Book Spotlight: The Knotted Ring by Myra Hargrave McIlvain

BNR The Knotted Ring Blitz

 

I’m thrilled to be spotlighting this book today. It looks like a moving story rich in history and character.

About the book, The Knotted Ring Cover The Knotted Ring

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Family Saga / Historical Romance
  • Publisher: Next Chapter
  • Page Count: 412
  • Publication Date: December 7, 2023
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Susannah Mobley, expecting a baby by her lover, a slave owned by her family, submits to an arranged marriage to Hezekiah James who is headed to Texas to claim a Spanish land grant. Caught in a series of lies about the origin of a beautiful ring woven from her red hair and the circumstances of her pregnancy, Susannah embarks on the harsh trip to Texas, grieving for her lost love and determined to control her destiny.

On the wagon train journey, Hezekiah is tested by his beliefs and strengths with his slaves and Native Americans, as well as a strange Mad Stone. His determination to build a plantation as fine as Susannah’s home place and to make the best decisions for Susannah fails. Susannah will have to decide if she can live with the consequences of her lies and open herself to this man who shows every form of contrition or if she will allow longing for what she cannot have to destroy her life.

The Knotted Ring is currently a semi-finalist in the Laramie Awards for Western and Americana Fiction.

Praise for this book:

“An often engrossing and well-handled story of the 19th century.” —Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Myra Hargrave McIlvain Author Photo McIlvain

Myra Hargrave McIlvain, a sixth-generation Texan, is a storyteller who has written Texas historical markers (yes, real people write those things lining Texas highways), articles for newspapers and magazines such as Texas Highways, and six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas characters and places.

McIlvain found her real love when she wrote her first historical fiction. All her tales take place in Texas during major periods of its history. However, The Knotted Ring was inspired by an old family story, and in her search to understand what may have happened, she imagined their lives set in a time that she knew well––the establishment of the first Anglo colony.

McIlvain views history as the story of a people; the people she knows best have made Texas home.

Connect with Myra:

Website | FacebookX (Twitter) | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

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1st Prize: Autographed hardcover & tote bag; 2nd Prize: Autographed paperback + candle; 3rd Prize: Autographed paperback
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In Their Words: CG Fewston, author of Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being – with Giveaway

BNR Conquergood

 

I’m so excited to be sharing an interview (scroll down to read it) with the author of this book. It seems like a fantastic read, and his writing process really made me want to dig out MY old moleskines and get back to writing more in longhand.

About the book: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being Cover Conquerwood

  • Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopian / Steampunk
  • Publication Date: October 17, 2023
  • Pages: 381
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

One of resilience and transformation, Conquergood’s life-changing discovery explores the depths of family, memory, love, and the mysteries that lie at the heart of the universe.

In 2183, Jerome Conquergood is an outcast roaming the abandoned and crumbling skyscrapers of Old York City outside the Korporation’s seductive and dizzying headquarters, a post-apocalyptic security-city for the mega-rich. Despite his hatred for the techno-optimism and the Korporation, Conquergood is compelled to save his mysterious twin brother Vincent by joining the Korporation, a mega-corporate and governmental entity in a world oppressed to peace.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the author, CG Fewston Author Photo Fewston credit Thor

The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s been a member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.

Fewston is the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son, The New America: Collection, The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts, Vanity of Vanities, A Time to Love in Tehran, Little Hometown, America, A Time to Forget in East Berlin, and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being.

Connect with CG:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | BookBub | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn

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Author Interview: CG Fewston on the Writing Life

How do you write? Any backstory to your choice?1215 MELISSA Author Interview 2 of 5

I prefer to write longhand using a black uni-ball pen with a Moleskine notebook the size of my palm. In the front of the small notebook, I write the story. In the back, I write down notes and tidbits of research that I want to include later on in the story.

Writing longhand allows me more room to create and rework (fixing, editing, and smoothing out) the language and the flow of the dialogue and events of the narrative dream. I always read aloud what I write by longhand and if there’s something flawed or the wrong word choice, I’ll correct or change it and read again and again and again until the flow is sufficient for my level of perfection — until I am satisfied that the fictive dream flows without stumbling or breaking.

After many of these small notebooks have been filled, I will go to typing them and then printing the typed pages out (having the pages bound like a book) so I can then read and edit many times over, reading aloud as I go through the entire manuscript. I will have read the book aloud hundreds of times over before I am ready to let the book go out into the world.

 

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? 1215 MELISSA Author Interview 3 of 5

I’m a full-time writer who spends his days working on novels. First and foremost, however, I am a proud stay-at-home father who focuses on his son. I wake at 4:30 in the morning to do some writing before my son wakes up. Then as he showers, I make his breakfast and spend time with him. Then I take him to school and return home by about 8:30 am to focus on my writing; this includes writing new fiction for my novels. Usually this is either one or two novels because if I get stuck or slowed on one, then I switch to another and continue writing — in this way I can keep writing and remain productive.

