The Role of Critics and Criticism by Colleen J. Shogan – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Colleen J. Shogan will be awarding a $50 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.

The Role of Critics and Criticism

Anyone who writes, acts, or produces creative content has to deal with critics and criticism. The two are actually distinct, at least in my mind. Criticism can be quite helpful to a writer. After I’d written a draft of my first novel in my mystery series, Stabbing in the Senate, I sent it to a handful of agents. One wrote back to me and said he liked it, but there were some big flaws I needed to fix. He offered me valuable criticism. If I hadn’t changed the beginning of the book to fast-forward to the action, I don’t think it would have ever been picked up for representation or publication.

I’ve found that fellow mystery writers typically offer this type of constructive criticism. The best criticism points to examples, perhaps in other books, which can show the writer how to move forward. General comments, such as “this is bad writing” or “show, don’t tell” means nothing if there isn’t concrete instruction for improvement.

Critics are a different story. They often label creative enterprises as “trite” or “shallow” without providing evidence detailing why their opinions are valid. Literary critics engage in this type of behavior at times, but in this day and age, everyone has credentials to be a critic. All that’s required is an Amazon or Goodreads account.

If someone writes a negative review, I don’t ignore it. I read the review and oftentimes, the reviewer has a point. There’s nothing wrong with those types of exchanges, because hopefully as writers, our work continues to get better as time goes on.

What is disappointing is when a critic asserts an opinion without substantiating his or her thoughts with examples or explanation. When that happens, I find it helpful to watch this scene from the Academy Award winning movie, “Birdman.” In it, Michael Keaton goes off on a critic who is threatening to trash his new play. His diatribe is probably the best invective against an unhelpful and mean-spirited critic. Keaton’s character also reminds creative people that we have the more difficult job because we actually produce content for other people to enjoy and consume. That task is ultimately more burdensome than reacting or opining.

Ignoring criticism isn’t a viable option, especially if the goal is to write more interesting stories over time. However, ignoring critics that assign nasty labels without substantiated claims is recommended.

MediaKit_BookCover_HomicideInTheHouseDuring a government shutdown, Kit’s congresswoman boss is found standing over the dead body of a top staffer she tangled with in front of the press. The police are about to name her as the prime suspect. The weapon was the Speaker’s gavel, an item entrusted to the congresswoman the previous night. The killer knows Kit is on the case. Can she solve the mystery in time to save her job and her life?

Enjoy an excerpt:

Smartphones are great time wasters. I fiddled with various apps as I waited. The next level of “Angry Birds” was within my grasp when I heard footsteps and voices across the hallway. I got up and stood in the doorway to greet my boss.

From the look on her face, she was not pleased. She charged like a linebacker to the exit of the Speaker’s lair with Jack Drysdale on her heels.

“Stop, Congresswoman Dixon. You’re not listening to reason!” From behind, Drysdale placed his hand on Maeve’s left shoulder in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the suite.

Maeve had impressive reflexes. She turned her body toward him and grabbed his wrist with her right hand. “Don’t touch me! Is this how the Speaker’s staff treat members of the House?” Her voice was loud and filled with vitriol.

The gaggle of reporters who had been relaxing inside the anteroom trailed behind me. This was better than a boring pen and pad session. One of them murmured, “I think that’s Dixon from North Carolina.”

This was not a good development, but Maeve didn’t know that the press had a front row seat to her implosion.

Maeve clutched Drysdale’s wrist for several seconds until she let it go. Apparently her physical assault didn’t intimidate him. He ran ahead and stopped directly in front of her.

Stretching his arms out wide to slow her down, Jack made his last stand. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that. Please come back in the office so we can sort this out. You’re a valuable part of this caucus and the Speaker wants to work with you on this deal.”

Maeve shook her head. “You guys in House leadership are typical politicians. You can’t take no for an answer. I’m not ready to make a decision. Now get out of my way.”

Unmoving, Drysdale locked eyes with Maeve. She didn’t look away and squared her shoulders. I could almost feel the tension around me as the reporters anxiously waited for the outcome. What was Maeve going to do? Knee him in the groin if he didn’t back down?

After a moment that seemed like an eternity, Drysdale gave in and stepped aside. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and hurried into the hallway to catch up with her. As we exited the corridor, I glanced back to the doorway where I’d been standing. Every reporter was on his or her phone, ostensibly calling in the most salacious story of the shutdown thus far. A junior member of Congress and the Speaker’s top aide had nearly come to blows in the Capitol. A high school reporter could make that story fly.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_HomicideInTheHouseColleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She writes the Washington Whodunit series published by Camel Press. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

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Two Cozy Mysteries from Lyrical Press – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

MediaKit_BookCover_MurderAtTheMansionFortunes, fineries, and foul play . . .

It’s whale-watching season in Redwood Cove, and B&B manager Kelly Jackson’s battening down the hatches for the tourist rush at Redwood Heights—a Victorian-style estate owned by her boss. And due to recent jewelry thefts, her duties include keeping track of the many dust-covered artifacts spread throughout the property. But when Kelly finds Sylvia Porter’s lifeless body, menial tasks don’t seem so terrible.

