Wild Salvation by Alfred Stifsim – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Alfred Stifsim will be awarding a $30 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.

Johnson is accused of assaulting a white woman, a deadly charge for a black man in 1876. Knowing he’ll be lynched if he stays in St. Andrews, Indiana, Johnson flees to the grassy plains of Kansas looking for the freedom unavailable to him back East. What Johnson doesn’t know is that the woman’s father is a powerful businessman determined to track him down. For a man on the run, the West seems like the perfect place for someone withdrawn like Johnson to become a new person, until a top Pinkerton agent named Cole Charles comes into town hunting outlaws.

When Cole Charles discovers Johnson is a wanted man, Johnson has no choice but to flee again. This time he escapes to Fort Worth, Texas, where he meets a rowdy woman named Eddie who is quick with a joke and even quicker with her pistol. Despite his lack of experience, Eddie hires Johnson to be a wrangler on a cattle drive made up of other black cowboys headed to Wyoming. With Cole Charles on his trail, the cattle drive will take Johnson further than he ever imagined and force him to confront his greatest fear when he comes face to face with Cole Charles himself.

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The front of the jail building was covered with wanted posters, some of them so faded it was hard to discern who was wanted and why. As Johnson pulled up with Rex sitting beside him in the driver’s seat, the picture of Jester Wells glared at them. There was a deep scar on his cheek and his arrogant smirk dared them to chase after the $250 reward. The grey clouds still hung low in the sky, threatening the return of rain at any moment. The wind picked up, blowing cool air through the town. The front door of the jail opened as Cole Charles and the marshal exited the building, rifles in hand.

“We better make this quick!” Burt yelled out the window of the coach, “I’m sure Bradley is in a hurry to get back to his cards.” To his surprise the marshal didn’t respond, opening the door to the coach and taking the furthest window seat at the back. He stared out as if he were riding off to his doom.

“What’s got into him?” Burt asked, gesturing to the marshal as Cole Charles walked past.

“I couldn’t tell you. Marshal Bradley has been real quiet ever since we got back,” he replied. He turned and walked to the driver’s seat to address Johnson, “The plan is simple. Drive east along the road, hopefully we pose an easy enough target, drawing Wells’ attention. Not too fast, the idea is to make them think you’re surrendering. We’ll be in the back lying in wait.” He turned to Rex. “Mr. Bowen you’re with us,” Cole Charles said, signaling for him to join the other men in the coach. “Remember Mr. Johnson, if things go badly, you’re on your own.” His cold eyes burned into Johnson as he said it, almost as if he wished it to happen. Then he turned and climbed into the coach.

About the Author: Alfred Stifsim is a member of Western Writers of America and has published several short stories about the American West. “The Bastard of the Black Hills,” won second prize in ropeandwire.com’s 2019 short story contest, and “Max and Sherri” was included in Cowboy Jamboree Magazine’s Fall 2020 issue. His short story about Eddie, “A Night Out with the Cowboys,” was published by Close to the Bone (UK) in August 2021.
Alfred Stifsim graduated from IUPUI with a bachelor’s in American History (2014, Indianapolis). From there he worked as an interpretive naturalist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources before transitioning to park maintenance. He is currently an electrician with IBEW 481 in Indianapolis.

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What kind of a writer am I? by Suzanne Trauth – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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

What kind of a writer am I?

I love this question because it stopped me and made me think…what kind of a writer am I? I know what genres I write—mystery and women’s contemporary fiction—but when I sit down and face the keyboard, what aspects of my personality emerge? Hopefully the most productive ones! Here are two characteristics that I can acknowledge without getting myself in trouble: my number one characteristic: I am a persistent writer. I am also a creature-of-habit writer.

I have to say I have been notably persistent over the past decades. As many authors no doubt are. In my experience, and observing the literary lives of most writers, a career in this area requires stamina and staying power. Take my current book, What Remains of Love, for example. I began the first draft, after a lengthy period of research, over twenty years ago, writing and rewriting versions, working with an editorial consultant to shape the story, changing the voice a few times (from first person to third person back to first person), all the while keeping momentum moving forward.

Ten years later after I thought I had a finished product I queried agents, editors, and publishers. When I found an interested agent who wanted another revision, I hired an editor and went back to work. By the time that draft was completed the agency had shifted focus and it was back to square one in my search for a book home. I kept sending out and tweaking over the next few years but, to keep the creative juices flowing, set to work on a series of mystery novels, never forgetting my book languishing in my computer.

In 2020 I found myself between projects and dug out the manuscript, did more editing, submitted to more publishers and, finding a press interested, completed several more rounds of revisions. The upshot? What Remains of Love is released today from Between the Lines Publishing. It only required twenty years of work. So…yes, I would say I am persistent!