I also work on author interviews or writing up blog posts about the books I’ve read and publish these on my author website. I enjoy sharing with the world the books I’ve read and it also helps me to reflect and have a deeper understanding of the books I’ve read. In the afternoon, I get my son from school and spend the rest of the evening and night focusing on him and family. I strive for balance between writing and family, and enjoy a more family-centered routine.

 

What did you find most useful in learning to write for publication? What was least useful or most destructive? 1215 MELISSA Author Interview 4 of 5

The most useful piece of knowledge I learned in writing for publication came from my mentor (if I’m allowed to call him that) the American novelist John Gardner. Through his amazing books discussing the craft and art of writing — On Moral Fiction (1978), The Art of Fiction (1983), On Becoming a Novelist (1983), and On Writers and Writing (1994) — John Gardner taught me the importance of the “fictive dream” and how writers should do everything to maintain that fictive dream throughout the story.

The most destructive aspect to writing would be for a writer to care too much about what’s going on in the world (at the time they are creating the story and writing it down) and what critics actually say or think about your work. Fiction should stand alone from critics and the events of the world. If the fiction does parallel, then let the fiction do that on its own. Writers should give little time and attention and energy to good or bad comments or reviews of their fiction. Strive to do your absolute best, don’t compare, and then let the fiction speak for itself.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits or writing rituals you’d like to share with your readers?

I have the ability to lose myself inside my work. Five hours can quickly become five minutes. When I’m writing, I’m connected to something greater than myself and Time becomes somewhat different. That’s when I know I’m doing what I was meant to do.

 

What does your perfect writing spot look like? Is that what your ACTUAL writing spot looks like? 1215 MELISSA Author Interview 5 of 5

The perfect writing spot, for me, is the spot that is most conducive to my writing, creating a productive writing session with the most ease. Now, it’s the kitchen table at 4:30 in the morning or my leather writing chair when no one is home.

So, yes, my perfect writing spot is my actual writing spot — it cannot be any other way. I’m not trying to make a million dollars. I’m trying to write a beautiful work of art. So, I take my writing seriously and with a fierce intensity that goes completely unnoticed because I write in solitude and in silence. And I love it that way.

 

 


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SIX WINNERS:

1st: $100 Amazon card + eBook or paperback of Conquergood

2nd: $50 Amazon card + eBook or paperback

3rd: $25 Amazon card + eBook or paperback

4th: Book Lover’s gift bundle + eBook or paperback

5th: Book Lover’s blanket + eBook or paperback

6th: Book Lover’s tote bag + eBook or paperback

(US Only; ends 12/21/23)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly:

12/11/23 Sybrina’s Book Blog Excerpt
12/11/23 The Real World According to Sam Review
12/11/23 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
12/12/23 The Page Unbound Notable Quotables
12/12/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
12/13/23 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
12/14/23 It’s Not All Gravy Review
12/14/23 Book Fidelity Review
12/15/23 Bibliotica Author Interview
12/15/23 Librariel Book Adventures Review
12/16/23 Forgotten Winds Scrapbook Page
12/17/23 StoreyBook Reviews Author Interview
12/18/23 Rox Burkey Blog Review
12/18/23 Rebecca R. Cahill, Author Scrapbook Page
12/19/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Review
12/19/23 Reading by Moonlight Review
12/20/23 Jennie Reads Review
12/20/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

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Review: The Edge of Too Late, by Jan Sikes with Giveaway

BNR The Edge of Too Late

 

About the book, The Edge of Too Late harbor pointe blue cover JS

  • Series: Harbor Pointe (Book 5)
  • Genre: Ghost Suspense / Contemporary Short Stories / Action & Adventure Romance
  • Publisher: RiJan Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 28, 2023
  • Number of Pages: 126
  • Scroll down for giveaway! 

Brandon Miller has his dream job, financial security, and he’s madly in love. Only one thing is missing—a commitment.

Angela Cooper’s ex-husband left her with deep scars, souring her on the concept of marriage. She’s not interested in a do-over. Not with Brandon or anyone. Her heart is locked securely away behind a thick wall.

With a ring in his pocket and hope in his heart, Brandon arranges a romantic getaway to the historic Harbor Pointe Inn, where he plans to pop the question.

Before they reach the inn, Angela’s got her camera in hand and ghosts on her mind. But they arrive to find a much more tangible horror.

Accident or foul play?

Someone is up to no good, and Angela is the next target. When suspects can be worldly or otherworldly, danger and secrets lurk everywhere.

Poised at the perilous edge of too late, Angela and Brandon face the fight of their lives.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for The Edge of Too Late


About the author, Jan Sikes Author Photo Sikes

Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale encompassing four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

And now, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published numerous award-winning short stories and novels.

Jan is an active blogger, an avid fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.

Connect with Jan:

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | X (TWITTER) | NEWSLETTER | BOOKBUB | AMAZON | GOODREADS

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

As someone whose first memory is the sound of fog horns, I’m a sucker for any kind of coastal ghost story. There’s just something about cliffs, crags, and crashing waves that’s just meant for the supernatural. Picking up the Jan Sikes’s  entry in the shared universe Harbor Pointe series, a The Edge of Too Late, was a no-brainer for me, though now I have to find the time to read books one through four.

