Before the Alamo: Interview and Giveaway

A Tejana’s Story
Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas History 
Publisher: Maywood House
Date of Publication: September 17, 2021
Number of Pages: 296 pages
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Emilia Altamirano, half Otomí Indian, half pure Spanish, is born in 1814, the year after the Battle of the Medina River, where her father fought as an officer in the Mexican Royalist Army. She grows up in Bexar de San Antonio unacknowledged by her father, raised by her Otomí Indian mother, and “adopted” as an unofficial ward by José Antonio Navarro, hero of the Texas fight for independence from Mexico. She learns to read, write, and acts as a page for the Ayuntamiento (City Council). She learns nursing during a cholera epidemic and later tends the wounded on both sides during and after the Battle of the Alamo. She survives, but as a Tejana, Spanish-speaking, and a loyal citizen of Mexico, she faces an uncertain future.
“Yesterday, I finished Before the Alamo, figuratively gasping for breath…Thank you for a joyful experience, so helpful in this time of disillusion and anxiety.” – reader Marti Nodine

Interview with Dr. Florence Byham Weinberg

Why did you decide to self-publish?

At first, I tried for a major publisher in New York City. My agent worked hard but got refusals mostly on the grounds that my topic was “too local.” That effort lasted over a year. Trying one agent after another, one publisher after another might take many years and still yield nothing. I decided not to wait any longer but to go it alone. Self-publishing has been low in respect and prestige, but I think it is becoming more popular. The public, at least, has realized that the quality of self-published books can be high. It’s entirely up to the author—and the reader’s judgment. There are advantages, too. While the cost of self-publishing is considerable, still it is manageable, and profits from sales are all the author’s, not mostly to the publisher. Whether to publish or reprint is also entirely up to the author. I chose that route and so far, am happy with my decision.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I think placing my protagonists in a setting that can be visualized, touched and smelled. My people must move in a “real” world, not in some gray abstraction. Before the Alamo is set in the nineteenth century, when roads were not paved or even graded, where the only floor covering in San Antonio was either brick or tile or none at all, when Main Plaza was a stretch of dust or mud, dotted with piles of manure. Laundry was done by beating clothes against a rock with a stick; soap was homemade, a boiled combo of lard and ashes. The “dryer” consisted of convenient bushes where the clothes were spread to catch the sunlight. Water was carried into the house in buckets. Life was not easy, and my book shows how hard it was. I want the reader to feel those inconveniences as if s/he were there.

How do you decide if your main character(s) will be male or female?

I write from the point of view of either gender. My choice depends on the subject matter. I have written two historical novels about the Franciscans who founded San Antonio by establishing their missions along the San Antonio River, beginning in 1716. Those main characters were, of course, mainly male, although an Apache Woman Warrior plays a major role in Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross. And I wrote four murder mysteries starring a real, historical Jesuit missionary named Ignaz Pfefferkorn, who acts as my detective. I have written three books set in the French Renaissance. I chose to write about Emilia Altamirano in Before the Alamo because I wanted to present a woman’s view of conditions and events in Texas before—and a bit after—1836. Women had to struggle much harder than men to make their mark in the nineteenth century, even into the mid twentieth, when they could exercise the vote. That struggle made writing from Emilia’s point of view much more interesting.

In researching this book, did you learn any unexpected, unusual, or fascinating information?

Yes, two things: María’s story, which is factual, and the Battle of the Medina River in 1813. 

The historical María was bought by a Béxar de San Antonio native on the slave market of a border town, perhaps Rio Grande, which no longer exists. She’d been taken from her tribe (perhaps the Otomí) as a baby and raised by a Spaniard as his daughter. She learned to read, write. And learned all the graces of a Spanish lady. When she reached puberty, he could not resist her charms and he assaulted her. He blamed her for seducing him and sold her on the slave market. That is when the scion of a San Antonio pioneer family bought her. She became a slave in his household. 

