Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand Book Feature

Huckleberry Spring Banner

Huckleberry SpringTitle: Huckleberry Spring
Author: Jennifer Beckstrand
Publisher: Zebra Books
Pages: 352
Genre: Amish Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle
"Readers will treasure this series." --RT Book Reviews 
Nothing gives Anna and Felty Helmuth greater satisfaction than seeing their grandchildren happily married--except for planning their next matchmaking venture. And as springtime comes to Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the air is filled with promise. . .
Ever since the Helmuths' grandson, Ben, abruptly broke his engagement and moved to Florida, Emma Nelson has kept busy tending her vegetable garden and raising award-winning pumpkins. She can put her heartache aside to help Ben's Mammi with her own pumpkin patch. At least until Ben shows up to lend support to his ailing Dawdi. . . 
Gardening side by side with pretty, nurturing Emma is a sweet kind of torture for Ben. She could have her pick of suitors who can offer what he can't, and he cares too much to burden her with his secret. Leaving once more is the only option. Yet Emma's courage is daring him to accept the grace that flourishes here, and the love that has been calling him back to Huckleberry Hill. . . 
Praise for Jennifer Beckstrand's Huckleberry Hill 
"A delightful cast of characters in a story that overflows with Amish love and laughter." --Charlotte Hubbard 
"A warm romance with two likable main characters and ultimately a great ending for all." --Parkersburg News & Sentinel

For More Information

jennifer-41-225x300 I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years. 
I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories. 
My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency. 
There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available. 
I have six Amish Roamish buggymances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country. 
The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief. 
Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK. 
I have four daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Front with my husband and one son still left at home.
For More Information

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The City Beneath by Melody Johnson Cover Reveal

The City Beneath

Title: The City Beneath (The Night Blood Series)
Author: Melody Johnson
Publisher: Kensington Books

 As a journalist, Cassidy DiRocco thought she had seen every depraved thing New York City’s underbelly had to offer. But while covering what appears to be a vicious animal attack, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed. Her exposé makes her the target of the handsome yet brutal Dominic Lysander, the Master Vampire of New York City, who has no problem silencing her to keep his coven's secrets safe… But Dominic offers Cassidy another option: ally. He reveals she is a night blood, a being with powers of her own, including the ability to become a vampire. As the body count escalates, Cassidy is caught in the middle of a vampire rebellion. Dominic insists she can help him stop the coming war, but wary of his intentions, Cassidy enlists the help of the charming Ian Walker, a fellow night blood. As the battle between vampires takes over the city, Cassidy will have to tap into her newfound powers and decide where to place her trust...

  • The City Beneath is available at Amazon
Melody Johnson

Melody Johnson is the author of the Night Blood series. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. While still earning her degree, she worked as an editing intern for Wahida Clark Presents Publishing. She was a copyeditor for several novels, including Cheetah by Missy Jackson; Trust No Man II by Cash; and Karma with a Vengeance by Tash Hawthorne. Book #1 of the Night Blood series, The City Beneath, is her debut novel. When she isn't writing, Melody can be found hiking the many woodsy trails in her Pennsylvania hometown or sunning and swimming at the beach. You can learn more about Melody and her work at and Twitter.

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Interview with Andra Watkins, author of Not Without My Father

Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Her latest book is the memoir, NotWithout My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace.

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About the Book:

Title: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace
Author: Andra Watkins
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

For More Information

  • Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Q: Welcome back to The Writer’s Life, Andra.  We enjoyed having here just after your first book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, was released.  Now you’re back with another exciting book and this is all about the journey you took to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace.  Why did you decide to write a book about your journey?

Andra: I undertook the Natchez Trace walk to launch To Live Forever. It was a unique way to launch a book, plus I thought it might be fun, which shows how stupid I am. I never wanted to write a memoir. But the tension and travails of walking for a month while living with my 80-year-old father became a compelling reason to pen this memoir.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this?  I understand you had your father with you.  Is he a writer, too?

Andra: The required honesty, the personal revelations and the admission of struggles make this book the hardest thing I've ever written. With fiction, a reader can pan the book, and I don't take it personally. But with memoir? If people don't like the book, they don't like me.

Yes! My 80-year-old father accompanied me, which contributed much to the experience. He's a natural storyteller, but if his stories get written, I do the writing.

Q: I know you had so many new experiences during your hike that it would fill a book (and it did, lol), but can you give us a glimpse of what it was like?

