A fabulous and extremely interesting post by Sue Vincent. Please enjoy and check out Sue’s blog.
The day was bitterly cold. Icy winds and heavy skies meant that it was definitely not the weather for tramping the moors on search of ancient stones. Instead, we had a run out to Tissington, knowing that one of the windows in the little Norman church there would be perfect to illustrate the post we were putting together for the Silent Eye’s April event.
The village is tiny… just a few old streets clustered around Tissington Hall in Derbyshire. The Hall has been the home of a single family, the FitzHerberts, for centuries and the ghosts that walk there, from cellar to landing, are their own. Orbs and lights, tobacco smoke and footsteps may follow you in the cellars… and a man dressed in black. In the Library, the temperature is prone to drop rapidly, while lamps move and vibrate and a spectral cat is a prowling presence whose…
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By Nancy Thayer
From the bestselling author of Between Husbands and Friends and An Act of Love comes a wise, wonderful, and delightfully witty “coming of age” novel about four intrepid women who discover themselves as they were truly meant to be: passionate, alive, and ready to face the best years of their lives.
Meet Faye, Marilyn, Alice, and Shirley. Four women with skills, smarts, and secrets—all feeling over the hill and out of the race. But in a moment of delicious serendipity, they meet and realize they share more than raging hormones and lost dreams. Now as the Hot Flash Club, where the topics of motherhood, sex, and men are discussed with double servings of chocolate cake, they vow to help each other . . . and themselves.
Faye, the artist. A determinedly cheerful widow and connoisseur of control-top pantyhose, she’s struggling with creative block and an empty, lonely house. Now she’s got a tricky problem to bring to the club’s table: how can they catch her perfect son-in-law cheating on her only daughter Laura?
Shirley, the healer. Though her yoga-slender body belie her years, decades of dating losers and the strain of being broke make her feel her age. Shirley has a secret dream: a wellness spa that nurtures body and soul. But first she needs to believe in herself, in her abilities, and in her friends at the club.
Marilyn, the brain. A paleontologist who has spent so many years looking at dried-up fossils, she’s almost become one herself. Worried that her brilliant but nerdy son is about to marry the very wrong woman, she gets some help from the HFC, who transform her from a caterpillar to a butterfly, with amazing results.
Alice, the executive. Black and regal, she soared to the top of the corporate ladder. Now her shoes are murder on her arthritic back and the younger jackals are circling in for the kill. But as the inspiration behind the HFC, she’s about to discover something extraordinary: contentment.
For Faye, Shirley, Marilyn, and Alice, the time has come to use it or lose it—be it their bodies, their brains, their spirits, and their sense of fun. Together they realize that they can have it all, perhaps for the first time in their lives. And though what sags may never rise again, feeling sexy has no expiration date— and best of all, with a little help from her friends, a woman can always start over . . . and never, ever, give up what matters most.
Blurb from Amazon
The Hot Flash Club is about four middle age women and the various issues each faced as they aged and about how they adjusted to life under their own individual circumstances. Of course, one of the main issues each was faced was the man, or lack of a man, in their lives. They came together by chance and had dinner and lots of wine and chocolate. It was then they decided to keep meeting, mostly for the wine and chocolate, to help each other in their adjustment to their current situations. Alice took on the role of spearheading the group. A lot happens in the story, but to keep from giving too much away, I will not delve into the nitty-gritty of the book.
In the beginning, it was difficult to keep the characters straight in my mind (be patient), but as the story evolved, they came into their own right. There are a lot of humorous and relatable situations, and I must admit, I found myself laughing out loud at times. The author did a wonderful job fleshing out the stories of these four midlife women. By the end of the book, you will feel you have a personal relationship with each.
If you enjoy women’s fiction with humor sprinkled throughout, this is a book you’ll want to read. As a side note, I read the second book in the series, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, and was substantially disappointed. Because the first part of the book lacked in keeping the characters straight for the readers (my book club had the same issues with The Hot Flash Club), I am giving this book 4 stars.
About the Author
Nancy Thayer has a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Before settling down to write and have children she taught English at various colleges and traveled, living in Paris, Amsterdam and Helsinki. In 1981 she was a Fellow at the Breadloaf Writers Conference. She has lived on Nantucket Island year-round for twenty-five years with her husband Charley Walters. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Nancy Thayer is the author of nineteen novels, including Summer House, The Hot Flash Club series, Moon Shell Beach, Stepping, and Three Women At The Water’s Edge.