A librarian in the Alamo Library handed me the statement about María, made by a descendant of that family. I at once recognized its importance. María, one of the protagonists in my story, is, of course, Emilia’s mother.

The Battle of the Medina River (or Battle of Medina) took place in 1813. Texas was a late entry in the fight to liberate Mexico from Spanish rule. Texas mustered an army of 1,800 men to fight the Royalist Mexican Army under the command of General Joaquín de Arredondo. They met at the Medina River. The Texas recruits were probably good sharpshooters and hunters, but they had little military training. Arredondo was a brilliant, though ruthless, military tactician. He sent an advance contingent to engage the Texan army. The Texans overwhelmed the Royalists, who fled. They followed in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, Arredondo had arranged the bulk of his 2,000+-man army in a horseshoe formation. When the Texans arrived within the arms of the horseshoe, all hell broke loose. They were mowed down, slaughtered to the last man. The few who escaped were pursued and killed. Arredondo moved on into San Antonio, leaving the corpses unburied. In San Antonio, he executed anyone suspected of independence sympathies. Many families had fled to New Orleans, but those who remained suffered many losses. Arredondo acted as governor of Texas for a while, continuing to kill independence sympathizers throughout Texas. He greatly reduced the male population, which guaranteed that the population in general could not bounce back. This is the main reason why Texas was considered too sparsely populated to stand as its own state when México created the united states of Mexico—it was merged with the state of Coahuila—Coahuila y Tejas. Texas was also open to Anglo immigration, Stephen Austin being the first to move in with 350 families. The Anglo influx became a flood, taking over property belonging to Spanish-speaking citizens, sometimes by force. Thus, Texas became an Anglo-dominated Republic of Texas (1837-1845) then joined the United States of America on December 29, 1845. In Before the Alamo, I maintain that Texas’s history from 1813 on was determined by the disastrous Battle of the Medina River.

Florence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch as well as a farm and travelled with her military family during World War Two. After earning a Ph.D., she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written four books in the Pfefferkorn historical mystery series, three additional historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs, horses, and conversations with great-souled friends.


Enigma Series: Promo and Giveaway


#ShortStory Journey Dec 8th to Dec 15th  

#GIVEAWAYS Available

Please leave a comment below for a chance to win a free gift!

Gifts available for Day 6 are two ebooks of the featured short story plus one ebook of the newest release Hidden Target. That’s 3 winners.

Author Insights

Mathias, Dutch, and Halvorson market their cryptocurrency programs in economically challenged countries in The Enigma Source. Desperate governments trying to avoid the horrific outcomes of their economic free fall consider currency alternatives. Mathias discovered robust competition during their bid to gain favor the leaders in Venezuela. Mathias, a polished huckster, decided there was only one way to fight another day—survive. 

Our characters rise to the challenges. Technologist and Blockchain programmer, Dr. Halvorson, uses the programs he created to orchestrate their escape from the Venezuelan Police. Mathias’s normal mode of transport, a private helicopter, is not always available. Mathias is out for revenge at those who betrayed him. His plans of wealth and power end up on life support. The exit strategy, a key element of this story is provided from our audble story in this link. YouTube link:

We found the next stage of their journey was not needed for The Enigma Source, yet readers and fans wanted to know what happened. We had no intention of giving more words to these cyber crooks in another book, but they screamed to have their story told. The unanswered questions for this trio of misfits as their lives hit rock bottom drove us to create this short story.  Please let us know if you believe they chose the right path.

About the Short Story

Mathias and Halvorson are trudging toward the Brazilian border to escape the Venezuelan secret police who want to kill them.

Once they enjoyed the first-class service, today they wallow in third-world transport and lifestyle. Escape holds the promise of shearing more sheep to line their pockets.

