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Archive for March, 2008

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The Book:

Under the orders of French Emperor Napoleon III, French troops arrive in Mexico in 1861 with a dual purpose: to conquer Mexico and to help the Confederacy win its war against the United States. As President Benito Juárez suspends payment of Mexico’s foreign debts, the French drop their façade of debt negotiations and head for Puebla, where they are soundly defeated in their attempt to capture the city.

The French withdraw from their stunning setback and spend the summer of 1862 nursing their wounds and awaiting reinforcements in Orizaba. This gives the Mexicans ample time to highly fortify Puebla against a future attack. During the spring of 1863, French troops head for Puebla and Mexico City in what they hope will be a pair of easy victories.

Juárez and his government flee Mexico City rather than trying to defend the capital against overwhelming odds. The French make their grand entrance and immediately encounter problems with the Catholic Church. Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, asked by the French to become emperor of Mexico, will not accept the throne without a “popular” vote from the people.

When the American Civil War ends in 1865, generals and high-ranking officials from the former Confederate government drift into Mexico. General Ulysses S. Grant’s U.S. Army is now free to stage maneuvers along the border, setting off panic in Mexico City and Paris. Grant’s move prompts Napoleon III to cut his losses and pull his troops out. Now, it’s only a matter of time before Mexican forces retake the country …

The Author:

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Don Miles has been News Director for radio stations in New York City, (WPAT,) Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska and finally Texas. He has won “Best Newscast” award from the Nebraska A.P. Broadcasters and his news teams in Florida and Nebraska have won numerous statewide awards. Don has served on the Board of Directors for Florida’s AP Broadcasters and has judged broadcast news contests for UPI Rhode Island. Don has taught at the Universities of Florida and Nebraska, at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and at elementary schools in New York, Connecticut, and Texas.

He is the author of two books in the field of broadcast news, (Broadcast News Handbook and Broadcast Newswriting Stylebook.) He has a Bachelors in Education from State University of New York and a Masters in Journalism and Communications from the University of Florida.

Don’s inspiration for the book came mainly from his late wife, Dr. Minerva González-Angulo Miles. Minerva grew up in the neighborhood at the base of Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City, where the Emperor Maximilian’s castle still stands. She would often visit the castle and view the portrait of the emperor and empress whose story is featured in this book.

Don and Minerva traveled extensively throughout Mexico, and over the past few years visited many libraries and bookstores there in the research for this book. They also spent many hours in the stacks at the Benson Latin American Library at the University of Texas in Austin, which is widely recognized as the premier source for information on this topic. They also paid several visits to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. to photocopy various U.S. government documents pertaining to the Mexican situation during the 1860’s.

Don has written and produced plays and slide shows about Cinco de Mayo for elementary students, teachers and parents.

Visit his website.

The Excerpt:

Excerpt From Cinco De Mayo
Chap. 14 – Foreign Legionnaires
Fight to the Death

The Legend of Camarón

Running out of ammunition at the wrong time had also raised General Forey’s anxiety level. Forey realized that his entire operation would be at risk if he couldn’t provide his troops with food and ammunition. The commander-in-chief had already detached extra troops from Puebla to guard the wagon trains, but now the bandidos and guerillas had dramatically stepped up their attacks on the convoys.

Forey called on the French Foreign Legion. They had just arrived in Veracruz.

They were approaching the little village of Camarón (which means shrimp in Spanish.) For a number of years it was called Villa Tejeda, but the name was changed again to “Camarón de Tejeda,” by which it is known today. The few authors who have written about it in English refer to it as “Camerone,” which is very close to how it’s pronounced in Spanish.

The legion had first seen action in the French conquest of Algeria in 1831. After serving during the Spanish Civil War in 1835, it was stationed in North Africa. Now, on the morning of April 30, 1863, the legion’s Third Company, under Captain Jean Danjou, was escorting a very important convoy from Veracruz. The wagons were bearing ammunition, artillery, food, provisions, and – most critically – three million French francs in gold to pay the troops at Puebla.

Danjou’s group consisted of sixty-four battle-hardened legion veterans: Germans, Swiss, Belgians, Danes, Italians, and Spaniards, in addition to the native Frenchmen. They feared nothing. They had taken the legion’s oath never to surrender.

Stalking the convoy was a Mexican force of somewhere between twelve hundred and eighteen hundred men, depending on whose account you choose to believe, led by a Colonel Francisco de P. Milán. Regular French troops were guarding the convoy itself, but Captain Danjou’s contingent was marching some distance ahead to search for possible assailants waiting in ambush. The legion officers normally in charge of this unit were hospitalized with yellow fever, so Danjou, along with second lieutenants Napoleón Vilain and Clement Maudet, had volunteered to lead this detail.

They had passed through Camarón at about 6:30 in the morning and were cooking breakfast near a location called Palo Verde at 7:00, when one of their sentinels spotted a dust cloud behind them. That could only mean one thing: a lot of people moving rapidly on horseback. They quickly put out their fires and raced toward Camarón, not stopping to retrieve their canteens of fresh water from the pack mules. At Camarón, they encountered several hundred Mexicans who were poised to attack the caravan, and the shooting began.

The convoy was alerted and reversed direction, successfully escaping the ambush, but the legionnaires’ pack mules also panicked and fled at the sound of gunfire, taking all the water and extra ammunition with them. By 8:00 in the morning, a few of the legionnaires had already been wounded.Danjou ordered his unit to take cover in a barn, but the Mexicans lost no time in taking over the huge farmhouse nearby, firing down at the besieged legionnaires from upper-story windows.

Mexican Colonel Milán realized that cavalry wouldn’t be of much help in taking the barn, so he started to surround it with infantry troops. After a few hours, nothing much had changed. The colonel found a Mexican officer of French heritage among his ranks, and he sent Captain Ramón Lainé with a white flag of truce to see if they could negotiate a surrender.

It didn’t work.