This novel works perfectly well as a standalone story, and it’s got a lot going on in only 126 pages: ghosts, accidental (or is it) death, and romance. The relationship between Brandon and Angela was the center of the story, of course, but it isn’t a fluffy one. Angela has been burned by previous relationships, and fears being able to fully commit to Brandon, and her worries work really well to heighten the overall sense of unease that author Sikes has crafted so well. From the opening scene, Angela is experiencing shivers and goosebumps, and both characters are trepidatious when the police who zip past them on their way to their inn, and more so when the realize the police are handling an accidental death (or is it) that occurred just before their arrival.

Angela’s photography and Brandon’s sense of romance and adventure really work well to balance each other. When the former is looking through her camera lens, she’s certain and secure. And Brandon encourages her. It’s a lovely relationship, but the choice to have Brandon refer to Angela as ‘Angi Baby’ felt a little creepy to me (and even more so in the audiobook version which I listened to after finishing the text. (Kudos to the narrator, Jessine Van Lopik, whose performance was both compelling and, at times, chilling).

The Harbor Pointe setting was essentially in the character in this story, the way fictional villages often are. I spent my teen years in northern California, and Harbor Pointe reminded me a lot of Moss Beach and Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County (which has a haunted restaurant). It had that breezy California vibe without ever feeling like a caricature, and I could taste the salt in the air as I read.

This novel, as mentioned above, is only 126 pages long, so it’s easy to read it in one sitting, and honestly, the story is so gripping, I can’t envision any other way to experience it. Jan Sikes has given us a story jam-packed with characters, settings, and ideas that beg to be revisited. Check me in to the Harbor Pointe Inn any time, I’m eager to visit again.

Goes well with: Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and a glass of Fort Point Animal IPA.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:

1st: $20 Amazon gift card

2nd & 3rd: audiobooks of The Edge of Too Late

4th & 5th: eBooks of Flowers and Stone

(US Only; ends midnight, CST 12/15/23)

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Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for this book for direct links to each blog, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

12/05/23 Jennifer Silverwood Review
12/05/23 Hall Ways Blog Excerpt
12/06/23 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
12/06/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
12/07/23 JennCaffeinated Review
12/08/23 Librariel Book Adventures Review
12/08/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Character Interview
12/09/23 StoreyBook Reviews Review
12/10/23 The Clueless Gent Review
12/11/23 Bibliotica Review
12/12/23 Rox Burkey Blog Review
12/12/23 Forgotten Winds Author Interview
12/13/23 It’s Not All Gravy Review
12/14/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

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Good Talk… Good Talk, by Ginny Andrews – Book Review and Giveaway

BNR Good Talk

 

About the book, Good Talk… Good Talk Cover Hi Res Good Talk

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Humor / Comedy / Essays
  • Publisher: Ginny Andrews Comedy, LLC
  • Date of Publication: October 5, 2023
  • Number of Pages: 171 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Raise your hand if you have ever run into a mannequin in a store and apologized. Continue to keep your hand raised if you want to pre-write thank you notes to those whom you anticipate attending your funeral because you suffer from chronic “way too nice” syndrome. Keep it up high if you have ever farted in church or yoga class. Man, my arm is getting tired!

Most people are awkward during the middle school years, grow out of it, and blossom into mature, well-functioning human beings…I’m still waiting for this to happen. Awkwardness is my hidden talent, although most who know me would tell you it isn’t hidden—it’s written on my forehead. My daily life is filled with epic failures. Sometimes I feel like I’m one big malfunction! As I have gotten older, I just try to embrace it.

After you read this collection of essays, hopefully you will be able to accept your imperfections too! Nope, probably not because I’m still not there! However, maybe my comedy will stick with you like that hemorrhoid you can’t seem to get rid of, like ever—Good Talk. . .Good Talk.

Praise for Good Talk. . .Good Talk:

“Reading Ginny Andrews’s Good Talk. . .Good Talk is a lot like hanging out with that girlfriend that invariably makes you laugh until you cry.” —Lauren Cassel Brownell, author of Zen and the Art of Housekeeping and Dying to Donate

Good Talk. . .Good Talk is a laugh out loud winner, filled with quirky stories reminiscent of Patrick McManus.” —J. Andersen, author of The Breeding Tree, The Gene Rift, and Legacy’s Impact

“Anyone with anxiety will totally relate to Ginny Andrews’ humorous tales of the struggle of day-to-day life in today’s world.” —John A.B., Amazon Reviewer

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Click to Purchase | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for Good Talk… Good Talk


About the author, Ginny Andrews Author Photo Andrews

Ginny Andrews is a former high school teacher and coach, who is now an aspiring comedian, speaker, and writer. She would greatly appreciate it if you purchased her book! Door Dash, dog-sitting, used car sales, lawn mowing, and selling random items found in her house aren’t high paying gigs!