Plans to cross the border get completely derailed as Mathias and Halvorson run into absolutely the last person they expected. Their hotly contested vendetta devolves into gunfire. The colossal distraction gives the three escapees time to flee. A non-negotiable bargain between the trio results in a risk-filled escape from Venezuela.

The hazardous journey takes this trio to a new opportunity. Mathias is a self-proclaimed leader with plans to get back on top. His methods are unorthodox yet highly effective.

Available on Amazon   We look forward to your review and comments on our short stories.

About the Authors

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Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey are co-authors of the award-winning Enigma Series. Their characters demand that their stories are told. The storytelling began with a few heroes, then expanded to those with self-serving motives. We love storytelling and hope readers enjoy learning  more about our shorts. Looking forward to your feedback and reviews of our stories.

Breakfield is a technology expert specifically in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles is also a fan of wine tastings, wine making, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking. 

Burkey is a 25+ year applied technology professional who optimizes technology and business investments for global customers. She focuses on optimized customer experiences. Rox loves interviewing authors, writing white papers, reviewing books, and loves creating fiction. 

Together they create award-winning stories that resonate with men and women, young and experienced adults, and bring a fresh new view to technology threats of today. Please visit their website, look around, and grab some free stuff

Find us and Follow us



LinkedIn:  and

Twitter:  @EnigmaSeries and @1rburkey



Thank you for visiting. Please leave your comment below for a chance to win. 

The Big Empty: Guest Post and Giveaway

Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
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When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.
Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.
Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.
What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.
“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”
The Epoch Times
“Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”
Southern Review of Books

Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off)



Originally published July, 2021, on the author’s blog

In The Big EmptyI have several references to bar ditches — the trenches that run beside many rural Texas roads. The ditches are designed, at least in part, for flood control. They may also help to keep livestock from wandering onto the highway. 

My editor flagged the term repeatedly, saying she’d never heard it and most readers probably hadn’t either. I attributed to this to her living in Pennsylvania and being unfamiliar with the terminology of rural Texas. After all, she hadn’t heard of a gimme cap, either. 

As the manuscript neared completion, one of the readers I enlisted had grown up in West Texas and was familiar with the term. However, she pointed out that a journalism instructor at Texas A&M once admonished her for using it. He told her not only should she avoid it, but she shouldn’t use the more complete term, “borrow ditch,” either. 

I had always heard that the term comes from the road-building technique in rural areas. Crews “borrow” dirt from the sides to crown the roadway before paving. The practice left trenches on either side of the pavement. The term was latter shortened from “borrow” to “bar.” 

Well, it turns out, “bar ditches” are the subject of much discussion and controversy, and my editor isn’t the only one who doesn’t like it. Even people who live with bar ditches everyday don’t necessary embrace the term. There’s also a lot of debate about its origins. Some apparently believe it dates to road building in England. 

I’d be curious what others have heard about the term and its history. Have you heard it before? What did you think it means? 

Regardless, for The Big Empty, I insisted that “bar ditch” was a pretty common term in Texas, and I decided to keep it in. 

And yes, in some places, the bar ditches are wide enough that you can change a tire if your truck gets knocked off the road by a rented moving van. 

Loren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.

Stoney Creek Publishing
THREE WINNERS: Signed copy of The Big Empty and logo hat. (US only; ends midnight CST 11/25/21)

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The Yes Dare: Author Interview and Giveaway

A Pies, Books
& Jesus Club Novel
Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: July 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 246 pages 
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Have you ever wished for a second chance to fix something you’ve messed up or for the courage to say yes to something that just may change your life? Sometimes saying yes to the last thing you want can mean saying yes to exactly what you need.
Ryan “The Rocket” Sutton’s winning streak is legendary makes him the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL. However, thanks to one dumb mistake, he’s a failure as a husband to Coco, the only woman he’s ever loved. When a judge’s mistake in divorce paperwork means Coco is still his wife, Ryan makes up his mind to fix what he ruined. Ryan’s game plan doesn’t count on an internationally famous movie director’s camera crew following him as he competes for Coco’s love.
After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down.
From a Hollywood movie to the local spring event formerly known as the Cow Chip Toss Festival and a country crooner with a crush on Coco, will Ryan dodge the obstacles to win back the only woman he ever loved?

