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Benjamin’s Field Trilogy
By: J.J. Knights

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

BF1Book One: Rescue

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

Benjamin’s Field: Rescue’ has been awarded a five-star review by the literary site ‘Reader’s Favorite’ (readersfavorite.com).

Benjamin’s Field follows a rural farm family over the course of sixty years from the viewpoint of the youngest member, Jeremy Kyner. Beginning with America’s entry into World War I, Jeremy and his family are followed through war, peace, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, and final happiness as the reader examines the role of family loyalty versus individual need, personal liberty and how it relates to society’s demands, religious prejudice, racism, intolerance, the role of charity, and the overwhelming need for humans to forgive one another. While still in manuscript form, Benjamin’s Field, Book One, Rescue, was advanced to the “Best Sellers Chart” of the peer review website YouWriteOn.com. In Book One, “Rescue,” a widowed farmer suffers an unspeakable loss during World War I. Burdened with grief, he learns from his nemesis, a dogmatic Catholic priest, that his son’s fiance has given birth to their crippled child. Unable to cope with the child’s deformity and confounded by his illegitimate birth, the farmer is battered by those closest to him with accusations of cruelty and intolerance until he finally reveals his true feelings and the reasons underlying his apparent bigotry. Set in a historical context, Benjamin’s Field is a compelling story about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving tale will take the reader on an emotional and sometimes humorous journey.”

 

BF2Book Two: Ascent

In Book Two, “Ascent,” Jeremy Kyner, now a teenaged boy, becomes the focus of his teacher’s animosity because of his infirmity. With the help of two dedicated school friends and an unconventional Jewish blacksmith, he takes to the sky, defeating his teacher’s plans to institutionalize him and forcing her to divulge her own, dark, secret.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving story will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

 

 

 

BF3Book Three: Emancipation

Book Three, “Emancipation,” opens as America is on the cusp of World War II. Jeremy Kyner, now a man, is barred from military service at a time when America is almost defenseless against marauding German submarines. Finally joining a group of volunteer civilian pilots that represents the country’s best hope to counter the Germans, Jeremy confronts a deadly enemy from an unexpected quarter and is offered a chance of achieving final emancipation.

 

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving novel will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

 

 

 

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Author Infojj


J. Knights is a retired FBI Special Agent. His assignments included violent crimes and fugitives, property crimes, civil rights investigations, and foreign counterintelligence. He was a surveillance pilot, SWAT sniper, media representative, and worked in the FBI’s technical investigations program. Knights also volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol pilot, squadron commander and public information officer. He is an emeritus member of the Imperial Public Relations Committee of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children. A native of New England, Knights resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with his wife and honeybees. He has authored several published articles on law enforcement recruiting. Benjamin’s Field is his first novel.

 

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

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DSC_0962Joan Schweighardt is the author of several novels. In addition to her own projects, she writes, ghostwrites and edits for private and corporate clients.

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Twitter: @joanschwei

About the Book:

Two threads are woven together in The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue. Lovers of history and fantasy alike will find realism and legend at work in this tale.

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: The book is about a Burgundian noblewoman in 450 a.d. who goes to the City of Attila to give Attila what she believes to be a cursed sword. There are two threads throughout the book, one describing what happens to her in the City of Attila and one illuminating the reasons she went there in the first place.

Q: What do you think makes a good historical novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: My publisher is calling The Last Wife of Attila the Hun a “literary historical novel,” because every book that gets published has to have some genre classification and literary historical comes the closest. However, the book doesn’t fit neatly into that category. I researched two bodies of materials to write The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. I thoroughly researched Attila, not only regarding his life in his “city” but his relationship with the emperors of the eastern and western Roman empires during the very intriguing historical period in which the story is set. But I also researched Nordic legends that concerned the Burgundian tribes, some of whom seem to have had unfortunate dealings with Attila. I like to say the book is a “historical novel with a strong legendary component,” or “a novel based on legend within a solid historical setting.” I would say any book in this same unnamed genre should be well researched and should balance its influences so that the strands flow together and the world the writer creates feels believable.

JS_TLWATH_cover_thumb-1Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: Since I was drawing on legend and history, the main plot points were there for the taking. But it was still no piece of cake. I had to fill in lots of gaps. Also, when I wrote the first draft it was in chronological order, which meant that the legendary stuff was for the most part in the first half of the book and the historical stuff was in the second. That didn’t work at all. I had to find a way to weave the legendary and historical stuff together, and that took several more drafts.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: I got my protagonist from the legendary material, not the historical. Very little is known about the “personality” of the last wife of Attila. We only know that at some point near the end of his life Attila married a Germanic woman. I identified this Germanic woman as the Gudrun from the legends. The legends provided elements for the motivation and the plot I would develop to get her from A to B to C, but they still left me short when it came to her personality, who she was as a woman. That just kind of developed over time as I worked on each draft. The story is written in first person, which helps a lot with character development.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: The history books I researched had all kinds of interesting information about Attila. The Huns and Germanic people didn’t write back then, so most of the stories about Attila came from Roman historians. But, as ruler of half the known world and a man who felt his calling was to take over the other half, Attila was a hot topic among Roman historians, and I got some really juicy tidbits about his behavior, his relationships with his sons, his relationships with his various wives, his beliefs, his superstitions and of course his battles. A lot of this information found its way into the book. Even if a reader doesn’t care for the legendary stuff, they will walk away knowing a heck of a lot about the true historic Attila.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Unlike other novels, where I’ve had to really focus on plot, here I had to focus on what I should leave out of the plot so that the story would not become “congested.”

