Lessons Learned from the Heroine by Philip Wilson – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Philip Wilson will be awarding a signed paperback copy of the book to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lessons Learned from the Heroine
Allison is bright, pretty and popular, and has her whole life ahead of her when she is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Not only is the disease almost inevitably terminal but her prognosis is for a steady decline in cognitive ability, growing physical disability and increasing pain requiring heavy doses of narcotics. The novel deals with the next few months of Allison’s life as she vacillates between thoughts of suicide, making the best of the time she has, and hoping for a miracle.

After moving to a hospice in a small town she meets various people who gradually influence her perceptions and decisions. Terri Wright, a resident of the same hospice with the same medical condition, is determined to get the most out of the time she has. She pushes Allison to play tennis, go kayaking and sing in the local pub. When Allison has moments of despair and considers giving up, Terri urges her ‘to fight the darkness.’ Jack Rollins is the pub owner who falls in love with her despite knowing her situation and urges her to ‘make the best of the time we’ve got.’ Jack’s nine-year-old niece, Lucy, sees in Allison the mother and role model she’s never had. As Allison continues to struggle with her own feelings and emotions, she begins to realize that, despite her circumstances, she’s finding happiness and fulfillment, and making a difference in the lives of the people around her. She learns to appreciate whatever time she’s got and fights to make each day count.

That’s the lesson I hope readers takeaway from Songs for Lucy – the notion that whether faced with a terminal illness or not, every day should count. Allison’s journey leads her to pursue new interests and opportunities, some of which she may never have thought to make time for otherwise. Her character development highlights the importance of following your true passions to find happiness and fulfillment.

It’s spring, and Allison Connelly has it all – pretty, popular and smart. With a summer job teaching tennis and starting Harvard Law School in the fall, Allison plans on a successful law career, marriage and kids – and dreams of becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

When relentless headaches drive her to her doctor, Allison receives a terrifying diagnosis that destroys her plans and imperils her life. Devastated, Allison struggles to accept her shattered dreams and uncertain future. One night, she happens into a small-town pub and, on a whim, takes a job singing, finding solace and a measure of peace in her music. She settles in the town, and from that small beginning finds love, a new life and a new reason for living.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Dean Richardson went to the podium, looked back at Allison, and smiled. “It is now my great pleasure and privilege to introduce Allison Connelly to give the Valedictory Address. Allison has made an extraordinary contribution to our school. Not only has she achieved the highest academic standing in her graduating class, but she captained the tennis team – which won the Northeastern Intercollegiate Championship – and was on both the swim and debating teams. Rumor has it that she also sings occasionally at one of the local pubs. I really don’t know when she found time to study. It had been my hope that Allison would stay at BHU and continue with our MBA program, but… I am delighted to announce that she has been accepted into Harvard Law School. While I’m very sorry to lose her, Allison is the first BHU grad to be accepted into HLS in almost a decade and I’m sure you will all share my pride in her achievement. Allison.”

There was a burst of applause. Prepared to stand and approach the podium, she again felt a searing pain over her left eye. She remained seated and again breathed deeply, fighting the pain.

“Allison,” the dean prompted again.

To Allison’s great relief, the pain dissipated. She stood, walked confidently to the podium, and looked out at her classmates and others in the auditorium.

Allison paused and the audience waited expectantly, anticipating the usual salutation acknowledging students, friends and families, alumni, the dean, and the faculty.

“Hi Guys,” Allison began with a smile.

About the Author:Philip Wilson is a retired financial executive who spends winters in Florida and summers sailing on the Great Lakes in his 32-foot sailboat. Songs for Lucy is his second book. His first, The Librarian, was rated one of the best reviewed books of 2017 by IndieReader and featured in the Huffington Post.

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Living from the Inside Out by Kristie Booker – Guest Blog and Giveaway


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

Living from the Inside Out

As a wellness coach, I often work with women who feel like their body is never good enough. I can relate. I used to live with that mindset as well. I spent a large part of my life working up the courage to raise my middle finger to society’s view of a perfect body. Self-acceptance is hard.

What if we felt good enough because we were simply good enough? What if we spent time understanding what we love, what makes our heart happy and ultimately, “fitting in” to who we are?

These questions led me to think about where I continued to conform to society’s expectations. What part of me was still drinking the social Kool-Aid in order to be popular? Where was I continuing to live from the outside in?

I realized that I was participating in society’s push toward moving up the social ladder, competing and winning in the name of power and wealth. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to do that anymore. Little by little, I embraced the discomfort of letting go. It was hard. I did my best to quiet the outside noise so I could hear my tiny voice inside.