Captain Danjou said his legionnaires had plenty of ammunition, and that they’d keep on fighting.

By now, the Mexicans had surrounded the barn and were firing from all sides. It was a hot day, and the legionnaires inside were just discovering that the only canteens they had were filled with wine, not water, because the pack mules had run away with the water as the fighting started. It was going to be a long afternoon.

Although the Mexicans had obvious superiority in numbers, the legionnaires had the upper hand in training and firepower. Most of the Mexicans were of the “national guard” variety. They had left their farms and small businesses just days earlier to help defend their country, while the legionnaires were well accustomed to the sound of gunfire and highly experienced in the art of war. The Mexicans had ball-and-musket rifles, which gave off so much smoke that at times they couldn’t see what they were shooting at. The legionnaires were firing percussion-driven cylinders with pointed tips, known as “bullets,” and they could see exactly where they were aiming.

In spite of all their technical superiority, the legionnaires were fighting a losing battle. Captain Danjou and Lieutenant Vilain were both dead before noon, and the command fell to Lieutenant Maudet for the rest of the afternoon. Inside the barn, things were going from bad to worse. Ammunition was running out, and the extra supply had vanished with the pack mules. The Mexicans
kept charging the barn, and although they were driven back, they were killing another legionnaire or two each time. By 5:00 PM, the legionnaires had already stripped whatever ammunition was left from the bodies of their dead comrades.

The Mexicans knew they had won, but they also knew that the remaining legionnaires intended to fight to the death. They set fire to some straw and threw it into the barn, hoping to bring the matter to a close. The legionnaires just stamped out the burning straw and continued firing through the smoke.

By 6:00 PM, only Maudet and four of his legionnaires were still alive. Each man had only one round of ammunition left. The lieutenant had a decision to make.

“Reload,” he ordered. “Then fire on my command and follow me. We’ll finish this with our bayonets.”

It was going to be a suicide charge.

The Mexican commander, Colonel Milán, ordered his troops to cease fire. All five legionnaires were captured after some brief hand-to-hand fighting, but Lieutenant Maudet and one of his men died of their wounds within a short time. The remaining three were hospitalized, along with the Mexican wounded.

The French later returned to put up a monument at the scene of the battle. For many years, members of the French Foreign Legion have returned each April 30 to what is now called “Camarón de Tejeda” to honor the courage of their fallen heroes. The encounter still stands as the worst defeat in legion history.

CINCO DE MAYO is available from Amazon and B&N in both hardback and paperback.

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The Book:

In 1815 England, an exiled Frenchwoman, Gabrielle de Monserrat, begins a memoir of her days before and during the French Revolution. Gabrielle, the youngest daughter of a family of the impoverished nobility, recalls her journey through hardships and betrayals by three men in her life.

A girl of quiet strength and startling beauty, a widow at seventeen with a young daughter, Gabrielle is released into the world of Paris nobility. Determined and inquisitive, with little money and few prospects, she strives to find her own freedom. Around her, the French people attempt to build a utopia based on the ideals of liberty and equality. Differing currents of thought clash over the fate of a nation as the Revolution takes an ever more violent turn. Yet Gabrielle survives, maintaining her humanity and sense of decency. On occasion, she glimpses her first love as he ascends from obscure patriot to one of the most passionate architects of the new order. At last she reaches for him and an impossible happiness.

As Gabrielle writes on, twenty years later, political events again overtake her and she realizes that her tale is far more than an evocation of the past. It is the truth she owes her children.

Watch the promotional book video for Catherine Delors’ new historical fiction novel, MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION

The Author:

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Catherine Delors was born and raised in France. She graduated from the University of Paris-Sorbonne School of Law and became a member of the Bar of Paris at the age of twenty-one.

She moved to the United States after her marriage and passed the California Bar. She worked at a few large law firms, then, after the birth of her son, set up a solo practice. She now splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris.

She is currently working on a second novel, a historical thriller about a terrorist attack in 1800 Paris, at the beginning of Bonaparte’s reign.

Visit her website.

The Excerpt:

London, this 25th of January 1815.

I read this morning in the papers that the corpses of the late King and Queen of France, by order of their brother, the restored Louis the Eighteenth, were exhumed from their grave in the former graveyard of La Madeleine, which has since become a private garden. The remains were removed with royal honours to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the resting place of the Kings and Queens of France for twelve centuries.

Queen Marie-Antoinette was found soon after the workmen began digging, and the remains of King Louis the Sixteenth were located the next day. A search for the bones of the King’s youngest sister, Madame Elisabeth, was also conducted at the cemetery of Les Errancis. The guillotine had filled La Madeleine by the spring of 1794, and the authorities had opened the new graveyard to accommodate its increasing output. That second investigation was unsuccessful. While the King and Queen had each been granted an individual execution and a coffin, Madame Elisabeth had been guillotined towards the end of the Terror as one in a cart of twenty-five prisoners. The remains had been thrown together into a common grave. The bodies, as required by law, had been stripped of all clothing, which, along with their other property, was forfeited to the Nation upon the imposition of the death sentence. Any identification would have become impossible very soon after the burial. Nevertheless, I trust that God will overlook the lack of proper funeral rites, which were denied to many in those days.

Other victims of the guillotine, some of whom I knew and loved, also remain buried at La Madeleine and Les Errancis, royalists and revolutionaries alike, commingled for all eternity in their unmarked graves.

These tidings from Paris have affected my spirits today. I never cry any more, yet feel tears choking me. I know that I must not allow myself this indulgence, for it is far easier to keep from crying than to quit. Nevertheless, over twenty years have passed since the great Revolution, and it is time for me at last to exhume my own dead and attempt to revive them, however feebly, under my pen.