Enlisting the help of a ragtag group of brainy retirees, aka the “Silver Sentinels,” Kelly’s on the hunt for clues hidden behind the mansion’s glamorous façade and for a killer who may want to make history of her next!

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Welcome, everyone. My name is Lily Wilson, and I’ll be leading the tour today. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them. There’s a sign-in sheet on the check-in counter. We’ll be starting at one o’clock, which is in five minutes.” She turned in my direction and said, “I’d like to introduce the manager of one of Resorts International properties, Kelly Jackson. She’s in charge of Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast.”

The members of the group smiled an acknowledgment. A short man in a denim shirt and khaki pants raised his hand. Lily smiled at him and asked, “Is there something you’d like to know?”

He pointed to the entrance to the parlor. “What is that shield above the doorway?”

“Redwood Heights was built by Reginald Brandon. That’s the family coat of arms,” Lily said. “There is an official Brandon crest on file. However, Mr. Brandon wanted to design his own to reflect life in the West. On his shield he chose to put the silhouettes of two rearing stallions, symbols of strength. Rifles instead of swords crossed over the top of them—the weapons of that era. Tall redwood trees filled in the area behind them and were the source of his wealth. You can see his motto for loyalty and honor on the banner.”

I enjoyed her explanation. It added another dimension to an object that had just been an interesting piece.

A tall woman with a long brown braid down her back pointed to a picture. “Is this Mr. and Mrs. Brandon?”

“Yes, that picture is of the Brandons,” Lily replied. “The woman in the picture is the second Mrs. Brandon. As with many wealthy families and historic estates, there are questionable stories in their past. Redwood Heights is no different.”

“How so?” asked the woman.

“We don’t have any pictures of the first Mrs. Brandon. She was the belle of glittering New York high society who found herself in remote Redwood Cove. She disappeared not long after arriving. Some say she ran off with a lover. Rumors cropped up that she took a sizeable amount of Brandon’s money, changed her name, and left to enjoy San Francisco’s growing attractions.”

The cadence of Lily’s voice took the story beyond a runaway wife. Her tilted head and arched eyebrow led you down a path of mystery and intrigue. The visitors moved a little closer.

Lily leaned toward them and whispered, “Some say she never left at all.” Her words lingered in the dead silence.

Everyone was still—frozen in that past time. Goose bumps popped up on my arms. Someone coughed, and the spell was broken.

“After a time, Brandon married again. They had no children and, alas, the house went to a distant cousin.”

I’d been mesmerized by the tale. Snapping out of it, I looked around. Sylvia still wasn’t there.

“The tour will meet in the parlor. Restrooms are down the hallway to your right,” Lily instructed the group.

I walked up the carpeted stairs to the second floor, running my hand over the smooth oak railing. It had taken hundreds of polishings to develop the fine patina and rich glow.

Sylvia’s room was the first door at the top of the staircase. I knocked quietly. When there was no response, I knocked harder. She must really be a sound sleeper. I tried the door, but it was locked. I rushed downstairs, retrieved her room key, and glanced at my watch. If Sylvia hurried, she’d still have time to make the start of the tour. Arriving back at her door, I knocked again.

“Mrs. Porter, it’s Kelly. The tour is starting in a couple of minutes.” I got no response, so I unlocked the door and peeked in. Sylvia was sitting in front of her dressing table, her back to me.

I opened the door a little farther. “Mrs. Porter?” I stepped inside the room. In the filtered light from the curtained windows, Sylvia’s image reflected in the mirror. Her eyes were closed, and her head rested on her shoulder. She must have dozed off before making it into bed for a nap.

My attention was drawn to a brooch on the left side of Sylvia’s blouse as I approached her. I hadn’t noticed it before. It was a lovely piece—a large egg-shaped pearl surrounded by a burst of red.

I touched Sylvia’s shoulder. No response.

“Mrs. Porter?” I gently shook her.

Sylvia’s head rolled forward and hung down. Her dangling hair covered the side of her face.

I gasped, and my heart began to pound. I looked more closely at her. The burst of red wasn’t part of a pin—it was blood.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_MurderAtTheMansion

Janet Finsilver and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves animals and has two dogs—Kylie, a Rhodesian ridgeback, and Ellie, a boxer/coonhound mix. Janet enjoys horseback riding, snow skiing, and cooking. She is currently working on her next Redwood Cove mystery.

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MediaKit_BookCover_TeaCupAndCarnageThe quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .

Shop owner Kathi Corbin says she came to South Cove to get away from her estranged family. But is she telling the truth? And did a sinister someone from her past follow her to South Cove? When a woman claiming to be Kathi’s sister starts making waves and a dead body is found in a local motel, Jill must step in to clear Kathi’s name–without getting herself in hot water.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Limping home, I saw Greg’s truck parked at City Hall. I went in through the side door that took me to the police station. Amy kept going, heading home to shower before returning to her job as city hall receptionist.

Greg stood by Esmeralda’s desk and raised his eyebrows when he saw me. “Rough workout? I’m glad I was too busy to go today.”

“Oh, you’ll get yours. Don’t think demon trainer didn’t notice you were gone.”