There’s always been a push inside of me to write. I ignored it. It wasn’t practical. The more I quieted the outside noise, the stronger the urge. As much as I felt inspired, I also was afraid. Afraid of being judged. Afraid of not being good enough.

I committed 2 hours each day to writing. Keeping my butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard during those ugly moments where I had to wrestle mean, self-induced fears of not being smart enough, creative enough and all of the other “not enough” thoughts down to the ground was hard. At times, it felt impossible. After a while, the two hours a day became three, then four and five.

I felt resentful toward the blank stares and rolled eyes from some of those I chose to tell about my writing. I fought the desire to tell my internal voice to shut up so I could go back to the comfort zone of seeking acceptance from others. Being true to myself wasn’t supposed to please others, it was only supposed to feel right to me.

Now that I’m on the other side and have a completed novel ready to publish, I’m eternally grateful to whatever forces were at work to help me see my first book through to the end and ultimately, complete a lifelong dream of being a writer. Living from the inside out isn’t always easy but staying tuned in to the inner voice makes life a whole lot better.

Growing up on a farm in Brockville, Illinois, did not prepare Colleen O’Brien Adler to be the wife of a wealthy entertainment lawyer living in Chicago. It certainly didn’t prepare her to be Dinah Adler’s daughter-in-law. The stay-at-home mother of two has more than she’s ever wanted—a personal stylist, a prestigious country club membership, a multimillion-dollar home—but she finds herself not only struggling with depression and body image but also failing as a parent and fearing for her marriage. Her life is about to change when an invitation to a wellness meeting arrives in her inbox. With some coaxing from personal coach Kory Stone, she commits to a new beginning. But will she be able to overcome the things that are holding her back?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Colleen tossed the other pieces of mail on the kitchen island between her freshly opened can of Diet Coke and the white-lidded paper cup that had contained a large vanilla latte. She tore through the heavy cardstock. White roses swirled up each side of the invitation.

Harborview Country Club cordially invites you to attend the Forty-Fourth Annual Spring Fashion Show — featuring Raina Rose. The event will be held on Friday, the first of April at noon. RSVP by the eighteenth of March. Spots are limited!

Today was March 17. Colleen dialed the club and was put on hold. While she waited, she thought of her doctor’s appointment scheduled on Friday, April 1. She would have to reschedule. She wasn’t missing the fashion show for the second year in a row.

The club receptionist finally returned to the line. “I’m sorry. Mrs. Adler, but the event is full.”

“Were the invitations mailed late?” Colleen said.

“I sent them three weeks ago,” the woman said. “Would you like me to add you to the waiting list?”

“But I just got mine,” Colleen said. “Who’s in charge this year?” She already knew the answer to that question — her mother-in-law, Dinah, and her porcelain-faced lackeys, Ashley Barr and Victoria Heller.

The same thing had happened last year, and Colleen had given the three women the benefit of the doubt. She believed them when they blamed the post office for the delay. This year, however, Colleen knew her invitation was sent late on purpose.

About the Author: Kristie Booker is the author of Blooming Into Life, a blogger and a Wellness Coach. She enjoys coaching and inspiring women through her writing as well as in person. Kristie is a wife and mother of two sons. She grew up in rural Illinois, but now lives in Chicago.

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The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Three randomly drawn readers will receive a digital copy of the book. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

About the Author:

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard moved to New York to study screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Her first novel, Beneath the Pines, was published in 2008. Janet has lived and worked in Australia, England, Boston, and currently, Columbus, Ohio, where she is teaching writing, raising a daughter, and working on a new novel.

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Havana Blues by David Pereda – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

The year is 1952 and Ramon Rodriguez’s life as a teenager in fun-loving Havana is filled with typical activities and concerns: girls, education, religion, baseball, parties, and hanging out with friends. The country is enjoying a period of prosperity and happiness–until General Batista stages a coup that topples the government and Ramon’s life is flung into chaos.

In a few short years, the carefree fifties morph into a vicious and repressive dictatorship highlighted by corruption, organized gambling, school closures, student demonstrations, police brutality, and assassinations.

As Ramon experiences the thrills of his first romantic relationship, graduates from school, and struggles to plan for an uncertain future, he is forced to make important decisions that may be dangerous to him, his family, his friends, and his girlfriend – the beautiful Sonia — and could turn deadly.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My room was on fire. Orange tongues licked the crumbling walls and snaked across the burning floor toward my bed. Thick gray smoke choked me. My ears throbbed with an insistent and reverberating sound.

I couldn’t breathe.

I gasped for air. My palms felt sweaty, and my heart thrashed against my rib cage, as if trying to escape my chest. I opened my eyes. For a moment, I was in a bright and silent void – then I heard my parents arguing in the kitchen.

