Guest Post: BEHIND THE HEADLINES by Hays and McFall, authors of BONNIE AND CYLDE: RESURRECTION ROAD {giveaway}

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BONNIE AND CLYDE:

Resurrection Road
Book One in a New Trilogy

by
CLARK HAYS AND KATHLEEN McFALL
  
Genre:  Alternative Historical Fiction / Thriller
Date of Publication: April 22, 2017
Pages: 308
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
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In an alternate timeline, legendary lovers Bonnie and Clyde are given one last shot at redemption.
The story begins in 1984 when a reporter gets a tip to meet an old woman at a Texas cemetery. Cradling an antique rifle and standing over a freshly dug grave, the old woman claims to be Bonnie Parker. Turns out, she says, it wasn’t Bonnie and Clyde who were ambushed fifty years earlier. Instead, the outlaws were kidnapped, forced into a covert life and given a deadly mission—save President Roosevelt from an assassination plot financed by industrialists determined to sink the New Deal.
Thrust into a fight against greed they didn’t ask for, but now must win in order to save themselves and their families, will the notorious duo overcome their criminal pasts and put their “skills” to use fighting for justice for the working class?
Cutting back and forth between the modern era where the shocked reporter investigates the potential scoop-of-the-century, and the desperate undercover exploits of Bonnie and Clyde in 1934, Resurrection Road is a page-turning sleep-wrecker.
Bonnie and Clyde. Saving democracy, one bank robbery at a time. 

PRAISE FOR BONNIE AND CLYDE: RESURRECTION ROAD:
“Sex, danger and intrigue, coupled with just the right dose of cheeky humor,” — East Oregonian 

“A Depression-era tale timely with reflections on fat cats and a rigged economic system that still ring true. More than that, the story is an exciting ride, with tight corners, narrow escapes, and real romantic heat between Bonnie and Clyde. Outlaws become patriots in this imaginative, suspenseful what-if story,” — Kirkus Reviews 

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GuestPost

 Behind the headlines: Bonnie wanted to be a movie star

Bonnie Parker was born October 1 (that makes her a Libra) in 1910, in Rowena, Texas. She didn’t have an easy early life, but she had big dreams.

Her father died when she was four and her mother moved the family (she had an older brother and a younger sister) to an impoverished suburb of Dallas known as Cement City so they could all live with Bonnie’s grandparents.

Bonnie was a bright, precocious child who thrived on attention. She liked to sing and dance and perform on stage, and—because she was considered especially pretty—she dreamed of becoming a film actress.

When she was sixteen, she posed for some glamour shots she hoped would catch the eye of big-shot Hollywood producers. She and her mother excitedly mailed them off to Tinsel Town. Most of the star-making producers ignored the letters, although apparently one wrote back, declining her entreaties.

Bonnie was devastated. Below are a some of the actual glamour photos of Bonnie Parker from that era.

Soon after, seeking a different pathway out of poverty, she married her high school sweetheart Roy Thornton. It didn’t last long. Their relationship fell apart, and even though they never divorced, she never saw him again (and was buried with a tattoo of his initials on her leg).

Bonnie never got the fame from Hollywood films she craved, but she certainly achieved a different kind of fame: infamy. While waiting tables, she met Clyde Barrow in 1930.

In our book, Bonnie and Clyde: Resurrection Road, Bonnie doesn’t get the fame she wants, but she gets something better: a shot at redemption. The outlaw lovers are kidnapped just before the fatal ambush and forced to work for the government trying to save President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. Their special skills—violence and cunning—make them necessary, and expendable assets in the fight for justice for the working man.

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A native of Texas, Clark Hays spent his early childhood there and then moved for a decade with his family around the world following the job of his father, a legendary wildcat petroleum drilling engineer, before finally landing on a Montana ranch. Kathleen McFall was born and raised in Washington, D.C.
Between the two of them, the authors have worked in writing jobs ranging from cowboy-poet to energy journalist to restaurant reviewer to university press officer. After they met in the early 1990s, their writing career took center stage when they wrote the first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection as a test for marriage. They passed. Their debut novel was picked up by Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) with a first edition published in 1999, making it among the earliest stories in the resurgence and reimagining of the undead myth for modern audiences.
Since then, Clark and Kathleen have published five novels together—the latest reimagines the life of the legendary outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.
Clark and Kathleen have won several writing awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination (Clark) and a fiction fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts (Kathleen). Their books have been honored with a Best Books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews, Best Books of 2016 by IndieReader, and a 2017 Silver IPPY Medalist.
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Interview: Preston Lewis, author of BLUSTER’S LAST STAND

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BLUSTER’S LAST STAND

The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax, #4

by
PRESTON LEWIS
  Genre:  Historical Western Fiction / Humor
Date of Publication: November 15, 2017
Publisher: Wild Horse Press

Scroll down for the giveaway!