Interview with Kathleen Y’Barbo

Tell us about your publishing journey and how THE YES DARE came to be.

I’ve been publishing for 20 years as of 2021. Back when I started, traditional publishing was the only way to get a book in print. Over the years I’ve been blessed to have more than 100 books released by traditional publishers. In 2021, however, I went hybrid and released THE YES DARE, my first independently published contemporary romance novel. With more traditionally published books in the works, I plan to continue as a hybrid author.

Where did you get the idea for THE YES DARE?

THE YES DARE is the name of a self-help book that the heroine and her best friend are reading in the novel. The premise is to be brave enough to say yes to new experiences. The book itself does not exist, however.

You’ve said this book took a while to get published. How long and why?

Almost five years! The book was set to be published but the contemporary fiction line closed before the story could go to print. I was busy writing other books and didn’t get back to do anything with this one until earlier this year.

You’re not just a writer, are you? What else do you do and what do you enjoy when you’re not writing?

That’s correct. I’m also a certified paralegal specializing in wills, probate, and family law. When I’m not working or writing, I’m reading, enjoying photography, and taking long drives with my husband.

You’ve been published for twenty years. That’s quite a feat. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?

Just do it. Literally. Just start writing. Figure it out as you go along, but get words on a page.

What is your favorite book? Favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?

No way I can name just one favorite author or book!! There are way too many! My first favorite—that I can remember—would be Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.

Are you working on anything now?

I’ve been editing and re-releasing books that have had rights returned to me. So far I’ve released a set of novellas called the 20th Anniversary Special Edition Novellas and put new covers on FIREFLY SUMMER and AUTUMN LEAVES, books 1 and 2 of the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series. Now I’m working my way through edits and new covers for my Bayou Nouvelle series of romance novels, both contemporary and historical, set in fiction Latagnier, Louisiana.

How can readers connect with you?

I love Instagram and also have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I’m also available by email and send out a newsletter when I have something exciting to talk about. You can find all the details about social media, newsletter, etc. on my website at

Publishers Weekly bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students, Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Sisters in Crime, Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.
Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas, and are the parents, grandparents, and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and a trio of adorable Londoners.

Gone to Dallas: Author Interview and Giveaway


Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas Pioneers / Civil War
Publisher: Goat Mountain Press
Date of Publication: October 4, 2021
Number of Pages: 348 pages 
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Sara’s husband was a disappointment in life, but she had to admit he was a handsome corpse.
Climb aboard an 1856 Dallas-bound wagon train and join a plucky female protagonist for the journey of a lifetime in Laurie Moore-Moore’s richly entertaining new book, Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861. Far from your average historical novel or western, Gone to Dallas is a compelling tale of migration, betrayal, death and dreams—peppered with real people, places, and events. With a cast of interesting characters and more bumps and hazards than a wagon trail, Gone to Dallas tells the unforgettable story of a formidable frontier woman in the context of true Texas history.
It had seemed so romantic when Morgan Darnell courted Sara in Tennessee, finally convincing her they should marry and join an 1856 “Gone to Texas” wagon train traveling along the “Trail of Tears,” through Indian territory, and across the Red River into Texas.
In a twist of fate, Sara arrives in Dallas a 19-year-old widow, armed with plenty of pluck, and determined to open a general store in the tiny settlement of log cabins on the Trinity River. Standing in her way as a young woman alone are a host of challenges. Can Sara (with the help of her friends) pull herself up by the bootstraps and overcome uncertainty, vandalism, threats, and even being shot?
Follow Sara as she strives to create her store while living Dallas’ true history — from the beginnings of La Réunion (the European colony across the Trinity) to a mud and muck circus, a grand ball and the mighty fire that burns Dallas to the ground. Dallas is a challenging place, especially with the Civil War looming.
Even with the friendship of a retired Texas Ranger and Dallas’ most important citizen — another woman — is Sara strong enough to meet the challenge? The risks are high. Failure means being destitute in Dallas!
In Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861, author Laurie Moore-Moore spins a page-turner of a tale salted with historically accurate Texas events and populated with real characters. It’s Portis’ True Grit meets Texas history.