It was a hot and sunny morning. I had been dreaming of hell again, and the alarm clock was ringing.

I shut it off.

Ever since Brother Santiago had given in Religion class a week ago a vivid and realistic description of hell as punishment for masturbation and having sex with prostitutes, I’d had the same dream over and over. Amid much commotion and speculation, Pacheco, the frail student with a perennially runny nose who sat behind me in class, fainted and had to be carted off to the school infirmary, pale and limp like a noodle in won ton soup. Everyone in class knew Pacheco was an assiduous masturbator – he bragged about it to other students often enough – but his blackout generated great speculation
in the school about his frequent visits to brothels. I wondered what kind of nightmares Pacheco was having.

On second thought, I really didn’t want to know. I had enough with my own nightmares of hell.

I stretched lazily in bed. Today was a special day. It was my birthday. I was fifteen years old.

A door slammed somewhere, and once more I was aware of my parents’ angry voices in the kitchen. I likened their arguments to a sort of word symphony, the sound of their voices harmonized so well. My mother’s shrill, piercing sting was a nearly perfect complement to my father’s placating hum.

Though I couldn’t hear them clearly, I guessed what they were arguing about – money. Ever since Papa’s broom-making business started going bad, it seemed money was all they ever talked about.

About the Author:

David Pereda was born in Havana, Cuba. The award-winning author of seven previous novels, he enjoys crafting political thrillers and edgy mainstream novels with unique characters placed in exotic settings. He has traveled to more than thirty countries and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, David had a successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others.

A member of MENSA, David earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He lives in artistic Asheville, North Carolina, with his youngest daughter Sophia, where he teaches mathematics and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Community College. He loves sports and is an accomplished competitor in track and show-jumping equestrian events.

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Inside ALL WE KNEW with Author Jamie Beck – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jamie Beck who is celebrating the upcoming release of All WE Knew. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Inside ALL WE KNEW with Author Jamie Beck

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the inside scoop about why and how I wrote ALL WE KNEW, the second novel in my Cabot series. After creating nine traditionally styled romance novels—books about the pursuit of “happily ever after”—I needed a new writing challenge. Instead of showing the ups and downs of getting to a commitment, I wanted to craft a love story about how to keep it. Hunter and Sara Cabot gave me that chance.

This was not an easy task. I needed to simultaneously show the reader that this couple had a love worth saving, but also that they were growing far enough apart that they might not overcome their problems. But I was convinced the effort would be worth it because readers would appreciate and relate to this kind of love story. Haven’t we all experienced the friction that comes when those opposite traits we initially admired in our partners begin to wear on us? Or faced the challenges that external turmoil and communication breakdowns create?

Hunter and Sara are dealing with all of those issues when this book begins. There are some additional unexpected turns that hit them, too, and will tug at the heartstrings.

This is part of a scene from the beginning of the book that should give you insight into where Hunter and Sara now find themselves with respect to their love. I hope it will intrigue you enough to want to read more!

“Where are we going?” She stumbled in an attempt to keep up with his long strides because he still had a tight grip on her wrist.

Hunter brought her back to the center of the glade, surrounded by the benches he’d purchased as some kind of memorial to them.

“Am I not exactly the same person I was the day we met?” Hunter’s handsome face could look quite fierce when he got defensive. His alpine cheekbones, square jaw, and aquiline nose intimidated. Those see-through hazel eyes flashed from soft to assessing on a moment’s notice. He was the only man she knew who could look that formidable while wearing glasses.

“Aside from being older?” She tugged her wrist free. On the grass, she noticed the shadows of the new benches forming a dark wall around them.

“Naturally, Sara.” His arms stretched out from his sides. “I don’t understand why you’re so impatient with me lately. I’m the same guy who chased you down here. Who took you for pizza at Zachary’s that first night and told you my dreams for the future—a plan that included growing my family’s business and legacy. The same guy whose dedication to that goal has never wavered.” His hands dropped. “If anyone in this relationship should be frustrated, it’s me. You’re the one who’s changed. You used to have lots of dreams, not just one. You used to smile and laugh and want sex for something other than getting pregnant.”

That last remark smarted the most. “Excuse me if I don’t think ambition is the only, or most important, goal in life. If I were you, I wouldn’t brag about the fact that you haven’t changed at all since we graduated. Most adults evolve, Hunter.”

Her husband stared at her. She’d hurt him, and she regretted it immediately. In his way, he loved her. She knew that. And yet, she’d been so dazzled by him early on, she hadn’t seen that his first true love had been CTC. He had a connection to that company that went beyond normal ambition. Maybe because it had been where he’d bonded with his father after his parents’ divorce. Or maybe it was just in his blood.