Connect with Ginny:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Amazon | X/Twitter

TikTok | YouTube | Goodreads | BookBub

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

Ginny Andrews’s new book, Good Talk… Good Talk, is the perfect antidote to the rather dour early November. It’s breezy, it’s candid, it’s relatable, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Presented as a series of essays – monologues, really – about everything from attempting meditation to fitness classes to an epic BenGay overload and beyond, and she does it all with self-deprecating humor that makes you empathize with her plight, murmur, “Same, girl, same,” and dissolve into hysterical laughter, often at once.

And yet, beneath the humor there’s a very real, very flawed (as are we all) human being trying her best to navigate a world that changes daily, seems to mock us as we age, and didn’t come with any kind of a manual. From her childhood experiences with religion to her confession that “Andrews is awkward,” there is a poignance that grounds her stories in the emotional truth of being a single woman in her forties. As she writes, “It’s cute to compare your ten-year-old self to your twenty-year-old self, but anyone thirty and above… it doesn’t fare well for us.”

If you like your humor with a side of insight, you will appreciate Good Talk… Good Talk. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and realize that, yes, you have bumped into store mannequins and apologized, that horror movies kept you awake at night as a child, and that you do take longer than others to catch on to the latest fads (or just basic household skills) you will not merely love this book, you will identify with the author.

Run, carefully lest you trip, to the nearest bookstore (or, let’s be honest, the nearest computer or tablet) and buy a copy of Good Talk… Good Talk. You will begin the month of November with a smile on your face, secure in the knowledge that you are not alone – Ginny Andrews is there to make sure.

Goes well with: Pizza, possibly a whole one, and Dr. Pepper.


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ONE WINNER:

Signed paperback of GOOD TALK. . .GOOD TALK

+ $25 Amazon gift card

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

10/31/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Notable Quotables
10/31/23 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
11/01/23 Bibliotica Review
11/01/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
11/02/23 Reading by Moonlight Guest Post
11/03/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
11/04/23 Carpe Diem Chronicles Author Interview
11/05/23 The Real World According to Sam Excerpt
11/06/23 A Page Before Bedtime Review
11/07/23 The Page Unbound Scrapbook
11/07/23 Forgotten Winds BONUS Review
11/08/23 StoreyBook Reviews Review
11/09/23 Reading by Moonlight Review

 

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The Brotherhood of Pandora, by David L. Nichols – Book Spotlight & Giveaway

BNR The Brotherhood of Pandora

Cover Med Res BrotherhoodAbout the book, The Brotherhood of Pandora

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Nautical Fiction / Action & Adventure
  • Publisher: Moontower Press, November 14, 2022
  • Pages: 313
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

To combat Napoleon’s increasing interest in the Caribbean and help pressure France to sell New Orleans to America, Vice-President Thomas Jefferson enlists the aid of friend and naval hero Captain Jacob May. He asks Captain May to wage a clandestine war against the French in the Caribbean not as part of the US Navy, but as pirates.

To accomplish this, Captain May uses the cutting-edge technology of 1799: Girardoni air rifles, Fulton’s self-propelled torpedoes, a submarine, cannons with rifling, and Pandora, a specially modified ship. Pandora’s crew also holds a secret—two women masquerading as able-bodied seamen. Captain May molds his crew into the Brotherhood of Pandora and gives Jefferson chaos in the Caribbean.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Moontower Press Goodreads


About the author, David L. Nichols Author Photo Nichols

David Nichols has published three books and a number of articles on building small wooden boats and traditional sails. He also taught wooden boat building at WoodenBoat School and Great Lakes Boatbuilding School. In addition, he wrote and directed an hour-long “how-to” video on wooden boat building and has written many scripts for industrial and commercial films. This background allows him to accurately portray the boats and ships of the late 18th century and weave a cohesive and compelling story. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas, Austin.

Connect with David:

Website  |  Moontower Press  |   YouTube  |  Goodreads 

 

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Signed copy of THE BROTHERHOOD OF PANDORA
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/26/2023)

 

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Pringle Prawn by Michael Scott Clifton – Review and Giveaway

BNR Pringle Prawn

 

About the book, Pringle Prawn Cover Pringle Prawn

  • Genre: Contemporary Urban Fantasy / Fairies / Humor
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff
  • Date of Publication: September 19, 2023
  • Number of Pages: 310 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Move over Tinker Bell. There’s a new fairy in town!

Ben’s luck is changing. He has his iconic VW bus, a hot, wealthy girlfriend, and he’s managed to buy an old fixer-upper in an upscale neighborhood—just the thing to convince his girlfriend’s influential father that he’s husband material. But his new home has a secret, and when Ben opens a mysterious grandfather clock, he finds himself dropped into a magical land. There he meets Pringle, a six-inch prawn with a supercharged attitude and a pouchful of fairy dust. She saves his life, and when Ben returns to his world, Pringle returns with him.

