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"Samantha" by Andrea Kane

Posted: 25 Oct 2016 01:00 AM PDT

(Barrett Family Series Book 2)
by Andrea Kane

Samantha is the second book in the Barrett Family Series by Andrea Kane. Also available: My Heart's Desire (read my blog post).

Samantha is currently on tour with Providence Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on The Murder That Never Was.

New York Times bestselling author Andrea Kane has thrilled readers with her poignant, sensual love stories. Affaire de Coeur said, "Andrea Kane's talent knows no bounds." Now she brings us a captivating story of a young lady whose romantic fancies are about to come true.
Lady Samantha Barrett is determined to find the man of her dreams. Of course, he must be devastatingly handsome and just a bit dangerous. Now, her coach is filled with a collection of gothic novels and her head with romantic notions as she eagerly leaves her brother's country estate for her first London Season. Still unsophisticated and too innocent by far, Samantha is ill prepared for the hypocrisy of the ton or for the formidable stranger who crosses her path - a stranger she is sure must be her long awaited hero.
Remington Worth, the Earl of Gresham, is reputed to be anything but a hero. He is, however, intrigued by the fresh, young Lady Samantha. At sea, Remington had been a brilliant captain. To help save his country, he has become the Crown's most deadly and dedicated covert agent, posing as a notorious womanizer and blackmailer. His latest orders are to investigate the mysterious disappearances of England's prized merchant vessels. He would allow no one to get in his way or touch his heart - until Samantha.

In walked the man of her dreams.
Samantha stared, transfixed, as the vision stepped directly from the pages of her latest gothic romance into the noisy, smoke-filled tavern.
He had arrived… her long-awaited hero.
It mattered not that he was a total stranger to her… nor that he patronized so seedy an establishment as this… nor that he pointedly displayed an ominous-looking knife handle from the top of one muddied Hessian boot. All that mattered was his towering height, his thick black hair, his uncompromising jaw, his piercing gray eyes. And that dimple… it was just where she'd always known it would be; in his left cheek. It flashed briefly as he nodded a greeting to someone, then vanished into the taut lines of his face.
Yes, it was irrefutably he… the hero of all her fantasies.
Breathless and eager, Samantha watched as he carelessly swung off his great coat, shaking rivulets of rain from it with swift, purposeful strokes. Simultaneously, he surveyed the room, his cool gaze taking in the shoddy furnishings and seedy occupants in one enveloping glance.
He moved forward, commanding and sure, coming closer to where Sammy sat… close enough so she could see the drops of water glistening in his raven-black hair, causing the ends to curl a bit at the nape. He seemed to be looking for someone.
Instead, he found her.
Dark brows raised, not with instantaneous, adoring surrender, but with decided, disapproving surprise.
Without hesitating, Sammy flashed him a smile, drinking in his splendid, chiseled features and exciting, leashed power. He was just as she had imagined him… no, better.
Her heart tightened in her chest as he approached her.
"What despicable cad deserted you here, little one?"
"Pardon me?" Sammy blinked in confusion.
With apparent disgust, her hero scanned the room. "You needn't feel ashamed. Just tell me what unscrupulous blackguard accompanied you to such a place, then abandoned you."
"Oh, nothing like that, sir." Sammy assured him brightly. "Actually, it was I who spotted this establishment from my carriage window and chose to stop here. Given the circumstances, it seemed the best place…"
"The best place… to what?" He looked censuring now, his gray eyes chilling, stormier than the skies that heralded tonight's downpour. "Is this your idea of an evening adventure? If so, you've either lost your way or your mind! Tell me, have you looked about you? I seriously doubt that you have, else you would have bolted. And, thankfully, it seems that these low-lifes have yet to spot you as prey. Had they done so, I assure you that your elegant gown would have long since been tossed up over your foolish, beautiful head!"
Sammy sucked in her breath. This wasn't at all the way she'd envisioned their first meeting.
Following her hero's icy, pointed gaze, she surveyed the dimly lit tavern, trying to see what was upsetting him so. True, the tables were a bit shabby, even broken in spots, and the pungent smell of gin… mixed with some other, unrecognizable foul odor… permeated the room. And, she had to admit, the occupants of the tavern did need to shave… as well as to bathe. Still, they'd shown no signs of harming or even approaching her; so why was her hero hinting at violence?
"I don't know what you mean, sir," she confessed, bewildered. "Despite their rather coarse attire and unpolished manners, the gentlemen here have made no improper advances toward me. They are merely enjoying their spirits and each other's company."
The stranger gaped in utter disbelief.
"Gentlemen?" he managed. Leaning forward, he lowered his voice to a muffled hiss. "Sheltered innocent, what you see are pickpockets, highwaymen and drunks… and an occasional murderer or two." He straightened, emphatic and fierce. "This is Boydry's… as unsavory a pub as they come… not the bloody Clarendon Hotel!"
"Really?" Samantha was finding it very difficult to share the intensity of his tirade. She was too busy drowning in the hypnotic spell of his towering presence. And, after all, he was only trying to protect her… the foremost duty of a true hero.
"If such is the case, then why are you here?" she asked, half-tempted to stroke the hard, uncompromising line of his jaw. "You don't appear unsavory to me."
His dimple flickered in response. "Don't I? That is only because you don't know me."
"No… but I'd like to."
He blinked. "You'd like to…"
"Oh yes. Don't you see?" Sammy leaned forward, making an animated sweep with her hands. "It's as if Mrs. Radcliffe had penned it; a young woman alone… darkness… danger." A pause. "Of course I would have preferred a castle turret to a tavern…" she gave a philosophical shrug, "… nevertheless, you've arrived… and you're exactly as I pictured you."
"You have lost your mind," he muttered.

Praise for the Book
"Samantha is the second in the Barrett Family series and tells the story of Drake Barrett's younger sister who we met in My Heart's Desire. Like that book this publication celebrates the 25th anniversary of Samantha 's first release and includes tidbits from the author about writing it all those years ago. [...] Samantha is a high spirited happy novel. Samantha is steadfast in her faith in her hero and shows a dogged determination to make him hers. However, she has no intention of merely allowing him to be her hero. She must also be his heroine and will do whatever it takes to save him as well. It's this balance of equality that makes me appreciate this novel even more. Samantha is not some simpering miss in need of a husband and protector. She is a woman with a good mind who is looking for a partner to love and share her live. Indeed, Samantha will save Rem just as he saves her. [...] Samantha is a fun romantic read with plenty of adventure as well as humor that had me quickly turning its pages to devour the story." ~ Cozy Up With Kathy
"No one does reformed rake and guileless heroine better than Andrea Kane. The follow up to My Heart's Desire, Andrea Kane delivers Sammy's long-awaited happy ending in an exciting tale of passion and intrigue set against the backdrop of the 19th century shipping industry. And, I suspect any woman who grew up reading romance novels voraciously and dreaming of happily-ever-after will see a glimpse of herself in Sammy. A fantastic read - I highly recommend!" ~ Janelle Fluharty

About the Author
Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, including thirteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles.
With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge - and keeping her readers up all night.
Kane's beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart's Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.
With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.
Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She's an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she's either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of Samantha by Andrea Kane (US only).


"See Me" by H. R. Hobbs

Posted: 25 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

ON SALE for $0.99
See Me
(Breaking the Rules Book 1)
by H. R. Hobbs

See Me is the first book in the new Breaking the Rules series by H. R. Hobbs. The book is ON SALE for $0.99 (save $2.00) to 27 October. The author stops by today to share an excerpt. Keep an eye out for my review, coming soon.

Hannah follows the rules, always. The rules at school. The rules at home. But what people don't know is that Hannah has her own rules. They protect her. Keep her invisible.
And they work-until Chip Cavanagh arrives at her school. Chip doesn't have rules. Hannah soon learns that being friends with Chip means she can't be invisible any longer.

Chapter 1
No! No! No! Not behind me. Anywhere but behind me, I thought to myself, keeping my eyes firmly on my desk, trying to be invisible. My shoulders lifted and I tucked my chin to my chest to make myself as small as possible. Disappear, I thought, don't let them see you.
Mrs. Barkowski stood at the front of the room with what appeared to be our newest classmate. I quickly glanced over Brandon's shoulder and saw him standing in front of Mrs. Barkowski's desk, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as if he had to pee. His dirty blond hair was cut short on the sides, the top longer and hanging over one eye. He was dressed in worn jeans and a T-shirt with Darth Vader on it. Both had seen better days. Mrs. Barkowski's hand crept like a claw around his shoulders, making him appear even more uncomfortable. His body stiffened like a board and he eyed her hand distastefully. I could tell he didn't like people touching him. Strange.
Mrs. Barkowski appeared oblivious to his reaction as she introduced him to the class.
"Class, this is our newest member, Toby Cavanagh. Toby has just moved here from Leduc. Please be sure to show him around and make him feel welcome."
 Twenty-four sets of eyes stared at Toby—all but mine. I kept my eyes firmly planted on my math notebook in front of me, and I imagined myself sinking through the floor.
I heard Toby say to Mrs. Barkowski, "Call me Chip."
"Why would I call you that?" Mrs. Barkowski said, and I looked up despite myself. Her fists sat on her ample hips and her eyebrowsdisappeared into her curly brown bangs.
"That's what everyone calls me," he replied, a look of determination on his face.
This wasn't going to go well, I could tell.
Mrs. Barkowski's face mirrored Toby's, staring right back at him. "Well, Toby, in this class we go by our given names. You may take the seat behind Hannah."
So much for being invisible.
"Awesome," Toby mumbled, in a way that said he didn't think it was awesome at all. He moved down the aisle with his hands in his pockets and his feet scuffing theworn linoleum floor. He sat down behind me and I knew he was slouched in his seat because I felt his feet make contact with mine underneath my desk. I immediately moved my own feet forward.
"All right, class, let's turn to page forty-three of our textbooks and look at multiplication of decimals," Mrs. Barkowski instructed.
A textbook suddenly appeared before me and I looked up to see the back of Brandon's large, brown head with his hand behind it holding a textbook. He gave it a shake and I realized he wanted me to take it—it must have been for Toby. I took it and passed it to him.
"Thanks," he muttered, opening it.
Mrs. Barkowski began her lesson on multiplying decimals, writing examples on the board that we diligently copied into our notebooks and solved. We were on the fourth example when I felt a finger poke between my shoulder blades. I didn't move.
A few seconds later, there was another poke, harder this time, and a whispered "Hey."
Still I faced forward and tried to concentrate on the next example—both basic tactics for staying invisible in the seventh grade.
The third poke to my back came with a "You got a pencil and a piece of paper?" from behind me. This was a little louder than the first "Hey," and a couple of my classmates seated close to us sent disapproving glances in our direction.
As quietly as possible, I took a spare pencil from my pencil case and a piece of paper from my notebook and handed them back over my shoulder.
"Thanks," Toby muttered again.
Five minutes later, Mrs. Barkowski gave us our assignment and the class began working quietly.
Again a poke to my back, this time with a pencil.
"What's your name?" came from behind me.
I ignored it and continued working on question number four.
"Hey, tell me your name."
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Trudy Hartford give us both a look that clearly said, "You're disturbing me and my brilliance, quit talking so I can get my work done." Her contemptuous look made me uncomfortable. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my face heated with a flush of red. She continued to stare for a moment and then flicked her brown, shiny hair over her shoulder and bent her head back to her book.
I quickly turned in my seat before he could poke me in the back or talk again and hissed, as quietly as possible, "It's Hannah. Now do your work and leave me alone!"
"I'm done," he replied.
I stared at him. His brown eyes met mine and he tilted his head at the same time, quirking up one eyebrow.
"What?" he said.
"You're done? How is that possible? Mrs. Barkowski assigned us twenty questions barely five minutes ago," I whispered incredulously.
"They were easy and math is kinda my thing, so it only took me a couple of minutes," he said, louder yet, and shrugged his skinny shoulders.
"Look, I'm glad you're done, but I'm not and Mrs. Barkowski doesn't tolerate any talking during work time, so save us both from getting in trouble and be quiet!"
Toby looked down at his paper. I whirled around to face forward in my desk, hopeful that he'd take my advice. I didn't hear another sound out of him for the rest of the class.
When the bell rang, Toby followed me out of the classroom. I turned right and headed down the hallway to the stairs. I could sense him behind me and I quickened my steps, my sneakers slapping the floor, to avoid any more conversation. I liked to be invisible at school and having the new boy in class talk to me would draw attention that I didn't want—no one here saw me and that was how I wanted it to stay. He didn't know this, but right now I didn't have the time or patience to fill him in. I nearly made it to the stairs when a hand touched my arm. I froze.
"Hannah, my next class is Science. Can you tell me where the lab is?"
I looked at Chip's fingers on my arm and weighed the pros and cons of helping him. On the pro side, he might leave me alone once I helped him. On the con side, he might see it as encouraging—and then I'd never get rid of him. I sighed. The lesser of two evils was to help him now and ditch him at the first opportunity.
"I'm headed there. Follow me," I said without looking at him.
As we made our way down the stairway to the next floor, Toby walked beside me calling out and waving to various students: "Hey, how's it goin'?" or "Hi!" I kept my head down and powerwalked to the end of the hallway, turning left into the science lab.
As I passed Trudy filing her nails at the front bench I heard her stage-whisper to Anne, her lab partner, "Looks like Hannah has a new friend."
Anne snorted and said, "Well, at least she has one," and they both collapsed into giggles.
Toby heard the comment and quickly replied: "Yep, and that's all she needs."
As I made my way to the bench at the back of the room, Toby followed me and plopped himself down beside me.
"Thanks," I said, "but you didn't have to do that."
"Oh, yes, I did."
"Well, I know I need a friend if I'm going to make it here, and it looks like you do, too." He stuck out his hand. "Let's start over," he said. "I'm Chip. Nice to meet you."
I studied his hand in front of me and then slowly reached up and grasped it.
"Hi, Chip. I'm Hannah." As our hands moved up and down, I glanced up to find a goofy grin pasted on Chip's face.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"This was a touching story about a girl named Hannah. In Heather Hobbs first book we follow Hannah as she navigates, school, home, a new friendship, and her budding autonomy. This well written book has a good message about finding an inner strength that you didn't know was there." ~ James F. Boley
"Many middle years kids (ages 11-14 and beyond) will make connections to the school scenarios and characters and there are plenty of opportunities for readers' reactions, class discussions, and personal reflections and writing. Students will be hooked! Bravo HR Hobbs on your premiere novel in a highly anticipated series!!" ~ Grant Marit
"See Me is the start to a great series for children. I believe that having children's literature that deals with such important topics as bullying, self-esteem, alcohol, abuse, and friendship is vital to help teach kids how to handle issues in their personal lives. And Hannah and Chip, the two main characters of this series, do exactly that. This is an incredible debut by new author H.R. Hobbs, and I look forward to future installments. Do yourself a favor and pick See Me up! This is a wonderful read for both children and adults." ~ Spencer Borup
"I thoroughly enjoyed this novel aimed at middle years readers. With its very relatable characters mixed in with my own personal memories of those sometimes confusing and difficult years, I wish I had been given a book to read like this back then! It was fast-paced just enough to keep me hooked and looking forward to picking up where I left off the day before. I felt I was pulled into Hannah's world by the author's knack for good story telling. Ultimately this is a story of triumph over one's self that we experience through Hannah, which makes for quite a powerful read. The few loose ends will undoubtedly be resolved in book two of the series, which I am looking forward to reading already." ~ G dos Anjos

About the Author
See Me is the debut novel of H. R. Hobbs. An educator for nearly thirty years, she began teaching with the goal of sharing her love of books with her students. A mother to three grown sons and grandmother to two little darlings, she resides with her husband in the small prairie town where she was born and raised.