It didn’t matter, really. She suspected Hunter felt most at home in his office, not with her.

He’d deny it, of course. But she couldn’t deny the fact that she’d been growing lonelier in this marriage as the years wore on.

They stood there, sunlight fading in the late afternoon, the bells of Sather Tower playing a song, stirring up old memories. Hunter lifted his face toward the sky. He closed his eyes, listening to the music until he lowered his chin and looked at her. “You think I came here because of some Peter Pan fantasy of being twenty again?”

“Honestly, Hunter, I don’t know why it was so important that we come to this homecoming.”

“I did this for you.” He gestured to the benches. “All of it, for you. I’d hoped being here would remind you of what we have together and get us back on track.”

“I don’t need grand gestures.” She stepped closer, wishing her intense, beautiful man would really hear and understand her needs. She set her hands on the hard muscles of his broad chest. “I just want you to be present.”

He stepped back and then scrubbed his hands through his hair. “I am present! I’m doing everything in my power to give you the baby you want.”

“The baby I want?” Sara looked at the ground. He didn’t even hear how that sounded, did he? He’d call it semantics, but if he wanted a family, he would’ve said the baby “we” want. Actually, he wouldn’t have said it at all. He’d feel the same desperation she felt. He’d hurt from seeing other couples starting families, too. “And you wonder why I feel like I’m in this alone.”

“I don’t want to argue.” Hunter closed his eyes again and breathed deeply through his nostrils. When he opened his eyes, he remained still and unsmiling. “When’s your next shot due?”

“An hour.”

“I’m going back to the party. I’d like you to come, but if not, I’ll meet you at the hotel in time to help with your shot.”

Typical Hunter, retreating when they argued. She almost wished he’d stay and fight it out because then she’d know it mattered. Instead, he chose “space” to collect himself. Space was exactly what they didn’t need, but that was another tired argument.

At least he’d given her the out, so she wouldn’t have to suffer through more small talk or give vague answers to questions at the party.

“I’ll meet you at the hotel.” She turned to go, leaving him standing in the middle of the glade, knowing neither of them won anything in that argument.

Hunter Cabot deeply loves two things: the international tea company he’s helped his father build, and his wife, Sara. From the moment he first saw her wide smile on their college campus years ago, Hunter fell hard. Yet now, with other family members pushing to sell the thriving business and Sara grieving their failure to start a family, he’s suddenly facing the crushing loss of both.

The relentless ambition that Sara once admired in Hunter is now driving them apart. Each missed doctor’s appointment, neglected dinner date, and family squabble accentuates their differing priorities. Still, Sara struggles to create the home life they’d envisioned, until unsettling developments—both personal and professional—push them to the breaking point.

When love is put to the ultimate test, can Hunter and Sara stop fighting each other long enough to fight for their marriage?

About the Author: Jamie Beck is a former attorney with a passion for inventing stories about love and redemption. In addition to writing novels, she also pens articles on behalf of a local nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth and strengthening families. Fortunately, when she isn’t tapping away at the keyboard, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

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Older and Wiser? Why I Love Writing Seasoned Characters by Kathleen Duhamel – Guest Blog and Giveaway


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

Older and Wiser? Why I Love Writing Seasoned Characters

With age comes wisdom and insight, right? That may be true for some people, but when it concerns the older characters in my Deep Blue Trilogy, emotional growth often comes at a steep price.

My heroine, Claire Martin, is in her late fifties when she meets Rob, a musician she’s admired for decades. She soon learns that hero worship can be dangerous when her idol brings his emotional baggage into their new life together: a history of substance abuse and a complicated relationship with his (dead) ex-wife, not to mention a love child who shows up in Deeper (Book 2). Claire is forced to confront her own insecurities and decide whether she wants to continue her marriage under far different circumstances than she imagined. In short, real life issues.

Another character burdened by his past is guitarist and songwriter Artie Hoffman, half of the legendary rock and soul duo, Deep Blue. Although he’s a brilliant musician, Artie is relentlessly sarcastic and unfiltered, and his personal life can best be described as an emotional train wreck. Two failed marriages and a parade of young girlfriends have left him disillusioned and bitter about relationships.

Only when he nears age 60 does he begin to realize that he may be facing the remainder of his life alone, without someone to love, unless he’s willing to make some lifestyle changes. He meets Denise, an accomplished, attractive woman near his own age who’s not interested in a romantic entanglement. Will he give up on love like he has so many times in the past, or are his feelings for Denise strong enough to overcome his natural cynicism and win her over? Denise has some legitimate concerns about Artie, although her training as a social worker allows her to see past his rock star façade to the impoverished foster child he once was.