As a creature of habit, I find myself sticking to a routine—when and where—in order to accomplish anything. Though many writers hit the keyboard at the crack of dawn, I am an afternoon scribbler. I spend the morning catching up on email, business tasks, errands, (even a bit of housecleaning from time to time), and when I feel as though my to do list has been cut in half and my mind more focused, I sit down to work. Where I write is also part of my routine. Though I have been known to dash off notes and ideas and a paragraph or two in hotel rooms, on airplanes, while visiting family around the country, my go-to writing cave is my isolated basement office, tucked away from people, noise, and other distractions. I am in solitary confinement for as many hours as my life and creativity will allow. My seven novels were only completed because they were subjected to this routine.

Thank you for asking this question…it gave me the opportunity to think about who I am as an author—a little self-reflection is good for the writing soul!

At the reading of her beloved father’s will, Kate, a divorced French professor, learns of his affaire de coeur during World War II with a French artist named Emilie, to whom he has left a substantial bequest. Kate, stunned to discover the existence of this woman who captivated her father, is determined to unravel the mystery of his past and unearth the truth. Though Emilie has passed away now, her daughter Yvette sends a box of her mother’s keepsakes from the war that are even more unnerving – among them a dried flower, a photograph, two smooth stones, and a train ticket. Kate wonders about her parents’ marriage. After the war had he abandoned passion for honor? Did he really love her mother, or was he compelled to marry her out of his sense of duty? How well did she really know her father? Or her mother? She embarks on a journey to the south of France to reconcile the past and confront her own demons, as well as the legacy of her father’s wartime love affair and the price he paid to live an honorable life. Kate’s life is changed forever…

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“I’d still like to know what there was between them.” I swaddle a picture in bubble wrap and secure it with a length of packing tape.

“I’d say that was pretty obvious.” DJ could be snarky where Dad was concerned.

“What if it was more than a fling?” I say.

He sits down on the easy chair and fixes his gaze on me. “So, you think he never got over her?”

“I’m not saying that. I’d just like to know more.” The gift to Emilie Renault hints at a passion that disturbs me. A side of him I never saw. Dad was generous and thoughtful. But passionate? He and Mother had a caring but polite relationship. I don’t ever remember them sneaking a kiss or hugging with enthusiasm when they were younger. And since she died over twenty years ago, there hasn’t been another woman in his life. That I’m aware of. It seemed to me to be a well-bred, civil marriage, a peck on his cheek, an arm under her elbow.

DJ gathers up the putter and irons and jams them into the golf bag.

I have to say it aloud. “Maybe they were in love.” My statement hangs in the air.

DJ releases a deep sigh. His voice is firm but low. “Kate, you dumped on Mom while she was living and now you’re doing it again on her memory.” DJ slings the bag over his shoulder and bangs the door as he leaves the carriage house.

About the Author

Suzanne Trauth, Harvard Studio, Montclair, NJ. 06/27/2014 Photo by Steve Hockstein/HarvardStudio.com

Suzanne Trauth is the author of What Remains of Love and the Dodie O’Dell mystery series—Show Time, Time Out, Running out of Time, Just in Time, No More Time, and Killing Time. She co-authored Sonia Moore and American Acting Training and co-edited Katrina on Stage: Five Plays. In her previous career, she spent many years as a university professor of theatre. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

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Advice for Writers by Robert Creekmore – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Robert Creekmore will be awarding a $10 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.

Advice for Writers

One of the misnomers concerning the way we think about writing is our focus on the act itself. Of course, your book will never get written if you don’t actually sit down at the keyboard or with a notepad. However, that’s merely the final act of a longer process.
The advice I’m about to dole out isn’t something you shouldn’t take to heart if you wish to advance in the milquetoast office culture of western nations. It’s a recipe for financial and social marginalization.

The first step is the only sensible bit. If you live in a country with some semblance of public education, absorb as much as possible. Being intellectually well-rounded never hurt anyone, the destitute or billionaire.

Now, throw away the idea of buying superfluous material possessions and avoid working at a boring job located in some office complex, surrounded by dull people whom you’ll likely despise. How many more times can you stand to have some jackass ask you about whatever sports team they vicariously live through, or whatever? Instead, find something nontraditional and adventurous to make ends meet. This will likely not pay well. Do with less. All you have in this life is time, and you’re likely selling it to people who don’t care about you for a pittance.

Go on adventures. And I don’t mean guided tours. Live somewhere few people dare to. Work with those the wider world sees as ‘untouchable.’ Do something dangerous. If you’re abled, climb mountains, live in the woods, or swim with sharks. Could you die? Yes, but likely you won’t. It’s better to really live than just survive. You’re going to die one day. Make it count. And yes, I’ve done all of those things and more. The shark part was not intentional. I had a really bad experience surfing.

Now that you’re filled with narratives of an interesting life, take time to synthesize them and truly realize what they mean.

Never stop adventuring, but now that you have rich experiences, make a schedule and ritual whereupon you write almost every day. Pay no attention to elitist pricks who claim you should write so many thousands of words a day. If you only write fifty, so what? However, if your mental health or other circumstances arise, don’t berate yourself for spending time on more pertinent issues.

I can’t tell you if your style should be to map your story out in detail before writing or to just sling words onto a page and hope for the best. Artists never truly stop creating. I think about my books most of the day. I come up with some of my best ideas while out trail running because I push so hard that I don’t have the energy for higher-level cognition, which allows me to focus on the essentials.