Her books concern the mysteries and romance of families and relationships and the humorous adventures of growing older.
In 2008, Redbook magazine chose her novel Moon Shell Beach for their “Hot Summer Read.” Nancy’s work has been translated into more than 14 languages, including Polish, Hebrew, Russian, and Serbo Croatian. Her novels have been condensed or excerpted in several magazines, including Redbook, Good Housekeeping, England’s Cosmopolitan, Holland’s Viva, and South Africa’s Personality.
She has published a commissioned three-part mystery novella in Redbook, and short stories in literary reviews in the United States, Canada, and Spain. Her first novel, Stepping, was made into a 13-part series for BBC Radio. Her ghost novel Spirit Lost was produced as a movie by United Image Entertainment. Her novel Everlasting was a Main Dual selection of the Literary Guild in 1991.
Author Bio from Goodreads
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By Courtney Allen
From Courtney Allen, the author of the award-winning novel, Down From The Mountain, comes Lee County Elegy, which is an equal work in depth, character portrayal, and historical fiction. This novel follows the morally challenging account of the Grayson family, of how they survive in the rural south during the Great Depression, and by what means they overcome a life of unfavorable consequences. In the beginning, Mac Grayson suffers a critical lumberyard accident that leaves him helpless to support his farm and family. Due to the onslaught of the weakening economy, land values plummet and the bank threatens foreclosure. During a drought, a bitter dispute with a wealthy landowner concerning water access to the Flint River becomes a contentious argument, and volatile tensions mount. In order to survive, an agreement must be met, but Mac must negotiate and risk the well-being of his family to assuage their neighbor’s divisiveness. In this story, the Grayson’s are faced with few resources and endless controversies fraught with dire consequences that create challenges almost impossible to overcome. Filled with page-turning suspense and unyielding dilemmas, the ends required to endure are made by difficult choices, and the honor of each character is brought into question as the story unfolds. This depression era novel is of sorrow and redemption, struggle and hardship, of love and loss. The pace is fast, the heart of the book strong, and the ending bittersweet yet satisfyingly triumphant. For historical fiction lovers, Lee County Elegy is worth reading.
Blurb from Goodreads.
In this beautifully detailed historical novel about the depression era and the hard times that fell on everyone, we meet Myra Grayson who is the central character in the story. Maclin and Ila Mae Grayson adopted Myra when she was just 3 years old. She had two older brothers, Arden and Cade. Times were tough. Ila Mae was long ago institutionalized in another town for dementia and Myra, a young teen, was left to care for Maclin who had been in a horrible “accident” and left with permanent disabilities. She had the responsibility of caring for their home, preparing meals, and doing some of the farm work. When the depression hit, things went downhill quickly. Arden left to bring Ila Mae back home when the institution could no longer take care of her financially. Cade took off after an unfortunate incident and left Myra to fend for herself and Maclin.
Jack Waylon, their neighbor, had his eye on their land because of the natural supply of water he wanted access to for his farm. There was a long history of conflict between Maclin and Jack and Maclin refused the access and threatened Jack if he stepped foot on his land. This set the stage for the rest of the story.
I found the characters to be well developed and believable. Myra showed an incredible amount of resilience and such a soft side. At times, I felt if I could reach in and give her a hug or a pat on the back, her life would have been easier, if only for a moment. Maclin often seemed gruff but considering his situation, it made his character come to life. I felt Arden and Cade got a lot of attention in the beginning, but then, for the most part, seemed to drop out of the story, being resurrected now and again. Jack Waylon had a strong Jekyll and Hyde persona. He was a character I loved to hate, one I could have pulled out of the book and smacked around.
I had a difficult time getting into the story, unusual for one of Courtney Allen’s books. It started off slowly with a great deal of description and a story that seemed to be going nowhere. I was concerned about whether the story would ever pique my interest. As the storyline took precedence, I became intrigued and couldn’t put Lee County Elegy down.
As always, the author researched the era and the locale with great attention to detail. Though life was difficult in the cities, it was much harder felt in the rural areas. These contrasts were well documented in the story.
Because I almost lost interest before the story reeled me in, I am giving this book four stars. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
I was given a copy of Lee County Elegy by the author in exchange for my honest review.