Andra: I walked 15 miles a day for 34 days, with one rest day each week. Dad dropped me at my first milepost and picked me up 15 miles later......when he remembered. Not only did I battle my lack of preparation and pathetic excuse for athleticism, but I also confronted the maddening, dysfunctional relationship I've had with my dad. We argued and struggled while I crawled and cried. I wondered whether we'd kill each other before we finished. It was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm really glad I did it. 

Q: Could you tell us a little about Word Hermit Press?  How did you find out about them?

Andra: Word Hermit Press has been around for over a year now. I was looking for a way to get my books to market and still have some say in creative direction, and I found them at the perfect time. It helped that they're in my hometown. They're small, and I still take responsibility for selling my books. But they set up my books on all platforms. They distribute through Ingram's Lightning program, giving my books entree into any bookstore or library out there.

Q: What can you say you learned about publishing your first book that helped with the second book?  Any surprises?

Andra: I'm more organized with the second book. We pitched advance copies to numerous national outlets and got some takers, which will be huge. I'm better at crafting marketing materials, and I'm slowly getting comfortable with selling myself. It's so awkward to talk about my books, but the experience of making Not Without My Father gave me a platform to talk about US, about the things we can all learn from my experience.

The five weeks I spent walking became less about me and my book and more about rediscovering my father and working to rebuild our relationship. We made such a treasure of memories that I'll have forever. When he's gone, I won't be left with I wish I had. I'll smile through tears and know I'm glad I did.

I hope to encourage readers to Make a Memory with someone they love while they still can. In our busy, overwhelmed world, everyone needs that message.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Andra: Readers, turn I wish I had into I'm glad I did in 2015. Participate in the Not Without My Father Make a Memory campaign and make a memory with someone while you still can.

Here's how Make a Memory works.

Take to social media and invite someone to Make a Memory with you - by picture, video or gif. Tag your invite #NWMFMakeaMemory, because we'll be featuring your invites at Your public invitation will hold you accountable, and it will give us a way to follow up and find out about your Memory. An hour. A day. A weekend. Make a Memory that will last a lifetime.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mother of a Millionaire by Raoji Patel Book Feature - Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Mother of a MillionaireTitle: Mother of a Millionaire
Author: Raoji Patel
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 238
Genre: Biography/Autobiography
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Purchase at AMAZON

 Children of Indian descent often move to the United States in search of a better life. Other Indian children, born in America, are often materially successful, but they lose touch with the values of traditional Indian culture, including a deep love and respect for parents and gratitude for the parents loving sacrifices to aid them on their life’s path. In Mother of a Millionaire, author Raoji (Ray) M. Patel provides insight into the issues, both Indian children and their parents face, as they make their home in a new country with different customs and ways of living through eleven short stories. In some stories, a spouse’s selfishness creates a rift within the family. In a few cases, the sons rebel against the parents’ interfering ways, and they grow apart from their parents, or they simply banish the parents from their lives. In other stories, a father slips from his patriarchal responsibilities, creating family discord and a loss of respect. This collection of short stories shows how Indian parents strongly believe forgiveness—one of the most difficult challenges to face—makes one happier and healthier and frees one from sin. But as an ancient Indian scripture says, forgiveness is “the greatness of the great” because it creates unprecedented greatness in the forgiver.


Raoji (Ray) M. Patel earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from MS University of Baroda, India, and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Patel is a retired small businessman cum engineer, and lives in Northern California with his wife Sushila and two adult children.

Raoji is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins January 266 and ends on February 6.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, February 9.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 23, 2015

Interview with Jeremy Bates, author of Suicide Forest

Title: Suicide Forest 
Author: Jeremy Bates 
Publisher: Ghillinnein Books 
Pages: 350 
Genre: Thriller/Suspense 
Format: Paperback/Kindle 

 Just outside of Tokyo lies Aokigahara, a vast forest and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Japan...and also the most infamous spot to commit suicide in the world. Legend has it that the spirits of those many suicides are still roaming, haunting deep in the ancient woods. 

When bad weather prevents a group of friends from climbing neighboring Mt. Fuji, they decide to spend the night camping in Aokigahara. But they get more than they bargained for when one of them is found hanged in the morning—and they realize there might be some truth to the legends after all. 

  For More Information
  • Suicide Forest is available at Amazon

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jeremy.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A:  Thanks for having me. I was born in Canada and now live in Australia. In between I’ve lived in a bunch of other countries. One of them, of note, is Japan, where Suicide Forest is set.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Suicide Forest is about a group of friends who decide to camp in the eponymous forest overnight and get a lot more frights than they expected. I wrote it because I thought it would make a good story! Actually, I came up with the idea a number of years ago while I was in Japan. But I wasn’t writing horror then so I put it on the back burner. Then, after my second novel, The Taste of Fear, I decided I wanted to get into horror and it was at the top of my list of stories.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A:  It actually came to me quite easily. The biggest challenge, I guess, was around halfway through. The group of friends were in the forest, lost, and I had to decide whether I wanted to take the story in a supernatural direction or not.