Once you get to this point in your life, you’ll likely be somewhat socially isolated. Your peers will drudge through mundanely. Perhaps they’ll shun you. But in their private thoughts, they will envy every inch of you. Those who stick by are truly the only ones worth caring about, anyhow.

At fourteen, Naomi Pace knows she loves her best friend, Tiffany. During the Perseid meteor shower of summer 1993, she finds out Tiffany feels the same, just as they’re outed.

Naomi is sent away to a conversion program in the remote Appalachians of North Carolina, knowing nothing of the horrors that await or the strength they will catalyze.

Escaping into the frigid wilderness, she forges her own destiny. Trapped in hiding, Naomi fights to conquer fear and find her way back to Tiffany.

Taking bloody vengeance to end a cult that tortures and murders children seems impossible, but so is having the guidance of a mythic creature of strength and violence.

Those who hurt Naomi as a girl will come to fear the woman she has become and the path she will tread to find revenge, safety, and Tiffany.

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I kissed a neighbor boy the summer before. He was sweet, but it felt odd and fake. Later that year, when my mind turned to kissing him, I felt repulsed. As I gave thought to how much physical affection would be expected of me by boys, I became terrified. I don’t want their physical advances. I would never be in love with a boy, nor do I want to try. Tiffany and I often express our love. I always assumed I loved her as my best friend, but now there is a new, exciting dimension that I never expected. I am in love, and it has manifested itself into a physical desire I was previously unaware existed.

We continue to hold hands and kiss. We wrap our arms around each other and pull ourselves as closely as physics will allow. I want to disintegrate together, combine our atoms, drift into oblivion, and experience the infinite joy of our togetherness.

We stay intertwined longer than either of us realize.

“Tiffany!” I hear a shriek across the placid water.

It is Lesley.

I can feel Tiff’s hands begin to shake, but not like before. This time it is pure terror. We both pop up and whip our heads and torsos around simultaneously to see her no more than five yards behind us.

About the Author:Robert Creekmore is from a rural farming community in Eastern North Carolina.

He attended North Carolina State where he studied psychology. While at university, he was active at the student radio station. There, he fell in love with punk rock and its ethos.
Robert acquired several teaching licenses in special education. He was an autism specialist in Raleigh for eight years. He then taught for four years in a small mountain community in western North Carolina.

During his time in the mountains, he lived with his wife Juliana in a remote primitive cabin built in 1875. While there, he grew most of his own food, raised chickens, worked on a cattle farm, as well as participated in subsistence hunting and fishing.

Eventually, the couple moved back to the small farming community where Robert was raised.
Robert’s first novel Afiri, is a science fiction love letter to his childhood hero Carl Sagan. It was nominated for a Manly Wade Wellman award in 2016.

Robert’s second novel is the first in a trilogy of books. Annoyed with the stereotype of the southeastern United States as a monolith of ignorance and hatred, he wanted to bring forth characters from the region who are queer and autistic. They now hold up a disinfecting light to the hatred of the region’s past and to those who still yearn for a return to ways and ideas that should have long ago perished.

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When We Return by Eliana Tobias – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

Who should be held responsible for public wrong? By 2008, it finally seems that the Peruvian government is ready to make amends to its citizens after the violent guerilla movement of the last three decades.

Otilia and Salvador, a mother and son torn apart during the conflict and separated for twenty years, are eager to have their pain and suffering acknowledged. But they hit a roadblock when the government denies responsibility in their legal case.

Things begin to look up however when Otilia meets Jerry, a kind man and the son of Jewish parents who escaped the Holocaust. Grappling with his own upbringing and the psychological struggled his parents endured, Jerry is just the person to empathize with Otilia’s feelings. Together, Otilia, Jerry and Salvador must support one another through the turbulent journey that is healing from historical trauma. And through it, find the courage to rebuild their lives and open themselves to love and companionship.

Artfully weaving together different timelines and countries, this novel examines the nuanced topic of grief a community endures after a collective tragedy. In this exploration of the culture of remembrance following displacement and loss, we discover what happens when out past calls us back to what we must do to achieve justice and reconciliation when we return.

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The email came late one night as Jerry Gold lay at home in his bed. He rubbed liniment on his right knee before applying an ice pack and, a little apprehensive, asked himself if he should consider giving up jogging at his age. Jerry didn’t make it a habit to look at his messages this late, but the pain kept him awake. When he reached for his cell, he noticed an unfamiliar name. Jerry almost deleted the message, but for some reason, opened it.

Mr Gold, my name is Dario Alvarez and I’m reaching out to you, wondering if you could be my relative. I was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1949 to my mother Soledad Figueroa. When she was close to her death, my mother confessed that I was not the son of the man I lived with and called my father, but of a foreigner she had known by the name of Milan Goldberg. If you have any information about Milan Goldberg, I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for your help.

