The First Emma: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Author Video

THE FIRST EMMA
by
Camille Di Maio

Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

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The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler. Whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses – both also named Emma – and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

 

PRAISE for The First Emma

“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus

“A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana


“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends

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Author Video

Camille Di Maio, author of bestselling historical fiction, loves to illuminate the stories of women from the past. From the challenges they overcome to the loves they embrace, her characters – both real and fictional – have something to teach us in the present.

Join Camille as she introduces her books and invites her readers to keep in touch.

The First Emma

CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO:

Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach. 
 

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May 19-29, 2020
CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR
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5/19/20
Promo
5/19/20
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5/20/20
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5/21/20
Author Video
5/22/20
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5/23/20
Excerpt Part 1
5/24/20
Excerpt Part 2
5/25/20
Review
5/26/20
Excerpt Part 3
5/27/20
Review
5/28/20
Review
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Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Promo

COVEY AND JAYJAY
GET EDUCATED
Audio Book Tour
By Shelton L. Williams
Narrated by Kathy James
Covey Jencks Mysteries, Book 2
Genre: Murder Mystery / Social Thriller / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Audible
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Publication Date: March 18, 2020

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Amateur detectives Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls are drawn into a triple murder on the campus of Baker College in West Waverly in the Texas Hill Country. Both end up taking positions at the college: Covey as an adjunct instructor and JayJay as a visiting actor. 

 

Initially they believe that money is the motive for the murders, but over time they learn that the college is a cauldron of political and social intrigue. The college’s new president and his beautiful wife, various staff members, a prominent trustee, and parties not associated with the college have the motives, opportunities, and wacky agendas that might implicate them in the murders. It turns out that a white nationalist group may be using a college house for its nefarious activities, but are they more talk than action? 
 
The West Waverly police are little to no help in the investigation, and Covey himself has to depart the college to deal with his father’s death. JayJay takes over and makes a critical breakthrough. Upon Covey’s return, the couple must rely on deception, a bit of luck, and martial arts skills to solve the crimes and to try to prevent a high-profile assassination.

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he taught for nearly forty years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on four occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

 

Kathy James. My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  


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THREE WINNERS! 
FIRST PRIZE: Audio books of Covey Jencks, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, and Washed In the Blood
SECOND PRIZE: Both Covey Jencks books in Kindle editions
THIRD PRIZE: Covey and JayJay Get Educated in Kindle edition
MAY 7-16, 2020
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First Herd to Abilene: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

An H. H. Lomax Western, #5
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 449

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HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

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Review

Four Stars

First Herd to Abilene is the fifth book in this series featuring the hilarious exploits of H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax, one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the pages of a western novel. If you’ve never read any of the previous entries into the outrageous circumstances and succession of adventures that puts H.H. at the confluence of every major event to ever be recorded about the Old West, don’t worry. Author Preston Lewis revisits those earlier escapades in Chapter One, while at the same time laying the groundwork for what is yet to come.

Lewis contends that he came across Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University, and though he “can’t vouch for their veracity,” these tales of encounters with the likes of Billy the Kid, Jessie James, Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and George Armstrong Custer (to name just a few) are told with such insightful historical detail as well as wit and humor that readers will find themselves totally engaged. “While some may question his credentials as a credible chronicler of the occurrences Lomax claims to have witnessed, no one can doubt his abilities as a humorous story-teller of the first rank.”

First Herd to Abilene takes Henry Harrison Lomax from the end of the Civil War to three years past the turn of the century and, as in the earlier volumes, allows Lomax to weave another yarn about his encounters with some of the most memorable characters in the history of the Old West, folks such as James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jessie Chisolm and Joseph G. McCoy.”

It begins with Lomax grousing about his disdain for all Texans, “a breed whose stupidity, greed, and depravity was exceeded only by that of politicians and lawyers.” His bitterness is really the result of a later tragedy, but at the outset of the book he begrudges Texans for making a fortune in the cattle industry while he “received nary a cent for all the hard work I put in and all risks I took to chart the course to Kansas.” Additionally,  Lomax feels slighted by Joseph G. McCoy, the entrepreneur who had the vision of transporting cattle by rail to Easterners starving for beef, but fails to give Lomax recognition and historical credit for being the first to blaze a trail from Texas to the stockyards and railheads in Abilene. That credit went to Jessie Chisolm, “an old coot who never traversed the route from Kansas to South Texas and back.”