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A:  I have a press release. The link is:

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: I’m speaking to you! In general, it’s been a pretty quiet release.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A:  I had an agent for Suicide Forest. His name is John Talbot. I now have a different agent at Curtis Brown who is representing my next novel, The Catacombs.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:  I prepared most of the promotion.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  As mentioned, The Catacombs is forthcoming. I’m also working on a novel called Helltown, and one called Island of the Dolls. They are all part of a series called The World’s Scariest Places. In a nutshell, they all take place in real life locations.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Jeremy.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: My easy answer is always You can find it other places, but Amazon seems to be where the majority of readers go.

Jeremy Bates is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller White Lies, which was nominated for the 2012 Foreword Book of the Year Award. He has spent the last ten years traveling the world, visiting more than thirty countries. He has lived in Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Bates is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English literature and philosophy. He is an active member of Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and Crime Writers of Canada.

For More Information

Visit Jeremy’s website.

Connect with Jeremy on Twitter , Goodreads and Facebook   


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Interview with D.A. Roach, author of Rarity

Rarity Title: Rarity
Author: D.A. Roach
Publisher: Amazon Digital
Pages: 197
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Paperback/Kindle

 It's her junior year at Stanton High. Brogen, an empathic teen, is looking forward to another uneventful year with her buddy Meg at her side. Meg and Brogen are not in the in-crowd, actually, they aren't in any crowd. They are content keeping a low profile and doing their own thing. But the first day of school brings Becca, the blonde babe, and Jay, the charismatic guy who doesn't fit any stereotype. These two new students pull Brogen out of her comfort zone and into a new social situation. And with the good parts of this new situation...comes the bad. Becca is attracted to Jay and is prepared to stomp on the competition when it comes to making Jay her boyfriend. Brogen wants no part of any high school drama, but life...or fate keeps putting Jay and Brogen on a path together. This puts a target on Brogen's back and she's not sure Jay is worth the wrath of Becca. As they journey through their school year, several life changing events alter the relationship between Jay and Brogen. But the question remains, should they give in to fate and give love a chance? Or fight it and take the easy road? For More Information

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jean.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?   

D.A. Roach has been telling tales since she was a kid.  Others would remark, “That’s an amazing story, it can’t be true.”  But it was always true.  Somehow she added the right words to make simple events sound exciting.  But she was encouraged toward science since it seemed to come easy to her.  She tried to enjoy a profession in this area but wasn’t happy.  She wanted to create and tap into her artistic side.  One day, a few years ago, an acquaintance urged her to write down the story of her first family vacation, and she did.  It was her first venture in self-publishing and the book was entitled Trusting Strangers.  Once she finished writing her first book, she wanted to continue putting her stories on paper and so she continued writing.  In her free time she is usually writing, drawing, painting, listening to music, or reading., DARoachDA/,  @daroach12books, and Rarity can be found http://

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Rarity takes place in a small town in modern times.  Brogen is an empathic teen who takes on everyone’s energy and finds herself emotionally overwhelmed and drained.  She avoids all but her one friend.  Their junior year of high school brings two new students to the school.  One is the new blonde babe, Becca, who has the entire student body wrapped around her finger.  And the other is a cute, charismatic guy, Jay, who doesn’t fit into any of the cliques...instead he seems liked by everyone.  Brogen is intrigued with the new guy and while she continues to try and place Jay - she ends up falling for him.  

Unfortunately, Becca also has her eyes on Jay...introducing Brogen into a sea of drama.  But Rarity isn’t your typical romance.  Part way through the story, Jay finds he has been diagnosed with a rare and deadly disorder.  It turns his world upside down.  His selfesteem is affected and his relationships are in danger of falling apart.  Rarity gives the reader a glimpse into the terrifying world of a rare diagnosis, and while this is a fictional story, it could be the story of any person diagnosed with vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (vEDS).