  
Events on the Little Bighorn might have turned out better for George Armstrong Custer had he listened to H.H. Lomax rather than trying to kill him.  To save his own skin—and scalp!—Lomax must outwit Custer and his troopers as well as face hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors swarming Last Stand Hill.
At least that is how Lomax in his inimitable style tells the story in this humorous romp across Old West history.  Lomax’s latest misadventures take him from the Battle of Adobe Walls to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  In between, he’s a bouncer in a Waco whorehouse, a prospector in the Black Hills, a bartender in a Dakota Territory saloon and a combatant in the worst defeat in the history of the frontier Army.
Along the way, Lomax crosses paths with Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, General Custer, his brother Tom Custer and the troopers of the Seventh Cavalry as well as hordes of Comanche, Kiowa, Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, not to mention the most dangerous adversary of all—a newspaper reporter with ambition.
Told with Lomax’s characteristic wit, Bluster’s Last Stand puts a new spin on the Little Bighorn and its aftermath.  Whether you believe him or not, you’ve got to admire Lomax’s luck and pluck in both surviving one of the darkest days in Old West history and writing about the disaster in the latest volume of The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax.
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PRAISE FOR THE HH LOMAX SERIES:

“A new series by Preston Lewis features a protagonist, H.H. Lomax, who isn’t much of a gunfighter, horseman or gambler.  Instead, he is a likeable loser who runs into old western celebrities like Billy the Kid and the Jesse James gang, and barely escapes.”  Wall Street Journal
“It takes a special talent to write first-person novels based on the premise of ‘lost papers,’ but Preston Lewis is an especially fresh and innovative writer and he knows how to do it.”
Rocky Mountain News
Fans of the Western as a genre will delight in Lewis’ ongoing spoof of many traditions which fiction writers from Owen Wister to Elmer Kelton captured well enough to turn into key parts of our myths and folklore….Lewis’s wit is at times Puckishly wry, at other times bawdy in the manner of Chaucer.  It is always engaging.  Texas Books in Review
Several Old West historians have blessed the Lomax books as expertly crafted fiction. Dallas Morning News

 

AuthorInterview

 

How has being a Texan influenced your writing?  Texas provides a sense of place, history and pride that I haven’t seen in residents of other states.  I was a Kiplinger Fellow at Ohio State University and had the opportunity to work closely with a dozen journalists from other states, primarily in the Midwest and Northeast, and they didn’t share the same sense of identity with state that I did.  When I graduated from high school, I said West Texas had seen the last of me, but after living in Central and Southeast Texas and then in Ohio and Michigan, I realized I missed West Texas, both the landscape and people, and was glad to get back in West Texas where I have remained ever since.

Why did you choose to write historical books?  I always loved history and growing up in West Texas, the Old West was the history that surrounded me, from old forts to cattle trails to dramatic landscapes.  My youth was a heyday for western movies, which my father enjoyed and took us to, so that was the screen stories of my childhood.  Perhaps the event that most cemented my fascination with the Old West was a trip my parents took my brother and me to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where I could walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid.  The final impetus was the birth of our first child and I realized I was going to have to ultimately put our son (and later his sister) through college.  So, I needed to start making more money to save for their education.  Shortly, after our son was born, Bantam had a First Western Contest.  I wrote a western and submitted it.  Though it didn’t win the contest, it gave me a manuscript to circulate, and it was ultimately published by Tower.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?  I have done various types of writing, both on and off the job.  With newspapers I wrote hard news and features.  In higher education, I wrote features, news releases, brochures, ad copy and web copy over the years.  As a freelancer, I’ve had articles appear in daily newspapers, airline magazines, history magazines and scholarly publications.  I’ve written western, historical and juvenile novels, an occasional short story or poem as well as three dramatic productions, two of which were staged, and an unproduced screenplay.  Blood of Texas, my historical novel of the Texas Revolution, earned me a Spur Award for best novel and three other novels were Spur finalists.  My True West article on the Battle of Yellowhouse Canyon also received a Spur for best short nonfiction and another True West article was a Spur finalist.  My comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin earlier this year earned an Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on West Texas.  Two of my juvenile novels also won Kelton Awards.  

