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Interview with Author Neil McKee for Kid on the Go! 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I started my career as a volunteer teacher in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo) during 1968-70. There, I became an international filmmaker and later a multimedia producer, working for development agencies and living in or traveling to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Russia until 2013. I had written three technical books and many journal articles during my career, for example on the role of communication in defeating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But I never had time to write creatively until I retired. I started by taking an evening course and drafting stories at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland. After my wife and I moved to Albuquerque in 2015, I attended Master’s-level workshops in creative nonfiction and poetry at the University of New Mexico. That’s when I started writing my Borneo travel memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo, and another travel memoir on my ancestors, Guns and Gods in My Genes. These have both won awards. Simultaneously, I also began drafting short pieces of what became Kid on the Go! for review by my professor and fellow students in those workshops, and revised them after feedback. So, it’s my third book from to be released from the time I became a creative writer. 

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I spent the first 19 years of my life in Elmira, Ontario, Canada—a formative place for me. It’s where I learned life skills which helped me as I went farther and farther away from my hometown. As I recall in my memoir, I had to work for monetary rewards from a very young age. My father’s father was killed in a farm accident in 1933 and my dad and most of his brothers had to quit school and take over the farm. In spite of this, they all became successful businessmen. Only one of them stayed on the farm. So, my role models included men who overcame obstacles and succeeded in life by using their brains. But I also had a lot of fun and great freedom in Elmira and that sometimes got me into trouble with authority figures of all kinds—especially in my rebellious teenage years. Such experiences are life skills building too. I have dedicated the book “To my late parents. Russell and Alma McKee, who gave me the time and space to wonder, and wander far from home.”  

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that readers conclude that it is possible to write an interesting childhood and/or youth memoir even if you had loving parents, supportive siblings, and haven’t suffered from abuse, neglect, discrimination, war, terror, etc. So many top-selling memoirs are written by people who have beaten such odds and risen to a successful life, accomplishing great things. But many more of us have stories worth telling if we dig into our memories and let our creative juices flow. It does help to have an antagonist to fight against. In my case, it was my hometown’s polluted environment in which I lived from 1945 to 1965—a chemical factory that produced insecticides and herbicides, the latter employed in the making Agent Orange for the American Army’s use in Vietnam. Although few people in town knew about that ugly fact at the time, we all knew the place often stank from by-products of that factory, as well as a fertilizer plant, a foundry, and more—all proud signs of the post-war boom. The pollution provided conflict in my stories, allowing me to use the theme of “escape” by just about any means possible—finding various routes out of town, fishing, hunting, building or renovating “escape vehicles,” working on my dad’s farm in the summer, dreaming about girls instead of paying attention in school, confronting authority in my teenage “rock n’ roll” years, being introduced to philosophy and Zen Buddhism in senior high school, taking “existential leaps” out of airplanes, going out West to Calgary, Alberta for clear air, big blue skies, and mountains to complete my B.A., and finally leaving Canada in 1968 for the verdant Island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

By genre, I believe you mean creative nonfiction memoir. I was drawn to it because I have had such a rich and varied experience in life, both in my formative years and my 45-year career traveling and working all around the globe. In my mid-70s, I am lucky to have the health and good memory to write about experiences in a creative, nonlinear way. During my career, I wrote technical books and articles in my field and wanted to do something different in my final decades. Creative nonfiction seemed to be a natural thing for me. I was never much interested in fiction, except for watching movies for relaxation. 

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5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Quite frankly, I am not sure. I do post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, linking people to my website, hopefully. But I haven’t seen evidence that this drives up sales. I have a large email list which I use to send out updates when I have something significant to announce. Social media might increase your visibility in google searches. But I’m of the opinion that most people only spend a few seconds on each post in this age of minimum attention span. I love to present and discuss issues in person or on zoom and connect with potential readers that way. I also take my books on blog and review tours, like WOW! Women in Writing; enter contests and try different innovative ways such as Shepherd.com: https://shepherd.com/best-books/exotic-asian-travel

https://shepherd.com/best-books/to-understand-the-true-founding-of-america

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

a) Be prepared for very hard work. I put in about seven hours of research, writing, corresponding, and promotion each day. b) Get reviews from readers and other writers before you publish, and make revisions accordingly, if you feel they are helpful. After all, readers should know. In my former communication work we call it “pretesting.” c) If you have five or more years to wait, you can try to get a publisher. I had a couple of late offers for my Borneo memoir but the companies involved wanted to start over on the editing and didn’t want to put any money into promotion. So I set up my own company and employ a good literary editor, copy editor/proofreader, and designer. I print and distribute through IngramSpark. This company sends out your book and e-book files to many distributors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, a chain bookstore in Canada called Indigo.com, to many other ebook distributors, and my books are available through most independent bookstores and libraries. It is one way to begin no matter what age you are. You have to be prepared to put a lot of time into promotion, however. I think that is the case for any author because every day about 1,000 new titles are released in all genres in North American. 

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I have completed over half of the first draft of my next manuscript on my career as an international filmmaker and multimedia producer, working for two Canadian development agencies, UNICEF, Johns Hopkins University, and my last job in an agency called FHI360 in Washington, D.C., where I was director of a communication project with 150 staff and a large budget. 

During my career, I lived for four years in Malaysia, four years in Bangladesh, seven years in Kenya and Uganda (East Africa), and my last overseas posting was in Moscow, Russia during 2004-2007. Besides that, I traveled to about 80 countries on short-term assignments. All this has given me significant experience in learning about the issues within so many fields of endeavor that aim to improve human life in the developing world: volunteering during your youth; the role of science and technology in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture; finding solutions for delivering health care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene; empowering girls, women, and young people to take charge of the their lives, while attempting to change the behaviors and social norms that restrict them from reaching their full potential. I think there’s a good story here. I’ve set up a website on my main projects, including most of the videos, comic books, and other media products that I have been able to retrieve, so far. 

My challenge is to write about my career creatively and coherently in a way that will entertain and educate—that is, make readers smile, wonder, and think about the present state of our planet. I am also including thoughts on what was achieved or wasn’t achieved in the projects I documented or created, my advancement in skills, personal development, marriage and family life, and memories of many of the people I met in my travels and those who influenced me and propelled my way forward. 

I hope to complete this book by the end of 2022. In the meantime, I also want to begin a new writing project, probably involving travel through New Mexico and America’s Southwest. That project is gradually taking shape through reading and thinking about the history, ethnicities, and cultures I have encountered here.

Book Summary

In this new book, McKee takes readers on a journey through his childhood, adolescence, and teenage years from the mid-40s to the mid-60s, in the small, then industrially-polluted town of Elmira, Ontario, Canada—one of the centers of production for Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. 

McKee’s vivid descriptions, dialog, and self-drawn illustrations are a study of how a young boy learned to play and work, fish and hunt, avoid dangers, cope with death, deal with bullies, and to build or restore “escape” vehicles. You may laugh out loud as the author recalls his exploding hormones, attraction to girls, rebellion against authority, and survival of 1960s’ “rock & roll” culture—emerging on the other side as a youth leader. 

After leaving Elmira, McKee describes his intensely searching university years, trying to decide which career path to follow. Except for a revealing postscript, the story ends when he accepts a volunteer teaching position on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.

Purchase your copy now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list too.

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About the Author

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Neill McKee is a creative nonfiction writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has written and published three books in this genre since 2015. His latest work is Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, a humorous and poignant account of his growing up in an industrially-polluted town in Ontario, Canada, and his university years. This memoir is a stand-alone prequel to his first travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019) on his first overseas adventures in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo), where he served as a Canadian volunteer teacher and program administrator during 1968-70 and 1973-74. This book won the 2019 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Biography–(other than a New Mexico/Arizona subject) and a Bronze Medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (Ippy Awards). 

In late 2020, McKee also released Guns and Gods in my Genes: A 15,000-mile North American search through four centuries of history, to the Mayflower—an entertaining account of how he searched for his roots in Canada and the US, in which he employs vivid descriptions, dialog, poetic prose, analytical opinion, photos and illustrations. In this work, McKee slowly uncovers his American grandmother’s lineage—ancestors who were involved in almost every major war on North American soil and others, including a passenger on the Mayflower, as well as heroes, villains, rascals, and ordinary godly folk. Through his search, McKee exposes myths and uncovers facts about the true founding of America.