I wrote this book because a year and a half ago my youngest child was diagnosed with vEDS.  vEDS is a rare collagen disorder that affects tissues, organs, and blood vessels.  Patients are often misdiagnosed because it is rare.  By the age of 20, most patients have had a major cardiac event, and the average life span of a vEDS patient is 48.  Though some live longer and others die later.  I had never heard of this disorder and there were no local support groups because it is rare.  I turned to facebook and found an online group of vEDS patients that became our support family.  They were brave enough to share their triumphs, fears, loses, and hopes with us.  Rarity is hope for those with vEDS.  Rarity is their story.  Rarity is unconditional love.  And I am donating ½ of all profits of Rarity to vEDS research.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

The biggest challenge I faced was writer’s block.  I hit a dead end in my story.  I had so many loose ends and the story was not headed toward an ending.  I researched overcoming writer’s block online and in the end, I backtracked several chapters  - twisted the plot into a new direction, and the rest of the story came out naturally.  But I was stuck for at least two weeks.   Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?


Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

I have spoken to a support group for vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome about the contents of my book.  The members were very excited to see how I portrayed the disorder and were very supportive of the book. As for upcoming plans to speak about my book, at this time I am focusing on my blog tour and will consider any interviews offered to me.   Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

No, I do not have an agent.  I believe there are so many resources and info sources available online that it’s worth trying to self-publish without an agent.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?


Do you plan subsequent books?

Not pertaining to this book, however, I am in the process of wrapping up my J+P series and plan to finish it before I begin my next stand-alone novel.    

Thank you for your interview, Jean.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?, DARoachDA/,  @daroach12books, and Rarity can be found http://

D.A. Roach lives in the midwest with her 3 kids and husband.  In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, music, and art.  She has had a diverse job list including teacher, pharmacist, and factory worker.  Her life is rich with vivid characters and stories and she enjoys taking inspiration from these characters and tales to create new stories.

For More Information

Visit D.A.’s website.
Connect with D.A. on Facebook 

In the Spotlight: Landfall by Joseph Jablonski

Title: Landfall
Author: Joseph Jablonski
Publisher: Bacon Press Books
Pages: 204
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

After a long career at sea, Jake Thomas thinks he’s finally put his life in order. He’s got a new wife, a new home, time to write and tend his roses. But his past and the secrets he’s kept, even from himself, won’t stay buried.

Forty years earlier, a woman was murdered during Jake’s first voyage on the American freighter, the SS James Wait. Her children want answers only Jake can give. But resurrecting old memories takes him spiraling back to the chaos and upheaval of the late 1960s.

In this riveting story-within-a-story, Jake’s peaceful routine in Portland, Oregon, stands in stark contrast to his days as a merchant seaman in Subic Bay, when he set off on a journey to discover his dark side. A journey that hasn’t yet ended.

Like Joseph Conrad, Joseph Jablonski has created a novel set at sea that is as much a careful observation of human nature and a powerful condemnation of war as it is a fascinating sea story.

Book Excerpt:

When I see him, almost forty years later, I realize two things: I know who it is, and I’m not particularly surprised. His car—an expensive yellow convertible with the top up—parks at the head of my long drive. It is a hazy September morning when the world, excluding my brilliant, many-hued roses, lies quiet and subdued in shades of green. He gets out. At this distance, a figure in the mist, tall and very broad across the chest, he hesitates a moment to get his bearings, then walks down the new gravel toward my house, his strides long and awkward, his hair a shock of white. He wears beige slacks and a denim shirt with a yellow tie. As he approaches, I’m amazed at how much he resembles Pastor Kenneth—less crude, perhaps, but still, like his father, uncomfortable in his movements. Seeing him, I hastily remove my hands from the roses, pricking my right pointer finger on a large thorn, which draws blood. I lick the blood away, straighten up and watch him. He had sent a letter months ago that had been forwarded to me. Though I never answered, I’d been worried he would show up. My heart begins to pound.
This was sure to throw off my day. I had been bustling about in my windowed porch, brewing the Fair Trade coffee Antoinette insists we buy, putting together a large bouquet of pink romanticas and yellow floribundas, about to sit at my computer and write. My latest project is another sea story—I don’t know what else I’d write—about a young officer making his first trip as ship’s master. I took some writing classes a couple of years ago at a small college twenty miles from Portland, where I now live, and recently have gotten a couple of stories into regional magazines.
His name is Walter—back then a scrawny, overly polite blond boy, tall for his age and studious. He feared his Bible-thumping father and adored his vivacious mother. The last time I saw him, I had held his hand tightly on the stern for the burial-at-sea. He had looked up at me, eyes streaming tears, as his mother’s body smacked the hard surface of the cold, gray water like a plank.
I open the door for him.
“Walter Bishop,” he says. His smile is still boyish.
“Zachary,” I say, nodding. “Zachary Thomas.”
He leans toward me, obviously pleased that I appear to recognize him and says, “Yes, indeed. They called you Jake back then. Your nickname, I guess. I’ve been looking for you. Did you get my letter? I saw a sea story in that magazine they put on the ferries that run up into the San Juan’s and figured the author had to be you. Interesting story, by the way. Nice twist at the end where the cadet saves the old captain’s neck even after the guy has been such a brute. I had no idea where you lived, so I sent the letter to that maritime union that represents the deck officers.”
“The Masters Mates and Pilots,” I say, again nodding. “That was a good guess. Sorry I didn’t answer. I got married last year and have been busy moving in.”
“No matter. You knew my parents, Alice and Ken, right? From the final voyage of the James Wait.
“I did.”
He reaches over to shake my hand. My index finger has a smear of blood. “Sorry,” I say, holding up my hand. I wrap the finger in a tissue. “I was a lowly midshipman back then, trying to learn the business.”
He has an earnest quality, seems genuinely pleased to have located me, as though we are old friends. He has his mother’s green eyes, and her habit of peering into people’s faces. The memory is vivid and catches me. I am not prepared for anything about this visitor.
“My family joined your ship in Subic Bay,” he says. “We sailed back to San Francisco with you.” He hesitates, then turns away. “My mother died on board. Was killed, actually.”
I catch my breath. “That was a difficult voyage. A difficult voyage during difficult times.”
He waits, hoping for more. When I say nothing, he says, “My sister and I want to find out what really happened on that ship. Something terrible—”
“You’ve read the court proceedings?” I ask. “From the trial. Not sure what I—”
“Of course.” He waves his large hand. “But that was inconclusive. We want more. We want your insight, maybe some personal details. And we want you to write it out. Like a . . . like a short novel. You’re a writer. You can do that. We will pay you. We thought perhaps ten thousand?”
“I’m a fiction writer,” I say, motioning for him to sit. “I write fiction. You’re asking for something different.”
His request has caught me off guard. While it makes perfect sense, I hadn’t expected him to ask for a narrative accounting. An interview, perhaps, even something taped, but a written account? No, this comes as a surprise.
The enclosed porch is heated so I can write here while I observe my flowers even when the temperature falls, along with the rain, later in the season. I have aged into a fussy man, particular about my surroundings and my things. A prelude by Bach plays on my expensive sound system. I reach over to turn it off, irritated by this interruption to my morning routine. My life is so contained now, serene even. The shelves I had built are filled with books I’d read during my lonely hours at sea, along with a few of the artifacts—jade and ivory carvings and knickknacks from my many voyages.
I stall for time, unsure how to proceed. We sit on wicker chairs across a circular glass table—pieces I’d purchased in Port Swettingham back in the seventies. I pour the coffee from a copper samovar I’d picked up in the Grand Bazaar in Sharjah, holding one hand with the other to keep it from trembling. We are alone. Classes have started at the university and my lovely wife, Antoinette, who teaches anthropology there, has already driven into town. We’ve been married just over a year and receive little company.
“Your roses are beautiful,” he says, indicating the tall vase sitting on the table.
I’ve lost some ability to be social after a seagoing career. Anway, I am too caught up by his request to respond to the compliment. “Why do you want to know this?” I blurt out. “After all these years?”
He carefully pours cream into his coffee and stirs. “Because my father died last year. Pastor Kenneth died. After that terrible voyage on the James Wait, he never again spoke of my mother to either my sister or me. He destroyed all photos of her except for one that my sister got hold of. Whenever we’ve asked about Mother, even when we were grown, he would shake his head, lift a hand in the air and walk away.”
His face pleads with me. My mouth twitches. I’ve worked a lifetime to put this behind me.
“Your sister’s name is Margaret?”
“That’s right. She would have been ten when you knew her. Grew up the image of our mother.”
I pass my hand over my eyes. The thought of seeing someone who looks like Alice after all this time is almost more than I can imagine.
“We want to know about Mother.” His voice takes on an insistent tone. “We have memories, but not nearly enough. She was an only child, you see, and both her parents are long since deceased.”
He looks at his hands. They are large and square, with blotchy sunspots. They remind me of his father’s hands. I don’t know why I remember them so clearly. I avoided the man like he had leprosy.
“I’m a psychologist. I know the value of uncovering the past. It can help people heal, become whole.”
“I d-don’t know what I could add,” I murmur. “Sometimes it’s best to let things lie?” I end in a question, giving him a chance to respond.
“Margaret and I have talked about this a thousand times. Why dredge up the past? Whatever happened, happened. We can’t change a single thing.” He sighs. “Mother was flawed, we know, but she was who she was. And more important, she was our mother.”
He closes his eyes, removes a pressed white handkerchief from his back pocket, and slowly wipes his brow. “You see, we loved her. She was like a little bird sometimes, the way she played and sang to us and told us stories about fairies and castles and princesses. We want to know more about her. We want to know what happened on that ship. We just want to know.”
His face twists into an ugly mask, and I’m afraid he will start pounding on the table.
I sink into the floral-print cushion of my wicker-backed chair. “Have you thought to ask Captain Steele? Far as I know, he’s still alive. I’ve never seen his name on the obituary page of the union newspaper.”
“He is alive, out on the East Coast somewhere. We spoke with his daughter. She said he’s much too frail to either travel or be interviewed.” He draws a long breath. “I know that something terrible happened on that ship.” His voice takes an edge. “I want the truth.”
He smiles weakly then, as if to say, “Is that asking so much?”
When I don’t speak, his eyes narrow and he continues. “What sort of woman was our mother? What were her relationships like? How do you remember her?”
“Why do you think I could add anything to the trial report?” I ask softly, barely trusting myself to speak. I have to set my cup down in order to keep from spilling my coffee. “I was nineteen. Your mother was much older than me.”
He shrugs, acting as if he doesn’t notice my discomfort. “Yes, but we recall that you liked being around her, seemed to care about her. We—Margaret and I—want to hear your version of the story. Besides,” he looks out the window, “there is no one else to ask.”
I remove the tissue from my finger. It starts to bleed again. I get a paper-towel, fold it, and wrap my finger, trying to calm myself. “I have a question for you,” I say, hoping to change the focus. “What did your father do with his life after the trial?”
Walter lifts his cup and saucer off the table, takes a sip. “We returned to the Philippines. Pastor Kenneth married a local woman named Maria. He continued with his missionary work. Everything he did was for the glory of God. Maria assisted him and raised us. We have fond memories of her.”
“And you and your sister? When did you return to the States?”
“We both attended college here. My sister was married twice and I once. All unsuccessful. She moved in with me after her second divorce. We live on Mercer Island outside of Seattle.” He lowers his voice. “Margaret is a difficult woman who carries a lot of resentment. Pastor Kenneth came to live with us when his wife died. Margaret gave him little joy and not much peace, though perhaps more than he deserved. Then, last year, he passed.”
I watch him carefully, a habit from my captain days, when forming a judgment in a short amount of time could be critical. I wonder what it is about his sister that he calls difficult.
“I think I understand,” I say. “My own father and I had a difficult relationship. There is a bond between parents and children that doesn’t break just because the child becomes an adult or because the parent does something that seems unforgivable at the time. Let me think about it.”
The look on his face is childish—a child who has not gotten what he wanted. He seems to want to say something but holds back. He stands, reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a card, which he hands me, then moves awkwardly toward the door without attempting another handshake. I watch him walk up the road. His shoulders slump, and he seems less confident than when he came. This has not been easy for him. I feel the same. Just talking about Alice has taken a toll on us both.
My finger is still bleeding. I apply pressure with a new napkin, annoyed with how persistent it is, at how it distracts from the problem at hand. I must consider this request carefully. It is a deep wound he is asking me to open, one that has festered from the inside. Still, as he mentioned, uncovering the past can be helpful. My life is remarkably improved now that I’ve quit the sea and am living with a caring, intelligent woman and my beautiful roses. I’m learning to cook and enjoy listening to good music. I feel more content than at any time in recent memory.
On the other hand, exposing this old lesion,  cleaning and sanitizing it might make my life better. Dealing with all that guilt, if that’s what it is, might even help recover what is left of my flagging manhood. I can’t predict how this will affect me, but I do know this much: what is important has a way of seeking one out, usually when one least expects it.
Besides, I write every day, most recently about that period of my life—my days in Asia with the terrible war and everything upside down at home. Walter is offering me an opportunity to explore that time more completely, from a deeply personal point of view. He is obviously successful and has offered to pay. I can use the money. My pension, twenty-two hundred a month, barely covers my expenses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest post by Marija Bulatovic, author of 'Fantastical: Tales of Bears, Beer and Hemophilia'