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Again, a lot of it was there for me. There are descriptions of the great City of Attila in history books, so I was able to draw on that. The other main setting in the book is a rather dilapidated castle in a rural area of Europe in 450 a.d. I did research to figure out what life would be like in such a place, how people would bathe, how they would eat, what the inside of their dwellings would look like, etc.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I knew what themes were of interest to me when I started, but the great thing about fiction is that when you get done you see that there are other themes that worked their way in, things you didn’t really intend. The writer Susan Sontag once said she wrote to find out what she was thinking. I think this is what she was talking about.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: If I never edited my work it would all be garbage. I can’t speak for other people, but for me craft is essential. Also, I have a few friends who are not only wonderful writers but also very honest in their critiques. I ask them to read early drafts of my work. When you get caught up in the day to day of writing a novel, you can take a wrong turn or get sidetracked by a really boring subplot. My three favorite fellow writers are all really different in their approach to writing. So once they each give me feedback, I feel I have the best possible picture of the weaknesses in my work and I can go back to the drawing board assured that the next draft will be better.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: I am always surprised by the number of writers who don’t want to go back and polish. Maybe some are geniuses and they don’t have to. But most writers will find that it is impossible to write a really good book without going back over it a number of times. During the first draft you may want to concern yourself mostly with plot. The next draft you may want to work more on character development. The next one you may want to just go through and make sure your characters motivations are clear and setting descriptions are solid. Sometimes in my work I make assumptions about motivation; I think because I know why a character is doing something other people will know too. This is one of those areas where the help of other writers/readers has been invaluable to me. So, the three things I believe most writers need to be successful are: draft one, draft two, draft three (and drafts four and five can’t

hurt either).

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Most people would agree that “homework” connotes a task that is given to you by someone other than yourself for the purpose of ascertaining that you’ve learned certain lessons. Writing a book, on the other hand, is a task you’ve generated for yourself, for the purpose of telling a story that is important to you for one reason or another.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Again, what I’ve found most helpful is insights from fellow writers. These days there are all kind of websites that provide help to writers too. Savvy Authors is one of my favorites, but there are plenty of others. There’s no shortage of ideas out there about how to do anything, whether it’s writing a book or changing out a toilet.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: A lot of young writers who start out writing short stories with the hope that they will write longer works in the future get bogged down by the idea of taking on a huge project. I would like to say to them, Why not try your hand at writing a novel based on history or legend? Maybe you have a time period that interests you, and you can develop it and then tell a story on top of it, so to speak. Or maybe there is a historical character that you’d like to develop a setting around. Or maybe there is a myth or legend that you’d like to bring into modern times. Jane Smiley took the story of King Lear, which is of course best known as a Shakespearian play, and made it her own in her novel A Thousand Acres. What’s really interesting to me is that Shakespeare borrowed his King Lear from a Celtic legend, and the legend likely had some foundation in history.

The other thing I’d like to say is, These are hard times to be a writer. It’s very hard to get published, and even if you do get published, it’s very hard to spread the word about your book, unless you are published by one of a handful of big publishers with money to throw at your work or you have zillions of followers on social media. But there are many other reasons to write besides the remote possibility of making a lot of money. Every book is a journey; it is an opportunity to explore another world, as well as your own mind. Every book will change you in some way.

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florenceFlorence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch, on a farm, and traveled with her military family. After earning a PhD, she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written seven historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs and horses, and great-souled friends with good conversation. Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

About the Book:

Dolet depicts the life and times of Etienne Dolet. Etienne, who told the bald truth to friend and foe alike, angered the city authorities in sixteenth-century Toulouse, fled to Lyon, and became a publisher of innovative works on language, history, and theology. His foes framed him; he was persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately executed by the Inquisition for daring to publish the Bible in French translation.

What readers are saying:

“[Dolet]  …I read it all with pleasure, and delighted to see names that I have known for some time coming alive as “characters,” albeit fictitious ones. I especially liked the way in which you brought out the sense of community, of being a band of brothers that so many of those amazing people shared.”
~ Kenneth Lloyd-Jones, Professor, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

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Dolet_medINTERVIEW

What’s inside the mind of an author of historical fiction?

Two things. Her doctoral dissertation was on François Rabelais, a sixteenth-century comedic and satirical writer. In doing that, she became familiar with the dominant French literary and political figures of the century, their folkways and thought processes. She has written three historical novels, including the current novel, Dolet. The other branch of her historical novels concerns what we now call the Southwest—in other words her home territory, which she loves. She understands the people, knows the landscape, fauna and flora, and the psychology of her people. She has written about the founding of the five old Franciscan missions located in and around San Antonio (Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross), about the second expedition up the Rio Grande from Mexico (New Spain) in 1581 (Seven Cities of Mud), four mysteries starring a Jesuit missionary as detective (a historical person named Ignaz Pfefferkorn, S.J.) two set in the Sonora Desert, one in Spain and one in Germany. The outlier, Anselm, a Metamorphosis, is a fantasy set in upstate New York, where she lived and taught for 28 years. With Dolet, she returns to her beloved field as a scholar and professor, and attempts to reinstate Etienne Dolet among the great thinkers and writers of the 16th century in France.

What is so great about being an author?