“Okay. So why are you here?” He pushed a curl back out of my face. “Too far to walk home after the workout?”

“You’re just mean, you know that right?” I sank into the couch. It did feel amazing just to veg for a second or two. Okay, so Greg could have been right about my real motives for the impromptu visit. “Actually, I wanted to know about your call-out last night. I’m assuming this was a murder and not an old guy dying in his sleep.”

“And you deduced that from?” He watched me closely.

Shrugging, I sank deeper into the cushions. No wonder Greg didn’t mind sleeping in his office every so often. The couch was amazing. “No one blabbed, if you’re thinking of blaming Toby. You didn’t call, and you’re still wearing last night’s clothes.”

He chuckled. “You’re right. I guess I’m more transparent than I thought. We don’t know much about the murder, except the guy checked in a few days ago under a false name. Of course, the motel doesn’t ask for any verification or even a credit card. Cash only out there.”

“So he’s not a local.” For some reason, this made me feel better. Sure, it was sad someone had died, but people died all the time. I just didn’t want it to be one of my friends.

“Not that I can tell. But I think it’s the biker who’s been racing up and down Main Street. He fits the description.” Greg shrugged and grinned. “And, there’s a bike parked outside his room. Yep, I’m a trained investigator, I notice these things.”

“Big guy?” I thought about how the elderly woman had almost been smashed by the rider just a few days ago.

“Nope. He’s tall, maybe six feet, but if he weighs more than a hundred fifty soaking wet I’ll buy you dinner.” Greg groaned as he stood and walked across the room to his desk. He pulled me to standing. “I hate it when you do that.”

“Do what?” Now that I was upright, my stomach growled reminding me I hadn’t eaten all day. I dug into my tote and pulled out a protein bar.

“Trick me into telling you more than I should.” He pointed to the door. “Out of here. I’ve got work to do.”

I took a bite of my protein bar as I walked out. Pausing at the door, I turned back to look at him. He was already typing into some document. “I take it I won’t see you for dinner?”

“Not tonight. But I’ll be over on Sunday at the latest.” He paused. “Are you working the festival that day?”

“Just the morning shift. We’re closing the main store and only running the food truck that day.” I adjusted the strap on my tote, feeling the weight on my screaming shoulder blade. I walked out of the office and wondered how bad the murder had been. Just because it was a stranger that lay in the morgue, didn’t mean someone from South Cove hadn’t been involved or known the guy.

Or why else would he have been here?

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TeaCupsAndCarnageNew York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction.

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A Bodyguard of Lies by Donna Del Oro – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Donna Del Oro will be awarding a copy of A Bodyguard of Lies (a print copy for a US winner or an ebook for an international winner) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_ABodyguardOfLiesThe past and present collide as FBI analyst Jake Bernstein is recruited to go undercover and investigate an elderly American grandmother, currently on a tour of England and Ireland with her granddaughter, who is suspected of WWII war crimes. Jake joins them and runs into complications when his growing attraction to the granddaughter challenges his obligation to remain emotionally detached. As the investigation intensifies, a neo-Nazi group tries to prevent him from learning the truth and achieve justice for all concerned. Danger mounts, and Jake struggles to stay alive long enough to either prove the old woman’s guilt or exonerate her.

Despite Meg Larsen’s mounting passion for the stranger who has joined their tour, she suspects he’s not who he claims to be. When she realizes her grandmother is the target of the man’s investigation, her first instinct is to protect the woman who raised her. Eventually, however, Meg must face the possibility of her grandmother’s lifetime of lies while forced to trust a man who has become both their nemesis and bodyguard.

Note from the Author

My new FBI series, INTERNATIONAL RELEASE-JUNE 8th, is the Jake Bernstein FBI series–A BODYGUARD OF LIES, Book One. If you love a genre that’s chock full of danger, suspense, crime drama and a heavy dose of sizzling romance, you’ll LOVE THIS SERIES! FBI agent Jake Bernstein is my epitome of a hardy, justice-seeking federal officer who combines good looks, a sense of humor and unyielding courage. He knows how to investigate as one of the Bureau’s best undercover agents, but he also knows how and when to bend the rules for the sake of true human justice.

The idea for this book, A BODYGUARD OF LIES, struck me when I was tipping a pint with fellow tourists at an Irish pub. There on the wall was an old, WW II photo of Irish dockworkers sharing their pub with German U-boat sailors. That started me wondering about the role that Ireland played during the war, its uneasy relationship with Nazi Germany and the German spies who infiltrated Ireland and England. Lots of research followed, which led me to a contemporary story about an FBI undercover agent who investigates an elderly, naturalized American grandmother, wanted by MI6 for war crimes. Little ol’ Mary McCoy Snider, a dangerous WW II Nazi spy who caused the deaths of thousands? Even Agent Jake Bernstein finds that an unbelievable stretch. The granddaughter whom Jake finds himself falling in love with also disbelieves MI6’s allegations.

Until his investigation draws him into the middle of a dangerous, secret neo-Nazi group that’ll stop at nothing to protect one of their own. And then Jake must choose, the old woman and her lovely granddaughter. Or justice!