Some of the events related here are now known only to me, and possibly my daughter. I am not aware of the extent of her recollection, because, out of shyness or shame, or a desire not to acknowledge to each other the shared sorrows of the past, we have never talked about those things since our arrival in England in 1794. She was a child then, and may not have understood or remembered much of what she saw or heard. It causes me pain to recall those events, and still more to write about them, but secrecy has been a heavy burden.

Mistress of the Revolution is available from Amazon, B&N, and from all brick and mortar bookstores.

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In this interview, author and former news director Don Miles talks about his latest book, Cinco de Mayo–a date most often misunderstood in the US. Don talks about his inspiration for the book and his struggle in finding the right publisher.

When did you decide to become an author?  Do you have another job besides writing? 

Believe it or not, I’m supposed to be “retired.”  I’ve written all my books so far because there was a  problem to be solved in each case and few or no books on how to solve them. As a news director in the late 1960’s I got tired of writing memos to my reporters and anchors in radio newsrooms, so I came out with a book called Broadcast News Handbook.  As a professor at the University of Florida in the 1970’s, I had 65 undergraduates in the newsroom and no style book, so I wrote one for them.

Tell us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story. 

Cinco de Mayo means “the fifth of May,” and this latest book was triggered when the principal at an elementary school where I was teaching in Texas told the whole school on the P.A. system that May fifth was Mexican Independence Day. Well, no it’s not – it’s September 16th – so I went to her office to say that, and her attitude was “We’ve always taught it that way, so don’t make trouble.” I looked in libraries, bookstores – all over the place – for a book that would prove her wrong, but there was nothing in print for adults. There are 56 children’s books on the market, and almost all of them have the French army show up and lose the battle, but then when you turn the page it says something like, “Now, here’s how to make a piñata for your classroom party!” That’s when I said to myself, “Somebody’s got to write this book.” So, here we are!

My real inspiration in this case was a smiling young señorita from Mexico City who came up to me in the cafeteria at college and said, “Hi, I’m one of the foreign students. May I sit here?” Well, sure, it’s the cafeteria, right? To make a long story short, we got married and we traveled all over Mexico for  more than 40 years. I didn’t have a book in mind for at least the first 35 years, but when I told her what the principal had said to me, we started scouring the stacks of libraries in Texas, Washington-DC, Mexico City, Veracruz, Orizaba, Puebla, – you name it. Yes, I had to write an outline. There was a lot of information in more than 100 books, some of them dating back to the late 18-hundreds, so an outline was the best way to sort it all out. It took me five years to write it.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity? 

Writer’s block?  Not really.  As I said, my motivation has always been, “Somebody’s gotta write this,” so when I commit to the topic, the whole project sort of gains a life of its own, like a runaway train. I’ll admit to you, though, that I wrote a complete novel about Cinco de Mayo before I wrote the non-fiction book that’s been published. As I resumed sending the manuscript for the novel around, a reviewer said that one of my characters was “flat,” meaning that she was just “there” in every scene but didn’t do much. After a few days, I had her kidnapped by a serial killer, but that’s as close as I’ve ever come to  writer’s block. Even then, the delay was because I was busy with other stuff and had deliberately set the manuscript aside.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one? 

My advice would be, “Keep your day job.”  I was rejected by 44 agents over more than a year of sending out queries for the novel, but when one of them wrote on the rejection slip, “I’d like to see a non-fiction version of this,” I immediately got in touch with him and he took me on. Even he couldn’t find me a traditional publisher, though, so I finally laid out my own money and went with a subsidy publisher. At least we were talking about a real book, not just an idea or a manuscript. I’m about ready to upgrade from there, and I’ll have two editions in Spanish coming out in ’09, with maps and charts and a lot of nice color graphics.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? 

I have one of the best publicists in the business, and together we’ve spent the past year researching that very question. I told a panel at “Book Expo America” in New York last summer that my best responses were coming from libraries, museums and the field of education, but I said that Barnes & Noble, Borders and the other major book stores were not putting it on their shelves. One of the panel members told me how to solve the problem. He said, “Just change the title to The Secret Diary of Anna Nicole Smith!”  Oh, sure. On the other hand, I addressed a faculty gathering at the University of Texas     on May 4th, the night before Cinco de Mayo, and the very next day I sold 19 books at Book People, the state’s largest independent bookstore, a few blocks away. Unless you’re already famous, you’re going to be in a “learning process” when the book comes out. You have to be flexible and patient.

What is your favorite book of all time? Why? 

Oh, I’d have to say  Three Cups of Tea,  by Greg Mortenson.  He’s a mountain-climber, and when he failed to make it to the top of one of the world’s toughest peaks known as “K-2,” he wound up in a little village in Pakistan. They were extremely poor, but since they had treated him with such warmth and kindness, he promised that he would come back and build a school for them. Well, this is way up in the Karakoram mountains, where the Taliban got its start. This is the story of how he not only went back and built a school, but in the next ten years he built 55 of them. It’s a really fine example of      Americans at their best, and a relief from all the “negatives” we hear in the news lately.

Do you have a website or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work? 

I’m  so  glad you asked!   It’s only a website right now, but I hope to add a blog within the year. It’s simply  www.DonMiles.com.

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects? 

I’m expecting to have the two Spanish editions out sometime next year – one for students taking Spanish and the other for Latin America. Then, there’s the novel which has been on the back burner for a few years, which will come out in both English and Spanish, and I’m going to be in Mexico a number of times before this year is out – recording some DVD’s – for a documentary, for some visuals that Spanish and History teachers can use, for promotional purposes, and some of my friends and family members are mulling over the possibility of a movie. We’ll see. It’s fun dreaming about it.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work? 

Oh, just that a very supportive family has been the foundation of everything I’ve achieved. My wife – that señorita I told you about – became a United States citizen and earned a bachelor's, a master's and a P-H-D, and taught at several universities. The book is dedicated to her. She died in 2006, but lived long enough not only to see both our daughter and son graduate from college and get married, but to see our daughter become a helicopter pilot and our son work at the White House.