As Jery lay in bed, he remembered how, at the end of his life, his father began to talk more about his time in Bolivia. Jerry tried to remember what his father had said about his time as a refugee, when he had been known as “Milan” but Jerry hadn’t paid much attention. At the time, he thought it was best the old man dream about his romantic entanglements rather than what he would have faced had he remained in his homeland in Eastern Europe. Jerry’s father had rambled on about his relationships with Latin women in Bolivia, extolling the virtues of one in particular named Soledad. He said he’d had a serious relationship with this Soledad, who lived in a sheltered environment and had to lie every time she sneaked out of the house.

But had his dad fathered a child? This went ‘round and ‘round in Jerry’s mind. Would communication with Dario expose a family secret? He wondered if he should ask Dario for more information before committing to becoming involved. Young adult relationships came and went, and sometimes tough choices had to be made, but Jerry hadn’t really believed his father was in an intimate relationship with Soledad. Not in Jerry’s wildest dreams had he thought the. relationship his father had described had, in fact, taken place.

About the Author:Eliana Tobias was born in Santiago, Chile, to immigrant parents who escaped the Holocaust. She graduated from the University of Chile then completed
other degrees in early childhood and special education in the United States and
Canada. After working in this field in various capacities, including teaching at
the National University of Trujillo in Peru, she moved to Vancouver, where she
has lived for thirty years and where she discovered her love of writing.

Her rich experience of political turmoil, of listening to stories of the Holocaust when
Jewish communities in Europe were shattered, of losing family in Chile under
military dictatorship, and living in Peru during a time of intense civil conflict
fueled her passion to write about the ways in which people caught in devastation
rebuild their lives.

Eliana Tobias lives in Vancouver, B.C.

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Benevolence of New Ideas by Carmela Cuttuti – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Carmela Cattuti will be awarding $10 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.

The satisfying conclusion to Angela Lanza’s story which began in Between the Cracks when she loses her entire family in the earthquake on Sicily following the 1908 eruption of Mt. Etna and continues in The Ascent as she adjusts to life in the United States as a new bride and Italian American immigrant. Now, in the final installment in the trilogy, The Benevolence of New Ideas, thrusts Angela and her family into the heart of the Vietnam War and the turbulent times of the 1970s. As the family matriarch, Angela guides her niece, Marie, through these challenges and the era’s limiting structures of education and organized religion, helping Marie to embrace new ideas and expand her intuition and relationship with the unseen world. Angela’s compassion and wisdom has an exceptional impact on Marie’s life and those around her. A fulfilling ending that celebrates Angela’s wisdom in all things along with her well lived life from tragedy to triumph and from heartbreak to the enduring love of family.

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Angela had cared for Franco during his long illness, and now she was free. The relief she felt made her cringe. How could she so easily feel relief when Franco had suffered? She grieved but was thankful there would be no more concerns about leaving him home alone, or trips to the doctor, or Franco insisting he could perform a task when he couldn’t. He had emigrated from Sicily at age twelve 12 in the early 20th century full of energy and promise. Now, in 1968, Angela looked back and felt he had been successful in fulfilling that promise. Franco had brought Angela, at age eighteen, from the convent orphanage in Palermo, where she had lived since the 1908 earthquake, to a new life in Nelsonville, New York, about forty-five minutes north of Manhattan. It was not the life she thought she would have in America, but what she had created in America she never would have had the opportunity to experience had she stayed in Sicily.

Angela kissed Franco several times on both cheeks and on the lips. The doctors had said it was a matter of time until he would pass away. She could see death hovering and begin to slowly drape his body from his head to his feet as if giving Angela time to say good-bye.

“Adio mio caro,” whispered Angela. “Grazie di tutto.” Tears rolled down her face onto Franco’s cheek and mouth. His eyes were open and fixed, as if peering into the world beyond. She put her hands on the sides of his face and with her thumbs closed his eyes.

About the Author:

Carmela Cattuti started her writing career as a journalist for the Somerville News in Boston, MA. After she finished her graduate work in English Literature from Boston College she began to write creatively and taught a journal writing course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. As fate would have it, she felt compelled to write this homage to her great-aunt, who survived the earthquake and eruption of Mt. Etna and bravely left Sicily to start a new life in America.

Between the Cracks and The Ascent began the story, which now concludes with the final book in the trilogy.

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The Hardest Part About Writing by Patricia S. Gibbons – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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

The hardest part about writing is:

Perseverance, just sitting down at the computer and following on from where you last left off.
Generally, I am on a roll, and when I finish up after following the ideas in my mind, I need to just get back into the flow again. I guess that is the hardest part, but when the ideas come again and the fingers start their typing, it is a great feeling.

Sometimes it is a matter of continuing on from where I left off the story, but other times, it requires a new perspective, an outcross from the story line, or even a new avenue to drive my thoughts through.

It is the hardest part of writing, but also so challenging and exciting when a story line changes course and becomes another story line of its own.

Occassionally I need a new character in the story, and I need to go back through my work to decide where and when the new character should appear. That also becomes difficult to make that all work together and end up in my mind as I saw it.

After all, that is writing. Creating characters who fit into a story line that needs telling, and one that readers can relate to and follow without too much effort.