Enjoy an excerpt:

Twenty minutes to go and they’d be boarding the motor coach. The fog was even soupier now it had been an hour ago. The coach passengers were finishing lunch and some were already stirring in their seats. God help him, he’d never sat in one place so long in his life as during this tour. Even at his desk at work, he was up and about once every hour. This sedentary coach tour was making his butt itch.

Of course, having Meg close by and unable to touch her made another part of him itch. His previous undercover assignments, when one of his duties was to schmooze a woman in order to get intel, were a kind of playacting. Playing the role of womanizing seducer. A ladies’ man, or player.

It was a job. If you had a certain look and background that fit the job, you were expected to do your duty. Typecasting, maybe, but he’d been rewarded with promotions as a result. Grandpa Nate had said once, right after Jake had joined the FBI, “You haf gifts, Yakov, you use dem. Yust like anybody else.”

This time, however, he wasn’t acting. His mind was crowded with thoughts of her, yearnings to hold her, talk to her, even just to sit next to her and feel her thigh rubbing against his. Thoughts of her crowded his mind, filled his every waking moment. Juggling his emotions and loyalty to Meg with his duty and loyalty to the FBI was—well, he hated to admit it but it was driving him to distraction.

The FBI might fire him for insubordination if MI5 got wind he’d alerted Meg to MI5’s arrest warrant. Major Temple and his team would throw him to the dogs.

And rightly so.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ABodyguardOfLiesDonna is a retired high school English teacher and is finally able to fulfill her dream of writing fiction. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats. When she’s not writing novels, she’s singing with the Sacramento Valley Chorus or traveling with her husband. Life is good and she feels very blessed.

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The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Karen Harper’s newest historical novel The Royal Nanny. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_TheRoyalNannyIn 1897, a young cockney nursemaid takes her first train ride, leaving London for the lush and sprawling Sandringham Estate, private home to Britain’s royal family. Hired by the Duke and Duchess of York to help rear their royal children, Charlotte Bill is about to become privy to all the secrets families hide, and caught between the upstairs and downstairs worlds.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Truth was, I used to wish the widowed Dr. Edwin Lockwood, my former employer, would marry me, though I knew that was quite out of the question. But when I first went to work at his house as nursemaid, I was only thirteen and such a dreamer. People think I’m a no-nonsense person, but I still harbor flights of fancy in my head and heart, and to mean something to someone else is one of them.

But in the nearly ten years I worked in London, I knew it was not that I loved the doctor, but that I did love his two little daughters and hated to leave them, especially after I’d been promoted to nurse after five years there. Now his new wife didn’t want me about because her stepchildren doted on me. But the doctor gave me a good character, which the Duchess of York’s friend, Lady Eva Dugdale, had somehow seen. So here I was, headed to the Duke and Duchess of York’s country house to help the head nurse of two royal lads, one called David, nearly four years of age, the other, Bertie, a year-and-a-half; and a new baby to be born soon.

Beat down the butterflies in my belly and practiced saying, “Your Grace, milord, milady, sir, ma’am,” and all that. What if Queen Victoria herself ever popped in for a visit, for the duke was her grandson—well, there were many of her offspring scattered across Europe in ruling houses, but he was in direct line to the British throne after his father, the Prince of Wales. And since the Prince and Princess of Wales often lived on the same Sandringham Estate, so Lady Dugdale said, I wager I’d see them, right regular too, that is if the head nurse, name of Mary Peters, let me help her with the royal children when their kin came calling.

“Ticket, please, miss,” the conductor said as he came through the carriage. I had a moment’s scramble but handed it to him and had it marked. When he passed on, I put it as a keepsake in my wooden box of worldly goods, which sat on the floor next to my seat. The carriage wasn’t too full, not to Norfolk with its marshy fens and the windy Wash my papa had described to me. Oh, I was so excited I could barely sit still. I was to disembark at a place called Wolferton Station where someone was to meet me. I was just so certain everything would be lovely, and fine and grandly, royally perfect.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TheRoyalNannyNEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author Karen Harper is a former university (Ohio State) and high school English teacher. Published since 1982, she writes contemporary suspense and historical novels about real British women. Two of her recent Tudor era books were bestsellers in the UK and Russia. A rabid Anglophile, she likes nothing more than to research her novels on site in the British Isles. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for DARK ANGEL, and her novel SHATTERED SECRETS was judged one of the Best Books of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. The author and her husband divide their time between Ohio and Florida.

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Could This Be Love? by Lee Kilraine – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding digital copies of all books on the tour to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. Today, we are featuring one of the four contemporary from Lyrical Press, Could This Be Love?.

MediaKit_BookCover_CouldThisBeLoveEveryone in Climax, North Carolina, knows the Cates brothers. But Sijan Cates is famous far beyond his quaint hometown–and when he comes back, he brings trouble with him. . .

Avery Danford urgently needs to get back in touch with her estranged family. If only she could get her picture in the papers, maybe they’d track her down. . .and what better way to accomplish that than to squeeze into the world’s tightest dress and cozy up to the world’s hottest actor, Sijan Cates? It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work. And though the former actress has sworn off Hollywood hunks, she’s got to admit this desperate measure might be a pleasure. . .

