Saving Nary by Carol DeMent – Guest Blog and Giveaway


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

Whose story is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Buy the book at The Wild Rose Press.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Never Done by Ginger Dehlinger


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

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

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

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

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

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The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore – Spotlight

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Marilyn, Music and Top Tens

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic for the People – R.E.M.

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

One More Story – Peter Cetera

Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

August and Everything After – Counting Crows

Wilson Phillips – Wilson Phillips

World Falling Down – Peter Cetera

Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Rhythm Nation 1814 – Janet Jackson

Listen Without Prejudice – George Michael

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

Thanks for letting me stop by for a visit!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

“What kind of project?”

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

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

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

“And what does this winning project involve?”

“Marilyn Monroe. It’s a screenplay.”

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

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

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

“That’s right.”

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

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

He patted the envelope, which crinkled at his touch.

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

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin – Spotlight and Giveaway


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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

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

“Rockin’ party,” I joked.

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

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

“Why can’t you wear it?”

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

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

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

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

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One Week to the Wedding by Olivia Miles – Q&A and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of book one in Olivia Miles’ Misty Point series, One Week to the Wedding, an unforgettable story of love, betrayal, and sisterhood. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Welcome, Olivia, to Long and Short Reviews. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plotter, however, often the story will evolve and change as I write. Still, I need some framework, so I always plan out my books before I start writing them.

Where are you from and what do you love best about your hometown?

I grew up in New England, which is where most (all?) of my books are set. Perhaps because I no longer live there, I have a greater fondness for it, and I do consider the quaint appeal to be the perfect backdrop for my small town settings.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d probably tell myself not to read my reviews. I’m not sure if people realize that many authors do read their reviews. Given that books, like movies or television shows, are subjective, opinions vary. At the beginning I would see something that someone didn’t like in one of my books and feel anxious I was repeating it in my next book. Sometimes these things were very small. I finally reached a point of knowing I would drive myself to misery if I continued to think that way. You can’t always please everyone, and you just have to write the best book you can, and one that fits your vision.

Ebook or print? And why?

I prefer print books. I like a break from screen time, and I like the feel of books. I also like to be surrounded by bookshelves.

How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?

I try not to focus too much on what other authors are doing, although it’s important to see what’s trending. But at the end of the day, I really just focus on my own stories without comparing them too much to anyone else’s work. It won’t change what I put out, so staying true to my characters and their stories is what matters most.

Kate Daniels couldn’t be more excited to be planning her best friend’s wedding…in theory.

Lately, just thinking about gowns and centerpieces makes her want to hide under the covers with her dog and a good book—one that doesn’t include a romantic plot, thank you very much. Maybe it’s because her fiancé cheated. Or maybe it’s because he cheated with her younger sister, Charlotte. Or maybe it’s because her newfound reputation as jilted wedding planner isn’t exactly doing wonders for her career.

Charlotte knows she messed up. Big time. But she also knows something Kate doesn’t-something that might bring them close again, if her sister will ever take her calls. But as time passes and silence grows, Charlotte begins to realize she can’t hide from her problems forever, and that sometimes the only place to run is home.

With the wedding only a week away, Kate expects a few surprises. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself believing…in the strength of family, and the possibility of finding love again.

In the vein of New York Times bestselling authors Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, and Kristan Higgins, comes the first in a new women’s fiction novel from Olivia Miles.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Alec was leaning against the pole of a street light when Kate approached. Dressed in khaki shorts and a crisp white t-shirt that accentuated every curve of his thick biceps, Kate’s resolve since her conversation with Elizabeth had already weakened and she found herself fighting off the urge to run her hands over that rippled chest–

And that was officially crazy talk.

It had just been too long since she’d touched a man, that was all. It was a natural reaction that surely anyone would have to someone of the opposite sex after all this time. Especially one who looked like Alec.

“Hey!” He flashed her a big grin as she closed the distance between them.