Pringle’s adjustment to the modern world is a hilarious series of incidents that completely disrupt Ben’s life. When Russian mobsters and a vengeful HOA president attempt to hijack Ben’s life, Pringle zooms to the rescue—a pinch here, a pinch there, nothing a little fairy dust can’t fix.

But it’s when Pringle begins to grow that things really get interesting, because as Pringle’s size increases, so do her feelings for Ben. Ultimately, Pringle must decide whether to return to her world—or follow her heart and stay with Ben.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Click to Purchase Pringle Prawn | Visit the GoodReads page for Pringle Prawn


About the author, Michael Scott Clifton Author Photo Clifton

Multi-award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie. An avid gardener, rapacious reader, and movie junkie, his books contain facets of all the genres he enjoys—action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch, and the Conquest of the Veil series, (The Open Portal, Escape from Wheel, A Witch’s Brew, and Cavern of the Veil Queen) all received 5-Stars from the prestigious Readers Favorite Book Reviews. The Open Portal has been honored with a Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award. In addition, his YA novel Edison Jones and The Anti-Grav Elevator received a Feathered Quill Book Award Bronze Medal. Two of his short stories have earned Gold Medals, with “Edges of Gray” winning the Texas Authors Contest, and “The End Game”, winning the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization Contest. Professional credits include published articles in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine.

Connect with Michael:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | X (Twitter) | Newsletter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Amazon | GoodReads

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

As a previous reader and review of Michael Scott Clifton‘s work, I was excited to read his latest. Pringle Prawn is, at once, a delightful romp through a fantasy world (think Terry Brooks mixed with Lev Grossman) and a contemporary thriller in the vein of David Baldacci, combined into one immensely satisfying, unique package.

The fantasy elements are what drew me to this title. I loved the fish-out-of-water Ben exploring the fantasy forest (and running for his life!) and the spunky Pringle the prawn, though in this case a prawn isn’t something you eat, but a being much akin to a fairy. Tinkerbell gone wild, maybe. But the parallel plot of human trafficking grounded the fantastic parts of this novel in a very real, very gritty world and gave real purpose to Ben’s adventures in not-so-wonderful land.

The characters are what really sold me on this book. Ben and Pringle, obviously, but the Russian criminals were deliciously villainous, and Ben’s girlfriend Cara who embodied the perfect self-absorbed rich girl who may not be as shallow as she initially seems.  Clifton has a gift for writing dialogue that feels real, and his work in this novel is no exception. I particularly liked Pringle’s failure to grasp Ben’s colloquial English, and I appreciated the breezy, affected air of Cara’s speech. Maude the HOA president was also wonderfully written – I think I know her.

The pacing of Pringle Prawn is also perfect. From the opening in media res to the very end, I was completely immersed in the story. It never felt draggy, and the necessary exposition was provided organically. It’s a bit over three hundred pages long, but moves along so swiftly that I devoured it in one sitting on a rainy autumn afternoon.

Bottom line: if you, like me, never pass a wardrobe without checking to see if it leads to an enchanted forest, this novel is for you.

Goes well with: a hearty beef stew and a tankard of ale.


Giveaway

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THREE WINNERS

1st Prize: autographed copy of Pringle Prawn + $10 Amazon gift card

2nd & 3rd Prize: Kindle copy

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/20/23)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for links to each participating site, updated daily, or visit each one directly.

 

10/10/23 The Book’s Delight Review
10/10/23 The Clueless Gent Review
10/11/23 Book Fidelity Review
10/11/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
10/12/23 Reading by Moonlight Review
10/12/23 StoreyBook Reviews Review
10/13/23 Bibliotica Review
10/13/23 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
10/14/23 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
10/15/23 The Real World According to Sam Review
10/16/23 It’s Not All Gravy Review
10/17/23 Forgotten Winds Review
10/17/23 Shelf Life Blog BONUS Stop
10/18/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
10/18/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Review
10/19/23 Carpe Diem Chronicles Review
10/19/23 Rox Burkey Blog Review

 

 

 

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Book Review: Rip the Sky, by Mark Packard – with Giveaway

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About the book, Rip the Sky Cover Med Res Rip the Sky

  • Genre: Speculative Fiction / Fantasy / Science Fiction
  • Publisher: Bluestreak Publishing
  • Page Count: 317 pages
  • Publication Date: August 21, 2023
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

After a shocking courtroom tragedy, a disturbed Vietnam veteran and the vindictive judge who sent him to prison become an unlikely pair of time travelers in a chaotic multiverse. The fallen angel who rescues them wants to guide them to a radiant new life. But first they must return to the scene of a ghastly crime.

Billy Worster was a naïve teenager ill-prepared for the gruesome realities of war. The sole survivor of a deadly massacre in a Vietnamese jungle, he avoided certain death only because he ran away when the shooting started. Riddled with guilt, he comes home to a dusty Texas farm with post-traumatic stress disorder and the crazy notion that he can fly in and out of parallel worlds.