Even after these two get together, they have numerous obstacles to overcome: his jealousy of her boss and relentless work schedule, meddling exes, and a medical diagnosis that terrifies him.

Few, if any of us, escape middle age and beyond without dealing with illness, ex-spouses, kids and grandkids, aging parents, and career pressures. To my way of thinking, all of these challenges are also opportunities for deeper and more realistic character development.

After years of struggle and harsh criticism, happily married rock star wife Claire Martin has finally achieved the career success of her dreams. As the featured artist in an international traveling exhibit, she looks forward to her best year ever, while her husband, singer Robert Silver of the legendary band Deep Blue, contemplates a return to touring.

Things are also looking up for Claire’s best friend, Denise Hrivnak, who’s planning her wedding to Robert’s musical partner, Art Hoffman. However, what should have been most joyful day of Denise’s life turns to tragedy when an unexpected event forces both woman to contemplate the terrifying possibility of life without the men they love.

Besieged by the paparazzi and sick with worry, Claire waits for answers in a Las Vegas hotel room, thinking over her improbable relationship with Rob and praying that love alone is strong enough to bring her beloved husband back from the brink.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Before Claire can say a word, I glance across the room to see the older man rise from his chair and begin ambling toward us. When he gets near our table he announces in an apologetic tone, “I don’t mean to disturb your meal, but there’s something I’d like to tell you, Robert, and I’ll never have this chance again.”

Let me guess. He has a friend/relative/colleague who wants to be a singer/songwriter/musician and would I mind listening to his demo? I produce a cursory nod and he continues.

“My wife was a big fan of yours.” His shoulder sag. “She died a few days ago.”

Claire gives him a sympathetic gaze.

“When she went into hospice care, she asked for her little CD player and all her Deep Blue CDs. I wanted you to know your music gave her some happiness and comfort during her final days. Your voice was the last one she heard before she slipped away.”

An enormous lump rises in my throat, rendering me incapable of speech. Claire blinks back tears.

“Do you mind if I give you a hug?” she asks.

Without waiting for an answer, my wife rises and wraps her arms around the grief-stricken stranger for a few seconds. She takes both his hands in hers and says, “Your wife was fortunate to have had someone like you in her life.”

“We were married for 37 years.” His quivering mouth attempts a smile. “I always thought I was the lucky one.”

About the Author: Kathleen Duhamel is a contemporary women’s fiction writer and the author of the Deep Blue Trilogy (Deep Blue, Deeper, and Deep End) as well as the novella At Home With Andre. She wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight, and has been a writer for most of her life. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer, and owner/operator of two small businesses. A native of Texas, she has spent most of her adult life in Colorado. She lives in the Denver area with her husband, a geriatric standard poodle, and a spoiled cat. She is a lifelong devotee of rock and soul music, contemporary art, and popular culture.

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Notorious Women by Jennifer Laam – Guest Blog

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Jennifer Laam whose newest book, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, released today.

NOTORIOUS WOMEN

Before I considered writing a book about Natalya Goncharova, the heroine of The Lost Season of Love and Snow, I knew her only as the notorious wife of the great poet Alexander Pushkin. She was no more than a footnote in Russian history: unquestionably beautiful and said to be dangerously flirtatious. Her husband died tragically at the age of 37, after a duel he fought to defend her honor. I hadn’t realized how severely Natalya’s historical reputation suffered as a result.

“Pushkin’s whore.”

A character in Martin Cruz Smith’s Tatiana uses this phrase to describe Natalya. After reading, I had to learn more about her. Once I did, I felt compelled to tell her story and her version of the events that led to that infamous duel.

Natalya was only sixteen when she met Alexander, and not much older than that when they married and started a family. I believe she was near-sighted, as Alexander described her as his “Madonna with a squint.” She seemed to enjoy beautiful gowns, costume balls, and the glamorous social life of the imperial court.

In some academic circles, Natalya has been characterized as empty-headed. I never believed it. Alexander Pushkin, a genius with a huge ego, would never marry a woman who didn’t appreciate his work. Unsurprisingly, newer research demonstrates that Natalya had an active inner life and took an interest in Russian poetry.

Though deeply in love, Natalya and Alexander were attractive and charming. Both of them captured the hearts of other people, always a strain on a marriage. Natalya even drew the romantic attention of the tsar. When the tsar and other men pursued her, she behaved in a manner appropriate to the time and place, play-acting the role of the adored lady in platonic courtly romances. We might even speculate — as I do in my novel — that Natalya behaved this way to protect her family.