It’s this bitterness that sets the tone for probably the most serious storyline of all the books in the series, with much of its 449 pages describing what it was like to be a part of the great cattle drives that defined this era in history. The arduous challenge of herding longhorn cattle over 700 miles from Texas to Kansas required months of backbreaking monotonous work that pitted cattlemen against the elements, disease, wild animals, hostile terrain, Indian attacks, and rustlers. It meant months of breathing in trail dust as well as the foul odors of the livestock, going without much sleep, eating the same food day-in day-out, no gambling or drinking, and very little human contact except between fellow trail riders… all of which grated on nerves and frequently resulted in the deaths of both man and beast. Preston Lewis certainly intersperses Lomax’s typical humor into this portrayal of a cowhand’s life, but he does so in a manner that doesn’t negate or gloss over the difficulties faced along the way.

Besides Lomax and the iconic historical figures mentioned above, Lewis creates a cast of characters that brings these hardships to life. Madlyn Dillon, an artist who has been spoiled and pampered her entire life, but the first Texan, male or female, to take an interest in Lomax and Joseph G. McCoy’s vision. Colonel Saul Dillon, her father. The Texas cattleman puts his trust in Lomax to get his cattle to Kansas and save his ranch. Ruth, orphaned by the Comanche but taken in and employed by Colonel Dillon. She falls in love with Lomax in an ill-fated relationship. Sainty Spencer, the ranch foreman who is sweet on Madlyn, and as trail boss is trusted to bring back the cash from the sale of the cattle in Abilene. Charlie Bitters, the cook, second in importance only to the trail boss, but whose cooking for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War is said to have led to its defeat. Jose Munoz and Pedro Ramirez, Mexican hands that will tend to the remuda during the trail drive. Martin Michaels, a sketch artist on the side and the first cowhand hired, and Tom Errun, an Englishman with no experience pared up with Michaels to lead the herd. Silas Banty, a former slave, who looks to the future with optimism and learns to read from Lomax. Toad Beeline, little understood by his fellow trailhands because he tends to mumble when he speaks. He and Silas are assigned to ride flank. Trent Parsons, a former Confederate soldier wounded at Shiloh who spends his spare time with the Good Book, and Jurdon Mark, an affable sort who excels at the game of marbles, will ride swing. Lastly, Harry Dire, a skilled roper but a malcontent, Chuck Muscher, a Yankee troublemaker, and Bartholomew Henry O’Henry, another former slave angry about his past with a mean streak in him, will all be assigned to ride drag which only adds to their alienation and seditious attitudes. Their actions bode ill for the success of the cattle drive.

Bookending this description of the cattle drive and the fate of these characters is the story of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane told as only H.H. Lomax can, again putting himself right smack dab in the middle of the action over a span of years that begins in Springfield, Missouri and ends on that fateful day in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. But what does a “Rattle Jar,” head lice, an illicit game of poker at the library,  a stolen gold Waltham watch, cherry pie, an impromptu lynching, counterfeit wanted posters, and the “romance” between Wild Bill and Miss Martha Jane Canary and their final resting place  have to do with that narrative? For those insights, you really do need to read the book. In fact, once you do, I highly recommend that you go back and read the entire series. You won’t be disappointed!

Finally, to give a complete review of First Herd to Abilene, I need to mention errors in editing that I had not encountered in Lewis’ previous books. I seldom comment on SPAGs, but readers will undoubtedly come across them in the course of reading the novel. Preston Lewis is a great storyteller and a deserving winner of the Spur Award for western literature, but this book would have benefitted from a final edit before publication.

That said, as someone who once wrote that the “western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media,” I can definitely say that Preston Lewis’ books are the exception, helping keep western literature alive, vibrant, relevant and entertaining.