Our daughter is now retired from the military, and our son is now the National Security Council Director for Canada and Mexico. I’m very proud of each of them, and very grateful for the enabling role that all of them have played in my life.  I might not have ever written a book without them.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here. 

You’re very welcome! Thanks for having me.

 

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To promote the release of her first book, Mistress of the Revolution, historical novelist Catherine Delors is touring the blogosphere this month. She was kind enough to give me some of her time and answer my questions. It's a pleasure to have her here on The Dark Phantom today.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

I didn’t really “decide” to become an author. That would have been too intimidating. But, after much hesitation, I tried my hand at a few chapters. I had friends read them to see if my English was good enough. They said it was, so I began stitching those chapters into a narrative.

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Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was a voracious reader. I remember going to the library as a kid and panicking at the idea that soon I would have read everything in there, and would be left with nothing to do!

There were books I used to read many, many times as a child. The Odyssey, Don Quixote, the Arabian Nights, Perrault’s Fairytales, Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet. The wonderful thing about these books is that they can be read by adults and children alike. They delve so deep into the human soul that their appeal is universal.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The idea came from a conversation I had with my late father about the name of a street in Vic, the little mountain town where I had spent all of my summers as a child. It was named, my father said, after Pierre-André Coffinhal, Vice President of the Revolutionary Tribunal. I knew nothing of that character, though the street itself had always been familiar to me.

So I began to look into Coffinhal’s life, and I found a perfect novel character.

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How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I am not an outline type of person. For Mistress of the Revolution, I didn’t even know what the story would be like when I started. I knew that Coffinhal would appear in the novel. I also knew that the narrator would be a noblewoman and she would write from exile in England. That was it. The rest came along the way. So I guess I fall into the “stream of consciousness” category.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

The idea for Mistress of the Revolution came in late 2004. I was mostly done writing by the summer of 2005, but events in my personal life overtook me. I completely quit writing for six months and did not resume work on the novel until early 2006. I completed the first draft of my manuscript by the spring of 2006, edited it until July, found my agent in August, edited again at her request until November. The deal was done by Thanksgiving 2006.

So let’s say that it took me about two years from first idea to finding a publisher, minus a six month hiatus.

Describe your working environment.

As a writer? That’s easy. Picture my bed, me sitting up in it with a laptop.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Discipline sounds scary. Fortunately I don’t need discipline to write. It comes to me, and I don’t have much of a choice.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No, I have never experienced writer’s block. As I was telling you, I quit writing for six months, simply because for a while I had lost any sense of hope or purpose. It all came back by itself as soon as I regained control. Living, watching other people live is enough to prompt me to write.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

Sometimes dialog doesn’t sound right. I write it anyway and let it sit until the next day. Then I take a fresh look at it and edit it. And it repeat a few times until it flows naturally.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

The tough part was finding an agent. I faced a lot of rejection at that stage. Once I began working with Stephanie Cabot, my agent, everything became very fast and easy. She managed to get competing bids from three major publishers in a matter of days after submitting. She is great, and I am lucky.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

It is still too early to tell what works best, but I am a firm believer in the power of the internet. Much of my book promotion is focused on blogs and social networks geared towards book lovers.

Who are your favorite authors? Why?

In addition to the authors I loved as a child, and still love today, I am a great admirer of Jane Austen, and also the Victorians: Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Trollope. And the great Americans: Poe, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Styron.
On the French side, my favorite authors are Flaubert, Maupassant (especially Bel Ami), Balzac. On the Russian side, I favor Dostoevsky, Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn.
What attracts me to these writers? They make me laugh, cry, think. I am heartbroken when I finish one of their books, because I would want it to go on forever.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I didn’t receive any advice until while I was writing. I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business, and didn’t visit websites for writers until after the book was completed. I was such an innocent that I didn’t even know that there were any such places.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I would love your readers to visit my website and my blog.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I just completed my second novel, also a historical set in Paris. It is now in the capable hands of Julie Doughty, my editor at Dutton.

I have plans for a third novel, of course, but they are so ambitious that I am a bit too shy to talk about them yet. And I also have a prequel to Mistress of the Revolution in mind.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

I was able to complete something I love, something that has brought me great joys, and now I am going to share it with others! It is almost too good to be true.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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Roadworks
By Gerard Readett
Writers Exchange E-Publishing
ISBN: 1876962771
Copyright 2001
International Thriller/Futuristic
Author’s Website

If you like international thrillers about terrorism, you may consider getting a copy of Readett’s novel, Roadworks.

The setting: Brussels, Belgium
The year: 2022

What if all transportation in the city—rail, road, underground—abruptly comes to a standstill? What if a bomb is placed in each hotel where a head of state is staying, as well as in buildings nearby? What if a terrorist group demands the greatest humanitarian aid package the world has ever seen?

This is the scenario in Roadworks. Thus comes the protagonist, Hugh Ryan, a Transport Authority controller who has recently lost his wife and who tries to come up with a plan to outwit the African terrorist leader. The web of intrigue is pushed deeper by a man named Wellens, a crime lord who originally was helping the Africans but whose devious plans have taken another cunning path.

Why is vital information leaking out of the Transport Authority? Who are the spies? As tension and chaos escalate and time runs out, Hugh must unravel the mystery in order to bring order to the city and save innocent lives.

The book is tightly packed and moves at a quick pace, with the author relying mostly in clear-cut dialogue and short action narrative to propel the feeling of suspense. The scenario is realistic and Readett does a fairly good job in describing what Brussels would be like in the future. The novel is plot driven rather than character driven with the main story taking place in less than twenty four hours, adding to the tension as the reader can’t help wonder what’s going to happen next.
The only aspect of this book I didn’t like was the tiny print; even with glasses it was a strain on my eyes. Also, I feel the quality of the writing deserved a better cover. All in all, this is a well-written, entertaining novel that most readers of the genre will enjoy.