McKee, who holds a B.A. Degree from the University of Calgary and a Masters in Communication from Florida State University, lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Russia and traveled to over 80 countries on assignments during his 45-year international career. He became an expert in communication and directed/produced a number of award-winning documentary films/videos, and wrote a many articles and books in the field. McKee is now busy writing another travel memoir on his career. He does readings/book signings and presentations with or without photos. He prefers lively interactive sessions.

Follow the author online at:

Author’s website: www.neillmckeeauthor.com

Kid on the Go! book page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/kid-on-the-go

Kid on the go! buy page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/buy-3

Author’s digital library: www.neillmckeevideos.com/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/neill-mckee-b9971b65/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/McKeeNeill/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MckeeNeill

NBFS: www.northborneofrodotolkien.org

— Blog Tour Calendar

November 8th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the launch of Neill McKee’s newest memoir, Kid on the Go. Come by and read an interview with the author, find out more about his newest book, and enter to win a copy for yourself.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

November 10th @ Quiet Fury Books

Visit Darcia’s blog today where she features an excerpt from Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://quietfurybooks.com/

November 12th @ Choices

Visit Madeline’s blog and read Neill McKee’s guest post on surviving the 1960’s Rock n’ Roll culture.

https://madelinesharples.com/

November 15th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and read her insights into Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

November 15th @ Katherine Itacy’s Blog

Stop by Katherine and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!. You can also enter to win a copy of the book for yourself too!

https://katherineitacy.com/

November 17th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Join Beverley as she features a guest post by author Neill McKee on issues on writing about your hometown. 

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

November 20th @ Sweet Silly Sara

Visit Sara’s blog and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.sweetsillysara.com/

November 24th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog again and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

November 24th @ C. Lee McKenzie

Join C. Lee McKenzie today as she interviews author Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.cleemckenziebooks.com/blog/

November 26th @ StoreyBook Reviews

Visit Leslie’s blog where she shares an excerpt of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://storeybookreviews.com/

November 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Join Anthony as he interviews Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/category/interviews/

December 2nd @ The Mommies Reviews

Visit Glenda’s blog today where she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.themommiesreviews.com/

December 4th @ Mother Daughter Bookclub

Join Cindy today when she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://motherdaughterbookclub.com/

December 5th @ Fiona Ingram’s Blog

Join Fiona today when she shares Neill McKee’s guest post on writing a memoir in a youth’s voice but with present-day adult reflections.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 7th @ CK Sorens’ Blog

Make sure to stop by CK Sorens’ blog today and check out a feature of Neill McKee’s memoir and enter to win a copy of the book too.

https://www.cksorens.com/blog

December 8th @ World of My Imagination

Join Nicole as she shares her thoughts about Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!. You’ll also have the chance to win a copy for yourself too.

https://worldofmyimagination.com/

December 10th @ Bookshine and Readbows

Join Steph as she shares Neill McKee’s guest post about how mentors changed his life.

December 10th @ Jill Sheets’ Blog

Join Jill as she interviews Neill McKee and features his memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again as he shares his thoughts on Neill McKee’s newest memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/category/reviews/

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The Ex’s Boyfriend by Hurri Cosmo Blog Tour Spotlight

Hello everyone! I’m so honored to be working on this next blog tour, for author Hurri Cosmo’s “The Ex’s Boyfriend”. I had the pleasure of working on the author’s last book, The Superior Jewel, and I have always been so honored and proud to work with and connect with authors and writers in the (or who celebrates the) LGBTQ+ community. I hope everyone will check out this amazing excerpt, and the chance to enter this giveaway as well.

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The Ex's Boyfriend - Hurri Cosmo

Hurri Cosmo has a new MM paranormal ghost romance out: The Ex’s Boyfriend. And there’s a giveaway!

Mark has always been a Dominant. The Top in every relationship. Just ask Leon, his very ex-boyfriend, because that’s what he told Mark he was.

Okay, Mark’s only had the one relationship so the ‘always’ was a reach, but it didn’t matter. It was more than over with now, and Leon was long gone. That is until Leon felt it necessary to show off his new boyfriend, a gorgeous mountain called Rogan, by evidently telling him that Mark was stalking, bullying, badgering, harassing and get this, abusing him.

“He’ll kill you, Mark, because he loves me and wants to protect me.”

From whom? Skinny little Mark? What a joke. Because all Mark has ever done was exactly what Leon told him to do and that now included staying as far away from Leon as he could get. But how can he do that when Leon is hell-bent on proving all the lies he’s told Rogan about Mark were true, and by any means possible except the actual truth? Thankfully, it seems Rogan’s not quite as clueless about Leon’s wild imagination as Mark has always been. In fact, the big, beautiful man has come to Mark’s rescue a couple of times and has made it clear, Leon and he are not a thing. At least, not anymore.

Which is good since Mark is going to need Rogan’s help. Mainly because something else is out to get Mark. Something not Leon.

This something isn’t even human…

Amazon | Smashwords


Giveaway

Hurri is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47210/?


Excerpt

The Ex's Boyfriend meme

They took the elevator to the sixth floor and headed cautiously down a deserted hall. Okay, maybe it was only Mark who walked warily. Rogan marched slightly ahead of him and seemed to barge down the hall with his chest puffed out like some storybook bodyguard protecting the prince. However, no apparitions flew out at them this time, no lights exploded trying to kill them. When they got to Mark’s apartment, Rogan snatched the set of keys Mark dug out of his pocket and opened the door of 612 and attempted to turn on the light.

“It doesn’t work,” Mark remarked. “It never has.”

As if that might have been important in the whole scheme of things, Rogan turned to him. “Really? Why?”

“I have no idea. They have never been able to fix it, either.”

Rogan grumbled a string of profanities against landlords as he pulled out his phone. “Hey Raptor. Flashlight.” The phone shot out a bright beam and Rogan shined it into the apartment. “Where is a switch that does work?”

“Right here.” Mark glanced around the apartment before he tiptoed over to the switch in the kitchen and turned it on. The apartment lit up enough to see that everything was normal―so to speak. The destroyed TV was right where it had been when they left, debris still everywhere. Not the chaos Mark had walked into with Leon, but shivers of that time chased through him as well. “What I don’t get is why you don’t even have a scratch on you.”

“That is a mystery,” Rogan murmured. “What’s even more an unknown is why you were basically sliced in the first place. Cut, I would understand. But sliced?” He walked over to the large, jagged piece laying against the wall, the piece that had been laced with blood but no longer appeared to be and picked it up. “This should never have been sharp enough to do that.” He brought it over for Mark to see.

“Fuck,” Mark whispered as he gazed at the piece of plastic. “It’s… like a knife.” And it was. The six-inch, razor-edged side appeared paper thin, to the point of it being see-through. As if someone had purposely honed it down to that sharpness. “But… didn’t it have blood on it?”

Rogan narrowed his eyes and glared back at the plastic as if it had just lied to him. “You’re right. It did. Exactly my point.”

“Which is?”

Rogan glanced briefly at Mark. “This isn’t right. I mean, how does something like this even happen?” Rogan’s lips pursed together.

“So, what are you saying?”

“I’m not sure.” Rogan gazed down at Mark. “And I don’t like not knowing. I will find some answers. That I promise.” He sighed. “Now what do we need to take with us so we can get out of here?”

Mark packed a backpack while Rogan kept watch. Mark would have thought it laughable if he wasn’t so panicked. It was one thing to be bullied by Leon. Quite another by a ghost.

“The extra apartment key is in the kitchen drawer,” Mark told Rogan as he threw the backpack over his shoulder.

Rogan immediately reached over and grabbed the backpack. “Go get it. I got this.”

Heat climbing Mark’s face he walked quickly to the drawer. “I can carry it. I’m not a princess.”

Rogan smirked but remained silent as he adjusted the backpack and held out a hand to accept the key. “Thanks,” he said, winking at Mark when he dropped the key in his hand.

“I don’t know what you plan on doing but have at it.”

Rogan grimaced as if he were guilty of something and shook his head.

When they arrived at Mark’s dad’s house, Rogan insisted on walking Mark in. “I didn’t keep you safe like I promised. He deserves an explanation.”

“Are you kidding me? I’m not some fragile teenager on a date. Besides, I can take care of myself.”

“I know that. But security is my job, and I should have…”

“Should have what?”

“Known.” He knocked on the door.

“Known? How? Why?”

But Rogan remained silent. Except it was clear he was battling something in his head.

“Whatever,” Mark mumbled. “Just… I can take care of myself.” Mark went to knock as well but the door flew open in front of him, Mark’s dad standing on the other side.

“What the fuck is going on out here?” Rob snarled, startling both Mark and Rogan.

