What would you tell a new author? by Kenneth B. Little – Guest Blog and Giveaeway Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kenneth B. Little and Helen Davies will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What would you tell a new author?

I have just written my own first novel and it was quite a learning experience.

Before I scare the heck out of you aspiring authors, let me assure you that writing and publishing a book is extremely gratifying. Long after you are gone, people will read and enjoy your creation.

Now for my free fatherly advice…

1) You should have access to a steady flow of funds for at least 12-18 months, depending upon the scope and scale of your first book. If you are forever cold and hungry, you might feel quite creative but it will be hard to stay focused on the task.

2) Writing the first draft of your book will hopefully be fun and engaging. Going back over the entire manuscript to edit and revise the book 2-3 times is a tedious and agonizing process. Be prepared and commit to the pain!

3) As brilliant as most of us are in our own eyes, having dedicated access to one or more helpful editors will result in a much better book. Even if you have wonderful and talented family and friends, you should set aside funds for a professional review at the end of the process.

4) Don’t assume that a major publishing company will have any interest in your first book unless you are related to the owner or a senior manager.

5) Once you have published the book you will have to be the driving force in promoting sales. Your self-publishing company can help you for a fee, but you must do the work. Strong social media skills will help a lot but you must also beat the pavement to get into local retail outlets. This endeavor will keep you busy for years.

6) If your goal is to ultimately earn living writing books, you should consider writing a series so success from the first book will create a market for the second and future books.

I began writing my first book after I retired. I highly recommend this to seniors who still feel that they have a lot to contribute. You will never be bored!

Humans are on the brink of disaster…

In the United States, President Samuel Cummings has taken the reins of a deeply divided country at a time when nuclear, chemical, biological and cyberthreats loom.

Things look bleak until God’s emissary Sarah, a composite of 40 million female souls from Heaven, arrives on Earth with the message that God is intervening in human affairs to save the human race from itself. God, she explains, is the life force of the universe, the only intelligent form of energy. People who help others grow their own life force will join God in Heaven. However, many humans are more inclined toward hatred, intolerance and greed and so God is intervening to course-correct them.

The first thing Sarah does is to announce God’s edict of ‘thou shalt not kill’ to the world. Anyone who tries to kill another person—or who enables someone to do so—will die instead. As commander-in-chief, Cummings must call back his military troops or risk his life. He must then deal with both the fallout and benefits of the dissolution of America’s military-industrial

Sarah’s mission is to establish a new world order that is kinder, better and united. As she guides the world through this evolution, President Cummings begins to notice a depth in his own soul that makes him both a better man and a better leader.

Sarah remains on Earth for one year to help the world come together, and leaves behind a legacy of hope—a second chance for humankind.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It was 9:02 p.m. on a Friday evening in late April, and American President Samuel Cummings sat alone in the Oval Office. He was tired. He had been watching the progress of the North Koreans with horror as they launched their first military satellite into space, and as usual, he was brooding about the state of the world, the events that had led up to this moment, and the jeopardy that his country was currently facing.

Cummings was awaiting the arrival of his Chief of Staff, Bradley Northrup. It was customary for them to meet on Friday evenings for a weekly ‘round-up’, a discussion of the past week’s events, so they could plan for the upcoming week. Northrup was running a little late, and President Cummings did his best not to be annoyed. However, he was getting hungry, and he wished he was in the White House living quarters, having dinner with the First Lady, his wife, Lorena.

He stared at his briefing notes, scanning them for the latest policy to do with North Korea, and then rubbed his eyes with fatigue. When he focused again on the paper he held in his hands, he was surprised to note the glaring whiteness of it. It suddenly seemed much brighter than normal, and the words appeared to swim nonsensically on the page. He blinked a couple of times, wondering if his eyes were playing tricks on him, and made a mental note to book an appointment with his optometrist. Then he shook the paper and tried once more to focus on the typed text, but it was no use; The letters started moving again, appearing disturbingly three-dimensional, almost as if they were going to jump off the page. He frowned, thinking, I’m tired . . . where is that damn Northrup?

Then suddenly, an unearthly light, so bright he had to shut his eyes, filled the room. It’s finally happened, he thought in shock. The Russians have nuked us. But there was no explosion, and when he opened them, he was clearly still alive. He was also beyond startled to see a woman standing in front of his desk.