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The Darkest Evening of the Year
By Dean Koontz
Bantam
978-0-553-80482-9
Copyright December 2007
Supernatural Thriller/General Fiction
www.deankoontz.com

Who would come up with the idea of writing a horror novel with a sweet golden retriever as one of its main protagonists? Dean Koontz does it, and marvelously well he does.

Amy Redwing lives for her goldens, those she owns and those she rescues from abusive homes. Her life, especially her past, is shrouded in mystery, a fact that makes her even more appealing to her boyfriend, architect Brian McCarthy. Brian has something in common with Amy, and it isn’t only a kind heart; he’s also haunted by a troubled past.

On one of her rescue missions, Amy boldly risks her life to save a female golden from a violent, alcoholic owner. That there’s something very odd and peculiar about this particular golden soon becomes evident. Amy instantly bonds with the creature and decides to adopt her.

Soon after Amy adopts the golden, Brian experiences a series of uncanny, paranormal incidents. At the same time, Amy realizes someone is after her, watching her every move… and this someone means her and her golden harm.

How are Amy’s and Brian’s past connected to the golden? Who is watching them and why does the person—or persons—mean them harm?

This is one of those books that not only entertain, but that strikes the reader at a deeper, more basic human level. Not easily forgotten, the story exemplifies Koontz’s most powerful skill as a horror writer: to remind us the reality of good and evil—not only the presence of evil in the world, but also of the redeeming power of goodness. Koontz’s writing style is beautiful and evocative. His author omniscient’s observations are a delight more than an intrusion.

The Darkest Evening of the Year will be relished by fans of paranormal thrillers. For lovers of golden retrievers, as I am, this will be a particularly rewarding read.

–Dark Phantom

*This review originally appeared on Armchair Interviews

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The Author:

I have been writing for almost fifteen years. I wrote 4 horrid novels when I was younger…until someone asked me why I didn’t write cop stories, since I had been one way back in the dark ages. I fought that urge, not being a mystery reader at the time and because police work was not a match for me. Instead, I took my Masters in English to education and I have been a teacher for the majority of my life. I prefer to touch young lives rather than arrest them. Nonetheless, one day, Delta Stevens sprang into my head, as well as my heart, and so I wrote. And wrote. And the next thing I knew…there she was, and there a publisher was, and there was the beginning of my writing career and my love of the irascible Delta Stevens. Like a love affair that sneaks up on you, Delta and her cast of characters came into my life, changing me forever. Perhaps it was Delta, maybe it was writing itself, but my life transformed dramatically.

Pulishers have come and gone as the industry has changed dramatically. With Borders and Barnes and Nobles pushing out the smaller bookstores, smaller presses went with them…and so ended my publishers and Delta.

But I kept on writing…and now, I have 6 novels in a variety of genres ready to go…if only I could find an agent!

To learn more about Linda, visit her website.

Read my interview with Linda at Blogcritics Magazine.

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The Book:

Jessie Ferguson’s life is going nowhere. She’s tried drugs, alcohol—and even sex, to fill the emptiness and void that has no name. But nothing seems to quench the dull ache that visits her each night. Then when Jessie moves into a restored Victorian Bed and Breakfast, all of that changes the instant she hears a call from the past.

A call from her past.

A past life two thousand years ago from a place she knows nothing of, from a woman she’s seen only in her dreams. It is a past that needs her, a past that has burst through the boundaries of time in order to ask for her help.

If you believe in soul mates… if you just know you’ve had a past life… if you’ve ever wondered who you might have been long ago and who you might have loved, then join Jessie in the first of a series of adventures that takes her Across Time.

Read my interview with Linda Kay Silva at Blogcritics Magazine.

Purchase the book here.

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ISBN-10: 1-55404-538-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-55404-538-9
Genre: Science Fiction – Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 411 Pages
Published: January 2008
Imprint: Double Dragon Publishing

The Blurb:

Follow Gisel Matah and the thunder of hooves as she strikes back at the Imperial armies that threaten all she has worked for. She must defy every established world power to bring justice to common peasants and workers in societies now ruled by greedy aristocrats. Her covert activities require her to protect her fledgling Radical movement from both friends and enemies.

Risking her life and her love, Gisel negotiates even greater hazards in a wide ranging adventure. Her partner, Yohan Felger, becomes a problem when the Baron has him smuggle a steam engine to the Empire. Gisel knows of the subterfuge but cannot admit it, while Yohan is almost torn apart by the need to deceive her. Faced with removing the pressure on Yohan as he moves his contraband engine, she accepts the offer of General Lord Ricart, an ex-lover, to command a cavalry unit in battle. Her reckless courage is needed to carry out missions against two Imperial armies.

The fight finds her opposed by ever increasing odds until in the final confrontation she must outwit two enemies who vie to dominate Iskander. New friends, allies, and enemies as well as all the old ones fill the pages when Gisel Matah sets out to gain “The Wildcat’s Victory”.

The Author:

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I live with my wife, Shirley, and two shelter dogs, Coco and Emmie, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. As a lad I lived, breathed, and dreamed aeroplanes; I won a place at RAE Farnborough learning to engineer them. But the reality didn’t fit my dream, so I took off into a stint in the army and then away to join the oil circus. Flying objects are tools when they now appear in my writing. I guess that’s the effect of maturity, but I hope, not a constricted, resigned, and unimaginative maturity. The mind still soars, even without wings, and the dream of carrying others to a better future is now on the page.

Some readers comment that none of my stories take place next door to the lives most people live; the less charitable find similarity in characters who tend to be stubborn, independent, and out of step with the world’s expectations. Perhaps there’s a connection between the worlds I portray in fiction, and my working life in oil exploration in the Libyan Desert, the Canadian Arctic, and the mountains and forests of Western Canada.