What cultural value do you see in books?  Books provide the cultural continuity of our civilization.  For instance, I took Latin in high school and college and by the time I was done, I could pick up the narratives of Caesar and read them as if Julius Caesar was speaking about the Gallic Wars straight to me across the centuries.  Similarly, I could do the same thing with memoirs of later military heroes Ulysses S. Grant or Dwight D. Eisenhower as well as common people like Anne Frank or Mary Boykin Chestnut.  Books capture the ephemera of the day for posterity.  

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?  I’ve never been a fan of George Armstrong Custer, as is evident on page 1 of Bluster’s Last Stand, so I had not read or researched much on him and the Little Bighorn.  I was shocked at how much material was available on him and his troops.  All the 7th Cavalry soldiers that are mentioned by name in the book were actual participants in the battle, and their descriptions were taken from their military records.  So, I picked out soldiers whose stories I liked or fit my narrative.  There was one Texan in the battle so I had to use him.  On top of that, there were some accounts of a couple soldiers who had survived the fight at Last Stand Hill.  I used one of those soldiers to help tie the book together at the end.  

What question do you wish someone would ask about your book, but nobody yet has?  What do you have against George Armstrong Custer?  Answer:  While he was unquestionably brave (or perhaps impulsive), he was a self-aggrandizing pompous ass with little compassion for his men.  A lot of them died as a result at the Little Bighorn.

Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured if your book?  In Bluster’s Last Stand, I have a self-educated black gentleman who my protagonist rooms with in a Waco brothel where they both work.  The idea was to reflect in Earl Eaton an educated man to contrast with my protagonist, H.H. Lomax, who was more interested in adventure than education.  I also have a Sioux warrior who plays an important role in resolving the conflict, though he appears only in a few chapters.  Using under-represented characters is tricky in these politically correct times, but I try to use them when the plot requires it or I can make it work for my protagonist, who needs a whole range of foils to make the humor work.

Which character from your books is most or least like you?  There’s probably a little of me in all the characters in my books.  My favorite is H.H. Lomax, protagonist in Bluster’s Last Stand, though he is probably least like me because he is outspoken, cynical and irresponsible whereas I tend to be more traditional in my outlook on life.

What did you find most useful in learning to write for publication?  What was least useful or most destructive?  Award-winning novelist Jeanne Williams, who was a great mentor for me and many other western writers, told me once that she had watched a lot of young novelists start out, many with great talent and others less so.  However, she said persistence at writing generally trumped talent as the determining factor in their success.  Talent grows with writing experience while persistence is difficult to cultivate.  As for the least helpful advice, it’s write what you know.  Problem is we know so little, especially when we are writing about historical topics.

What projects are you working on at the present?  For my next book in The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series, I am researching a trail drive novel, giving me a chance to re-read some of J. Frank Dobie’s works and a lot of the classic trail drive histories and memoirs.  I’m always looking for odd or offbeat facts that I can put a humorous spin on or that give me an idea of how to turn the conventions of the genre upside down.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose names?  I play around with names and sometimes throw friends with slightly disguised names into my books just for the fun of it.  Of course, I always get their permission, but it is fun and it ensures at least a couple buyers of each book.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?  Time travel so I could do research and resolve many unanswered questions about what happened in the past.  

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?  Dodge City, Kansas.

If you could time travel, what time period would you first visit?  My favorite period in American history starts with the beginning of the Civil War and ends with the conclusion of World War II.  That covers the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, the classic period of the Old West, the Progressive Era, World War I, the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression and World War II.  What period I would visit would depend upon my mood of the day.

What is your favorite quote?  “I cannot live without books”—Thomas Jefferson and “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please”—Mark Twain.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of 30 western, juvenile and historical novels, including Bluster’s Last Stand published by Wild Horse Press.