The author is the god of his or her universe. This is truer if one is not bound by historical facts, but even if he or she is, the author still gets to imagine what happens in the gaps between those facts. Authorship transports the person—especially if the book is set in a foreign country at a different time—into another environment, with different folkways, politics, expectations, landscape, weather—in short, another universe. If, like author Weinberg, the writer aspires to write accurate historical fiction, it gives the opportunity to do research and to discover hitherto unknown facts. She has sorted through musty old documents in Mexico, in Spain: Madrid, Seville, Ciudad Rodrigo, and in Germany: Cologne, Unkel, Mannheim, Siegburg, Kiel and Düsseldorf. All her historical books (until this one) have appendices in which she clarifies what is fact and what fiction. The greatest thing about being an author is the joy of creation. The sense of elation when words are flowing effortlessly onto the page has no equal. This book calls itself a “nonfiction novel,” and since it endeavors to recreate true facts and situations, thre is no need for a historical appendix.

When do you hate it?

When words do not flow effortlessly onto the page. When the plot doesn’t work; the time sequences don’t match historical fact, but especially when interest in the chosen subject fades, and writing becomes a bore and a chore. This has happened rarely, but it has happened.

What is a regular writing day like for you? 

If I’m lucky, I have long periods when I can devote myself to writing. If I am enjoying what I am working on, those periods are joyful. However, most days are interrupted by phone calls, visiting friends, doctor or other appointments, and other duties. Then, I have to fit my writing in and around an obstacle course. If I am particularly excited about what I’m writing, I will devote my late evening (say 10:30ff) to writing and continue into the wee hours, up to 2:00, rarely to 3:00 AM. I always rise at 8:00 AM and sometimes, when necessary, earlier, so a 2:00 or a 3:00 AM night causes hardship the next day.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?  

Some do, some don’t. Egos vary with success, I think. I belong to a literary critique group, and we keep each other informed of our successes and our difficulties. We always help each other if possible, and we know each other quite well. But personalities and egos, obviously, differ. We have one member who has had to drop out of the group and move elsewhere, but who is quite successful, writing middle-school-age books. She has even had a TV film made based on one of them. She is still the same person—no inflated ego. One is writing creative nonfiction with much success. Maybe a flash of ego here and there, but mainly under control. Another is coming out with a new book this fall, her first, and still another has published with a small press about early 20th-century Texas. Two others are self-published with modest success, and I have published quite a bit with modest success. All in all, no inflated egos in sight.

How do you handle negative reviews?

My first reaction is hurt and disappointment. Then, if the reviewer has seen real flaws, I try to learn from it and avoid them in future. If the review was—objectively speaking—unjust, I feel anger. This is especially so if the negative reviewer has clearly not read the book, but publishes the negative review in a prominent journal or paper. I will grouse about it to my friends for a short time, and then let it go. Life’s too short to dwell on little bumps in the road.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author? 

Usually they express enough interest that I can hand them a bookmark with a tiny reproduction of my cover illustration and a blurb with my URL. Once they have that in hand (or those—I carry bookmarks for all my books in my purse), they are willing to engage in conversation about my books. I have rarely met a person who brushes me off. It happens only very occasionally.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break? 

I take a break. I enjoy walking or hiking, and sometimes take day trips to interesting places near San Antonio. This doesn’t happen often, because I do work out for an hour in the Olympic Gym three times a week and walk for an hour on the other days. That normally keeps my writing juices flowing.

Any writing quirks? 

Probably that I am willing to go to great lengths to research my topic before I write. I have delayed starting a novel for up to a year while building a firm foundation for my leap into prose. This has been especially true for the book I am now working on. I have spent weeks reading books on the subject and going through documents in the Alamo Historical Archive. Most authors probably don’t feel the obligation to go to such lengths.

Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result? 

Yes. Never blind drunk, obviously. The effect is that inhibitions are gone and the imagination is often freed to take flights it might not when sober. On the whole, I found that good ideas and good writing can result. I don’t do this often, however, since I don’t want to tip over into alcoholism!

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby? 

I’m in constant fear that the IRS will see my writing career as a hobby! I have had recent experience of a colleague from my days as professor, who spoke slightingly of my pulp fiction. I engaged him in a conversation about the issues raised by some of my books, and by the end of that he apologized for not taking me seriously. I have no idea what he really says behind my back, however.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Not really. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I hear often about the “agony of writing” from authors with sterling reputations, but I have never found it so, and I thank God that my chosen occupation doesn’t make me suffer!

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money? 

No, since writing is a joy in itself for me. On the other hand, a little cash beyond my retirement annuity would be most welcome!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Write every day if possible. Set up specific times and a designated place that you can devote entirely to your writing. Know roughly what your plot is, but don’t outline, since your characters need the freedom to tell you where to go next. Edit your writing the morning after, then continue writing. Show your writing to friends and take their suggestions seriously. Join a critique group if possible. Once you are finished, let a couple of friends read your book. You’ll be amazed at the typos, syntactical snarls, and perhaps logical snafus they will find. Then re-edit. Most of all, enjoy what you’re doing, else you won’t carry through to the end.

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EXCERPT FROM BROKEN
by Traci L. Slatton (Parvati Press, 2014)

I am walking home in a cold dark night that follows a frigid winter of snowy, hopeless, dark nights. I am hurrying to arrive before the midnight curfew. It has been a little over eight months since the Germans marched in, and I am used to the curfew and restrictions, the bullying and the bureaucracy, the heavy, ominous feeling of being about to do something egregious for which I will be caught and cruelly punished. After a few moments, I grow aware of footsteps keeping pace with mine, like an acoustic shadow. I can feel a presence, a mind, a few minds, at my back. I am being followed.