I’ve written stories set in Anglo-Saxon Britain, in modern industrial projects, in the alternate world of Gaia, and the fantasy world of Rast. Sometimes I satirize jobs I’ve done. Many of my central characters are smart, beautiful, and dangerous women who lead unwilling males to fulfil the duties before them. Lt. Gisel Matah in Deadly Enterprise is perhaps the most Bond-like of these. I like writing novels about realities my readers can enjoy in the guise of dashing adventurers; loyal comrades; lovers; or pledged sovereigns. I hope they find there the spark that brings them to realize greater dreams of their own.

You can also visit me and my author friends at www.novelpro.com

The Excerpt:

Prologue

Robert Matah looked up from the keyboard when he heard a warning chime transmitted from somewhere in the bowels of the starship Iskander. A caution signal – with the overhaul of the Intruder complete, the workers were clearing the hangar in preparation for a launch.

He stared at the viewport across the empty control room. Below the starship’s stationary orbit the distant globe of Gaia shone like a turquoise jewel in full sunlight. It looked a lot like his Earth, but with a few big differences – no signs of space traffic, no huge grey blotches of cities, no Twenty-second Century bustle. This Earth was primitive, a world cast back in time — the nearest guess they’d been able to make suggested five hundred years back. Nothing but sailing ships and cannon here, until his father got the steelworks and factories going.

Robert hated visiting the surface, resented losing the sophistication and stimulation of the world he’d grown up in. He and his sister, Gisel, had come along with their father on a mission to develop industry and resource extraction for a new colony called N-3 in their own galaxy. Intended as a ten-year stint, they’d go home with enough salary banked to set up any career they desired. Instead, they’d wound up here — another Earth, but one with a different history. Five goddam years wasted so far! Somehow the Iskander had jumped right out of their own reality and wound up in something he’d believed was only a wild theory — an alternate universe.

He glanced at the Situation Screen, almost the only instrument in the control room they hadn’t transported down to their base on the surface. It showed a map of the world, oh so similar to the map of home, but with enough differences in place names and coastlines to make it foreign.

He’d built up the map with individual strips of spectroscopic imagery from the low orbit satellite system he had charge of. The Intruder would launch one more of the satellites on its way down to the surface. One more with imaging capability as well as communications and navigation systems — all brought from Earth to be used around N-3. Hope those folks were okay without them. He’d had to calculate an orbit that would allow this satellite to keep checking on a huge army headed their way from the Skathian heartland.

More goddamn trouble, it looked like — as if they hadn’t enough. Gisel, the crazy one of the family, lapped this world up. Who would have thought the gawky little gymnast kid would blossom into their best agent, and damn-near best officer too? He had to admire her, if only begrudgingly. She’d switched from competition gymnastics to foils when she hit thirteen. Talk about landing in a pile of gold dust. Turned out, swordsmanship was the one damned thing they’d needed to make their way when they arrived. She’d been every crew member’s instructor. If you could carry a rapier, and at least keep from getting spitted, you were counted a gentleman among the locals. Lady? Not so sure, but Gisel carved her own way. Status was everything — too bad he couldn’t even draw steel without damn-near cutting his own fingers off.

He stared down at the jumble of numbers on his computer screen, that he’d hoped would show how they’d wound up here. Another false trail — nothing here to explain the jump out of their own universe. Best he get back to his other priority project. He was debugging the routine he’d written to decipher the Trigon Empire’s primitive radio messages they’d intercepted. It had to be in some language nobody had heard of. If only he had the key to it.

President Scopes — plain old Dirk Scopes, intended to be N-3’s administrator five years ago — had given him the task of piecing together all the data they’d gathered on the mysterious rulers of the Empire. He was damned certain the Trigons were also off-worlders who had wound up stranded on Gaia as well. Hardly anyone believed him, except Gisel. She’d sent him an account of an empire based around the Mediterranean, that the Trigons had conquered two hundred years ago.

That empire had probably descended from the Carthaginians — seemed there’d never been a Roman Empire here, nor any of the institutions that had grown out of it. Nobody knew where the Trigons had come from, but rumors of some weapon called the Sky Thunder abounded. A spaceship? If it was, it seems it had crapped out in the intervening years; the Trigon Empire now enjoyed the same technology any other Seventeenth Century nation would have — except for their analog radio.

The Emperor and his Trigon cohorts ruled this Empire with a heavy hand. They allowed no one to make a voyage of exploration or invent anything — not even a mousetrap — without Imperial say-so. Until the Iskander arrived.

As a team of resource scientists and engineers sent to develop the technical infrastructure on N-3, it had been a foregone conclusion they’d set themselves up to do the same here. They’d landed in Sweden — called Tarnland on Gaia — and intervened in a war of independence to ingratiate themselves with the Autarch and his nobles. Now his father, Henrik Matah PhD PEng, ran a modern steelworks and factory complex — well almost modern. The Old Man had decided on a gradual development in order to train the locals to carry on the Iskander legacy. These people could learn steam engines and iron founding; whereas semiconductors, nuclear physics, and bioengineering were right out of everyone’s league. Damned hard to find enough of these dumb Gaians who could learn to swing a wrench without stripping every thread in sight. And even half the Iskanders were lost in anything more complex than matrix algebra.

So the Empire was out to get them. Gisel had experienced trouble with some heavy called Zagdorf, and the Imperial army had intervened in the war Iskander was helping its Tarnland ally win. Whomped the bastards at sea, though. The Empire ships were small sailing ships armed with a mess of mismatched cannon, so Father’s updated warships from the Napoleonic era had swept them from the Inland Sea. Baltic, that was. Yeah, sailing ships — all the locals knew, except for the few steamships Iskander and the Felger Partnership had put to sea in the past eighteen months.

In the past year they’d made a big jump in production, now they had the Felger family enterprise to help move the products of Iskander factories. The Felgers were locals who owned the biggest trading, banking, and mining business in European Gaia. Gisel had been instrumental in getting the family on their side, probably because she could twist the Baron and his nephew Yohan around her little finger. Yohan was her new lover, the third she’d had since hitting the planet, and she insisted she was going to marry this one. She’d said that before. Good luck to the girl. She certainly carried more than her share of the load down there on the surface.

