Jul 182019
 

American Red

by David Marlett

on Tour July 1 – August 31, 2019

 

Synopsis:

American Red by David Marlett

In American Red, as the Great American Century begins, and the modern world roars to life, Capitalists flaunt greed and seize power, Socialists and labor unions flex their violent will, and an extraordinary true story of love and sacrifice unfolds.

In his critically acclaimed debut novel, Fortunate Son, David Marlett introduced readers to a fresh take on historical fiction-the historical legal thriller-bringing alive the people and events leading to and surrounding some of the most momentous, dramatic legal trials in history. Now he returns with American Red, the story of one of the greatest domestic terrorists in American history, and the detectives, lawyers, spies, and lovers who brought him down.

The men and women of American Red are among the most fascinating in American history. When, at the dawn of the 20th century, the Idaho governor is assassinated, blame falls on “Big Bill” Haywood, the all-powerful, one-eyed boss of the Western Federation of Miners in Denver. Close by, his polio-crippled wife, Neva, struggles with her wavering faith, her love for another man, and her sister’s affair with her husband. New technologies accelerate American life, but justice lags behind. Private detectives, battling socialists and unions on behalf of wealthy capitalists, will do whatever it takes to see Haywood hanged. The scene is set for bloodshed, from Denver to Boise to San Francisco. America’s most famous attorney, Clarence Darrow, leads the defense-a philandering U.S. senator leads the prosecution-while the press, gunhands, and spies pour in. Among them are two idealists, Jack Garrett and Carla Capone-he a spy for the prosecution, she for the defense. Risking all, they discover truths about their employers, about themselves and each other, and what they’ll sacrifice for justice and honor-and for love.

 

Book Details

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: July 2nd 2019
Number of Pages: 535
ISBN: 1611881781 (ISBN13: 9781611881783)
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

David Marlett

David Marlett is an award-winning storyteller and writer of historical fiction, primarily historical legal thrillers bringing alive the fascinating people and events leading to major historical trials. His first such novel, Fortunate Son, became a national bestseller in 2014, rising to #2 in all historical fiction and #3 in all literature and fiction on Amazon. The late Vincent Bugliosi — #1 New York Times bestselling author of Helter Skelter — said David is “a masterful writer of historical fact and detail, of adventure, peril and courtroom drama.” Just released is American Red which follows the extraordinary true story of a set of radical lovers, lawyers, killers, and spies who launched the Great American Century. Visit www.AmericanRedBook.com. He is currently writing his next historical legal thriller, Angeles Los, which continues some of the lead characters from American Red. Angeles Los is based on the true story at the 1910 intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of America” kingdom. In addition, David is a professor at Pepperdine Law School, was the managing editor of OMNI Magazine, and guest-lectures on story design. He is a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, the father of four, and lives in Manhattan Beach, California. For more, visit www.DavidMarlett.com.
 

Find Our Author Online:

davidmarlett.com | Goodreads | BookBub | Twitter | Facebook
 

Q&A with David Marlett

Which of your characters do you like the most and why?

Oh my…well, AMERICAN RED has a host of characters, each with unique traits, strengths, quirks, weaknesses. So, I would be hard pressed to say which one I liked the most. But if you’re asking which one I most enjoyed writing, then that would be Pinkerton Chief Detective James McParland. He was one of AMERICAN RED’s many actual characters from history…a true-to-life man, bold and brazen man—a bit stuck in the late 1800s Wild West, clearly an advocate of “the ends justifying the means”—seeing his career coming to an end—attempting to do what he thinks is right—while all the same being willing to do some quite nefarious acts in the name of the law. I love his single-minded focus in the face of obvious conflicts of loyalty and duty.

Which of your characters do you dislike the most and why?

Clearly that would have to be the two horrific mass murderers: Orchard and Adams. One might think I disliked Haywood—and sure, he was a nasty soul, ordering the death of hundreds. But he was also true to his convictions and was a principle catalyst and advocate for desperately needed improvement of conditions and wages for laborers.

Which of your characters was the hardest to write and why?

Perhaps it was Neva. She was a real person, and the things she went through were actual events, circumstances. She was complex and full of conflict, just like the male counterparts. But sadly there is almost nothing about her in the historical record, so it was a challenge to bring her to life with the best estimation of her personality. Getting her right was central to the success of the whole book, so I would say she was the greatest challenge. I hope I did her justice.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through writing?

To trust myself. To allow myself to write what I feel and edit later. To let go and let the story and narrative drive the work.

What has been your biggest challenge to your writing career?

Well, that would be much the same as the “biggest lesson”: to trust my research and work and let go—to disappear into the past and write what I discover there.

What was your biggest challenge writing this book?