About the Author Kenneth B. Little is a 72-year-old retired business executive who is unhappy about how the state of the world has deteriorated during his lifetime.

The human population has ballooned from one billion to nearly eight billion, and people have moved off the land into massive cities where they have no ability to survive on their own. Instead, we rely on massive electrical grids energized by power plants largely burning fossil fuel; we’ve developed industrial complexes and global transportation systems that also rely on fossil fuel; we’ve created corporate farms that promote animal cruelty and destroy the soil by overusing chemicals; we’ve decimated our ocean marine life by dragging the ocean floor; we’ve created plastics that pollute land, rivers, lakes and oceans; and, of course, we’ve created nuclear, chemical, biological and cyber weapons that are now in the hands of unstable countries and terrorist organizations.

In short, we are racing headlong into a series of mass extinction events.

At seventy-two, Ken felt motivated to try to create a better world for his grandchildren by writing a fiction book full of non-fiction ideas that could potentially correct many of the world’s problems. Realizing that the only two avenues toward this were themes of divine intervention or mass extinction, he chose divine intervention as the solution, creating a scenario where God could step in to save humankind.

Ken wrote his initial manuscript during the Covid-19 lockdown, a 70,000-word overview that his wife told him read like a textbook. Deciding to see professional help, he engaged Tellwell Publishing to do a critical edit, which was performed by Tellwell editor Helen Davies.

Helen was intrigued by the storyline but, like Ken’s wife, felt it needed a lot of work to develop the characters and make it more engaging. With Tellwell’s blessing, Ken then contracted Helen to do just that. Thus began a most unusual and successful collaboration!

Says Ken:

Helen and I are completely different people. She is a writer, musician, and farmer. I am the grumpy old man who watches European business news when I get up at 3:00 a.m. We live as far apart as possible in Canada. She lives in Victoria on the West Coast, and I live in Fredericton on the East Coast. We have never met, yet we talked for nearly two hours on our first phone conversation. Usually, I never talk for more than five minutes with anybody on the phone. What unites us is that we share a passion for this story, and for the idea of a better, more united world.

During the writing process, Helen routinely sent me edited chapters, one at a time, always with the tagline, “I hope you like it.” I like it very much; the story I wrote that sounded like a textbook now brings tears to my eyes.

God’s Intervention: A Second Chance for Humankind is a story of hope.
We hope you like it.
Kenneth B. Little and Helen Davies

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The Final Crossing by Vince Santoro – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Vince Santoro will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?

My story, The Final Crossing, is both character-driven and plot-driven. The blend approach relates to my writing style, an attempt to write a rich and satisfying story.

A plot-driven story focuses on action while a character-driven story focuses on the portrayal of a character or characters. Many believe, the publishing market included, that a plot-driven story is better. And so, we hear of stories being a “page turner”, one filled with “tension” or “conflict”, concepts usually attributed to a plot-driven story. Think of The Da Vinci Code and Jurassic Park as examples of plot-driven stories.

Character-driven stories, such as The Catcher in the Rye and most recently Where the Crawdads Sing, are heavy on emotions and what the character is thinking. There must be a change to the character, the character arc.

Most writers tend to lean to one style. I sought to balance the two. The main character, Nenshi, starts at point A, then something happens, not by accident, but because of the choices he makes influenced by his inner world. This plot-driven approach continues throughout the story whereby the events are laden with tension, conflict, snap decisions, etc. The character-driven approach comes into play as we see Nenshi grow and change ultimately ending up at point B.

Regardless of the approach a writer chooses, I believe the story must have both character and plot.

If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The hero/heroine, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?

All my characters are made up of parts of me. So, I look at it differently. Not which character from my story would I be, but which character would I like to be.

You might think it would the protagonist Nenshi or his best friend Hordekef. Not so. I would like to be Soreb, Nenshi’s sagacious tutor, whom we never see because he has long been dead. But his presence through his teachings, words of wisdom, and guidance are often remembered. They anchor Nenshi on his journey as he redefines who he is.

Do people you know end up as characters in your book? Be honest…

The people I know, per se, don’t end up in my book as characters. But their personality, temperament, integrity or lack of, strengths or weaknesses, etc. do become part of the essential qualities of the characters I have created.