I received a free copy of First Herd to Abilene in exchange for my honest review.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

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Signed Copies of First Herd to Abilene and Bluster’s Last Stand
2ND PRIZE: 
Signed Copy of First Herd to Abilene
APRIL 28-MAY 8, 2020
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY


OR GO DIRECTLY TO THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

4/28/20
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4/28/20
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4/29/20
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4/30/20
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5/1/20
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5/2/20
Scrapbook Page
5/3/20
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5/4/20
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5/5/20
Author Interview
5/6/20
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For Spacious Skies: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

FOR SPACIOUS SKIES
KATHERINE LEE BATES AND THE INSPIRATION FOR “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”
by
Nancy Churnin
illustrated by Olga Baumert

Picture Book Biography / Women’s Suffrage / Woman Poet
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Date of Publication: April 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 32

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As a little girl growing up during the Civil War, Katharine Lee Bates grew up to become a poet, professor, and social activist. She not only wrote “America the Beautiful” but gave this anthem to America as a gift. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a suffragist who stood up for a woman’s right to vote and lived to cast her ballot in presidential elections, Katharine believed in the power of words to make a difference. In “America the Beautiful,” her vision of the nation as a great family, united from sea to shining sea, continues to uplift and inspire us all.




PRAISE for For Spacious Skies: 
“Churnin tells that story in a spare and lively text beautifully complemented by double-page spreads highlighting Baumert’s gorgeous panoramic illustrations . . . A handsome volume befitting its subject.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“The story ends on a high note in 1920, with Bates casting her ballot after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted voting rights to women . . . The richly colored, nicely composed artwork will help children visualize the period setting while enjoying the portrayals of Bates and beautiful landscapes. A picture-book biography of a notable American.”—Booklist
 
“Nancy Churnin has written a delightful book that helps children understand the many dimensions of my great-aunt Katharine Lee Bates. This book does an excellent job conveying her ardent passion for equal rights and for her country. She was a poet, a professor, and a world traveler, but she was first and foremost a citizen who loved America, in all its beauty and diversity.”—Katharine Lee Holland

 

 

Guest Post by Nancy Churnin

There’s so much confusion and conflict about what patriotism is. One reason I wanted to write about Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote one of our most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful,” is that she goes to the heart of what patriotism truly is. Her scrupulously sculpted words are not just about how beautiful America is, but how beautiful America can be if we crown our good “with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.” To me, that is true patriotism—not just loving your country, but helping your country live up to her ideals of equality and kindness. Katharine was a little girl during the Civil War, when Americans hated and hurt each other during conflict and for years afterward.

A minister’s daughter and fierce advocate for help and support for the poor as well as equal rights for women, she gave the song to America for free, as a gift, hoping to inspire fellow Americans to see themselves as part of one inclusive family. Most people don’t know the name Katharine Lee Bates, and I wanted kids to know the name of this extraordinary woman who refused to accept the limitations that women were given in her time and went on to get an education, become a poet and professor, live an independent life in a world of women, and leave the world a better place.

I am also thrilled to pay tribute to her this year, the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. People have many ways of standing up for equal rights, and those different ways deserve to be acknowledged and honored. Katharine Lee Bates spoke up, but she also relied, more than anything, on the power of her pen.

Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies with a ninth due in 2021. 
 
Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick that will be featured at the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in May. The William Hoy Story, a Texas 2X2 pick, has been on multiple state reading lists. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. 
 
Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master’s from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats. 

Website ║  Blog ║ Facebook  ║ Twitter ║ Instagram

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THREE WINNERS
ONE WINNER receives signed copies of both For Spacious Skies and Beautiful Shades of Brown 
TWO WINNERS each receive a signed copy of For Spacious Skies
April 16-26, 2020

(US only for signed copies; international winners via Book Depository)

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4/16/20
Notable Quotable
4/16/20
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4/17/20
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4/17/20
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4/18/20
Sneak Peek
4/19/20
Author Interview
4/20/20
Review
4/21/20
Playlist
4/21/20
Review
4/22/20
Author Interview
4/23/20
Guest Post
4/23/20
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4/24/20
Deleted Scene
4/25/20
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4/25/20
Review
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Destiny’s Way: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

DESTINY’S WAY
A Novel of the Big Bend
by
Ben H. English
Historical Fiction / Suspense
Publisher: Creative Texts Publishers
Date of Publication: January 18, 2020
Number of Pages: 363
 

Kate Blanchard woke up one morning in a dream home she could no longer afford, with a young son who needed a man’s influence, and not a friend among those who had claimed to be prior to her husband’s mysterious disappearance.

