The PERIDOT SHIFT series! Pre-order book three today.

Thanks to my friends at Books Forward for sending me the first two books in The Peridot Shift series as well the Third, CAST OFF, to be released Dec. 6, 2022.

With amazing reviews, I can’t wait to jump into the adventure. If you’ve been visiting LitWorld for long you know I like some steampunk, scifi, and fantasy… but it has to be good for me to put down my other books to do it. Well, I’ve put the others down and am about to JUMP! I just hope CAPTAIN TALIS is there to save me.

On a planet cracked open by ancient magic, outlaws and pirates are the only ones with what it takes to save Peridot from its next apocalyptic threat.

CAST OFF by RJ Theodore

is available for pre-order now.

 

Peridot Shift Series

https://rjtheodore.com/

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Andrew & The Treasured Spirit of the Northland – Guest Post by Author Able Barrett

Andrew & The Treasured Spirit of the Northland

I enter the darkness that has been cultured for thousands of years, the legends of life gone by, ringing within its corridors with a deafening silence. I feel the presence of both good and evil, which seem to loosely pull at me. Which direction to take? A light can only slightly penetrate the thickness of the darkness. Faces begin to appear as ghost-like images; it’s a warning, which I do not heed.

The images become clearer. They are the faces of beautiful women, goddesses perhaps; they draw my very being deeper into the darkness, serenaded by their gentle voices lifting away my fear of the unknown. I am floating now, effortlessly on a bed of soft blowing air. I am totally consumed. Have I fallen under a spell? I call out for help.

Suddenly there is a flash of brilliant light and the real faces of the women are revealed to me. They are the true evil ones, the guardians of the darkness, the Temptress Sirens of the Dark Lords. They have surrounded me. I see a faint light in the distance. I begin to run towards the light, I feel Temptress Sirens clawing at me as I try to go towards the light in hopes of a safe passage. I hear a voice ever so softly… “Don’t go to the light……. Don’t go to the light……. It will deceive you. Use your faith and follow your heart.”

I stop but I can feel the Temptress Sirens stalking me. I move through the
complete darkness with my eyes closed now. There then appears a golden mist that forms a stairway leading upward through the darkness. Without hesitation, I follow the stairway climbing slowly out of the darkness. I can still feel the draw of the Temptress Sirens at my back growing stronger. I become weary as I continue to climb. The strength of the Temptress Sirens is beginning to hold me back. I fear I cannot make it to the top. A silhouetted hand appears from out of the darkness above me. I do not know whether to take it. I have no choice. I grab the hand and a gentle pull brings me away from the grasp of the Temptress Sirens. I hear their shrieks of madness slowly fade away as I am pulled forward.

A gentle light appears and an Angel appears before me. She has the youthful
beauty of a thousand ages. I hear her gentle voice speaking to me yet her lips do not move. Her name is Afriel. She is a being of light charged with safeguarding young life. She is to protect that which is youthful and tenderly growing within each of us, no matter how old we actually are. Afriel grants youth, vigor, and vitality. She places her hand on my forehead and closes her eyes as she nods her head and says, “go forward and save your brother, Nicholas.”

The Great Tree coverAndrew and his older brother Nicholas were separated as children.

Nicholas had been snatched away by the Prince of Darkness, and Andrew had all but given up hope, but now their mother is ill, and he’s determined to reunite them before she passes – despite her objections.

With his dog Jenny by his side, Andrew sets out on an epic and perilous crusade well beyond his wildest imagination, facing evil protectors, giant wolves, dark magic, Sorcerers, Goblins, and even the Prince of Darkness himself.

Then there’s The Great Tree.

It’s enormous, with a presence that’s nearly impossible to describe…

And it’s clearly the heart of the kingdom of the wicked Sorcerer.

This is the setting for the adventure story that changed Christmas forever!

All proceeds from the sale of The Great Tree go to The Last Road Dog Animal Sanctuary to rescue unadoptable dogs, cats, and horses, an approved 501 (c)(3) Animal Public Welfare Charity that greatly appreciates the ongoing support of readers like you!

Jenny the dog is based on a very real Jenny, the author’s vision of a true warrior – who has her own inspiring story that he’s happy to share with anyone who asks.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BGK2ZNJF
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60553311-the-great-tree

Author Links:
Website: www.thelastroaddog.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TLRDSANCTUARY
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blkdogr4/

Able Berrett photoAuthor Bio:
Able Barrett is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney and U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force Prosecutor who shamelessly admits he loves animals more than most people, and he’s the manager of The Last Road Dog Animal Sanctuary.

Able Barrett Blog Tour Image

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

LitWorld’s 10 Questions with M. Laszlo, author of The Phantom Glare of Day.

 
The Phantom Glare of Day book cover.LitWorld’s 10 Questions
with
M. Laszlo

What would be your one sentence elevator pitch of what your book is about?
In this trio of novellas, three game young ladies enter into dangerous liaisons that test each one’s limits and force them to confront the most heartrending issues facing society in the early twentieth century. The Phantom Glare of Day is a compelling interrogation of who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong.

[The novellas are set during the height of WWI and post-WWI Europe.]

What book/author/movie/TV show/song might a potential reader compare your book to in order to get an idea of its feel and why?
The Phantom Glare of Day might best be described as traditional, twentieth-century melodrama suffused with the following: Goth youth culture, the film Nosferatu, lots of Germanic brooding, the poetry and symbolism of Nietzsche, and a ravishingly beautiful figure-skating ballet just for good measure.

Why did you choose this topic for your book?
This topic chose me. These novellas arise from a deeply held obsession with grasping the essential ethical issues that face society. By writing the book, it is my hope that the novellas may challenge readers to think about and to come to terms with those same heartrending questions.

What led to your choosing the setting for your book? In part your mention of steampunk as used in your book.
Having traveled to London, Paris, and Prague, and having kept travel diaries for those beautiful cities, there was no way to avoid my setting stories in those remarkable places. Interestingly, though, my impressions of Prague were always informed by the genre of steampunk. What I mean by that is that Prague is the city with which I’ve always associated the science-fiction play Rossum’s Universal Robots. Because of this, Prague inspired me to write about steampunk/primitive robotic technologies—as such, these peculiar technologies and themes and obsessions appear in that tale. With regard to Weimar, that’s the most peculiar question for me because I’ve never been there. Still, the history of das Bauhaus has always fascinated me—and because of this, there was no way to avoid the temptation to set a tale there.

How did you come up with the title of your book?
The Phantom Glare of Day comes from a line in “Butterflies”—a WW-era Siegfried Sassoon poem. The title seemed perfect to me because various world religions have always associated butterflies with the immortality of the soul. For me, that metaphysical idea resonates because these three novellas amount to a new kind of metaphysical storytelling.

How has your world traveling impressed itself on your writing?
Nothing has impressed my writing more than my travels to London, where I became fascinated by British colloquialism and phraseology. Nothing else makes British characters come to life more than giving them authentic voices as they engage one another in dialogue. In short, dialogue has to be real. Characters must talk the way people really talk. This comes down to the fact it is the vernacular that makes characters and their stories seem genuine. My travel diaries provided me with all kinds of descriptions of various places, of course; nevertheless, my travel diaries were most important to me in that they included many, many lists of those remarkable terms that only the Brits use.

What will connect the reader to the story?
These novellas tell of how people struggle with issues that anyone can find relatable: school bullying, abortion, euthanasia, political extremism, and homophobia. As such, any reader should be able to connect with the characters. At the same time, the narrator’s voice remains solemn and philosophical; moreover, the writing is suffused in objective correlative—symbols intended to resonate with the reader’s unconscious mind. If the reader really gives my work a chance, the reader can and will connect.
Remember, though, when you read The Phantom Glare of Day, you’ll quickly see that it’s like nothing you’ve ever read before. Perhaps that’s why the work is fated to get so many mixed reviews. This work is weird and revolutionary in its style.

Did you have difficulty deciding your book was ready to publish?
Yes and no. Leonardo Da Vinci said it best: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

What genre(s) and reader ages would your work fit best?
As for genre, there are different possibilities: coming of age, urban fantasy, historical fiction, metaphysical fiction, melodrama, and perhaps even magical realism. In truth, the work is trans-genre. Also, who cares what the genre is? It’s literature. And it’s meant for anyone mature enough to embrace the idea of freethinking and/or open-mindedness and/or freedom for the sake of freedom.

What’s your next project idea?
My next project promises to be a complete mind-scramble. In the coming book, it is my intention to take the reader on a journey alongside a figure who resolves the riddle of the universe—and in the final movement of the tale, the character will in fact explain the riddle of the universe. For that matter, too, the answer provided will be accurate. And that is my pledge.

Biography of M. Laszlo

M. Laszlo Author Photo M. Laszlo is the pseudonym of a reclusive author living in Bath, Ohio. According to rumor, he based the pen name on the name of the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca, Victor Laszlo.

He has lived and worked in New York City, East Jerusalem, and several other cities around the world. While living in the Middle East, he worked for Harvard University’s Semitic Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.

His next work is forthcoming from SparkPress in 2024. There are whispers that the work purports to be a genuine attempt at positing an explanation for the riddle of the universe and is based on journals and idea books made while completing his M.F.A at Sarah Lawrence College.

The Phantom Glare of Day is available at Amazon.

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

16 Questions with Kurt Hansen, author of Daughters of Teutobod.

Daughters of Teutobod is a story of love triumphing over hate, of persistence in the face of domination, and of the strength of women in the face of adversity.

Gudrun is the stolen wife of Teutobod, the leader of the Teutons in Gaul in 102 BCE. Her story culminates in a historic battle with the Roman army.

Susanna is a German American farm wife in Pennsylvania whose husband, Karl, has strong affinity for the Nazi party in Germany. Susanna’s story revolves around raising her three daughters and one son as World War II unfolds.

Finally, Gretel is the infant child of Susanna, now seventy-nine years old and a professor of women’s studies, a US senator and Nobel laureate for her World Women’s Initiative. She is heading to France to represent the United States at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of southern France, at the commemoration site where her older brother, who was killed in action nearby, is buried. The site is very near the location where the Romans defeated the Teutons.

 

Daughters of Teutobod Front Cover

How did you do research for your book?
Online searches for everything about the Teutons to pre-war Pennsylvania and the earliest training of American Rangers, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and modern-day sites in Paris and Southern France.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
Hardest? Ada.
Easiest? Gretel.

How long have you been writing?
After heart disease forced early retirement, I began attending the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival in 2014. I began writing poetry, but soon began writing novels.

What is your next project?
A book entitled Chameleon, about a man in treatment for Borderline personality disorder.

What genre do you write and why?
I write character driven stories and historical fiction because those are what interest me.