Developing and getting to know Neva and the other female characters. The men are documented in history, but not the women. In fact, for that reason, I had this book on development hiatus for over a year or more while I tried to find the story I wanted to tell that was beyond just the masculine plot lines.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope they enjoy AMERICAN RED—that is first and foremost. And in that enjoyment, I would like to challenge them to consider the battling conflicts within the story—as reflected in why I chose and designed the cardinals on the cover—the entanglement we all have with ourselves, not just between right and wrong, but in our perceptions of ourselves and our place and purpose in the world—and our willingness to make a difference in the lives of others. Most will read AMERICAN RED for the story that it is, and that is terrific. But perhaps a few will dig deeper into book—beginning with the Overture—and find themselves within the complexities of the tapestry of humanity and challenge themselves as to what they would do in the position of these characters.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I see a terrific ensemble cast for the many characters of AMERICAN RED. As it is currently in discussions for series adaptation, I’ll refrain from weighing in on specific actors/actresses.

Give us an interesting fun fact, or a few, about your book or series.

AMERICAN RED is the first of a series of historical legal thrillers carrying some real and some fictional characters through actual events in the first half of the twentieth century. My next (what I am researching/writing currently), ANGELES LOS, tells the true story at the intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous, 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of American” kingdom. It brings forward a number of characters from AMERICAN RED, most notably Clarence Darrow, Jack Garrett, and Carla Capone.

Favorite foods?

A great prime rib steak.

Favorite activities?

Time spent with my kids. Hiking with my dog. Participating in live storytelling events.

 

Read an excerpt:

The lawyer lobbed a verbal spear across the courtroom, piercing the young man, pinning him to the creaky witness chair and tilting the twelve jurymen forward. Their brows rose in anticipation of a gore-laden response from the witness as he clutched his bowler, his face vacant toward the wood floor beyond his shoddy boots. When the judge cleared his throat, the plaintiff’s attorney, Clarence Darrow, repeated the question. “Mr. Bullock, I know this is a strain upon you to recount that tragic day when fifteen of your brothers perished at the hands of the Stratton-”

“Your Honor! Point in question,” barked the flint-faced defense attorney representing the Stratton Independence Mine, a non-union gold operation near Cripple Creek, Colorado. On this warm summer afternoon in Denver, he and Darrow were the best dressed there, each wearing a three-button, vested suit over a white shirt and dull tie.

The robed judge gave a long blink, then peered at Darrow. With a chin waggle, his ruling on the objection was clear.

“Yes, certainly. My apologies, Your Honor,” feigned Darrow, glancing toward the plaintiff’s table where two widows sat in somber regard. Though his wheat-blonde hair and sharp, pale eyes defied his age of forty-nine, his reputation for cunning brilliance and oratory sorcery mitigated the power of his youthful appearance: it was no longer the disarming weapon it had once been. No attorney in the United States would ever presume nascence upon Clarence Darrow. Certainly not in this, his twenty-sixth trial. He continued at the witness. “Though as just a mere man, one among all …” He turned to the jury. “The emotion of this event strains even the most resolute of procedural decorum. I am, as are we all, hard-pressed to-”

“Whole strides, shall we, Mr. Darrow?” grumbled the judge.

“Yes,” Darrow said, turning once again to James Bullock who seemed locked in the block ice of tragedy, having not moved a fraction since first taking the witness seat. “Mr. Bullock, we must rally ourselves, muster our strength, and for the memory of your brothers, share with these jurymen the events of that dark day. You said the ride up from the stope, the mine floor, was a swift one, and there were the sixteen of you in the cage made to hold no more than nine-is that correct?”

“Yes, Sir,” Bullock replied, his voice a faint warble.

“Please continue,” Darrow urged.

Bullock looked up. “We kept going, right along, but it kept slipping. We’d go a ways and slip again.”

“Slipping? It was dropping?”

“Yes, Sir. Dropping down sudden like, then stopping. Cappy was yelling at us to get to the center, but there was no room. We was in tight.”

“By Cappy you mean Mr. Capone, the foreman?”

“Yes, Sir. Our shift boss that day.” The witness sucked his bottom lip. “He was in the cage ‘long with us.” He sniffed in a breath then added, “And his boy, Tony. Friend of mine. No better fella.”

“My condolences,” said Darrow. “What do you think was the aid in getting the men to the middle of the cage?”

“Keep it centered in the shaft, I reckon. We was all yelling.” Bullock took a slow breath before continuing, “Cappy was trying to keep the men quiet, but it wasn’t making much a difference. Had his arms around Tony.”

A muscle in Darrow’s cheek shuddered. “Please continue.”

“So we was slipping, going up. Then the operator, he took us up about six feet above the collar of the shaft, then back down again.”

“Which is not the usual-”

“Not rightly. No, Sir. We should’ve stopped at the collar and no more. But later they said the brakes failed on the control wheel.”

“Mr. Bullock, let’s return to what you experienced. You were near the top of the shaft, the vertical shaft that we’ve established was 1,631 feet deep, containing, at that time, about twenty feet of water in its base, below the lowest stope, correct?”

“Yes, Sir. Before they pumped that water to get to em.”

“By ‘them’ you mean the bodies of your dead companions?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Ok, you were being hoisted at over 900 feet per minute by an operator working alone on the surface-near the top of the shaft, when the platform began to slip and jump. Is that your testimony?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“That must have been terrifying.”

“Yes, Sir, it was. We’d come off a tenner too.”