About all she had left was a ramshackle ranch along Terlingua Creek, sitting forlornly in the desolate reaches of the lower Big Bend. It was the only place left she could go. There she finds a home and a presence of something strange yet comforting that she can’t put her finger on or fully understand.

With that ethereal presence comes Solomon Zacatecas, a loner with his own past and a knowledge of her land near uncanny in nature. He helps her when no one else can and is honest when no one else will be, but she suspicions that he is not always completely so.

Yet her quiet, unassuming neighbor proves to be more than capable in whatever situation arises. That includes when standing alone against those who would take everything else that Kate had, including her life as well as her son’s.



PRAISE FOR DESTINY’S WAY:

“This is one of those rare books that you simply can’t put down. Ben English ‘s writing style is pure magic. He really brings this historical fiction book to life. Immediately, you are drawn to the main characters Kate and Solomon and feel as though you are right there next to them, experiencing what they are experiencing. Destiny’s Way is one that would do well on the Silver Screen.”
Catherine Eaves, published author“Ben does a superb job with this book! Excellent characters, true-to-life environment that is part and parcel of the story, twists and turns enough to make you wonder what is going on, and a slice of life down in Big Bend that rings true. That area has historically been full of ‘characters’ throughout its history, and Ben brings those characters into the book, raising the hair on the back of your neck. Highly recommended!”
J. L. Curtis, author of the Grey Man series“Ben, I love how your words and your memories reach out and connect the past with the present and touch so many people along the way. You are the connector! Bravo Zulu, my friend.”
Matt Walter, Museum of the Big Bend Curator

 

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GuestPost

Dreamers and Castaways of the Big Bend

Guest Post by Ben English

image001

“Surrounded by the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert, it also marked the end of the line for the ancient, crumbling remains of the Ouachitas. Even mountains die, given enough time, and the Ouachitas were slowly dissolving away, decaying relics mastered by other ranges that rose up and reached for the heavens hundreds of millions of years later.

This collision with far younger mountains, as well as those of the Sierra Madre Oriental from Old Mexico, made for geological strata and anomalies not found anywhere else on the North American continent. They say that when God finished making the world, He took everything left over and deposited it in the Big Bend. When one took inventory of what was there, that whimsical adage took on a dimensionally larger meaning. For here lay mysteries upon mysteries compounded by time, nature, and human imagination.

Different? Yes, almost in a forbidding way. But this sphinxlike, timeworn place had called out to her with the bewitching song of a desert siren. At first, she had very much been a stranger in a strange land. But here she had stayed and found a temporary home, providing solace for broken dreams and near-broken hearts.”

These are the lines that help introduce the main female character in Destiny’s Way. Kate is a strong-willed woman who has faced a great deal of tragedy and disappointment in her life and coming to the lower Big Bend was her instinct when the world seemed set against her. Or worse, could have cared less.

This country can mend a heart or just as easily break one, some would say the latter comes easier. I have seen it go both ways repeatedly, and often a person has no real idea of their fate until the moment they see sunshine or shipwreck.

It is the land of broken dreams, dotted by the remnants of those dreams going back through the centuries.

And those desert sirens keep singing out, bringing both hope and doom to the castaway dreamers who seek them.

My beautiful picture

“The more she went, the more that ranch and the old headquarters pulled at her heart and spoke to her innermost soul. The thick, stucco-covered adobe walls had seen a lot of days under the West Texas sky. They had sheltered past occupants from the blistering heat of summer, the cold winds of winter, and everything else in between. Now they protected Kate from the increasingly topsy-turvy world outside and gave respite to her loneliness and growing uncertainty.

The discolored tin roof covering those thick walls had done the same. It not only served to shield from the sun but also collected rainwater to supply the cistern out back. The dog-run, now screened in, provided a place for rest when the house itself was too warm for comfort. It was situated to catch the slightest summer breeze, and the wide porches with morning glories spiraling up goat-proof fencing further cooled the desert drafts.”