What is the last great book you’ve read?
Chances Are by Richard Russo

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?
The only one I’ve had an instant intuition for is the elder Gretel, who would surely be portrayed nicely by Meryl Streep.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
Not sure, but during closing credits, I could suggest Respect by Aretha Franklin.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?
Greatest reward is the coming together of the various story elements. Greatest challenge is slogging through the research and persisting through the dialogues.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?
It was painful and frustrating.

Which authors inspired you to write?
Philip Roth, Harper Lee, Richard Russo, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, Michael Crighton, Dan Brown, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Hassinger
 

Fun stuff:
Favorite travel spot?
Toledo, Spain.

Favorite dessert?
Sour cream raisin pie.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you?
To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tale of Two Cities, and the Bible.

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.
I collect rock-n-roll memorabilia. Signed record albums and photos and so forth.

What is your theme song?
“You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor

Kurt Hansen HeadshotAuthor Bio:

Kurt Hansen is from Racine, Wisconsin, and has lived in Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. He has
experience in mental health and family systems as well as in parish ministry and administration.
He holds degrees in psychology, social work and divinity. Kurt now lives in Dubuque, Iowa with
his wife of 44 years, Dr. Susan Hansen, a professor emerita of international business. Kurt is
the author of Gathered (2019). Daughters of Teutobod is his second novel.

Website: https://www.authorkurthansen.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/revkurthansen
Amazon: Kurt Hansen Author Page
Goodreads:  Kurt Hansen

Kurt Hansen blog tour Image

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

14 Questions with Reenita M Hora, author of Operation Mom.

Ila, a Mumbai-based teenager, is going nuts with Veena, her controlling, single mother who prevents her from stalking her pop idol, Ali Zafar. Veena wants her daughter to date real guys in the lead-up to finding a husband. But Ila decides  that the only way to get her mom off her back is by finding her a boyfriend instead. With the help of her best friend Deepali, her crush Dev and her mother’s best friend Maleeka, they will come up with a plan to make it happen by setting up a profile in dating apps.

 

Operation Mom cover image

This interview has to start off with this question. In your book you make a reference to George Michael, how did you come up with this idea?

In my book, I make reference to George Michael of Wham, the famous English pop singer who I was desperately in love with in my teen years. And I know that I speak for just about every woman who grew up in the 80s!  The George Michael anecdote is taken directly  from my life – I stalked him in my teen years, and in mind you in those days there was no such thing as social media, cell phone – smart or dumb or the internet. So the fact that I traveled from Mumbai to London one summer and tracked him down is a real life example of investigative research that I take great pride in!

I guess here is the story – a year or two before I wrote the book, I was chatting with my brother’s friend at a party and somehow, we got talking about the whole George Michael episode. The guy listened with rapt amazement as I gave him the details of how I stalked the pop star through his cat. He said to me ‘That would make a great chick flick, you know!’

I was intrigued but know nothing about film so decided to turn it into YA chick-lit instead!

There are many books out there about the life of women in India, Mumbai in this case….What makes yours different?

Oh my goodness, do you like to laugh? If so then Operation Mom will hit your funny bone. I think that many of us Indians take ourselves too seriously and cliched as it sounds, laughter really is medicine for your mind-body. The BBC has done huge amounts of research on how it helps the aging process, supports fitness and keeps couples together. But this book is not simply about LOL moments, it’s about LOL moments in the Bombay context — it offers a real window into the trials and tribulations of the feisty Punjai woman in Bombay.

And then there is that whole element of predictability and safety in India. You don’t find stories where the daughter is setting the mother up – usually it happens the other way around. You don’t find stories which expose you to a variety of ethnic situations strewn around Mumbai – all ripe for comedic interpretation. That’s what I wanted to do. As a Mumbaikar…or a Bombay-ite, I feel like I have many affinities – to the Punjabi way of life, to the Parsi community, to places like Swati Snacks and Worli Seaface…these all found their way into my book.

How did you do research for your book?

Having grown up in Mumbai, the research was easy. I knew the places I wanted to set the story in. I knew what they were about and the kind of crazy character chaos that I would find in those locations.  Of course, this being a YA book, me now being a full-fledged adult (at least in size if not maturity levels), I knew I had to be up with the ‘method of madness’ of the current Mumbai young adult. So I had huge amounts of fun talking to my school going nephew and his friends to learning the lingo, compare the mindset from my time to theirs and quickly adapt to the change. Then of course I had fun taking long bus rides through town and hanging out at places like Swati Snacks and Kalaghoda Cafe (locations referred to in the story) to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations.  Research is really one of the most fun parts of creating a story.

In your book you seem to look at relationships between flawed characters….why is that?

In my book I talk about relationships among flawed characters because isn’t this who we are and what makes us tick? I capture the sometimes-difficult relationship between mother and daughter, friend and friend, husband and wife, and boy and girl. My exploration is that of coming of age in a world filled with imperfect people. I aim to be both humorous and heartfelt, and from beginning to end, I resist any attempt to apply makeup to innocence, or hide the stubbornness or intelligence of my characters.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

Another hard one. While in many ways I myself identify with the plight of Ila and her mom, Veena, it’s hard not to fall in love with the wild and wacky Aunty Maleeka or Deepali. They are the very antithesis of the classic Punjabi woman and in many ways they are who Veena and Ila live vicariously through. Truth is, I think we all need a bit of Aunty Maleeka or Deepali in our lives!

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

Oof, this is hard to say. Ila and Veena (mother and daughter) are essentially the same woman in two different generational bodies. So when I look at the zany women in my own household, Yours Truly in particular, it isn’t hard to come up with traits and quirks that easily define these main characters. As to the hardest character again…there has been.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Like I alluded to earlier, in many ways I identify with the plight of Ila and her mom, Veena. Both of these characters are essentially the same woman in two different bodies. When I look at them, I see aspects of my teenage self and my adult self. My traits ring through in both — obsessiveness, zest for life, indomitable free spirit, my insecurities….oh yes!

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

I am not sure about the book but there is plenty I have to cut from the screenplay…like the whole flamenco dance class scene.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

Readers tell me that they can totally identify with my characters even if they are from a different culture. This makes me happy  😊

Also Chanticleer Reviews said: “This book will have you laughing out loud. It will keep you reading into the night to see what life has in store for these lovable characters who leap off the page and capture your heart and your imagination. Reenita Malhotra Hora’s novel, Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life and a Man, is a highly recommended and delightful five-star read.”

This made me happy too 😊

Which authors inspired you to write?

Oh goodness! So many!

As a child – Enid Blyton. Not the choice of children’s author for anyone who has been a child since I became an adult!

As a child and an adult – Lewis Carrol, Gerald Durrell, Eric Segal

As an adult – David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Andrew Ross Sorkin.Walter Isaacson, and of course the inimitable JK Rowling.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

1980s. Bombay to relive my teens and London to see George Michael 😊

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

Duran Duran’s – Wild Boys.  I just saw them in concert, that’s why.

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

George Michael of course!!!!

What is your next project?

Oof, which one?! As far as books and stories go, I would say Shadow Realm – Part 1 & 2 of the Arya Chronicles series.  This is a YA fantasy fiction story. Part 1 is already out as an audio series which you can check out here: www.thearyachronicles.com/podcast. We are currently in production for Season 2 which will launch in Spring 2023.  The print book version of Shadow Realm will be next as far as books go, followed hopefully soon thereafter by a graphic novel.

I also have a historical fiction novel in the works – Playtime at the Bagh and Ace of Blades, the “Succession-like” memoirs of my later father, RK.Malhotra, the dynamic creator of India’s home-grown shaving products industry.

Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life… and a Man is available at

 

 

 

Reenita M. Hora Author PhotoAuthor Bio:

Reenita Malhotra Hora is a founder, executive-level content, operations & marketing leader, and prolific writer. With multiple years of experience in media, entertainment, communications, tech/innovation and wellness industries in the USA and Asia, she grows organizations, ranging from early stage startups through mid-size businesses, through storytelling, creative marketing and business strategy.

Reenita has written seven books – five non fiction and two fiction. She is the writer, anchor and executive producer of Shadow Realm and True Fiction Project podcasts and founder of the Chapter by episode fiction app. She has contributed to The Hindu, South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Asian Investor, Times of India, National Geographic Kids, Cartoon Network Asia, Disney, and more.

Website: http://www.reenita.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReenitaMalhotraHora
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reenita_storyteller/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/reenymal 

Reenita Malhotra blog tour dates and sites.

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

11 Questions with Edna Dratch-Parker & Jeri Solomon of Guide To Smart Wedding Planning.

Smart Wedding Guide Planning Book Cover.

GUIDE TO SMART WEDDING PLANNING 

Edna Dratch-Parker & Jeri Solomon

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?
Being in the business of weddings for years, our work was our research! We also interviewed our clients to ask them what information they wished they had known at the start of their planning journey.

Do you have another profession besides writing?
Yes! Edna is a wedding planner, designer and brander. Jeri is a floral designer. We have decades of experience in the world of weddings. We’ve collaborated on many events and even won some national awards.

What is your next project?
Currently we’re working on a companion workbook for Guide to Smart Wedding Planning. We also have other planning tools in the pipeline so stay tuned!

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?
The challenges- writing while also running a business full time. The biggest reward is holding the book in our hands and having people tell us that the information made a difference in their wedding planning experience.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?
The road was steep and winding!

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Just keep at it. No matter how long it takes

 

Fun stuff:

Favorite dessert?
Anything chocolate

Any hobbies?
Jeri is a certified yoga teacher. Edna likes to go on motorcycle rides with her husband. We are both cat lovers.

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
The Real Deal Wedding Insiders® are your go-to source for wedding planning info!

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
In March of 2020 we were getting ready to publish our book and then the world shut down. We had no idea what the future would bring so we paused. We did make some edits to the book post pandemic about the wedding planning process, but our general advice did not change. We’re very happy about that because that means our advice stands the test of time!

Tell us about your longest friendship.
Our friendship! It is not the “longest” but the reason why we wrote this book. We first met at a networking event in Boston. Then we did a few weddings together and started to learn that we had so many things in common. For example we grew up in neighboring towns, we each have 2 sisters, our fathers were physicians, we’re married to men named Jim.  But then we discovered some unique connections; Jeri’s older sister was born in France while her father served in the Air Force and Edna was ALSO born in France while her father served in the Army. Then one day, Jeri was helping her aunt Eleanor plan her anniversary party. They were in a common area in her retirement home, discussing how to set up the space. There was a woman eyeing them from a corner. After a little while she approached Jeri and Eleanor and asked “are you planning a party?” Eleanor explained that Jeri was in the “wedding business” and was helping her. To which the woman responded “Really! My niece is a wedding planner!” Of course her niece was Edna! Jeri immediately texted Edna to tell her that “Aunt Mary says Hi.” At that point, we knew for sure that we were more like family than friends.