“A ten-hour shift?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Darrow rounded on the jury, throwing the next question over his shoulder. “Oh, but Sir, how could it have been a ten-hour work day when the eight-hour day is now the law of this state?”

The defense lawyer’s chair squeaked as he stood. “Objection, Your Honor.”

“I’ll allow it,” barked the judge, adding, “But gentlemen …”

The witness shook his head. “The Stratton is a non-union, gold ore mine. Supposed to be non-union anyway. Superintendent said owners weren’t obliged to that socialist law.”

“Hearsay, Your-”

“Keep your seat, Counsel. You’re going to wear this jury thin.” Darrow stepped closer to the witness.

“Mr. Bullock, as I said, let’s steer clear from what you heard others say. The facts speak for themselves: you and your friends were compelled to work an illegal ten-hour shift. Let’s continue. You were near the top, but unable to get off the contraption, and it began to-”

“Yes. We’d gone shooting up, then he stopped it for a second.”

“”By ‘he,’ you mean the lift operator?”

“Yes, Sir. He stopped it but then it must have gotten beyond his control, cause we dropped sixty, seventy feet all the sudden. We were going quick. We said to each other we’re all gone. Then he raised us about ten feet and stopped us. But then, it started again, and this time it was going fast up and we went into the sheave wheel as fast as we could go.”

“To be sure we all follow, Mr. Bullock, the lift is the sole apparatus that hoisted you from the Stratton Mine, where you work?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And the sheave wheel is the giant wheel above the surface, driven by a large, thirty-year-old steam engine, run by an operator. That sheave wheel coils in the cable”he pantomimed the motion-“pulling up the 1,500-pound-load platform, or lift, carrying its limit of nine men. And it coils out the cable when the lift is lowered. But that day the lift carried sixteen men-you and fifteen others. Probably over 3,000 pounds. Twice its load limit. Correct?”

“Yes, Sir. But, to be clear, I ain’t at the Stratton no more.”

“No?” asked Darrow, pleased the man had bit the lure.

“No. Seeing how I was one of Cappy’s men. Federation. And, now ’cause this.” His voice faded.

Darrow frowned, walked a few paces toward the jury, clapped once and rubbed his hands together. “The mine owners, a thousand miles away, won’t let you work because you’re here-a member of the Western Federation of Miners, a union man giving his honest testimony. Is that right?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Again, the defense counsel came to his feet. “Your Honor, Mr. Darrow knows Mr. Bullock’s discharge wasn’t-”

The judge raised a hand, took a deep breath and cocked his head toward the seasoned attorney before him. “Swift to your point, Mr. Darrow.”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Darrow’s blue eyes returned to the witness. “Mr. Bullock, you were telling us about the sheave wheel.”

“Yes. It’s a big thing up there, out over the top of the shaft. You see it on your way up. We all think on it-if we was to not stop and slam right up into it-which we did that day. We all knew it’d happen. I crouched to save myself from the hard blow I knew was coming. I seen a piece of timber about one foot wide there underside the sheave, and soon as we rammed, I grabbed hold and held myself up there, and pretty soon the cage dropped from below me, and I began to holler for a ladder to get down.”

“Must have been distressing, up there, holding fast to a timber, dangling 1,631 feet over an open shaft, watching your fifteen brothers fall.”

Bullock choked back tears. “Yes, Sir. That’s what I saw.” He paused. When he resumed, his tone was empty, as if the voice of his shadow. “I heard em. Heard em go. They was screaming. They knew their end had come. I heard em till I heard em no more.”

Excerpt from American Red by David Marlett. Copyright 2019 by David Marlett. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Jun 202017
 

Practicing Normal
by Cara Sue Achterberg
on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017

Practicing Normal

Book Details
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1611882443 (ISBN13: 9781611882445)

Get Your Copy of Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads!

Synopsis:

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

Kudos:

“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In PRACTICING NORMAL, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain ― and the occasional gifts ― of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and the New York Times bestsellers PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW

“PRACTICING NORMAL takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of THE VANISHING YEAR

Check out my review HERE

Read an excerpt:

Waving to Jenna as she waits at the bus stop, all I can think is, Please let her go to school today and stay in school all day. Jenna is such a smart girl; I don’t understand why she doesn’t apply herself to her studies. She could be anything. A doctor, even. I was a nurse, but Jenna is smarter than me. Of course, that was twenty years ago. Before I married Everett. Before Jenna and JT were born. Before we ever lived in Pine Estates.

I was the one who chose the house. Everett thought it was pretentious, and it was. All the houses on our end of Pine Road were pretentious. But it was the nineties. Everyone was building McMansions and taking out ridiculous loans to pay for them. Everett had just left his job as a police officer for the job at FABSO (Family and Business Security Options).

We needed to start a new life. We celebrated the new job and didn’t talk about the fact that things could have turned out very differently if his captain had chosen to bring charges against him. Instead, he recommended Everett for the job at FABSO and made it clear Everett would be wise to take it.

I remember lying in bed holding Everett the day he turned in his gun and his badge. He was devastated. Being a cop had been Everett’s dream since childhood. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a cop. If I can’t be a cop, who am I?”