Bluster’s Last Stand, a novel about Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn, is the latest volume in Lewis’s well-received Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series of comic westerns that began with The Demise of Billy the Kid.  Subsequent books in the series—The Redemption of Jesse James and Mix-Up at the O.K. Corral—were both Spur Finalists from Western Writers of America (WWA).
Lewis’s historical novel Blood of Texas on the Texas Revolution received WWA’s Spur Award for Best Western Novel.  His western caper The Fleecing of Fort Griffin in 2017 earned him his third Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association (WTHA) for best creative work on West Texas.
His True West article on the Battle of Yellowhouse Canyon won a Spur Award for Best Nonfiction Article.  In addition to True West, his short works have appeared in publications as varied as Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, Persimmon Hill, Dallas Morning News, The Roundup, Journal of the Wild West History Association and San Angelo Standard-Times.
A native West Texan and current San Angelo resident, Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University and master’s degrees from Ohio State in journalism and Angelo State in history.  He is a past president of WWA and WTHA.  Lewis is a longstanding member of the Authors Guild and an associate member of the Dramatists Guild of America.  

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Interview: Gina Hooten Popp, author of UP NEAR DALLAS

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UP NEAR DALLAS

Winds of Change — Book III

by
GINA HOOTEN POPP
  Genre:  Texas Historical Fiction / Romance
Date of Publication: November 12, 2017
Number of Pages: 307

Scroll down for the giveaway!

 UpNearDallas_6x9_Cream_310_cover110717_PRESS
The year is 1934. Economic turbulence rocks the country. And record drought dries up crops, along with the spirits of every farmer south of the Mason-Dixon. Yet for sixteen-year-old Mick McLaren, life is good as he takes to the open road to chase his dream of being a musician. Riding boxcars, hitchhiking, walking and driving his way across Depression Era Texas, he finds not only himself, but the love of a girl from Dallas named Margaret. Along the way, they befriend Cowboy Larson, a Delta Blues guitarist. Together the three teens, from three very different worlds, come-of-age as their life-changing journey carries them through killer dust storms, extreme poverty, and the unprecedented gangster activity of the Dirty Thirties.


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AuthorInterview

 

How has Texas influenced your writing?

For starters, all my books are set in Texas. This was not a conscious decision on my part, it just happened that way. I think it may be because there are so many good stories to tell about this area of the country. Take for example my latest book, Up Near Dallas, set in 1934. The characters roam all over the state hopping boxcars but end up back in Dallas where the music scene was hot at the time. Texas has always had a lot of musicians and artists on the forefront of things—from Austin to San Antonio to Dallas and more—Texans have paved the way into new creative territory. I’ve always thought that this is because Texas is a little untamed and not too fast to tell others what they can and cannot do. Therefore, if a guy plants Cadillacs upright in a row or starts a new style of country music, then good for him because there are all kinds of people around the state and the country that will more than appreciate it.

Why did you choose to write historical books?

I’ve always had a love for history and literary books, so it was only natural for me to write what I love to read. My sister got me hooked on historical fiction novels. So, you’d have to blame her, I guess.

Where did your love of storytelling come from?

My grandmother was a great storyteller. From a young age, I would ask for a story and she’d just make one up out of thin air, and it would be interesting. In fact, she could even make a story about going to the grocery store or the gas station tense and exciting. Nothing in her life was ever mundane. And, as the old saying goes, the nut doesn’t fall for from the tree. In fact, you’ll see a lot of her colorful sayings in my stories. I think she’d be proud.   

How long have you been writing?

I have a long history of creativity and writing. In school, I always did well in literature classes and art classes. When I graduated from Texas A&M/Commerce, I went into advertising. First, I started as an art director. Then I kept writing behind the scenes on ads, menus, and brochures. After I’d collected enough awards for writing, my boss at The Richards Group (Stan Richards) let me work as a writer/art director. I’m forever grateful to him because it made for a great career as I moved from agency to agency as well as worked on my own as a freelancer. So, I’d been professionally writing for about fifteen to twenty years when I decided to start writing novels. About ten years ago, I took a class at Texas A&M/Canyon in West Texas and got involved with the West Texas Writers’ Academy, hosted by New York Times bestselling author, Jodi Thomas. I would suggest that anyone wanting to write books seriously consider this week-long summer camp. It’s a game changer for making it in the world of writing.

How does your book relate to your faith?

Before I do any creative project, I always pray God will allow the Holy Spirit to flow through me influencing my work. Yes, I’ve always done this whether I’m working on websites and brochures for an airline, tech company, or restaurant, or whether I’m writing a novel about a hurricane, drug dealer, or fighter pilot. I see myself as a vessel through which creativity flows.  

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I write in a simple conversational style that moves fast for the reader.