“Creative and captivating…five stars!”
“An unforgettable journey…superb writing.”
“I was hooked at the very first sentence.”
“Lovely work of historical fiction…can’t wait for the sequel.”


Interview with Laurie Moore-Moore

You call Gone to Dallas an historical novel salted with history. What does that mean?

The background in which the story unfolds is built around actual happenings in Dallas and in Texas at the time—thats what I call, salted with history.” For instance: a grand ball, the visit of a mud and muck circus, the collapse of the bridge over the Trinity, a plague of locusts, the fire that burns Dallas to the ground. I couldn’t make up more interesting events as a backdrop to the story! And although most of my characters are fictional, the book is also peppered with real people—from Sarah Cockrell, often called Dallass first capitalist, and certainly a brilliant businesswoman, to Barry Derrit, the slave who manned the toll bridge over the Trinity River. These characters play active roles in the fictional story. My goal was a really good read, rooted in history, with a spark of inspiration


It’s hot off the press . . .what early response have you had?

Here are three examples:

*Paul Hobby, former CEO of Texas Monthly wrote, “Laurie Moore-Moore projects a tale of decency and resourcefulness that is fundamental to the continuing identity of the American West in general and of Texas specifically.”

*Teresa Burleson, Director, Stockyards Museum, Fort Worth, said, “Sara was fascinating—a strong and enterprising young woman. She had the grit and moxie that Texas women are known for. A good fictional read with real historical events thrown in—an interesting twist. I come from a long line of strong Texas women, so I find Sara and the other women in this story inspiring.”

*Dr. W. Arthur Porter, former Professor and Associate Dean for Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, used multiple exclamation marks in his review of the book. “A female protagonist who’s Tennessee Smart and Texas Tough! Gone to Dallas captures an historically accurate essence of early Texas and how committed and tenacious early settlers had to be to make it — especially the women!”      


Why is the novels title Gone to Dallas?

Back when Texas was part of Mexico, Americans fleeing the law, creditors, or other problems would sometimes flee to Texas, generally painting or posting signs saying Gone to Texas” or GTT on their doors or fence posts. The message became associated with law breakers and other rascals. When Texas won its independence, it began granting land to newcomers. People in search of homesteads and opportunity began to flow into the state. Signs were posted and wagons painted with Gone to Texas.” This time, the words were a symbol of available land and new opportunity. Some of those who were Gone to Texas” were Gone to Dallas”—Thus the novel’s name.


Gone to Dallas is book one of your Brave and Strong series. Why that name?

The name comes from the last phrases of the Texas state song:

            “God bless you Texas and keep you brave and strong

            that you might grow in power and worth throughout the ages long.”

It seemed to me that our Texas ancestors—men and women alike—were brave and strong. I wanted to recognize and honor that in the name of the book series and in my new Podcast, Texas Brave and Strong.


Why write about Dallas in this time (1856-1861)?

I chose Dallas because its home and also because the city has a fascinating history!  Gone to Dallas is keyed to the period when Dallas began to take shape and grow. It ends just as the Civil War is about to begin. Also, people all over the world seem to have a fascination with the city. Some of that goes back to the old Dallas TV series, and to the mystique of the Dallas Cowboys football team in Roger Staubachs era. I traveled in my business for thirty years and taxi and Uber drivers would almost always want to talk about some aspect of Dallas as soon as they knew where I was from.


What is your writing process?