“You’re a father and a husband. That’s so much more,” I told him. He didn’t say anything about it again. He got to work. He made something of FABSO. And he’s tried so hard to be a good dad.

I don’t remember much about my own dad, and whenever I asked my mother she would say, “There’s nothing to remember about that louse except that he was a louse.” When I pressed her later, after I’d grown up, she’d said, “It doesn’t matter now. He didn’t want to be with us enough to stay.”

All that bitterness can’t hide the fact that when my father left, he apparently took my mother’s heart. She’s spent the rest of her life alone. Except for me. And Evelyn. Although, once Evelyn left home, she didn’t come around much. These days she visits Mama on Saturdays, unless she has something more pressing to do, which is most weeks. Mama annoys her. I suppose I do too. We don’t fit into Evelyn’s shiny, perfect life.

When I first met Everett and told Mama about him, she was skeptical. “A cop?”

I told her how he’d wanted to be a cop since he was a little boy, the same way I always wanted to be a nurse. I gushed about how he told me I was beautiful and how he said he’d been certain about us the first time he saw me. Mama said, “Men will say whatever it takes, Kate. When will you realize that?” But I knew she was wrong about Everett.

I met Everett in the ER. I was treating a patient who was high on coke or meth or God knows what. He was lean and riddled with track marks, his strength coming from whatever drug was flooding his body. I didn’t recognize him as one of our regulars—the ones who showed up like clockwork in search of pain meds. This guy was out of his mind and covered in his own blood from where he’d scratched his thin skin. Another nurse helped me attempt to strap him to the gurney with the Velcro holds, but he was out of his mind and reached for the needle I was about to use to sedate him. Everett was nearby at the desk filling out forms and heard me yell. In just moments, he wrestled the junkie to the ground and held him still as I plunged the needle in. When the man finally collapsed, Everett lifted him back onto the gurney and secured him.

When he turned and looked at me with his green eyes, the same eyes Jenna has, I knew I would marry him. I told him that on our second date. He laughed. I’ve always loved his laugh.

When Everett started at FABSO, he made nearly twice the salary he’d made as a cop. I didn’t need to work any longer. It was our chance. I would stay home and take care of our happy family in our beautiful house in Pine Estates. It was our new start. I thought we belonged there.

When I open the door to Mama’s house, she’s already calling for me. She may be losing her mind, but her hearing hasn’t deteriorated one bit.

“You’re late!” she scolds.

“Sorry, JT had a hard time picking out a shirt to wear today.”

“He’s not a baby! I don’t know why you put up with it.”

I smile at her. No sense taking the bait. “You’re right, Mama.”

“You’ve always been so indecisive. I swear if I didn’t tell you what to do next, you’d stand there like a statue.”

“Good thing you’re so good at telling me what to do,” I mutter as I go to prepare her tea.

Mama wasn’t always like this. When Evelyn and I were little, she was our whole world. She baked homemade cakes for our birthdays, and elaborately decorated them with whatever we were currently obsessing over—Tinker Bell, Barbies, guitars, or, for Evelyn, a computer one year, and the scales of justice the year she announced she was going to be a judge when she grew up.

Mama read to us every night. I remember snuggling into the crook of her arm, even when I was too old to be doing it. Evelyn would be on her other side and our hands would meet on Mama’s flat tummy. I loved the stories with a happy ending, but Evelyn demanded that she read “real books.” She wanted mysteries and thrillers instead of the children’s books Mama picked out at the library. So Mama began to read Nancy Drew, but Evelyn went to the adult aisle and picked out John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. Mama tried to read them to us. She’d come to a part that she felt was too racy for us and she’d hum while she skimmed ahead til she found a more appropriate section before beginning to read again. This drove Evelyn nuts. She’d pout and complain, eventually stomping off. Mama would return the books to the library unread, but it wasn’t long before Evelyn was old enough to have her own library card and checked them out for herself.

In the mornings, Mama would braid our hair, pack our lunches with tiny handwritten notes, and walk us to the bus stop for more years than was appropriate. When Evelyn reached high school, she demanded that Mama stop, but she still followed us with her car and waited to be certain we got on the bus safely.

Now that I’m a mom, I know it couldn’t have been easy raising us alone. As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten difficult. But I put up with her increasing number of quirks because I feel I owe her. Evelyn doesn’t see it that way, but then again Evelyn doesn’t feel she owes anybody anything.

“Here you go.” I hand Mama the bitter Earl Grey tea she likes over-steeped with no sweetener.

“I’ve already missed Phillip,” she says as I help her out the door to the back porch. She spends most mornings there, talking to the birds that frequent her multiple bird feeders.

“Who’s Phillip?” I ask, mostly to make conversation. She loves to talk about the birds.

The look she gives me is just like the one JT gives me when my random “Wow” comes at the wrong time in one of his lengthy soliloquies on his current obsession. “Phillip is the male cardinal who has begun stopping by each morning. He comes over the fence from the southeast. He’s usually here before the chickadees move in and take over the birdbath.”

I look at the crowd of birds fighting over the seed at the feeder. They all look the same to me. “I’ve got to take care of a few things at home after I run JT to school; I’ll be back at lunchtime.”