Sometimes it is hard, and you do need perseverance, but most times it is so enjoyable and fills you with pride when the book is completed and you get good reviews.

Penelope, aged 9, and her family emigrate from the UK to Australia. This book covers her journey onboard the ship and her family’s friendship with a Greek family. This friendship continues in Australia throughout their life’s journey.

The book includes the life effects of being interfered with as a child, and the ups and downs of adopting children. Along the way there is mystery, murder, love and disappointment.

Patricia Gibbons keeps you intrigued and in wonder of what is to come.

An exciting read!

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September 19th, 1951, was my ninth birthday. The P&O Liner Ranchi pulled away from Tilbury Docks in the United Kingdom, bound for an unknown future in Australia, its engines roaring through the water, drowning out the singing from our friends and family gathered at the dock to bid us farewell. I could hear them singing and attempting to harmonise their favourite Vera Lynn war tune, ‘We’ll meet again’ as well as ‘Good night, Irene.’ The sights and sounds will stay in my memory forever.

My name is Penelope (the family calls me Penny), and the immigration of the family to Australia was a sad day for me, but a day of excitement and wonder for my mother Ada and my two sisters, Shirley, who was sixteen, Kate, fourteen, and my elder brother John, who was eighteen.

Dad had made the journey to Australia two years before, and mum longed to see him again on our arrival in Melbourne, Victoria. It was not long before this when Dad returned to the United Kingdom from the war. The family had been evacuated from our house in London when the Germans bombed it. We had so many unpleasant memories of the bombings in London, the air raid shelters, the Germans bombing our school, and finally having to evacuate to the country. After the war, when Dad arrived home, he decided there was a better life for us all in Australia.

Being in the Royal Air Force, it was not a difficult thing for Dad to ask for a transfer to The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and make the trip to Australia to set up house for us all in this new land. Dad had met several Australians while fighting in the war, and he grew to like their sense of fun and their outlook on life. They painted a picture of Australia in Dad’s mind as a land of opportunity, a great place to start a new life. As a number of his mates were stationed at the Point Cook Air Force base in Melbourne, he applied to be posted there, and it was granted. So on September 19th, 1951, we were on our way.

The trip to Australia took six weeks. We travelled through the Suez Canal, and it was an adventure for all the family. The giant liner was a huge playground for us. There were immigrants from the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, and other countries on board, and one of the Greek families – The Papadopoulos family – became good friends with us all. They had three sons and a daughter. The boys were Sebastian, ten, who became my first boyfriend; Alex, who was just the right age at eighteen to be a friend for John; Theo, a good looking dark haired typical Greek boy of seventeen years, who was to become Shirley’s onboard romance, and last but not least, was a fifteen-year-old girl called Mia who was the right age as a friend for Kate who was very outspoken, Mia was quite shy and Kate bossed her around. It seemed to work out fine between them, and they became inseparable.

About the Author: Patricia writes under the fictitious name of Patricia Gibbons. She has lived a busy life and some of her adventures are in her new novel, Life’s Journey, but not all:

In her teenage years singing and dancing were also one of Patricia’s loves and she appeared in a number of stage performances.

Patricia successfully bred Rottweilers for 42 years, and wrote her first book The Rottweiler In Australia about the first 20 years. She published this book back in the mid-1980’s. After becoming an All Breeds Dog Judge, Patricia judged Championship Dog Shows all over Australia, and she travelled overseas to judge in the UK, USA, New Zealand, Malaya, the Philippines and China.

Patricia has a Diploma in Classical Homeopathy and Bach Flower Remedies.

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About the Book by G.S. Boarman – Guest Post and Giveaway

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


I would, firstly, like to point out the coincidence of April 1870 (the time in which the book takes place) and April 2022 being exactly the same: they both begin on a Friday, Easter is the 17th in each year, and there is only one day’s (or night’s) difference in the full moon. One April After the War: Louisville to Cumberland is structured so that each chapter corresponds with one day in April. In this way, and in this year in particular (2022), the reader can read a chapter a day and follow the characters in “real” time across the month of April. I have appended a copy of a calendar designed specifically to reflect both the coincidence of April 1870 and 2022 and the chapter-a-day structure. If this interests you, have a copy in hand on April 1.

Speaking of April, the title reflects several influences. First, it is a nod to Irene Hunt’s Across Five Aprils (1964), a novel that was an assignment for my 8th grade history class. April, of course, marked both the beginning and the end of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln died on April 14, 1865, and this is significant for my novel because of the last thing he did before going to Ford’s Theatre that night: he signed a piece of legislation authorizing the organization of a new federal detective agency, the Secret Service. The two primary male characters in One April, Merritt and Argent, are operatives of this division of the Revenue Department. There is one other historical fact that occurred in April, but that is not revealed until the third book, though it is revealed obliquely in the second book, One April After the War: Cumberland to Washington.