For example, there are people that I have met in life who are deceitful and selfish. Some of the characters in my story certainly exhibit such qualities. I have also met people with high moral standards, are kind and generous. These qualities are also embedded into some of my characters.

If you could meet a literary character, who would you most like to meet?

I would like to meet Atticus Finch, from the story To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus is a widowed father and middle-aged lawyer who lives with dignity, humility, courage, and honesty.

He is consistent with his beliefs and true to his conscience, exemplified when he decides to defend Tom Robinson, an African American accused of raping a white woman. When his young daughter asks him why he supports Tom, Atticus replies, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

So, what makes this man tick? What was his childhood like that shaped his character, traits of compassion, thoughtfulness, honesty, and morality? What influenced him to become a strong advocate of equality regardless of people’s background and skin color? These are just some of the questions that would help me to get me to know Atticus more, a literary character I would most like to meet.

Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy?

Before I had sent my draft to an editor, I had made numerous changes. The beginning had changed, the middle as well, and the ending had changed – several times. Chapters were added, some deleted. All that is normal for a writer.

I do recall one scene that remained throughout my revisions until the final copy. It’s a scene when the protagonist, Nenshi, is among desert Bedouins. In the scene, during a festive meal, a dancer lures Nenshi away. I think you can imagine what happens next.

But my editor suggested I delete the scene. As he put it, it didn’t move the story forward. I thought long and hard about, objectively. He was right. I deleted the scene.

How much research went into your last book?

Writing historical fiction has its challenges. The story may be about a period that some readers know very little about or they may know more than the writer. Regardless, the historical facts of the story need to be researched and then used to help tell the story.

My story is set in the Ancient World – Egypt, the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Persia. There’s plenty of information about these lands and it can be at times overwhelming. My researched focused on a specific timeline, 1800 BCE. I chose this for a couple of reasons. First, it coincides with the beginning of a declining state of Egypt, which played a big part with the protagonist’s status as a servant and his request to be set free. Secondly the timeline coincides with the historical accounts of the Biblical character, Abraham (Abramu in the story).

I considered the facts that I researched and then utilized all five senses and weaved them into a story that made both facts and senses real. I used historical accounts and based on other lesser-known facts, used them to conceptualize an event or situation. The purpose was to make the story readable, believable, or spark thought-provoking alternatives to traditionally known facts.

It was important for me not to write a history book and I had to be careful that all those interesting pieces of information, unearthed in research, did not end up as “info-dump” in the story but rather became an integral part of the story that kept the momentum moving, that brought characters and settings to life.

Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?

I have always had a fascination, a curiosity, for ancient civilizations. After graduating with a degree in History and a minor in Behavioural Sciences it occurred to me that the two were interconnected.

Behavioural Science deals with several disciplines: sociology, social and cultural anthropology, psychology, etc. History is the study of the past; the events that have changed over time.

Historically, what has caused man to change and why? What has caused man not to change? Events related to their history are influenced by the conditions of the time – socially, culturally, etc.

And so, I chose one of the most well-known ancient civilizations and its surrounding lands to tell a story about what I believe have been man’s quest since time immemorial: freedom, love, and the guiding hand of a god.

As we strive for the same goals, we question our beliefs, we change our behaviours, we hold on to what has served us well, we redefine ourselves and our world, for a better life.

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

I’m working on a second book, also historical fiction, which takes place in Italy and North Africa during WWII, titled Letters of Redemption.

The story is told through a dual point of view, from the protagonist Antonio and from the protagonist Maria. It’s a story of Antonio’s search for reconciliation from his transgressions and of Maria’s hunger for independence and apprehension over newfound love.

During the war Antonio writes letters on behalf of another soldier, Roberto, to Maria. Roberto had never learned how to write. Maria didn’t know this because she had just met him before he was sent to the front lines of North Africa. The secret is well hidden and even after Roberto’s death in battle, as the war continues, so do the letters. They become Antonio’s own expression of love that ultimately leads to guilt and a search for how to end the dishonesty. In the meantime, Maria has moved from her hometown in Taormina to Rome to find work to help her parents in poverty-stricken and war-torn Sicily. It’s also an opportunity to be independent. And she doesn’t know about Roberto’s death.