She brightened at the sight of his friendly smile, wishing the response wasn’t so automatic. “Hey.”

Alec gestured to the bistro. “It’s full, but the wait should only be a few minutes.”

“I don’t mind,” Kate said, glancing at the customers who had filled the stretch of sidewalk tables. It was a romantic restaurant, one of the best in Misty Point, but she knew better than to assume this was why Alec had chosen it. He was visiting town, it was close to his hotel, and from an outsider’s point of view it probably just looked like a nice place to eat. Besides, he was probably used to picking the finest options. It was surely nothing more than that.’

And she shouldn’t wish it to be.

Just thinking of how betrayed her friend would feel to know that Kate was siding with the enemy was enough to make her come up with an excuse and leave. Going through with this dinner at this cozy little spot would make her the worst kind of friend there was. She knew too many people like this already, and she didn’t want to follow in their example.

She stole a glance at him, taking in the strong width of his back as he casually studied the menu outside the restaurant, his hands thrust in his pockets, his hair wavy and dark and just begging for her to tangle her fingers through…Stop it!

She opened her mouth, knowing she had to say something, but not knowing quite what, when she saw him. Jake. He was coming around the corner, laughing that laugh, smiling that smile, without a care in the world. He was rounding the bend, coming in her direction. She watched in frozen horror, not knowing whether to hide or run. Her mind ran rampant with every worst case scenario. Was he coming to the restaurant? Would he speak to her? What would she say?

What was he even doing here? He was supposed to be gone, long gone.

And then she remembered. The phone calls. Charlotte. Panicking, she darted her gaze, searching for her sister, not knowing what she would say if she saw her.

“Alec.” Her voice locked in her throat, coming out strained and forced.

He turned to face her, his eyes growing wide at the sight of her. “Are you okay?”

“I need you to do me a favor,” she whispered urgently. Her heart was pounding as her eyes zipped from Alec to Jake and back again.

He hadn’t noticed her. Not yet. But he would. And soon.

Alec rolled his eyes in a joking way. “Do the best man duties ever end? What do you need me to do now? Arrange flowers? Frost the cake? Oh…I know. Kiss the bride?”

“No. Kiss me.” She blinked, shocked by her own words. It was rash, impulsive, and desperate. She was probably sending him all the wrong messages. But she didn’t even care.

For once, she wasn’t thinking about the ripple effect of her actions. Or what she would say in five minutes. All she could think about was the here and now. And that if she didn’t have time to run and hide from the people who had publicly humiliated her, the most she could do was prove to Jake—and Charlotte–that was over it. That they hadn’t hurt her. That she was just fine.

Alec’s eyes flashed as the smile vanished from his face, replaced with a look of surprise. “What?”

“Kiss me,” she repeated breathlessly, her mind racing. She hadn’t even contemplated the thought that he might turn her down, laugh in her face, storm off. It would make it all worse–seal her humiliation. “I need you to kiss me. Right now.”

Alec’s expression was frozen and for a moment Kate was struck with the horrifying thought that he would drag this out, or turn it into a joke. She didn’t have time for that. But then his brows lifted and his lips curled into a devilish grin. “If you insist,” he murmured, reaching down to scoop his arms around her waist in one smooth effort.

His kiss was anything but shy as he pressed his lips to hers, pulling her so close to his chest she could feel the heat of his body through his shirt.

Her knees went a little weak as she let herself go, and for a moment, she wasn’t even thinking of Jake or Charlotte at all. She wasn’t thinking of the hurt, the pain, or what would happen next, when they broke apart. She wasn’t thinking of anything.

About the Author:Olivia Miles writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. A city girl with a fondness for small town charm, Olivia enjoys highlighting both ways of life in her stories. She lives just outside Chicago with her husband, young daughter, and two ridiculously pampered pups.

 

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


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

What Kind of Writer Am I?

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

~From Lisa Montagne’s “The Jumpsuit”

About the Authors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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