"Scooter Nation" by A. B. Funkhauser

Posted: 24 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Scooter Nation
(Unapologetic Lives Book 2)
by A. B. Funkhauser

Scooter Nation is the second book in the Unapologetic Lives series by A. B. Funkhauser. Also available: Heuer Lost and Found (read my blog post).

Scooter Nation is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Funeral Home founder Karl Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass is emptying her urine into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta cuts him off, reminding him that a staff meeting has been called. Charlie, silenced, is taken aback: he has had no prior input into the meeting and that, on its own, makes it sinister.
The second novel in the Unapologetic Lives series, Scooter Nation takes place two years after Heuer Lost and Found. This time, funeral directors Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang bent on havoc, and a self-absorbed fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Michigan neighborhood.

Book Video

The old humpback with the cloudy eye and Orwellian proletarian attitude pushed past the young embalmer with a curt "Entschuldigen Sie bitte!—Excuse me!" That Charles E. Forsythe, bespectacled and too tall for his own good, didn't speak a word of German was incidental. The man grunting at him, or, more accurately, through him was Weibigand senior embalmer Heino Schade, who'd been gossiped about often enough at Charlie's previous place of employ: "Weibigand's," the hairdresser had winked knowingly, "is like a Stalag. God only knows where the lampshades come from."
Whether she was referring to Schade specifically or the Weibigand's generally didn't matter. What he gleaned from the talk and what he took with him when he left to go work for them was that he was not expected to understand, only to follow orders.
Schade, muttering over a cosmetic pot that wouldn't open, suddenly tossed it; the airborne projectile missing Charlie's black curls by inches. Jumping out of the way, he wondered what to do next.
Newly arrived from Seltenheit and Sons, his new master's most capricious competitor, expectations that he perform beyond the norm were high. Trading tit for tat, his old boss Hartmut Fläche had fought and lost battles with Karl Heinz Senior since 1937, and wasn't about to abandon the bad feeling, even as he approached his ninetieth year. That his star apprentice had left under a tenacious cloud to go work for the enemy would no doubt hasten old Harty's resolve to plot every last Weibigand into the ground before he got there first.
It was incumbent upon Charlie, therefore, to dish some dirt hopefully juicy enough to shutter Seltenheit and Son's for good.
Stories of the two funeral directors' acrimony were legend: late night calls to G-men during the war asserting that Weibigand was a Nazi; anonymous reports to the Board of Mortuary Science that Fläche reused caskets; hints at felonious gambling; price-fixing; liquor-making; tax evading; wife swapping; cross dressing; pet embalming; covert sausage making; smokehouses; whore houses; Commie-loving; Semite-hating; and drug using sexual merry-making of an unwholesomeness so heinous as to not be spoken of, but merely communicated through raised eyebrows, was just a scratch.
Ducking under the low rise water pipes that bisected Weibigand's ceiling in the lower service hall, Charlie shuddered with the thought of retributive action, if only because old men were scary and he was still young. At twenty, he had finished his requisite course requirements, albeit at an advanced age. A lot of the guys were finishing at seventeen, only to be packed off to Vietnam. But Charlie had been delayed by way of the family pig farm which in many ways, could save his hide in a pinch. As the eldest male in a houseful of women, running the farm made him essential if the Draft ever became an issue. It hadn't so far—he was too old, the 1950 and up birthdates pulled by lot would never include his. Yet he was haunted by the prospect of a violent end.
His mother—a gentle soul who knew the Old Testament chapter and verse—never missed an opportunity to discourage his dreams for a life in the city. This only aggravated matters. He was different, and he knew it. For that reason, he had to leave.
"You'll wind up in hell if you try," she said fondly, every time he negotiated the subject. In the end, it was a kick in the ass from the toothless old neighbor that sent him running far and fast off the front porch: "Yer not like the others, are ya sweetie?"
"Don't expect an easy time from the Missus," Heino Schade said offhandedly from his vantage over a pasty deceased.
"Mrs. Weibigand?" Charlie asked, noting that the old man used Madame Dubarry commercial cosmetic in place of the heavy pancake Seltenheit's favored.
"You assisted her out of a particularly difficult situation. She will expect more as a show of your constant devotion." He knocked his glass eye back into place with a long spring forceps.
Charlie understood. He hadn't expected a call from the Lodge that infamous night, but then, it wasn't every day that a good friend of the Potentate was found dead in a hotel room under a hooker.
"In flagrante delicto," Schade continued ominously in what appeared to be Latin.
"Indeed," Charlie said, faking a working knowledge of the dead language; the unfamiliar term, he guessed, having more to do with what Karl Heinz Weibigand was doing with a woman in a seedy hotel room, than his desire to ask Schade how he made his dead look so dewy.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I came into this novel expecting something on par with its predecessor, and was not disappointed in the least. The characters who were so full-fledged and rich grow and develop by leaps and bounds, especially when pushed to their boundaries. Funkhauser digs down deep into each character and shatters the lines of morality, showing us the darkness and light within all of them... and forcing us to take a good, hard, look at it ourselves as we decide, as readers, who we should really be cheering for. It is a difficult decision, in the end, and I think a second read is in order to really decide." ~ A. DOnofirio
"If you ever wondered what went on behind the closed doors of a mortuary, then this books for you. It's filled with lying, cheating, despicable characters who keep you interested throughout as to what they are going to do next and what their end game really is. There are some people to root for as well though the diabolical ones steal the show. Funkhauser must have extensive knowledge of the mortuary business from the décor to the embalming process because the detail was exemplary. It is clear the writer knows their facts. The images were so precise that you felt you were in the scene with the characters. The book may be a little macabre for some people's tastes but I for one found it a refreshing change from the usual dramas. [...] In short, read this book. It is a great read that will keep you guessing throughout." ~ T Th
"Funkhauser's second book is an easier read than the first and equally funny. The mixture of comedy and drama and realism made it a real page turner that can be read in one sitting. I'm looking forward to the next one." ~ Eleanor Lecker

Guest Post by the Author
Life and Humor as a Funeral Director or Humor in a Tough Spot
Requirements for admission into mortuary school varies from country to country. Here in Canada, in the province of Ontario, potential candidates must first complete a supervised forty-hour "try out" at a funeral home before even writing the admission's test. There are some very good reasons behind the forty-hour observation, chief among them being the measure of a candidate's suitability as seen through the eyes of a seasoned professional. The other big reason is for the direct benefit of the candidates themselves: Is the job really what they think it is?
Nine times out of ten, it isn't. Funeral directing is (unexpectedly) very physical, requiring a strong body core, good knees and an iron grasp. Access to a large bottle of aspirin after a long day is recommended along with a few rigorous stretching exercises to ensure an easier vault out of bed when the alarm goes off at 4 a.m. Wine is optional, but not recommended if working the next day. And a degree of tolerance must be struck with the snow shovel (in northern climes) because it's the first thing an intern sees before the vacuum and the toilet brush.
While many larger establishments employ cleaning staff, smaller independent family-runs more often do not, relying on the staff to see to building maintenance much like firefighters do at the fire hall between calls. The bonds of camaraderie are strengthened while washing the hearse, pruning the garden, or tidying up in Room 4. It is this type of interaction that gets the most traction in my fiction.
Funeral directing is often misunderstood owing to the breadth of fiction out there on the page and on film. Loopy, goofy, drunk and sinister are the more common traits shown. As designated health care professionals, our only recourse to counter these impressions is to serve our client families well, be the best people we can be, and fiercely maintain that level of confidentiality required of us by law and by a code of ethics as old as the profession itself.

While it's tough to defend ourselves through closed mouths, it is easier to shine a light on the "good", the "sweet", "bittersweet", and even humorous aspects of the work through word-of-mouth, or, in my case humorous fiction. Funeral directors, like everybody else, can catch the flu, slip and fall, crash the car, lose the flowers, forget to order the food, fall in love, get divorced, or find a bottle when they get sad. They can also laugh - with each other, or with colleagues at the coroner's office or local hospital - over last night's sports scores, Bill Maher, or the price of gas.
Readers will find a mix of light and dark in Heuer Lost and Found (my first) and Scooter Nation for the real reason that we cannot appreciate the "laugh" without the serious bedrock that anchors it. Like all fiction, humorous fiction must make sense in order to fly, must dwell in a place that is relatable to the audience. It's tough to do, particularly with "mirth" always sitting on my shoulder. But I try.

With a wink and big bottle of aspirin,
I am A.B. Funkhauser,
Mother. Mortician. Monkey.

About the Author
Toronto born author A. B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it.
Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors and Editors Reader's Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser's Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Metamorph Publishing, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.
A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. "In gonzo, characters operate without filters which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic but, hopefully, instructive."
Funkhauser is currently working on Shell Game, a subversive feline "whodunit" begun during NaNoWriMo 2015.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five print copies of Scooter Nation by A. B. Funkhauser (open internationally).


Quote of the Week by C. S. Lewis

Posted: 23 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Quote of the Week
by C. S. Lewis

"Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls" by T. S. DeBrosse

Posted: 22 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls
(The Hazy Souls Book 1)
by T. S. DeBrosse

Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls is the first book in The Hazy Souls series by T. S. DeBrosse. The author stops by today to share an excerpt. Best of all, the book is currently FREE (if it's not free for you on Amazon, please visit one of the other retailers below). Also available: Jeremy Chikalto and Leviathan Island and Jeremy Chikalto and the Demon Trace.

Jeremy Chikalto claimed for years he can look behind the air. When an angel delivers a cryptic message about the Apocalypse, a series of strange events draws Jeremy closer and closer to the core of things. What if a third entity was vying for power with God and the Devil? Why are Earth and the distant planet Watico so similar? When Jeremy crosses over to the Haze, the line between light and dark blurs. Who is he? What is he? Can a crude prince become a cosmic martyr? Enter a world where angels, demons, ghosts, aliens, and volcanoes are bound together by prophesy.

Book Video

Jeremy sniffled and stared at the air in front of him. If only he could will it to happen, right now, while he was prepared. "Come on air, whatever you are." He breathed in deeply and focused on a spot ten inches from his face. Everything blurred together: the elaborate tapestries, book shelves with tall ladders set on casters leaning against them, and the large window opening to a dusk sky. Jeremy focused on a point. For a second, he thought he felt a zap. Then, nothing. He shook his head, grabbed his pillow, and chucked it at the wall. A picture that his mother painted crashed to the floor, scattering shards of glass across the marble.
"Calm down," mewed Lyrna.
Jeremy slitted his eyes and felt his rage boil. His vision blurred and his mind swarmed and then everything went dark.
On a rocky desert plain, baked by the noontime sun, two armies were gathering. One camp was clad in animal skins and armed with crude spears and slings, faces hidden in wild beards and hair. They were banging their spears on their wooden shields and shouting "Yahweh!" The other camp, smaller in size, gathered in silence except for the clanging of iron. They wore iron helmets, breastplates, greaves, and boots, and carried swords and bows. The front line held out long spears behind iron shields as tall as the men.
The sea of iron parted and Vordin Chikalto, the founder of the Farmoore Galaxy, galloped to the front on a white horse. He wore white chainmail greaves and was naked from the waist up. A hot desert breeze blew back his long brown hair. He was sharp-featured and carried a massive flail.
"Is this it, then?" he shouted. "The blessing of the Lord is a curse on the righteous, and his curse is a blessing for the fool! In his mercy he is cruel, and in his cruelty he is merciful. Since I defied you by showing mercy, am I in your graces for butchering your people? And what does the Lord love more than an offering of flesh?"
Vordin swung his flail, and the iron men began to march forward. The men in animal skins, who had no leader save the One, roared and charged towards the wall of spears. Arrows flew, and the sky was darkened. Right before the contact, there was a cascade of lightening bolts, and the air tore open. Vordin and the iron men were sucked into the rift, and it closed. The people of Yahweh fell to the ground and worshipped the One.
Jeremy came to and sat up from the floor. His brow was covered in sweat. "I blacked out. Lyrna!"
Lyrna ran to him and licked his hand.
"I need fresh air!" Jeremy jumped to his feet. "I need to keep it together." Jeremy ran out into the hallway, slamming his bedroom door closed behind him.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls was extremely awesome and I'm ready to start book two! I highly recommend it, especially if you love surreal and unusual stories with gripping characters. I love Labyrinth [...], and several times while reading Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls, the book's oddness, mixed with adventure and touchingly loyal yet strange support characters reminded me of that movie." ~ Amazon Customer
"This is a very enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone who likes Fantasy. Ignore the blurb on the back cover- it's not descriptive enough. [...] I am disappointed that I have to wait until next spring for the next book- But by then, I think this will be a bestseller. Why shouldn't it be? It is very creative, enjoyable, and Debrosse has a lot of potential as a writer." ~ DG
"Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls is the thinking reader's Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Debut author DeBrosse creates a unique and complex mythology (think: biblically-inspired science fiction where Jackson uses Greek mythology) to frame her story, and it's a refreshing alternative to many YA authors who build off of another already-established fantasy world. The world that you'll encounter in DeBrosse's novel is totally original - you won't get a setting or story like this anywhere else. That, in itself, is a reason to pick up the book. And it's not the only reason I loved this novel. While DeBrosse's inventiveness makes this a truly outstanding read, at the heart of it all is an exciting story. It's got just the right amount of intergalactic travel and battle to please your inner sci-fi nerd, and just enough romance to keep you turning the pages. [...] When I finished the book, it was 1am, and all I wanted to do was talk to someone about it. It's that kind of book - it will stick to you long after you're finished." ~ Amazon Customer
"This book was really good! I have never read anything like it before and I can't wait for the next book! The ending has me anxious!" ~ Emily S.

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Chikalto is the heir to the kingdom of the planet Watico, established when his people were banished from Earth many years ago. Jeremy is arrogant, rude, mean, and not very well-liked. There's also something a bit strange about him: he sees hazy patches, hears voices, and experiences blackouts. When Jeremy is sent off to boarding school on a neighboring planet, he is kidnapped along with Maren and Lyrna the fizdrust (a kind of talking cat). This sets off a chain of events that could have a disastrous effect on the entire universe.
This story is a blend of young adult science fiction, fantasy, thriller, and romance. It brings us an exciting, original concept, especially the world of Mantel's Maze, which is populated by an assortment of interesting creatures. The author maintains a brisk pace by rapidly switching between scenes. As the story progresses, we can see the growth in Jeremy, as he gradually becomes a better person. I look forward to seeing even bigger changes in him as the series continues.

About the Author
Tiffany Slotwinski DeBrosse grew up in Mantua, New Jersey, and spent her childhood engaging in imaginative play with her friends and family. Tiffany attended Rutgers University, where she majored in English and Women's and Gender Studies, and was a Leadership Scholar at the Institute for Women's Leadership. After teaching English in South Korea and making documentary films for the Rutgers Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Tiffany moved to San Francisco, California, where she received her MA in English Creative Writing. Today, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, writing, reading, and film-making.


"Coffee, Tea or Me" by Rich Amooi

Posted: 21 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Coffee, Tea or Me
by Rich Amooi

This book blast and giveaway for Coffee, Tea or Me by Rich Amooi is brought to you by I Am A Reader.

Susie opens a tea shop next to Jack's coffee shop and the war begins.
Jack Robbins has a booming coffee business, an eighty-year old customer who can't keep his clothes on, and a rescue Chihuahua named Chimichanga that likes to kiss on the mouth. Life is good until the new business next door takes a bite out of his sales.
Susie McKenna has the new tea shop everyone is talking about, an over-protective brother, and a stubborn, good-looking neighbor who is trying to steal her customers.
Things really start to percolate when Jack and Susie both volunteer to help plan the downtown festival. They have to work together and soon Jack won't be able to get by without his daily fix of Susie. But can a coffee lover and a tea devotee put their competition aside to get their happily ever after?

