am not one, much to Anita C. Young’s (wife and fellow author) annoyance. Well, I have some bad news and some good news. The former is that if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. The good news is that social media makes that a lot easier than it used to be if personal interaction drains you. However, it’s my firm belief that unless you get insanely lucky (and there’s nothing wrong with skipping this paragraph in lieu of rolling the rhetorical D20) at some point you’re going to have to go “hand to hand” with the public. Things I’ve seen both Anita and other introverted authors do include developing a routine, practice their speech in front of a mirror, figure out their ‘wind down’ plan and, if at a major event, see if there’s a “vendor room” away from the press of people.

Network, network, network—The reason that I am such a staunch advocate of getting out there is networking has been so critical to my success. While you can make your own luck, like a holy relic in a role playing game, networking usually adds modifiers to that roll. I have heard of more events or received some of the best advice from folks who have been there, done that. Almost as important, most of my really big opportunities, be it anthologies, events, or guest blogs like this have come through word of mouth. This isn’t to say that you cannot succeed without “who you know.” Buuuuuuttt…it is saying that it’s a lot easy to make your “save against anonymity” with a bestselling author in your genre providing tips. Go to a literary con, join a writer’s guild, or participate in a podcast for starters, then figure out things from there.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Okay, not really, but that’s all there’s space for here. Check out my FB page and blog for more tips.

Adolf Hitler is dead. Great Britain has fallen. The Royal Family has fled to Canada, and the United States stands alone against the Axis.

On Seas So Crimson collects both novels of the Usurper’s War into a single package. Acts of War (Amazon Bestseller in alternate history) begins this universe with London on fire, while Collisions of the Damned (recommended by Alternate History Weekly) continues it with the desperate defense of the Dutch East Indies.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It’s never a good day when you become commander of a vessel simply because no one else was left. From what he understood, Keir had started the day as chief of Hood’s Navigation Division. That had been before the vessel took at least three 15-inch shells to the bridge area, as well as two more that had wiped out her gunnery directory and the secondary bridge.

Captain Gordon was right—she was a very powerful warship. Unfortunately that tends to make you a target.

“Commander, you are certain that…” Gordon started, then collected himself. “You are certain His Majesty is dead.”

“Yes sir,” Keir said. “His Majesty was in the conning tower with Admiral Pound when it was hit. The Royal Surgeon positively identified His Majesty’s body in the aid station before that was hit in turn. We cannot get to the aid station due to the spreading fire.”

“Understood. His Majesty would not have wanted any of you to risk his life for his body,” Gordon said.

“I just…” Keir started, then stopped, overcome with emotion.

“It is not your fault lad,” Gordon said. “Her Majesty will understand.”

Gordon turned and looked at the Exeter’s clock.

“Very well, we are out of time. Stand by to fire torpedoes.”

“Torpedoes report they are ready.”

“Sir, you may want to tell your torpedo officer to have his weapons set to run deep,” Keir said. “She’s drawing…”

There was a large explosion aboard Hood as the flames reached a secondary turret’s ready ammunition. Eric saw a fiery object arc slowly across, descending towards the Exeter as hundreds of helpless eyes watched it. The flaming debris’ lazy parabola terminated barely fifty yards off of Exeter’s side with a large, audible splash.

“I think we do not have time for that discussion,” Gordon said grimly. “Fire torpedoes!”

The three weapons from Exeter’s starboard tubes sprang from their launchers into the water. Set as a narrow spread, the three tracks seemed to take forever to impact from Eric’s perspective. Exeter’s torpedo officer, observing Hood’s state, had taken into account the battlecruiser’s lower draught without having to be told. Indeed, he had almost set the weapons for too deep a run, but was saved by the flooding that had occurred in the previous few minutes. In addition to breaking the battlecruiser’s keel, the triple blow opened the entire aft third of her port side to the ocean. With the audible sound of twisting metal, Hood started to roll onto her beam ends. She never completed the evolution before slipping beneath the waves.

About the Author:James Young is a Missouri native who escaped small town life via an appointment to the United States Military Academy. After completing his service in the Army, Mr. Young moved to Kansas to pursue his doctorate in U.S. History. Fiction is his first love, and he is currently the author of the Usurper’s War (alternate history), Vergassy Chronicles (space opera), and Scythefall (apocalyptic fiction) series, all of which are available via Amazon or Createspace. Currently living in the Midwest with his loving, kind, and beautiful spouse, Mr. Young spends his time completing his dissertation while plotting new, interesting ways to torment characters and readers alike. As a non-fiction author, Mr. Young has won the 2016 United States Naval Institute’s Cyberwarfare Essay contest and the U.S. Armor Center’s Draper Award for a battle analysis of the Golan Heights. He has also placed in the James A. Adams Cold War History contest held by the Virginia Military Institute and been published in the Journal of Military History (“The Heights of Ineptitude”).

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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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