The work of the Secret Service is prominent in the books. The Secret Service’s original mission was to combat counterfeiting, a constant problem all through the history of the United States, but once the federal government decided to print national currency, counterfeiting became the federal government’s personal problem. Before a national currency was established (during the Civil War), people relied on hard currency (gold and silver) or bank notes, issued by individual banks. These bank notes were not universally accepted as legal tender; it could simply be denied by anyone for payment of any kind. It was the phrase ‘legal tender’ that finalized April as the month for the first two books. Originally, I had imagined the book opening on a glorious late March day, but during research, I found that the steamer Legal Tender left Cincinnati (where Merritt and Argent were wrapping up a counterfeit case) on April 1. Being Secret Service men charged with protecting the legal tender of the nation, I thought it was a sign that these men were ordained to travel on this steamer, to leave Cincinnati on April 1. I had already decided that Merritt and Argent would make an assumption about Mary Warner that would set the tone for their relationship. That they would take Legal Tender to Louisville and meet Mary Warner under a confused assumption on April 1 seemed too good to pass up: Merritt and Argent would be the embodiment of April fools on April Fools Day. So, the book would begin on April 1, and I then determined that it would end on April 30 (except for a kind of epilogue covering a few days in May).

One April After the War: Louisville to Cumberland is the first novel in the M. Warner Annals (Books II and III are already written; Book II will be available on March 15; Book III will be available in late summer or early fall). M. Warner is the protagonist, a young woman from Louisville summoned to Washington. Her name is Mary, a name she shares with all her sisters and her mother; only her mother was known as Mary, all the daughters were called by their middle names. M. Warner was therefore known as Lally, a diminutive of Eulalia, her middle name. I came across both this name and the family policy of naming several, if not all, daughters Mary and referring to them by their middle name in a family ancestry book. I immediately knew, years before I wrote the books, that Mary Eulalia would be the name of any female protagonist I might create. I named our only female dog Lally. There were four boys in her pack, and we referred to them as Lally and the Boys. (We just said goodbye to Lally a few weeks ago, after 15 years; Jack and Fry preceded her by two years and 6 months, respectively; only Morty remains. Jack and Morty are M’s pet dogs in the books, and in later books, play important parts.)

Another female character name has an interesting history. Miss Carrie was named for a woman I had never met, but about whom I had heard occasional comments from older brothers, many years ago; I never learned her last name. I only knew that Miss Carrie was somehow connected to my grandmother’s farm near Bardstown, KY and that she “put up” all kinds of fruits and vegetables. I particularly remember the phrase “Miss Carrie’s pickles.” In preparation for this blog, I asked my oldest brother about the mysterious Miss Carrie. I was astounded to lean that she had been the daughter of a slave (she was in her 80s, my brother thought, in the mid 1950s when he knew her). She had lived on the farm not very far from the farmhouse in a much smaller ramshackle house. This house was in serious disrepair and was torn down in the early 60s. I have no memory of this house, but very well remember the root cellar near where the house is said to have sat. I was very afraid of that root cellar. I regret that I never thought to ask my mother, before she died, about Miss Carrie. My mother was reportedly very fond of Miss Carrie’s pickles.

When Mary Warner is requested to attend a meeting with her estranged godfather, President Ulysses S. Grant, she quickly finds that an invitation from the office of the President is an offer she can’t refuse.

Fresh from concluding a counterfeiting sting in Cincinnati, Secret Service agents Merritt and Argent are tasked by the President to convince Miss Warner to return with them to Washington, D. C. For the two Treasury agents, this simple assignment to escort the socially awkward and willful young woman on an 800-mile railroad journey from Louisville, Kentucky to the White House proves far more interesting and difficult than the men could have ever thought possible. And, in the face of danger, it may just turn out that Mary is more of an asset than a problem for the two agents.

For Mary Warner, the trip begins to take on a sinister meaning as she finds herself virtual prisoner to Merritt and Argent. Madness, morality, and murder all swirl in a strange April storm at midnight turning this odd odyssey into something so much more than a mere trip between cities.

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She was always slow to realize the magnitude or importance or sacrifice of any kindness or gesture, and now she realized, years too late, that in the middle of a war, with sons dying and stretched between the demands of both the farm and his duty to the Union, her father had stopped for a moment to collect this picture for her. More and more, with each year added to her age, she was beginning to see herself as perhaps others had always seen her – selfish and ungrateful and incapable of natural feelings.

About the Author:After the death of G. S. Boarman, a great niece cleaned out the old Kentucky family farmhouse and in the attic, amid the rusting coffee mill, the rickety outdated furniture that was still awaiting repairs, and the stacks of vermin-eaten Harper’s Weekly’s and Police Gazette’s, she found a curious box marked simply “M”.

On the kitchen floor, the metal hasps were flipped back and the top pried off. Lying on the top of a very neat and orderly collection of things was a scrapbook and lying loose inside the scrap book was a note that said simply, “Please finish the story.” The scrapbook itself contained a rough outline of a narrative with sometimes undecipherable glosses and cryptic references to mysterious sources.

From letters and notebooks, ledgers and calendars, train schedules and stockholders’ reports, the story was slowly extracted and pieced together, and the small treasures, carefully wrapped and preserved in the box, took their place in the narrative.

