The Big Empty: Guest Post and Giveaway


THE BIG EMPTY
by
LOREN C. STEFFY
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.
PRAISE FOR THE BIG EMPTY:
“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

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BAR NONE: WHICH DITCH IS WHICH

GUEST POST BY LOREN STEFFY

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.

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The Yes Dare: Author Interview and Giveaway

THE YES DARE
A Pies, Books
& Jesus Club Novel
by
KATHLEEN Y’BARBO
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 www.kathleenybarbo.com.



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

 

GONE TO DALLAS: THE STOREKEEPER 1856 – 1861
by
LAURIE MOORE – MOORE
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.

READER PRAISE FOR GONE TO DALLAS:
“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.”
“Brilliant!”

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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.
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Once Upon a Camel: Review and Giveaway

ONCE UPON A CAMEL
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 ~ Bookshop.org




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.
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Creatrix Rising Tour


CREATRIX RISING: UNLOCKING THE POWER
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.

PRAISE FOR CREATRIX RISING:

“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

Click To Purchase: Amazon ~ Indiebound ~ Bookshop.org



Link To The Book Trailer On YouTube

MARKING THE YEARS
GUEST POST
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, Care2.com, as well as SixtyandMe.com.

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.

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn


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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
Or, visit the blogs directly:

9/1/21

Excerpt

Hall Ways Blog

9/1/21

Review

Missus Gonzo

9/2/21

Review

All the Ups and Downs

9/2/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

9/3/21

Review

The Plain-Spoken Pen

9/3/21

Review

Momma on the Rocks

9/4/21

Author Interview

The Clueless Gent

9/5/21

Author Interview

Book Bustle

9/6/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight

9/6/21

Video Guest Post

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

9/7/21

Review

Chapter Break Book Blog

9/8/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

9/8/21

Guest Post

The Page Unbound

9/9/21

Review

Jennie Reads

9/10/21

Review

Forgotten Winds

9/10/21

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

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Trace of Doubt: Review and Giveaway


TRACE OF DOUBT
BY DIANN MILLS
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.

PRAISE FOR TRACE OF DOUBT :

“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

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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

 

NO NAMES TO BE GIVEN
By JULIA BREWER DAILY
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.

PRAISE FOR NO NAMES TO BE GIVEN:

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

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Excerpt, Part One

from No Names to Be Given

by Julia Brewer Daily

1965

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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The Forgotten World Book Blitz

 
The Forgotten World
by
Nick Courtright

Genre: Poetry / Travel / Fatherhood
Publisher: Gold Wake Press
Date of Publication: August 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 88 Pages


In his third collection, poet Nick Courtright explores the world at large in an effort to reconcile selfhood as an American in the international community, while also seeking anchors for remembering a wider world often lost to view in our shared though increasingly isolated experience of reality.

Beginning in Africa with investigations of religion and love, The Forgotten World then moves to Latin America to tackle colonialism and whiteness. From there it travels to Asia to discuss economic stratification and Europe to explore art and mental health, culminating in a stirring homecoming to troubled America, where family, the future, and what matters most rise to the forefront of consideration.

Through all of it, Courtright displays a deft hand, at once pained, at once bright, to discover that although the wider world seems farther away than before, the lessons it offers are more needed than ever.


“In The Forgotten World, Nick Courtright explores the intersections of being a citizen of one country and the desire to live as a citizen of the world…” – Octavio Quintanilla, author of If I Go Missing and 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio 

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Nick Courtright is the author of The Forgotten World (2021), Let There Be Light (2014) and Punchline (2012), and is the Executive Editor of Atmosphere Press. His work has appeared in The Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review among dozens of others. With a Doctorate in Literature from the University of Texas, Nick lives in Austin with the poet Lisa Mottolo and their children, William and Samuel. Find him online and watching birds on his porch.
 

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Dark Intentions Book Blitz

70% DARK INTENTIONS
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 2
by
AMBER ROYER
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
Number of Pages: 260 pages
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An Idyllic Chocolate Shop. An island with endangered species. And a murder.
Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is bringing in plenty of customers – in part due to the notoriety of the recent murder of one of her assistants, which she managed to solve. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Her new assistant, Mateo, even gets along with Carmen, the shop’s barista turned pastry chef. Felicity thinks she’s learning to cope with change – right up until one of her friends gets engaged. Everyone’s expecting her to ask Logan, her former bodyguard, to be her plus one. But even the thought of asking out someone else still makes her feel disloyal to her late husband’s memory — so maybe she hasn’t moved on from her husband’s death as much as she thought.