Book Video

Click below to read an excerpt.

Praise for the Book
"Fun, fun, and more fun!"
"Sweet, heartwarming and good for the soul!"
"Always funny, always entertaining."
"A sweet romantic comedy."
"Super cute."

About the Author
Rich Amooi is a former Silicon Valley radio personality and wedding DJ who now writes romantic comedies full-time. He is happily married to a kiss monster imported from Spain. Rich believes in public displays of affection, silliness, infinite possibilities, donuts, gratitude, laughter, and happily ever after.

Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


"A Wayward Spirit" by Peter J. Harris

Posted: 20 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

A Wayward Spirit:
The extraordinary life-changing
experiences of a globetrotter
by Peter J. Harris

Author Peter J. Harris stops by today for a short interview and to share an excerpt from his memoir, A Wayward Spirit.

This is an unusual and entertaining travel book – with a message or two.
The author has travelled extensively on business in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East and he relates his extraordinary experiences with page-turning descriptions. He worked for the British Tourist Authority, he established his own international education consultancy and his insightful narratives come from his continuing worldwide travel on behalf of a range of UK boarding schools, colleges and charities. His advice on education has been sought by Russian billionaires, Saudi sheikhs and members of the Thai royal family.
He has been faced with life-threatening experiences in two continents and endured wrongful imprisonment in Greece. Along the way, he ventured into religious retreats, spiritual experiences in India and pilgrim walks in Spain – finding a new meaning to his life which led him to raise over £50,000 for charitable causes including a school for "children from the dumps" in Cambodia.
The descriptions of his "enlightenment" are equally colourful and he is often critical of those who are "religious but not spiritual".

Conflict in Iran
I was staying in Dubai when I received a telex from Bob Watts, the owner of King's School, asking me to go onto Teheran as an agent there was proving difficult to contact and owed £250k which was a huge amount of dosh in the late 70's. The only flight into Tehran was from Kuwait and it was the last flight in due to the fighting at the airport and the conflict with the Shah. The flight was full of fleeing mullahs, women in niqabs and two drunken Germans.
When we landed at the airport the local militias loyal to Khomeini were fighting for control of the airport with troops loyal to the Shah. As we taxied into the airport we could see the shattered glass from the airport buildings and it brought back images from earlier in the day on CNN when I had seen shattered images of the front of the Intercontinental Hotel where I was supposed to be staying. I was met at the bottom of the aircraft stairs by a BA hostess who told me that due to the demise of the hotel I would travel into town in the crew minibus and would be staying with Chris Cross, the BA manager. The minibus would drop me at his office.
As we drive into town along Liberation Avenue (formerly Shah Reza Avenue) young men were hiring automatic rifles for passers-by to take pot shots at pictures of the Shah hanging on would have been so easy to turn and fire on the minibus.
I was dropped at the BA office which had already been vandalised by the local militia and everything in it had been broken, destroyed or ripped. Amidst all this mayhem sat Chris Cross in a pinstripe suit and bow tie, holding a meeting with a local business contact...a sight to behold, the epitome of an Englishman, the stiff upper lip. When he'd finished he said that the hotel was too dangerous to stay in and that I was welcome to stay in his apartment as his family had returned to the UK. I was to be very wary as the local militias could raid the flat at any time and it was a case of mum's the word...I was nearly wetting myself. On arrival at the apartment he told me to settle in and come to the lounge at 7.45 as the fun started at 8pm. I did as I was told and we re-arranged all the furniture, angling the sofas and chairs, but I was baffled by his comments. At 7.55pm an American from Bell helicopters appeared who had been hidden in the was certainly a dangerous time for any American.
We had a couple of stiff drinks and then the show started in the Northern suburbs. There was machine gun fire, bazooka's, rockets, etc. Apparently it started at 8pm every night as I guess the forces of the Shah and the militias had to get home from work and eat before attacking one another.
I tried to trace the agent who owed the money but he had disappeared into the Evrin jail...I was on a futile exercise, scared witless. The airport was closed to outgoing flights as the control tower had been destroyed and Chris was bringing in some flights by radio/walkie-talkie. I was holed up in his flat for 5 days and rapidly became quite gung-ho about the adventure.
Then Chris said that there was an Olympic Airways flight leaving for Athens and he could possibly get me onto it so we headed to the airport. I remember carrying carpets through the security as he escorted me to the plane. It was full so I ended up with the carpets in the loo, but with a plentiful supply of drinks and managed to get rather the worse for wear ...quelle relief.
I sent Bob a telex from Athens telling him that trying to get money in Tehran was like a punk rocker trying to get into Buckingham Palace and that I was taking a holiday in Greece...he was not a happy chappie.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I fully endorse the praise which has been lavished upon this work already; it is far more than merely a 'travel' book or log and it even transcends the scope of most of the 'spiritual' journeys I have read about. A Wayward Spirit by Peter J Harris is, at once, informative, interesting and even hilarious. Indeed, a number of the episodes - each recounted vividly and pictorially by Harris - are decidedly 'Fieldingesque' in their calamitous hilarity. 'And just when we thought that it couldn't get any worse!' It is a pleasure to recommend this remarkable work to you. If you have even the slightest interest in travel, multiculturalism, international relations and, yes, in the individual's yearning for answers and, ultimately, for fulfilment, this is a 'must read' - and that is a phrase I would rarely use. I hope that you enjoy this compendium of people, places and events as much as I did, and that you glean the inner benefits, too." ~ M. C. Jacques, author, The Cambridge Mysteries

Interview With the Author
Peter Harris joins me today to discuss his new book, A Wayward Spirit.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
The book should appeal to inveterate travellers who have a sense of humour and have curiosity in the spiritual dimensions of life.
What sparked the idea for this book?
The idea was sparked by the fact that many people suffer from donor exhaustion, and I needed to raise funds for a teacher for the children who live on the rubbish dumps in Phnom Penh ... the Dumpsters. The idea for the novel was my voyage through life.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The hardest part was to fuse the physical and spiritual paths.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
It has already made a number of people smile, laugh, and think.
How long did it take you to write this book? How did you get your book published?
It was written in note form over an extended period and self-published.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Most people have a book in them. Persevere. Don't be deterred by negative attitudes to your work.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I am not writing, I enjoy walking, opera, music, sport and theatre.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family has been mostly supportive of my literary efforts..
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was brought up in rural Dorset and travelled to New Zealand in my early twenties. Both had a profound effect on me, as did my sister and father, who was also curious and had broad interests.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
My father was an avid reader, but I only began to really read in my teens.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I realised I wanted to be a writer relatively recently.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
The writers that really influenced were Herman Hesse, Siddihatha, The Celestine Prophecy, and Coelho The Pilgrimage.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I will write a sequel next year covering my travel exploits over the last 15 years.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Peter. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
Peter Harris has been involved in international education and tourism during four decades, travelling extensively in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East – and keeping notes of some of his extraordinary experiences. Now he has paused (briefly) to assemble his notes into a fascinating and entertaining narrative from events which have changed the lives of thousands of young people, and his own life too. His initial experience working with language schools in the UK encouraged him to found the first international schools in New Zealand and Australia. For services to education he was one of only 150 people awarded the New Zealand Commemoration Medal by HM Queen Elizabeth in 1990.
As the new millennium dawned he returned to the UK to establish the first international study centre at The King's School Ely, one of Britain's oldest independent schools. Within two years King's International Study Centre was full to capacity, providing 60 students from 17 nationalities with the language and study skills necessary to access a British boarding education. The integration of the study centre gave Peter the opportunity to work with other UK schools and colleges keen to use his expertise to establish themselves internationally. His contacts worldwide are unrivalled and his passion for education is undimmed. He also spent four years as the British Tourist Authority Representative for the Middle East and Africa and then went on to establish his own international education consultancy and continues to travel extensively worldwide on behalf of a range of UK boarding schools colleges and charities.
On one visit to the Middle East, he was asked by Prince Charles for his opinion on matters sartorial; and his advice on education has been sought by Russian billionaires, Saudi sheikhs and members of the Thai royal family. He has been faced with life-threatening experiences in two continents and endured wrongful imprisonment in Greece.
Peter has also done multiple arduous treks which have raised over £50,000 for charitable causes. He initiated and continues to be involved in a number of projects including a Cambodian school and orphanage for "children from the dumps" in Phnom Penh, and a project in Thailand, supported by Thailand's Princess Royal, which provides teenage girls with the high school education they need to avoid employment in prostitution. His efforts, including a choral concert in Bangkok supported by the British Ambassador, provided life-changing opportunities for over 200 girls. His personal efforts for a variety of other UK charities have been many and varied. He climbed in the Himalayas for the Deaf Blind charity; trekked in Bhutan for the Sunflower Trust which provides holistic healing for children with learning difficulties; and over five years he walked the St James' Way "Camino" in northern Spain for a week each autumn and raised thousands of pounds for a variety of good causes.


"Love in an Elevator" by Aven Ellis and Others

Posted: 19 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Love in an Elevator:
A Romantic Comedy Anthology
by Aven Ellis, Beth Labonte, Whitney Dineen, Becky Monson, Rich Amooi, Geralyn Corcillo, Lindy Dale, and Dee Ernst

Love in an Elevator is ON SALE for only $0.99 this week!

This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by I Am A Reader.

Laugh, swoon, and escape with this romantic comedy anthology!
Will an elevator ride change her life? In HOLD THE LIFT by Aven Ellis, Sierra Crawford ends up meeting sexy British hockey player Jude Parker after their elevator sticks. Sierra finds herself getting to know Jude - and she likes what she sees. But he wouldn't be interested in a food-obsessed assistant editor right? Sierra knows she's quirky - her fondness of Magic 8 Balls is proof of that - so there's no way he could look her way. Or can he?
In DOWN, THEN UP by Beth Labonte, Lauren Oswald never expected to see her college love, Jamie, again. Not after the way things ended. She certainly doesn't expect to see him ten years later at a bachelorette party in Vegas, waiting inside a hotel elevator. Slightly older. Different haircut. No wedding ring. Same eyes. As the pair embark on a late night errand, Lauren is flooded with memories of how Jamie became the one that got away - and she realizes that this one night could be their last chance to make things right.
In GOING UP? by Whitney Dineen, Fiona Kitchen had a dream when she moved to New York and it wasn't taking a job as an elevator operator in a posh, West Side, apartment building. She also didn't expect to meet a hot handyman, a Columbian drug lord and a notorious mob boss and then fall for one of them in a big way. Life in the Big Apple isn't quite turning out the way she planned, but who said that was a bad thing?
In Becky Monson's TAKING A CHANCE, Liza Parker has a fear of heights, crowds and small spaces. So what's a girl like her doing on a crowded elevator going to the top of the Empire State Building? Freaking out, that's what she's doing. Enter Jay Sanders, a tourist who thinks he might be able to help Liza face her fears, but she has to be willing to spend the day with a complete stranger. Maybe taking a chance on Jay is just what Liza needs.
In HAPPY TO BE STUCK WITH YOU by Rich Amooi, Becca has had an office crush on Daniel - Mr. Delicious - for over a year. Getting stuck in an elevator with him was the last thing she expected. If only she can control her claustrophobia. To make matters worse, they're also stuck with an eighty-year-old man who has a weak bladder, and a penchant for playing cupid. But life is unpredictable. Sometimes, getting stuck is the best thing that can happen.
Computer genius Maisy Potter crosses an ocean to take her dream vacation at an English country estate … where the winsome Mark Prebys works below stairs. With him, Maisy discovers a carefree happiness she's never known. But will the troubles dogging her from back home, a secret or two whispered behind the parlour curtains, and misunderstandings to beat the band extinguish the magic they think they've found in each other? And if not, what happens when Maisy's enchanting holiday ends? Find out in UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS … AND THE LIFT IN BETWEEN by Geralyn Corcillo.
In THE ONLY WAY IS UP by Lindy Dale, meet Bailey Burns: hottest thing on the literary circuit. And the most reluctant. After fainting in a lift and regaining consciousness to find herself kissing a stranger, Bailey thinks her week can't get much worse. But it can. Much worse. Bailey is about to be proposed to by a crazed fan wearing a vampire costume. She's about to discover she's in relationship with the guy she kissed. Not only that, but said guy happens to be her new PR manager. Oh dear!
In OUT OF ORDER, by Dee Ernst, Grace has sworn off good-looking men. As soon as she starts dating one of them, she transforms from a mature, confident woman to a needy teen-aged girl. So when she meets Seth, the best-looking man she's ever seen, she makes the right choice - forget all about him. But a neurotic golden retriever and a broken elevator keep bringing them together. Is the world working against her … or maybe the gods are finally smiling?

Click below to read an excerpt.

Praise for the Book
" …fun, easy, and highly entertaining reads, perfect for when you have a night in and need a little hit of frivolity and a happily ever after." ~ Author Jennifer Collin
"Touching, funny, and – true to the elevator theme – an uplifting and wonderful ride." ~ Author Jo Perry
"The ONLY bad thing about this book is that I now have Aerosmith stuck in my head." ~ Author Cait Reynolds
"I love a good sweet short story that draws me in. These eight books did that and they made me wish they were longer." ~ Blogger Vicki Goodwin (The Page Turner)

Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


"The Padded Sell" by Edward Gottlieb

Posted: 18 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

The Padded Sell and Other Stories:
Memoirs of Edward Gottlieb,
Public Relations Man
by Edward Gottlieb,
edited by Elizabeth Gottlieb

The Padded Sell and Other Stories: Memoirs of Edward Gottlieb, Public Relations Man is ON SALE to 30 October. You can read an excerpt below.

The memoirs of Edward Gottlieb, Public Relations man, compiled and edited by his daughter, Elizabeth A Gottlieb, with additional material by his son, Richard M Gottlieb, MD, outlines the professional life of the man through the Great Depression, World War 2, and the 1950s, including his account of being a survivor of an American Airlines crash of 1959. In 1995, he was awarded the Pinnacle Worldwide Annual Legends of Public Relations Award. He served in World War 2 in the psychological warfare unit of the OSS (OSS became the CIA), in the Office of War Information (OWI). Among his many clients in Public Relations over the years were the government of Israel, NASA, Andy Warhol, French Champagne and Cognac, and more. He was one of five survivors of the crash in New York's East River of an American Airlines prop-jet, in 1959. His survival and recovery from catastrophic injuries is included in these stories.

I came back to consciousness under the water. It was black. I felt no pain or cold. I was utterly surprised, in total shock. Suddenly I was in the water, and I didn't know why. I had to have air. I had to get out of the water. I thrashed my arms without aiming in any direction. I beat, pushed, reached and grasped. Then, my head was out of the water. I heard cries of help. I heard voices making sounds and saying words I couldn't understand. For a second, my eyes cleared and I saw large, unidentifiable, shadowy objects.
I became aware of something heavy and irresistible clutching me around the waist from behind, and pulling me under the water. The cries stopped. The shadows vanished. The air was taken away from me. Everything was black and suffocating again.
I tried to grab whatever it was that wanted me to die. I tore at it but it carried me deeper. Then I recognized it. It was the airplane seat, still attached to me by the seatbelt.
I felt my lungs bursting. I quit the fight with the seat and thrashed my arms frantically to reach the surface. When my head broke the surface of the water again, I gulped some air and fumbled with the seat belt buckle. My fingers wouldn't work. They seemed useless with cold. Again I sank but this time I kept tearing at the buckle. Finally I succeeded and I felt the heavy weight fall away from me. I rose to the surface more quickly this time. I stayed afloat by moving my arms and hands. The ice cold water and cold air helped me get my mind into focus and now I was conscious of the fact that I had been in an aircraft and it had crashed. This is what had happened but I couldn't believe it. I couldn't absorb this reality, that this was happening to me. One moment I was comfortable and secure in the airplane and the next moment I was fighting for my life in the water. My world was all water and blackness.
Then, far to my right, I saw a searchlight beam poking sweeping the blackness. I swiveled around and tried to swim toward it. It moved slowly. I noticed, slightly to the left of the beam, a sharp line of light that appeared to mark a boundary on the blackness of the water. I looked again and this time I recognized that the glow of the lights was in two parallel lines. These were the lights bordering the LaGuardia landing strip. I tried to move my hands to the big beam of light which seemed nearer now. Then I heard a voice, a sound sharper than all the others, shout, "Swim over here! This way!"
[For a longer excerpt, click here.]