Nevertheless, a legend persists. A fickle woman brought down a great man. This is the type of story I personally find tiresome. It relies on a misogynistic view of relationships based on gendered stereotypes and little understanding of complex personalities. I hope that at least in some small way, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, a fictionalized account of her life, contributes to recent efforts to restore Natalya’s reputation. Only by telling the lives of women of the past with dignity, can we truly expect women in the present to be treated with that same respect.

The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.

At the beguiling age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. At her first public ball during the Christmas of 1828, she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya is swept up in a courtship and then a marriage full of passion but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads Alexander to defend his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, he tragically succumbs to his injuries. Natalya finds herself reviled for her perceived role in his death. In her striking new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Jennifer Laam helps bring Natalya’s side of the story to life with vivid imagination―the compelling tale of her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court and that of her greatest love.

About the Author:
JENNIFER LAAM is the author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Tsarina’s Legacy. She earned her master’s degree in History from Oakland University in Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, traveled in Russia and Europe, and worked in education and non-profit development. She currently resides in Northern California.

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Winter Blogfest: Ginger Dehlinger

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of my short story, “The Black Silk Stockings”.

Christmas Blues

Although the Christmas season basks in Macy’s red, angel white and evergreen, I’m drawn, like a kid to Toys R Us, to the color blue. Not just any blue. It has to be that captivating shade of cobalt blue that’s found in Christmas lights.

I grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon in a house so small we had to move two living room chairs to the garage in order to put up a Christmas tree. We adorned our tree with one string of lights—an assortment of bulbs that didn’t blink, twinkle or bubble, and only one of which was blue. To protect the pine needles we put star-shaped aluminum collars around the bulbs before screwing them into their sockets. No matter where I sat, I’d make sure the collar of the blue bulb didn’t hide the mesmerizing effect its color had on me.

On the rare evenings our parents weren’t home, my sisters and I would darken the living room and take in the magic of this gleaming, tinseled tree that prettified our modest home a few weeks each year. No one spoke, each sister absorbed in her own thoughts, mine soothed by the one blue light that held my gaze.

I still live in a small house, this one in Bend, Oregon. The artificial Christmas tree my husband and I bought came with clear mini lights, and since people our age shouldn’t climb ladders, we no longer hang lights outside. Sarah Street, a few blocks away, is a virtual Disney light parade during the month of December, and for many years, one of the properties on that street was, for me, a blue fantasy. Nothing but blue lights bordered its windows, outlined the roof, and decorated the branches of every tree in the front yard. After dinner sometimes, while my husband napped, I’d drive over there and sit in the dark like I did as a child, filling my soul with blue serenity.

Last year there wasn’t a single light on the house I hoped to see. I drove home in a funk, feeling low as the lyrics in “Blue Christmas.” At least I wouldn’t be spending Christmas alone like Elvis, I told myself, and when I got home, I shared my blue light disappointment with my husband. The next day, while I was running errands, he bought a string of blue lights and wrapped it around the trunk of the tree outside our kitchen window. During dinner, he made some excuse to leave the table and turn them on. After we finished eating, I carried our dishes to the sink, and the minute I entered the kitchen, my heart swelled at the sight of our pine tree lit in blue. What a glorious way to get rid of my Christmas blues!

Colorado. 1885. Sparks fly as two young friends become ex-friends after one secretly marries the other’s widowed father. Overnight, fourteen-year-old Clara’s world crumbles when she learns her best friend Geneva, only two years older than she is, has become her stepmother.

Feeling betrayed by a father she adores and her only friend in the remote San Luis Valley, Clara wants nothing to do with her stepmother. Geneva pushes back, beginning a clash of wills that lasts until the flu epidemic of 1918.

About the Author: Ginger Dehlinger writes in multiple genres including two published novels–Brute Heart and Never Done. She writes for women in general and nature lovers in particular, focusing on lesser known aspects of the American West. She’s a member of Women Writing the West, Central Oregon Writer’s Guild, and a small, but fastidious critique group.

Ginger lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband Dick and a cat named Kiki.

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Winter Blogfest: Gail Kittleson

This post is part of Long and Shorts Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a dish towel with a recipe for lefse – USA only.

Traditions

When I married into a German-Norwegian family, I hadn’t given much thought to my family-of-origin’s nationality. We labeled ourselves Heinz 57, with the biggest share falling to the English. But my husband’s mother was 100% German, and she married a ¾ Norwegian, ¼ German man. Yet as far as Christmas traditions, the Norwegian side won out.

The only person in the entire extended family who doesn’t drool over lefse? That would be me. Nobody cares for the slithering Norwegian dish of lutefisk, but lefse—oh my! Early in our marriage, I learned to make these thin potato-flour rounds, but have since gotten lazy. With so many church bazaars offering the goods, and my husband receiving packages as gifts, why go to the effort?