“Always leaving me!” she complains. “You can’t even spend five minutes with your mother.”

I’d protest, but there’s no point. She sees things the way she needs to see them. Rewriting history is one of her specialties. I’ve been listening to her do it all my life. When Everett and I took the kids to the beach last summer, she said, “Must be nice! I’ve never had a vacation.” Yet, I remember several summers when Mama took Evelyn and me to the same beach we were headed to. Or when I graduated from nursing school, Mama said, “I’ve always said you’d make a fine nurse,” when, in reality, she’d been telling me for years that I could never be a nurse because I was so weak at chemistry. She thought I should have considered something in business—like being a secretary. She’s been spinning her stories of Evelyn’s escapades, my mistakes, and my father’s general louse-likeness for so long, she probably believes them as gospel truth. They are, I suppose, at least to her mind.

I hurry home, hoping JT has finally decided on a shirt for school. We’re going to be late if we have to argue about it.

Excerpt from Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg. Copyright © 2017 by Cara Sue Achterberg. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Most of my stories grow out of my personal experience, or more specifically, an issue or idea that I’ve been wanting to explore. Occasionally, though current events can draw me in. The idea for my next novel focuses on a current issue. Practicing Normal, though, came from my heart. Perhaps, it grew out of the isolation I’ve always felt in the small rural community where I live. It’s very insular and I’ve often judged others and felt judged by the people who live around me. Practicing Normal explores the question of how well we know each other and pokes holes in our assumptions based on appearances, financial situations, and employment.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I always, always start at the beginning and see where the story takes me. I can’t imagine writing any other way. In fact, if I knew the answer or the ending, I doubt I could enjoy the writing or even find the motivation to write the story in the first place. Every story is a journey of discovery for me. I know that sounds new-agey, but that’s exactly what it is – I learn something about myself, the world, people. Once the story is set in motion, I can’t let go of it and I follow where it takes me. Sometimes that’s scary, especially when the word count creeps up and I don’t see any hint of an ending. Many times I’m surprised by where the story takes me and I marvel at how magical it feels. Practicing Normal spilled out of me quickly like I was watching a movie.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
My characters are absolutely based on people I know, and at the same time they are definitely not based on anyone I know. There’s no way around using what you know to devise characters. Is it done intentionally? At least for me – no. That would be too weird and basing a character on someone I know would take me (and possibly my readers) out of the story. That wouldn’t work.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
It’s very hard to have a writing routine when you have kids living at home, multiple foster dogs, a small farm with horses and chickens, and a distractable personality. But if I have a routine, it’s this: I read and journal early before breakfast. I work on ‘nonfiction’ (blog posts, research, social media, email, website) before lunch, and after lunch I turn to my fiction. I love the afternoons when no one is home and no animal is in need and I can lose myself in a story. The only idiosyncrasies I have about writing are that I need silence to write (no music, no people talking, no TV in the other room) and an enormous cup of tea. I favor black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.

Tell us why we should read this book.
Hmmm….this should be my elevator speech, right? You should read my book because it’s a good story. It will make you think about marriage and family and love and probably make you wonder what your neighbors are up to. But mostly, its characters will touch your heart, helping you to realize that there’s some good (and some bad) in all of us.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love so many authors that it’ll be hard to keep this list short. I’ve always loved John Irving, Joyce Maynard, Wally Lamb, and Anne Lamott, but I laugh outloud at Jonathon Tropper and love the worlds that Barbara Kingsolver creates. Michael Perry and Barbara Brown Taylor are two of the most talented writers I can think of who consistently make me think and wish I wrote better. I’ve recently discovered Kathryn Craft and Christopher Scotten, and can’t wait to read more from them. Sarah Gruen, Elizabeth Brundage, and T. Greenwood make me turn the page happily. I’ll forever love the writing of Connie May Fowler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katrina Kennison, and Kate Braestrup because they were the voices that helped me begin to find my own. I have a lot of favorites. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading a fascinating nonfiction book call the The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin. She’s a journalist digging deep into the world of puppy mills and dog rescue and the big business of dogs. As far as fiction, my choices are many times dictated by my book club who have me currently reading, A Tale of the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, but the book I’m really enjoying right now is Kate Moretti’s Thought I Knew You.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve actually got two in the editing phase, plus my agent is currently shopping a memoir I wrote about my family and our first fifty foster dogs. One of my fiction manuscripts revolves around a mother and daughter in the aftermath of a texting and driving accident, while the other is a bit less dark and follows a quirky young waitress who goes on a honeymoon with a customer whose just been stood up at the alter.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I hate this question because it exposes how out of touch I am with the current movie scene. I guess I’m a cheapskate because I can’t bring myself to blow a hundred bucks on taking our family to the movies, so we wait for most everything to come out online. Add to that my complete inability to retain the names of movies stars and I’m at a loss. If I could freeze them in time, I’d cast Meg Ryan as Kate (because I love Meg and Kate) and Ellen Page (at the age she was in Juno) as Jenna. Everett is a bit tougher – maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon or Robert Downy Jr, but not because any of them are ‘perfect’ just, once again, because I like them.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to hang out with dogs – does that count? I also, very occasionally, ride horses. I run or hike most days and love to go wine-tasting at little wineries in Virginia. Any pretty day will find me poking around in my gardens.