What is your favorite quote?

I have two favorite quotes at the moment:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”        —Mother Teresa   

“Be kind to one another.” —Ellen DeGeneres

 

A native Texan, Gina Hooten Popp was born in Greenville and now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Along with writing novels, Gina has enjoyed a long career as a professional writer in advertising. Her debut novel THE STORM AFTER was a finalist in the 2014 RONE Awards, and her just-released book CHICO BOY: A NOVEL was a 2016 Medalist Winner in the New Apple Annual Book Awards. Recently, her novel LUCKY’S WAY, about a young fighter pilot from Houston, was endorsed by the United States World War One Centennial Commission. 


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Review: :LAMAR’S FOLLY by Jeffrey Stuart Kerr

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LAMAR’S FOLLY

by
Jeffrey Stuart Kerr
  Genre: Texas Historical Fiction
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
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Date of Publication: November 15, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Mirabeau Lamar seeks nothing less than a Texas empire that will dominate the North American continent. Brave exploits at the Battle of San Jacinto bring him rank, power, and prestige, which by 1838 propel him to the presidency of the young Republic of Texas and put him in position to achieve his dream. Edward Fontaine, who works for and idolizes Lamar, vows to help his hero overcome all obstacles, including the substantial power of Sam Houston. Houston and Lamar are not only political, but personal enemies, and each man regards the other with contempt.
Edward’s slave Jacob likes and admires his master, but cannot share his hatred of Sam Houston. The loyalties of both Jacob and Edward are tested by President Lamar’s belief that a righteous cause justifies any means necessary to sustain it. Lamar becomes infatuated with a married woman who resembles his deceased wife. He sends the woman’s husband on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, the failure of which humiliates Lamar and provokes a crisis in his relationship with Edward, who in turn jeopardizes the trust that Jacob has placed in him. Edward laments the waste of Lamar’s genius, while Jacob marvels at the hypocrisy of both men.
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Review
Growing up Texan gave me a certain deep-rooted respect for its history.  It’s like that with just about every Texan.  Just ask one.  So, given the opportunity to read/review a piece of historical fiction featuring this subject was not only an opportunity to read a story, but my duty as a Texan (I know, I know.  You’re rolling your eyes.  Seriously, go ask another Texan, and you’ll get the same thing.  It’s just how we are.)
I love a good fictional account of a period of history I know a lot about, and LAMAR’S FOLLY delivered.  As any good fictional account of real events should do, the story left me guessing.  Who were these people REALLY?  Texas history is always larger than life, as are the stories of the major players, such as Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar.  LAMAR’S FOLLY gave these characters back a semblance of realism, with character flaws and personality that the history books just can’t teach.  It was fun to imagine these men, especially through the alternating point of view of Edward Fontaine and his slave, Jacob.  What I really enjoyed was seeing what each character perceived from the same situations, each with their own notion of right and wrong, and each with their own hope for the future.  The alternating point of views gave this story the perfect balance of realism, keeping Fontaine’s aspirations from taking over the story with Jacobs straight-forward accounts of what he witnessed and felt in reaction to the same situations.
If you change the setting and characters of the story to another place in history, the story remains the same.  It’s the timeless story of ambition, pride and jealousy causing the ruin of a country, much like Napolean Boanaparte (how strange that Lamar’s shares this surname as his middle name).   Mirabeau Lamar, though portrayed as modest and humble at the start,  fed off the rank and power he gained as he climbed to the Presidency of the Republic of Texas.  This power was fueled by his disdain and all out contempt for the popularity of Sam Houston in the new republic.  What happens with the expedition to Santa Fe is the result of his ambitions for more power and his need to show up Houston, thus turning the outlook of a young nation very dark, and causes rifts in the foundation of his power, his relationships.  Poignant.
I recommend LAMAR’S FOLLY to anyone who likes a good historical fiction, but especially to those Texas History buffs who like to do a little bit of “what if” from time to time.
 
Jeffrey Stuart Kerr is the author of several titles, including Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award and a True West Best Western Book.
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Review: A GOOD GIRL by Johnnie Bernhard {giveaway}

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A GOOD GIRL

by
JOHNNIE BERNHARD
  Genre: Southern Historical Fiction
Publisher: Texas Review Press
Website    Facebook
Date of Publication: March 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 288
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A Bible’s family tree and an embroidered handkerchief hold the key to understanding the past as six generation Texan, Gracey Reiter, prepares to say goodbye to her dying father, the last surviving member of the Walsh-Mueller family. The present holds the answer and the last opportunity for Gracey to understand her father’s anger, her mother’s guilt, and her siblings’ version of the truth.