Scandal-plagued Sijan has come home for some peace and quiet–and to stay out of the tabloids. Then a woman claiming to be his number-one fan plants a hot kiss on him–in front of a pack of paparazzi. There’s only one way to protect his reputation: tell the world they’re engaged. It’s all just a show, as they use each other to get what they need. But in this sleepy Southern town, love stories have a way of coming true. . .

Enjoy an excerpt:

“All right, let me see if I have the latest scandal straight.” Sijan Cates sat with his older brother in Dave’s Diner, a former passenger train car turned restaurant. There were two main entrances, one at each end of the car. Booths snaked around the front of the diner next to the front windows while a sit-down counter sat in front of a cramped but ruthlessly clean kitchen. Dave, the owner and cook, was known for his biscuits and homemade blackberry jam, and his burgers. That’s it. Ordering anything else on the menu was like playing Russian roulette with your stomach. But if you wanted biscuits and jam, a burger, or all the most up-to-date gossip, the diner was the place to eat.

“Hell, Ty, I came home to get a break from it.” He frowned across at his brother, but of course, it had no effect.

“It says here in The Tattler you got a sweet young thing pregnant and then dumped her.”

“I did not get a sweet young thing pregnant. I’ve never even met that sweet young thing. Hell, if I slept with even half the women the tabloids claim I do, I wouldn’t have time to get out of bed, let alone make movies.”

“According to them you’ve got a revolving door on your bedroom with a ‘Now Serving’ ticket machine attached to the wall next to it.”

Sijan leaned back as their waitress, Renee, slid steaming mugs of coffee in front of them both. “Renee, run away with me and save me from all this.”

“Sijan, if I weren’t having hot flashes, I’d be just another crazy woman trying to get a piece of you.” Renee tucked her serving tray under her arm and wagged a finger at him. “Now, your latest scandal’s got the Grapevine stirred up. I don’t think the Simon sisters can take the excitement.”

“Those ladies can handle anything. Besides, they’ve seen this before. Remember four years ago when an ex-girlfriend tried the same thing?”

“Thank goodness for DNA tests and poor math skills.” Tynan grinned. “She sure didn’t account for your six months of filming in Prague. You do attract the crazy.”

“It’s Hollywood.” Sijan’s muscles tensed at the memory. “Too many people can make money off you. I’m just an ‘opportunity.’ An opportunity to get a script read, a part in a movie, or free publicity.” “Or generous child support payments for the next twenty years.”

“Hey, I’ve dated some nice, normal women. Once I learned to steer clear of actresses.”

Tynan nodded. “That would explain all those models, politician’s daughters, and savvy career women.”

He’d be the first to admit he’d enjoyed the benefits of his moviestar status over the years, but he’d always shied away from serious commitment like it was a box of rattlesnakes. Lately though, the serial dating felt . . . empty. Especially after coming home and seeing how happy his brother Quinn and his fiancée Delaney were. “I need a hiatus from women.”

“Bite your tongue. Life is a smorgasbord and you are too young to go on a diet. Seriously, Si, I joke, but this”—he rattled the tabloid before tossing it down in disgust—“just pisses me off.”

“Every job has its downside, right?” Sijan shrugged tense shoulders. He leaned back against the booth, consciously willing his muscles to relax. “I’ve decided I’m just going to lay low and focus on my work while the studio’s lawyers deal with that.”

“You decided?”

“Yup. About five seconds after the president of Majestic Studios called me into his office three days ago and explained loudly and in a few choice phrases that my next two films need to exceed box office predictions.” Or else.

“One year ago, this same man couldn’t wine and dine you fast enough after your Oscar nomination.” Tynan sat back, muttering a graphic although physically impossible suggestion for the president of Majestic Studios. “Fame sure is fickle.”

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_CouldThisBeLove

A former Air Force spouse, Lee Kilraine moved seven times over eighteen years before finally settling with her husband in the pine woods of North Carolina. She has worked as a physical therapy aide, a cashier, a waitress, an English tutor, a ballet teacher and a stay-at-home mom. Holding tight to her mother’s motto, “There’s nothing you can’t do if you try hard enough,” Lee returned to college as an adult and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Writing thirty-one papers in two years (she counted) rekindled her love of writing, and she set her sights on her other dream—writing romance. When she isn’t swinging on her front porch swing or watching another of their four young adult children leave the nest (she swears she isn’t pushing them out!) you can find her typing away on her computer with her golden retriever, Harley, destroying something at her feet. Lee is a 2014 Golden Heart® Finalist.

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Challenges Writing Less Than Human by Allen Long — guest post and giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Cate 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.

Some of the challenges I faced while writing my memoir

Hello, Readers. My name is Allen Long, and I’m the author of the recently published book, Less than Human: A Memoir.

My single biggest challenge comes easily to mind. It was understanding my highly complex ex-wife to the fullest extent possible and making her a sympathetic, well-rounded character.

Our marriage had a strange shape. During our first three years as husband and wife, Linda cheated on me twice. I suspect a guy from a healthy home probably would have dumped her after her first infidelity and definitely after her second.