As the letters continue to reach Maria in Rome, Antonio’s dishonesty leads to guilt but the relationship he had created and nurtured over time prevents him from telling the truth. He has fallen in love. As the war comes to an end, Antonio must find Maria, plea for forgiveness and declare his love for her. Maria, who has also fallen in love with the man behind the letters, must decide whether to follow her heart or let Antonio go.

In this tale of self-discovery and adventure, we are connected with a history we’ve come to know as the cradle of civilization.

Nenshi, an Egyptian house servant, raised in nobility, is well-schooled, a master huntsman and hungers to be free. His master agrees to grant his freedom but while the petition is set to be heard, Nenshi’s indiscretion gets in the way. He is caught in a secret love affair with a woman above his social status.

As punishment, he is exiled to labour in the Nubian gold mines. His life turns upside down as he is thrust into a world for which he had been ill prepared. He escapes from the mines and vows to return to Thebes, but his attempts push him farther and farther away on a journey that redefines him – a journey mired with cruelty, bloodshed, and the discovery of a new deity.

In the end Nenshi learns his freedom has been granted and must decide whether to return to his homeland or start a new life.

“I greatly enjoyed this well written story by Vince Santoro. He takes us across the Ancient World through the protagonist, Nenshi, an exiled Egyptian servant who struggles with class structure, both around and within himself. Santoro weaves a story of ideas – a sense of belonging, monotheism, and the human soul – told through Nenshi’s rite of passage through to his final crossing. The setting is visually evocative of “spirit of place” as the novelist and travel writer Lawrence Durrell called it. It’s a story worth reading.” – Terry Stanfill

Award winning historical fiction author of The Gift from Fortuny, Realms of Gold, The Blood Remembers and other works.

“Vince Santoro is a gifted storyteller. I found The Final Crossing difficult to put down because it is well written. As an historian and author of non-fiction books, I am impressed with the amount of research that Santoro has done to prepare this story of adventure and romance set in the ancient Middle East. The customs, the beliefs and even the character names are all authentic to that region and era. With so many plot twists and turns, Santoro will keep you guessing about what might happen next to the protagonist until the very end!” – John Charles Corrigan

Author of The Red Knight and “Love Always”

Enjoy an Excerpt

Nenshi and Hordekef meandered through the passages, some narrow, some wide enough to parade animals for sale. There was a different mood among the merchants. Nenshi noticed the acrid atmosphere. An unsettled sensation lingered, like a haunting image from a nightmare. The acrimony spread like the annual flooding of the River Iteru – the sorrowful tears of Isis for her dead husband Osiris.

But Nenshi could not let things go unsaid. At the very least to make sure Hordekef was aware of it all.

“Something is very different today,” Nenshi said.

Hordekef surveyed the surroundings. “All I see is the same greedy merchants selling the same worthless merchandise to the same rude buyers.” He grinned and then pushed a short man aside who stood in his way. The man turned and raised his hand to strike but realized the difference in size and strength. He casually submitted to the titan and moved aside.

“Look around,” Nenshi said. “Tehuti may be right, the heqa khasewet may be closer than we think.”

Hordekef laughed. “You are obsessed with this notion of invaders.” He refused to let Nenshi’s preoccupation ruin his day. “If they’re as close as you suggest, the marketplace would be empty.”

“Don’t you see there aren’t as many merchants.”

“That doesn’t mean an attack is imminent.”

Even though there were fewer merchants, the market was still busy. A sea of sellers and buyers overflowed the narrow paths. Merchandise of every kind, from near and far, strewn on tables, hung on ropes, were on display to attract customers. Merchants added their own special calling, chanted or yelled, to solicit a sale.

Nonetheless, Nenshi remained vigilant. Unlike raids, common in small towns, he knew attacks in Thebes were never anticipated. And like many others, he had been lulled in the belief that the Walls of the Prince, there to protect the people, were impenetrable.

“This is the perfect stage for an attack,” he said. “A large unsuspecting crowd is fodder for mayhem.” But he was hardly heard, drowned by squealing flutes, competing with thunderous drumbeats.

About the Author: Vince is an Italian-born Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Canada, and now lives in Pickering, a suburb of Toronto.

In his youth, education and sports became a priority. A private boys’ school, St. Michael’s College in Toronto, provided the opportunity for both. He graduated from York University, Toronto, with a degree in history and a minor in behavioural science.