Boarman’s will had already been read, probated, and executed, but the niece, as executrix, felt obligated to fulfill Boarman’s last wish — to breathe life into the long-ago story of a woman who held some importance to Boarman.


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The Hardest Part of Writing by Julia Merritt – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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The Hardest Part of Writing

The hardest part about writing is trusting in yourself. It has taken me a decade to write my first novel, in large part because I didn’t trust myself, and it took most of that decade to find my stride.

When I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I asked my mum to teach me to read before I went to school, and she did. She read me stories every night, and bought me workbooks so that I could learn my letters and practice how to write. By age 5 I was reading chapter books, and by the time I was in Grade 4, I was writing all kinds of stories. The unused backs of school notebooks and empty binders with lined paper were my prized possessions.

And then, through the smallest of actions, my confidence was washed away. A couple of my stories were read without permission, and I received unsolicited feedback that sounded like negative judgment. An email story-chain writing club was squashed by one of the member’s parents who thought we were being too fantastical. By Grade 9, I had given up writing, and nobody noticed or encouraged me to do otherwise.

High school, university, master’s degree, job. The normal progression of schooling took place, followed by my entrance into the working world and self-sufficiency. Only a year after I had begun to work full-time, the idea for horse/man arrived. It is perhaps fitting that I was sitting in a conference session about self-publishing and printing books at library-owned presses at the time, as self-publishing is the eventual route that I took for this novel.

After the idea, came the halting process of writing. Every few months I would try to write a short scene. Occasionally I would read a history book that added more context and allow the development of a new plot point. Writing was difficult to prioritize amid the process of building the career that was paying the bills. And I was terrified to show the work to anyone, or to ask for help.

From what I can tell, so many creative people have abandoned creativity in favour of stability and safety. We lose confidence in ourselves, and feel stuck and dissatisfied, although we may not be able to articulate why.

But I believe it is true that art does not just “arrive” in the world following a period of consistent inspiration. Mastery requires practice, and practice requires commitment. So get ready. Refuse to schedule commitments on your Saturday. Feed the dogs, use the bathroom, get some water. Open the computer, turn on some music, set the timer for ten minutes. Procrastinate through the first ten minutes, take your five minute break anyway, and set the timer for ten minutes. Write a few sentences. Take a five minute break. Start the ten minutes again. The sentences will start to come easier. Maybe the characters will speak to you and their actions will become clear. And even if they don’t, you are practicing. This builds trust, and confidence. Eventually, the practice becomes easier. You can see where the writing is good. And if the writing needs work, it doesn’t hurt so much, because you can trust that you will show up for it tomorrow.

So trust yourself enough to get started. Keep starting every single day that’s available. When you show up, so does the trust, and so does the story.

What happens when your entire identity revolves around a way of life that is becoming obsolete?

In the 1920s, as Canada progresses through the Industrial Revolution, horses are still the rural engines of survival. As a child Adam lives this reality on his family’s farm in the Ottawa Valley, planning to take over one day and have a family of his own. When his parents die during the Great Depression, nineteen-year-old Adam is disinherited in favour of his brother and is forced to move to the city to find work. Without a formal education his choices are few, yet he finds a place to use his horsemanship skills in the dwindling forces of the Canadian cavalry based near Montreal. There he finds pride in being a mounted soldier, and friendship with his fellow dragoons. But the cavalry units are mechanized by the beginning of World War Two, and when Adam is sent to Europe, he must abandon his equine partners for trucks and tanks. In the catastrophic experience of war, he will lose everything once again.

Broken in body and spirit, he returns to Canada where he must confront the question of survival in a world that doesn’t seem to have a place for an injured soldier. Full of poetic reflections on what it means to work with horses, horse/man is a powerful story about a man searching for dignity and connection in the face of a rapidly shifting world.

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“Trot on, Jack! Git up, Pete! Git UP! Good.”

The driver called out orders and sounded gruff, even in praise. The reins slapped the broad chestnut backs lightly, then loosened. It was the end of May, and planting had finished. Today, they were going to town. Freed from their heavy collars and the deep wet soil, the horses danced down the dirt road, shaking their heads as they pushed through the harnesses. Their efforts were rewarded with an easy silence.

Seven-year-old Adam sat in the back of the wagon, his skinny legs anchoring the sacks and baskets his mother had given him for dry goods. He was small for his age but wiry and strong. His face was still childish, heart-shaped and snub-nosed, with sandy brown hair and eyes. His father, Ciaran, was alone on the front seat, driving the horses with his back to Adam. Adam was grateful for the rest.

The horses picked up speed, and Adam bounced from side to side on the planks. The percussion of the horses’ hooves and the squeak of the wagon on its struts was all he could hear. The wind from the wagon’s movement had a chill. He turned his head to face it, letting the tears from his watering eyes stream along his cheeks. He inhaled the sharpness of spring, undercut by the heaviness of soil and vegetation that was not quite yet alive. Travelling along, further details unfurled — the patches of mud in the potholes, the freshly tilled soil in the fields, the shades of green emerging from the ditches and the trees.