“Sir!” Rogan nearly shouted back, gaining the older man’s attention. Then he lowered his voice probably realizing how loud he was being. “Mr. Corda. Sorry to wake you…”

“What the hell happened to you?” Rob grabbed Mark and pulled him into the house. “Why the bandages?” He turned his attention back to Rogan. “Why is my son covered in bandages?”

Mark took immediate offence. “Dad, I’m standing right here! Ask me!”

“Um… sir…” Rogan interrupted. “it’s a long story.”


Author Bio

I am Hurri Cosmo and I live in Minnesota where I hold tight to the idea that here, where it’s cold a good part of the year, I won’t age as fast. Yep, I avoid the truth as much as I avoid mirrors. But one of the reasons I love writing is reality doesn’t always offer up a “happily ever after” and being able to take control of that is a powerful lure.

Being a happy ending junkie, writing just makes them easier to find. Oh, I don’t mind “real life” and I do try to at least keep it in mind when I write my stories, but I truly love creating a wonderful couple, knowing they will fall in love and have their HEA. Every – single – time. And, of course, that is exactly the reason I love reading this genre, too.

Give me a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, and my computer, whether I am reading or writing, and I will entertain myself for hours. The fact I actually get paid to do it is Snickers bars on the frosting on the cake.

Author Website: https://www.hurricosmo.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/hurri.cosmo

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/HurriCosmo

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6466687.Hurri_Cosmo

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hurri-Cosmo

Other Worlds Ink logo 

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Exclusive Excerpt

Two nights later Anna, Rogan and Mark were standing at the back warehouse of Streeter Manufacturing. Rogan had a couple of his people help haul the boxes to the entrance but told them they were not needed for anything else. Mark understood the reason but didn’t necessarily agree with it. He was thinking the more humans in this place, the better. Rogan had made it clear he had no idea how this night would go. 

“Why night, Rogan? Why darkness?”

Rogan only rolled his eyes at him.

Shit.

Anna had brought all kinds of things with her. She was the first to enter the space burning some foul-smelling thing. ‘Smudging’ is what Rogan whispered to him.

“What’s it supposed to do?”

“Clean the space.”

“Of what?”

“Bad energy.”

“I thought you wanted the bad energy to come, not run and hide.”

“Yes…” Rogan shook his head. “It’s complicated.”

“Hmmm.”

They set up the equipment, seven each of the Molecular Polarization Arrays and Variance Sequencers, after Anna finished her chants, of which, the words and tone of voice oddly sent shivers through Mark. He never saw the stone that she banged on the cement either, Rogan explaining that that was what it was, but the vibrations of each tap seemed to shake his very bones. Finally done, the two of them picked a spot to wait for the action to start, Anna decided to venture to the other side of the warehouse. 

“Are you okay with her being all the way over there?”

Rogan huffed. “She does what she does. I don’t question her. I’m grateful she once again listened to me that this damn shadow was back.”

“Oh.” 

“It’s not like that,” Rogan whispered. “She knows things and sees things that I just don’t. I have to trust her judgment of what she feels she has to do in a space and where she thinks she needs to be. Just as she implicitly trusts me and my equipment to do what we do.”

“How long will we have to wait?”

“Honestly, I expected to be interfered with as we set up the equipment. The last few times I have entered this space the shadow has attempted to stop me.”

“So, you don’t know?”

“I do not.”

“Okay. So, we wait.”

And wait they did.

And waited.

“There’s no sign of the shadow,” Rogan whispered after they had sat silently for what seemed to Mark hours. 

“Is that a problem?” Mark whispered back. He had been crouched down ready to spring to action, but his legs and feet were completely asleep now. He needed to move. He squirmed to scratch an itch he could not find.

“Might be.” Rogan glanced at him, his eyes narrowing. “My equipment needs to have close proximity with the energy, or it can’t even read it much less capture it.”

“That’s unfortunate.” Mark squirmed some more trying to allow blood to flow back into his lower extremities but then the pins and needles began in earnest. Oh hell. He wouldn’t be able to stand now anyway. 

“Are you alright?”

“No. I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. Bad.” It was true. The moment he thought it, he couldn’t think anything else.

“I really don’t want you out of my sight.”

Mark’s heart stuttered. “I don’t want to be out of your sight.” Mark wiggled some more. “But I got a go.” 

Rogan sighed. “I could go with I suppose. Not much going on here anyway. I’ll radio Anna.” Rogan had insisted on the walkie talkies if Anna wanted to be separated. She had complied as long as the volumes were low, and it didn’t interfere with her aura. “I’m walking with Mark to the bathroom,” he announced softly into the radio.

“You’re what?” came the instant reply.

“Mark has to go to the bathroom. I don’t want him going alone. We’ll be right back.”

“Fine but be careful.”

“Don’t worry. We will.”

They left the warehouse and Mark led the way to the bathroom nearest the back warehouse area which happened to be the same one that he had accused Leon being in. Maybe he should have gone to the one in the other warehouse. Too late now. Didn’t matter. He would be fast. Mark slipped into a stall while Rogan remained at the main door. He kept it open as he gazed out. “Do you think it will show?” Mark called from the stall.

“I have no idea.”

After he finished, Mark went to the sink to wash his hands. “Have you had this happen before where the ghost never shows?”

“Yes.” Rogan said as he continued to gaze beyond the bathroom. “Sometimes in big areas like this or like your apartment building ―”

“Or yours.”

“― or mine, an energy can move around. The repeats can also be random. I have had several incidents where I was called to what I understood to be a very active sighting and before I could do anything, the activity stopped. Completely.”

“Wow. Unpredictable.”

“Very. That was going to be my next focus. Some sort of way to detect the paranormal that isn’t active. Find even dormant paranormal energy. I would be able to rid a place of the ghosts prior to there being any problems with them.”

“Sort of a housewarming service?”

“Hey. Yeah.” Rogan chuckled as he turned to Mark. He lowered his voice to mimic a radio announcer. “Hire Ghost Securities to clear your new home of any and all paranormal energy.”

“Um…we’ll have to work on that catchy phrase though,” giggled Mark as he wiped his hands.

Rogan laughed but then jerked back around with an in-take of breath to look out the door again. “What was that?” he breathed.

What’s wrong?” Mark squeaked as he jumped back from the sink farther away from the door.

“I don’t know. Stay here for a moment,” Rogan said and left the bathroom, the door swinging shut.

“Oh God, don’t leave me,” Mark whispered, his heart beating in his throat. He backed up until he was up against the far wall of the small bathroom. Why why why had he agreed to come? Fuck. He slid down the wall as he waited for Rogan to return and put his head in his hands. The stupid endorphins he had been floating on for days now were totally gone and who in their right mind ever wanted to face a fucking ghost. Or a shadow. Demon. Fuck. Clearly Rogan did! 

Marky,” came a voice from in front of him. It was more a hoarse whisper, maybe a grumble. One thing for certain, it wasn’t Rogan’s voice. Fuck. He didn’t look up right away. He honestly did not want to see what the thing that wasn’t Rogan actually was. 

But he knew. 

SPOTLIGHT: PRE-SALE Purchases of ANY DUMB ANIMAL by A.E. Hines To Be Matched for The Trevor Project

Hi everyone! I am honored and proud to share this special spotlight for author A.E. Hines and his book, “Any Dumb Animal”, a unique collection of poetry that shares his memoir of a gay man who came of age during the AIDS crisis.

With every pre-sale purchase of Any Dumb Animal by A.E. Hines between June and November 2021, a group of anonymous donors will match dollar for dollar each sale and donate it to The Trevor Project.

The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 and is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.


The publisher also is offering a limited time advanced sale price of $8.50 + shipping. Order here: https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/product/any-dumb-animal-ae-hines/

About the book:


Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

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Advance Praise:


“This compellingly candid work speaks the language of courage, of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, it is a remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful lyric poet has emerged. Take note and rejoice!” ~ Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita

“I was amazed over and over at the bravery of these poems, never shying from the difficult moments in life, and all the while staying true to the clear-eyed, fearless vision of their author.” ~ James Crews, Editor of How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope

“With a strong gift for storytelling and an eye attuned to detail, Hines ultimately shows us the beauty and knowledge made of experience.” ~Richie Hofmann, Author of Second Empire

About the Author:


AE Hines (he/him) grew up in rural North Carolina and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. His poetry has been widely published in anthologies and literary journals including I-70 Review, Sycamore Review, Tar River Poetry, Potomac Review, Atlanta Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and Crab Creek Review. He is winner of the Red Wheelbarrow Prize and has been a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Writing at Pacific University. Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram.