I chose to self-publish.  FANTASTICAL is a work of passion and a very personal and dear project to me.  As such, I was interested to personally and deeply become involved in all aspects of publishing, from identifying the right experts to edit, illustrate, layout, and print the book to working with a tremendously talented publicist to bring it to light. 
At the same time, we are experiencing an explosion in tools and services suited for first time and self-publishing authors.  The publishing industry overall is at an inflection point, destabilized by the explosion of self-published books and outlets offering self-publishing services.  Self-publishing houses such as CreateSpace, Lightning Source or Bookbaby offer quality services at an approachable price-point.  However, the learning curve is steep for a single author to learn, discern differences in offerings and advantages among these services, along with their complementary or duplicative nature. 
I was curious about this process and it gave me an excellent opportunity to be personally engaged throughout the journey and understands all aspects of publishing. It’s been a great learning experience!
Self-publishing is tremendously labor and time intensive, but also very rewarding and profitable, assuming one is able to make investments to get the book to the finish line.
The pros of self-publishing are that you, as an author are 100% in control of your book and the every aspect of it.  You are the final decision maker and owner of the outcomes-good and bad. It’s a wonderful opportunity to merge one’s creative talents with flawless execution.  It does require much self-discipline and hard work, but it’s also a rewarding process.  While the world of self-publishing tools and services can feel like a maze, once the author understands them, they are generally easy and efficient to you.
The cons are that you have to invest money, time and energy to personally research and identify everything that shapes the book: editors, publicists, designers, printers, distributors, etc.  This is no easy task and authors can feel discouraged by it and by the long road ahead.  The self-publish path also requires that you make personal investments or raise money to fund your book project-which done right, is not an inexpensive proposition. 
As for the writing, I am a very disciplined person by nature and given the passion I have for my book project, I found it enjoyable and exiting to write every day.  I was tremendously motivated to pen another story, to share another episode from this special time with my audience. 