This excerpt is part of a discourse about an old adobe house that figures prominently in the plot for Destiny’s Way. People have started asking me about that place after reading the book, wanting to know more about it. Like most every other structure or terrain feature mentioned it exists even today, though in a substantially different form.

The photograph was taken by my mother circa 1967, my younger brother Lyndon and I are sitting on a couple of half-broke horses our grandfather gave us. Note the hackamores and the old Texas-style saddles that make up our gear.

This original headquarters, much like the ethereal presences that make up part of the novel, figures large into the background of both photograph and story. We lived in that house when we first came to the ranch and I got to know it well. Many of the incidents involving this place as described in the book actually occurred.

And yes, my entire family considered the house haunted, and for good reason. Yet like the presence described in Destiny’s Way, we also knew it never meant us any real harm.

Destiny’s Way is a work of fiction, but there are many past remembrances captured within its pages.

Ben H. English is an eighth-generation Texan who grew up in the Big Bend. At seventeen he joined the Marines, ultimately becoming a chief scout-sniper as well as a platoon sergeant. Later he worked counterintelligence and traveled to over thirty countries. 
 
At Angelo State University he graduated Magna Cum Laude along with other honors. Afterwards Ben had a career in the Texas Highway Patrol, holding several instructor billets involving firearms, driving, and defensive tactics.
 
His intimate knowledge of what he writes about lends credence and authenticity to his work. Ben knows how it feels to get hit and hit back, or being thirsty, cold, wet, hungry, alone, or exhausted beyond imagination. Finally, he knows of not only being the hunter but also the hunted.
 
Ben and his wife have two sons who both graduated from Annapolis. He still likes nothing better than grabbing a pack and some canteens and heading out to where few others venture.

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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

4/2/20
Guest Post
4/2/20
BONUS Post
4/3/20
Review
4/4/20
Excerpt
4/5/20
Top 15 List
4/6/20
Review
4/7/20
Playlist
The Page Unbound
4/8/20
Review
4/9/20
Author Interview
4/10/20
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4/11/20
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Chasing the White Lion: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Character Interview

CHASING THE WHITE LION
(Talia Inger, Book Two)
by
JAMES R. HANNIBAL
Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Number of Pages: 384

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Cover hi res Chasing the White Lion

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle, and no one escapes unscathed.

WANT TO BE A REAL HERO?

Want to be a real hero? Compassion International, a real organization fighting child poverty, stars in Chasing the White Lion. By giving hope and a sense of identity to these kids, they’re helping families slam the door on human traffickers. A portion of every book sold will go to support Compassion’s work. You can join the fight simply by buying a copy of Chasing the White Lion.

CLICK TO PURCHASE

Character Interview

An interview with stuntman and rumored thief, Michael Finn,

from Chasing the White Lion

By James R. Hannibal

Duxford Airfield

Cambridge, UK

Last week, I caught up with the infamous Aussie Michael Finn at the Flying Legends Air Spectacular in Duxford. Pulling him away from his, shall we say, highly-dedicated local fan club was no easy task, but I wanted to pin him down with a few questions about his past and his recent extracurricular activities. The answers were worth a few scratches.

Read on.

    Q: First, I noticed a big change in your stunt routine. Your signature airshow entrance is a wingsuit drop from an exploding weather balloon. This morning you shocked the crowd with a motorcycle stunt. Explain.

    A: A stuntman must keep things fresh, you know—push the envelope a little farther every season. Last year, I got some backing from a heaps great investor, and I pitched the idea of a drone big enough to carry me and my bike straight to show center. He went all in.

    Q: For a certain percentage of the take, right? I mean, your investor should get a return on his cash.

     A: Defo, mate. He’ll get his money. Always does. But he was an easy sell. He likes to play with drones and motorbikes too, if you catch my drift. We recently did this job in Bangkok. Massive bridge. Railway line running right beside it. The cable supports almost cut me in . . . Well, that’s another story for another day.

   Q: It certainly is. Sounds dangerous—right up your alley. What about loved ones? Any special girl in your life wringing her hands every time you strap on a parachute or pop a wheelie?

     A: There may be a special someone, but her life is as dangerous as mine, so no worries there. The situation is in flux. Right now, we’re struggling to see eye to eye on a few things. Matter o’ fact, let’s change the subject.