Author Bio:Edna and Jeri Profile Photo

With a combined 30 years and hundreds of weddings produced, Edna Dratch-Parker, founder,
and creative director of EFD Creative—Event Planning & Design, and Jeri Solomon, owner of
Jeri Solomon Floral Design, bring their depth of knowledge and real-life experiences to help
couples avoid common mistakes, reduce stress, and truly enjoy the wedding planning process.

 

Website:  https://www.realdealweddinginsiders.com/
Facebook:
@RealDealWeddingInsiders
@EFDCreative
@jerifloraldesign

Instagram:
@weddinginsiders
@efd_creative
@jerifloral

TIKTOK: @RealDealWeddingInsiders

Twitter:
@RDWedInsiders
@EFD_Creative
@JeriFloral

 

Jeri Solomon blog tour Image with All site addresses.

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Review of Joan He’s STRIKE THE ZITHER.

Strike the Zither Book Cover

  • Title: Strike the Zither (Kingdom of Three, 1)
  • Author: Joan He
  • Print Length: 368
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication Date: October 25, 2022
  • Language: English
  • Formats:  eBook and Hardcover and Audible
  • Genres: Fantasy, Teen and Young Adult
  • Purchase links below. Audible also available

 

amazon logobarnes & noble logoBook Depository image to clickbookshop.org logo buttonbooktopia logoindie bound logoWaterstones books logo

 

 

For signed copies visit Joan He’s site for outlets HERE.

A dazzling new fantasy from New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He, Strike the Zither is a powerful, inventive, and sweeping fantasy that reimagines the Chinese classic tale of the Three Kingdoms.

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.

But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged―while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one―and not all of them are human.


I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for an honest review.

First I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if I don’t describe that fact justly in the following.

It was difficult to write a review without spoilers but I did my best. (I really wanted to reveal things because I enjoyed it a lot.)

The book is a a blend of historical, fantasy, sword and sorcery. Although mostly written with young adults as characters, and perhaps as the general target audience, I enjoyed it and didn’t need to put ages to them.

I’m going to geek about history for a moment but don’t necessarily look at this as strictly a historical fiction book, or even fantasy book.

I am a big history person. I studied history in college. Became a history teacher, and even wrote a historical fiction novel. So when I had the opportunity to review author JOAN HE’s latest work, STRIKE THE ZITHER, I jumped at it. And I am not disappointed. Combining historical elements with fantasy, the story moves quickly and I didn’t want to put it down. In fact, I stopped watching Netflix and read the book through the night until I finished. And did I have some surprises to experience.

Now the review.

CHARACTER

The reader will find unique characters and voices. Although some serve similar purposes, as they must in a story like this, they do have their own personalities that make them stand apart from the rest of the cast.

One thing to keep in mind is this re-imagining of the Three Kingdoms is a matriarchal society. Those in power are women and normally their primary advisors and supporters are the same.

The main character of the book is an 18 year old woman called ZEPHYR. a highly intelligent strategist whose only purpose in life is to keep XIN REN alive and bring her success. No matter what she must do to achieve this goal. She’s small and weak of body and does not take action as a warrior and this is seen as more of a hindrance than an asset by many of those serving Xin Ren. But they all secretly realize that without her brain, they would be dead before the time this story even begins.

Zephyr is often at odds with Xin Ren’s SWORNSISTERS CLOUD and LOTUS. Two fierce warriors. More mature in mind is the GENERAL TOURMALINE who does give Zephyr her support and acknowledgement of the young strategist’s skill.

Not everyone is a friend or supporter of Xin Ren.

PRIME MINISTRESS MIASMA considers Xin Ren a rival since the two are closest to the EMPRESS XIN BAO. Mirasma wishes to do away with her rival. There is a young governor of the Southlands and Xin Ren’s uncle who is governor of the Westlands.

Finally there is CROW, a strategist for Miasma that causes many problems for Zephyr’s strategies and plans for Xin Ren and the future of the Empire.

There are some surprising characters that hit our protagonist hard emotionally but there are also some who are simply surprising in their determination and focus on a goal.

WORLD-BUILDING

JOEN HE’s world gives a nice look at what conflicts within China’s history might look like and the intricacies of how people work together within a group although they don’t agree with each other, except for their loyalty to their leader.

The reader will enjoy the structure the country is given with their own distinct geographical characteristics that give the various people their personalities.

The matriarchal system isn’t all that noticeable to this reader. Yes, it’s there and at first I did see it, but after a few pages, it was simply part of the story and didn’t make a difference in my thinking.

The fantasy aspect of the story is hinted at for a while, but when it seriously shows up it hits you in the face… for a moment. It’s well done, and a good surprise. It explains a lot of things. Then I quickly fell back into the story.

There is one part of the fantasy part that is kind of odd but I think it is more because it’s more how a Chinese myth would go as opposed to the more mundane western ideas.

THEMES

Good v Evil or it could be the perception of the reader as to what is good for the Empire being done in a harsh/evil way. Or is this version of good really good at all.

Redemption: Zephyr’s journey is an obvious one as the book goes along, but there are others we see as well.

Courage and Perseverance: This is evident not only with warriors but with weaker ones standing up and taking chances for their leaders.

Revenge: A theme that runs through any story of war and discord but is used as an excuse by some but as truth by others.

DISLIKES

I can’t say there is anything I didn’t like about the book. And that’s rare. Maybe the only thing might be that book two isn’t here yet?

LIKES

The main characters are excellent and realistic for the time and the story.

Using an ancient setting is more difficult than people might think when reimagining history while including fantasy. Joan: He does it well.

I enjoyed the surprise aspects of the story that added complexity. Complexity can slow a book’s story but in this case I didn’t want to put it down until I finished.

CONCLUSION

Strike the Zither is a must read for fans of HISTORICAL FICTION and who are okay with a little FANTASY. I say little fantasy because I don’t see it as too overt. You’ll need to read it for that to make sense. There is ACTION and BATTLES. SUBTERFUGE. SURPRISE ROMANCE angles. The ending sets up for the next book. And done just right to make it easy to wait for the next book but still wanting you to wish it were here already. I would make sure you follow Joan He to see when the next one comes out… as a reminder.

RATING SYSTEM

3=Good and meets what I hope a book should be. A success.

4=Better than expected, didn’t put it down, enjoyable. Would easily recommend to others. THIS IS A GREAT RATING FROM ME.

5=Knocks me out. Would read it over and over again. RARE FROM ME.

A 4.1 STARS out of 5 based on…

Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre: 4

World Building: 4

Believability based on genre and intent: 4

Flow/Readability/Clarity: 4

Overall Enjoyment: 4.5


About the author

Joan He profile photo.Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes in Chicago. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, Descendant of the Crane, and Strike the Zither, the first book in the Kingdom of Three duology.


© 2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Review of Blue Flame: Book Two of the Daemon Collecting Series by Alison Levy.

Blue Flame book cover. Box with a etheral hand coming out of it.
  • Title: Blue Flame: Book Two of the Daemon Collecting Series
  • Author: Alison Levy
  • Print Length: 415
  • Publisher: SparkPress
  • Publication Date: October 11, 2022
  • Language: English
  • Formats:  eBook and Paperback (At various outlets including Amazon and B&N.)
  • Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Purchase links below. Audible also available

 

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I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for an honest review.

Author Alison Levy creates a universe/world called Nota, that is parallel to our own in which everything here exists there but with a twist of Fantasy and Science Fiction being a reality. It is a bit more layered than that with other dimensions playing havoc with Nota. One very young character tries to protect his mother from an enemy only he can see. Another tries to reclaim his life, while another character desires to learn about a culture from another dimension. All this occurs while trying to solve Daemon glitches that threaten the Nota universe/dimension.

CHARACTER
The main characters are varied and unique to each other. No two share the same role or personality, which carries over into their speech. I like this trait in writing characters because the reader can tell who is speaking or thinking at times without being given the individual’s name. Particular favorites for some will likely be the ARCANAN (another dimension but human) Daemon Collector RACHEL WILDER, pronounced RAH-kel. Rachel is blunt with her words and doesn’t fully get newly realized gatekeeper NOTAN (Think our Earth, but a bit different.) LEDA MORELY’s fascination with Arcanan culture. Leda works in a museum and has language skills. Rachel is teaching Leda how to be a gatekeeper, who is responsible for notifying Arcana if a deadly defective CHAOS DAEMON breaches the gate from his prison dimension. Other favorites would be BACH, a seer of sorts who can see the future of people around him as long as he is not too entangled with them. Bach is trying to put his life back together after a rough time and begins taking care of a dog, which is almost like therapy for him. NAJI is a young boy trying to protect his mother from a DJINN that only he can see. Then there is AZRAQ, a Djinn who was enslaved thousands of years ago.

WORLD-BUILDING
ALISON LEVY has created a world with many layers to explore and of which I look forward to learning more. At one point in the story, Rachel Wilde attempts to explain the reality of how the various dimensions work and the number there are. Very well done. As for the Nota dimension, you get good sensory descriptions, at times, and good emotional responses. There are supporting characters that contribute to expanding the world and explain why some of the main characters are the way they are.

THEMES
Good v Evil
Redemption
Courage and Perseverance
Revenge
Worldview Sharing – The comparison of dimensional cultures and the inclusion of cultures and religions we know into the explanation of how certain characters and elements came to be in the story are well done. The sharing of the differences in what is important in the Arcanan dimension compared to the Notan makes for quite an insightful and thought-provoking read but all in a Fantasy and a vague Science Fiction way.

DISLIKES
I think there could’ve been more physical descriptions of some of the main characters early in the story, although in a way without those descriptions, the reader can put in place what they see and later on in the story might be surprised, or not, to the reality.
The Djinni gave quick chapters dedicated to their thoughts but at first, you don’t know which is which or even that there are two different characters… at least I didn’t pick on it early. The left side is one and the right side is another. Once knowing this, it is easier to make sense of it. The creation of small pocket dimensions, such as the one where Rachel’s temporary home while a Daemon Collector is in, could be explained better.

LIKES
The main characters are excellent, likeable, and relatable. Some of the supporting characters are good, but of course you aren’t supposed to like them all.
The overall concept of the story and world are well done.
The weaving of our worldviews, beliefs, and cultures into the story as a way for Notan’s to comprehend and cope with  what’s happening to them was a good idea.

CONCLUSION
Blue Flame is a good read that makes me want to read the first book and look forward to what happens in the next . It has more going on than you realize, with those goings-on being connected in ways you don’t see coming. You become invested in the futures of the characters.

RATING SYSTEM
3=Good and meets what I hope a book should be. A success.
4=Better than expected, didn’t put it down, enjoyable. Would easily recommend to others. THIS IS A GREAT RATING FROM ME.
5=Knocks me out. Would read it over and over again. RARE FROM ME.