Vince was always up for new challenges. After completing his studies, he set his eyes on Europe and played professional basketball in Italy. When he returned home, he shifted gears and worked in the aerospace industry in several capacities. The most rewarding was managing internal communications for a large aircraft manufacturer. It was during this time he decided to hone his writing skills by studying journalism at Ryerson University, Toronto, and he had several articles published.

His career in communications along with studies in history and journalism prepared him to take on his next challenge: to write a book. His debut novel, The Final Crossing, has been a labour of love, one he worked on for many years. It reflects life experiences, woven into a story that inspires and entertains, and perhaps even show the world in a different way.

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Diamonds n’ Roses by Vogue – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

After battling through the highs and lows of an intense and often dramatic relationship, fashion designer, Carmen Davenport, and business mogul, Jay Santiago, are finally ready to plan their most anticipated event to date – their wedding. However, before they can get down the aisle, they must endure a few unexpected surprises, twists, and turns.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Finally hearing her voice, Jay set the pencil on the desk. “I’m serious about this wedding. Lately, I haven’t been showing that side of me, but I promise, all that is going to change. I’m going to be more involved like I should’ve been in the beginning.”

“You better,” Carmen replied, rising from her chair. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if we have this conversation again.” She picked up the rest of the papers, organizing the documents into a stack, which she set on top of her laptop. “Everything will be right here if you want to look at it. I’m gonna head upstairs. I’m done for the day.”

Jay didn’t pressure her into staying, but he did make sure to get a kiss before she left. To him, the kiss served as confirmation he was officially in her good graces. He still had a lot to prove, but at least he was off to a start. The only thing he had to do now was play catch up.
Once she left, he reached for the stack of papers. He reviewed each one until he was up to date. For Carmen to be the only person majorly contributing aside from the planners, she had put a major dent in the planning stage. There were still things which needed to be decided upon, which led Jay to grab a sheet of paper from the printer. He started jotting down ideas and by the time he was there was hardly any white space on either side of the page.

About the Author:Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Vogue’s journey through the world of creative writing first began in middle school with poetry and songwriting. However, it was her discovery of prose that opened the door to a world of endless possibilities.

A graduate of Winthrop University (Rock Hill, S.C.), possessing a bachelor’s degree in social work, Vogue, first birthed the idea of The Diamond Collection in the halls of her alma mater. In 2003, she put pen to paper and thus was created, Diamonds in The Rough, part one of The Diamond Collection series.

By 2010, Vogue had written drafts of the entire ten book series and in June of 2010, Diamonds in The Rough, was published. Soon followed by Diamonds Are Forever in October of 2010, The Ace of Diamonds in February of 2013, and Black Diamonds on July 4, 2015, Vogue joined a league of other writers, determined to make her mark in the literary world.

Vogue released the fifth book in the series, Diamonds N’ Roses, on December 25, 2016. She took a hiatus to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Queens University in Charlotte, NC, but released parts six and seven of the Diamond Collection series, The Diamond Tiara and Dirty Red Diamonds, on June 7, 2022.

When she isn’t writing, Vogue enjoys cooking, blogging about food (Instagram: Miss Black Foodie), attending concerts, festivals, and traveling.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Choosing Charity by Sara Zavacki-Moore

Thanks for joining us on our 15th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!

Straight-laced and anxiety-ridden Anna never expected to save someone’s life. When she sees a woman standing on the ledge of a bridge, she can’t help but intervene.

The unexpected kindness from a stranger changes the course of Kylie’s life. Only now, she has to figure out a way to tell her creepy boss that she can’t exactly dance around a dimly lit pole with an ugly cast halfway up her leg.

Kylie’s scars are inked upon her body, while Anna can’t go a whole day without popping painkillers. Determined to make her therapist proud, Anna takes a chance on opening her heart and her home to someone who seems to need a friend even more than she does.

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Wild Salvation by Alfred Stifsim – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Alfred Stifsim will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of a writer am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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Advice for Writers by Robert Creekmore – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Robert Creekmore will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Advice for Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We stay intertwined longer than either of us realize.

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

It is Lesley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When We Return by Eliana Tobias – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliana Tobias lives in Vancouver, B.C.

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Benevolence of New Ideas by Carmela Cuttuti – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

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

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Patricia S. Gibbons will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The hardest part about writing is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An exciting read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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