Visit Poetic Book Tours for details on the blog tour.

Save the Cat! Writes For TV by Jamie Nash Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author Jamie Nash takes the mantle from Blake Snyder to show writers and authors how to create binge-worth content for television in the latest entry in the Save the Cat series, “Save the Cat! Writes For TV”.

The Synopsis

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/

About the Save the Cat! Writes for TV

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, the world’s top-selling story method for filmmakers and novelists, introduces The Last Book on Creating Binge-Worthy Content You’ll Ever Need. 

Screenwriter Jamie Nash takes up Snyder’s torch to lay out a step-by-step approach using Blake’s principles for both new and experienced writers, including:

  • How to write and structure a compelling TV pilot that can launch both your series and your TV writing career 
  • All the nuances, tricks, and techniques of pilot-writing: the Opening Pitch, the Guided Tour, the Whiff of Change, and more 
  • The 8 Save the Cat! TV Franchise Types that will improve your story and your pitch
  • The not-so-secret TV Pitch Template that turns your TV series into the necessary read-over-lunch industry document
  • a how-to in creating layered characters who are driven by complex internal struggles
  • Beat sheets of the pilots of BarryOzarkGrey’s AnatomyThe Marvelous Mrs. MaiselWhat We Do in the ShadowsBlack-ishThe MandalorianThis Is UsLaw and Order: SVU and more to help you crack your story.

Create your binge-worthy TV series with Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

The Review

Such a truly valuable and informative read. The author does a great job of showcasing the skills and work that goes into television writing but incorporating his own unique voice and wit into the writing to make the reader feel connected to the information they are absorbing. 

However, what really stands out is the information that the author bestows upon the readers, building upon the legacy of Blake Snyder’s work with an insight into modern-day television in the age of streaming services. The breakdown of the book into four sections of television writing, and focusing on building oneself up from a member of the writer’s room to a showrunner was a great foundation to lay for this book, and the educational yet relatable way the author writes to his audience really allowed this information to be absorbed greatly. I, as a writer, definitely felt the expertise that went into this book.

The Verdict

A memorable, thoughtful, and insightful book on television writing, author Jamie Nash’s “Save the Cat! Writes for TV” is a must-have book for any aspiring and established writers out there. While the book’s primary focus on television writing is truly amazing, I feel, as an author myself, that this book can easily translate and apply to all formats of writing, especially for those hoping to craft memorable, long-last series or arcs for multiple books, something I know I could use. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Purchase a copy of this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Or save it to your GoodReads reading list.

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About the Author

Jamie Nash has written and sold almost every type of story under the sun, including the horror films ExistsV/H/S/2The Night WatchmenAltered, and Lovely Molly, and the family films Santa Hunters and Tiny Christmas. He has written the Middle-Grade novels Bunk! and The 44 Rules of Amateur Sleuthing and the sci-fi novel Nomad. Jamie knows what it’s like to make a living as a writer. When he s not writing and selling work, he teaches screenwriting at Johns Hopkins University and MICA and co-hosts the podcast Writers/Blockbusters. Jamie lives in Maryland with his wife, son, and a talking dog.

More information about Save the Cat!:

Save the Cat! Website: https://savethecat.com/

Save the Cat! Best-Selling Books: https://savethecat.com/books

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/savethecat/

— Blog Tour Schedule

August 9th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the launch of another Save the Cat tour! We are featuring the newest book Save the Cat! Writes for TV. Read an interview with the author and stop by and win a copy for yourself.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

August 12th @ Karen Brown Tyson

Visit Karen’s blog today and read her insights into Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

August 15th @ Michelle Cornish

Come by Michelle’s blog where she reviews Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

August 18th @ Author Anthony Avina

Stop by Anthony’s blog and read his insights into Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

August 20th @ Selling Books

Visit Cathy’s blog where you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://SellingBooks.com/

August 25th @ Lisa Ehrman

Lisa features the Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://lisasreading.com

August 27th @ Lori Duff Writes

Join Lori as she reviews Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

September 2nd @ Girl Zombie Authors

Visit Chris’ blog and read a review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com/

September 5th @ Margay Leah Justice

Stop by Margay’s blog and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

http://margayleahjustice.blogspot.com/

September 7th @ Writer Writer Pants on Fire

Join Mindy and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://writerwriterpantsonfire.com/

September 9th @ Deborah Adams’ Blog

Visit Deborah’s blog and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

http://www.deborah-adams.com/blog/

September 12th @ Leslie’s Voice

Visit Leslie’s blog where you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes for TV.

https://lesliesvoice.com/

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two young women in very different circumstances during the German occupation of WWII find themselves becoming quick friends, but soon that friendship is tested as the war grows far deadlier in author Pam Jenoff’s “The Woman with the Blue Star”.

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The Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

The Review

The author does a truly fantastic and haunting job of capturing the horrors of WWII and the conditions that so many were forced to live in. Right off the bat readers are shown the pain of loss that one of the protagonists goes through in the heart-pounding moments a family attempts to find an escape from the overwhelming German forces. The imagery and sense of setting really are powerful in this story, as readers are immediately brought to the very different and distinct lives that separated those being hunted by the German occupation and those living “normally” during the occupation. 

What really stands at the heart of this story however is the relationship between the two young women that become the protagonists of the story. Sadie and Ella’s stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once, highlighting their individual struggles in this time of war while also showcasing how friendship, love, and relationships, in general, can give those in a time of need or struggle the hope they need to either endure or overcome those struggles. Readers will instantly be drawn into their friendship and the path their lives take during this tumultuous time. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and emotional historical-fiction read, author Pam Jenoff’s “The Girl with the Blue Star” is a must-read novel and the perfect historical-fiction read for the upcoming summer season. For those who love history and stories that delve into personal relationships that help overcome struggles, this is a truly engaging and intriguing read that cannot be missed. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

Social Links:

Website: https://www.pamjenoff.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PamJenoffauthor/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PamJenoff 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamjenoff/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/213562.Pam_Jenoff 

Mailing List: https://pamjenoff.com/mailing-list/ 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Blue-Star-Novel/dp/0778389383/ 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-pam-jenoff/1137387567 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-9780778311546/9780778389385 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778389385 

Libro.fm: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488211706-the-woman-with-the-blue-star?bookstore=betweenthecovers 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Woman-Blue-Star/Pam-Jenoff/9780778389385?id=8140224153967 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-by-pam-jenoff-paperback/-/A-81225916 

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Woman-with-the-Blue-Star-Original-Edition-Paperback-9780778389385/304633554 

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-woman-with-the-blue/9780778389385-item.html 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-woman-with-the-blue-star 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-woman-with-the-blue-star/id1524947358 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/The_Woman_with_the_Blue_Star_A_Novel?id=De_yDwAAQBAJ&hl=en&gl=US 

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An Excerpt from THE GIRL WITH THE BLUE STAR

Sadie

Kraków, PolandMarch 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.

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Q&A With Author Pam Jenoff

  • Why did you decide to write this story?

While looking for an idea for my next book, I discovered the incredible story of a group of Jewish people who had hidden from the Nazis by living for many months in the sewers of Lviv, Poland.  I was struck by the horrific circumstances which they endured, as well as their ingenuity and resilience in surviving there.  I was also moved by the selflessness of those who helped them, most notably a sewer worker, and by their search for human connection in such a dark and isolated place. 

After twenty-five years of working with World War II and the Holocaust, I find a story that makes me gasp, I know I am onto something that will make my readers feel the same way.  This was certainly the case with the true inspiration for The Woman With The Blue Star.

  • How much research went into your story?

Immersing myself in the world where my story is set, whether the circus in The Orphan’s Tale or the sewer in The Woman With The Blue Star, is always one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of beginning a book.  I had so many questions:  What did the sewer look and feel like?  How was it possible to eat and sleep and even see in the dark underground space?  Fortunately, there was an excellent non-fiction book, In The Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall, that explained so much of it.  I learned that there were so many dangers beyond getting caught by the Germans, from drowning to floods.  Every day was a battle for survival.  

When I decided to move the story to Krakow, Poland (where I had lived for several years), I planned a research trip there.  Those plans were scuttled by the pandemic, but I am lucky enough to still have good friends there who put me in touch with experts on the sewer and the city to help me (hopefully) get it right.

  • What takeaway message do you hope readers get from your book?

Sadie and Ella, two women from completely different worlds, form a deep bond that has profound and lasting consequences.  I hope readers will see in them the ways in which we can transcend our differences and connect.  I also hope readers recognize the ways in which reaching out to someone, even in the smallest or most fleeting way, can have a tremendous impact on that person’s life as well as his or her own.