About the Author:Julia Merritt has been captivated by horses ever since she could see out of the car window. Then she grew up and became a public library CEO and certified animal bodyworker. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her thoroughbred horses and smooth collie dogs. This is her first novel.

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One Helluva Gig by Kevin R. Doyle – Spotlight and Giveaway

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Rob Jeffers has it all: fame, money, and the life of a rock and roll star. Frank Peters is a regular guy, a newspaper reporter who just happens to have a passing acquaintance with the Great Jeffers. As Jeffers’s career shoots up, Peters’s fortunes follows in his wake.

And when Jeffers passes away at the height of his fame, Peters’s life begins a steady unravelling. Until a chance encounter on a minor story gives him a new outlook on the celebrity lifestyle, and new hope for his own future.

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Off to my right, a slight, average-sized guy came running along. He was wearing the pants and vest of a denim leisure suit, a garish, flowered polyester/Hawaiian shirt with the first five buttons opened up and sandals. Skidding to a stop in front of me, he looked about as confused as I felt at the moment.

“’Scuse me,” he said, “is this the place for the concert?”

I looked around at all the people flocking in our direction, listened to the squealing of the collection of cuties on the other side of the door.

“Yeah,” I said, “but good luck getting in. The place is packed.”

“Really? Cool!” He took off his mirrored sunglasses, and for the first time, I saw the eyes that, in years to come, would stare out from a billion or so album covers.

“Hey,” he said, “you a student here?”

“Yeah, but…”

“You think you can show me how to get in? Like there’s a service entrance or something, isn’t there? I’m with the band, and I’m running late.”

I clenched up. One of the oldest con lines in the world is “I’m with the band.” But something in the man’s look told me to take a chance.

“I think I can get you in, but I need something in return.”

“Yeah?” Now the “guy with the band” seemed uneasy. “What’s that?”

“Well, you see,” I said, “I’m with the student paper…”

About the Author A high-school teacher, former college instructor and fiction writer, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of numerous short horror stories. He’s also written three crime thrillers, The Group, When You Have to Go There, and And the Devil Walks Away and one horror novel, The Litter. Recently, he’s begun working on the Sam Quinton private eye series. The first Quinton book, Squatter’s Rights, was nominated for the 2021 Shamus award as Best First PI Novel. The second book, Heel Turn, was released in March of 2021, while the third in the series, Double Frame, is due out March of 2022.

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Lady Wild Fowl by Ivana Hoxha – Spotlight and Giveaway

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Lady Wild Fowl is an unusual, self-developing story, that analyzes the deepest repressed feelings and emotions, narrated from the romantic mindset of a twenty-six years old lady, who has never had a man in her life.

Nicole has been raised in a society that teaches her nothing about the value of the woman and her feelings, and she leaves home to accept a job offer in China, where she meets Benjamin. In the messy, unpredictable, and, at the same time, exciting Shanghai, Nicole and Benjamin see life from another perspective. While Nicole is facing the lies on which she based her life, revealing secrets she had kept hidden, embracing all the new unknown feelings blooming in her heart; Benjamin has to face the loss of important relationships and fight not to lose himself along with them, as he discovers how stubborn and deep love can be.

Discovering other perceptions of life and love, facing the unknown feelings that come along with them, and fighting the patterns of the social definitions on relationships, will they be able to discover who they really are? And maybe, experience love on the way?

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“We realize time after time, – I spoke to fill that deafening silence, – how small and powerless we are. When we think we have it all figured out, something happens to change everything we know. And we lose balance and we lose control, and there is nothing we can do, but surrender. And this is what hurts the most. Knowing that you would be able to do anything for that love, but seeing that the other person doesn’t have the same intention with you. And you realize that this is your battle only, because the feeling is only yours.”

I wiped a tear off my cheek because that period still hurt, and I got the pillow he handed me. This had become a ritual. It was our therapy session; his understanding and my healing.

“Oh my God, Nicole, – I saw his eyes were filled with tears as well, and I hated witnessing his vulnerability. – How can you find the words for everything?”

His hand was trembling as he put it above his heart. I had never wished to see him like that.

“Because I’ve felt it Gem,” – I had no courage to look him in the eye because I didn’t want to make him feel guilty, but it was true.

I knew it all because of him.

About the Author My name is Ivana and I am from Albania, but I am a citizen of the world. I have studied languages and literature, and I currently speak 5 languages.

3 years ago, I decided to move to China and I lived there until Covid started. After that, I transferred to Bali, where I lived for almost another year. Currently, I am traveling around Europe.

As you can see, I love traveling, and this is where I find my inspiration to write. I write about experiences, people I meet, and everything that impresses me. People become my characters, and places I live in, become the book’s environment because there is nothing more beautiful than finding meaning in the everyday life. I have combined my love for writing with my experiences and brought to life “Lady Wild Fowl” which is the book I am publishing right now in the women fiction genre.

I have also published two books in the Albanian language some years ago, titled “Nje mengjes ndryshe” (A Different Morning) and “Nen shiun e vjeshtes” (Under the Autumn Rain) both of them in the genre of teenage fiction.

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