     Q: Your love life is off limits. Got it. Okay, let’s return to this mystery investor of yours. According to rumors, international businessman Adam Tyler has hired you and others for contract jobs like the one you mentioned in Bangkok—jobs outside the law. You detractors claim Mr. Tyler is a thief and assassin. They say he should be locked up, and you as well. Your response?

      A: I can neither confirm nor deny any association with this Adam Tyler you speak of. But I’ll tell you what. You come out to Wolf Trap, Virginia and spend a day with my mystery investor and his team. If you don’t think what we do makes the world a better place—refugee kids rescued, warlords disappearing, criminals locked up—then you can write whatever you want about us, expose my boss to the world.

     Q: Deal. Although, I’m not sure he’ll agree. I might cut my losses and steer clear. Might I ask just one follow-up question on this topic before I let you go?

      A: Shoot.

      Q: You mentioned refugee kids. Care to elaborate?

      A: One of our recent excursions may or may not have involved a crime syndicate with its fingers in the human trafficking market. The world needs to know that refugee kids are a prime target for traffickers. Anything our team did to stop this activity and rescue some kids is small potatoes compared to the work of an organization called Compassion International. They are the heroes. My investor calls them God’s special forces. We’re talking unconventional warfare. Compassion attacks from the flank, where the enemy least expects them, by providing hope, care, and a sense of identity. When kids and family’s living in poverty gain hope and self-worth, the doors to human traffickers slam closed. That’s all I’ve got. I’ve gotta run, you know? My fans miss me.

Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

RIO RUIDOSO
Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

 

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

 

Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

RIO RUIDOSO

BY PRESTON LEWIS

As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

 


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Collision of Lies: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review and Giveaway

COLLISION OF LIES
(Detective Amara Alvarez, Book One)
by
TOM THREADGILL
  
Genre: Contemporary Christian Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

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Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

PRAISE FOR COLLISION OF LIES:
Threadgill plunges a detective from the San Antonio Property Crimes Division into a deep-laid plot involving murder, kidnapping, and myriad other crimes above her pay grade.”
— Kirkus Review
 

“I have a new favorite author. Tom Threadgill kept me reading for hours. I didn’t want to put this book down . . . couldn’t put it down. I absolutely adore Amara Alvarez and her relationships with her coworkers, friends, and her iguana! Now I want one. She was a heroine who made me laugh and one I could really relate to. I can think of a few words to describe this book: amazing, incredible, intriguing, mesmerizing, unputdownable. . . I could go on, but I need to stop so I can go buy up the entire backlist of my new favorite author.”  

Lynette Eason, award-winning, bestselling author of the Blue Justice Series
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Review

Four Stars

Author Tom Threadgill’s latest entry into the suspense/thriller genre, Collision of Lies, is set in my home town of San Antonio, Texas. That alone was enough to pull me in! But Threadgill offers so much more than just familiar locales, he’s written an enthralling story of a horrible accident involving a school bus filled with seventeen children all of whom are killed when the bus collides with a fast moving freight train. All the evidence points to an open and shut case. Every investigative agency comes to the same conclusion… a terrible tragedy that results in unimaginable grief by the parents of those unfortunate kids, but nothing that would indicate a crime.

Three years later a text that may have come from one of the deceased children, a note of apology left on the windshield of a car, and a series of seemingly unrelated murders all cause a property crime detective, Amara Alvarez, to reconsider that conclusion. Was everything that law enforcement believes to be true a lie? Her focus should be on a series of burglaries occurring in Leon Valley, but Amara becomes convinced that something is amiss, and she sets out to uncover the truth.

The only thing you can trust is the evidence.

Amara is initially reluctant to get involved. She doesn’t want to give anyone false hope, and should her inquiry result in a media circus, her hopes of one day transferring to Homicide could be crushed forever. But Marisa Reyes is convinced that her son Benjamin is alive, and Amara’s empathy for the grieving mother keeps nagging at her. There are so many plausible scenarios as to what happened, none of which point to kidnapping or murder, but if Mrs. Reyes’ instincts are right, Amara is about to find herself uncovering a conspiracy that could only have been orchestrated at the highest levels.

You’ll see. Everybody lies, either intentionally or because of their skewed point of view. the witnesses. The suspects. Even the victims sometimes. Investigating a murder isn’t like anything else. Every player has their own agenda.