The warning chime came again; that meant the Intruder was about to launch. He’d better get back to work and quit staring out at Gaia floating amid the stars. With only six people who could work on the space plane, out of a hundred off-worlders, it had taken two months to complete a thousand-hour overhaul. Intruder was their lifeline, the shuttle between the Iskander in its stationary orbit and the surface. He hated the surface, so why did he feel so claustrophobic whenever Intruder left? If anything happened to it, he’d be even more stranded than his sister below, immersed in Gaian society.

Iskander had no fuel to move out of orbit, and couldn’t enter the atmosphere. Father had said it would take at least ten years to build and send a rocket up from the surface — and he had no people to spare to work on such a project. Every person they had was stretched to the limit keeping what infrastructure they already possessed working. With only a hundred people trying to make over the whole world, they hit their heads against a wall as often as they made a breakthrough. Every small movement was a victory.

Get your copy from Double Dragon Publishing.

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For over 30 years Jim Hardt, PhD has been studying the electrophysiological basis of spiritual states. He has traveled to India to study advanced Yogis, studied Zen meditators and Zen masters, and explored Christian prayer and contemplation.

Jim began studying consciousness at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center while earning a Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University. He discovered the link between brain wave patterns and peak performance. And he learned how people can take charge of their brain waves: with just the right feedback mechanism, they can create joy-producing and creativity-enhancing alpha waves.

Thousands of people, from Zen masters to Green Beret commandos to scientists and students and children and parents and grandparents, have joined Biocybernaut programs to achieve spiritual growth, emotional healing and peak performance, including boosting IQ and creativity.

You can visit his website at http://www.theartofsmartthinkingbook.com/.

The Blurb:

How would you like to access all of your brain’s innate capacity to learn, invent, create and solve problems? Would it improve your life if you could think more clearly, access your intuition, reduce stress and anxiety, and prevent your brain from aging? We’ve all heard that we use only a tiny percentage of our brain s natural capacity. If you’ve ever wondered why, The Art of Smart Thinking will provide some answers and solutions.

Every experience you have is the result of certain brain waves. Unfortunately, most of us are only accessing two of our four brain waves, and the two left out, Alpha and Theta, are actually the most important for exceptional creativity and intelligence!

You can learn to produce these two types of brain waves on command, which will allow you to:

Restore your youthful brain wave patterns

Enhance your creativity, empathy and problem-solving ability

Improve your personal relationships

Reduce your feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and depression

Enhance your special skills and abilities

Achieve physical and mental peak performance states The Zone

Improve your mental clarity and memory

*******

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Aaron Lazar is the author of the Legarde and Moore mystery series. He’s currently promoting the release of his latest novel, Tremolo: Cry of the Loon.
Nice to have you here, Aaron. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

Thank you, Mayra. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’d love to tell you about Tremolo and the inspiration behind it. Here’s a blurb that describes this coming-of-age mystery featuring young Gus LeGarde:

Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, takes place in the summer of 1964, when Beatlemania hits the States, and the world mourns the loss of JFK. For eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde, the powerful events that rocked the nation serve as a backdrop for the most challenging summer of his life.

After Gus and his best friends capsize their boat at his grandparents’ lakeside camp, they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the foggy Maine woods. She’s scared. She’s hurt. And she disappears.

The camp is thrown into turmoil as the frantic search for Sharon begins. Reports of stolen relics arise, including a church bell cast by Paul Revere. When Gus and his friends stumble on a scepter that may be part of the spoils, they become targets for the evil lurking around the lake. Will they find Sharon before the villain does? And how can Gus — armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle — survive the menacing attacks on his life?

I wrote Tremolo for myself, first of all, and intended it to be the “quintessential joyful shout of childhood,” so-to-speak. I know that sounds strange and possibly selfish, but I was compelled to write it. My summers in Maine were so magical, so precious, that I needed to capture each and every memory. The drive was strong — impossible to ignore.

It just so happened that I’d already referred to these magical summers in my first two books in the adult Gus LeGarde series, so Gus fit right into the camp. I loved picturing him as a young boy with Elsbeth (his future wife) and Siegfried (before his debilitating accident). What fun it was to introduce Gus’s parents and grandparents, who are distant memories in Double Forte’ and Upstaged. And being able to present Elsbeth as a living, breathing girl, rather than a mournful memory, was most satisfying.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

I wrote the first draft of Tremolo in about three months, working about two hours per day. Years later, I did add a chapter or two in during revisions, but mostly the edits were writing style changes and tips I’d picked up since writing the draft. It just poured out of me, no outline was written, nor did I have a list of events that would happen in upcoming chapters. I had vague ideas of themes that would come into play — such as meeting a mysterious famous figure, Gus’s first crush, the blueberry scene, the missing girl, etc. But I hadn’t put it together in any logical form. It just tumbled out, as most of my twelve books have done.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Once in a while I get stuck on a scene. It just doesn’t seem to come as freely as it should. One thing that doesn’t work is to just sit and stare at the screen! That’s useless, in my case. So I snap my laptop shut and let my brain recharge. I stop what I’m doing and go about living life for a while. I take long walks, play with my grandkids, visit friends, cook great feasts, take photos, and garden. After a few days I usually find the creative juices rejuvenated and the ideas spring forth.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

This is a tough question. It all depends on what intended market for which one writes. If you want to be successful financially, independently able to support yourself on your writings, and known globally, you need a hell of an agent and a big publisher with deep pockets. Of course, on top of that, you need to write a book that will sell hundreds of thousands and propel you to the top of your field, lots of luck, and good timing. If you’re happy with moderate sales and local success, you will do well with a small press or independent publisher. And if you just want to hold your book in your hand and have it available for friends, family, or a narrow niche market, you can do well with a POD publisher. I’m quite happy right now with Twilight Times Books — it’s an excellent traditional press with a great reputation and a dynamic owner.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