Felicity isn’t planning to contact Logan any time soon. Only, Felicity finds ANOTHER body right outside her shop – making it two murders at Greetings and Felicitations in as many months. That night, Mateo disappears, leaving Felicity to take care of his pet octopus. The police believe that Mateo committed the murder, but Felicity is convinced that, despite the mounting evidence, something more is going on, and Mateo may actually be in trouble.

When Logan assumes that he’s going to help Felicity investigate, she realizes she’s going to have to spend time with him – whether she’s ready to really talk to him or not. Can Felicity find out what happened to Mateo, unmask a killer, and throw an engagement party all at the same time?

PRAISE FOR 70% DARK INTENTIONS:
“Royer has concocted a sweetly dark confection with 70% DARK INTENSIONS, the second serving in her Bean to Bar Mysteries series…You’ll read this yummy treat late into the night.” –Amy Shojai, author of September Day & Shadow pet-centric thrillers
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Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.
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ONE WINNER
Autographed copy of 70% DARK INTENTIONS
(US only. Ends Midnight, CST, August 5, 2021)

Making it Home: Excerpt and Giveaway


MAKING IT HOME
By Teddy Jones

Publisher: MidTown Publishing Pub Date: July 26, 2021
Series: Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series
Stand Alone: YES Pages: 275
Categories: Family Fiction / Racism / Ku Klux Klan / Texas Women’s Fiction / Rural Fiction
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In this third novel in the Jackson’s Pond, Texas series, fifty-five-year-old Melanie Jackson Banks encounters racism, intolerance, and violence both in her family’s distant past and in current day Jackson’s Pond. She leads family and community efforts to create reconciliation for past wrongs and also to demonstrate strength and defiance in the face of vandalism, cross-burning, domestic violence, threats to Jackson Ranch’s operation, and kidnapping. In the midst of this stormy period, she finds allies in her mother’s long-time companion, Robert Stanley; her mother, Willa Jackson; her daughter Claire Havlicek; and many others.

Praise for Making It Home “Making It Home could not be a more timely book… We live in an imperfect world, but it is still possible to think, imagine and make things better. The cast of characters in this strong family affirms this through their hope, decency, and tenacity!” —Eleanor Morse, author of Margreete’s Harbor “Jones’ talent for creating indelible characters endures, as does her way with a compelling plot. … This is a timely page-turner.”  Robin Lippincott, author of Blue Territory: A Meditation on the Life and Art of Joan Mitchell

PURCHASE LINKS:

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“LEGACY”

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

MAKING IT HOME

BY TEDDY JONES


Albert Jackson had always thought of home as peaceful. After the war it seemed dull. But the article circled in this week’s Floyd County Tribune told him things were changing out there. He read aloud to Delia, his bride-to-be, as she sat on her parents’ living room sofa, straight as a poker, perched like a wren near the edge of the cushion.

 

“This is from last week, dated December 1, 1920.” He pointed to the article on the front page, making sure Delia saw it. “‘Sunday, C. C. Jackson contacted the county sheriff in Calverton saying that he’d found a body on his property that morning. The deceased was a Negro man, tentatively identified as Lincoln Berryhill, age thirty-four, from Bosley, Oklahoma. That identity was based on items found nearby. Deputy Asa Moore described the condition of the corpse as follows:  ‘completely naked, except for a tattered sock on the right foot. Appears to have been killed by a blow or blows to the back of the head, which has a bashed in appearance. Both legs are broken below the knees, with bone visible sticking out from both.’”

 

If Delia reacted at all to the gory details, he couldn’t tell from looking. The expression on her face, pleasant and somewhat distant, a carbon copy of her mother’s, had not changed since he began reading the article to her. Come to think of it, her women friends he’d met while visiting Longview all wore similar faint, far away smiles.