I walk into La Coupole, to the bar. It is crowded with Germans, some in uniform, many not; they sit at tables with members of French society who are willing to socialize with them, and they stand around the bar, offering cigarettes and wine to French women. There is a band playing Beethoven, Wagner, and Bach.

“May I buy you champagne, Mademoiselle?” asks a young officer in very bad French. He is tall and broad-shouldered and blond of course, wearing the uniform of the Schutzstaffel.

“No, she is leaving,” says another soldier, tall and as slim as an adolescent. It is young Fritz, the guard from Knochen’s office, which is now at rue des Saussaies. Fritz is accompanied by another boyish German.

The first soldier chides him cheerfully in German, but Fritz shakes his head. He takes my arm, positioning himself between me and the back of the restaurant, blocking a specific line of sight. “He is here,” Fritz whispers into my ear. He angles his shoulder down, and I peer over it to see Knochen at a table with several conservative members of the French upper crust. They are jolly and well lubricated.

A strangled sound escapes me of its own volition.

Fritz jostles me ahead of him and out the door. His friend follows us and calls to him. Fritz leaves me and goes to speak to the other boy, leaning close, nearlycheek to cheek, and patting his shoulder. The other boy frowns but returns to the restaurant. Fritz rejoins me, and his young face is completely bland and unexpressive, like a doll’s ceramic head.

“Why is he here, just to amuse himself?” I ask breathlessly.

“No.He has a deeper motivation, as always. There is endless politicking about who will police Paris, the army or the Party,” Fritz tells me. “He has come up with a strategy whereby he frequents the Parisian salons and socializes with receptive members of the French elite. He is cultured you know, so they like him. He insinuates himself into their lives as a means of gaining information and control. He hopes to rise above the other would-be police chiefs that way.”

“I’m glad he didn’t see me.”

Fritz nods. “Are you going home? Shall I walk you there? It’s close to curfew, but no one will hassle you if you’re with me.”

“Thank you.” I don’t tell him that I was being followed. “You’ve been kind to me, Fritz. I am grateful.”

“I would hate for my sister to meet someone like Knochen,” he says, his baby face souring, as if he had sucked something tart and spoiled.

“Where is your sister?” I tilt my head in the direction of my street.

He nods and his face clears. “She is in our hometown, Amberg. In Bavaria. We have a small farm, and she helps our mother work it. I did, too, until I joined the army.”

“Your father isn’t around?”

“Died ten years ago. He was injured at Verdun and was never good afterward.” Fritz shrugs.

“I’m sorry.”

“He would have hated this, after his service to the Fatherland, what Hitler has done to Germany,” he confides in a low voice. He looks around to make sure we are alone on the street. It is an executable offense to speak aloud what he does. But he is heard only by the posters urging the French to volunteer for work in Germany.

“There must be many Germans who feel that way,” I answer, just as softly. I gesture for us to walk up rue du Montparnasse….

“They tell us to feel no pity for Jews. They tell us to feel no human mercy,” Fritz says in a voice of quiet anger. “I think such commands are inhuman. My father was the gentlest man I ever met. He showed pity and mercy for everyone, even for animals on our farm. He once nursed one of our horses for three days without sleeping through a bad bout of colic. When the depression took everything from everyone, he gave food to people who needed it. He used to read to me about Saint Francis who told us to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord showed mercy to tax collectors, prostitutes, and Samaritans. As He was tortured and crucified, He said, ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.’ If we’re supposed to be like Him, doesn’t that mean we’re supposed to show mercy to everyone, too?”

I stop and slowly turn to face Fritz. “Yes. Jesus of Nazareth embodied mercy.”

“So why do the clergy watch Jews being led away, and say, ‘There go the Christ killers’?” Fritz bursts out, louder than he anticipated. He cranes his head around again, making sure we are alone. “They know, everyone knows, what is being done to Jews! And it will only get worse.”

 
 
SYNOPSIS
 
Power is pornographic.
Can love sustain light when the forces of evil close in?
Paris, 1939-1942. A fallen angel is trapped in the web of German Occupation. The deadly noose of Nazi control grows ever tighter, ensnaring her and two of her lovers, a bullfighter and a musician working in the fledgling Resistance. Can she save them and the Jewish widow and her child that she has come to love, or will betrayal take them all?
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The Author
Traci’s  Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia, and the award-winning, internationally published

author of books of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. She is also the founder of Parvati Press, an independent press which was recently recognized by the IRS as a

501(c ) (3) not-for-profit corporation.

She lives in Manhattan and her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel IMMORTAL, which was published around the world and achieved bestseller status in Italy, Russia, and Brazil. BROKEN tells the sensual, heart-rending story of a fallen angel in occupied Paris from 1939-1942. Her novel THE BOTTICELLI AFFAIR is a contemporary romp through the art history byways of vampire lore. Her novelFALLEN is the first of the acclaimed romantic After Series set during the end times. Its sequel COLD LIGHT and Book 3 FAR SHORE further the dystopian tale. The quirky, bittersweet sci fi love story THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE seeks to answer the question: What worlds would you move for your soulmate?

DANCING IN THE TABERNACLE is her first book of poetry; PIERCING TIME & SPACE is a non-fiction look at the meeting of science and spirit. THE ART OF LIFE is a photo-essay of sculpture history and philosophy written with her husband Sabin Howard, whose work is also showcased.