A 3.8 of 5 STAR RATING based on…
Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre: 4
World Building: 3.5
Believability based on genre and intent: 4
Flow/Readability/Clarity: 3.5
Overall Enjoyment: 4


About the author

Alison Levy photo.Alison Levy lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and a variety of pets. When she is not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects.

Her books feature female characters who are strong but flawed, making them more relatable. They stay rooted in everyday life while world-building in their fictional cultures. Intolerance of differences has become widespread in recent years. Gatekeeper encourages readers to look beyond what they consider normal and see through foreign eyes, a message that I hope will appeal to many in today’s climate.


© 2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

LitWorldInterviews is now on Instagram.

I know, it’s been a long time coming. But, we’re finally on Instagram. Taking so long is another sign of how burned out I was back then. Normally I would’ve had us on there within the first months but… we’re there now.

At some point I’ll figure out how the Linktree work properly. For now, I’m putting the website post url inside the post.

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12 Questions with L.M. Rapp, author of Dreadful Beauty.

A girl undergoing a terrifying transformation goes on an epic quest to find a refuge from her
ruthless father.

Nymphosis, a disease that turns Humans into Chimeras, is ravaging the land of Gashom. The
More-Than-Pure, determined to protect themselves, have seized power and enacted
segregationist laws.

The daughter of a high dignitary, young Neria learns she is afflicted by the very disease her
father is determined to eradicate. Forced to surrender her privileges, she must flee her home in
the capital and traverse the strange wilds to seek refuge with her fellow kind.

Will she have the courage to fight oppression to emancipate the Chimeras from the yoke of the
More-Than-Pure?

Dreadful Beauty cover

Book available in both English and French.

12 Questions with L.M. Rapp

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

None of the characters were easy to write about, but certainly the most difficult was the tyrannical father. I read three different books about serial killers before I began to understand the reasoning of a psychopath.

In your book, you describe the gargoyles’ people. What made you use elements of Gothic architecture for creating these characters?

During a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, I was able to admire the sculptures of gargoyles that adorn its facade. Their mere presence evoked a fabulous universe and served as great inspiration in my novel.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

The ideas seem to me to be floating around, in books, events, and encounters, and that it is enough to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen and concentrate on arranging them in a new way.

There are many books out there about chimeras. What makes yours different?

The story follows a family and a people through a tone that is both intimate and epic, which is rather unusual in this kind of literature. The plot captures the struggles of humanity through a fantasy lens, making it both digestible and thought-provoking.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

I think I would like to be Matar, the Pedler. I envy his freedom and independence, despite the difficulties he faces in his life.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have had other professions in the past, but writing has become my main focus at the moment. I still practice and teach aikido, which actually turns out to be really useful when I write combat scenes.

What is your next project?

I will soon publish a thriller about a woman who decides, after a divorce, to take over her parents’ farm: a return to nature that does not go as planned. I also just started writing a science fiction book.

What genre do you write and why?

I choose the story first. The genre follows. I don’t force myself to create series. I think that having fun while writing increases the chances that the reader will have fun too.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

It’s a difficult question. I’m too close to her to tell. The similarity would be that she doesn’t give up easily. That being said, I find her more stubborn than I am.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Tolkien, Barbara Pym, Kazuo Ishiguro, Camus, Albert Cohen, Proust, Baudelaire and many others.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I hesitate between leaving France, my birth country, or having three children.

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

When they were first released, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were some sort of revelation. And Harrison Ford was the handsome cool hero in both of them.

 

L.M. Rapp Author PhotoAuthor Bio:

L.M. Rapp has lived in different countries and practiced several professions: dentist, web
developer, artist, aikido teacher, farmer. Eager to learn and discover, she uses her experiences
to enrich her stories. She has also written a thriller, Of Flesh and Tears.

 

 

Follow L. M. Rapp at/on

Website: https://www.lmrap.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/L.M.Rapp
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/l.m.rapp/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LMRappAuthor

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3JrBPFS
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60560084-dreadful-beauty

Visit these other sites for more information about L. M. Rapp and Dreadful Beauty.

L.M. Rapp Blog Tour list image.

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Interested in being a Book Reviewer or other?

We need Book Reviewers and Self Publishing advice writers.

Lit World Interviews is a site I started many years ago where authors can get free online promotion. Now I’m looking for some new Book Reviewers and people who have advice to share in the areas of Writing, Self-Publishing, and Book Promotion. This is a great opportunity to share their opinions on books that sometimes are overlooked. Also to share the experience one might have that can help others achieve their dream of becoming an author with their book in the hands of readers. LWI is a volunteer run site. I would like to get some posts going again in regards to:
  • Book reviews
  • Self-publishing: Both the how to and promotion. Speaking from experience and/or sharing article links and advice from the pros. This tend to be our most viewed articles over time. Our former resident experts really knew their stuff.
  • If you writing/editing/style advice.
This isn’t an every week thing, or even once a month. It’s as you can do them. email me at litworldinterviews @ gmail.com if you are interested. It would be helpful if you include something from the following, so I can see work you may have done:
  • Which of the mentioned areas you would like to participate in.
  • Your site address, if you have one
  • Your name, of course
  • Your social media outlets. The ones you are willing to share posts on. And if you are willing to share the other posts from the site to Twitter, automatically. That’s how they CAN occur, but not MUST occur.
  • Your genre interests (I don’t really have a no genre approved list. But I’m sure something will come up someday. But I’m not looking for that one to occur.)
  • Links to any reviews you may have done on Amazon or Goodreads
email me at litworldinterviews @ gmail.com if you are interested. Sincerely, Ronovan

An excerpt from The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap.

A special excerpt from The portraitist (Available Tuesday, august 30) by Susanne Dunlap.

Click here for Susanne’s interview.

The PortraitistParis, August 1774

Whenever sleep eluded her, Adélaïde would gaze out the window of the third-floor apartment she shared with her husband and think about colors. She’d stare hardly blinking for hours, noticing all the subtle variations of hue that, to a skilled eye, gave the sky as much movement and character as a living creature. Even as a child, she had understood that nothing was fixed, that light changed whatever it touched. Take the human face: Skin was not one color, but many, and never exactly the same from one moment to the next. She knew, for instance, that if Nicolas ever discovered what she was going to do that day, his face would take on one of the shades of thundercloud that had become more and more familiar to her as they drifted apart, and then she would be obliged to cajole him back to a placid pale pink.

He lay in the bed next to her, sprawled on his back, snoring open-mouthed and dripping saliva on his pillow. With a snort, he rolled away from her, and Adélaïde eased herself out from between the sheets, nudged her toes into her slippers, and stood.

“You’re up early,” Nicolas said, making her jump.

She pulled on her dressing gown as she walked into what served as kitchen and dining area. “I’ll wrap up some bread and cheese for you.”

Nicolas threw off the covers and shook himself from shoulders to toes before whisking his night shirt over his head and dressing for his job as secretary to the clergy. Adélaïde handed him the parcel of food as he strode by on his way out. He turned before leaving and stared at her. “You’ve stopped even making an effort to be attractive. You could at least put your hair up.” He let the door slam behind him and thumped down the stairs.

He’s right, Adélaïde thought. But she didn’t have time to worry about that now. As soon as she heard the heavy outer door of the building open and close, she hurried down to the courtyard, filled a basin of water from the fountain, and brought it up to the apartment so she could bathe. When she was finished, she put on her one good ensemble—the one she wore to church on Sundays with bodice and sleeves that had been trimmed with Mechlin lace in her father’s boutique. Her plan was to leave and come back without anyone noticing before Nicolas returned for dinner.

After waiting for two women who lived below her to finish their conversation in the stairwell, Adélaïde tiptoed out of the house and took a circuitous route to the Rue Neuve Saint-Merri and the Hôtel Jabach so no one might guess where she was going. She passed as swiftly as she could along the crowded thoroughfares with their boutiques and market stalls selling everything from leather goods to live chickens, picking her way around piles of dung and flattening herself against buildings as carriages clattered by. Such strange turns her life had taken, she thought. If she had waited—as her father begged her—until someone more worthy asked for her hand, she might have been the lady she’d just seen pressing a scented handkerchief to her nose as she flew past in a handsome calèche. But at the age of eighteen, her mother dead the year before and all seven of her siblings buried, Adélaïde had been desperate to get away from home, to leave the memories behind and start a new life. Enter the dashing Nicolas Guiard, who courted her passionately and made her feel wanted. Then, she couldn’t believe her good fortune. Now, she realized she’d made a terrible mistake.

It was only ten o’clock when she arrived at the iron gates that opened into the courtyard of the Hôtel Jabach. She stood for several seconds and stared, taking in everything, fixing the image of this moment in her memory. She, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, was about to enter the first exhibition where she would not just be a spectator but a bona-fide, participating artist. Two of her pictures hung in one of the galleries within, her entries in the annual salon of the Académie de Saint-Luc—not the Académie Royale, but nearly as prestigious. Her teachers—François-Élie Vincent and Maurice-Quentin de la Tour—had put her up for membership years ago, before she married, and she would be one of only two women exhibiting that year. It was a bold step, a leap in fact, beyond the trite watercolor miniatures she sold in Monsieur Gallimard’s shop to make a little pocket money. Those were not art.

As she passed through the gates and crossed the courtyard to the entrance, sweat ran down her back under the layers of stays and bodice and petticoats, pooled at her waist, and trickled down her legs into the tops of her wool stockings. She took the printed catalogue the concierge handed her at the door and started fanning herself with it before she even opened it.

The murmur of polite commentary echoed around her. Smartly dressed men and women sauntered in twos and threes, facing the walls and pausing occasionally to admire what caught their eye, then turning to examine the portrait busts and figures that dotted the middle of the floor on pedestals at regular intervals. From her earliest childhood, Adélaïde had been to many exhibitions like this one, in rooms that had been stripped of some of their furnishings and given over to the contemplation of art. She wanted to savor it all and take her time to feast her eyes on everything, to give herself a chance to appreciate the honor of having her own work displayed alongside that of more established artists.

It was in the second of the main galleries that Adélaïde first noticed a small group comprising a slight, dapper man, an older woman who could still be called attractive, and two young ladies of startling beauty. One of them had a face of such exquisite proportions that Adélaïde wished she’d brought a sketch pad and a pencil so she could take her likeness then and there. The other one, although not quite as pretty, exuded sensuality and was clearly aware of the power she had over men in general and the gentleman in their party in particular. She cast her eyes down, her long lashes fluttering against cheeks rosy with what might have been embarrassment if they hadn’t been carefully painted with vermilion stain. That was when Adélaïde overheard the gentleman say, “No, I insist. Your allegories are perfection, Mademoiselle.”