Im what the publishing world calls a seat-of-the-pants writer. I dont outline the entire story in advance.  I just sit down and start to write. The first 54,000 words took less than a month to write. . . although they ended up being in the middle of the book! Feedback from very early readers was helpful in shaping the story, but the characters took control and I just followed with the words. I was sometimes surprised by the twists and turns in the story. I hope readers will be as well. Writing the novel was a joyful experience!


Any clues about the sequel?

The sequel—Cotton, Cattle, and Conflict starts with the Civil War and carries through Reconstruction. I was tempted to name it Camels, Cattle, and Conflict.

From the author: “My husband, Roger, and I have been blessed with many adventures in life—from trekking across India’s Thar desert on a camel (and sleeping in the sand on our camel blankets) to repeating marriage vows in a remote Maasi village in Kenya (my dowery was one cow and one goat). My favorite adventure? As a fifth generation Texan, it is discovering more and more Texas history and writing about it!
We live in Dallas, Texas but sneak away when possible, to a mountain-top cabin overlooking a lake in former Indian Territory (the Oklahoma Ozark Mountains) The cabin is unique—there is a nine foot chainsaw bear in our entry hall. The house was built around it. Never thought I’d own a piece of chainsaw art, much less a nine-foot bear. Life is full of surprises. . . just like a good historical novel.”
Laurie Moore-Moore is a retired entrepreneur who has built and sold multiple businesses and served on the Board of Directors of an international corporation.

 Three autographed copies of Gone to Dallas (US only, ends midnight, CDT, 11/5/21)

Under the Texas Mistletoe: Book Blitz and Giveaway

Genre: Holiday Fiction / Christian Historical Romance / Novellas
Date of Publication: August 31, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
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This historical romance novella collection presents “A Texas Christmas Carol,” where a town’s wealthy, Scrooge-like bachelor finds his world invaded by a woman set on earning his donation for helping the local poor, and the penetrating questions of three mysterious visitors. It also includes “An Archer Family Christmas.” When the Archer clan gathers for the holiday, they encounter an unexpected request for help that will require all their effort and a Christmas miracle to see them through. In previously published “Gift of the Heart,” a widow uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local resort owner. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love this Christmas.
Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes.
FOUR WINNERS! Grand Prize: Autographed copy of Under the Texas Mistletoe
+ a decorative Christmas sign; Three Winners: Autographed copies of the book (US only; ends midnight, CST, 11/4/21)
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Once Upon a Camel: Review and Giveaway

by Kathi Appelt
Categories: Middle Grade Fiction / Historical / Friendship / Ages 8-12 Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Pub Date: September 7, 2021 Pages: 336 pages
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Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion. But those stories were from before.
Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.

CLICK TO PURCHASE Simon and Schuster ~

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt was purely a magical and spectacular read! We dive into the world of Zada, a camel from Smyrna, Turkey, and two young American kestrels named Perdita and Pard. This fable come to life is a tale of friendship and a journey based on real life events from the 1800’s when the US brought camels into Texas to transport supplies for the military. 

This was honestly the first I ever heard about the US bringing camels into Texas. I’m not a native to Texas and not as familiar with Texas history, but this tid bit of fact fascinated me. I think it’s fun and clever to base a work of fiction off of this historical fact!

Zada, who is lonely and missing her friends from Turkey, encounters a sandstorm that blows in. The kestrels are worried about their babies and Zada, courageous as ever, swoops in to help them. When the sand storm sweeps the kestrels away, Zada is left to take care of the little ones, and in so doing we learn about Zada’s life story. 

Zada is a gentle soul, and hearing her life story unfold was woven with imagery and a voice you can get lost in. 

Though this story is geared towards children, it’s easily enjoyable to read as an adult! And one I definitely recommend. This was exactly the kind of weekend read I needed! A purely enjoyable story!