 
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J. Boyce GleasonWith an AB degree in history from Dartmouth College, J. Boyce Gleason brings a strong understanding of what events shaped the past and when, but writes historical-fiction to discover why. Gleason lives in Virginia with his wife Mary Margaret. They have three sons.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Visit his website at www.jboycegleason.com.

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I would say I was born a storyteller. I have always loved the power of a good story and the art of telling it well. Writing is a craft I have been working on my whole life. (Hopefully, I am getting better as I go). Having said that, there are times that words just pour onto the page for me Anvil of Godand others where I can sit back and watch the characters steal away the story.

What was your inspiration for Anvil of God?

Originally, I planned to write about Charlemagne. I took a class in college with a history professor named Charles Wood, who was one of the foremost historians of his day. We studied Charlemagne and I became fascinated by the epic poem The Song of Roland. It reminded me of Homer’s Illiad and I always imagined that when I got around to it, I would write a novel about it.

When I started to do the research, however, I kept looking for a place to start the story. I kept moving further and further back in time to find where the story really begins. I ended up two generations earlier, riveted by the story of Charles the Hammer’s daughter, Trudi, fleeing her father’s court in the dead of night to pursue love amongst his enemies. It was the scandal of the 8th century.

Eventually, I’ll get to Charlemagne.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Religious conflict, family loyalty, and the consequences of the choices we make are all central themes of Anvil. The religious conflict of the time is very much like what we grapple with today on the world stage. How does that conflict manifest itself? Do the choices we make on the battlefield, compromise our morality and belie our faith? In Anvil, I try very hard to ensure that there are no “evil” characters. There are only characters who make choices that are evil.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Three years, off and on.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m disciplined once I’m writing. I find writing very intimidating and look for every excuse I can find to avoid it. Once I’m sitting in the chair, however, it’s a great ride. When I get into a rhythm, I’ll get up, go for a run with my wife, have breakfast and then sit down to write. I’ll draft for three or four hours and then break for Vienna Fingers and coffee. I’ll sit down to edit for another hour or two, always leaving something to edit for the following morning. I usually put in five to six days a week writing (again, once I get started).

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Convincing myself I had something worthwhile to say. Writing is, in and of itself, an act of hubris. It assumes you have something new or different or important to convey that others will be interested in reading. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. I also found it difficult to convince all those around me that this was more than just a hobby to me. Saying you are “writing a novel” is like saying, “I’m cutting a hit record.” People just roll their eyes until you’ve completed it. Then they take you seriously.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love it when my work resonates with people. I love it when my characters become real to them and they celebrate their successes and grieve with their losses. The greatest complement I’ve gotten for Anvil is the constant harassment I get from readers demanding Book II. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I’m hoping my decision to self-publish Anvil of God will attract a mainstream agent and publisher. It’s hard to break into the field and I felt if I just could put a copy of Anvil in people’s hands, they would see how great a story it is and why it should be in bookstores everywhere.

The book has received a lot of favorable attention. It’s gotten a “starred review” from Publishers Weekly, a “highly recommended” review from the Historical Novel Society; it’s been named “Best Historical Fiction Novel of 2014” by the Independent Publishers Awards and currently is a finalist in the ForeWord Review’s “Book of the Year” Awards.   Time will tell, however, if it succeeds in helping make it to mainstream publishing.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can purchase Anvil almost anywhere online that sells books. The Amazon site is: http://www.networkedblogs.com/blog/blog-j-boyce-gleason. You can access all the other major sites through my website listed below. You can also order Anvil through you local bookstore.

My website is: www.jboycegleason.com

My Facebook page is: J. Boyce Gleason

My Twitter account is: @JBoyceGleason

And you can follow my blog on my website (www.jboycegleason.com/blog) or on: http://www.networkedblogs.com/blog/blog-j-boyce-gleason

Please join me on whatever venue serves you best. And please share with your network!

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Then Like the Blind Man 7Title: Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story
Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher: Blind Sight Publications
Pages: 332
Language: English
Genre: Historical Fiction/Coming of Age
Format: Paperback & eBook

Purchase at AMAZON

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for young Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family’s darkest secrets. Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story is the enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a spirited wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Rich in authentic vernacular and evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.

As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.

CHAPTER ONE

EVERYBODY ON EDGE

Thursday, June 6th 1959

Momma and even Victor said I’d be coming to St. Petersburg with them.  They’d been saying it for weeks.  Then Victor changed his mind.  He was my stepdaddy, Victor was.  It would be easier on everybody, he said, if I stayed with Granny and Granpaw in Kentucky.  Him and Momma had enough Florida business to take care of without on top of everything else having to take care of me too.  I was a handful, Victor said.  I kept everybody on edge.  If you asked me, the only edge everybody was kept on was Victor’s.  As far as I was concerned, him and Momma could both go to hell.  Missy too.  I was fed up trying to be good.  Saying everything was okay when it wasn’t.  Pretending I understood when I didn’t.

Momma’s car was a 1950 model.  Daddy said it was the first Ford car to come automatic.  I didn’t know what ‘automatic’ was but it sure had silver ashtrays, two of them on the back of the front seats.  They were all popped open with gum wrappers and cigarette butts and boy did they smell.

One butt fell on top a bunch of comic books I had me in a pile.  The pile leaned cockeyed against my dump truck.  Heat came up from there, little whiffs of tail pipe smoke, warm and stuffy like the insides of my tennis shoes.

It rattled too – the Ford car did.  The glove box.  The mirrors.  The windows.  The knobs on the radio.  The muffler under the floorboard.  Everything rattled.

