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The Thrill of Mountain Climbing and the Delight of Home Cooking!

  The Altitude Journals by David Mauro One would never have picked David Mauro, author of The Altitude Journals to climb the major 7 mountain peaks in the world. Not only wasn’t he a climber, he wasn’t even a hiker. He was down on his luck, living in his sister’s spare room while going through a divorce. Then, he received an invitation from his brother-in-law to climb Mount Denali. And that was the turning point. The Altitude Journals are about his journey, through mountain climbing, with its adventures, its difficulties and its redemptions.  I climbed each mountain with David, routed for him and read every word in his retelling of this journey. David’s sense of humor is evident throughout. When I asked him what he had initially thought when Thai asked him to join him climbing Denali, the highest point in North America, he told me, “My initial thought was, ‘Well, I'm not even a mountain climber so that sounds like a bad fit.’  By the end of the journey I had come of age as an altitude climber, so I understood clearly what I was getting myself into with Everest. I liked my chances of success, which I placed at 30%.” Hiking and…

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“Reconstructing Jackson”- Heartbreak, Love and good food for Valentine’s Day!

    Holly Bush’s Reconstructing Jackson. The year is 1867. The Confederates have lost and the South is bitter, much in ruins.  Throughout the US, the former slaves are free yet most remain fearful, unable to exercise the freedoms they have been given. Enter Reed Jackson, lawyer, handsome and defeated Confederate officer. One leg amputated during the war, the other said to be too weak to use, Reed is in a wheel chair, angry, hopeless and uncertain about his future. His plantation and financé have been given to his younger brother and Reed is sent to the Aimes cousins in Missouri. Holly told me, “He knew the South could not support slavery forever, he knew his father was a cruel man, he knew that good people existed (his mother), he fought in a war he did not support but was expected of him, and he knew that the law must be followed blindly to begin our crawl out of our national conflicts.” So begins the historical romance written by Holly Bush. Reed is confronted with the historical reality of his era. His cousins own a boarding house and employ Beulah, a free Black manager, a bright, educated former slave. She is also a teacher,…

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Space in the Heart & Food in the Stomach!

      What is apparent from the start of the well-written Space in the Heart are the wounds of the three vibrant main characters. Author Rodney Walther told me, “I like to write characters who are complex, who have some wound or flaw that shapes who they are and how they see the world. Although the main characters Garrison and Danica take tentative steps toward love, they are each pursuing an individual journey of growth, which is as important as their romantic relationship.” Throw in Zoey, a moody adolescent.  In many ways emotionally, she is completely normal with the roller-coaster feelings of a teenager. Being in a wheel chair sets her apart, yet Rodney’s strong and apt development allows us to sit in her chair as we read.  The authors is successful in his goal of writing “Zoey as a teenage girl who happened to have a disability, not as a disabled girl first and foremost.” The plot reveals the nasty side of adolescents who both mock and ignore Zoey. Having been an educator for many years, I have seen these types of encounters. While all bullying is wrong, this type is extremely infuriating for me. Like many teenagers, Zoey wants to handle…

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A Book for Christmas and Pasta for a Healthy New Year!

Mothers who disappear. Fathers who die. Mothers who are in jail. Parents with hidden identities. And children who search and yearn for their parents and try to find, if not them, substitutes. The quandaries do not end there. Husbands with other families. Organized crime threatening safety.  Diverse racial and religious identities within families. Florence Osmund is fascinated with identity and family. In The Coach House and Daughters, paired novels, and Nineteen Hundred Days, she disturbs the smooth surface of the life of her characters. She takes away their safety and then allows them to develop the strength to create safety for themselves. She told me, “Characters Marie and Ben are confronted with safety issues, both physical and emotional, beyond what most people face in their daily lives. The level of safety they feel is directly related to the risks they take.” Families ground and direct us, whether we remain or rebel. The complexity of the characters’ emotions reveals choices that were difficult and with relationships that remain complicated. Marie Marchetti, the main character in The Coach House and Daughters, discovers that important people in her life are not as she thought they were, whether her mother, her unknown father or her husband. Ben, 12 years…

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Record Your Own Audiobook for Audible

Should you do an audiobook? This was probably the most often asked question at the Book Baby Independent Author Conference 2018 held in Philadelphia the first weekend in November and the answer is "YES"! Audio books (although not actually new) are the "new" big thing.  Just as, not that many years ago, when ebooks hit the publishing world and exploded, the market for audiobooks is now exploding and it seems it is time to jump in. Two time B.R.A.G.Medallion author, Travis Bow has shared the "how to" of doing an audiobook! "It doesn't take a studio or an audio engineering degree to record your own audiobook and sell it on Audible. With a $130 microphone, some free software, and a little persistence, you can make top-notch audio, and Audible's Audiobook Creation Exchange interface makes it super straightforward to get your book on sale on the largest Audiobook platform in the world. Having gone through this process three times with my books Thane and King's Table and my short story The Three, I've had to glean information from dozens of partial (often conflicting) tutorials, and I've discovered a lot by trial and error. This is my attempt to put it all together in a step-by-step guide that anyone…

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Bookstores are still out there!