Favorite meal?
Easy – steamed shrimp (which I rarely get to eat because my husband is allergic!), Caesar salad (with the dressing on the side), a loaf of crusty wheat bread, olive oil for dipping, and plenty of wine.

Cara Sue Achterberg

Author Bio:

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for liv- ing a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

CaraWrites.com | Cara Sue Achterberg on Twitter | Cara Sue Achterberg on Facebook

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Cara Sue Achterberg and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Girls’ Weekend by Cara Sue Achterberg. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2017 and runs through August 3, 2017. Void where prohibited by law.

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May 152014
 

If you follow my blog, you know I am a big fan of Steven Manchester.   I have reviewed Twelve Months, Goodnight, Brian, The Rockin’ Chair and his latest novel, Pressed Pennies.  He is now touring with Pressed Pennies and is stopping by today.  If you haven’t read his books, you are missing out!!!!!

 

STEVEN MANCHESTER

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin` Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (due out May 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC`s Today Show, CBS`s The Early Show, CNN`s American Morning and BET`s Nightly News. Three of Steven`s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
Connect with Steve at these sites:

WEBSITE       

ABOUT THE BOOK

Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige`s father nearly destroyed Abby`s spirit.

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they`re hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She`s very protective of the life she`s made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn`t know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you`ve dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

PRESSED PENNIES is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love it its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart. 

Read an excerpt:
The night was beautiful, unusually mild for the season. “How about a walk along the river?” he asked. “The water fire is tonight.”

“What a coincidence,” she teased, and didn’t think twice about grabbing his hand when he extended it.

Hand in hand, Rick and Abby strolled along the river. Hidden speakers offered the eclectic sounds of primitive chants and tribal drums. Alluring smells of vendor delicacies wafted on unseasonably warm breezes. Side streets were cordoned off and police officers rerouted traffic. Amongst thousands of pedestrians, the walk along the river moved like a stream of warm pudding.

They felt comfortably alone in each other’s company, occasionally stopping to point out something they had spotted and wanted to share.

Although Abby only had two glasses of wine, she felt lightheaded—almost drunk.

As if lovers were sworn to secrecy, other couples offered subtle nods in greeting—with Rick and Abby returning each gesture.

Steel fire pits sat several feet out of the water, lining the middle of the river every thousand yards. Old, wooden boats filled with thespians dressed in black threw fresh-split cordwood onto each. Like swarms of angry fireflies, a million sparks scurried into the air. Bright orange and red flames licked at the black sky, as strong smells of burnt oak and cedar reminded folks of cozy summer campfires and the love that could be shared beneath a starry sky.

At the end of the path, Rick summoned one of the many hawkers to buy Abby a single red rose.

She accepted the gift with a smile. “Good thing this isn’t a date,” she joked again.

“Good thing,” he repeated.

After hugging him, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you for this wonderful experience, Richard,” she said. “I mean it. This night has been absolutely amazing.”

“I only supplied half of it,” he replied, and hugged her again. “Thank you for the other half.”

Walking slowly, they started back toward their cars.

* * *

Once they reached the parking lot behind the Blue Grotto, Rick turned to Abby and cleared his throat. “Let me take you out again this weekend.” It was more of a statement than a request.

Abby shook her head and kissed his cheek. “I’d love to, Richard. Believe me, I would. But it’s not just about what I want. I still need to get Paige settled in. She’s not used to…”

He placed his finger to her lips. “Okay,” he said, “then when?”

She thought about it and shook her head. “I honestly don’t know.” She shrugged. “But what I do know is that our timing couldn’t be any worse right now.” She searched his eyes. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Richard. I wish…”

He looked surprised and devastated, all at the same time. “Not even as friends?” he asked.

She looked deeper into his eyes. “I’d love that, but do you really think that you and I could just be friends?”

He smirked, and then shrugged. “I don’t know.” He thought for a moment. “A different place, a different time, I think you and I…”

“Who knows what the future holds,” she said, stopping him from saying any more.

“Friends then,” he said, and kissed her cheek. “I understand.”

“Thank you,” she said, but she could tell by his tone that he didn’t understand at all. “I’ll be seein’ ya,” she said, and hurried off to her car while she still had the strength.

“Yeah,” he said. “See you around.”

* * *

With his head spinning, Rick got into his car and began replaying every second of their time together. As he drove away, he could still smell Abby on his clothes and hoped the scent would last. It had been an eternity since he’d felt this way about anyone.

* * *

When her mom returned home from her “dinner with an old friend,” Paige was sprawled out on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Abby took a seat beside her. Even with her heart pounding in her ears, Paige dared not stir. Abby pulled the blanket over her and kissed her forehead. “Night, babe,” she whispered, and quietly stepped out of the room.

Paige slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just the two of us, huh?” she whispered, and fought back the tears.