As Billy struggles with addiction and questions his sanity, he is arrested on a drug charge and ends up in the courtroom of Judge Madeline Johnston, a bitter old judge tormented by a dark secret surrounding her father’s death. She callously tosses Billy into prison, but when a greedy executor files a lawsuit to steal his inherited land, Billy is hauled back to her courtroom in chains, where a stunning twist of fate launches them into the sky on an odyssey of discovery and healing.

Spanning forty years from the jungles of Vietnam through infinite, parallel worlds, Rip the Sky examines how the power of forgiveness can lead us toward a better life, no matter how many worlds we may live in.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Mark Packard Author Photo cred Adair

Mark Packard spent the last 38 years as a trial attorney and is now retired from the courtroom and working as a mediator. In a life before lawyering he was a journalist and regrets waiting far too long before returning to his roots to write his first novel, Rip the Sky. Though he knows he should have jumped off the merry-go-round years ago, he hopes to hang around long enough to craft a few more tales.

Connect with Mark:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Facebook | BookBub


My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

In many ways, Mark Packard’s debut novel Rip the Sky is a war story. Actually, it’s a war story on many levels. There’s the literal war that the main character, Billy Worster, fights in Viet Nam. There’s the mental war between the PTSD he suffers as a result of his experiences in the jungle. There’s the chemical war Billy fights against the drugs and alcohol that make his pain recede. And there’s the metaphysical one, fought not just by Billy, but also by the Judge whose fate is tied to his: Madeline Johnston, the battle for forgiveness of self and others, the fight for a clear conscious and an easy mind.

Author Mark Packard tells all of these war stories elegantly. His descriptions of both the physical – the jungle, the farm where a woman named Rachel gives Billy a literal lifeline, the unforgiving courtroom where Madeline presides – and the metaphysical – the “patch of Eden” that both characters long for – are visceral, cinematic and incredibly specific. His use of language – Billy is not a particularly bright person on the surface – or at least, not academically – while Madeleine is analytical, hiding behind the law as much as interpreting it- is deft. Each word feels carefully crafted, but the overall story never seems contrived. The events that are depicted are often grim, but everything is grounded so well in emotional truth that the story is compelling. I read this book straight through in one evening (then skimmed it a bit later so it would be fresh for this review.  I was rooting for Billy all the way through, even when he made poor choices. By the end, I was willing Madeleine to make the right choices, too.

While this novel isn’t obvious science fiction, there are elements of fantasy flowing through it, and those elements are organic, coming mainly from the capacity of the human mind to give us sanctuary from our own realities when we are at our lowest points. Of course, there’s also a fallen angel, so not all the fantasy is imagined. (Or is it? Aren’t the places we create in our minds as real as the spaces we inhabit?)  The term “speculative fiction” fades in and out of common use, but it’s the most applicable one for this unique novel.

Coming in at a meaty 317 pages, Rip the Sky immerses the reader in Packard’s prose and his gripping, well-paced storytelling. This novel is gritty in places. There is drug use, alcohol abuse, and violence in these pages. But the story is brilliant both as a piece of literature, and as an object lesson in two things: the resilience of the human spirit, and the need to better care for our military veterans.

Goes well with: Prime rib and pinot noir.


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ONE WINNER

Signed hard copy of Rip the Sky + $50 Amazon gift card

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 10/13/23)

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Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Tested by Fire, by C.J. Peterson

BNR Tested by Fire

 

About the book, Tested by Fire Cover Tested by Fire

  • Genre: Christian Fiction / Suspense / Romance
  • Publisher: Texas Sisters Press, LLC
  • Page Count: 278 pages
  • Publication Date: August 21, 2023
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Meet Robin Flynn: a woman of artistic soul and iron will, who forges metal and paints vibrant canvases as an escape from life’s ceaseless challenges. Raised in the gritty trade of welding, she inherits not just her father’s skill but also his audacity. But her creative passion takes a daring turn when she accidentally ignites an abandoned warehouse. Instead of ruin, her act inexplicably wins her gratitude from the local firefighters. Emboldened, Robin embarks on a clandestine mission to purge her crumbling town, Hemlock, of its dilapidated relics.

Enter Nate Mitchell: a man standing on the cusp of his dreams. As he trains to become a fire marshal, he’s also courting the woman he believes to be the love of his life. Everything seems perfect until destiny throws a spark into his meticulously planned world.
A pulse-pounding question burns at the heart of this riveting tale: What happens when a man committed to extinguishing fires falls deeply in love with a woman setting them? When faith and love clash like fire and water, will they quench each other or evolve into something even more powerful?

Dive into Tested By Fire, a Christian Fiction saga that weaves romance, suspense, and spirituality into a tapestry of human resilience. Inspired by 1 Peter 1:7, this story reminds us that our faith—far more precious than gold—emerges stronger through the crucible of trials, as we await the day when it illuminates the entire world with its glory.