However, my brother David and I were physically abused by our parents from the time we were small children until we each turned twelve, so I had a very high tolerance for abuse and forgave her.

Surprisingly, we were then happily married for years, and we had three sons. Then, as our youngest son approached pre-school age, Linda became increasingly bossy and critical of me for no apparent reason and frequently screamed at me. On Thanksgiving 1991, Linda experienced a mental/emotional crisis that consisted of alternating fits of rage and suicidal depression.

She screamed at our sons and me every day for the next six months and proclaimed her love for a man she’d engaged to train her as a racing cyclist. I divorced her and gained full custody of the boys.

In the early drafts of my book, I depicted Linda as a one-dimensional harpy. Then I decided to remove as much anger and recrimination as possible from our story and try my best to explain why she behaved as she did.

One of the first things I did was to include a summary of the story of her life. The readers sees some of the hurts she experienced as a child, how she idolized her father and brother (making it nearly impossible for me or anyone else to live up to her high expectations for a husband), and early signs of mental/emotional instability.

The reader also learns that her initial career choice when she was in high school was to become a nurse, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother. But her mother knew Linda was strong-willed and advised her against a nursing career because she didn’t think Linda would like being bossed around by doctors. She suggested a career in horticulture instead, since Linda loved flowers and plants.

Linda then attended Virginia Tech as a horticulture major, planning to join the Peace Corps upon graduation. Then she met and married me halfway through college, and the Peace Corps rejected us because it had no interest in my journalism degree, a major disappointment to Linda.

Then during our fifteen-year marriage, Linda had only three satisfying years working in her field. Otherwise, she held two unremarkable horticulture-related positions and then became a stay-at-home mom and participating parent in our son’s alternative schools.

As soon as we divorced, Linda became a nurse, and I realized this career issue had been a time bomb ticking since her high school years.

Also, there were some facts I reported without explaining because I couldn’t, such as Linda’s need to leave the marriage for sexual adventures while still wanting to retain me as a safe anchor. I also didn’t try to explain her mental/emotional instability, which I still don’t understand, although her nurse mother and doctor brother have suggested she has a chemical imbalance in her brain.

In addition, I made a point of showing I wasn’t the perfect husband. When I was married to Linda, I had undiagnosed and untreated anxious depression, and I’m sure there were times when I was self-absorbed when Linda needed me to more present. Also, I have a clear memory of a time when I disappointed Linda and still feel at fault, and I included this scene in the book.

By the time I finished the sixth and final draft of the memoir, I was satisfied I’d eliminated or minimized bitter or recriminating remarks about Linda while showing her as a well-rounded person possessing a range of virtues and flaws similar to the rest of us.

After the book was released, my oldest son told me how much he’d enjoyed it, and he thanked me for the honest but sympathetic portrait I’d painted of his mother. This is the greatest compliment I’ve received regarding the memoir.

MediaKit_BookCover_LessThanHumanIn Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown. And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph. He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than, he is, indeed, human.

Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology. These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, create its own form of suspense–in what direction will this book take us next?

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Swimming’s fine,” my mother said. “Hurry up and unpack your bathing suits, and don’t track any water or sand back into the house.”

“But what about the alligator?” I said.

“Stop whining and do as your mother says,” my father said.

“You can fish too if you like,” my grandfather said. “There’s some bamboo poles with lures in a bucket in the garage.”

Danny and I set up our fishing gear on an old warped pier and cast our spinners out into the murky water. After a couple of sweltering hours without any bites, I decided to swim. Danny refused to budge, his eyes scanning the russet surface for the alligator.

I stepped into the lake, thick mud oozing between my toes and spiky plants pin-pricking my soles. I waded into the pleasantly cool but swampy smelling water until it was up to my waist. Then I carefully surveyed the lake. The day was scorching and I wanted to plunge into the water and swim, but a deeper instinct reminded me that at any moment I could be prey. I froze. Part of me felt safe because our parents knew I was swimming, but I was also afraid I’d get snapped up into the jaws of the alligator.

Although I kept my eyes peeled for any creatures near me, a turtle suddenly popped its head out of the water a foot away, scaring the bejesus out of me.

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_LessThanHumanAllen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines. He lives with his wife near San Francisco.

Sales links:
http://www.amazon.com/Less-than-Human-Allen-Long-ebook/dp/B01B8P1KZE/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/less-than-human-allen-long/1123318074

Author’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/AllenLongAuthor/

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How to Draw Cool Stuff by Catherine V. Holmes – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Catherine will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner, and another winner will receive a print copy of How to Draw Cool Stuff (international) both via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_HowToDrawCoolStuffHow to Draw Cool Stuff: Holidays, Seasons and Events is a step-by-step drawing guide that illustrates popular celebrations, holidays and events for your drawing pleasure. From the Chinese New Year to April Fools’ Day, Father’s Day to Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve – this book covers over 100 fun days, holidays, seasons and events, and offers simple lessons that will teach you how to draw like a pro and get you in the spirit of whichever season it may be!