Rating: 5/5

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Mogie, the Heart of the House. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and five gifted and talented cats.
Three signed copies of the book. (US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 10/9/21)

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Creatrix Rising Tour

OF MIDLIFE WOMEN By Stephanie Raffelock

Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
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From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within. Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability. None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.


“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author

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Link To The Book Trailer On YouTube

By Stephanie Raffelock
(originally posted to the author’s website May, 2021)

Recently, my friend Tara was taking some pictures of me in the park. In one shot, the light was just right, revealing how silver my hair is becoming. This is a desired effect. I stopped dying my hair over two years ago, a liberating action that gifts me a crown of silver to wear into my seventies. It seems to me to be an appropriate marker. In this last year of my sixties, there are a lot of markers, pointing the way to what’s next in the brave and bold adventure of getting older.

Embodying the role of an elder is upon me and it doesn’t look like what I thought it would. All of my best, saved up wisdom and advice means nothing to a younger generation. I certainly didn’t want the advice of older women when I was in my twenties, thirties and forties. The lesson is this: You don’t really become an elder until you learn to listen deeply to the younger people around you, and offer support, validation and goodwill. Then and only then, might you be honored with a conversation that will benefit each of you. A lot of being an elder is bearing witness to the process of youth as it struggles out of the chrysalis and unfolds it’s wet wings. Kindness, support and encouragement are powerful and empowering offerings to give to the next generation.

Another marker is the shift in energy that I’m feeling. I’ve lived a physically active life for all of my years. It’s a real blessing now. I know that most aches in my body can be transcended through a morning walk. I’m able to exercise daily, though some of my activities have changed. I no longer play tennis, but I walk for three miles every day. I do some stretching. A swimming allows me to have an easy range of motion. In spite of all of that, I’m feeling the need for quiet and rest. My Type-A personality can no longer go eight to ten hours a day. The disappointment I’m faced with is that the energy that once propelled me to meet all deadlines and be proactive in my work, has waned. This means that I have to choose the outline of my days more carefully so that it contributes to my health and not to burnout.

In the past couple of years, I’ve come to a deeper level of reflection, which has resulted in embracing past pain, joy, regrets, sorrow and love. My life has not been smooth. Most people’s aren’t. But the acceptance of my jagged edges has produced a tenderness that grows from a heart that cherishes the lessons and longings of life. That’s given me a great sense of peace.

As I embrace the years and the process of getting older, I’m drawn to the chairs on my back porch which overlook the forest. Nature keeps us alive after midlife for a reason. Obviously it’s not for the proliferation of the species. I believe that it’s for the purpose of reflection and contemplation upon the life we’ve lived and where all of that fits into the grand scheme of things. Aging brings a lot of outer changes — silver hair, waning energy and the emergence of a reflective heart.

At this age, I believe that I’m here to begin the slow, rolling surrender to some great, eternal love, some indescribable awe that pulls me into feeling that I am a part of everything. The stardust from which I was made is the same stardust to which I’ll return. And the knowledge of this particular marker fills me with gratitude. I love the accumulating years. What a wonder to evolve and grown psychologically and spiritually until the day we die.

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles,, as well as

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

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Trace of Doubt: Review and Giveaway

Categories: Romantic Suspense / Christian Fiction / FBI Crime Solving Novel / Clean Romance Publisher: Tyndale House Pub Date: September 7, 2021 Pages: 432 pages
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Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.
FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.
But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.


“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN


Link to the Book Trailer on YouTube

What a thrilling read!

For 15 years Shelby Pearce had remained behind bars for a crime she says she did not commit. She spends her time turning over a religious leaf and finding her heart in Christianity. Once she is released, she wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. But then her paths cross with Agent Denton McClure, a man with his own agenda, set out to prove that Shelby is a murderer and a thief. 

Over the course of the story, these two characters souls collide in a beautiful way. Shelby shares her faith with Denton a little at a time, which over the course of the book helps him to find his faith as well. The love that develops is a slow one, but it’s deep and real and gave me all the feels!