  In a world full of Amazons, Kobo, Scribd, (now Wal-Mart joining the bunch), and many more online book selling platforms, it may not be too surprising for you to hear about another major retail chain of bookstores closing. It doesn't mean that my heart doesn't weep each time it happens, though. A bookstore has always been a place I could disappear into for hours at a time - grab a cup of java; enjoy the soft leather of a cozy armchair while I perused the merchandise, deciding on which book I was going to take home. This was how I found most of my reads in a time when we didn't have Goodreads or Bookbub. Today, it reminds me eerily of the Blockbuster days right before they went out of business ... mainly because they refused to change and adapt to the times. But don't fret, there are many more options out there that allow you to check out both traditionally published authors and self-published authors, alike.   I am a self-published young adult author, which means I have to hit the ground running and never stop ... my feet get tired, my figurative boots are muddy and war-torn and worn down to bloody stumps. If you're traditionally published, these days you have to…

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The More the Merrier! Crowdfunding your Publication.

Experience with Crowdfunding                                                          by Dean Hamilton                                                              Author of The Jesuit Letter Crowdfunding is basically funding a project by raising money from a large number of people, each of whom contribute a relatively small amount.  Think of it as the same process Leonardo da Vinci practiced, but instead of one big patron named Medici, you had several hundred. The end result – a Mona Lisa! Hopefully anyway… There are any number of crowdfunding platforms online available to choose from, each offering various pluses and minuses. Check out various projects, past and present, read up on the costs/benefits and pick the one most suitable for your specific audience and project needs. The two I am most familiar with are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There are literally a ton of articles available online on crowdfunding, so I’m going to focus my comments on my own experience: Crowdfunding…

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A Novel Conversations with King Ludwig of Bavaria!

Dark Spirit by Susan Appleyard Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Susan Appleyard’s novel Dark Spirit. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?    A: Mmm. Thank you. How did you know I adore chocolate? I am Ludwig, King of Bavaria, of the Wittelsbach family, and I am of course the lead character in Ms. Appleyard’s book. Read the Entire interview @ Novel Conversations!

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A Ghost Story & Pumpkin Soup for Halloween!

    By Patti Davis    The Blue Hour by Patti Davis The Blue Hour is dusk, that time between day and night that slips in silently, a few moments each day. It was Joshua Baron’s favorite time of day, a peaceful time when the world’s edges begin to blur. For an alone boy like Joshua, it was a time he was content, at one with nature and free from people, who could be bothersome. The Blue Hour is one of those wonderful books that is part fairy tale, part allegory, part time-slip and… part mean adolescent bullying. It is for young adults and adults alike, in the way that The Little Prince, Alice in Wonderland or The Giver are.  It has a clear message yet the characters, the magic and the quest are expertly woven together from the first to the last word, so the book is not moralistic. It is haunting, a perfect Halloween read. The Barons move to small town Clearoak to escape LA and its lack of civility, charm and freedom to be safe. The run down house is rehabilitated; Josh’s room is painted blue and the townspeople hope the news family will drive away the ghosts.  Yet the ghosts remain. Joshua thinks…

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Imperial Passions and Olives, Nuts & Bread!

    By Eileen Stephenson   Byzantium in 1039 is not a time and place known well to many in the modern western world. The author sweeps away many misconceptions in her historical novel, Imperial Passions.  One  fascinating view is of the role of women. While medieval women had few rights in most parts of the world, Eileen shared with me that “Byzantine women held positions of more consequence than elsewhere, and they had opportunities that women in the rest of Europe did not have until centuries later.”  Two women ruled Byzantium in the 12th century, “Empress Zoe and Empress Theodora, who the people of Constantinople were fond of, despite their flaws. I think it just got people used to the idea that women could be in positions of authority.”  Importantly, as Eileen noted, literacy became common in 11th and 12th century Byzantium, reaching down into the middle classes and included women, which helped them accomplish more. Eileen gives us tantalizing views of female doctors and empresses, minority groups, generals and deposed kings, all in this cosmopolitan city. It is the many glimpses of women which are so fascinating and personal from Xene, abused and isolated by her husband to main character Anna Dalassena,…

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