Enjoy an excerpt:

This book evolved out of necessity. After exploring art catalogs and libraries and wading through the “how to draw” section of book stores, I found a few good resources but none that had all the qualities I was looking for in a drawing book. Some ideas were too basic and often insulting to my older, more artistic students. Other material seemed to serve as a showcase for beautiful artwork but lacked any concrete instruction.

As a “travelling” art teacher with a limited budget and limited preparation time, I need a single resource that is easy to transport and can be used to teach all levels of students from middle school to high school and beyond. This book was created to fill that need and I want to share it with teachers and artists in similar situations. These projects will allow you to bring interesting and informative lessons that offer clear objectives and foster achievement without the need for expensive/multi-dimensional supplies: a regular pencil and eraser is all that is needed (sometimes a ruler or fine pen). Fancy art pencils, costly paper or kneaded erasers are not required for success. All pages have been student tested and approved.

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_HowToDrawCoolStuffCatherine V. Holmes is an art/ELA teacher and visual artist from historical Plymouth, Massachusetts. She studied at Boston University and at Bridgewater State College where she earned her BFA and MA in ED. She is currently working towards her second Master’s from the University of Scranton. Catherine Holmes specializes in portraits, architecture and illustrations. Her art is inspired by her feelings, ideas, and experiences, whether they are found in nature, the media or in man-made structures. Catherine is also heavily influenced by the interests and suggestions of her students. “To see success through their eyes inspires me to be a better teacher and creator of art.”

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Ten Things People Don’t Know About Stephen Leather – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Stephen Leather will be awarding a $50 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.

Ten Things People Don’t Know About Stephen Leather

1) I can fly a plane. I got my pilot’s licence while I was living in Baltimore, Maryland.

2) I have parachuted four times. The first three times were with the RAF freefall team. I jumped from a Rapide biplane which meant climbing out onto the wing before jumping.

3) I have a brown belt in Shotokan karate. My kicks aren’t very good, though.

4) I have a cat called Peanut Butter who sits next to me while I am writing.

5) I do almost all my writing while sitting in front of the TV. I was a journalist working in noisy newsrooms for ten years or so and I still need noise around me while I write.

6) I am one on Amazon’s Top 10 UK independent publishers and my book The Basement is one of the Top 10 bestselling self-published UK eBooks of all time.

7) My self-published book The Basement has topped the Kindle charts in the US and the UK.

8) I tried my hand at writing erotica because I figured that eReaders would see more people buying sexy stories (because no one can see what you’re reading on an eReader). The stories are available but they don’t sell very well.

9) I was once the Business Editor of the South China Morning Post

10) Martin Campbell (who directed Bond movies Goldeneye and Casino Royale) is making a film of my book The Chinaman starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. It’ll hopefully be in cinemas by the end of the year.

MediaKit_BookCover_NewYorkNightTeenagers are being possessed and turning into sadistic murderers. Priests can’t help, nor can psychiatrists. So who is behind the demonic possessions? Jack Nightingale is called in to investigate, and finds his own soul is on the line. New York Night is the seventh novel in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Cheryl Perez pulled the cork from the bottle of Chianti and sloshed it into a glass. She drank some and went through to her sitting room. She pulled open the drawer of a side table and took out the framed photograph of herself and Eric. It had been in the drawer for over a month – a new record. The photograph had been taken on New Year’s Eve three years earlier. They’d flown to Vegas for the weekend and seen in the New Year at a show in the MGM Grand. The casino’s logo was in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph. They were both a little drunk and they were holding hands either side of a champagne bucket that Perez was fairly sure contained their second bottle. Maybe their third. They had got so drunk that they had collapsed on the bed in their clothes and woken up the following morning still clothed and wrapped in each other’s arms. ‘You bastard, Eric,’ she whispered. ‘How could you leave me?’

She took the photograph over to the dining table and stood it in the middle. She sat down, drank some wine and then picked up one of the two pencils there. She drew a cross on the page, dividing it into quarters. She wrote YES in the top right and bottom left quarters, then wrote NO in the top left and bottom right. She took another drink of wine, then smiled lopsidedly at the photograph. ‘I know, I know, it’s stupid and my soul will burn in Hell, but I have to try, don’t I?’

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_NewYorkNightStephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers, an eBook and Sunday Times bestseller and author of the critically acclaimed Dan “Spider’ Shepherd series and the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective novels.

Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He is one of the country’s most successful eBook authors and his eBooks have topped the Amazon Kindle charts in the UK and the US. In 2011 alone he sold more than 500,000 eBooks and was voted by The Bookseller magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the UK publishing world.

Born in Manchester, he began writing full time in 1992. His bestsellers have been translated into fifteen languages. He has also written for television shows such as London’s Burning, The Knock and the BBC’s Murder in Mind series and two of his books, The Stretch and The Bombmaker, were filmed for TV.
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Jack Nightingale, the main character in New York Night has his own website. (NOTE: It’s addictive!)

You can buy New York Night at Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, or Smashwords.

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Falling for Sarah by Cate Beauman – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Cate 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.