The plot is intricate with twists and turns that will keep the reader engrossed from start to finish. Without giving away too many details, that bus wreck in Cotulla, Texas will lead to international intrigue and cross-border operations to bring Benjamin Reyes home.

Besides the suspense and the intrigue, Threadgill creates characters that are relatable, interesting, and often humorous. Homicide Detective Jeremiah “Starsky” Peckham loves junk food, possibly Amara, and is her contact within the San Antonio Police Department’s Homicide Division. Dr. Douglas Pritchard, the Medical Examiner, is an eccentric who eats cheetos with chopsticks and delivers insights into the origins of oft-repeated phrases at the most inopportune moments. Sara Colby is a Texas Ranger called upon to assist Amara when it becomes apparent that she might be in way over her head, and she just happens to find the ME very alluring in spite of his eccentricities. Wylie Dotson works with Amara in Property Crimes, but when he gets invited to her family’s weekly dinners, she begins to worry about her mother’s attraction to the detective. And then… there’s Larry, Amara’s pet iguana! He is both her companion and sounding board.

When I get stressed, I talk to my iguana.

These relationships bring everything together and propel the story to its exciting conclusion. However, this is only book one with Tom Threadgill providing a sneak peek into the next case for Amara Alvarez.  If it’s anything like Collision of Lies, it’s sure be another mesmerizing reading experience.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tom Threadgill is a full-time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for LPC Books, a division of Iron Stream Media. He lives with his wife in rural Tennessee.
 
 

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Ain’t Nobody Nobody: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

AIN’T NOBODY
NOBODY
by
HEATHER HARPER ELLETT
Genre: Murder Mystery / Southern Noir / Dark Humor
Publisher: Polis Books
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 336
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Named a Best Debut of Fall/Winter 2019 by Library Journal, Ain’t Nobody Nobody is the story of a disgraced East Texas sheriff, his dead best friend’s surly teenage daughter, and a naive ranch hand who find unlikely redemption in a murdered hog hunter on a fence. 
 
Part Breaking Bad and part Faulkner, this tragi-comic mystery is perfect for readers who enjoy dark humor (think Fargo) and like their crime fiction with a literary flare. 
A Best Mystery of 2019 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Five-Stars

Heather Harper Ellett’s debut novel Ain’t Nobody Nobody is a darkly comedic murder mystery set in rural East Texas that takes a uniquely creative and thoroughly engaging approach to themes such as loss, grief, guilt, and redemption.

The characters are richly drawn and, combined with a strong sense of locale, evoke very vivid images of backwoods roads and trails, impoverished small towns, and people, who are neither all good nor bad, but act out of desperation, hopes and dreams, and necessity.

There are numerous plot twists and turns that begin with a dead body draped over a fence line. Who is it, how did it get there, and what happens to it? What secrets, threats, and yes… even opportunities are hidden on this private isolated property? Should friendship and loyalty be allowed to blur the lines between duty and morality? How far should someone go to protect loved ones?  If the chance for a better life included criminal activity, would you do it? The answers to these questions propel the story forward and keep the pages turning.

An unidentified narrator pieces the elements of this mystery together, often interacting with the reader, while feral hogs, common to this part of Texas, are featured throughout the narrative. For anyone unfamiliar with the species these animals will eat anything (including humans), proliferate in spite of hunters, traps, and poisons used to control their numbers, and are highly destructive. In Ain’t Nobody Nobody they’re symbolic of the damage that occurs when lives are shattered by get rich schemes, suicide, murder, and revenge, and the author even uses their image at the beginning of each chapter.

I’ve deliberately not discussed the various players in this story leaving them for the reader to discover. They’re not as numerous as the hogs, but each is intricately woven into Heather Harper Ellett’s first entry into the literary world. It will definitely not be her last!

“Ain’t nobody nobody, I guess.”