  • What can you tell me about your next project?

My new book is set in Belgium and inspired by the incredible true story of the only Nazi death train ever to be ambushed on its way to Auschwitz.

  • Do you have any specific writing rituals, such as a certain pen, drink, outfit, etc?

I find that my writing routine has evolved over the years.  For example, at one point I went in to my office to write, at another I went to a coffeeshop, now sometimes I am on the couch.  I have written in castles and mountain getaways, but I have also written in my doctor’s waiting room and in my car.  There are certain constants, though.  I love the early morning and I would write from five to seven every day if I had the chance.  I just love getting that first burst in before the day gets hectic.  I am a short burst writer, which means I have no stamina.  If you give me eight hours in a day, I don’t know what to do with that.  I would much rather have an hour seven days per week.  And as much caffeine as possible!

  • Which character is most like you and why?

In this book, I suppose I relate to Sadie because her sense of isolation in some ways reflects what we have all felt during this pandemic.  

  • Readers can’t get enough of WWII stories. Why the interest?

Personally, m love for the World War II era comes from the years I spent working in Krakow, Poland as a diplomat for the State Department.  During that time. I worked on Holocaust issues and became very close to the surviving Jewish community in a way that deeply moved and changed me.  More globally, I think World War II has great resonance for authors and readers.  There is a drive to capture and tell stories from survivors now while we still have a chance.  There is also a great deal of archival material that became available to authors as researchers after the Cold War ended that provides new ideas for books.  And as an author, my goal is to take my reader and put her or him in the shoes of my protagonist so she or he asks, “What would I have done?” World War II, with its dire circumstances and stark choices, is incredibly fertile ground for storytelling.

  • Your stories are always Jewish related. What is the universal idea that captures readers of all backgrounds?

I would not describe my stories as “always Jewish related” but rather predominantly set around World War II and the Holocaust.  This era is not only important in its own right but has many uniersal themes regarding human rights, prejudice and hate that are very relevant for our times.

  • Where do your stories come from? Do you do research?

I do research for new ideas and I am generally looking for two things.  First, I would like to take a true bit of history and illuminate it so that readers can learn.  Second, I am looking for an incredible, untold story.  I have worked with World War II and the Holocaust for twenty-five years and if I find an idea that makes me gasp with surprise, I’m hopeful readers will feel the same way. 

  • Do you work from an outline or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Well, I’m a “pantser” and that means I write by the seat of my pants and not from an outline, at least most of the time.  So I don’t have a neat idea of where the book will wind up.  I have an opening image and some general idea of where I will wind up and if I am lucky there are one or two high moments that I can see along the way, like lighthouses to guide me.  But I am sometimes surprised by the end and that was certainly the case with The Woman With The Blue Star.  That moment when you realize it is all going to come together is just one of the best feelings ever.

  • You are a bestselling author. How many books are expected from you per year? How many edit passes does your novel go through?

I used to write a book a year, but I’ve slowed down and now it is more like 18-24 months.  I really prefer that creatively.  My manuscripts go through many rounds of edits.  The first round of changes are usually big picture and then it goes back and forth with the feedback getting increasingly more granular with each round of revision until my editor, agent and I are all satisfied.

  • Is there anything about you or your work that you’d like to share with readers?

I consider my books that are set around World War II and the Holocaust to be love songs to the people who lived through that most horrific period.  I try to approach it with a great deal of respect and do them justice.  On a very different note, I’d like to share that I always love connecting with readers.  I invite each reader to find me online – through my website, Facebook author page, Twitter, Instagram or wherever they are hanging out.

The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Three women struggling in their lives take the opportunity of a lifetime by heading off on a road trip like no other in author Sarah Morgan’s “The Summer Seekers”. 

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The Synopsis

Get swept into a summer of sunshine, soul-searching and shameless matchmaking with this delightfully bighearted road-trip adventure by USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan!

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

The Review

This was a terrific and engaging women’s fiction story. The use of three protagonists, each from a different generation with their own worries and stress, really added much more engagement and emotional struggle to the story. The characters just jumped off the page, adding some personal relation to me as I recently had my grandmother pass a couple of years ago, and the years leading up to that did add some worry and stress to our lives as she was very dear to our hearts, so the worry and stress Liza is feeling is something that I can easily relate to.

However, it is the bond and connection these women share amongst themselves as well as the emotional journey of finding themselves and who they really are, that make this novel shine so brightly. The blend of adventure and heartbreak as the story progresses really draws the reader in, and the adventure along Route 66 really added an extra level of imagery as the trip is so iconic and dreamed of by so many.

The Verdict

An expertly crafted, eventful, and entertaining yet emotionally driven narrative, author Sarah Morgan’s “The Summer Seekers” is a must-read novel for the summer. A beautiful story that draws on the strengths and well-rounded personalities of these strong protagonists, this novel promises to draw readers in from the start and speaks to a wide array of readers as a whole. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes hot, happy, contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and her trademark humor and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. Described as “a magician with words” by RT Book Reviews, she has sold more than eleven million copies of her books. She was nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award three times: once in 2012 for Doukakis’s Apprentice, in 2013 for A Night of No Return and in 2017 for Miracle on 5th Avenue. She also won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2012 and has made numerous appearances in their Top Pick slot. As a child, Sarah dreamed of being a writer, and although she took a few interesting detours along the way, she is now living that dream. Sarah lives near London, England, with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing, she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying.

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An Excerpt From The Summer Seekers

1

Kathleen

It was the cup of milk that saved her. That and the salty bacon she’d fried for her supper many hours earlier, which had left her mouth dry.

If she hadn’t been thirsty—if she’d still been upstairs, sleeping on the ridiculously expensive mattress that had been her eightieth birthday gift to herself—she wouldn’t have been alerted to danger.

As it was, she’d been standing in front of the fridge, the milk carton in one hand and the cup in the other, when she’d heard a loud thump. The noise was out of place here in the leafy darkness of the English countryside, where the only sounds should have been the hoot of an owl and the occasional bleat of a sheep.

She put the glass down and turned her head, trying to locate the sound. The back door. Had she forgotten to lock it again?

The moon sent a ghostly gleam across the kitchen and she was grateful she hadn’t felt the need to turn the light on. That gave her some advantage, surely?

She put the milk back and closed the fridge door quietly, sure now that she was not alone in the house.

Moments earlier she’d been asleep. Not deeply asleep—that rarely happened these days—but drifting along on a tide of dreams. If someone had told her younger self that she’d still be dreaming and enjoying her adventures when she was eighty she would have been less afraid of aging. And it was impossible to forget that she was aging.

People said she was wonderful for her age, but most of the time she didn’t feel wonderful. The answers to her beloved crosswords floated just out of range. Names and faces refused to align at the right moment. She struggled to remember what she’d done the day before, although if she took herself back twenty years or more her mind was clear. And then there were the physical changes—her eyesight and hearing were still good, thankfully, but her joints hurt and her bones ached. Bending to feed the cat was a challenge. Climbing the stairs required more effort than she would have liked and was always undertaken with one hand on the rail just in case.

She’d never been the sort to live in a just in case sort of way.

Her daughter, Liza, wanted her to wear an alarm. One of those medical alert systems, with a button you could press in an emergency, but Kathleen refused. In her youth she’d traveled the world, before it was remotely fashionable to do so. She’d sacrificed safety for adventure without a second thought. Most days now she felt like a different person.

Losing friends didn’t help. One by one they fell by the wayside, taking with them shared memories of the past. A small part of her vanished with each loss. It had taken decades for her to understand that loneliness wasn’t a lack of people in your life, but a lack of people who knew and understood you.

She fought fiercely to retain some version of her old self—which was why she’d resisted Liza’s pleas that she remove the rug from the living room floor, stop using a step ladder to retrieve books from the highest shelves and leave a light on at night. Each compromise was another layer shaved from her independence, and losing her independence was her biggest fear.

Kathleen had always been the rebel in the family, and she was still the rebel—although she wasn’t sure that rebels were supposed to have shaking hands and a pounding heart.

She heard the sound of heavy footsteps. Someone was searching the house. For what, exactly? What treasures did they hope to find? And why weren’t they trying to at least disguise their presence?

Having resolutely ignored all suggestions that she might be vulnerable, she was now forced to acknowledge the possibility. Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so stubborn. How long would it have taken from pressing the alert button to the cavalry arriving?