I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.
About the Author
Courtney Allen lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been writing for many years and has written several other books.
Find Out More About Courtney Allen
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Years ago when I was a child, my mother wrote this story about her best ever Christmas gift. I hope you enjoy her story and the photos from Christmas of my childhood.
Six part-time angels gave Christmas to me wrapped in warmth and love. The uncomplicated truths of childhood changed what seemed a catastrophe into the most precious gift that I have ever received.
It was four days before Christmas and we had all been busy with our usual holiday preparations — addressing cards, baking cookies, making candy, stuffing dates, linking the wreath for the front door, decorating the house inside and out, wrapping gifts, stringing popcorn and cranberries for the birds’ tree in the front yard, arranging Great Aunt Mary’s crib in its honored place in the entrance hall, trimming the tree — doing all the happy chores that make up our pre-Christmas ritual. The children’s gifts of clothing had been purchased and wrapped, and the toys had long been ordered.
Unable to squeeze any more days into my schedule, I had ordered the toys from an out-of-town mail-order house and considered myself very lucky that they would all be delivered in one shipment to my door. I waited as patiently as possible until the preceding week and then wrote asking the company to check on my order. They replied to the effect that shipments were understandably slow and that I should not worry. Worry I did, however, as the days passed and no toys arrived. Finally, in desperation, I called the firm long-distance. After what seemed an hour of expensive delay, a pleasant female voice on the other end of the line was telling me something about a mix-up in orders. They were terribly sorry. My order had not been shipped. There was no possible way of getting the toys to me in time for Christmas. I was stunned, and I excitedly babbled something about my predicament — my husband, a mailman, was working late every night in the rush of Christmas mail. I couldn’t get to a store from our rural location. The order was all of the children’s Christmas toys. I had to have those toys! The poor girl at the other end of the line was patiently understanding and, as I remember now, sounded genuinely sorry for the mistake. There was just nothing the company could do! Finally, I had to accept the impossibility of getting the shipment to our house in time.
I sat by the phone, the thought of a toyless Christmas settled over my mind like a black fog, smothering all the joy I had known in our Christmas preparations. I was still sitting there when the children came in, flushed with cold and excitement and the joy of the season. They knew immediately that something was wrong and grouped around me to find out what it was that could cause such sadness so close to Christmas. Foolishly, I thought of the disappointment on those shining faces on Christmas morning, and the flood of tears I had been fighting to hold back could no longer be controlled. I cried. And then, hoping to temper their disappointment on Christmas morning, I told them there would be no toys. The looks of disbelief I expected were there, but not the looks of disappointment. They simply could not believe that I was so upset over that.
The parent became the child and the children became the parents. They pressed close and assured me that of all the things of Christmas, the toys were the least important. Christmas to them wasn’t presents. Christmas to them was the fun of being together, of doing things together. It was the fun of caroling our neighbors and of welcoming our friends. It was the wonderful, indescribable feeling of happiness, the experience of celebrating Christ’s birth at midnight Mass. My oldest daughter summed it up very well by saying, “Clothes wear out and toys break, but we have you and Daddy for all the time.” Needless to say, my feelings readjusted to their proper perspective immediately. I was thrilled by this insight into their true feelings and a bit chagrined that I had lost sight of the true values of Christmas.
That was the warmest, most wonderful Christmas ever. When the holiday season was over, and the Three Kings stood at their destination in the crib, the little light in the tin-star reflector over the stable was extinguished. That has always been the signal that the time has come to pack away the material evidences of Christmas. The boxes and crates were filled with gay decorations, the greens burned, and the gifts put in their proper places. But no drawer, no shelf, no closet was large enough to hold my gift. I keep it with me constantly, and each day is gilded by the knowledge that, “we have you and Daddy for all the time.”
In all fairness, I must confess the children did not reform their mother completely. When I had related the incident to my husband, we immediately combed the city for late-closing stores and replaced all the toys in the canceled order. Then we added a few extra. We are glad that we have those children, “for all the time.”
About the Author
Mildred Clements, a.k.a. Mom, passed away nearly eleven years ago, but her spirit is ever present, especially at Christmas. Mom believed Christmas should be all about family and traditions. We put up the tree together, placed the creche beneath the tree, sang carols, and laughed over past tree raisings. With so many people living in one house, someone always had a funny remembrance. Though Mom decorated most of our house during the day while we were at school, she enlisted our help with baking and food prep and many of our other Christmas traditions. I still make many of the same cookies we baked in Mom’s kitchen.