 

Wondering why he hadn’t thought before about that intentionally vacant expression, Albert hesitated. Today, exactly as he had each week since he and Delia Carson became officially engaged, Albert Jackson sat with her in the front parlor of her parents’ Longview, Texas, home. Doing his best to fit in, for the time being at least, with the way things were done in her family and in East Texas, he visited from Fort Worth. His Model T made the five-hour trip easily. But as far as he was concerned, the two towns were worlds apart. In Fort Worth, he could stretch his legs, hear talk of men dealing in cattle and land, feel the same as he’d always felt back home in the Texas Panhandle where he knew he was a man involved in the important work of helping feed the country. Everything about Longview felt cramped, a place more like the old South, full of manners and formal courtesies and open secrets.

 

He’d received an edition of the newspaper he held in the mail each week from his father, C.C. Jackson, since they reached their understanding. First, his father had sent that telegram letting Albert know in no uncertain terms that the fact he fought in the Great War didn’t mean it was the last work he’d ever need to do.

 

Right away, he’d gone home to Jackson’s Pond and explained to his father he was courting a woman he’d met in Fort Worth and had to be there to win her hand. After a long talk they reached an understanding that got him a bit of a reprieve. They both knew his mother’s dying last year had left the house in need of a woman.

 

Now that he and Delia Carson were engaged, plenty of things required his presence in her hometown. But his father let him know, with this regular news delivery, that he was watching, and the clock was ticking. After the wedding three weeks from today, Albert and his bride would make their way westward across the more than four hundred miles from Longview to the Jackson Ranch, home.

 

Albert straightened out a fold in the paper and read on, “Found nearby were overalls and a red union suit, an empty billfold, and a letter introducing Lincoln Berryhill. The letter stated Berryhill was working his way down to Fort Stockton, Texas, to stay with an elderly uncle who once had been stationed there as a Buffalo Soldier. The letter, torn into four pieces found scattered near the clothing, also said Berryhill was a good worker and trustworthy. It was signed Marshall Lee, President of the Bosley, Oklahoma, First National Bank. By press time, no relatives have been located to verify identification, and Mr. Lee has not replied to our inquiries.”

 

She asked, “What does that have to do with us?”

 

“Nothing, I hope. But it could mean the KKK is trying to stir up problems out there. They kill people for no other reason than being Negro. I’ve also heard they aim to get elected to office and run the big cities in the state. Dallas, Austin, even Wichita Falls.”

 

Delia leaned forward a tiny bit, deposited her teacup, still full, on the end table. She turned to face Albert and said, “That’s not necessarily a bad idea. Women right here in our town know we’re safe primarily because of the protection of the Klan. After a brief pause to retrieve and sip her tea, she said, “How can women feel safe out in West Texas if there’s no one keeping the order of things?”

 

“That’s what the sheriff’s department’s for. And courts.”

 

Delia said, “Justice sometimes must be swiftly administered. People who can’t or don’t want to live like the rest of us have to be taught a lesson. If I didn’t know better, I would think you were trying to start an argument with me. And here, so near to our wedding.”

 

“I’m trying to have a discussion, to understand what you believe. If that sounds like arguing, well so be it.” He stopped talking, made a show of checking his watch.

 

She said, “I think I am due an apology.”

 

“I have to go. I need to get out to the ranch. I’ll be back next week.”

 

Delia shot up from the sofa. “You’ll do no such thing. Critical preparations for the wedding and our honeymoon must be attended to.”

 

“This is more critical.”

 

She stamped her foot, noiselessly because of the thick rug, but he saw the movement. She said, her voice louder than he’d ever heard, “That’s debatable.”



Teddy Jones is the author of three published novels, Halfwide, Jackson’s Pond, Texas, and Well Tended, as well as a collection of short stories, Nowhere Near. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her as yet unpublished novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and A Good Family was named finalist in that contest in 2018.

Although her fiction tends to be set in West Texas, her characters’ lives embody issues not bounded by geography of any particular region. Families and loners; communities in flux; people struggling, others successful; some folks satisfied in solitude and others yearning for connection populate her work. And they all have in common that they are more human than otherwise.

Jones grew up in a small Texas town, Iowa Park. Earlier she worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle where he farms and she writes.

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