I was so excited to move my book project forward that I created a plan for myself-which was to write a story a day for 25 days.  These stories came easily to me and I felt well aligned with my goal of a story a day, so it wasn’t a challenge but a pleasure to be a step closer to bringing these tales to the public.

It’s been said that the truth is stranger than fiction.  Marija Bulatovic’s dazzling debut, Fantastical: Tales of Bears, Beer and Hemophilia, certainly underscores that adage.  Fantastical, Bulatovic’s reflections on her Yugoslavian childhood, is a mesmerizing memoir that takes readers on a wild and unforgettable tour of a country that has vanished from the map, but lives on in this lively collection. 
With a pitch perfect voice, and a keen eye for capturing the absurd, the outrageous, the hilarious, the touching, and the sublime, Bulatovic weaves a rich tapestry.  Bears, gypsies, quirky family members, foiled plans, unusual and unorthodox neighbors, Fantastical has it all.  Lovingly told with an unmistakable fondness and deep affection, Fantastical is resplendent with humor, magic, and whimsy.

In this colorful, captivating and clever collection of stories, Bulatovic captures the spirit of the Slavic soul—passion and melancholy with a twinkle in the eye.  Fantastical charms with its wit, keen insights, and larger-than-life stories. Part memoir, part love letter to a place and a people that lives on in memory, Fantastical is irresistible.

An exquisite assortment of stories—each more delicious than the last—Fantastical is a tale to be savored.

Find out more on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Marija Bulatovic, along with her parents, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s just ahead of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and the breakup of the country.  An accomplished business professional with years of experience driving enterprise business with Fortune 500 companies, Bulatovic graduated from Colgate University. Marija Bulatovic lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hope for a Better World by Monique Mitchell Book Feature

Hope For a Better World Title: Hope for a Better World
Author: Monique Mitchell
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 244
Genre: Biography/Autobiography
Format: Ebook/Paperback
 Purchase at AMAZON

 The book is basically my memoir; however, there are some fictitious characters but all is based on real events.

 Flashback to my childhood in Madagascar: country with a fascinating history and a unique population, with ethnic characteristics in my own family.

 Recollecting past personal tragedies in childhood and situating myself in the present where loving people( my family and church friends) are surrounding me, motivating me to be a good person and see life in a happy perspective. In particular, feeling as a great privilege to be part of the melting pot in the USA.

 Recollection of the life at the Faculty of Medicine (Angers), France and the following years in Paris, graduating in social studies. Identifying the influence of the French culture as a pivotal factor in my life and grateful to Bon Papa (grandfather)who, by becoming a naturalized French citizen enabled his descendants to benefit from their French education, while identifying their difference and /or alienation, could also choose individually, how to find a balance between a dual culture they were./are exposed to (their own native and the acquired one).

 An interesting trip to the Champagne region through the wine road and to the east of France (Alsace), rich in war (WWI) memories. And there also, exhilarating history about the Statute of Liberty: designed and constructed (before being brought to the USA) by the French architect, Frédéric August Bartholdi.

 Marriage to an American business man and birth of son in 1965 but early on, had to raise her child as a single mother due insurmountable challenges in the marriage.