Bette Stevens’ sampling of stanzas from her Winter Tales section of her upcoming book of poetry, MY MAINE, Haiku Through the Seasons, paints an idyllic winter scene. So find your cozy spot and grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy these lovely haiku.
This upcoming collection of haiku reflects the Maine I know and love. Here is a sampling of several stanzas from the section Winter Tales. I hope you enjoy them and would appreciate your comments. I plan to edit and format the collection during the holiday season, and hope to publish my first poetry book—MY MAINE, Haiku through the Seasons—early in 2019. ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author
(Selected samples fromMY MAINE, Haiku Through the Seasons by Bette A. Stevens)
Winter genie waves
Its icy crystal scepter
Dawn’s magic appears
Read a charmed folktale
A spellbound story
Pine cones and tassels
Mirrored in moonlight upon
White weighted branches
Nestling, captive till
Morning sets them free
Shovels and snow plows
Storm’s ravings unraveled
Till the next arrives
Soups, stews and chowders
Stories told round the table
Favored winter fare
The sundial declares
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At this busy, hectic time of year, let Lauren Scott’s lovely poem take you to a quiet, peaceful place.
(The Forgotten Child Trilogy, #2)
By Mark W. Sasse
Fruit, Faeries, & Fascist Dictators. The Adventure Continues.
In part two of The Forgotten Child Trilogy, enigmatic beings from the realm beyond—Bee & Ash—team up once again with old Manhattan businessman Francis Frick. Joined by a mysterious new recruit, Frick must fight to bring master criminal Ulrich to justice and continue searching for the truth about the forgotten child.
A child has been saved, but with international master criminal Heinrich Ulrich still on the lam, no one is content—not Bee, not Ash, and most certainly not Francis Frick. As the FBI closes in on Frick’s dealings, Bee decides to recruit young Hatty Parker to help Frick exact revenge on Ulrich and search for another child to save. But when Bee’s actions begin to worry the realm beyond, her old nemesis returns to earth to thwart her plans and pit her against her beloved companion Ash, leaving Frick and his new sidekick to play dangerous time-travel games with a genocidal maniac.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads
I have read and reviewed several of Mark Sasse’s books and I have to say The Forgotten Child Trilogy is fabulous and are my favorites! Book Two, The African Connection, is every bit as intriguing as the first book, A Man Too Old, for a Place Too Far. I recommend you read Book One first so that you have a good understanding of who the characters are and how they fit into the story.
One of the most endearing traits of The African Connection is the way the author takes you into another realm with characters like Bee, who is flighty and childlike, and Ash, who is more than patient with Bee, but who can be stern with her at the same time. These two and Zette, who has more power than Bee or Ash, appear out of “thin air” first to Francis Frick and then to others. But don’t think they are ghosts, they are far more than that.
Sasse peppers the book with oodles of descriptive text to insert the reader into the story. He makes it easy to picture people, places, things, and yes, the otherworldly. Now, I know you’re thinking you don’t like reading a lot of description, neither do I, but Sasse writes in such a way that it renders a necessary, sense of place, and is such an integral part of the story that you will enjoy every descriptive word. I promise.
The story is coherent, and the characters are so lifelike you begin to think they are real. Mark Sasse has created another winner in my book. Do I recommend The African Connection? Without a doubt!
This book was given to me by the author in return for my honest review
Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub and Noisetrade, and his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia. His play “The Last Bastion” earned him the 2018 Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency in Ireland. He is also a three-time winner of the Best Script Award at the Penang Short & the Sweet Theatre Festival. His plays have won multiple other awards such as Best Overall Performance and Audience Choice Award. He won the Festival Director’s Award at the 2016 festival.
Sasse’s interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – from culture and language – from history and religion, making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy a page-turning good story injected with doses of history, adventure, Asian culture, and unexpected humor.
After being an adamant standalone novel advocate, he’s changed his tune and is working on the epic Forgotten Child Trilogy. Book one, A MAN TOO OLD FOR A PLACE TOO FAR, released in December 2017, and the following two books will continue the story in 2018 and 2019. He finally found the story that required more than one book, and he’s thrilled with it. It’s a crazy mix of magical realism, history, and time travel, wrapped alongside the requisite human stories.