I’ve done well with local book clubs, book sales events (like at local wineries!), word of mouth, and Internet efforts. I love Gather.com, and have earned many wonderful readers on that site. I do blog and have an extensive list of email recipients who receive the LeGarde newsletter. (If anyone’s interested in receiving it, please email me at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com)

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

I know it sounds like a copout, but I really have too many from which to choose. Some of my all time favorites include works by John D. McDonald, James Patterson, Dick Francis, Clive Cussler, Laurie King, Lillian Jackson Braun, Rex Stout, Peter Mayle, Tony Hillerman, Dean Koontz, SW Vaughn, Lesia Valentine, Marta Stephens, Patry Francis, Beryl Singleton Bissell, Bob Burdick, and Lad Moore. Recently I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. What I love about all of these writers is their ability to transport me to their worlds — seamlessly. I love mysteries most of all, and find them most satisfying when they’re done well.

I can tell you my favorite movie of all time, however… without a doubt, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird!

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Indeed, I do! Folks may stop by at http://legardemysteries.com to learn about the nine LeGarde mysteries that are in various stages of publishing. Also, they may visit http://mooremysteries.com to get to know Sam Moore and the three green marble mysteries that have been completed so far.

Do you have another novel in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects.

Yes, I’d love to tell you all about the books that are already in print and those coming.

LeGarde Mysteries by Aaron Paul Lazar

Double Forté is a chilling mystery set in the Genesee Valley in Upstate NY. When Gus discovers a child shackled to a bedpost in a remote cabin, an ex-cop gone bad terrorizes his family from the wintry woods. Packed with memorable characters, hair-raising chase scenes, and touching family moments, it’s a solid page-turner. ISBN: 9781413728385 Available Now

Upstaged, features a disturbed stage mother, a deviant predator, and a twisted saboteur who lurks backstage, terrorizing the drama club with deadly, psychotic games. Lush, vibrant, and delicious. A feast for the senses that will leave you breathless! ISBN: 9781413772586 Available Now

Tremolo: cry of the loon, the prequel to Double Forté, features eleven-year-old Gus, Elsbeth, and Siegfried in a stirring and nostalgic trip back to the summer of 1964. Gus’s first crush, the potential birth of a new sibling, a murderous lakeside camper, and a mysterious high profile guest vie for top billing. ISBN: 1933353082 Available Now

Mazurka, a contemporary mystery set against the dazzling backdrop of Europe, follows newlyweds Gus and Camille LeGarde as they chase down a family secret with the potential to change history. When Gus’ brother-in-law is framed for the murder of a Nazi, the couple is plunged into a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are lethal and the future of Europe hangs in the balance. June, 2008

Firesong: an unholy grave, pits Gus and Camille against drug lords with a backdrop of a tornado, forest fire, collapsing salt mine, and the discovery of a fantastic local link to the Underground Railroad. The entire town is threatened as Gus and Camille unravel the truth behind reprehensible dealings in their country church and the scandal of a missing town supervisor.

Virtuoso spirits Gus into the world of art forgeries and teenage traumas. A deadly but talented tenor takes the family to New York City for a near-death escape at the Met and a chase through Central Park. In this story, Gus reconnects with an old friend who shares a stunning secret as he struggles to recover from the loss of a long time companion. Gus and Camille discover a tie to the past via his great, great aunt, Emma Cunningham.

Portamento takes place in 1969 when Elsbeth and Gus were students at the New England Conservatory. White slave rings, an engaging flower child, the Boston Rock scene, and the titillating reckless abandon of the sixties set the stage for Gus’s sudden need to grow up fast for the sake of his grief-stricken father and impending fatherhood.

Counterpoint showcases Gus’s friend, Officer Joe Russell, and the return of Camille’s abusive ex-husband, Greg. As Joe slowly loses his mind, Greg slithers back into Camille’s life, absconding with daughter, Shelby. Gus needs Joe’s help to rescue his newly adopted daughter and struggles to save both from fates most deadly.

In Lady Blues: forget-me-not, Gus LeGarde unravels twin mysteries of an abused Korean seamstress and a 1940s jazz ingénue whose pianist lover disappeared overseas on the same night Glen Miller’s plane was lost in English Channel. Gus helps an Alzheimer’s patient reclaim his identity, while dodging a drug company who will silence any witness to keep the truth of their breakthrough Alzheimer’s treatment under wraps.

Introducing Moore Mysteries:

In Healey’s Cave, sixty-two-year old retired family doctor Sam Moore still mourns the loss of his little brother, who disappeared fifty years ago. While working in his garden, he discovers a marble that glows green and warms to his touch. Sam is whisked back and forth through time as he untangles the mystery of Billy’s disappearance. With the support of his wife, Rachel, who suffers from MS, he fights to prevent the murder of his grandson by a serial killer who has engaged in ghastly murders for five decades. 2008

In One Potato, Blue Potato something is seriously wrong when the Moore’s daughter Beth goes missing. Meanwhile, a bomb explodes in the back of Yasir Khoury’s Dry Cleaners, escalating fears of terrorism and anti-Iraqi bigotry. As Sam fights the tide that threatens to sweep his daughter away, the green marble thrusts him between past and present, revealing a shocking link between Beth and the terrorists.

For Keeps: In the third Sam Moore mystery, Sam’s old girlfriend shows up dead, inciting suspicions about his involvement and the coroner, a med school colleague whose husband is about to leave her, reveals she has a crush on Sam. When she is murdered in her own morgue, Sam is once again in the hot seat. A member of Sam’s own family is brutally killed, and he is locked in a psyche ward until he reconnects with his talisman, the green marble. His goal: to change time, and bring his loved one back to life.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thank you, Mayra, for the invitation. It was an honor!

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