BOOK DETAILS:

Number of Pages: 355 pages
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
ISBN-10: 1611881358
ISBN-13: 978-1611881356

PURCHASE LINKS:

            

Apr 282014
 

WELCOME REBA WHITE WILLIAMS


REBA WHITE WILLIAMS

Reba White Williams worked for more than thirty years in business and finance—in research at McKinsey & Co., as a securities analyst on Wall Street, and as a senior executive at an investment management firm.
Williams graduated from Duke with a BA in English, earned an MBA at Harvard, a PhD in Art History at CUNY, and an MA in Writing at Antioch. She has written numerous articles for art and financial journals. She is a past president of the New York City Art Commission and served on the New York State Council for the Arts.

She and her husband built what was thought to be the largest private collection of fine art prints by American artists. They created seventeen exhibitions from their collection that circulated to more than one hundred museums worldwide, Williams writing most of the exhibition catalogues. She has been a member of the print committees of several leading museums.

Williams grew up in North Carolina, and lives in New York, Connecticut and Southern California with her husband and Maltese, Muffin. She is the author of two novels featuring Coleman and Dinah Greene, Restrike and Fatal Impressions, along with the story of Coleman and Dinah when they were children, Angels. She is currently working on her third Coleman and Dinah mystery.
Connect with Ms. Williams at these sites:

WEBSITE       

ABOUT THE BOOK

Coleman and Dinah Greene are making names for themselves in the art world. Coleman`s magazine publishing empire is growing and Dinah`s print gallery is gaining traction. In fact, Dinah has just won the contract to select, buy, and hang art in the New York office of the management consultants Davidson, Douglas, Danbury & Weeks – a major coup that will generate The Greene Gallery`s first big profits. However, when Dinah goes to DDD&W to begin work, she discovers a corporate culture unlike anything she`s ever encountered before. There are suggestions of improprieties everywhere, including missing art worth a fortune. And when two DDD&W staff members are discovered murdered, Dinah and Coleman find themselves swept into the heart of another mystery. Revealing the murderer will be no easy task…but first Dinah needs to clear her own name from the suspect list.

READ AN EXCERPT

By five thirty Thursday morning, Dinah had eaten a light breakfast, dressed, and packed. At 5:45, Tom, Jonathan’s driver, picked her up in the Lincoln Town Car. Tom would drive her to the DDD&W office in the Fry building, wait while she made a final check of last night’s installations, then take her to the airport in time for the nine a.m. flight to Los Angeles.

They dropped Baker at his vet’s for the weekend and were on their way uptown by a few minutes past six. Dinah mentally checked everything she should have done. Her suitcase and carry-on bag were in the trunk, and she was dressed in a favorite travel outfit, a navy blue pantsuit and a crisp white shirt. Her ticket was in her bag, as were her sunglasses, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and cash in small bills to buy newspapers or magazines, and for tips. She’d remove the jacket when the plane arrived in warm LA. The New York weather was typical for March: cold, damp, and overcast. She smiled. In a few hours she’d be in sunshine, surrounded by the beautiful Bel Air gardens, enjoying a loving welcome from Jonathan. Making up after a quarrel could be fun.

At the Fry building, she took the elevator to the thirty-third floor. She paused to admire the prints in the reception area, then hurried toward the dining area. But before she reached it, she noticed the door to the anteroom of the managing director’s suite was open. Hunt Frederick must be in. She’d invite him to join her for a tour.

The door to his office was ajar. Dinah called his name but got no reply. Maybe he was on the telephone and couldn’t hear her? She tapped on the door and pushed it open. The carnage jumped up at her, a vision in a nightmare, and the smell was horrific—blood, urine, feces, and—oh, God—a whiff of Jungle Gardenia. The heavily carved bookshelves on the left had pulled away from the wall, and shelving and books lay all over the floor. Beneath the jumble of dark wood, red leather, and white pages splattered with blood: a body—and more blood, black against the red carpet. Blonde hair soaked in blood. A blood-stained beige platform shoe. A hand with purple painted nails.

Dinah tiptoed into the room, avoiding the blood, and touched a white wrist: no pulse, and the skin was cool. Nothing could help the poor woman.

Fighting nausea, she backed into the corridor and called 911 on her cell phone. “There’s b-been a f-fatal accident,” she said.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Suspense; Women Sleuths
Series: Coleman and Dinah Greene Mystery
Number of Pages: 300 pages
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
ISBN-10: 1611881315
ISBN-13: 978-1611881318

PURCHASE LINKS:

           

DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Apr 032014
 

WELCOME SUSAN ISRAEL

SUSAN ISRAEL

Susan Israel lives in Connecticut with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette and she has written for magazines, websites and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. She’s currently at work on the second book in the Delilah Price series, Student Bodies.
Connect with Susan at these sites:

WEBSITE        TWITTER   

ABOUT THE BOOK

Delilah is accustomed to people seeing her naked. As a nude model – a gig that keeps food on the table while her career as a sculptor takes off – it comes with the territory.

But Delilah has never before felt this vulnerable.

Because Delilah has an admirer. Someone who is paying a great deal of attention to her. And he just might love her to death.