In reality, the cavalry was Finn Cool, who lived three fields away. Finn was a musician, and he’d bought the property precisely because there were no immediate neighbors. His antics caused mutterings in the village. He had rowdy parties late into the night, attended by glamorous people from London who terrorized the locals by driving their flashy sports cars too fast down the narrow lanes. Someone had started a petition in the post office to ban the parties. There had been talk of drugs, and half-naked women, and it had all sounded like so much fun that Kathleen had been tempted to invite herself over. Rather that than a dull women’s group, where you were expected to bake and knit and swap recipes for banana bread.

Finn would be of no use to her in this moment of crisis. In all probability he’d either be in his studio, wearing headphones, or he’d be drunk. Either way, he wasn’t going to hear a cry for help.

Calling the police would mean walking through the kitchen and across the hall to the living room, where the phone was kept and she didn’t want to reveal her presence. Her family had bought her a mobile phone, but it was still in its box, unused. Her adventurous spirit didn’t extend to technology. She didn’t like the idea of a nameless faceless person tracking her every move.

There was another thump, louder this time, and Kathleen pressed her hand to her chest. She could feel the rapid pounding of her heart. At least it was still working. She should probably be grateful for that.

When she’d complained about wanting a little more adventure, this wasn’t what she’d had in mind. What could she do? She had no button to press, no phone with which to call for help, so she was going to have to handle this herself.

She could already hear Liza’s voice in her head: Mum, I warned you!

If she survived, she’d never hear the last of it.

Fear was replaced by anger. Because of this intruder she’d be branded Old and Vulnerable and forced to spend the rest of her days in a single room with minders who would cut up her food, speak in overly loud voices and help her to the bathroom. Life as she knew it would be over.

That was not going to happen.

She’d rather die at the hands of an intruder. At least her obituary would be interesting.

Better still, she would stay alive and prove herself capable of independent living.

She glanced quickly around the kitchen for a suitable weapon and spied the heavy black skillet she’d used to fry the bacon earlier.

She lifted it silently, gripping the handle tightly as she walked to the door that led from the kitchen to the hall. The tiles were cool under her feet—which, fortunately, were bare. No sound. Nothing to give her away. She had the advantage.

She could do this. Hadn’t she once fought off a mugger in the backstreets of Paris? True, she’d been a great deal younger then, but this time she had the advantage of surprise.

How many of them were there?

More than one would give her trouble.

Was it a professional job? Surely no professional would be this loud and clumsy. If it was kids hoping to steal her TV, they were in for a disappointment. Her grandchildren had been trying to persuade her to buy a “smart” TV, but why would she need such a thing? She was perfectly happy with the IQ of her current machine, thank you very much. Technology already made her feel foolish most of the time. She didn’t need it to be any smarter than it already was.

Perhaps they wouldn’t come into the kitchen. She could stay hidden away until they’d taken what they wanted and left.

They’d never know she was here.

They’d—

A floorboard squeaked close by. There wasn’t a crack or a creak in this house that she didn’t know. Someone was right outside the door.

Her knees turned liquid.

Oh Kathleen, Kathleen.

She closed both hands tightly round the handle of the skillet.

Why hadn’t she gone to self-defense classes instead of senior yoga? What use was the downward dog when what you needed was a guard dog?

A shadow moved into the room, and without allowing herself to think about what she was about to do she lifted the skillet and brought it down hard, the force of the blow driven by the weight of the object as much as her own strength. There was a thud and a vibration as it connected with his head.

“I’m so sorry—I mean—” Why was she apologizing? Ridiculous!

The man threw up an arm as he fell, a reflex action, and the movement sent the skillet back into Kathleen’s own head. Pain almost blinded her and she prepared herself to end her days right here, thus giving her daughter the opportunity to be right, when there was a loud thump and the man crumpled to the floor. There was a crack as his head hit the tiles.

Kathleen froze. Was that it, or was he suddenly going to spring to his feet and murder her?

No. Against all odds, she was still standing while her prowler lay inert at her feet. The smell of alcohol rose, and Kathleen wrinkled her nose.

Drunk.

Her heart was racing so fast she was worried that any moment now it might trip over itself and give up.

She held tightly to the skillet.

Did he have an accomplice?

She held her breath, braced for someone else to come racing through the door to investigate the noise, but there was only silence.

Gingerly she stepped toward the door and poked her head into the hall. It was empty.

It seemed the man had been alone.

Finally she risked a look at him.

He was lying still at her feet, big, bulky and dressed all in black. The mud on the edges of his trousers suggested he’d come across the fields at the back of the house. She couldn’t make out his features because he’d landed face-first, but blood oozed from a wound on his head and darkened her kitchen floor.

Feeling a little dizzy, Kathleen pressed her hand to her throbbing head.

What now? Was one supposed to administer first aid when one was the cause of the injury? Was that helpful or hypocritical? Or was he past first aid and every other type of aid?

She nudged his body with her bare foot, but there was no movement.

Had she killed him?

The enormity of it shook her.

If he was dead, then she was a murderer.

When Liza had expressed a desire to see her mother safely housed somewhere she could easily visit, presumably she hadn’t been thinking of prison.

Who was he? Did he have family? What had been his intention when he’d forcibly entered her home? Kathleen put the skillet down and forced her shaky limbs to carry her to the living room. Something tickled her cheek. Blood. Hers.

She picked up the phone and for the first time in her life dialed the emergency services.

Underneath the panic and the shock there was something that felt a lot like pride. It was a relief to discover she wasn’t as weak and defenseless as everyone seemed to think.

When a woman answered, Kathleen spoke clearly and without hesitation.

“There’s a body in my kitchen,” she said. “I assume you’ll want to come and remove it.” 

Excerpted from The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan. Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Morgan. Published by HQN Books.

Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Three sisters are brought together by tragedy, and must learn to not only come together as a family but confront their pasts as well in author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From The Quilting Circle”. 

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The Synopsis

The Ashwood women don’t have much in common…except their ability to keep secrets.

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

The Review

This was a powerful women’s fiction read. The author beautifully sets up a dramatic and emotional family dynamic between the three sisters and their mother in the face of losing their beloved grandmother. The rift between the sisters is felt early on, showing the complex balance of tension and emotion between them all. 

Character growth was essential in this read. The author not only does a great job of showcasing each sister’s individual struggles and how they feel in this tension-filled dynamic with the other two sisters, but the author also fills out the narrative with backstory as diary entries from two different women from different eras give insight into the family’s history as a whole. The author showcases a wide range of talent in this writing, as the author’s normal romance-style narratives shift easily into the women’s fiction genre, highlighting the strong bonds between family and in this instance, sisterhood. 

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and engaging read, author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From the Quilting Circle” is a must-read women’s fiction narrative. The book flows smoothly and engages the reader on multiple levels. The gripping tale of these sisters will resonate with so many of us out there, and in a story about leaving things unfinished in our lives and feeling a piece of ourselves missing, the author found a wonderful way to explore the journey to making ourselves whole again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

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An Excerpt From CONFESSIONS FROM THE QUILTING CIRCLE

1

March 4th, 1944

The dress is perfect. Candlelight satin and antique lace. I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle toward you. If only we could set a date. If only we had some idea of when the war will be over.

Love, Dot

Present day—Lark

Unfinished.

The word whispered through the room like a ghost. Over the faded, floral wallpaper, down to the scarred wooden floor. And to the precariously stacked boxes and bins of fabrics, yarn skeins, canvases and other artistic miscellany.

Lark Ashwood had to wonder if her grandmother had left them this way on purpose. Unfinished business here on earth, in the form of quilts, sweaters and paintings, to keep her spirit hanging around after she was gone.

It would be like her. Adeline Dowell did everything with just a little extra.

From her glossy red hair—which stayed that color till the day she died—to her matching cherry glasses and lipstick. She always had an armful of bangles, a beer in her hand and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She never smelled like smoke. She smelled like spearmint gum, Aqua Net and Avon perfume.

She had taught Lark that it was okay to be a little bit of extra.

A smile curved Lark’s lips as she looked around the attic space again. “Oh, Gram…this is really a mess.”

She had the sense that was intentional too. In death, as in life, her grandmother wouldn’t simply fade away.

Neat attics, well-ordered affairs and pre-death estate sales designed to decrease the clutter a family would have to go through later were for other women. Quieter women who didn’t want to be a bother.

Adeline Dowell lived to be a bother. To expand to fill a space, not shrinking down to accommodate anyone.

Lark might not consistently achieve the level of excess Gram had, but she considered it a goal.

“Lark? Are you up there?”