As for his plays, he’s fond of both the short play (10 minutes or less) and full-length formats. From 2011-2017 he wrote for and directed the drama ensemble The RLT Players, a passionate group of dramatic storytellers who specialize in the short play format. In September 2016, his experimental theatre piece “How to Build a Dictator” was featured as part of Penangpac’s Black Box Experiments series. His goal is to have it go into full production somewhere in the world. Any takers?
He currently teaches drama in Saudi Arabia.
HOW DID HE FINALLY GET HIMSELF WRITING?
Sasse remembers writing his first play when he was about thirteen. It was about Queen Esther and the only person he ever showed that play to was his mother. In college, he wrote lots of poetry, even love poetry for a certain girl. But once he graduated, his writing confidence was shattered, so he gave it up for the next twenty years. He doesn’t recommend doing that! He went to China to teach English in 1992 and eventually moved to Vietnam to do the same in 1994, shortly after the U.S. lifted the embargo against their former enemy. He lived in the exotic Vietnamese culture with his family for nearly ten years. After many life-changing experiences, Sasse’s new-found taste for history sent him back to school to pick-up a second Master’s degree, this one in Humanities. This led to a shift from teaching English to history as he moved to Malaysia in 2006. Little did he know, however, that all of this was building up to another major shift which would get him back to writing.
On a whim in 2007, he embarked on a collaborative project with a group of students to write and produce a play, resulting in the original stage play “Monkey Love Potion.” It was such a fun and rewarding experience that he decided to try it again the following year. Before he knew it, he was hooked and that was the beginning of his love affair with live theatre. After writing and successfully producing four original full-length scripts, he finally got the nerve to try his hand once again at a hidden desire which had defeated him many times over the years – novel writing.
In the summer of 2011, he embarked on the journey of writing his first novel. His greatest worry was reaching the magical 50,000 word mark, so he could officially call himself a novelist. When the story, “Beauty Rising,” clocked in at over 60,000 words, he was shocked and happy. But not content. He didn’t know what to do with the novel, and he convinced himself that it would sit idle until he wrote a second novel. He hated hearing the words “one-hit wonder” echo in his head. So, in the summer of 2012, he wrote “The Recluse Storyteller.”
Feeling a little more confident, he decided to focus on exposing his work to the public in order to receive some feedback. In December 2012, he independently published “Beauty Rising.” When the first review from an online book reviewer was posted and it was over-the-top positive, he was flying high, and if he never wrote another word in his life, he would have been content. But that contentment was not to be. He was now hopelessly hooked on both play writing and novel writing, and he hasn’t looked back since.
He has published five novels with six already finished and ready for publication in 2017. Number seven will be his first sequel and will be available sometime in 2018. He is grateful for all the readers who have joined him on this journey of creativity.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Sasse loves to cook everything from pizza to Thai. He’s coached softball or baseball for the past ten years, and he’s been a much too loyal fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates since he was 9 years old–another item he’s hopelessly hooked on. He enjoys travelling, visiting historical sites, and sitting by the beach or other scenic spot with a laptop, an idea, and a lot of time. He has a lovely wife and three wonderful children and one really cool son-in-law – he’s Korean, keeping with the Asian theme of his life. He has an active blog (www.mwsasse.com) where he writes frequently about history, writing, culture, and life. He loves to hear from readers, so he hopes you’ll stop by his site and say “hello.”
Author Biography taken from Amazon.com
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Do you enjoy young adult fantasy fiction? Check out this review of Daughter of Magic by Karen Eisenbrey on Rosie Amber’s blog.
Daughter of Magic is a young adult fantasy. It has a medieval setting and a theme revolving around magic and wizards.
The story opens with fourteen year old Luskell. She and her parents are travelling to a rural village, so that Luskell can stay with her Grandmother for the summer. Meanwhile, her parents must go to the city where they will act as ambassadors during tribal meetings with the new Governor.
Luskell’s parents both have magical abilities; her mother is a great healer and her father is a powerful wizard. Luskell’s own abilities are currently dormant; however, she builds a friendship with two boys and together the trio grow into their magic. They then set off on a quest to stop a power-hungry bad wizard.
Stories about wizards and magic are popular. This story follows well used genre tropes, but I found…
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