Besides, our daughter married into an even stronger Norwegian family, so she’s learned the process. People eat this delicacy several ways, but my husband’s favorite is buttered with an extremely generous sprinkling of brown sugar. After that, we roll them up tight and insert in mouth. For my husband, some sort of heavenly bliss follows that last step.

Other than lefse, we follow a mix of traditions. The Christmas tree originated in Germany, as did lighting candles at the Christmas Eve service and singing Silent Night. Now that the grandchildren are older, it doesn’t matter whether we open gifts after the service or before. Oh—but we do enjoy oyster stew with homemade rice pudding. The pudding contains one almond that goes to the fortunate scooper, and supposedly foretells a year of good luck.

Tucked in my computer, a simple Christmas novella waits publication—otherwise, my novels offer little in the way of holiday celebrations. After all, it’s World War II, and empty places at the table do nothing to increase the cheer. Some families lost loved ones for good during the past year—others wait for word.

But through it all, the underlying hope that brightened this old weary world that first Christmas keeps these families going. At the candlelight service when we share that light with our neighbor, we’re reminded that whatever challenges and sorrows we face, we’re not alone.

In war-torn London, American Kate Isaac grieves her husband, awaits their child’s birth, and welcomes her best friend Addie. But after her miscarriage, a meeting with mysterious Monsieur le Blanc launches her into Britain’s Secret Operations Executive(SOE). In late 1943, Kate parachutes into Southern France to aid the Resistance.

Domingo, a grieving Basque mountain guide-turned-saboteur, meets her parachute drop, tends her injured ankle, and carries her to safety. Reunited a few months later, they discover the injured Monsieur le Blanc who with his dying breath, reveals his familial connection to Kate.

In the shadow of the Waffen SS, Domingo and Kate find his younger brother Gabirel missing. While Domingo seeks Gabirel, Domingo’s parish priest, Père Gaspard, creates a new identity for Kate.

United once again, Kate and Domingo subject their mutual attraction to the cause. But can mere human will and moral courage change the war’s tide and forge a future for them?

About the Author: When Gail’s not steeped in World War II research, drafting scenes, or deep in one edit or another, she does a limited amount of editing for other authors. She also facilitates writing workshops and classes, both in Iowa and Arizona, where winters find her enjoying the incredibly gorgeous Ponderosa forest under the Mogollon Rim. Favorites: walking, reading, meeting new people, and hearing from readers who fall in love with her characters.

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The Prophet and the Witch by James W. George

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. James W. George will be awarding a $20 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 Background of the Book/Series

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today. I wanted to discuss the background of this book and the book series. “The Prophet and the Witch” is book two of a trilogy, but it stands extremely well on its own. The book has been very well-received, and I am thrilled with the reviews it’s garnered since it was released.

The topic of the book series is King Philip’s War. King Philip’s War was a brutal war fought in New England in the 1670s. It was one of the most catastrophic events in the history of Colonial America, and most of us have never even heard of it. Approximately fifty years after the English colonists celebrated the first Thanksgiving with their Native American allies, relations degenerated to the point that war broke out. It’s a very sad fact that our popular history likes to gloss over.

When I decided to write a historical novel, I wanted to choose a topic that the average reader was not particularly familiar with. In my opinion, historical fiction is at its best when it educates as well as entertains. It seems to me like historical fiction is excessively focusing on four or five eras (the Viking conquests, WWII, the Tudors, the Templar Knights), while there is so much amazing, obscure history that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. For example, how many of us know the story of the French Huguenot settlement in Florida in the 1560s?

King Philip’s War was a fascinating struggle, and my books feature a variety of intriguing characters, both fictional and historical. Some of the historical figures include America’s first ranger, Captain Benjamin Church, Reverend Increase Mather, famous captive and author Mary Rowlandson, and Governor Josiah Winslow. The book is truly an epic saga. As I like to describe it:

A scheming, Scottish dandy, a beautiful, scarlet-haired, Quaker pacifist, a hulking, heroic son of a carpenter, a disgraced minister wrestling with insanity, an obnoxious, drunken pirate, a captivating young Native American on a spiritual quest, a seafood feast, a passionate wedding night, witchcraft, America’s first army ranger, Frenchmen, lacrosse, lots of holy scripture from the King James Bible, a slow, obstinate, flatulent horse, seventeenth-century-drinking-songs, Mohawks, betrayal, sorrow, joy, and hope. And a brutal, relentless war. All in one book!

Thank you for hosting me today!