We’d been traveling hard all day, barreling down Road 3 from Detroit to Kentucky.  Down to Harlan’s Crossroads.  I sat on the edge of the back seat, watching the fence posts zoom by.  Missy stood up next to the side window, sucking her thumb, the fingers of her other hand jammed between her legs.  She was five years old.  I was nine.

I’d seen pictures of Florida in a magazine.  It had palm trees and alligators and oranges.  It had long white beaches and pelicans that could dive-bomb the water.  Kentucky was just old lonesome farmhouses and brokeback barns.  Gravel roads and chickens in the yard.

Road 3 took us down big places like Fort Wayne and Muncie.  It took us down a whole bunch of little places too, places with funny names like Zaneville and Deputy and Speed.

Missy couldn’t read.

“Piss with care,” I said.

“Oh Orbie, you said a bad word.”

“No.  Piss with care, Missy.  That sign back there.  That’s what it said.”

Missy’s eyes went wide.  “It did not.  Momma’ll whip you.”

Later on we got where there was a curve in the road and another sign.  “Look Missy.  Do not piss.”

“It don’t say that.”

“Yes it does.  See.  When the road goes curvy like that you’re not supposed to pee.  But when it’s straight, it’s okay; but you have to do it careful cause that’s what the sign says.  Piss with care!”

“It don’t say that.”

“Does too.”

We crossed a big pile of water on a bridge with towers and giant ropey things looping down.  On the other side was Louisville, Kentucky.  After that was just small towns and little white stores with red gas-pumps, farm houses and big barns and fields, empty fields and fields of corn and fields where there were cows and horses and pigs and long rows of tobacco plants Momma said cigarettes was made of.

I had me a war on all the towns going down.

Tat Tat Tat Tat!  Blam!  There goes Cox Creek! 

Bombs away over Nazareth

Blam! Blam! Boom!  Hodgekinsville never had a chance!

“Let’s keep it down back there!” Victor said.

“A grenade rolled into Victor’s lap!” I whispered.  “BlamOOO!  Blowed him to smithereens!”

I wished Momma’d left him back there in Toledo like she said she would.  She was always threatening around like that, but then she would get to feeling sorry and forget all about it.  She’d been mad ever since Victor spilled the beans about Daddy.  Victor was mad too, drinking his beer and driving Momma’s Ford too fast.  After Louisville he started throwing his empties out the window.

I liked to watch them bust on the road.

“Pretty country, Kentucky,” Victor said.

**

It was the end of daytime and a big orangey-gold sun ball hung way off over the hills, almost touching the trees.  The Ford jerked over a ditch at the foot of a patchy burnt yard, thundering up a load of bubble noises before Victor shut it down.

“Get off me,” Missy said.

“I ain’t bothering you.”

“Yes you are.”

“But Missy, look!”

A big boned woman in a housedress had come to stand in the yard down by the well.  She was looking into the sun – orange light in her face – standing upright, sharp edged and stiff, like an electrical tower, one arm bent like a triangle, the other raised with the elbow so the hand went flat out over her eyes like a cap.  She stared out of wrinkles and scribbles and red leather cheekbones.   Her nose was sunburned, long but snubbed off at the end, sticking out above a mouth that had no lips, a crack that squirmed and changed itself from long to short and back to long again.

Missy’s eyes widened.  “Who is that?”

“Granny,” I said.  “Don’t you remember?”

I saw Granpaw too, sitting squat-legged against Granny’s little Jesus Tree.  He was turning in one big hand a piece of wood, shaving it, whittling it outward with a jackknife.  The brim of a dusty Panama shadowed his eyes.  In back of him stood the house, balanced on little piles of creek rock.  You could see jars and cans and other old junk scattered underneath.  It was the same dirty white color as before, the house was, but the sun ball had baked it orange, and now I could see at one end where somebody had started to paint.

As we got out of the car, the big boned figure in the housedress let out with a whoop, hollering, “Good God A Mighty!  If it tain’t Ruby and them younguns of hers!  Come all the way down here from Dee-troit!”  Blue-green veins bulged and tree-limbed down the length of her arms.

Victor stayed out by the Ford, the round top of my ball cap hanging out his pocket.  A gas station man had given it to me on the way down.  It was gray and had a red winged horse with the word ‘Mobilgas’ printed across the front.  Victor had swiped it away, said I shouldn’t be accepting gifts from strangers.  I should have asked him about it first.  Now it was in his back pocket, crushed against the Ford’s front fender where he leaned with an unlit cigar, rolling between his lips.  The sun was in back of him, halfway swallowed up by a distant curvy line of hilltop trees.

“Hidy Victor!” Granny called.  “Ya’ll have a good trip?”

Victor put on a smooth voice.  “Fine Mrs. Wood.  Real fine.  You can’t beat blue grass for beauty, can you?”  A long shadow stretched out on the ground in front of him.

Granny laughed.  “Ain’t been no farther than Lexington to know!”

Granpaw changed his position against the tree, leaned forward a little bit and spat a brown gob, grunting out the word ‘shit’ after he did.  He dragged the back of his knife hand sandpaper-like over the gap of his mouth.

“I want you just to looky here!” Granny said.  “If tain’t Missy-Two-Shoes and that baby doll of hers!”

Missy backed away.

“Aw, Missy now,” Momma said.  “That’s Granny.”

Missy smiled then and let Granny grab her up.  Her legs went around Granny’s waist.  She had on a pink Sunday dress with limp white bows dangling off its bottom, the back squashed and wadded like an overused hankie.