The debut of a shockingly fresh voice in suspense fiction, OVER MY LIVE BODY will work its way inside of you.

READ AN EXCERPT

I’ve gone from posing in one studio to posing in another in less than an hour. Ordinarily I don’t complain about the cold. I don’t move before I’m told to. I try to be the model I’ve never had the good luck to hire. But today I feel like I’m lugging around a portfolio of hypersensitivity along with my usual artist supplies and it’s not even justified. Here, I’m among friends.

The instructor of this class has drawn a chalk outline of where I’m supposed to lie and indicates the pose she wants me to strike, that of a classic come-to-my-casbah odalisque. I feel my calf muscles tighten as I scrunch up into the framework of the drawing on the floor. There are no new faces in this class, no surprises, I’ll be forgiven if I twitch or scratch an itch. Morgan, one of the best artists and my best friend, has brought poppy seed pound cake and stops what he’s doing to tiptoe over and feed me morsels of it. “Should be grapes,” the instructor says. Someone down the hall is playing Carmen on a boom box. “Should be Scheherezade,” Morgan says, winking at me.

The wink isn’t misunderstood, wouldn’t be even if Morgan wasn’t gay.
We artists are like a cast ensemble in repertory. Many of us have seen each other nude in classes. I’m dressed in the part I’m playing. It’s when I change locations, freelance in other schools, that I’ve felt uncomfortable and I’ve tried not to do that too often. I try not to, but sometimes I need the money to buy extra supplies or pay off mounting bills and I have to do it, like I did last night. I sometimes say never again, never again! What do I need this aggravation for? I feel smarmy; it makes me fight with Ivan more. Except, like a new enrollee in some 12-step program, I’m learning to recognize what I have and haven’t the power to change and ironically now that I’ve decided to kick Ivan and his half of the rent money out, I’m going to have to pay more bills than ever, starting with the new lock I’m having installed.

“Delilah, you moved!”

I look down and see my arm and leg protruding from the smeared outline marking where they’re supposed to be. “I’m sorry.”

“Delilah rarely strays,” Morgan says with a smile, holding a pencil up to me to gauge the span of my body stretched out in front of faded brocade. Another artist, Keith, moves in for a closer look, so close that I can smell the eucalyptus cough drop lodged in his cheek that I first thought was an abscess.
The others take turns approaching me, walking around me, appraising me with the dispassionate curiosity they would exhibit while looking at a piece on display in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The instructor, their tour guide, calls attention to my posterior as the center of gravity upon which all else rests. She points to my right shoulder with a well-sharpened Conté crayon and lightly touches it, then moves on to the sole of my right foot. My toes curl. “Notice how the light is distributed here and here, how opalescent these areas seem compared to this.” I feel the pencil glide along the base of my spine. “I want you to pay attention to these tonal differences in your drawings as if you were painting them because you will be.”

The door bangs open suddenly, unexpectedly; no one casually walks in and out of this studio. “Phone call downstairs for Delilah,” someone hollers, retreating down the hall.

“She can`t come to the phone right now,” the instructor bellows back. “Take a message.”

“Tell whoever it is I`ll call back,” I add, “unless it`s Ivan.” I know it’s Ivan.

One of the graphic arts students backs into the studio and looks around furtively, like one more step and she`ll be accused of breaking and entering. “He said he`d call back.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugs. “Beats me. He didn’t say.”

“Another member of your burgeoning fan club, Delilah. Maybe someone who’s seen your exhibits and wants to buy all your sculptures,” Morgan suggests, smudging the charcoal on the page with the heel of his hand.

“I wish.”

“Hey, you never know.”

I know it was Ivan on the phone. He’s the only person who has ever called me here. I can feel his heavy breathing impatience wafting all the way up from Wall Street. He knows a call from him will unsettle me, make me put my clothes on to rush to the phone at the very least and not be able to get back into the right pose and the right mood afterwards. He gets off on this. I`m not taking any calls until I`m through for the day.

“Delilah!” someone else calls. “Telephone!”

“Jesus, again? Doesn`t he take a hint?”

“It’s okay, take a five minute break, you’re marked,” the instructor says as I scramble to my feet clumsily. I grab a blue-and-white pinstriped man’s shirt from the back of Morgan’s easel and throw it on and pad down the cold corridor and down the stairs, pulling the shirt closed around me, grumbling, steeling myself for what I have to say to him and that is, “Leave me alone!”

“Is that any way to answer the phone?”

I look down at the way I’m dressed. Is that any way to answer the phone? “Who is this?” It’s not Ivan’s voice. He’s the only person who has ever called me here, but it’s not him. Someone he put up to calling me, though, I’m sure of it, one of his co-workers wearing an oxford shirt not unlike the one that I’ve got wrapped around me like a toga, only fully buttoned down and fit to be tied. “Get him to come to the phone.”

“You don’t want to talk to anyone else,” the voice declares. “It’s me you want.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t say that!” the voice snaps. “You do. At least you will.”

BOOK DETAILS:

Number of Pages: 280 pages
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
ISBN-10: 1611881188
ISBN-13: 978-1611881189

PURCHASE LINKS:

           

DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.