MediaKit_BookCover_FallingForSarahWidow Sarah Johnson struggled to pick up the pieces after her life was ripped apart. After two years of grieving, she’s found contentment in her thriving business as photographer to Hollywood’s A-list and in raising her angel-faced daughter, Kylee… until bodyguard and long-time friend Ethan Cooke changes everything with a searing moonlight kiss.

Sarah’s world turns upside down as she struggles with her unexpected attraction to Ethan and the guilt of betraying her husband’s memory. But when blue roses and disturbing notes start appearing on her doorstep, she has no choice but to lean on Ethan as he fights to save her from a stalker that won’t stop until he has what he prizes most.

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt:

Sarah ran toward the enormous gazebo with Kylee in her arms—a tricky feat in heels. “We’re here. We’re here. I’m so sorry we’re late,” she said to no one in particular as she climbed the steps to the center. A boisterous crowd of fifty milled about, and she relaxed. It was clear there was no hurry here. Hunter, clad in a white button-down and black slacks, spoke to the officiant while Morgan, stunning in her simple, sleeveless cocktail dress—the same bold green as her eyes—chatted with her parents and Hunter’s mother.

“I guess we’re not so late after all.” Sarah settled Kylee on her hip and smoothed her pink thigh-length dress. “Let’s go tell Uncle Hunter we’re ready whenever he is.” She took a step forward and stopped, captivated by the spectacular view. The full moon rising high cast a glow upon thousands of flowers surrounding the gazebo. She walked to the edge, caught up in the beauty as the distant thunder of the Pacific hundreds of feet below added to the magic. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s amazing.”

Kylee’s blue eyes brightened. “I want to pick the fwowers.”

“We can’t, honey.” She watched her daughter’s smile dim. “They don’t belong to us. We can pick flowers at home.”

“O-tay.” Kylee gasped and let out a sudden squeal of delight as she held out her arms.

Sarah jumped and turned as Ethan, handsome in charcoal gray slacks and a white polo, swooped forward and grabbed Kylee, settling her on his hip.

“Hey there, kiddo.” He kissed her chubby cheek. “Don’t you look pretty tonight.”

“Dis is my new dress,” Kylee preened, tugging none too gently on the delicate, pale blue silk.

“You look like a princess. A pretty princess should have a flower.” He walked with her to the side of the gazebo and leaned over, picking a creamy white carnation.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_FallingForSarahInternational bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2015, JUSTICE FOR ABBY was selected as the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Gold Medalist, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular Bodyguards series.

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Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak – Q&A and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC. Click on the tour banner to see the rest of the stops on the tour.

What are your favorite TV shows?

I normally don’t watch a great deal of TV, except during an election season—I’m a political junkie. On a regular basis I do follow a few of the reality shows, particularly Survivor. I think it’s very well done and psychologically balanced in the casting. They always seem to include just enough dysfunctional players to make it interesting.

What is your favorite meal?

I eat a lot of sushi, and enjoy checking out new sushi bars when traveling. For a special occasion, it has to be Osetra Caviar.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

I’ve written a draft of a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, which is designed to be the first of a series. I’m still not totally convinced that the material is appropriate, though: it’s very tricky to deal with plots that deal in politics and refer to very recent history, because personal feelings tend to take over.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

I wouldn’t say I idolize Hemingway, at least not anymore, but he’s been a huge influence. The clarity and sharp focus of his prose guided me in the right direction when I was starting out.

How did you come up for the title of this book?

Children of the Sixties will recognize the reference to the Grateful Dead Song of the same name. As they said: “A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine.”

MediaKit_BookCover_FriendOfTheDevilIn 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

Enjoy a mouth-watering excerpt:

He perused Chateau de la Mer’s large and mostly incomprehensible menu. Changed every few weeks, handwritten in Avenzano’s elaborate cursive before being photocopied, it closely resembled an annotated Medieval manuscript. Finally, he acceded to the staff’s offer to prepare a tasting menu for him, accompanied by the appropriate wines.

He was presented with a sculpture of dried vegetables in the shape of a bird’s nest, filled with a combination of wild mushrooms and chopped truffles, bathed in an intensely reduced demi-glaze. The carrots, zucchini and peppers had been cut into paper-thin strips, intertwined and allowed to dry, yet retained a surprising intensity of flavor.

He consumed a dish of tomato, basil and egg noodles, bathed in a light cream sauce, perfumed with fresh sage and studded with veal sweetbreads.

He ate an astonishing dish of butter-poached lobster, remarkably sweet and perfectly underdone, flavored with sweet English peas and garnished with a ring of authentic Genoese pesto.

He was served a slice of Avenzano’s signature Bedouin-stuffed poussin—a turkey stuffed with a goose, in turn stuffed with a duckling, in turn stuffed with a poussin, or baby chicken, with a core of truffled foie gras at its center, covered with an Etruscan sauce of chopped capers, raisins and pine nuts. This dish had been the source of much controversy over the years, since it bore a close resemblance to a Louisiana terducken. It predated the terducken, however, and was supposedly inspired by a creation first served to the French royal court. For good measure, Avenzano had added influences from the cuisine of the Middle East.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_FriendOfTheDevilMark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on www.palmbeachillustrated.com. He is the holder of the Certificate and Advanced diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.

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