What I loved about this story was how gentle and patient Denton was. He gave her time to heal and grow until she was ready to be in a relationship with him. 

I also loved all the plot twists in this book and how over time Shelby’s story and her life slowly begins to unfold. The ending packs quite a surprise! One I didn’t see coming! 

You can tell Mills put her heart into this story, with its gripping plot and it’s deeply developed characters. The pace is a real page turner, and the story was so easy to get lost in. I was very impressed with Mills writing and would love to read more of her books in the future. 

If you are a fan of thrillers, suspense, and romance, this book is definitely for you! 

Rating: 4/5

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

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No Names to Be Given: Excerpt and Giveaway


Categories: Women’s Fiction / Vintage Fiction / Adoption / 1960s Publisher: Admission Press Inc. Pub Date: August 3, 2021
Pages: 334 pages
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1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.

But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.

Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make horrific decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.


A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart. Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas.

An insightful and sympathetic view offered into the lives of those who were adopted and those who adopted them. Pam Johnson, author of Justice for Ella.

A novel worthy of a Lifetime movie adaptation. Jess Hagemann, author of Headcheese.

Readers can expect deep knowledge of the world the characters inhabit. Sara Kocek, author of Promise Me Something.

This book is a relevant read and one that will keep readers guessing page after page until the very end. The US Review of Books

Today’s young women, especially, need to absorb No Names to Be Given. Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

CLICK TO PURCHASE Amazon ~ IndieBound ~ Barnes and Noble

Excerpt, Part One

from No Names to Be Given

by Julia Brewer Daily


Most of all, Sandy knew she longed to hold her child. Becca still declared love for her baby’s father. 

“I must go on a hunger strike. Do you want me to barricade myself in the nursery?” Becca made her announcements in a loud voice. 

“Hush, Becca. You’re disturbing the entire Home.” A nurse leaned over her bed, speaking harshly.

Sandy saw perspiration beading under Becca’s eyes and watched as she swiped it away with her palm.

“Everything’s gonna be alright.” Sandy soothed the erratic behavior Becca exhibited. She feared Becca would spring from the bed and run toward the nursery.

Sandy pulled the opposite curtain and found Faith with her hands clasped as if in prayer. 

“Faith, are you okay?” Sandy’s voice lowered. She always spoke to Faith as if she were a child. They were all the same age, but Faith’s innocence made her seem so much younger.

“I’m miserable over here,” Faith said.

“Me too. I feel like a medieval torture device stretched my limbs,” Sandy said.

 Faith chanted prayers for her baby.

“Please, Lord. Please let my baby have the very best parents. I know you will take care of him—or her.” She hummed the lyrics of Jesus Loves the Little Children. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.”

“How are we expected to walk away and pretend nothing happened?” Becca blurted out. 

Sandy watched Faith twist her hands. Sandy’s memory of Faith telling about her assault was difficult enough to keep secret. Now, a living reminder of it existed. Faith said she did not want this baby to carry the blame for its conception. She appeared to experience a panic attack when she gulped breaths as if drinking water with a cupped hand from a bucket.

Sandy stood and helped Becca and Faith to the bathroom or shower. The next day, she and her roommates were back in room 310, recuperating from long labors and quick births. They bound their breasts to diminish their milk production and swapped out thick pads to contain blood’s constant flow from their wombs. The midwife brought heat lamps to place between their legs to help heal delicate body tissues from episiotomies. 

Sandy peered over her bent knees. She thought the three of them looked like they were on a camping trip with their legs creating pup tents from draped sheets and glowing lights. Next, they sat in baths of scorching water and Epsom salts to soften the stitches. Each agreed she felt split into pieces, both physically and emotionally. I feel like a robot, Sandy thought. I’m going through the motions to survive each moment. 

Starting 8/23/2021, click to continue reading this excerpt on That’s What She’s Reading.

Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS. She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart. As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well. A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

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