Adélaïde froze. Her allegories? That lady had pictures hanging in the exhibition? The only other female member of the Saint-Luc she knew of was the elderly Mademoiselle Navarre, a pastellist and miniaturist who painted still lifes, not allegories. This lady, whoever she was, must have been elected very recently. No others were on the roster of exhibitors the last time Adélaïde had seen it. She held her breath, willing herself to blend into the crowd, standing sideways to the group and pretending to examine a rather voluptuous rendition of Leda and the Swan. Her ears tingled as she strained to hear the rest of the conversation despite the ebb and flow of casual comments as visitors moved through the gallery.

Click here for Susanne’s interview.

Susanne_Dunlap_social_media_image2

Book Description

Paris, 1774. After her separation from her abusive husband, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard is at last free to pursue her dream of becoming the premier woman portraitist in Paris. Free, that is, until she discovers at her first public exhibition that another woman artist is poised to claim that role — and she has more training and better connections in the tightly controlled art world.

To have a chance of competing, Adélaïde must first improve her skills in oil painting. But her love affair with her young teacher gives rise to suspicions that he touches up her work, and her decision to make much-needed money by executing erotic pastels threatens to create as many problems as it solves.

As her rival gains lucrative portrait commissions and an appointment as portraitist to Queen Marie Antoinette, Adélaïde continues to struggle, until at last she earns a royal appointment of her own, and, in 1789, receives a massive commission from a member of the royal family.

But the timing couldn’t be worse. Adélaïde’s world is turned upside down by political chaos and revolution. With danger around every corner of her beloved Paris, she must find a way to survive and adjust to the new order, starting all over again to carve out a life and a career—and stay alive in the process.

The Portraitist is based on the true story of one woman artist’s fight to take her rightful place in a man’s world — and the decisions she makes that lead her ultimately to the kind of fulfillment she never expected.

Susanne_Dunlap_social_media_Review image



Susanne Dunlap author photo.

Author Bio:

Susanne is the author of twelve works of historical fiction for adults and teens, as well as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her studies in music history at Yale University (PhD, 1999), partly from her lifelong interest in women in the arts as a pianist and non-profit performing arts executive. Her novel The Paris Affair won first place in its category in the CIBA Dante Rossetti awards for Young Adult Fiction. The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Utah Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize. In the Shadow of the Lamp was an Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award nominee. Susanne earned her BA and an MA (musicology) from Smith College, and lives in Biddeford, ME, with her little dog Betty.

Website: https://susanne-dunlap.com

Click and Pre-Order  The Portraitist on Amazon.

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Facebook: @SusanneDunlapAuthor

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LinkedIn: @susannedunlap

Pinterest: @susanne_dunlap

© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

9 Questions with Susanne Dunlap, author of The Portraitist.

“Impeccably researched, rich with period detail, Dunlap brings to life the little-known true story of Adelaide Labille-Guiard, who fought her husband and society to make a name for herself as a painter to the royal family, the very apex of success. A stunning story of determination, talent, and reversals of fortune. As a lifelong Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun fan, I am now questioning my allegiances!”

-Lauren Willig

Bestselling Author of THE SUMMER COUNTRY

The Portraitist9 Questions with Susanne Dunlap

What inspired you to write about Adélaïde Labille-Guiard?

I’ve always been interested in women in the arts, and the eighteenth century has a special place in my heart (my dissertation was about eighteenth-century opera). Also, Adélaïde’s self-portrait with her two students that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY is a huge favorite of mine. But originally, when I first conceived of the book, I thought of her in relation to her rival, Vigée Le Brun. Through research I began to know her in her own right, and to appreciate how different her life must have been from her rival’s, how much more stood in her way. I also love the difference in her painting style from Le Brun’s. It feels much more real, more present, less beautiful in a good way.

Why focus on Adélaïde instead of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun?

Originally I thought I would write about Vigée Le Brun. But I love an underdog, and after discovering that they literally followed each other’s footsteps—but Le Brun doesn’t even mention her rival’s name in her three-volume memoir—I was intrigued.

Of course art plays an important role in this book. Are you an artist as well as a musician and writer?

Alas, I am no artist! I took a drawing class in college, but… no. I love art and have always gone to museums, and have done a lot of reading about art history and artists. As research for this book, I did read an 18th-century treatise on oil painting. However, as André Vincent says to Adélaïde before he starts to teach her, there’s a great deal of difference between reading a treatise and actually making art.

While the story is based on a true story, there are some characters that you’ve created. Which of the characters are real?

Most of the characters are, in fact, historical. The ones I’ve created are Adélaïde’s first student (the rest of the named students are historical), her father’s lover, and a few very minor, walk-on characters. However, I took major liberties with the characters of her father and her estranged husband to the point where I might as well have invented them, partly because there was very little available information about them. In those cases, the story comes first.

Did Adélaïde really do a portrait of Robespierre and get a huge commission from the Comte de Provence just as the revolution was starting?

Yep. All true. All the paintings mentioned in the book existed at one time or still exist. The two mentioned in this question are among those that were probably destroyed during the Revolution.

Did Adélaïde really sell erotic pastels?

Alas, no. At least, I could find no evidence of such a thing. However, erotic drawings were a lucrative trade in 18th-century Paris, and my cash-strapped heroine could easily have decided to capitalize on her talents in this way.

What were some of the struggles of women in 18th Century Paris faced, primarily those Adélaïde Labille-Guiard would have dealt with being a female artist?

The struggles had to do with lack of access for women to the infrastructure of success. Institutionalized misogyny, so to speak. Women couldn’t belong to guilds, and were only admitted to some academies in very restricted numbers. They also couldn’t attend classes at the Louvre, except with Briard, who was allowed to teach women. All the life drawing classes were closed to them of course, and even the best women artists couldn’t get the perks given to the men, namely free housing and studio space in the Louvre. That was something Adelaide fought for, and was finally awarded in 1795, after the Revolution, but before Napoleon’s time. Royal patronage was one of the few avenues in which they could compete, and both Adelaide and her rival benefited from that.

How important is Adélaïde Labille-Guiard to the art landscape of 18th Century Paris and perhaps beyond?

I think that because she was such an influential teacher as well as an artist, she probably had an impact on many young artists that we don’t even really know about, since she was pretty much ignored as a painter throughout the 19th century. But when she died, she was Madame Vincent, her identity completely bound up with her position as a married woman. I also think that by digging into these lesser-known women artists, we learn a lot more about the norm rather than the exceptions. Her work is beautiful, beyond a doubt, but so few examples survived her that it’s hard to accurately gauge her compared to other artists.

With the arts being such central influences in your literary work, what are some other works you’ve published that readers will enjoy?

This is the first time I’ve written about a female artist. I’m a music historian, so I’ve featured women musicians more often. My historical mystery series that takes place mostly in 18th-century Vienna features a young violinist whose godfather is Haydn. Those books are THE MUSICIAN’S DAUGHTER, THE MOZART CONSPIRACY, and THE PARIS AFFAIR. My first two novels also featured women musicians: ÉMILIE’S VOICE and LISZT’S KISS.

 

Susanne Dunlap author photo.Author Bio:

Susanne is the author of twelve works of historical fiction for adults and teens, as well as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her studies in music history at Yale University (PhD, 1999), partly from her lifelong interest in women in the arts as a pianist and non-profit performing arts executive. Her novel The Paris Affair won first place in its category in the CIBA Dante Rossetti awards for Young Adult Fiction. The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Utah Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize. In the Shadow of the Lamp was an Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award nominee. Susanne earned her BA and an MA (musicology) from Smith College, and lives in Biddeford, ME, with her little dog Betty.

Website: https://susanne-dunlap.com

Click and Pre-Order  The Portraitist on Amazon.

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© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

15 Questions with Juiced author, Ted Mulcahey

An invention that can save the planet?
Somehow, someway the O’Malleys have found themselves in the thick of things once again. On peaceful, bucolic Whidbey Island, they become entangled in a corporate plot to stifle a paradigm-shattering discovery, one that promises to upend conventional thinking, topple markets, and create an entirely new industry.
Kevin and Jenne, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, find themselves pitted against a band of bumbling criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want—including arson and murder.
It’s another rollicking adventure for the retired interior designers ably assisted by their favorite detective, the FBI, and Emma, their ever-vigilant German Shepherd Dog.

Juiced book Cover

Juiced by Ted Mulcahey

What makes your books different from other cozy mysteries out there?
The locales and perhaps the sarcastic sense of humor from the principal characters.

Do you have another profession besides writing?
Nope.

How long have you been writing?
Off and on since my high school newspaper.

How did you come up with the ideas for your books?
The idea for Juiced began when I came across an interesting article on vanadium battery technology.

For Little Dirt, it was more of a desire to highlight the many beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest.

With your book set in the Puget Sound area, have you ever been there?
I live there.

How did you do research for your book?
For Juiced I found a number of articles discussing the projects (including their battery research) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

For Little Dirt I spent many hours researching harmful drug culture as well as the geography of the Puget Sound waters.

For both, my many years in business were immensely helpful.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
There’s a good deal of Kevin O’Malley in me, but he’s likely an improved version.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
The easiest, of course, are the O’Malleys. The mercenary corporate characters are fun to write but often difficult. Emma, our GSD is the dearest.

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?
Paul Rudd and Sandra Bullock.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
“Ripple” by the Grateful Dead

What is your next project?
The O’Malleys find themselves enmeshed in nastiness among folks in the Walla Walla wine country.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
“I really had fun reading it”, is always my favorite.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest?
Brushed my teeth with glue instead of toothpaste as a kid. (I think that’s the answer for all three questions)

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
Barbra Feldon, agent 99

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I tried to lighten their day.

Mulcahey PhotoAuthor Bio:

Ted Mulcahey has lived throughout the US, the past 35 years in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an Army vet, sales and marketing VP, entrepreneur, business owner, avid reader, one of nine children, former caddie, and lover of dogs and golf. The last twenty-five years were spent in partnership with his wife Patte, as the owners of a highly respected and published hospitality interior design firm in the Seattle Area. They’re now living on Whidbey Island and enjoying its rural bliss.

Ted writes about things he’s seen and places he’s been. He tries to incorporate personality traits of people he’s known into his fictional characters, although none of them exist in reality. Many of the locations are real but the names have been changed.

Website: http://tedmulcahey.com

Visit Amazon for Ted’s Books:

LITTLE DIRT ROAD: https://amzn.to/3P0aVq

JUICED: https://amzn.to/3RBsE9Q

See Reviews for LITTLE DIRT ROAD  and JUICED! at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60282401-little-dirt-road?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=3F5ErlwX8h&rank=1

JUICED:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60839464-juiced?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=1g0MCjNXuI&rank=1

Ted Mulcahey blog tour Image© 2014-2022- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Cathy A Lewis and Her Inspiration for The Road We Took.