1 Peter 1:7 (NIV)These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

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About the author, C.J. Peterson Author Photo Peterson

C.J. Peterson is a ten-time award-winning, multi-genre published author since 2012. She is also a podcaster, blogger, and publisher who knows how to relate well to folks of all ages. She has multiple books and series including:

Grace Restored SeriesThe Holy Flame Trilogy, and the Divine Legacy Series, which have characters crossing over storylines. In these books, the spiritual realm crosses into the physical. This adventurous journey will have you holding onto the pages for dear life! The Sands of Time Trilogy is an exciting sci-fi series that will have you on the edge of your seat! This series follows a group of teens with abilities as they go through the US to rescue their siblings from the Challenger, their sadistic creator who has the money & power to win at any cost. Chain Reaction follows Trip and Tori as they go through time guiding their ancestors to change crucial decisions. In changing their past to save future generations, will Trip and Tori cease to exist?

Connect with C.J.:

Website | Facebook  | X (Twitter) |  Instagram | Pinterest  |  Goodreads  | YouTube | Amazon | LinkedIn


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS

First Place – paperback copy of Tested By Fire;

Second Place – eBook copy
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/14/2023)

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Book Review and Giveaway: Mumentous by Amy J. Schultz

BNR Mumentous

Cover MumentousAbout the book, Mumentous
(Original Photos and Mostly-True Stories about Football, Glue Guns, Moms, and a Supersized High School Tradition That Was Born Deep in the Heart of Texas)

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Photo-Driven Memoir / Women’s History / Pop Culture / Texana
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 178 pages
  • Publication Date: April 25, 2023
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

The closest you’ll ever get to seeing someone actually wear their heart on their sleeve is in Texas, every fall, at the local high school homecoming game.

They’re called homecoming mums. They are as bodacious as football, as irresistible as a juicy rumor, and as deep as a momma’s love. Over a hundred years ago when the custom began, mum was short for chrysanthemum, a typical corsage that boys gave to girls before taking them to the big football game. But through the decades, mum went from a simple abbreviation to a complicated shorthand for an eye-popping tradition that’s as ingrained in the culture as it is confounding to outsiders.

Through her original photography and collection of stories from across and beyond the Lone Star State, Amy J. Schultz takes us deep in the heart of mum country. You’ll meet kids who wear them, parents who buy them, and critics who decry them as just another example of consumerism gone wild. But mostly, you’ll discover that just like every ritual which stands the test of time, someone is keeping the tradition alive. Someone like Mom.

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About the author, Amy J. Schultz Author Photo Schultz

Amy J. Schultz is an author and award-winning photographer who explores unique aspects of modern culture that hide in plain sight. When she isn’t talking about homecoming mums, Amy is writing, taking photos, working on other creative projects, traveling, snort-laughing, or vacuuming up dog fur.

Connect with Amy:

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

I’m not a parent and I didn’t attend high school in Texas, so I’m very much not in the target audience for Amy J. Schultz’s new photo-memoir Mumentous, and yet, reading it I found myself laughing, crying, and finding new appreciation for my own mother, who never had to help me make anything like a homecoming mum, but sewed costumes for plays and Halloween, showed up with cupcakes whenever I had a school function that required them, chaperoned our orchestra tours, and drove me (and my friends) to numerous lessons, rehearsals, and other activities during my adolescence, all while working full-time.

But I digress.

In this book, author Schultz is celebrating the Texas tradition of homecoming mums, and while chrysanthemums are commonly used in homecoming mums throughout the country, everything really is bigger in Texas, and they’ve gone way – WAY – beyond simple floral corsages. But it isn’t the actual mums that’s the most fascinating part of this book. Rather it’s the glimpses into young love, awkward first relationships, family traditions, school traditions, and the power of mothers to pull off seemingly impossible tasks with poise, graciousness, and no small amount of glitter that really make this collection of photos and stories sing.

One thing that stood out for me was the idea that these homecoming mums are exchanges between the two young people attending the game – and the dance afterward – together. One partner, usually a girl, receives a homecoming mum corsage (and that is a very loose term for an ornament that can have the same diameter as a pizza) while the other, typically a boy, receives a decorated garter to wear on their sleeve. It’s the exchange part that really moved me. On one level, it’s a competition to see who can be the most creative, but on the other, it’s instilling a sense of etiquette and fairness in young people in a very practical way.

Another theme I appreciated was the author’s description of crafting parties as bonding sessions. Imagine groups of girls getting together to decorate those garters for their escorts, or decorating corsages for each other for said escorts to present. In a world where girls and young women are set up to compete with each other, I liked that this tradition was subtly infusing these Texas teenagers with a sense of sisterhood.

Perhaps the anecdote that reaches “peak Texas” is the chapter titled “Guns for Mums,” which relates an exchange of a different sort (no, no one was wounded in the writing of this book).  I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s funny, heartwarming, and so incredibly specific to Texas that I both laughed and shook my head while reading it.

Overall, this is a fantastic collection of memories, anecdotes, and shared traditions, with tons of photos to really help the reader understand what homecoming mums really are, and how homecoming moms so often save the day. It’s the kind of book you can read in spurts, but at only 178 pages, it’s easy enough to zip through the whole thing very quickly.

I hope the author continues to write. Her style is breezy and accessible, and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down -er – Mumery Lane.