She heard her mom’s voice carrying up the staircase. “Yes!” She shouted back down. “I’m…trying to make sense of this.”

She heard footsteps behind her and saw her mom standing there, gray hair neat, arms folded in. “You don’t have to. We can get someone to come in and sort it out.” 

“And what? Take it all to a thrift store?” Lark asked.

Her mom’s expression shifted slightly, just enough to convey about six emotions with no wasted effort. Emotional economy was Mary Ashwood’s forte. As contained and practical as Addie had been excessive. “Honey, I think most of this would be bound for the dump.”

“Mom, this is great stuff.”

“I don’t have room in my house for sentiment.”

“It’s not about sentiment. It’s usable stuff.”

“I’m not artsy, you know that. I don’t really…get all this.” The unspoken words in the air settled over Lark like a cloud.

Mary wasn’t artsy because her mother hadn’t been around to teach her to sew. To knit. To paint. To quilt.

Addie had taught her granddaughters. Not her own daughter.

She’d breezed on back into town in a candy apple Corvette when Lark’s oldest sister, Avery, was born, after spending Mary’s entire childhood off on some adventure or another, while Lark’s grandfather had done the raising of the kids.

Grandkids had settled her. And Mary had never withheld her children from Adeline. Whatever Mary thought about her mom was difficult to say. But then, Lark could never really read her mom’s emotions. When she’d been a kid, she hadn’t noticed that. Lark had gone around feeling whatever she did and assuming everyone was tracking right along with her because she’d been an innately self focused kid. Or maybe that was just kids.

Either way, back then badgering her mom into tea parties and talking her ear off without noticing Mary didn’t do much of her own talking had been easy.

It was only when she’d had big things to share with her mom that she’d realized…she couldn’t.

“It’s easy, Mom,” Lark said. “I’ll teach you. No one is asking you to make a living with art, art can be about enjoying the process.”

“I don’t enjoy doing things I’m bad at.”

“Well I don’t want Gram’s stuff going to a thrift store, okay?”

Another shift in Mary’s expression. A single crease on one side of her mouth conveying irritation, reluctance and exhaustion. But when she spoke she was measured. “If that’s what you want. This is as much yours as mine.”

It was a four-way split. The Dowell House and all its contents, and The Miner’s House, formerly her grandmother’s candy shop, to Mary Ashwood, and her three daughters. They’d discovered that at the will reading two months earlier.

It hadn’t caused any issues in the family. They just weren’t like that.

Lark’s uncle Bill had just shaken his head. “She feels guilty.”

And that had been the end of any discussion, before any had really started. They were all like their father that way. Quiet. Reserved. Opinionated and expert at conveying it without saying much.

Big loud shouting matches didn’t have a place in the Dowell family.

But Addie had been there for her boys. They were quite a bit older than Lark’s mother. She’d left when the oldest had been eighteen. The youngest boy sixteen.

Mary had been four.

Lark knew her mom felt more at home in the middle of a group of men than she did with women. She’d been raised in a house of men. With burned dinners and repressed emotions.

Lark had always felt like her mother had never really known what to make of the overwhelmingly female household she’d ended up with.

“It’s what I want. When is Hannah getting in tonight?” 

Hannah, the middle child, had moved to Boston right after college, getting a position in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She had the summer off of concerts and had decided to come to Bear Creek to finalize the plans for their inherited properties before going back home.

Once Hannah had found out when she could get time away from the symphony, Lark had set her own plans for moving into motion. She wanted to be here the whole time Hannah was here, since for Hannah, this wouldn’t be permanent.

But Lark wasn’t going back home. If her family agreed to her plan, she was staying here.

Which was not something she’d ever imagined she’d do.

Lark had gone to college across the country, in New York, at eighteen and had spent years living everywhere but here. Finding new versions of herself in new towns, new cities, whenever the urge took her.

Unfinished.

“Sometime around five-ish? She said she’d get a car out here from the airport. I reminded her that isn’t the easiest thing to do in this part of the world. She said something about it being in apps now. I didn’t laugh at her.”

Lark laughed, though. “She can rent a car.”

Lark hadn’t lived in Bear Creek since she was eighteen, but she hadn’t been under the impression there was a surplus of ride services around the small, rural community. If you were flying to get to Bear Creek, you had to fly into Medford, which was about eighteen miles from the smaller town. Even if you could find a car, she doubted the driver would want to haul anyone out of town.

But her sister wouldn’t be told anything. Hannah made her own way, something Lark could relate to. But while she imagined herself drifting along like a tumbleweed, she imagined Hannah slicing through the water like a shark. With intent, purpose, and no small amount of sharpness.

“Maybe I should arrange something.”

“Mom. She’s a professional symphony musician who’s been living on her own for fourteen years. I’m pretty sure she can cope.”

“Isn’t the point of coming home not having to cope for a while? Shouldn’t your mom handle things?” Mary was a doer. She had never been the one to sit and chat. She’d loved for Lark to come out to the garden with her and work alongside her in the flower beds, or bake together. “You’re not in New Mexico anymore. I can make you cookies without worrying they’ll get eaten by rats in the mail.”

Lark snorted. “I don’t think there are rats in the mail.”

“It doesn’t have to be real for me to worry about it.”

And there was something Lark had inherited directly from her mother. “That’s true.”

That and her love of chocolate chip cookies, which her mom made the very best. She could remember long afternoons at home with her mom when she’d been little, and her sisters had been in school. They’d made cookies and had iced tea, just the two of them.

Cooking had been a self-taught skill her mother had always been proud of. Her recipes were hers. And after growing up eating “chicken with blood” and beanie weenies cooked by her dad, she’d been pretty determined her kids would eat better than that.

Something Lark had been grateful for.

And Mom hadn’t minded if she’d turned the music up loud and danced in some “dress up clothes”—an oversized prom dress from the ’80s and a pair of high heels that were far too big, purchased from a thrift store. Which Hannah and Avery both declared “annoying” when they were home. 

Her mom hadn’t understood her, Lark knew that. But Lark had felt close to her back then in spite of it.

The sound of the door opening and closing came from downstairs. “Homework is done, dinner is in the Crock-Pot. I think even David can manage that.”

The sound of her oldest sister Avery’s voice was clear, even from a distance. Lark owed that to Avery’s years of motherhood, coupled with the fact that she—by choice—fulfilled the role of parent liaison at her kids’ exclusive private school, and often wrangled children in large groups. Again, by choice.

Lark looked around the room one last time and walked over to the stack of crafts. There was an old journal on top of several boxes that look like they might be overflowing with fabric, along with some old Christmas tree ornaments, and a sewing kit. She grabbed hold of them all before walking to the stairs, turning the ornaments over and letting the silver stars catch the light that filtered in through the stained glass window.

Her mother was already ahead of her, halfway down the stairs by the time Lark got to the top of them. She hadn’t seen Avery yet since she’d arrived. She loved her older sister. She loved her niece and nephew. She liked her brother-in-law, who did his best not to be dismissive of the fact that she made a living drawing pictures. Okay, he kind of annoyed her. But still, he was fine. Just… A doctor. A surgeon, in fact, and bearing all of the arrogance that stereotypically implied.

One of the saddest things about living away for as long as she had was that she’d missed her niece’s and nephew’s childhoods. She saw them at least once a year, but it never felt like enough. And now they were teenagers, and a lot less cute.

And then there was Avery, who had always been somewhat untouchable. Four years older than Lark, Avery was a classic oldest child. A people pleasing perfectionist. She was organized and she was always neat and orderly.  And even though the gap between thirty-four and thirty-eight was a lot narrower than twelve and sixteen, sometimes Lark still felt like the gawky adolescent to Avery’s sweet sixteen.

But maybe if they shared in a little bit of each other’s day-to-day it would close some of that gap she felt between them.

Excerpted from Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2021 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

Guest Blog Post: Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities by Poet Kathy Davis

I am proud to share this amazing guest blog post from author and poet Kathy Davis for her upcoming blog tour for her book, “Passiflora”, which I will be reviewing on May 10th. Please enjoy this wonderful post the poet shared with us all.


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Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities

Imagine a stash of foreign objects that people inhaled or swallowed—by accident or on purpose—and had to have surgically removed from their throat, esophagus or lungs. Buttons, hatpins, bones, nuts, nails, screws, a doll’s eye, dentures, a Christmas ornament, keys, opera glasses, a crucifix and more. You can spend hours exploring a collection of 2,374 of them in the Chevalier Jackson Collection at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, many neatly displayed in drawers whose contents you are welcome to examine. 