Puritans. Quakers. Pirates. Mohawks. Witches. And a brutal war…

If you thought New England was dull in the 1670s, get ready for a history lesson.

In the critically acclaimed “My Father’s Kingdom,” debut author James W. George transported his readers to 1671 New England, and the world of Reverend Israel Brewster. It was a world of faith, virtue, and love, but it was also a world of treachery, hatred, and murder.

Four years later, Brewster is a disgraced outcast, residing in Providence and working as a humble cooper. Despite his best efforts, war could not be averted, and now, “King Philip’s War” has begun.

The rebellion is led by Metacomet, known as “King Philip” to the English colonists. He is the tormented son of the great Massasoit, and leader of the Wampanoag nation. Once the most reliable of Plymouth Colony’s allies, they are now the bitterest of enemies. Meanwhile, Metacomet’s mysterious counselor, Linto, despises this war and will do anything to end the bloodshed.

Meticulously researched, “The Prophet and the Witch” is a tale of hope and brotherhood in the face of evil and violence. It features the remarkable cast of fictional and historical characters from book one, including Josiah Winslow, Linto, Increase Mather, Constance Wilder, and Jeremiah Barron. Additionally, new characters such as America’s first ranger, Captain Benjamin Church, bring this chapter of history to life like never before.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It was a glorious sign from the Almighty. Of that, there could be no doubt.

This was certainly the opinion of Major William Bradford, and few seemed inclined to question the holy assessment of the good major and his magnificent pedigree. The fact that the garrison commander, the aged and venerated James Cudworth, enthusiastically concurred with his famous underling should have eliminated any debate amongst the Puritan faithful.

Bradford, however, would take no chances, and he zealously reinforced his initial assessment. “The will of the Lord, my brothers. The will of the Lord has clearly been made manifest in the night sky. Our cause is just, and our army is righteous.”

The Reverend John Miles felt obliged to speak, perhaps since it was his own Swansea home currently being used as a military garrison. “Yea, verily, hear the word of the Lord, recited for the holy soldiers of the Lord. It is certainly written in the Book of Joel, the sun and the moon will be darkened, and the stars shall no longer shine. And was not the death of the vile and wicked King Herod sanctified by an eclipse of the moon? Certainly, Metacomet is a vile enemy of our Lord and given to evil ways, just as King Herod. Metacomet, this odious King Philip, will indeed pay for his treason.”

Most of the Puritan militia garrisoned in Swansea solemnly bowed their heads. Some were troubled by the sight of a lunar eclipse on this balmy June night. The more learned among them recalled their history, and knew that a partially-eclipsed moon, in accordance with prophecy, rose above Constantinople in 1453. Seven days later, the magnificent city fell to the heathen.

There were also dim mutterings about the Peloponnesian War more than a thousand years ago. Evidently, a lunar eclipse so greatly troubled the Athenians that their war vessels sat shamefully idle in the harbor. Ultimately, their enemy exploited their fear and indecision, and destroyed the fleet.

Others were certain they witnessed the image of a human scalp within the eclipse. Was it the scalp of an Indian, or an Englishman? Was there even a scalp to be seen, or was it a witchcraft-induced hallucination? The quiet ruminations within the garrison were increasingly unsettling.

The sullen deliberations continued, and their confident martial zeal was slowly eroding. Bradford could discern the consternation among his troops, and he continued his exhortation. “The savages have committed a grave sin, and the Lord has made His displeasure clear with His handiwork in the night sky. Be brave, and be of good cheer, for certainly the holy Book of Judges commands us to…”

“Pig titties.”

Never before had one hundred devout Puritan men of high character witnessed such blasphemy in the face of both holy and civil authority. Major Bradford was the second-in-command of the expedition, and the respected son of the deceased and revered Governor William Bradford. Major Bradford, as usual, demonstrated a cautious temperament in the face of adversity.

“Excuse me?”

About the Author:

James W. George is a lover of history and historical fiction. He is a graduate of Boston University and a military veteran. He is currently residing in Virginia with his wife and children.

He published his critically-acclaimed debut novel, My Father’s Kingdom in January 2017. The novel described the prelude to King Philip’s War in New England in the 1670s. The Indie View gave it five stars: “This is high historical drama handled wonderfully…a tale that will fully engage you on every level.”

My Father’s Kingdom is a planned trilogy, and book two, The Prophet and the Witch, was published in September 2017. This is an epic novel that spans the entire conflict of King Philip’s War, and includes such notable historical figures as Josiah Winslow, Increase Mather, Metacomet, Benjamin Church, and Mary Rowlandson. The Literary Titan awarded it five stars and a gold medal for October 2017.

The author is looking forward to book three of the trilogy, and he can be found on Goodreads.

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