About the Author and Editor
Editor and Contributor, Elizabeth Gottlieb, has worn many hats: dancer, choreographer, journalist, filmmaker, artist, musician, puppeteer, business owner, college administrator. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, a dog and a cat.


"Madam President" by William Hazelgrove

Posted: 17 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Madam President:
The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson
by William Hazelgrove

This book blast and giveaway for Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson by William Hazelgrove is brought to you by I Am A Reader.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Real Santa.

After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Executive Office. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years; yet, in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson dedicated herself to managing the office of the President, reading all correspondence intended for her bedridden husband. Though her Oval Office authority was acknowledged in Washington, D.C. circles at the time–one senator called her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man" – her legacy as "First Woman President" is now largely forgotten.
William Hazelgrove's Madam President is a vivid, engaging portrait of the woman who became the acting President of the United States in 1919, months before women officially won the right to vote.

Book Video

Chapter One
The Cover-Up
President Woodrow Wilson lay with his mouth drooping, unconscious, having suffered a thrombosis on October 2, 1919, that left him paralyzed on his left side and barely able to speak. The doctors believed the president's best chance for survival was in the only known remedy for a stroke at the time: a rest cure consisting of total isolation from the world.
His wife of four years, Edith Bolling Wilson, asked how a country could function with no chief executive. Dr. Dercum, the attending physician, leaned over and gave Edith her charge: "Madam, it is a grave situation, but I think you can solve it. Have everything come to you; weigh the importance of each matter: and see if it is possible by consultation with the respective heads of the Departments to solve them without the guidance of your husband."
From there, Edith Wilson would act as the president's proxy and run the White House and, by extension, the country, by controlling access to the president, signing documents, pushing bills through Congress, issuing vetoes, isolating advisors, crafting State of the Union addresses, disposing of or censoring correspondence, and filling positions. She would analyze every problem and decide which ones to bring to the president's attention and which to solve on her own through her own devices. All the while she had to keep the fact that the country was no longer being run by President Woodrow Wilson a guarded secret.

Praise for the Book
"William Hazelgrove's riveting style lets us into the backrooms of the White House to see how a woman who had only two years formal education was able to pull it off and do it for two years! A great read and ride!" ~ Robin Hutton New York Times Bestselling Author of Sgt Reckless
"A great story, little known, about his wife acting as President following the health crisis of President Wilson after an exhaustive attempt to secure the League of Nations. Edith did what any First Lady would have done, try to protect her husband, and ended up serving as President or co-President throughout Wilson's last two years. This is how history should be told, fast paced and interesting, it reads like a novel." ~ C. Carson
"I can recommend this without reservation as an absorbing read that brings a far-too–ignored portion of our history to life in a way that is not stuffy and pedantic, yet well-researched and accurate enough to give confidence while it entertains." ~ Ken Korczak
"The author takes the reader on a history ride that you won't want to get off. [...] The author gives us a history book. We get a love story, a story of love for the people of the United States and a love for her husband. We get a story of how a woman can make important decisions, stand fast and get the job done ... " ~ gayle pace
"This book grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me engrossed throughout my read. That is a sign of a great book." ~ Kindle Customer

About the Author
William Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa, Jackpine, and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson will be out Fall 2016. Storyline optioned the movie rights. Forging a President: How the West Created Teddy Roosevelt will be out May 2017.

Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


Quote of the Week by Hunter S. Thompson

Posted: 16 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Quote of the Week
by Hunter S. Thompson

"Kiss Cam" by Kiara London

Posted: 14 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Kiss Cam
by Kiara London

Kiss Cam by Kiara London is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

In Kiss Cam, teen author Kiara London asks, what's a little harmless kissing between friends?
Juniper, Jasper, and Lenny have been friends forever and co-own a vlog channel called WereVloggingHere. Their fans are huge "shippers" who believe that Juniper and Jasper are perfect for each other, and, despite warnings from friends and family, a simple Truth-or-Dare inspired kiss soon spirals out of control into a whole new world of making out and surprise kisses.
Juniper and Jasper's relationship begins to shift. But as fan requests for different "Kiss Cam" segments keep pouring in, Juniper puts her worries aside and convinces herself that it doesn't mean anything. After all, it's just kissing ... right?

"Alright, fine. Better now than never—because you know that's not the last of kissing on camera requests we're going to get, right?"
"That's why I want to make sure," he nods and then turns himself completely towards me. "Proper kiss."
"This is not normal," I remind him and he chuckles.
"Have we ever been normal, June?"
I think about this, and well, maybe he's right. The dynamics of our relationship have been irregular since I can remember and we're thrown into weird situations because of our chosen hobby—which is also not normal. I guess this was bound to happen anyway. "Guess not," I say.
"Alright then," he smiles and with that leans forward to capture my lips with his own.
This time it's not a little lip touch. It's leaning completely forward, turning heads so noses don't bump, open mouth kisses but avoiding tongue—because, yeah, that's going too far, and fingers tugging at the back of each other's necks. It's long, longer than anticipated, and I know because soon I don't taste Dr. Pepper on his lips, anymore. I just taste Jasper.
When we finally pull away, I'm startled to find that I actually don't mind kissing him, it's nice and comfortable. And, the best part? I can look him in the eye, fingers trailing down his shirt and say. "Nothing."
He nods with a cheeky smile and replies, "Me too."

Praise for the Book
"Kiss Cam begins with a goofy, happy and cheerful project. I laughed out loud several times because there are many funny dares and I loved the project Kiss Cam from the start. When things threatened to fall apart I kept having tears in my eyes. While some parts of Kiss Cam made me really happy others made me terribly sad. The story has many different layers and I loved how well Kiara London writes about emotions. She knows her topic well and that pays off. She's written a versatile, surprising, honest and moving story. Kiss Cam is a fantastic book." ~ Suze
"Kiss Cam was just so much fun! I read this on my last flight to Chicago and it's just what I want in a contemporary YA, cute, fun, swoony and angsty moments. Perfect for Swoon Reads, perfect." ~ Once Upon a Twilight
"It's a purely fun read with a cute romance at the center of it. If you haven't already, I'd suggest adding this one to your 'to-read' list." ~ Nicole Sobon
"I absolutely LOVED this book. It's just so inspirational and fun. It shows you just what can happen when you stop letting your fears control you. It's also got great characters that I think are described very well. I could definitely count it as one of my top five favorite books." ~ Jacklyn Reitz
"I couldn't stop reading. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. It made me cry, laugh, and at points I wanted to throw my phone at the wall. There isn't anything that could make it better." ~ Brianna Whitt

About the Author
Kiara London is the internet savvy, hopelessly romantic alter ego of Bethany Novak-Tveten, who in real life is part of the US Air Force. She started writing on the online writing site Booksie when she was thirteen and then transferred to Wattpad where her debut novel Kiss Cam was originally posted. She spends most of her time scrolling down Tumblr, attempting to read everything she can get her hands on, and drooling over fictional men.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Kiss Cam by Kiara London (US only).


"OMG... I Did It Again?!" by Talia Aikens-Nuñez

Posted: 13 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

OMG... I Did It Again?!
by Talia Aikens-Nuñez

OMG... I Did It Again?! is the second book in the OMG series by Talia Aikens-Nuñez. Also available: OMG... Am I A Witch?!.

OMG... I Did It Again?! is currently on tour with I Am A Reader. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

April Appleton wakes up to quite the sight: a herd of elephants marching down her street! She realizes that her powers of witchcraft have done it again. With her friends, Grace and Eve, April must figure out how the elephants got to her town in the first place and then how to get them back home. But with elephants playing in the neighbor's pool, sitting on cars and eating everyone's trees, how will they do it? Early readers will delight in the misadventures of this reluctant witch and her plucky friends as they try to figure out how to use April's powers to do good in the world.

Click below to read an excerpt.

Praise for the Book
"Very well written ... definitely recommend ... " ~ Book Nook Nuts
"This fast-paced, humorous book is a fun read." ~ Susan Heim, Parenting Author and Editor, Chicken Soup for the Soul
"Highly recommended for the little girls in your life!" ~ A Chick Who Reads
"OMG ... Grace, Eve, and April are at it again, as this adorable series continues with a BOOM (when April accidentally summons a herd of elephants to her suburban street. Oops!). A sweet, fun, and magical read perfect for any young reader!" ~ Bianca Turetsky, author, The Time-Travelling Fashionista
"Aikens-Nuñez keeps her story light and breezy, milking elephant poop and the elephants' antics for humor ... April is white, Grace is Latina, and Eve is African-American. A sweet romp for young readers who like humor and magic." ~ Kirkus Reviews
"Aikens-Nuñez is mostly happy to keep the mood light, with abundant references to all the elephant dung piling up outside, some of which is required to reverse the magical spell. It's a breezy story of magic run amok." ~ Publishers Weekly

About the Author
Talia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be a writer. It was the birth of her daughter that caused her to start writing. Raising a bilingual child inspired Talia to write lyrical children's books. Talia's family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water. They live on a river in Connecticut with their kids.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


"Bridges for honest skeptics" by Joel Lantz

Posted: 12 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Bridges for honest skeptics
by Joel Lantz

Are you an honest skeptic? Do you seek truth and at least don't categorically dismiss the possibility of a biblical God. BUT, might you find yourself...
... befuddled by the plethora of prejudices, distortions, and contradictory information in the marketplace of ideas — some of which logically MUST be false?
... bombarded by aggressive scienTISM, which posits that all knowledge and truth ultimately must bow to science (except its own unscientific claims); that nonscientific evidence equals non-evidence; that supernatural equals superstition?
... reading/hearing personal philosophy and conjecture presented as though it's almost established science?
... therefore wondering whether science nullifies the existence of God — or least the need for or significance of God?
... yet sometimes wondering whether we really are just animals and just 'stuff', as often claimed — totally the result of undirected material processes?
... concerned about the compatibility of world evil and suffering with the existence of God?
... confused by verbal and behavioral MISrepresentations of true (genuinely biblical) Christianity, both current and historical?
... wondering whether attested empirical evidence might exist for the biblical God —contradicting the self-refuting claims of scienTISM?
... unsatisfied with shallow answers to hard questions?
If so, you may find Bridges for honest skeptics helpful thinking fodder. This free e-book — written by a physical scientist and former honest skeptic — addresses the concerns raised above.
Interested?  Check out the overview at the download site and the table of contents at the download site (via the 'Click to Preview' link). Though the treatment of topics in this book varies appropriately, the excerpt below illustrates one of the core perspectives I address.

The following comes from a chapter entitled 'Just animals?' — which presents evidence and arguments for directed human origins. You'll find the citations and endnotes referenced with letters and numerals at the endof this blog post. Hyperlinks to other sections and a glossary are unfortunately omitted.

The cognitive uniqueness of human free will[1]

Are we truly just advanced animals at the pinnacle of evolutionary processes? However intelligent, are we ultimately little more than deterministic machines that are born, eat, live, work, reproduce, and die; born, eat, live, work, reproduce, and die; born, eat, live, work, reproduce, and die...with all behaviors ultimately directed by chains of material cause and effect? Or is morally-cognitive free will REAL and clearly UNIQUE to humans?
I can't hold the deer that destroyed over a thousand dollars' worth of arborvitae in my yard morally culpable. But had humans maliciously destroyed my bushes, I'd hold them culpable — as would you. Most of us empirically and unambiguously know, without doubt, that claims of human determinism — near-infinite chains of causes and effects — can't realistically excuse human negatives as the inescapable result of nature and nurture. They can't realistically devalue human positives as inescapable either. Bad genes and environments notwithstanding, we still regularly make free decisions, good and bad.
Why then do we encounter academic doublethink and ultimate denial of the obvious? Stay tuned.

Claims of determinism self-refute

Consider this argument for the claim titled above:
"In the opinion of many thinkers, human freedom is closely connected with human rationality. If we were deterministic beings, what would validate the claim that our utterance constituted rational discourse? Would not the sounds issuing from mouths, or the marks we made on paper, be simply the actions of automata? All proponents of deterministic theories, whether social and economic (Marx), or sexual (Freud), or genetic (Dawkins and E. O. Wilson), need a covert disclaimer on their own behalf, exceptingtheir own contribution from reductive dismissal."[2] <Emphases are mine.>
Hmm. Such authors then can't legitimately take pride in or credit for their work. Long chains of deterministic causes and effects, over which these materialists ultimately have no control, compel each word they write or speak. That compulsion must include affirmations of deterministic 'programming' in the face of empirically obvious free will — frank admissions of which comprise the bulk of the next subsection.