 Goes well with: either pizza and Shiner Bock or quiche and mimosas. You pick.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS:

First Prize: signed hardback copy + enamel pin; Second Prize: eBook + enamel pin

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 9/8/23)

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Facing the Enemy, by DiAnn Mills – Guest Post & Giveaway

BNR Facing the Enemy

 

About the book, Facing the EnemyCover Facing the Enemy

  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Date of Publication: September 5, 2023
  • Genre: Christian Fiction / Suspense / Romance
  • Number of Pages: 352 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

When the long-awaited reunion between Risa and her brother, Trenton, ends in tragedy, Risa is riddled with guilt, unable to cope with the responsibility she feels over his death. On leave from the FBI, Risa returns to her former career as an English teacher at a local college, only to see her past and present collide when one of her students, Carson Mercury, turns in an assignment that reads like an eyewitness account of her brother’s murder, with details never revealed publicly.

Alarmed by Carson’s inside knowledge of Trenton’s death, Risa reaches out to her former partner at the FBI. Special Agent Gage Patterson has been working a string of baby kidnappings, but he agrees to help look into Carson’s background. Risa and Gage soon discover their cases might be connected as a string of high-value thefts have occurred at properties where security systems were installed by Carson’s stepfather and children have gone missing. There’s a far more sinister plot at play than they ever imagined, and innocent lives are in danger.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, DiAnn Mills Author Photo Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.  DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. DiAnn continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn:

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Read a Guest Post from DiAnn Mills:

“The Power of Adoption”

Guest Post by DiAnn Mills 

Decades ago, a doctor gave me the diagnosis of my inability to bear children. I was emotionally crushed and depressed, and I looked for second and third opinions. After two years of escalating doctor bills, monthly reminders of no pregnancies, and an ocean of tears, adoption grasped my attention. The process began with mounds of paperwork that first lead me into foster care, which was rewarding and provided a critical need for children but also depressing each time a child shared our home, then returned to their parent(s).

A day arrived with an opportunity to adopt a two-and-a-half-year-old little boy. Oh, the excitement of an arranged appointment to meet this little boy at the foster parent’s home. The foster mother met us at the door with half a brown paper bag of the child’s belongings. She didn’t know me, but she told me to take him home. Outraged, I did. And he became adopted son number one. Six weeks later, we were presented with another opportunity to adopt a four-month-old baby boy. He became adopted son number two. Six weeks later, we were presented with the baby’s half-brother, a twenty-three-month-old little boy. He became adopted son number three. While that sounds like a fairy tale come true, and it was, I lived in fear of the biological parents deciding they’d made a mistake and wanted their son back.

XTRA 3D Cover Facing the EnemyGood thing I was young! I had three boys under the age of three who all desperately craved a mommy’s attention. I loved the sound of “Mommy.” I thrived when all three wanted me at the same time. We needed each other, and there was plenty of love to go around. When the youngest son reached two-years-old, I miraculously gave birth to a boy, increasing my sweet sons to four.

The advantages of adoption are rewarding and beneficial to the child and the parents.

Benefits:

  1. The ability to love and nurture a child born of the heart and not of the womb.
  2. The opportunity to provide a permanent home for a child or children who might otherwise be raised in the foster care system.
  3. The joy of having your own child.
  4. The child knows he/she was chosen—special.
  5. The realization of endless love.
  6. The sharing of happiness as the child and parents become a family.

Advice:

  1. Interview others who have adopted children for what to expect in the way of legal proceedings, the adopted child’s potential behavior, and how to show the child unconditional love.
  2. Research the biological parent for any physical or mental challenges, then establish a plan if assistance is needed.
  3. Enlist a psychologist or counselor who can help the child and the parent work through abandonment and behavior issues.
  4. Anticipate questions from family, friends, and the adopted child regarding the adoption. It’s normal and expected.
  5. Prepare for signs of abandonment in the child, anger, lack of confidence, fear, identity crisis, and more. Note biological children can all face the same challenges.

The willingness of those who long for a child of their own or want to add to an existing family brings power to the family unit. Through love and acceptance.

Perhaps you are adopted or know someone who is adopted. Can you share with others your experience?

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Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS:

Each winner gets choice of B&N or Amazon $25 gift card.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/1/23)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page with direct links to each blog, updated daily, or visit each blog directly:

08/22/23 Hall Ways Blog Notable Quotables
08/22/23 The Book’s Delight Review
08/23/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Guest Post
08/23/23 Librariel Book Adventures Review
08/23/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
08/24/23 Stories Under Starlight Guest Post
08/24/23 Forgotten Winds Review
08/25/23 The Real World According to Sam Review
08/26/23 The Clueless Gent Review
08/27/23 Bibliotica Guest Post
08/28/23 Reading by Moonlight Review
08/28/23 Shelf Life Blog Guest Post
08/29/23 StoreyBook Reviews Review
08/30/23 Rox Burkey Blog Review
08/31/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
08/31/23 Boys’ Mom Reads Review

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