“The discovery of my family lineage through ancestry, and the role that this played in my desire to preserve history.”

Cathy A. Lewis HeadshotIn 2018 I had ankle surgery which side-lined me from my work as a Chef. There would be no walking for six months, and I found it imperative to have a creative project to keep me from going bonkers during the lengthy recovery.

When my dad passed away in 1995, a small suitcase came into my possession. The suitcase contained all the artifacts and souvenirs from my dad’s 1933 six-week excursion through Europe. He was on the way to the Boy Scout World Jamboree, held in Godollo, Hungary, during the first
two weeks in August. The trip took place during the height of the depression. I was surprised to find he went on the journey with fifty dollars in his pocket. My dad was sixteen-almost seventeen at the time.

I had every intention of returning to the suitcase, but for the time being, I left it for an occasion when I could devote adequate attention to investigating  the contents. It took me twenty-three years to return to it.

A week before surgery, I finally got down to business by waking the suitcase from its quiet repose.

I felt like I was digging into a buried treasure. To my surprise, I found a rare jewel-my dad’s journal, filled with details from his entire trip through Europe, beginning on day one, leaving the Port of New York. Dad’s journal was full of information, recorded daily, about what he saw and experienced.

As I surveyed the suitcase’s contents, bits and pieces of conversations about his trip and time with the Boy Scouts shared with me in my youth came rushing back to the forefront of my mind.

While reading the journal, one entry, in particular, shook me, causing my spine to tighten. While in Vienna, Dad wrote about a conversation he had with a Hitler Youth. The conversation took place while he strolled the streets of Vienna with some of his troopmates. It was there they caught the attention of a boy about the same age as them.

The boy’s name was Wolfren Wolften. He was a former Boy Scout, now a Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth uniform consisted of a brown shirt and black shorts, with a Sam Bowie belt stretched across the chest. On the sleeves of the shirt were Nazi armbands. Upon the head, a cap. To some degree, the Hitler Youth uniform seemed modeled after the Boy Scout uniform.

Wolfren spoke of a speech Hitler gave soon after coming into power as Chancellor of Germany on January 30 th , 1933. In the spring of 1933, Hitler proclaimed that no Austrian or German boy would attend the Jamboree to be held later that year, during the summer. Furthermore, Hitler decreed it compulsory to join the Hitler Youth. All boys of a certain age were forced to quit all other groups and activities. This young Austrian boy lamented that he could not attend the Jamboree. My dad wrote about conversing with him for some time. They had many interests in common.

They spoke at length about the Jamboree and what would take place. Later that evening, after returning to the hotel, dad wrote about the boy and the conversation that took place, concluding,

“I found him to be a fine fellow.”

That one entry, precisely those eight words, caused me to pause. Simultaneously, an idea began to form in my mind.

My dad did not know at the time that in ten years he would marry a Jewish immigrant whose extended family was murdered by the Nazis. I felt compelled to write at that moment, deciding to preserve the historical events conveyed by my dad’s writings.

I became fascinated with the last leg of dad’s trip and the four days he spent traveling through Germany before boarding the ship at Bremen back to the United States.

Dad detailed what he saw while traveling through Germany after the Jamboree.

He witnessed a massive rally and parade of German tanks, trucks, well over 100k armed forces, all marching through the streets of Munich. He noted that the Nazi symbol of the swastika was ubiquitous throughout Munich, with flags and banners covering every government building and many private homes. With all the tanks, trucks, and troops, the event was directly in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. While in Nuremberg, he wrote about a Hitler Youth rally with forty thousand members, all marching in formation while goose-stepping.

At that time, the world, by and large, had no idea what was going on in Germany. History would show that France and Great Britain knew. While the world was aware that Hitler was in power as Chancellor, the Treaty violations were not common knowledge. Dad saw these events taking place and wrote of them.

The second part of preserving my family history comes from my mom’s journey and her family.

While growing up in a suburb of Rochester, New York, I did not know about my family ties to the small border town of Baranovichi, Poland, now called Belarus. My mom told my siblings and me fables about her family, her ancestry, and like most children, we believed her.

We were not aware of the hidden anguish she carried, knowing her extended family died at the hands of Nazis. I was not aware I was Jewish until I was seven years old, and at that age, I had no understanding of what that meant.

My mom wanted us to believe her carefully constructed story of her upbringing. She desired to protect her children from the prejudice and hatred she suffered when first coming to the U.S. after marrying my dad in the canal zone in Panama in July of 1944, during the 2 nd World War.

My mom’s mother left Baranovichi in 1919 after World War I, traveling to Argentina. My grandmother traveled from Baranovichi to the Polish Corridor strip of land along the River Vistula to escape, traveling to Switzerland where she acquired a passport in Bern. My mom’s father’s journey to Argentina is somewhat of a mystery. Some accounts say he served to fight with the British Army during World War I, and at its conclusion, he took an British freighter to Argentina.

My grandparents allegedly had family living in Buenos Aires, where former Baranovichi residents Pauline Turetsky and Harry Silberstein re-connected and married. My mom’s birth certificate is from Buenos Aries, verifying she was born there.

The other facts of how my grandparents came to Buenos Aires remain unverified. Unfortunately, no one living can attest to the details of the journey—all who could have passed on.

My thirst for family history came too late in life to uncover the many mysteries that exist today. These perplexities haunt the recesses of my mind, leaving questions unanswered.

While the facts of my mom’s marriage to my dad are verified, I found a newspaper announcement of my parent’s wedding, written by my dad’s father, stating the contrary.

To compound matters and create further dissimulation, my grandfather published the wedding announcement of the marriage of his son “to the daughter of an Englishmen and a Mexican American woman.”

Clearly, he wanted to do everything he could to gaslight friends and family to prevent them from discovering that his eldest son married a Jewish immigrant.

Five years ago, I purchased a genealogy test. It was high time I took action to unravel the never-ending yarn ball of questions that kept me awake at night.

Another thing-my mom’s family dispersed from South America after sojourning through Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador. I have a photograph of a family passport from Peru to Ecuador with my mom, siblings, and parents.

My mom went to Panama to work, where she met and married my American dad. Some of her family moved to Mexico City from Ecuador, some went to Canada, and some eventually landed in Tel Aviv, Israel. I knew very few of my cousins or their extended families. My mom told me that they were all Orthodox and wouldn’t have anything to do with me, seeing that I wasn’t. I
took those words at face value.

I filled out the perfunctory questionnaires on the genealogy site, adding details to my profile. Using caution, I kept personal information to a bare minimum.

The results that came back astounded me, confirming me to be 49.9%  Ashkenazi Jewish on my mom’s side of the test. I felt a small victory over the doubt that assuaged my mind for years. The test also revealed that my Haplogroup of DNA showed my ancestors originated in Israel two
thousand years ago and dispersed from there, eventually landing in Eastern Europe, Poland. Finally, I felt like I was getting somewhere.

History confirms that the 2 nd diaspora of the Jewish people occurred with the Roman conquest of Israel two thousand years ago. The pieces of the puzzle started to come together.

Three months passed, and one day, an email arrived from the genealogical site. A man was inquiring about my family and me. He had the matching last name as my mom, but I had never heard of this person before. While initially suspect, I nevertheless began conversing with him through emails for several days. I subjected him to a series of hoop-jumping for my peace of mind. At first, I thought he was a quack or someone trying to obtain personal information. He satisfactorily completed the many tests to authenticate what he said, and I met through email, my first cousin, once removed. He is the son of my mother’s brother, the second of three sons.

This one cousin wrote to our extended family across the US, Canada, Israel, and Mexico, introducing me as Matildé’s youngest daughter, asking my newly found family to reach out to me. Because of the genealogy search, I’ve discovered over one hundred cousins- some first, second, third, and fourth, but a family, nonetheless. Undoubtedly, my investment in the testing
was well founded.

Between my father’s journal and the search for my mother’s family, I’ve authored a book based on some of the facts I’ve uncovered. While it is historical fiction, my book weaves a story of suspense and intrigue based on my father’s four-day excursion through Germany. By authoring this book, I The Road We Took 3D Book Covercan preserve some of the historical facts of my father’s trip along with certain aspects of my mom’s life before coming to the United States.

I’ve felt it is of the utmost importance to preserve my family’s history for posterity’s sake. This book is a legacy for future generations.

I am the first person in my family to author a book.

https://cathyalewis.com/

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BookReview of “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493-1498 Retold” by Andrew Rowen.

Book Cover of Columbus and Caonabo by Andrew RowenDESCRIPTION of Columbus and Caonabó: 1493-1498 Retold by Andrew Rowen.

Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” dramatizes Columbus’s invasion of Española and the bitter resistance mounted by its Taíno peoples during the period and aftermath of Columbus’s second voyage. Based closely on primary sources, the story is told from both Taíno and European perspectives, including through the eyes of Caonabó—the conflict’s principal Taíno chieftain and leader—and Columbus.”

When you read a Historical Fiction novel you have a certain thought in mind of what to expect. Andrew Rowen gives you more than that, much more. The press release discusses the research he’s done through the years but many do the same. But I haven’t run across anyone who puts the detail of the people into their work as much as Rowen has. Given as much life to a people we know so little about but by the end know so much and gain a fuller Andrew Rowenpicture of a part of the American foundational background. I’ve taken U.S., European, and Latin American studies at the University level and not been given any of the detail given here, nor even heard of the vast majority of the people given in this work.

Being a history person I of course loved the specifics pertaining to the events of the past but even more I enjoyed Rowen’s interpretation of the people involved, especially the Taíno peoples. Also the conflict between the crew of Columbus left behind and moving forward. There was no simple black and white, right and wrong to the story. I suppose overall you would say there is one, but as far as the actions of both peoples the ideas made a lot more sense than what we learn in school.

Rowen shows the use of the Europeans and Taíno forming alliances whether they be real or merely for appearances, the use of Christianity as a subjugation strategy as well as a tool by the Taíno. The Taíno religion is also a major issue in the progress of negotiations and relations. (I don’t want to say too much here.) The actions of Columbus are laid bare, warts and all. Even coming to be questioned by Isabella and Ferdinand. The presence of Spanish settlers in the islands is devastating in more ways than the disease we’ve so often read about.

Ultimately you feel what is happening as it happens. The anguish of the Taíno peoples, the settlers, and even the soldiers who didn’t sign up for what happens. This along with 42 historic and newly drawn maps and illustrations bring life to a part of history glossed over by the victors.

I’m not an anti-Columbus or anti-Western Exploration person. I like history. I am a historian. I want as many of the facts as possible. Unfortunately those who are the victors tend to suppress the ugly parts they played to achieve their victory. “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” provides more facts while being entertaining at the same time.

The author includes an interesting final chapter titled Agonies and Fates. We learn about just what the title says, Agonies and Fates. Plus many definitions are given for the Taíno language.