Materialism, determinism, and reality

Perhaps not all materialists deny free will, but seemingly the tendency is to do so, per my exposure to such positions and as suggested below:
"Because materialists only accept the existence or primacy of material things, they also only accept the existence or primacy of material explanations for events. Whatever happens in the world, it must be explained and explainable by reference to matter. Materialism thus tends towards determinism: because there are material causes for every event, then every event follows necessarily from its causes."[3]  <Emphases are mine.>
Does determinism for humans square with empirical reality? Even some materialists have frankly admitted that we cannot practically live with determinism; free will stares us in the face. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence for free will that we routinely see and experience, many materialists continue to hold determinism and free will in cognitive dissonance. (Some materialists even claim that evolution has deterministically programmed us to falsely affirm free will — to believe a supposed lie.) Here are some admissions of such dissonance — the frankness of which I admire:
·       Humanities scholar Edward Slingerland, self-described as a 'complete atheist'[4]:
"...whatever we may assert qua naturalists, we cannot escape from the lived reality of moral space. As neuroscientists, we might believe that the brain is a deterministic, physical system, like everything else in the universe, and recognize that the weight of empirical evidence[a]suggests that free will is a cognitive illusion. Nonetheless, no cognitively undamaged human being can help acting like and at some level really feeling that he or she is free. There may well be individuals who lack this sense, and who can quite easily and thoroughly conceive of themselves and other people in purely instrumental, mechanistic terms, but we label such people 'psychopaths', and quite rightly try to identify them and put them away somewhere to protect the rest of us."[5]
Moreover, a journalist noted in 2013 that,
"The couple have a six-year-old daughter whom, Slingerland says," 'I love intensely'...Slingerland admits his deep affection for his daughter is illogical, since he doesn't really believe in 'love'".[6]
Slingerland accordingly proposes
" with a dual consciousness, cultivating the ability to view human beings simultaneously under two descriptions: as physical systems and as persons." [7] <Emphasis is mine.>
A dualconsciousness? The 'hard problem of consciousness' isn't hard enough as it is? Might Slingerland and others quoted below prefer such cognitive dissonance over unwanted psycho-social implications of abandoning materialism?
·       MIT artificial-intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky, who once called the human brain a three-pound computer made of meat:
"No matter that the physical world provided no room for freedom of will: that concept is essential to our models of the mental realm. Too much of our psychology is based on it for us to ever give it up. We're virtually forced to maintain that belief, even though we know it's false..."[8]
With lived reality staring us in the face, according to what unambiguous, unbiased evidence do "...we know it's false"?
·       Philosopher Galen Strawson:
"As a philosopher I think the impossibility of free will and ultimate moral responsibility can be proved with complete certainty..."
...except for a small problem...
"It's just that I can't really live with this fact from day to day. Can you, really? As for the scientists, they may accept it in their white coats, but I'm sure they're just like the rest."[9] <Emphases are mine.>
Why then does Strawson (and, similarly, others quoted here) insist on "the impossibility of free will...with complete certainty," despite the plethora of obvious contrary evidence?
Which of the following might best explain this:
-       Deterministic chains of cause and effect that compel him to so insist?
-       Free-will unwillingness to face unwanted consequences of abandoning his materialism?
·       Harvard cognitive scientist, psychologist, and linguist Steven Pinker:
"We have every reason to believe that consciousness and decision making arise from the electrochemical activity of neural networks in the brain. But how moving molecules should throw off subjective feelings (as opposed to mere intelligent computations) and how they bring about choices that we freely make (as opposed to behavior that is caused) remain deep enigmas... These puzzles have an infuriatingly holistic quality to them. Consciousness and free will seem to suffuse the neurobiological phenomena at every level, and cannot be pinpointed to any combination or interaction among parts. The best analyses from our combinatorial intellects provide no hooks on which we can hang these strange entities, and thinkers seem condemned either to denying their existence or to wallowing in mysticism."[10] <Emphases are mine.>
Do Pinker's "puzzles" and "enigmas" constitute "every reason to believe" that consciousness and decision-making arise purely from neurochemical processes?
·       UC Berkely philosopher John Searle, who
 "...believes that the mental will ultimately be explained through neuroscience,"[11] nonetheless admits that we don't know that free will is false:
"...we cannot get on with our lives without presupposing free will. Whenever we are in a decision-making situation, or indeed, in any situation that calls for voluntary action, we have to presuppose our own freedom. Suppose you are given a choice in a restaurant between steak and veal. The waiter asks you 'And sir, which would you prefer, the steak or the veal?' You cannot say to the waiter, 'Look, I am a determinist. I will just wait and see what I order because I know that my order is determined.' The refusal, i.e. the conscious, intentional speech act of refusing to place an order, is only intelligible to you if you understand it as an exercise of your own free will. The point that I am making now is not that free will is a fact. We don't know if it is a fact. The point is that given the structure of our consciousness, we cannot proceed except on the presupposition of free will.[12]" <Emphases are mine.>
Will Searle ultimately resolve his cognitive dissonance between deterministic materialism and obvious reality?
·       MIT computer science and engineering professor Rodney Brooks:
"On the one hand, I believe myself and my children all to be mere machines. Automatons at large in the universe. Every person I meet
is also a machinea big bag of skin full of biomolecules interacting according to describable and knowable rules. When I look at my children, I can, when I force myself, understand them in this way. I can see that they are machines interacting with the world.
 But this is not how I treat them. I treat them in a very special way, and I interact with them on an entirely different level. They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis. Like a religious scientist, I maintain two sets of inconsistent beliefs and act on each of them in different circumstances.[13] <Emphasis is mine.>
Dr. Brooks writes accurately about himself; the huge cognitive dissonance between his "two sets of inconsistent beliefs" is clear. By contrast, he writes inaccuratelyabout the "religious scientist", at least in my case. This 'religious'[b]scientist (me) experiences no cognitive dissonance between the existence of and evidence for a biblical God AND unambiguous, falsifiable science — vs. some broadly interpretable and interpreted observations, worldview-biased interpretations (from materialist axe-to-grind scientists as well as religionists), unfalsifiable hypotheses, and pure conjecture.
·       Evangelistic atheist Richard Dawkins claims that we're ultimately nothing but machines. Referencing a British comedy scene, in which a car owner 'punishes' a car that won't start by beating it with a tree branch, Dawkins writes,
"Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem...Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don't we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal? Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?"[14] <Emphases are mine.>
What if someone encrypted Dawkins's computer system with ransomware, raped his wife or daughter, beat his car with a branch, or punched him in the nose? Would hedispassionately "investigate the defective component, upbringing, education, or genes of the responsible 'machine'?
Probably not. In a Q&A session during a Washington DC promotion of one of Dawkins's books, he was confronted by Joe Manzari, a young Washington think-tank employee:
Manzari: "If humans are machines, and it is inappropriate to blame or praise them for their actions, then should we be giving you credit for the book you are promoting?"
Dawkins: "I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit."
Manzari: "But don't you see that as an inconsistency in your views?"
Dawkins: "I sort of do, yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live withotherwise life would be intolerable."[15] <Emphases are mine.>
So Dawkins must abandon a key tenet of his materialism in real life, which "otherwise... would be intolerable." Why, then, does Dawkins regularly express so much contempt for non-materialist, non-determinist belief systems?
·       Journalist Tom Wolfe has referred to scientists, including Richard Dawkins, whose
"...theory is that the human brain is nothing but a machine, after all, a form of computer, and therefore it has no free will. In any situation we find ourselves we can only do what our evolutionary software—they love computer talk like 'software,' meaning genetic makeup—has programmed us to do."
Wolfe decided to test the livability of that position:
"So at a recent conference on the implications of genetic theory for the legal system—five distinguished genetic theorists are up on stage—I stood up in the audience and asked, 'If there is no free will, why should we believe anything you've said so far? You only say it because you're programmed to say it.' You've never heard such stuttering and blathering in response to anything in your life."[16] <Emphasis is mine.>
Though I admire the frankness of the folks I've quoted above, I ask the same question as Wolfe. Does 'unity of truth' no longer apply? Can we legitimately simultaneously hold contradictory truth claims to suit our fancy? Doing so sounds much like Eastern 'Both/And' thinking, arguments for which ultimately self-refute (recall 'Contradictory belief systems are equally true?') [Hyperlink to another subsection in the book.]
Following a talk in which apologist Nancy Pearcey presented some of the examples above[17] — which primarily highlight academic materialists' cognitive dissonance — a visibly upset Harvard professor approached her and complained that,
"They know their theories don't explain ordinary life outside the lab. But why throw it in their faces?"[18] <Emphasis is in the source.>
Why indeed? Was Pearcey being unkind? No. These scholars' frank admissions of cognitive dissonance are public, in their own writings. Pearcey, and I, merely seek — in the interest of truth — to emphasize to a broader audience that purely naturalistic assessments of human cognition and behavior don't jive with empirical reality. I submit that doublethink like that revealed above ultimately stems less from the pursuit of truth than from a materialistic commitment to scientism.[c]
The concerns of this chapter go well beyond unwarranted rejection of theistic involvement in human existence. Falsely reducing human existence to undirected, purely mechanistic processes — to 'just machines' and 'just stuff'[d] — seriously demeans human value and significance. Ideas have consequences. For example, Friedrich Nietzsche's a) naturalism-based reduction of humans ultimately to little more than advanced, power-seeking animals, b) his despisal of human kindness and modern morality as unnaturaland dangerous, and c) his promotion of the conquering, valueless Übermensch (superior man) substantially fueled Adolf Hitler's murderous policies.
We'd be foolish to think that falsely considering humans as little more than deterministic machines, with no ultimate value or freedom, has no negative consequences for us.

Author Q & A
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Teen to adult. Thinking people of all ages (other than perhaps young children) wrestle with the concerns that I address.
What sparked the idea for this book?
For several years I pondered why some people embrace biblical Christianity as true (including me, after a period of skepticism) and others reject it. Though the answer is multifaceted, I concluded that one factor is knowledge of available evidence. I sensed a calling to publicize a bit of such evidence, leading to the first edition of my book (thirteen accounts). Based on 1st-edition feedback, I felt led in the 2nd edition not only to expand the number of evidential accounts but — most importantly — to add large sections containing scientific and logical evidence  and arguments to help readers overcome potential objections to the accounts based on faulty information, unwarranted scientistic bias, and anti-supernatural prejudice. This 3rd edition greatly expands that material further in multiple ways.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Even though I'm a scientist, the science-related parts demanded more research, reflection, and rewriting than some of the others.  Also, such concepts were often more difficult to express clearly and concisely to my readers.  Hopefully some colored illustrations, a large hyperlinked glossary, appendices, and extensive hyperlinked endnotes enhance understanding.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope to mitigate some misunderstandings, prejudices, and factual distortions and — in their place — promote realistic perspectives. Most importantly, I want my readers to come away from the evidence and arguments in this book understanding that acceptance of the supernatural generally and the biblical God specifically is rational and worthy of their consideration.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The first (brief) edition, called God sightings?, was released in late 2012, the second edition in early 2014, and this now-renamed third edition in June 2016 — with a few 'point-release' revisions since.  I.e., I've worked on this book intermittently over four years.
What is your writing routine?
It varies. Sometimes insights and new data have driven many hours, late nights, and even days of work at a time. At other times I've frankly struggled to put in even an hour or two a day.
I often write down ideas and insights as I hear of them or as they come to mind internally, wherever I am — sometimes on snippets of paper but mostly now as text entries or dictations into my smartphone.  If worthwhile, these insights often catalyze revised or new subsections in the book.
I usually don't lose heart at the struggles of writing, keeping in mind that I have plenty of company in that regard.  At least I haven't needed the extreme motivational measures reportedly used by one famous author; he worked naked (semi-naked?), having asked a servant to hide his clothes so he'd not be tempted to wander from home when he was supposed to be writing!
How did you get your book published?
My book was first published on, a free-ebook site. This was a relatively painless process, and I've published the second and third editions there too. The folks at obooko have been very helpful. I've also published on and, most recently, on  They've all worked well, though I less favor because they don't have a download counter (important to me). I can recommend any of these three sites to other free-ebook authors.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I can only speak for someone like me — who wants to help others as a labor of love, with no expectation of remuneration.  I recommend the same route I've taken in 'How did your book get published?' 
Also, applicable to all writers, stick with it, even if irregularly (like me)!  Some days you'll probably want to quit, but keep plodding!
Moreover, I highly recommend using one or more quality promo sites like this one to publicize the book — something I've done only recently. Not all such sites are a good choice, however, and I consider my Facebook promo to have been a waste of time and money. (Though 'your mileage may vary'.)  A second promo site to which I submitted my book a month ago has neither promoted my book nor even communicated with me. But a third site resulted in 75 downloads in two days. And I anticipate favorable results from this site as well. Choose carefully!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read — and watch/hear in some cases, e.g. via The Great Courses — modern science and technology (especially cosmology), philosophy, apologetics, theology and current events. Watch documentary videos. Read and post in Quora (a Q&A forum). Hike and camp.  Invent and make.  Play electronic Scrabble and 1010!, as well as table games such as Rummikub,  Quirkle, and Sequence. And, of course, spend time with family and friends!
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in a home with plenty of latitude to explore new things, both outdoors (e.g. as a hiker) and indoors (e.g. as a 'child scientist').  A birthday chemistry set from my brother evolved into an impressive lab — in which I did serious chemistry at times but frankly inappropriate 'experiments' at others. (Had my parents been scientists, they never would have let me do some of that stuff!) Those experiences lead to choosing a career in science.
Did you like to read when you were a child?
Yes. I've been a 'reader personality' for a long time. Sometimes I read encyclopedia entries as a child for fun. (Yeah, I know; sounds kind of nerdy.) I've always been a self-motivated learner.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A temporary detour from my R&D career found me doing sophisticated technical writing, professionally. Explaining concepts and procedures to others proved satisfying. Much of the highly structured and 'chunked' writing style that you'll find in my book evolved from those experiences.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I suspect that experiences of being bullied as a child have influenced my interest in the foundations of evil as an adult.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Hard to pin that down. I've read so much. But undoubtedly authors at have been the most helpful in establishing my confidence in the harmony between science and the biblical God.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Unfortunately, the free-ebook sites on which I host my book do not provide opportunities for written reader feedback — only star ratings, which thus far have mostly been quite favorable.  Some local-friend readers have supplied some very encouraging feedback.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I wrestle with the subject of evil and suffering and have written two large appendices — one complete and the other partial — that address the foundations of evil. The completed appendix ended up in the present edition of Bridges for honest skeptics. The partial appendix did not; but it tentatively will end up as part of an independent book on this topic.
Anything else you would like to add?
I welcome feedback, positive or negative, so long as it's constructive. Feel free to contact me at I cannot promise to respond, but I'll appreciate comments that may help me to improve the book, either in subsequent 'point release' revisions of this edition or in a future new edition.

About the Author
Joel Lantz, a Northeast Ohio resident, is a physical chemistry PhD and a former honest skeptic — a person who believes in, seeks, and at least wants to embrace truth. He's overcome his own doubt struggles with ENOUGH answers, however incomplete. This book resulted from a passion to help other honest skeptics — who don't easily settle for shallow answers to hard questions — as well as folks with doubts further along the road to belief in a biblical God.
As Joel has found from fact and logic, our world's myriad and often contradictory belief systems, whether religious or secular, CANNOT all be true. Either all are false or one must be true or most true. Logically, then, the marketplace of ideas that we routinely encounter confronts us with falsehoods and distortions of truth. Joel's book presents evidence and arguments to counter some of these distortions, thereby potentially building BRIDGES over a few worldview traps and minefields.
Joel hardly promises anything close to comprehensiveness or perfection in this little-page, phone-friendly book, and he admits to personally still having many unanswered questions. But he expects the book to minimally mitigate some misunderstandings and misrepresentations. And he's confident that even if you dislike or disagree with some of the content, you'll doubtless encounter helpful perspectives that you've not previously considered. And even if you read only the EVIDENCE part (the first major part of the book) and forego the more cerebral (and occasionally more technical) THINKING FURTHER and ABOUT US parts, you'll doubtless get more than your money's worth :-).
Joel's only reward for writing this free e-book is the satisfaction of helping others. Contrary to anti-supernaturalist assertions that we're purely the product of undirected, materialistic, mechanistic, purposeless processes, he argues that each of us has purpose and meaning. He considers writing this book part of his purpose.

The endnotes below apply to the Excerpt provided earlier in this blog post.

[a] "...weight of empirical evidence...?!" What 'empirical evidence'? The obviousempirical evidence for free will that stares him (and everyone else) in the face doesn't count? Per 'Claims of determinism self-refute', why should anyone listen to Slingerland's claim that "...the weight of empirical evidence suggests that free will is a cognitive illusion." (Consider also the rest of this chapter and 'Just stuff?'. [Hyperlink to another subsection in the book.])

[b] I dislike that word because of its huge spectrum of meanings. I don't consider myself  'religious' per many behavioral connotations of the word.
[c] ...which insists that all knowledge mustultimately answer to science, no exceptions. (Moreover, many scientism adherents seemingly allow, as knowledge, only their own interpretations even of scientific data). Yet scientism is implicitly a self-refut­ing worldview(recall 'The problem of scientism [hyperlink to another subsection in the book].
[d] See also the next chapter by that name: 'Just stuff?'. [Hyperlink to another subsection in the book.]