“How’s my little towhead?” Granny said.

“Good.”  Missy held out her baby doll.  “This is Mattie, Granny.  I named her after you.”

“Well ain’t you the sweetest thang!”  Granny grinned so big her wrinkles went out in circles like water does after a stone’s dropped in.  She gave Missy a wet kiss and set her down.  Then her grin flashed toward Momma.  “There’s my other little girl!”

Momma, no taller than Granny’s chin, did a little toe dance up to her, smiling all the way.  She hugged Granny and Granny in turn beat the blue and red roses on the back of Momma’s blouse.

“I just love it to death!” Granny said.  “Let me look at you!”  She held Momma away from her.  Momma wiggled her hips; slim curvy hips packed up neat in a tight black skirt.  She kissed the air in front of Granny.

Like Marilyn Monroe.  Like in the movies. 

“Jezebel!” Granny laughed.  “You always was a teaser.”

They talked about the trip to Florida, about Victor’s prospects – his good fortune, his chance – about Armstrong and the men down there and that Pink Flamingo Hotel.  They talked about Daddy too, and what a good man he’d been.

“It liked to’ve killed us all, what happened to Jessie,” Granny said.

“I know Mamaw.  If I had more time, I’d go visit him awhile.”  Momma looked out over the crossroads toward the graveyard.  I looked too but there was nothing to see now, nothing but shadows and scrubby bushes and the boney black limbs of the cottonwood trees.  I remembered what Victor’d said about the nigger man, about the crane with the full ladle.

 “I want you just to look what the cat’s drug in Mattie!” Granpaw had walked over from his place by the tree.

 “Oh Papaw!”  Momma hugged Granpaw’s rusty old neck and kissed him two or three times.

“Shoo!  Ruby you’ll get paint all over me!”

Momma laughed and rubbed at a lip mark she’d left on his jaw.

“How you been daughter?”

“All right I reckon,” Momma said.  She looked back toward Victor who was still up by the Ford.  Victor took the cigar out of his mouth.  He held it to one side, pinched between his fingers.

“How’s that car running Victor?” Granpaw called.

“Not too bad, Mr. Wood,” Victor answered, “considering the miles we’ve put on her.”

Granpaw made a bunch of little spit-spit sounds, flicking them off the end of his tongue as he did.  He hawked up another brown gob and let it fall to the ground, then he gave Victor a nod and walked over.  He walked with a limp, like somebody stepping off in a ditch, carrying the open jackknife in one hand and that thing, whatever it was he’d been working on, in the other.

Granny’s mouth got hard.  “Ruby, I did get that letter of yorn.  I done told you it were all right to leave that child.  I told you in that other letter, ‘member?”

“You sure it’s not any trouble?” Momma said.

Granny’s eyes widened.  “Trouble?  Why, tain’t no trouble a-tall.”  She looked over my way.  “I want you just to look how he’s growed!  A might on the skinny side though.”

“He’ll fill out,” Momma said.

“Why yes he will.  Come youngun.  Come say hello to your old Granny.”

“Orbie, be good now,” Momma said.

I went a little closer, but I didn’t say hello.

“He’ll be all right,” Granny said.

“I hope so Mamaw.  He’s been a lot of trouble over this.“

Veins, blue rivers, tree roots, flooded down Granny’s gray legs.  More even than on her arms.  And you could see white bulges and knots and little red threads wiggling out.  “I’ll bet you they’s a lot better things going on here than they is in Floridy,” she said.  “I bet you, if you had a mind to, Granpaw would show you how to milk cows and hoe tobacco.  I’ll learn you everything there is to know about chickens.  Why, you’ll be a real farm hand before long!”

“I don’t wanna be no damned farm hand,” I said.

“Boy, I’ll wear you out!” Momma said.  “See what I mean, Mamaw?”

“He’ll be all right,” Granny said.

The sun was on its way down.  Far to the east of it two stars trailed after a skinny slice of moon.  I could see Old Man Harlan’s Country Store across the road, closed now, but with a porch light burning by the door.

A ruckus of voices had started up by the Ford, Granpaw and Victor trying to talk at the same time.  They’d propped the Ford’s hood up with a stick and were standing out by the front.

Victor had again taken up his place, leaning back against the front fender, crushing my ball cap.  “That’s right, that’s what I said!  No good at all.”  He held the cigar shoulder level – lit now – waving it with his upraised arm one side to the other.  “The Unions are ruining this country, Mr. Wood.  Bunch of meddlesome, goddamned troublemakers.  Agitators, if you catch my drift.”  He took a pull on the cigar then blew the smoke over Granpaw’s head.

Granpaw was stout-looking but a whole head shorter than Victor.  He stood there in his coveralls, doubled up fists hanging at the end of each arm, thick as sledgehammers – one with the open jackknife, the other with that thing he’d been working on.  “Son, you got a problem?”

“The rank and file,” Victor said.  “They’re the problem!      They’ll believe anything the goddamn Union tells them.”

Granpaw leaned over and spat.  “You don’t know nothin’.”

Anything,” Victor said.

“What?”

Victor took the cigar out of his mouth and smiled.  “I don’t know anything is what you mean to say.  It’s proper grammar.”

“I know what I aim to say,” Granpaw said, “I don’t need no northern jackass a tellin’ me.”  Granpaw’s thumb squeezed against the jackknife blade.

Cut him Granpaw!  Knock that cigar out his mouth!

“Strode!”  Granny shouted.  “Come away from there!”