RATING

A solid 4 out of 5 Stars. A 4 because of all the great information and the life given to the historical figures. Also a 4 and not a 5 because it is a bit of a heavy read. This is not a read in one or two sittings. You will likely want to do so but take  your time so you can absorb everything you’re being given.

I rate using:

Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre,
World Building
Editing
Believability based on genre
Overall Enjoyment
Readability/Clarity
Flow

RECOMMEND?

I would read the previous book, Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold, of which this book is the sequel.

504 pages with the reading portion ending with Agonies and Fates on page 417. The remaining pages are filled with great information for further understanding, including a Glossary.

Available 11/09/2021

$11.49 for Kindle.

$33.95 Hardcover at Amazon


Andrew RowenAbout the author

Andrew Rowen has devoted 10 years to researching the history leading to the first encounters between Europeans and the Caribbean’s Taíno peoples, including visiting sites where Columbus and Taíno chieftains lived, met, and fought. His first novel, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold” (released 2017), portrays the life stories of the chieftains and Columbus from youth through their encounters in 1492. Its sequel, “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” (to be released November 9, 2021), depicts the same protagonists’ bitter conflict during the period of Columbus’s second voyage. Andrew is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Harvard Law School and has long been interested in the roots of religious intolerance.

https://www.amdrewrowen.com/
Facebook @andrewsrowen


© 2021- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

Kevin Vought Author of I’m Supposed to Make a Difference. His story.

I'm Supposed To Make A Difference Book CoverI grew up looking like a very average kid. I lived most of my young life in the suburbs of Rochester, New York. That’s over on the western side of the state along the shores of Lake Ontario for those who aren’t familiar with the state.

My household included my parents, a brother who was about two and a half years older than me, and, of course, me. We almost always had a pet. At least one cat, two for a while, and a dog for a short time.

My parents weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor, either. We never went hungry, but we often didn’t have as many frills as some of my friends. For most of my childhood, my parents shared one car. We all shared a single bathroom with one sink. I don’t think either of those things were all that unusual back then, but seem relatively rare today.

My brother, Bryan, and I spent hours playing basketball at our hoop in the driveway and easily as much time throwing the football around in the backyard. We were closer than most brothers I knew and spent a lot of time challenging each other to be better athletes or just hanging out listening to music and playing games.

On the surface, it all looked very idyllic. If you threw in a white picket fence and a fresh baked pie every night, we would have looked like a typical 1960’s sitcom family.

You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Of course you do. It never fit a situation better than it did with my family. The simple smiles flashed to the outside world were nothing more than a front to hide hearts as black as coal. Monsters barren of souls who were masters of covering their tracks to avoid discovery.

You may be thinking those sentiments are too strong. My own wife, Jill, didn’t believe me at first when I began digging up old memories. “Parents don’t do those things to their children,” she would say. “I’ve met your parents, they’re very nice people,” she would mistakenly add. Finally, in 2007, Jill pleaded with my father via email to reach out to me and help me through digesting some terrible memories I was having about my paternal grandfather. He simply ignored the email. That was also a turning point in my relationship with him. After that point, as the years went on and my memories filled in more completely, my father began making up more and more ridiculous lies in an attempt to cover his tracks. Between the 2007 snub and his subsequent backtracking on so many things he had already said, Jill finally began to realize just how evil he really is.

What did my father do that was so egregious? Did he molest Bryan or me? Did he beat us? No. He feared my mother far too much to do those things. Through his actions, things he would say from time to time, and an email he sent me sometime around 2006, it became clear to me that he wanted to. He “abused” his significantly younger siblings when they were growing up. “It’s what I learned” he emailed me. I’m certain he never “unlearned” it. My mother made it extremely clear to him, though, that she would come at him with absolutely everything she had, legally or otherwise, if he so much as looked at Bryan or me again the way he did one day. On that day when I was only about five, he was clearly ramping up to do a lot more than just yell at Bryan and me. She clearly wore the pants in the family, though, and she very well controlled most of his actions and kept him in line to the best of her ability.

What could my father do that was so wrong and so damaging under the iron fist surveillance of my mother? It appears that my father knew my mother’s strength and convictions from the beginning of their relationship. As such, he never told her what kind of person his father was. My father went to great lengths to hide his upbringing from my mother. Not only did he hide what kind of person his father was, he demanded that we spend every Saturday out there with them along with most holidays. When I say we spent the day, we went out there immediately after eating an early breakfast and we stayed out there until midnight or later. My father would typically spend the day alone with his father talking in the back work room or garage. Mind you, my grandfather is a well known violent pedophile who would go as far as threatening to kill my dad and his six siblings whenever they got too out of line. The first red flag: my father enjoyed this violent pedophile’s company and time to an extreme level.

There was more to my father keeping his past secret than wanting to visit with this violent pedophile on a routine basis. When I was still quite young, my father convinced my mother that Bryan and I should be sent to his parent’s place for at least two weeks to “have fun out in the country.” Had she known what my grandfather was all about, she clearly would never have allowed the weekly family visits, let alone leaving Bryan and me alone with this nut job. I have little doubt my father was delivering us to his father so he could live vicariously through his father’s actions. I also have little doubt that he got an earful about what happened during the two weeks we were trapped there on his Saturday visits.

You’re probably wondering now what in the world happened while we were there. It’s not even what you’re likely thinking. To me, it’s a lot worse. In the summer of 1980, I was seven years old. I have had nightmares indicating that my grandfather may have molested me, but I’ve never reconnected to those memories if he had. What I do remember is a lot worse. He abducted an eleven year old girl while I was alone with him. My brother was out of the house all day with my grandmother running errands. I believe the girl lived relatively close by and was a friend of Bryan’s and mine.

He attacked her and forced me to stay in the room with them. As she screamed, the guilt of doing nothing overwhelmed me. I knew helping her would likely end in my death, but I refused to stand there and do nothing. When I awoke from being knocked unconscious, she was gone. I’ve never been able to confirm whether she survived the attack or not, but I think I’ve found her with the help of a private investigator – alive and well today. She won’t respond to my emails or outreaches on Facebook. Presumably she’s not in a place where she wants to pick at that scab.

You at least had your mother to run to, right? Not exactly. My mother always looked out for me in the big things, such as keeping me safe from my father and worrying about why I came home with my face completely swelled up when I was seven. In other matters, though, I was pretty much her verbal punching bag.

My mother almost desperately wanted a daughter. She was convinced I was going to be a daughter. From the moment I was born, she became suicidally depressed. She never was able to move past the disappointment and lambasted me for everything I did. Even when I’d get 100% on a test, she would point out how lazy and stupid I was for only getting 95% the week before. After all, she reasoned, this 100% clearly showed I was capable of being perfect all the time. Talk about setting the bar high!

I knew she would blame me for the little girl’s death if I told her about it, so I kept my mouth shut. That wasn’t easy to do because she wouldn’t stop examining my swollen face for days. She even took me to the doctor to have it examined to see if my father’s excuse that I had been exposed to poison ivy in smoke was realistic.

All this and a lot more is described in much better detail in I’m Supposed to Make a Difference: A Memoir About Overcoming Trauma and Abuse. The book includes excerpts from emails I’ve exchanged with my father, greater details of all the situations described here plus more, and discussions of how this affected my mental health. The discussions on mental health include sections about suicidal feelings I battled from 11th grade through to about 2019. It lays out how I managed to work through the suicidal depression and anxiety with the help of a wonderful psychologist (who wrote a great foreword for the book) and an extremely knowledgeable psychiatrist (who wrote a wonderful afterword for the book). I’m hopeful the book will serve as motivation for others fighting with similar childhood traumas.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C3Z7XC5. Released on Tuesday September 7 in paperback and Kindle. The Audiobook version is being produced and will be available soon!

 

#bookreview “Can You See My Scars” by Samuel Moore-Sobel

First, a sincere apology to Samuel for the delay in posting this review. But I got here 🙂

I applaud Samuel’s courage I revisiting this traumatic event and writing his story.

I was expecting “life lessons” neatly packaged from this writing, but it is not to be so. The true lesson, if there is to be one, is gleaned from how Samuel has steadfastly moved on in life bearing the scars, in a society which recoiled from his physical scars. And these scars also ran deep, and we see a man acknowledging the fears and pain he carried, and embodying gratitude.

Samuel’s inspirational story is a simple narrative of a life impacted by events beyond his control. I hesitate to say more of the event in question, other than it being a cautionary tale. This focal point of this story serves to remind the reader that the human spirit can surmount if the will is strong.

A story of trauma, healing and growth worth reading.

My rating: 3.5/5.

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2021 LitWorldInterviews

Kimberly Hess on Sarah B. Cochran, the Inspiration Behind “A Lesser Mortal”

Kimberly Hess on Sarah B. Cochran, the Inspiration Behind “A Lesser Mortal”

I grew up with the power of women’s experiences in the stories I heard about female ancestors and relatives. Whether they were politically active, ahead of their time, or overcoming enormous obstacles, each one’s story helped me to understand what I could do. One in particular was Sarah B. Cochran. When my parents and I regularly visited family in southwestern Pennsylvania, I saw artifacts from her life, like the mansion and church she had built, which were being added to the National Register of Historic Places when I was a little girl. I also knew that her decision to put my great-grandmother through college in 1917 still influenced my life many years later.

In that part of the country, it seemed that everybody knew something about her work in the Connellsville coke industry or respected her public and private philanthropy. She was once described to me as the Dolly Parton of the area because of her financially humble origins, generous philanthropy, and humility. As a story, her life struck me as the love child that an Edith Wharton novel might have had with a Nancy Meyers movie: our heroine moves beyond Gilded Age sensibilities and restrictions to inhabit a modern life with purpose, agency, and people who valued her. There is even a fantastic house and a five-minute standing ovation. It was a life that Sarah probably never expected to have and one that historians probably don’t expect to find in its place and time. And, it was a life that I never expected to write about.

Sarah lived from 1857 until 1936 and far exceeded expectations for a woman from that era in southwestern Pennsylvania. But in spite of that, she would be treated as a “lesser mortal” with respect to history; that is, she was left out of the larger historical narrative that featured male contemporaries like Henry Clay Frick or Andrew Carnegie. Born to a poor farming family, she struggled just to have clothes so she could attend school. When she got a job as a maid for Jim Cochran, the pioneer of the Connellsville coke industry, she and Jim’s son fell in love and married. About twenty years into that marriage, her husband and son died prematurely, and Sarah went on to own the coal and coke businesses that had been her husband’s in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. At the time, it was illegal for women to work in or around Pennsylvania coal mines, and some miners even believed women were an unlucky presence around coal mines. While there was not a clear place for Sarah in an industry that was still male dominated, she didn’t leave it. Newspapers reported that she continued to transact business until she was in her seventies.