[1] Copyright © 2016 by Joel B. Lantz. All rights reserved, except for brief quotations in reviews and summaries as allowed by copyright law.
[2] Theoretical-physicist-turned-priest John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology, Fortress Press, 1998, p. 58.
[3] Austin Cline, What is Materialism? About History of Materialism, Materialist Philosophy, 'Materialism and Determinism' section,, December 4, 2014. Available as of 3/25/2016 at:
[5] Edward Slingerland, What Science Offers the Humanities, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 289.
[7] Edward Slingerland, op cit, p. 293.
[8] Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1988, p. 307.
[9] Galen Strawson, interview by Tamler Sommers, You Cannot Make Yourself the Way You Are, The Believer, March 2003. Available as of 3/17/2016 at:
[10] Steven Pinker, The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Penguin Books, 2002, p. 240.
[11], under the heading 'Biological naturalism'. I last accessed this on 4/8/2016.
[12] John R. Searle, Freedom and Neurobiology, Columbia University Press, 2013, p.11.
[13] Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, Pantheon Books, 2002, p. 174.
[14] Richard Dawkins, Let's all stop beating Basil's car,, 2006: What is your dangerous idea?. Available as of 3/23/2016 at:
[15] Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo, B&H Publish­ing Group, 2010, p. 153. Pearcey heard this Manzari-Dawkins exchange on an audio tape. (The name of the questioner, Manzari, is revealed in her book only in an endnote.)
[16] Carol Iannone, A Critic in Full: A Conversation with Tom Wolfe, National Association of Scholars, Academic Questions (vol. 21, no. 2), Aug 11, 2008. Available as of 3/24/2016 at:
[17] I want to give appropriate credit here. Many of the book pages and articles that I've reviewed (as originals, in context) and cited in this subchapter were helpfully called to my attention by citations in Pearcey's book Finding Truth (see below).
[18] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth, David C. Cook, 2015, Kindle Edition, p. 171.

"Resthaven" by Erik Therme

Posted: 11 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

by Erik Therme

Resthaven by Erik Therme is currently on tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Mortom.

The last thing Kaylee wants to do is participate in a childish scavenger hunt - especially inside the abandoned retirement home on the edge of town. When she finds a bruised, deaf boy hiding inside one of the rooms, she vows to lead him to safety ... only to discover the front doors are now padlocked, and her friends are nowhere to be found. Kaylee is about to learn that not everything that goes "bump in the night" is imaginary, and sometimes there are worse things to fear than ghosts.

Book Video

The room door banged open, and I jumped to my feet as Wren stumbled inside with one hand clutched around her wrist. Her face was white as chalk, and I grabbed her arm as she lowered herself to the floor with a cry.
"It hurts, Kaylee," she said, her voice almost a moan. "It hurts so bad ..."
"What happened?" My eyes were fixed on the red scarf she was holding around her wrist, and it wasn't until I took the flashlight from under her arm that I realized it wasn't a scarf—it was a tattered rag. And it was soaked in blood.
"Tell me what happened," I said, fighting to keep my voice steady.
She lifted the rag and I stifled a cry when I saw a gash of red. It immediately began to pool with fresh blood and she clamped the rag back around it.
"Keep pressure on it, right?" Her eyes began to shine. "That's what they tell you to do? And keep it raised into the air?"
I tried to answer, but nothing came out. Her head thumped the wall as she leaned back. Strands of hair were plastered across her forehead with sweat.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Resthaven, by Erik Therme, is one of those books that is so vivid, fast-paced and real, with perfect dialogue and characters that are true to form, that you feel you're watching a movie. A very good, thrilling, jump-in-your-seat, type of movie." ~ DTChantel
"The whole book kept me on the edge of my seat … this is the kind of book I could imagine as a movie." ~ Keystroke (Read, Write, Repeat)
"I could not stop reading. The atmosphere it creates will make your skin crawl." ~ Amazon reader
"Resthaven has a unique story line and is full of suspense." ~ Serious Reading
"Don't read this book right before you go to bed." ~ Prairie House

About the Author
Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he's not at his computer, he can be found cheering for his oldest daughter's volleyball team, or chilling on the PlayStation 4 with his thirteen-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa - one of only seven places in the world UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card.


"At the End of Church Street" by Gregory L. Hall

Posted: 10 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

At the End of Church Street
by Gregory L. Hall

At the End of Church Street by Gregory L. Hall is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Homeless and with nowhere to turn, Rebecca De Rosa finds a family of lost souls just like her - the vampires of Orlando. Reborn, she revels in her new lifestyle of 'no rules'. Love whoever you want. Seek whatever high you wish. Live forever young. Every night's an adventure - hunting down tourists, challenging local police, screaming to the world vampires really do exist! It's Neverland and every dream Rebecca has comes true.
Until the first murder.
Someone else lurks in the shadows. Goths are found beheaded, with wooden stakes pounded into their chests. The hunters have become the hunted. As the bodies pile up, Rebecca and the Family are forced to ask who can you trust when the only person who believes you're an actual vampire is a vampire killer?

Book Video

Click below to read an excerpt.

Praise for the Book
"There are twists and turns through the full-throttle narrative which keep the reader propelled toward the 'turn it up to eleven' conclusion. Greg Hall has added some nice layers to the vampire mythos and, instead of playing pansy with his teenaged protagonists, he gives them real life and death choices to face. This isn't a bloody climax slapped on to the end of a sappy love story; Church Street is all climax, all life and death and love. And in the end, vampires are badass again." ~ Aaron Polson
"Gregory L Hall's At the End of Church Street is an adept and novel imagining of the age-old vampire story. Hall offers a gritty portrayal of life on the streets where the shadows conceal much more than petty criminals. His eye for observational detail masterfully places the reader in his bleak but believable settings. In the end Church Street is a stark, intelligent and thrilling depiction of the seedy (and supernatural) subculture lurking within Orlando's darker places." ~ Tim D.
"Greg creates a believable environment for these teens and makes you care about them despite their propensity to terrorize tourists. I tore through this book in less than a week and I was left sated. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves good fiction and dare anyone that claims to be tired of Vampire fiction to not love this book." ~ Richard S. Mccoy
"I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of honest to goodness horror. Dark fiction doesn't quite cover what lead me to my conclusion: the characters were a little too real, the situations were happening ... or must have happened. Aside from the taste of speculative fiction, this plunges the reader into the world of kids looking for something spectacular to happen in a world where reality is just too scary (even if that means their fantasy is gazing into the eyes of drug addiction, rape, and murder ... but it's all good, as long as it's dressed up like a vampire.) This is brilliant and brutal, Mr. Hall ... Kudos!" ~ Elyse Draper
"At the End of Church Street is a great read, full of suspense, tension, blood, and a healthy dose of dark humor. If you're in the mood for a good time, look no further." ~ Joshua M. Myers

Guest Post by the Author
Vampire Lore
I have been a fan of things that go bump in the night for as long as I can remember. As a little dude, my bedroom was covered in Universal monster movie posters. (My office still is!) On one wall was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Across from him were The Wolfman and Frankenstein. And on the wall I had to stare at every night before I drifted off to sleep was the coolest guy in the graveyard - Dracula.
Before I knew there was a novel, I was wide-eyed with the classic black-n-white movie. Before I knew there was an actual Dracula, the Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler, my youthful mind was in awe of Bela Lugosi in his iconic black cape. He would fling it open before he turned into a bat. He would peek over it when he crept into someone's bedroom. And he would cover his face and use it as a shield when Van Helsing waved a cross in the air like he just don't care.
Turning into a bat was the most awesome power ever. I'm told in the original movie you can see the wires holding up a giant rubber bat, and Lugosi didn't morph, but I think those people are simply jealous. Of course Bela shapeshifted into a bat. How do you think he got the role? You do something like that in an audition and you're Dracula. Send everyone else home. I have a character named Dr. Ghoulie in my book At the End of Church Street who is a horror host and serves as an expert on vampires for the police. He says most people question how a hundred and sixty-pound man transforms into a three-pound bat. Where does the rest of the guy go? But Dr. Ghoulie argues a vampire can because it's fun and scary. Can't argue with logic like that.
If turning into winged rodents doesn't impress you, Bela's Dracula did so many other kick bahookie tricks. In his opening scene, he walks up the castle steps and there's a wall of spider webs blocking his way. But he keeps walking. The next camera shot shows him on the other side of the webs - and they're undisturbed! Can you do that? No, you can't.
Bela has a pet armadillo. We see it briefly in the same scene. Armadillos live in South America, with a species or two waddling up through Texas. What the holy heckfire is it doing in Transylvania? It can't survive there. Yet this little guy does, because it belongs to Bela. Watch the movie over Halloween and you'll see. I like to call him 'Juan'.
I guess what impresses me most about the original Dracula is at no time do we see his famous fangs. Every other representation has big ole chompers. Some make their vampires all about blood dripping fangs. But not Bela. He does this painful grimace as he bends over to bite his sleeping victim. Quick story, I allowed my boys to watch the Universal classics when they were little. I know parents who let their pre-teen kids watch modern slasher films or evil ghost demon slaughter fests. I can't afford the therapy so I stuck to the black-n-whites. They were long outdated and harmless, but they still let my boys enjoy horror with their Dad. Anyway, the first time they saw the close-up of Bela with his twisted expression about to feast on his newest victim, my oldest boy yells out "Oh, Dracula's got to find a bathroom fast!" So there's another checkmark for Bela. He helped me potty train.
Christopher Lee was the next Dracula I knew. A few things had changed by the time Mr. Lee took over as the Prince of Darkness. First, I was obviously older when the Hammer films came out. I was at the age when I had to prove I was a big kid and nothing scared me. Add more blood and show me the fangs and the stake going into the vampire's chest! I'd look at my buds or my Mom and laugh. Whatever. Then I'd hug the nearest pillow like it provided monster-proof protection. So at least on the surface, the Hammer films didn't frighten me. Nope. Not at all and you can't prove different.
The second fact was the Hammer films were filled with sexy lady vampires. I was also at an age where that added aspect became very noticeable. There were many scenes where Christopher Lee was not my primary focus. I apologize for nothing.
But possibly the biggest difference for me was I had begun to enjoy reading. Of course, Bram Stoker's novel was one of the first on my list, along with Poe. And Tinky Winky, Dipsy and LaLa. I spent entire summer days diving into books. It gave me an endless new access to imagination and adventure. So poor Christopher Lee was met with far more 'that's not how Dracula is in the book…' And I learned the book always trumps the movie.
The other problem with Christopher Lee is although he was incredibly powerful as Drac, and equally terrifying, I don't remember him speaking. I think there were entire movies where he would only hiss or win in who-blinks-first. Losing dialogue gave such an insurmountable advantage to Bela. You can't counter 'I never drink…wine' and 'Listen to them, the creatures of the night. What music they make' with angry mime and giving the vampire stink-eye to your foe. I like my Dracula delivering intellect and attitude through a thick Romanian accent.
One last negative against Mr. Lee and I almost hate to share it. There is a movie he was in called The Wicker Man. I admit here and now I probably won't get the exact details right, but trust me, I don't have to. He plays the mayor or whatever of a small community of pagans. A policeman is sent to uncover a possible murder. He spies Lee and the rest of the crazies as they're going to an annual ritual. They're marching single file through the woods wearing silly animal costumes and playing various drums, rattles and bells. Christopher Lee leads the conga line as he bangs a tambourine, skips then hops. Over and over again, all the way through the wilderness. I swear the scene takes ten minutes. It's absolutely one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen and that includes experiencing Miss Utah live onstage wearing nothing but a feather boa while playing the tuba.
I should clarify that this wasn't at a strip club. I would never go to such places, even in my younger days. I'm pretty sure this was at a church meeting. We were planning out various fund raisers for tons of charities. Yes, I'm sure of it now. It was at a church meeting.
Anyway, we're not talking about me. We're talking about Christopher Lee. He's bouncing and frolicking across the countryside dressed as a rabbit or a chicken, whatever, slapping a tambourine like he's taking a course in Davey Jones 101. You seriously must see The Wicker Man or at least find this scene on YouTube. It is the kind of video footage that would tank your Presidential campaign if your enemies found it. And I'm sorry, it cannot be unseen. I understand Mr. Lee was knighted. He was 6'5" and lived to be 93 years old. He served in the Royal Air Force and Special Forces during WWII and was decorated for distinguished service. As an actor, Lee was fully qualified to play the wicked count in Star Wars and Gandalf's traitorous wizard boss in Lord of the Rings. But…Dracula, man. Dracula.
The next guy up was Frank Langella. He stepped into the role in the late 70's/early 80's. Dracula had been in mothballs for a while, not a relevant horror entity anymore, especially with the birth of the slasher film. Vampires needed a new spin and Hollywood delivered. I know even today people will argue with me, but their facelift forever damaged the legends. Langella is a great actor and he mastered the hypnotic stare and creepy grace required. But he also never met a shirt that could be buttoned up. Instead of fangs, we were introduced to pouty lips that would make Corey Hart swoon. Dracula was now a sex symbol.
Langella's version created paranormal romance. And I know most women reading this are screaming "What's wrong with that? Don't you smack down my vampire lovers. I love you, True Blood hunks! Go Team Edward!" But as a vampire purist, paranormal romance put a stake in my heart. Then covered it with glitter. Yes, vampires have always seduced women. But they did it to create undead slaves to serve and worship them or they did it because they were hungry. Humans are cattle. Vampires eat us. Probably why they have the blood soaked fangs. Women are not supposed to be a vampire's prom date or the newly assigned partner for the mysterious brooding detective who only works the night shift. Paranormal romance made the bottom fall out of thousands of years of vampire tales spanning across almost every culture in the world.
Thanks to the new spin, vampires were no longer monsters. They could only be Brad Pitt. Seriously, how difficult is it to surrender to Brad Pitt? Where is the dark evil magic in that seduction? It's "Hi, I'm gorgeous" and boom, the tube top and Daisy Dukes are on the floor. You want power? Have the same result when your vampire looks like Carrot Top. No, the undead are not pretty people. But thank you very much, Frank Langella. Don't even bother defending why Edward is five-thousand years old and still in high school. Is it common core math that's giving him trouble? You'd think he'd hide his secret far better if he was home schooled. But then he would never have to battle a wolf boy/underwear model for Bella's love. I understand. It doesn't change why I sit in a dark room by myself, crying.
It was bound to happen. Despite valiant attempts by popular comics like Steve Nile's 30 Days of Night and film series like Full Moon's Subspecies, you can't fight change. We grow up. We spin our fears into perceptions we can control. Even Bigfoot sells beef jerky now. And if I'm honest, Dracula was hedging his bets before Langella. I would be negligent if I didn't mention two of my own favorites in the history of vampire lore. The Count taught me numbers. Ah ah ahhhh! And I started every morning with a big bowl of Count Chocula. Boo Berry just didn't cut it for me.
I do need to mention Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. I think it was by far the most brilliant version ever made and I believe it will stand up decades from now. He paid tribute to the films before him and was most definitely faithful to so much in Stoker's novel. It brought back the creepy someone-is-behind-you feelings and added new special effects that stunned us. (Although, I don't dispute anyone who says the scariest part of the movie was Keanu Reeves' English accent.) As Draculas go, Gary Oldman was perfect. All other actors played the Count straight through, whereas Oldman had to tackle several incarnations of Dracula. The origin story warrior, the top hat-wearing smooth foreign playa, the bat mutant and the old dude in the castle wearing the fancy bathrobe and the hairdo that looked like an octogenarian's hiney. If I could recommend only one film to define vampires, especially Dracula, Coppola's would be it.
I guess everyone brings something to the table when it comes to legends that span millenniums. It's how they survive generation after generation. Bram Stoker took the folktales from the campfire and put them into popular novels. Dracula was a stage play before Universal studios kicked it to a whole new level by putting it on the silver screen. Anne Rice rebooted the genre when she created new rules, exploding onto the scene with Interview with the Vampire. People were reading books again and every Goth kid changed his name to Lestat. From Nosferatu to sparkly boy toys, one thing is definite. The blood sucking undead are here to stay. Writers like me will work hard to find the twist on the next vampires. Wish us luck. 'Til then, I'll keep staring at my Dracula poster before I drift off to sleep. Wondering who's making that noise outside my window…

About the Author
Gregory L. Hall has a long history in comedy, theatre and improv. He is a national Telly Award winner and creator of the Baltimore Comedy Fest, which supported Autism Awareness. Many fans know Greg best as the host/producer of the popular live radio show The Funky Werepig.
As a writer his work has appeared over the decade in various publications, anthologies and a short story collection. His novels rarely stick to one genre, ranging from comedy and romance to intense thrillers and horror. His biggest claim to fame is he was once hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. We should pause an extra moment to realize how awesome that is.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of At the End of Church Street by Gregory L. Hall.