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for this review


 

Born and raised in East Texas, Heather Harper Ellett is a graduate of SMU and a therapist in private practice. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

 
 

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Why Stuff Matters: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

WHY STUFF MATTERS
by
JEN WALDO
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212
When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection. 
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants. 
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.
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5128f-review
Five-Stars
     Jen Waldo’s latest novel, Why Stuff Matters, can be enjoyed on so many different levels. Set in Caprock, Texas the story focuses on an antique mall where the antics of the tenants will cause readers to smile while also bringing into focus the human condition and how people deal with aging, death, and abandonment.
    Both the building and the vendors are old. Layers of dust literally coat the shelves and merchandise, while figuratively the same can be said for the people. They’re resistant to change of any kind and will lie, scheme, conspire, and even commit murder to maintain things as they are. That layer of grime not only describes their surroundings, but their lives. They suffer from any number of maladies with almost everyone affected by respiratory ailments because they refuse to clean their stalls or replace the rugs that are so old they’re filthy, bug infested, and moldy. Most of them are involved in some type of nefarious activity vice selling the merchandise in their stalls. In fact, they so over value the items that there is little possibility that a would be buyer will not go elsewhere to make the same purchase. Their connection is not to people but to inanimate objects that should long ago have been, sold, replaced, or junked. Why do they hold onto things that have no intrinsic value and forgo meaningful relationships? Perhaps because everyone eventually dies or moves on leaving them alone with the “stuff” they’ve collected…  the sum total of their lives. They also refuse to consider what happens when they die. They don’t have wills or end-of-life designations; they leave that for others to sort out once they’re gone. Oh, they’ll split the merchandise or share equally in any money left behind by someone else because that’s just the way it’s always been done, but don’t ask them to consider any end-of-life planning for themselves. That requires an emotional attachment beyond just their possessions.
     The person left to sort things out and deal with these cantankerous old folks is Jessica, a grieving widow who has inherited the antique mall when her mother died. Her passing is only a small part of her grief. Parents most certainly die eventually, but the sudden death of her husband and children in an automobile accident has left her with emotions that alter her sense of normalcy and cause her to be complicit in the questionable and criminal activity of her tenants. She is no longer the caring wife, mother, or school teacher that she was before the tragedy. That person is buried underneath overwhelming grief leaving her to normalize immorality. She goes about the day to day requirements of running the business and arbitrating the grievances of her vendors with a detached, no nonsense, matter of fact impatience, yet not only overlooks drug sales and other unscrupulous activities that she’s aware of, but helps dispose of two bodies that the pink-haired, gun-toting Roxie has dispatched over a collection of baseball cards. She’s numb to the murders and lies to the authorities with incredulous yet somehow plausible reasons for their disappearance. She’s lost everything that she’s ever loved and is indifferent to life itself. Can Jessica ever care for anyone or anything ever again? She’s about to find out when her husband’s ex-wife unceremoniously dumps her twelve year old daughter on Jessica’s doorstep.
     Lizzie is the last thing Jessica needs at the moment. She’s been abandoned by a self-absorbed mother, leaving her to fend for herself at a time when she desperately needs a mother’s love and attention. After all, it was her father that also died in that crash. Lizzie needs parental guidance; the one thing that Jessica is unwilling to offer. To compensate, Lizzie begins accumulating stuff of her own. If it isn’t gifted by the vendors, she steals what she wants. She learns about sex by reading lusty pirate and cowboy romances, and takes ridiculous risks to her person by sifting through debris to see if there’s anything of value under the piles of rubble. She deludes herself that her mother is coming back to get her, while Jessica is left to house, clothe, feed and protect her with nothing more than a written consent to get medical treatment in an emergency. Lizzie is a manipulative screwed up teenager who is crying out for inclusion and belonging. She latches onto to Joe, a would be suitor to Jessica and the policeman investigating the missing persons. She also comes to Jessica’s aid when a threat endangers them both. Is there a permanent bond between these three that is in the offing? There’s certainly an evolution to their relationships, but don’t expect any definitive resolution in the end. I got the sense that everything will work out, but fittingly, the author leaves it up to each reader to decide.
     Jen Waldo juxtaposes tragedy and comedy with aplomb. She writes with a wit that captures life’s absurdities and creates locales and characters that will remind you of other small towns and individuals you’ve known. Some scenes will cause readers to suspend disbelief, some will cause them to laugh, some to question why people do what they do. All will leave them thinking about the vagaries of life and what they might do under similar circumstances.
     I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 

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