KIMBERLY HESS  A Lesser Mortal book coverShe also didn’t retreat to a comfortable life; instead, she engaged with the world by becoming a generous philanthropist for causes that mattered to her. She attributed this to a doctor’s advice to help schools and churches as she mourned the loss of her husband and son. Perhaps the lack of fit in mining also helped to smooth her path into philanthropy, where she would have had greater latitude and where women already had a socially acceptable role. When she died in 1936, her private philanthropy was valued at several hundred thousand dollars and her public philanthropy at $2,000,000 (1936 dollars). From her forties through her sixties, Sarah built college dormitories, endowed department chairs, and was a lifelong benefactor and “mother” of Phi Kappa Psi’s West Virginia Alpha chapter. Her philanthropy at Allegheny College even rivaled that of Andrew Carnegie during a crucial building campaign, and she was the first woman to serve as an Allegheny trustee.

Much of Sarah’s philanthropy went beyond generosity to actually shifting power, and often it seemed to be a tool for improving the lives of future generations. In an era when college degrees were becoming increasingly necessary for higher paying jobs and viewed with suffrage as keys to women’s independence, Sarah quietly paid for local people’s college education. Ahead of Pennsylvania’s 1915 suffrage referendum, she publicly threw her weight behind women’s suffrage by opening her estate to host western Pennsylvania’s largest suffrage fundraiser. Ironically, some might have still viewed the home as a woman’s domain and a refuge from politics. However, Sarah was not afraid to bring politics into the home or to publicly own what differentiated her from business competitors: gender. The following year she opened her home again, this time to host the semi-annual meeting of the world’s all-male Methodist bishops. It was reportedly the first time the meeting had been held in a private home, and it was just sixteen years since women were first allowed to be lay delegates at the church’s quadrennial meetings.

As fascinating as Sarah’s life was, it was a life I expected someone else, namely a historian, to write about. My career was in the corporate world for nearly twenty years, but during that time I was also involved with organizations that forced me to consider issues like investments in women’s education, women’s representation in business school, how women have been left out of the historical narrative, and what people might gain from learning stories about female historic figures. When my husband noticed that he couldn’t find information about Sarah online, I created her Wikipedia entry and moved on to a museum blog post, a National Women’s History Museum biography, and a StoryCorps recording.

I spent two more years researching and writing about Sarah’s life and its context, then supplemented those findings with genealogical research I’d been doing over the course of thirty-six years. Beyond learning more details of her life, I also discovered a woman who became highly productive in the periods we know as midlife and senior years. As a middle-aged woman myself, I thought for the first time about the opportunities and challenges age might have presented to Sarah. I also discovered how difficult it is to find her if you don’t already know she’s there. Sometimes Sarah is portrayed as a coal magnate’s widow, not as an accomplished woman in her own right. She falls through the cracks when writings about the coal and coke region focus on miners’ wives or rely on oral histories from employees of the H.C. Frick Coke Company, one of Sarah’s competitors. Even her occupational information, sometimes portrayed as a blank space or the word “None” on the U.S. Census, wouldn’t suggest any of the  responsibilities or influence that she actually had. Because she was involved in organizations and institutions that mattered to her in specific locations – not organizations that would simply help her to self-promote – there are pockets of deep knowledge in unexpected places instead of widespread, general awareness.

This makes her story important to tell for a few different reasons. First, the fact that a woman has remained invisible after her businesses competed with Frick’s and her philanthropy sometimes rivaled Carnegie’s is a good reason to tell her story. I hope this will inspire others to tell stories of the “lesser mortals” who affected their own communities but remained invisible to a wider audience. This might be done through historic sites, books or articles, or it might be the simple act of donating an artifact to a museum or archive. Representation in museums and archives is critical for demonstrating what roles a diverse group of people has played in history and culture, but it also allows researchers from around the world to discover people. Second, despite Sarah’s very specific interests, there is a universality and timelessness to her story. It is a story about using the power we already have, living with purpose, being resilient, championing others, and publicly owning our identities. In some cases she was the first or only person like herself to accomplish certain goals. At times she wasn’t welcome in the broken system where she operated, so she was forced to create her own place in the world. These challenges aren’t going away, and we can benefit from stories about how people have dealt with them. Sometimes we need to tell those stories ourselves if we want people to find them.


KIMBERLY HESS Black and White Author photoKIMBERLY HESS: During her business career of nearly twenty years, Kimberly Hess served in volunteer leadership roles at the global and local levels for Smith College’s Alumnae Association and Office of Admission, and she was a trustee of the Alice Paul Institute and a board member of the Chubb Partnership of Women. Her writing has appeared on the websites of Thrive Global, the National Women’s History Museum and the Forté Foundation, as well as on the blogs of the Women’s Museum of California and the David Library of the American Revolution. She has a B.A. in Economics and International Relations from Smith College, an M.B.A. in Marketing from Rutgers Business School, and a Certificate in Historic Preservation from the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University. An avid genealogist and traveler, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

You can purchase Kimberly’s Book on Amazon.

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Ronovan Hester’s Book Review of The Judas Robe by author Larry Rodness.

The Judas Robe Kindle EditionDESCRIPTION OF THE JUDAS ROBE by Larry Rodness

During the height of the Spanish Inquisition a ruthless inquisitor by the name of Bishop Roberto Promane tortures a fellow priest, Father Sanchez, for information about the whereabouts of a relic known as The Judas Robe. The robe is believed to be the single piece of physical proof of God on Earth. Promane succeeds in uncovering the robe only to lose it to Sanchez’s rescuers, the knights of The Order Of Christ.

Present Day

Joel Gardiner, a pre-med student, is attacked one night by thugs after leaving a campus pub. A young woman named Sophia rescues him and reveals that Joel’s mother, Natalie, is descended from the Order Of Christ, the faction that has kept the robe hidden for centuries. These thugs are part of a conspiracy group led by a Bishop Newman who seek the robe in order to uncover a secret held for centuries.

A BIT ABOUT WHO IS IN THE STORY

JOEL is a by-the-book pre-med student who comes from a divorced family where his father and brothers leave him with his mother who they believe is crazy for believing in a myth of her heritage. Once he gets to college he meets LISA and they quickly begin a relationship. Joel gets an internship at BIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company, due to a discovery he made that could change the health of the human race, under the condition he can conduct his own research into a cure a rare that affects only around 7000 people. (This is all already established and explained as the story flows.)

Joel’s discovery as well as the Robe of Judas, the myth Joel’s family doesn’t believe in, are the two targets of BISHOP NEWMAN and his conspiracy group.

Joel is aided by SOPHIA and FATHER SANCHEZ who are all too familiar with the bishop and the robe. The reveals at the end are shocking actors in this play, but a couple are hinted at during moments in the story. All are believable in the context of the story.

THE REVIEW

LARRY RODNESS creates a fun ride that is engrossing and will keep you turning the pages. As a writer my biggest compliment to give another author is I want these characters to appear in a series of books. It would be an easy thing to do. The characters are all well defined and have distinct voices.

I’ve seen some reference Dan Brown, because it  has to do with the hunt for a Jesus associated item. I don’t get that vibe. The book is not that detailed or plodding as are Dan Brown’s famous books. The story has the details it needs as far as the Judas Robe. This keeps the book as a fast paced read. This book is its own story and not a pretender. The search for the robe is not a mystery of solving this puzzle or whatever. The real goal of Joel and Lisa is to survive. And if they can discover the Judas Robe is real and if so keep it out of the hands of the antagonist groups (yes I said groups), find a cure for the medical condition and make Joel’s discovery work for the human race along the way, then all the better.

As with any book I read I’m looking for the relationships and personalities. This one has reality relationships, meaning not perfect. There are strains on Joel and Lisa, Joel and his mother, Sophia and other characters and even some messy moments of bad choices made, or so the characters think. I personally don’t think so. But that’s the great thing about the book. You have villains you like and you want things to work out somehow and heroes you just can’t stand, or at least I can’t. And I think that’s the way it should be.

You come to understand choices made by both sides or all sides, there are multiple sides, but easy to follow.

As much as I like the story there are some plot holes that I think contribute to my attitude toward some characters as well as what I consider a confusing moment between Joel and his mother during a pivotal turn in Joel’s view points about so many things. Perhaps if there is another book it can be explained, but I suppose for now the reader has to come up with their own solutions. This moment doesn’t take away from the story or enjoyment, but the plot holes do pull you out of the world Rodness has created for a brief moment.

The pace of the story is excellent and I think that’s part of why any hiccups aren’t huge problems with enjoyment.

My favorite character is Sophia. A quiet character that seems to just be there and you’re not surprised by it but you should be. I got to the point I was expecting her to be just on the edge watching  each scene play out.

I will say there are sexual scenes in the book as well as killing with a bit of gore. Really only the sexual scenes were a little surprise but I think in a way they explain a bit about why the people end up willing to do what they do later on. Just mentioning the scenes wouldn’t have worked.

Summing it up: Not much filler. But as with any book there is a lull between those big moments, but as I said, not much. Great characters. Surprises. Mystery. Some layers and subplots that could play out further in later books but didn’t need to here.

 COMPARING

As I’ve said before… I’m not good at comparing authors work although that helps a reader get a feel for what they are getting into. Maybe you can think of a movie or book that is a mystery with a bit of action and rabid cult where you don’t have any fighting skills or clues and you’re told to find the treasure or your loved ones die.

RATING

A solid 3.6 out of 5 Stars. The only reason it is not a sold 4 is because of the plot holes.

A note on rating a book: People these days throw 5’s and 4’s around, when they really mean 3’s and 4’s. 3 means the book meets what you expect it to be. 4 is a really good book. A 5 rating should be a rare thing.

The above rating is just shy of a really good book rating because of just a few plot holes.

I rate using:

Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre,
World Building
Editing
Believability based on genre
Overall Enjoyment,
Readability/Clarity
Flow

RECOMMEND?

I would read other books by this author. I would say the book would be for maybe 18 and over due to the sexual moments. You may say 16 because of it being a book and not visual. And I get that. I am on the fence.

Click one of the logos below to visit the book site so you can purchase. You can also read the first 3 chapters on Amazon with the Kindle Look inside feature.

241 pages.

$6.99 for Kindle.

$10.54 Paperback at Amazon

$16.00 Paperback at Barnes & Noble

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Larry Rodness author profile photoAbout the author

Larry began his professional career as a singer at the age of 19 working with various bands around Toronto. After studying musical theatre Larry worked in summer stock where his love of writing began. From that point on he wrote for dinner theatre, trade shows, and even ice skating shows. To date he has written over 10 screenplays and has had 3 optioned.

 

https://www.larryrodness.com/
https://twitter.com/LarryRodness


© 2021- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

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