"Unlocked" by Margo Kelly

Posted: 07 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

by Margo Kelly

Unlocked by Margo Kelly is currently on tour with YA Bound Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Who R U Really?.

A provocative thriller involving hypnosis, mystery, love, and friendship!
Someone has been moving the stuffed pink elephant in Hannah's room. She thinks. And ants crawl over her hands, across the steering wheel, all the time. Don't they? They're what made her crash the car on the way home from the fair, and she wouldn't have freaked out, wouldn't have caused her friend's death, for no reason. But she doesn't know if a person is messing with her, if the paranormal is messing with her - or if she's just going psychotic like her dad before her.
When her friends bail, Hannah is left floundering. Not even her boyfriend Manny believes her, and new girl Chelsea is practically replacing her at school. Only artsy outsider and self-proclaimed occult expert, Plug, agrees to help Hannah find out the truth about hypnosis and demons, and even he can't help Hannah reclaim her mind from whatever's taking over. She'll have to do that herself if she wants to save her friends, her mom and herself.

August 23rd
Crimson lights flashed beneath the darkening Idaho sky, and swarms of people screamed as they plummeted on rollercoaster rails. My friends and I passed unshaven men who blew whistles and offered the world, if you'd only play their game--toss their rings, shoot their balls, throw their darts--for a small price, of course. The tempting aroma of fried foods made my empty stomach tighten. Funnel Cakes. Corndogs. Fried Twinkies.
"Hannah, there it is!" Lily motioned toward a massive white tent. A throng of people near the opening pointed and laughed at the show inside. Lily snatched my wrist and yanked me forward, but Manny tugged me back.
"Food first." He patted his stomach.
"No. Hypnotist first," Lily said. "He's the whole reason we came tonight." She pulled, and her tan shoulders hunched. But Manny held on, and together, the three of us blocked the crowd trying to move down the fairway. A tall blonde lady grunted and hedged around us. Then Lily's long-time love, Jordan, laughed at our spectacle, which was the last thing I wanted. I wrenched free from my friends and took a step away.
"Let's work this out," I said.
"Oh, Hannah…" Lily adjusted her golden tank top. "You're crazy if you think Manny and I will ever agree on anything."
"Then we'll flip a coin," I said.
Jordan plucked a quarter from his pocket. "Who wants to call it?"
Lily clapped. "Heads!"
Jordan tossed the quarter high into the evening sky. We craned our necks, and the evening breeze blew my hair across my face. I smoothed it back into place as the coin crested and began to fall. Jordan reached for it, but a burly man--too busy laughing to watch where he was walking--bumped into Jordan before he caught the coin.
"Dude! Watch out!" Manny yelled at the stranger. I wrapped my fingers around Manny's arm, and he relaxed. The offending guy held his hands up in apology and wandered away.
Manny raked his fingers through his thick chestnut hair. "Let's get the hypnotist over with so we can enjoy the rest of the night."
Lily beamed, and her hazel eyes sparkled. "We need to hurry and get our seats. The next show starts in ten minutes." She grabbed Jordan's hand, and they darted toward the white tent, but the crowd from the previous performance flooded out and blocked their path.
"Thanks," I said to Manny. "I just want everyone to get along and have fun tonight."
Manny laced his fingers through mine, and my heart fluttered. Would tonight be the night we finally kissed? We'd been friends for years, but we just officially started dating last week. He was the best thing in my life, and I wanted to be with him forever. He squeezed my hand, and we meandered over to the tent to wait with Jordan and Lily.
Jordan fiddled with the gold hoop dangling from Lily's ear, and she fussed over the spikes in his sun-bleached hair. They were the poster children for cute couples. Lily had even bought Jordan a plaid shirt with golden lines through it to coordinate with her tank top, and they both wore faded denim shorts and Converse sneakers.
The crowd of people cleared, and we ducked inside the mammoth structure. Spotlights illuminated the entire space and rock music blasted from corner speakers. Stands of bleachers spanned two thirds of the perimeter, and a stage filled the remainder. Men, like a colony of worker ants, moved around sweeping and rearranging chairs for the next show.
Lily claimed a spot near the middle front of the bleachers, and I perched next to her. A shiver ran up my spine when the cold metal touched the backs of my thighs. I wedged my fingers beneath my legs, and my silver bracelets clanked against the steel.
"Why do you want to sit so close?" I raised my voice over the blaring song.
"To get picked for the show." Lily bugged out her eyes, as if it should've been obvious.
My throat tightened at the idea of making a fool of myself in front of everyone. I wished we could move further back, but all around us, the stands were filling fast.
Over the noise, a familiar hee-haw laugh split the arena: Chelsea. She and her date, Mark, bounded toward us, her long tan legs accentuated by her short shorts. Her single blonde braid swished back and forth as she moved. She was a starting center for volleyball and towered five inches over Mark who was a second-string tight end for the football team. He had to move twice as fast to keep up with her, but he had pursued her ever since she moved here last fall.
"You didn't save us seats?" Chelsea asked.
"It flooded with people too fast," Lily said. We hopped up and exchanged hugs with her.
Jordan stepped in front of Chelsea and fingered the collar of my white blouse. "You'd be hilarious hypnotized," he said.
"No, I wouldn't." I swatted his hand away and straightened my collar. "Besides, it's only entertainment. A gimmick."
"Jordan's right," Chelsea said. "You would be funny on stage, but you're way too uptight to be submissive to anyone." My jaw dropped, and Chelsea laughed.
"I'm not uptight," I said, but my words faded into the deafening music. I just never wanted to be disorderly like my dad. He embarrassed Mom so many times in public. She would flush beet red as she worked to quiet his outbursts. One evening back in New Jersey, when I was eleven, Dad refused to get into the car. Mom started the engine and threatened to leave him in that crowded mall parking lot. I loved him too much to abandon him there. I pleaded with him, and when I reached for his arm, he backhanded me. My head flung to the side, and the pain seared through my cheek. Less than twenty feet away, a trio of girls from the popular clique gawked at my family's debacle. Their ringleader cocked an eyebrow. Then the girls snickered and scurried away. I fought back my tears and turned toward Dad. I opened his door and waited--keeping my hands to myself. Several minutes passed before he relented and sank into the passenger seat. He never touched me again. He died three months later.
The music in the arena suddenly changed from blaring rock to a peppier pop song at half the volume.
Chelsea edged around me and took my seat. "Well if you're too chicken to be in the show, Lily and I can volunteer."
"Go ahead," I said.
"No!" Lily said. "She's just teasing."
Chelsea shrugged and surrendered my seat. "Fine, just make sure you entertain us." She grabbed Mark's hand, and they ran off to claim spots at the top of the bleachers.
"Don't let them badger you into doing it, if it's something you don't want to do," Manny said. His towering six foot frame shaded me from the arena's spotlights.
"Trust me," I said. "I'll choose for myself."
His brown eyes widened, and he caressed my cheek with his smooth fingertips.
"Oh gag." Jordan pretended to barf. "It's a good thing we haven't eaten yet; otherwise I'd be blowing chunks all over you two."
Manny whacked Jordan's chest.
"Dude!" Jordan lifted his hands.
"Stop." Lily pulled him toward her, and he sat to her right. I sat to her left, and when Manny took the spot next to me, he wrapped his arm around my waist.
He whispered in my ear, "You're amazing." His breath made my skin quiver.
A guy on the stage thumped the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the announcer said, and the song changed to an anthem of drums and guitars, building the excitement. "Tonight, I have the honor of introducing the mystical Master Gira." The guy swept his arm to the side of the stage, the drums beat at a maddening level, and the crowd applauded as a man stepped onto the stage. He wore powder blue sneakers, worn out jeans, and a white button up collared shirt beneath a black blazer. His face, too tan. His hair, too white. He clapped his huge hands together, and his bleached teeth glowed under the glare of the spotlights.
Lily whacked my knee. "Volunteer with me." She twisted several strands of her long brown locks around her finger. "Take a risk with me. Life is meant to be lived. Please?"
I glanced up at the stage and back at Lily. "I'll do it, but only because we're friends."
"Yes!" Lily threw her arms around my neck. "Best friends."
"Welcome to my Mystical Madness!" Master Gira swung the microphone stand out of his way and clutched the mike with his other hand. The crowd cheered.
He spread his arms wide and asked, "Who's been hypnotized before?" Half the crowd thrust their hands into the air. They clearly thought this was no big deal. Maybe I was too uptight.
"Who thinks it's all a giant hoax?" he asked. Lily clutched my wrist and raised it high. I yanked it back down, but the master mystic had already locked eyes with me. He raised his bushy white eyebrows and strutted to the left side of the stage.
"Who's afraid of appearing foolish tonight?" A majority lifted their hands. "I'll tell you what--" He pointed, and the music in the background softened. "--everyone shake your hands high in the air." Everyone did, including me. "Shake them faster. Higher. Lower. In front of your face. Turn to your neighbor. Who seems foolish now?" The volume of the music increased, and everyone burst into raucous laughter. "And we haven't even started the show, yet!" Master Gira shouted into the microphone.
He moved back to center stage, directly in front of me, but he looked beyond me-higher up into the stands.
"Grab the hand of your neighbor and extend your arms out straight." Both Manny and Lily linked fingers with me. The animated hypnotist lifted his arms up and down, and everyone in the crowd followed without hesitation. We all looked ridiculous, but the merriment was contagious.
"Who's ready to have the most amazing time of their life?" The crowd shouted their approval. "Well the best seats in the house are right up here." He pointed toward the row of chairs on the stage. "If you want to let go of your fears and feel more relaxed than you ever have, join the show tonight. I have fifteen chairs, and I need them filled boy, girl, boy, girl. Who wants to help?"
Lily tugged me to my feet, and with her other hand, she reached for Jordan. I reminded myself that I was doing this for her. I was nothing like my dad. I could have fun and keep my composure.
Manny hopped up with us. "I'll go, too. When it's over we can do whatever you want."
"Eat funnel cakes," I said.
"Funnel cakes it is."
I gave a quick nod, and all four of us ran up on stage with eleven other suckers. Several stage assistants showed us which seats to take. Manny and I sat next to each other, but they positioned Lily and Jordan at the other end of the row. She gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and he winked at me.
Gira explained to the audience that they needed to be very quiet while he hypnotized us. "Not everyone can be hypnotized," he said. "If I or my assistants see someone is not fully under, we will excuse them from the show to return to the bleachers. And likewise, if a member of the audience falls under, we may bring him or her to join us up here."
The lights over the bleachers dimmed, and the spotlights aimed at the stage brightened. I squinted at the harsh beams. The hypnotist stepped in front of the row of chairs and touched each person on the shoulder. His jeans brushed my bare knees, and he paused in front of me with his index finger on my shoulder. I focused on the blacks of his pupils, and goose bumps popped out on my arms. My instincts told me to get off the stage. But the show had already begun. Lily would kill me if I left now. I could just pretend to be hypnotized.
Master Gira shifted his hand in front of me and offered it to shake. He didn't do that with anyone else, and so I hesitated at first, but then I relented and extended my own hand. Without warning, he clutched my wrist and jerked it upward, nearly lifting me out of my chair. He held my palm so close to his face, his breath warmed my skin. He lowered his voice and spoke in a rapid monotone.
"From the tips of your fingers relax your muscles." He released my wrist and touched my fingertips. Then he trailed his hand down toward my elbow. I was uncertain how to react. "Feel an overwhelming sense of peace. Let go of your worries. When I count to three you will slip into a deep resting place of serenity and comfort. One. Two. Three. Sleep!"
He snapped, and my chin fell to my chest.
But I wasn't asleep.
I wasn't snoring. I wasn't dreaming. My eyes were open, and I was aware of everything around me, but my head felt heavy. I played along, and even with my chin down, I saw the hypnotist step to the person next to me. On my other side, Manny tugged at the hem of his tan shorts and bounced his knee. He leaned forward and whispered, "Are you okay?"
"Yes," I whispered without moving a muscle.
A stage assistant said to Manny, "Please return to the audience."
I needed him to stay.
Manny's hand tightened into a fist on his thigh. "I want to continue," he said.
"No." The stage assistant nudged his arm.
Manny flexed his fingers and plucked at his blue polo shirt. The assistant led him away, and another assistant guided someone else to Manny's chair. The stranger's chin sank to his chest. My eyes throbbed from straining, but before I closed them to rest, a shadow crept across the stage floor. I took a deep breath and listened to the hypnotist tell more people to sleep. Were they all faking like I was?
"Open your minds," Master Gira said with a cadence. "Open your minds and listen to my voice. I'm going to count and when I reach ten, you will be in a deep restful sleep, but you will still hear my voice and respond to my directions. As I count, visualize yourself moving down a plush staircase. Each step down brings you closer to true relaxation. Each step doubles your sense of peace. One, you're on the first step moving down."
I'm doing this for Lily.
"Two. Three."
I hope Manny is okay.
"Four. Five."
I am not like my dad. I can stay in control.
"Six. Seven."
I wish I could see Lily and Jordan.
"Eight. Nine."
An ant crawled across the stage. It was out of my reach; otherwise, I would have squished it under my flip-flop. I hated those pests.
"I only want you to experience an overwhelming sense of serenity and comfort. Relax. …Ten. Accept the feeling of immense satisfaction. Gradually lift your heads and open your eyes."
I lifted my chin, thrilled my neck didn't ache from being in the same position for so long. I stretched from side to side and scanned the audience for Manny, but the bright spotlights kept me from making out the faces. They seemed like distant ghosts instead of living people. I glanced down to the end of the row, expecting to see Lily and Jordan, but they were gone.
"Slowly inhale, expand your diaphragm, and hold it." I followed Master Gira's instructions, but I faced straight ahead and avoided eye contact with him as he paced the stage. I wanted him to assume I was under his spell. "Gently release the breath out through your mouth."
The music changed again. A familiar tune, but a few seconds passed before I recognized the anthem of La Bamba.
"We're listening to one of your favorite songs," Gira said. "You love it so much; you want to be a part of it, right?"
Not really, but I was willing to join in for the show.
"Imagine your favorite musical instrument: drums, trumpet, guitar, anything that makes you happy. On the count of three pick up your favorite instrument from your lap and play along with the music. The more you participate, the more relaxed you'll feel."
I could do that. One. Two. Three. Trumpet up. Lips puckered. Fingers moving. We played our instruments for a few seconds. Then Master Gira quickly said, "One. Two. Three. Sleep." My body drooped, and my chin sank to my chest. I relaxed.
The hypnotist called on other participants to do random silly things on the stage: pretend to be a duck, pretend to juggle fire sticks, pretend to be naked. Then he had a group of five lying center stage sun bathing. He told them the temperature dropped below freezing. While they reacted and the audience laughed, the hypnotist stood in front of me. He gave more monotonous instructions to the group of sunbathers, told them to cuddle together. The crowd clapped and whistled.
Master Gira swung the microphone behind his back, leaned in close to me, and whispered, "Open your mind and allow your subconscious to hear me. I want only goodness for you. Open your mind and let my voice in. Experience this peace."
His breath, moist against my ear, smelled of cigarettes. Part of me worried about his intentions, but a larger part of me sensed an overwhelming degree of comfort. I took a deep breath and released the remaining tension from my muscles.
Gira moved back to center stage and suggested to the group that the temperature had become warm again. He counted to three, and an Irish dance song replaced the previous melody.
The hypnotist spoke rapidly with the cadence of the Celtic music and told us how much we wanted to move to it. I had been sitting a long time. I was ready to stand up and stretch. He counted to three, and everyone on stage popped out of their chairs at the same time, including me, glad to do it. We stepped around a bit, and as he suggested, we kept our arms glued to our sides and moved our feet to the music like Irish dancers. It felt energizing to prance around. I grinned and sent a mental message to Lily: This one's for you, sister. I tapped my feet to the rhythm.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Unlocked is a suspenseful thriller all the way to the very climatic ending! This good vs. evil story had me guessing the ending until the final pages. Kelly is very descriptive in her writing and details that I felt I was there right along with the main characters. Think that carnival side shows are harmless? Think again!" ~ Julie Hatcher, librarian
"An engaging mystery with hints of supernatural and romance." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Interview With the Author
Margo Kelly, author of Unlocked, stops by today for a short interview.
As a public speaker, you're already something of a professional communicator, but there is a difference between the spoken word and the written one. Was the transition from orator to author a challenging one for you?
In some ways, yes, because much of my public speaking has been on non-fiction topics such as business, sales, and recruiting. Now I'm writing fiction for the young adult audience. These are two completely separate worlds. However, any great public speaker includes stories, personal details, and a bit of hyperbole to keep the interest of the listeners. The art of engaging the audience has definitely helped me translate stories to paper.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The greatest thing I learned at school was to think for myself. Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. Researching and challenging the statements of others became an essential skill.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer ... or ruler of the universe ... they're pretty much the same thing.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to make quilts, go camping, garden, and read.
What's on your nightstand?
Dust. Because I'd rather read than clean house. In addition to the dust, I have a stack of over twenty books and my Kindle (with countless additional books waiting to be read).
Who are some of your favorite authors?
If you could choose only one, who would be your favorite author?
Dean Koontz, for his page-turning thrillers. My desire is to write fast-paced thrillers for the young adult audience.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I love to read, and I have a lot of favorites, but if I have to pick just one, I suppose I'd choose Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. It not only kept me turning pages, but it also caught me by surprise in the end. Any plotline that is unpredictable impresses me, but I especially enjoyed Odd Thomas because he's such a lovable character. Koontz writes great thrillers. Outside of my genre – I'd have to say I love the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. Every single book in the series has made me laugh out loud at some point. I love fast paced, plot driven books.
What was your favorite book as a child/teen?
Thanks for stopping by today, Margo. Enjoy the rest of your tour!