Momma hurried over.  “Victor, I told you.”

“I was just sharing some of my thoughts with Mr. Wood here,” Victor said.  “He took it the wrong way, that’s all.  He doesn’t understand.”

“I understand plenty, City Slicker.”  Granpaw closed the knife blade against his coveralls and backed away.

“Ain’t no need in this Strode!” Granny said.  “Victor’s come all the way down here from Dee-troit.  He’s company.  And you a man of God!”

“I’ll cut him a new asshole, he keeps on that a way,” Granpaw said.

Momma was beside herself.  “Apologize Victor.  Apologize to Papaw for talking that way.”

“For telling the truth?”

“For insulting him!”

Victor shook his head.  “You apologize.  You’re good at that.”

Over where the sun had gone down the sky had turned white-blue.  Fireflies winked around the roof of the well, around the branches of the Jesus Tree.  Victor walked around to the front of the car and slammed the hood down harder than was necessary.  “Come on Orbie!  Time to get your stuff!”

I couldn’t believe it was about to happen, even though I’d been told so many times it was going to.  I started to cry.

“Get down here!” Victor yelled.

Momma met me at the car.  She took out a hankerchief and wiped at my tears.  She looked good.   She always looked good.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said.

“Oh now,” Momma said. “Let’s not make Victor any madder than he already is, okay?”  She helped bring my things from the car.  I carried my tank and my box of army men and crayons.  Momma brought my dump truck, the toy cars, my comic books and drawing pad.  We put them all on the porch where Missy sat playing with her doll.  Momma hugged me one last time, got Missy up in her arms and headed to the car.

Victor was already behind the wheel, gunning the engine.  “Come on Ruby!  Let’s go!”

“You just hold on a minute!”  Momma put Missy in the car and turned to hug Granny.  “Bye Mamaw.”

“Goodbye Sweetness.  I hope you find what you’re looking for down there.”

“Right now I’d settle for a little peace of mind,” Momma said; then she hugged Granpaw.  “I’m real sorry about Victor Papaw.”

Granpaw nodded.  “You be careful down there in Floridy.”

“Bye Momma!  Bye Missy!”  I yelled.

Momma closed her door and Victor backed out.  I hurried down to where Granny and Granpaw were standing.  The Ford threw dust and gravels as it fishtailed up the road.

Granpaw tapped me on the shoulder.  “This one’s for you son,” he said and handed down the piece he’d been working on.  It was a little cross of blond wood about a foot high with a burnt snake draped lengthwise along its shoulders.  Granpaw moved his finger over the snake’s curvy body.  “Scorched that in there with a hot screw driver, I did.”

It was comical in a way, but strange too; I mean to make a snake there – right where Jesus was supposed to be.  Like most everything else in my life, it made no sense at all.  Momma’s Ford had disappeared over the hill.  Pale road-dust moved like a ghost into the cornfields under the half-dark sky.  It drifted back toward the skull of Granpaw’s barn, back toward the yard.  I stood there watching it all, listening as Momma’s Ford rumbled away.

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I, Walter banner

Mike HartnerMike Hartner is a father, son, author, patriot, geek (ret), and husband.

His love of all things genealogical led him to writing, and writing has now led him to fiction and a large epic saga.

He lives in Vancouver, BC with his wife and son.

His latest book is the historical romance, I, Walter.

Visit his website at www.accidentalauthor.ca.

About the Book:

This is the life story of Walter Crofter, an English commoner who ran from home at the age of 11.  After two years living on the street, he ended up on a Merchant Mariners boat in the service of the Crown.

On his first voyage, he rescued a girl from pirates.  A very important girl, who stole his heart before she was returned to her home.

This is the story of his life.  What adventures he had at sea; what took him off the waters, and what happened to him as he lived his life and stayed true to his character.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

I, WalterWould you call yourself a born writer? 

No. I’ve been a lot of things: mathematician, computer geek, programmer, desktop publisher, genealogist and now Author.

What was your inspiration for I, Walter

I started trying to write a 20c story about a pair of young adults. When that didn’t quite measure up either to my standards or my editors, we switched gears. He asked me to take one aspect of the story as far back as I could, and when I did, we found Walter Crofter.  Turns out that his story is the first in a series, and that is why the 20c story was not published.  It needs to be re-worked, but also put in its proper order.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I think one of the biggest themes I try to present is that each individual is different, and that everybody has their own crosses to bear in life.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?  

About a year, after I started writing Walter exclusively.

Are you disciplined?

Describe a typical writing day.  My writing always takes a back seat to being a husband and father.   Most of my writing is done late at night and early in the morning before everyone gets up.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?  

Experiencing Gerald, and the truly awful things people can do to each other.

What do you love most about being an author?

The ability to create from nothing.  My muse keeps reminding me that this story is my own.  That it was created totally from my own mind.  I beg to differ with that statement.  My writing is more transcription.  I listened to a character in my mind that is Walter Crofter.  Right now, I’m listening to his son James, and a Scotsman named Angus.  The two are vying for who is book two and who is book three.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?   

I self-published, and I’m immensely happy with my decision.  Yes, it would be very rewarding to have a five-to-six figure advance, and all the publicity machinery in the world.  But, let’s be realistic.. that doesn’t often happen for first time writers.  And then there is the wait period.  I’m pretty sure the waiting process would see me tearing out what hair I have left.

Where can we find you on the web?

http://www.accidentalauthor.ca for the book, http://www.mikehartner.com for my website, http://ow.ly/mINto for my Amazon sales page.

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