Jackson was an otolaryngologist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who developed methods for removing obstructions from airways and food passages. He saved and cataloged everything he removed (and the stories behind them)—a quirky obsession (his middle name after all was Quixote). But don’t writers do something similar? I have an equally weird collection of oddities stored in my journals—unusual objects, places or stories I was drawn to record, some of which emerge in my writing, including a few of the poems in Passiflora.

My father inherited a shoebox of photographs taken at a family graveside funeral during the Roaring Twenties, picture after picture of people lined up behind a casket mounded with flowers. But someone had snipped off the top half of each one so that the family and friends gathered were only shown from the waist down and couldn’t be identified. Who was it that the scissor-wielder was trying to hide? Years later, I described the photos in a piece for a fiction-writing class. “That’s so creative!” the instructor said. “Who would take pictures at a funeral?!” I was too embarrassed to say that, well, actually my family did, and tucked the idea away out of shame until a variation of it emerged in the poem “Starlings”: Her own mother careful/to cut faces from the photographs.

“Ruins, Trophies, Palms” was inspired by a warning a friend received from her neighbor that a wolf had been seen just off their country road. “Don’t go outside,” the neighbor said. “It’s too dangerous!” A practical, yet intrepid, person, my friend was skeptical. We don’t have wolves in Virginia. Venturing out, she did find a wolf, but one that a hunter had preserved through taxidermy and was using for target practice. It was full of bullet holes—an image just itching to find its way into a poem.

Not looking where I was going, I collided with a stranger one evening in the French Quarter in New Orleans. When I turned to apologize, I was startled to see a woman who had painted her hair and body white and was naked except for two white ceramic fig leaves glued over her breasts and a white drape from the waist down. She frowned and quickly moved on while I gaped. Later, I saw her posing as a Greek statue in Jackson Square, dollar bills collecting in her cardboard box. Her image emerged in “At the Boundary of Desire.”

The Gospel Chicken House in “Revelations” operated for over 35 years in the county where I live. The owners equipped the long low structure of an old poultry barn with the sound equipment, seating and concession stands needed to hold a Saturday night music ministry for several hundred attendees, most of whom considered it their church. I visited once before it closed to listen to that night’s band and enjoy a hotdog and some pie. Much of the evening’s experience made it into the poem: Welcome to Saturday night live/at the chicken house. Yep, that’s how they opened the show.

There are other little oddities from my “collection” scattered about in Passiflora. The number on the ambulance I followed in “Battle City” was, as described, the unlucky 13. (Who thought that was a good idea?) And Sarah Cannon in “Mrs. Cannon Passes the Parthenon on Her Way Home from Work” truly was a hillbilly comedian on stage and an elegant pillar of Nashville society in real life, a duality that still fascinates me. I don’t have my curiosities stored tidily in drawers like Jackson—they’re jotted down haphazardly in a mismatched assortment of notebooks—but I value them no less. And they help make writing fun. 

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Author Bio


Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth
University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

Confined Desires (Rehoboth Pact #1) by Katherine McIntyre Blog Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two women who have been best friends for years find themselves sharing a home during a required Quarantine during a pandemic, and in the process find their buried feelings for one another coming to the surface in author Katherine McIntyre’s “Confined Desires”, the first in the Rehoboth series.

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The Synopsis

Sky’s crush on her best friend has always been unrequited… until they’re stuck in quarantine together and sparks fly.

Sky’s high school bestie is moving back to the area and staying with her for a few weeks. Easy, right? Not when she’d held a torch for the woman since high school. The moment Mia walks through Sky’s door, those unrequited feelings return full-force. So, when a spreading virus keeps them confined in Sky’s apartment even longer, Sky is screwed.

Mia returns home after a bad breakup, but Sky is the only one who offers a safe place to land. However, the seven years they spent apart has her looking at her best friend through a different lens, attraction sparking with every inside joke, shared dinner, and cuddle on the couch.

That flare of desire fast turns physical. They can’t get enough of each other. Yet, whenever Mia tries for the “where is this going” talk, Sky dodges. Sky lost her sister in high school, and ever since, she’s become ace at keeping dates at a distance. Yet if she doesn’t manage to push past her own fears, she might lose her one shot at happiness with the woman she’s waited a lifetime for.

The Review

This was such a well-balanced and engaging read. The author brilliantly delivers a powerfully romantic story of two friends who reunite after years apart, only to be forced into quarantine together where feelings both had pushed down without the other’s knowledge begin to stir up. The author expertly brings the real-life feelings and complications from a romance such as this to life, from the fear of losing that best friend should the relationship fail, to the pain of the past threatening to loom over their relationship, and more.

What makes this novel stand out is not only the amazing relationship between these two women and its evolution throughout the narrative but the setting of the novel as well. While not the exact same virus, pitting this romance story against the backdrop of a pandemic is inspired at a time like this. The real-world pandemic has not only been stressful and painful for many around the world but has forced us all to reexamine our lives and the relationships we hold dear as well. This makes the romance even more profound and emotional in this story.

The Verdict

A romantic, emotionally investing and remarkable read, author Katherine McIntyre’s “Confined Desires” is a must-read novel. The author’s use of the two central protagonists for a majority of the novel’s plot was an inspired choice and really elevated the book’s setting as well. Combine this with the extreme emotions these two women share together and apart from one another throughout the narrative, and readers will be thoroughly invested in this book. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Confined Desires - Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre has a new FF contemporary romance out: Confined Desires. And there’s a giveaway!

Sky’s crush on her best friend has always been unrequited… until they’re stuck in quarantine together and sparks fly.

Sky’s high school bestie is moving back to the area and staying with her for a few weeks. Easy, right? Not when she’d held a torch for the woman since high school. The moment Mia walks through Sky’s door, those unrequited feelings return full-force. So, when a spreading virus keeps them confined in Sky’s apartment even longer, Sky is screwed.

Mia returns home after a bad breakup, but Sky is the only one who offers a safe place to land. However, the seven years they spent apart has her looking at her best friend through a different lens, attraction sparking with every inside joke, shared dinner, and cuddle on the couch.

That flare of desire fast turns physical. They can’t get enough of each other. Yet, whenever Mia tries for the “where is this going” talk, Sky dodges. Sky lost her sister in high school, and ever since, she’s become ace at keeping dates at a distance. Yet if she doesn’t manage to push past her own fears, she might lose her one shot at happiness with the woman she’s waited a lifetime for.

Publisher | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Katherine is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47177/?


Excerpt

Confined Desires meme

Mia twined her arms around Sky and leaned her head against her shoulder. “See, this is why I missed you so damn much.”

Sky froze, unable to move. Part of her melted at this touch, while the other freaked out. The last thing Mia needed was her best friend dumping a lifelong crush on her lap. This close, she could feel the woman’s sleepy heat, and the sweet scent of peaches wafted off her. Sky’s mouth watered—the response instinctual. She forced her hand up to run her fingers through Mia’s silken strands. That was friendly, right?

“Missed you too, babe,” she murmured.

“So, wait, are you working tonight, or no?” Mia asked, pulling away to grab her mug.

“Uh, no,” Sky murmured, mind racing as she tried to come up with an excuse to leave.

Mia tapped the edge of her mug with her fingernail. “Then maybe we could take the day to play catch up?” she asked. When Sky didn’t respond, the words refusing to leave her tongue, Mia’s eyes widened. “I mean, as long as you didn’t have plans or anything. I know I kind of dropped this on you. Fuck, I don’t even know if you’re seeing anyone or who you hang out with anymore.”

“Pitifully single,” Sky responded. “My girlfriend and I split up last year, and I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t been able to get out to the bars or clubs in Philly at all to jump back into the dating scene. Trust me, you haven’t missed much.”

“Bullshit,” Mia said, placing her mug of coffee down. “Get dressed. We’re heading out to Lucky’s, and I’m buying you breakfast.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she doled out the commands, and Sky’s heart thumped harder.

Sky scratched the nape of her neck. “Yes, ma’am.”

She headed to the bedroom, cursing her lack of an excuse. A large part of her was thrilled to be spending all of this time around Mia after so long. Yet the other part of her just wanted to solder metal sheets around her heart.

As if she’d stand a chance with Mia Brownstone living at her house for the next two weeks.

 


Author Bio

Katherine McIntyre

Snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes.

Katherine McIntyre is a feisty chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—and there’s an equally high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women.

Author Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/kmcintyreauthor

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pixierants

Author Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorkmcintyre

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6473654.Katherine_McIntyre

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

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