About the Author
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Her critically acclaimed debut, Who R U Really?, was published by Merit Press (an imprint of F+W Media) in 2014. Her second novel, Unlocked, was published by Merit Press in October 2016. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
Margo Kelly loves to be scared ... when she's reading a good book, watching a good movie, or suffering from the hiccups. She loves writing thrillers for young adults and hopes her stories give you the goose bumps or the itchies or the desire to rethink everyday things. Margo is represented by the not-so-scary, but totally awesome, Brianne Johnson of Writers House.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two signed hardcover copies of Unlocked by Margo Kelly (US only).


"A Life for a Life by Lynda McDaniel

Posted: 06 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

  A Life for a Life
by Lynda McDaniel

A Life for a Life by Lynda McDaniel is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

When a young woman is found dead in the North Carolina mountains, the county sheriff says suicide. Della Kincaid disagrees. A former reporter in Washington, D.C., she knows how to hunt down the real story. But she's now living in Laurel Falls, N.C., creating a new life for herself. Without her usual sources, she turns to an unlikely cast of characters - friends, customers, ex-husband, and forger. With their help, she uncovers how unbridled greed has spawned a series of crimes and sorrows. Along the way, Kincaid discovers what the Appalachian landscape and people mean to her.

Book Video

September 2004
My life was saved by a murder. At the time, of course, I didn't understand that. I just knew I was having the best year of my life. Given all the terrible things that happened, I should be ashamed to say it, but that year was a blessing for me.
I'd just turned fifteen when Della Kincaid bought Daddy's store. At first nothing much changed. Daddy was still round a lot, getting odd jobs as a handyman and farming enough to sell what Mama couldn't put by. And we still lived in the house next door, though Mama banned me from going inside the store. She said she didn't want me to be a nuisance, but I think she was jealous of "that woman from Washington, D.C."
So I just sat out front like I always did when Daddy owned it, killing time, chatting with a few friendly customers or other bench-sitters like me. I never wanted to go inside while Daddy had the store, not because he might have asked me to help, but because he thought I couldn't help. Oh sure, I'd go in for a Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper, but, for the most part, I just sat there, reared back with my chair resting against the outside wall, my legs dangling. Just like my life.
I've never forgotten how crazy it all played out. I had forgotten about the two diaries I'd kept that year. I discovered them while cleaning out our home after Mama died in April. (Daddy had passed two year earlier, to the day.) They weren't like a girl's diary (at least that's what I told myself, when I worried about such things). They were notes I'd imagined a reporter like Della or her ex-husband would make, capturing the times.
I'd already cleaned out most of the house, saving my room for last. I boxed up my hubcaps, picking out my favorites from the ones still hanging on my bedroom walls. (We'd long ago sold the collection in the barn.) I tackled the shelves with all my odd keepsakes: a deer jaw, two dusty geodes, other rocks I'd found that caught my eye, like the heart-shaped reddish one—too good not to keep. When I gathered a shelf-full of books in my arms, I saw the battered shoebox where I'd stashed those diaries tucked behind the books. I sat on my old bed, the plaid spread dusty and faded, untouched in a couple of decades, and started to read. The pages had yellowed, but they stirred up fresh memories, all the same. That's when I called Della (I still looked for any excuse to talk with her), and we arranged a couple of afternoons to go over the diaries together.
We sat at her kitchen table, where she'd placed a pot of tea and a plate of homemade cookies, and talked. And talked. After a time or two recollecting over the diaries, I told Della I wanted to write a book about that year. She agreed. We were both a little surprised that, even after all these years, we didn't have any trouble recalling that spring.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing with descriptive powers and beautiful mountain scenery. Intense family and friend dynamics with character vulnerabilities and complex relationships that steal the reader's heart and make this mystery a must-read." ~ Pam Franklin, International Bestselling Author
"Between Della, who's struggling to adjust to her new life, and Abit, a boy mislabeled, but oh, so special, McDaniel's mystery novel delivers a pair of unforgettable crime-solving characters. Using her keen knowledge of the charm (and less than charming features) of life in the North Carolina mountains, she lured me into her story and kept me there. I hope Della, Abit, and the gang will be back!" ~ Virginia McCullough, award-winning author of Amber Light
"A Life for a Life is a rich read, on so many levels. From expert plot turns to painstaking character development, I was captivated and riveted. Like jumping into a swift flowing river, I was all-in from page one and did not want out till the very end. For those who don't typically buy mystery novels, you'll want this one - for yourself and for those you love. It's far more than a mystery ... it's a book about life. A great read for summer breaks, book clubs and anyone wanting to be swept away by this journey!" ~ Jenny Capella, Amazon Bestselling author of Your Dream Team: How to Start and Run a Mastermind Group
"Marvelous read! A compelling story told through the eyes and voice of two remarkable narrators who seem like polar opposites but are deceptively similar. They possess the same hopes and dreams for a new life. Not only are they courageous and determined, but most importantly, they share a special friendship. They describe their home life in such great detail that you feel like you have been transported to a small mountain town and are fortunate enough to catch a stunning beautiful glimpse into living and working in the deep woods. The intricate plot the will have you guessing until the end." ~ Yvette Klobuchar, author of Brides Unveiled

About the Author
My writing career began more than 30 years ago. Over the years, I've written more than 1,200 articles for major magazines, hundreds of newsletters, and dozens of blogs. I'm proudest of the 15 books I've written, including A Life for a Life. The way I see it, books are to writers what pentathlons are to athletes: Endurance. And I've got it!
My other books include Words at Work, which I wrote straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today. (It won top honors from the National Best Books Awards.) That same year, I wrote Contemporary Hawai'i Woodworkers: the Wood, the Art, the Aloha, a coffee-table art book featuring 35 artists; it won several awards, too, and sold out quickly. Since then, I've written two Amazon Bestselling Books: How Not to Sound Stupid When You Write and Write Your Book Now! (with Virginia McCullough). In 2015, I wrote Aloha Expressionism by Contemporary Hawai'i Artists featuring 50 more artists living on those beautiful islands.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but I've lived all over this country - from the Midwest to the Deep South to Appalachia to the Mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest. Whew! I finally settled in Sebastopol, California, a place that reflects the values I learned while living in the mountains of North Carolina, all those years ago.
What's next? I'm busy with the sequel to A Life for a Life so I get to enjoy Abit's, er, I mean V.J.'s company again.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to one of 5 ebook copies of A Life for a Life by Lynda McDaniel.

Plus, enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of A Life for a Life by Lynda McDaniel (US only; ends 10 October).


"In the Garden Room" by Tanya Eby

Posted: 05 Oct 2016 12:00 AM PDT

In the Garden Room
by Tanya Eby

In the Garden Room by Tanya Eby is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Blunder Woman.

It is Chicago. 1910. Eleven-year-old Lillian March looks over her mother's dead body with a sense of relief.
As a poor woman, her mother, Cora, never had any real choices or happiness with her life. Cora and Lillian flee to the bustling city of Chicago, where she is certain she will have the life of opulence she deserves.
Cora and Lillian face deep hardships in turn-of-the-century Chicago as Cora's mind continues its downward spiral. With no money and no hope for income, Cora sells Lillian to The Garden Room, a brothel, where young girls and desperate women are kept like flowers in a jar.
John March comes looking for his daughter and his wife in an attempt to rescue them, but even if he finds them alive, is rescue really possible?
In the Garden Room is an exploration of madness, desire and two women's choices in a time when they weren't really allowed to choose.

Cora had it all planned out. It hadn't taken any effort, really. It unrolled like a rug…one push and it unfurled all on its own. They would escape. She would protect Lillian, the way that she had dreamed of being protected, and she would whisk her away to a safe place. A place where Lillian could grow up and meet a good man who could support her the way she deserved, maybe buying a nice home for Cora too, though Cora wasn't quite past the courting stage, yet. If she weren't married. It didn't matter. This was a moment for a new start. To start the way life should: with possibility.
She took their cherry farm money. All of it. Cora moved with the speed of a crack of lightning. This was her chance, and she intended to take it.
John's ship had been delayed. He was not dead, of course. Not at the bottom of Lake Michigan, where, secretly, she thought he'd be better off. Happier. He was circling the Upper Peninsula where the fishing was better than expected. By the time he made it home, they'd have been gone long enough for a thin layer of dust to settle over every surface in the house, though he probably wouldn't even notice.
It was amazing how swiftly one could free oneself. Like throwing open the door to a cage, Cora had escaped, bringing her little bird with her.
They took a train to Ludington, and then boarded the ferry for Chicago.
On the train, Cora sat demurely. She folded her gloved hands in her lap and imagined she was a debutante at a ball. She should have been a debutante. She should have been swathed in white silk and passed from one fine-gloved hand to another. Instead, she was a fisherman's wife with calluses on her knees. That could stop now. The train shook on the tracks, and Cora felt as if it was shaking off her skin, leaving her exposed and soft as a peeled hardboiled egg. For once, Lillian did not prattle on and on. Her daughter sat in a stunned sort of silence, her eyes hollow. Her shoulders seemed weighted down. She'd get over it soon. Every girl had to leave her father, at some point. Every girl was handed over to someone new and forgotten. That was the way the world worked.
The train hummed, or maybe a song hummed within Cora's chest. The landscape rushed by in a zoom of color. She closed her eyes to it. When she opened them again, it would be like awakening from a bad dream, and she could start the day over again. Chicago was just a boat ride away. It waited for her.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"This was a truly great read by Tanya Eby, who is definitely a talented narrator, but this is the first book of hers that I've read. Now I'm going to have to buy the rest! This story gripped me from the first words and completely sucked me in to Lillian and Cora's world. I loved how she switched back and forth between the characters, so we could truly understand the depth of Cora's disfunction, and even begin to empathize with her perspective. It made her, if not likeable, at least more understandable. Eby also managed to paint a vivid picture of small town life and Chicago a century ago, and find the right words and images to bring the setting to life. A talented writer, a unique and beautifully twisted tale, a story that will stay with me a long time." ~ DMJ's Girl
"This wonderfully dark read allows you to travel into the depravity of early Chicago and see how a father and daughter can overcome the trials before them. You quickly learn to despise the mother, and then feel pity for her as the sad creature that she has become. The daughter is the obvious heroine, and you feel every wrong inflicted on her. Her triumph is both satisfying and soul wrenching because of the journey. You will want to read this story front to back, but be prepared to feel dirty and triumphant as you complete the story."~ Patrick L Callahan
"This is a story about survival and hope and how strong the human spirit can be. A dark read for sure, but very powerful, and a page-turner. The author's great writing and vivid details bring turn-of-the-century Chicago alive; but it was the need to know that these fragile characters would be okay that carried me to the end. And, wow, what an ending!" ~ Kathy S.
"Love, loss, exploitation, mental health, survival, hope. This story is powerful, riveting, heart-breaking, and important. Devastating, but still beautiful." ~ Evan Heird
"... it just blew me away. i like Tunnel Vision but this is leaps and bounds beyond that. i have never read anything so powerful and so dark." ~ Robert Woodward

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
The book begins in December 1910, as Lillian's father, John, rescues her after her mother, Cora, is killed. But what exactly happened? Flashback to Michigan in July 1910, where Cora, disillusioned with her life as a cleaner and wife of a fisherman, is charmed by Zeke into running away to Chicago with the promise of employment in The Garden Room. She drags along her daughter, Lillian, who she regards as undisciplined and only interested in reading the biology books her father brings home. But will Cora ever find the happiness she seeks?
The story is told variously from the points-of-view of Lillian, Cora, Zeke, John, Chester, Mama Mabel, and Buttons, allowing us to get numerous different perspectives. Through her writing, the author masterfully depicts sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, especially when Cora and Lillian first arrive in Chicago. And in her descriptions of the abattoir, you really get a feel for the stench and filth of the place. In an homage to John and Lillian, the writing is full of fishing and insect metaphors, the most constant being Lillian and Cora describing themselves as caterpillars waiting to transform into butterflies. Despite her apparent mental instability, it's difficult to feel sorry for Cora, a woman so desperate to escape her mundane life that she is willing to prostitute her eleven-year-old daughter; as, even though John may be a smelly fisherman, he is a hard-working man, an attentive husband, and a loving father. The narrative is a bit repetitious, and not much actually happens throughout the story, but the quality of the writing more than makes up for it. This is very much a character study. Your heart will ache for Lillian.
Warning: coarse language, sex scenes, drug use, mental illness, violence.

About the Author
Tanya Eby is a writer and an award-winning audiobook narrator. She has published a variety of novels from romantic comedies to mysteries to dark historical pieces. While her writing crosses genres they all share quirky characters and complicated relationships.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an Audible download of any Tanya Eby book or a $20 Amazon gift card.


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