 Worked for 20 years for the UN in 9 countries in Africa and Asia, all called hardship posts, including those for peace-keeping missions located in politically challenged and/or war-torn countries. For each country, there is a description, besides my administrative work, of history, culture, population etc…

 Farewell trip to Madagascar visiting the tomb of my grand parents with great sadness, fond memories and gratefulness for having raised me as a Christian child with the moral values I still carry with me at this day. Joining my American family on a permanent basis to be with my beloved son.

 Birth of granddaughter, Jade, who is now a teenager and praying for all members of my family to be blessed by God in the country where I am now conveying my message for love and tolerance in my book “Hope For a Better Work”.
 Born in Madagascar and now living in the USA where I joined my family following a long search for what the Creator of the Universe meant me to be, and that search is now well defined. It started to emerge gradually from my childhood and my adolescent years in France, and became more discerning during my 20 years as a UN staff member in various countries of Africa and Asia. As a result of that search, I wrote a book in order to convey the well defined message from the “We the peoples” of the UN Charter: peoples are different, have differences, but all should “hope for a better world”,with love and tolerance.  

Monique is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 8 and ends on December 19.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 22.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Guest post by Linda DeFruscio, author of 'Cornered'

I have been a note taker all my life. I love details, and since they can get lost or minimized if you rely on memory alone, I make an effort to document them. I guess a diarist does basically the same thing. The difference might be that my record keeping is more immediate. When I want to remember something, I often jot it down right then and there, while events are still unfolding. This means I might have to write on a post-it or a napkin or even a paper plate. Another difference might be that I don’t try to lyricize my notes. I just write what I observe and the notes wind up in a box that I may never look at again.

On the other hand, some notes prove to be very useful. I had boxes and boxes of notes regarding my association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the Harvard-educated physician who wanted to become known for finding a cure for cancer and instead became known as the “cross-dressing millionaire dermatologist who killed his wife.” My notes were about him, but they were about things going on in my life during the years I knew him too. And of course they covered the territory where our lives overlapped. Added to my notes were newspaper clippings regarding his crime, his trial, his incarceration, his suicide attempts and his death. I had copies of the Court TV tapes that introduced him to millions of viewers nationwide. I had notes regarding my conversations with the various other players in his life, including the many women who sought him out after his incarceration. I even had letters various women wrote to him while he was in prison. (He’d asked his brother to hold on to them, but when his brother became ill and realized he was going to die, they were sent to me for safekeeping; my reputation precedes me.)

My story of knowing Richard Sharpe is fairly incredible. He had been my friend long before he committed his terrible crime. I knew him as a man of science who was driven to do good in the world. Because he was a dermatologist and I was (and am) an electrologist and aesthetician, our business lives intersected. When hair-removing lasers first got FDA approval in 1997, Richard Sharpe had the foresight to see that they would be the next big thing and he bought a couple of them. He then formed a coalition, with 18 area skin care professionals, whereby he would lease his lasers to people like me who couldn't afford a laser of their own. Everybody made a ton of money during this time; making money was another aspect of his uncanny genius. But all of the new found wealth depended on him, and when he fell to pieces, the coalition went down like a house of cards.

After the crime, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, least of all Richard Sharpe. But he pleaded with me, through mutual acquaintances, to get in touch with him, not to turn my back on him in his darkest hour. It took a while, but I made the decision to continue to know him. Perhaps it was easier for me than for others because my father had been in and out of trouble for many years and I had visited him in prisons from a very young age. I already knew the protocols for entering a prison. More importantly, I already knew that you can hate what someone does and still find a way to care about the person.

My decision to remain friends with Richard Sharpe impacted my life in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time. I suffered a great deal of loss; and I gained a few insights too. I think any reader who has experienced shifts in their life as a result of their association with a difficult or strong-willed or mentally-ill person—whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend—will identify with my journey.

Even those who can’t imagine ever befriending a criminal are sure to be intrigued by my story. Certainly my clients and friends were. They asked me hundreds of questions about his activities while the drama was unfolding, and they continued asking me questions when they learned I was thinking of writing a book.

When I decided the time had come to actually start writing Cornered, I had all those boxes and boxes of notes to go back to. Then it was time to let lyricism play its part, leaving some incidents on the cutting room floor and gluing others together. Now I’m working on two other books, one about skin and hair care, and one a compilation of profiles of transgender people, many of them based on my transgender clients. Note taking, which began as a hobby for me many years ago, has apparently blossomed into something much more substantial.

LindaDiFruscio_29.1FLinda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. While Cornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.
About the Book
In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.
Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Corneredallows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.
Find out more on Amazon.