The Walsh-Mueller family begins in Texas when Patricia Walsh leaves the famine of nineteenth century Ireland, losing her parents and siblings along the way.  She finds a home, love, and security with Emil Mueller in a German settlement near Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast.  They begin their lives on a small cotton farm, raising six sons. From the coastal plains of Texas, five generations survive hurricanes, wars, The Great Depression, and life, itself.  
An all-encompassing novel that penetrates the core being of all who read it, A Good Girl pulls back the skin to reveal the raw actualities of life, love and relationships.  It is the ageless story of family. 

 

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A poignant, yet faithful story of life and family.

Middle-aged Gracey Reiter is forced to address painful memories from her past as she deals with her father’s impending death.  She must deal with her feelings as well as those of her two siblings as they reflect on their childhood and come to terms with their loss. Through beautifully written accounts of family history spanning six generations, Gracey finds the courage and grace to forgive and heal herself, her family, and her life.  

The story is both emotional and touching.  The characters are well developed and believable, as well as the interactions between them.  Bernhard’s writing brings the story through time in a believable and masterfully crafted storyline. A great story for those who enjoy family sagas and stories with heart. I highly recommend this book.

 

PRAISE FOR A GOOD GIRL:

*2017 Kindle Book Award Finalist*
*Over 50 5 Star Reviews*
One of 2017’s best will surely be A Good Girl by author Johnnie Bernhard, who as much as any writer since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, offers a breathtaking tour of the human heart in conflict with itself, desperately searching for grace and redemption in the face of unremitting loss.  Bernhard’s sentences are filled with the stuff of what blues and country music singers refer to as “soul” and “high lonesome.” 
–Jim Fraiser, The Sun Herald Newspaper
Relatable and real, A Good Girl speaks to the heart of what it means to be human and that generations come and go, but love binds us together.
Kathleen M. Rodgers, author of The Final Salute, Johnnie Come Lately, & Seven Wings to Glory
A Good Girl is a raw, real, and relatable gift to the soul on every level. Ms. Bernhard’s writing is so descriptive, reading this book is truly a visceral experience. One cannot help but reflect on their own family legacy and life journey. Prepare to be riveted by this heartbreaking, yet healing story about family, self-discovery and learning how to love.  
–Eva Steortz, SVP, Brand Development, 20th Century Fox

A beautiful debut novel across oceans and time, with a clear, objective yet poignant Southern voice. A timeless voice much like Doctorow’s Ragtime, A Good Girl is a true Southern American story. A story of one family spanning generations, dealing with love and loss, despair, and redemption, that leaves its readers with a timeless lesson.   
-Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, Author of The Shores of Our Souls and Moments on the Edge. 
I have found Johnnie Bernhard’s book to touch a powerful chord in my heart.  Masterfully written with deep insight into the journey of family and forgiveness, I’m a better person for having read this book.
-Cynthia Garrett,  The London Sessions & The Mini Sessions (airing regularly on TBN Network),  Author of The Prodigal Daughter

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Sales benefit Port Lavaca, Texas! Much of the setting of A Good Girl, a six generation Texas saga, is set in Port Lavaca, Calhoun County. During the Lone Star Book Blog Tour, all author’s royalties will be donated to the Calhoun County Museum of Port Lavaca in its recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey. Texas Proud! Port Lavaca Strong!
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Excerpt from A Good Girl
The white head stone of Ana Grace was never meant to last, nor was the town of Indianola. The bones of the little Irish girl were washed to sea on August 20, 1886, when a 150 mph hurricane made landfall. What the howling winds did not blow away, a fifteen-foot storm surge from Matagorda Bay drowned. To ensure all traces of man were swept clean from the port city forever, a fire roared through the remaining buildings, trapping citizens in two story structures and burning them alive. The recently built school by the Sisters of Mercy of New Orleans disappeared in a frenzy of wind and water. All that remained of the town were snakes and bloated bodies hanging from broken trees.
             In 1938 the state of Texas erected a granite monument on the sands of the lost city of Indianola. The French explorer La Salle stands forever on the beach he called Fort St. Louis in 1685. Absent from the monument are the dead of Indianola, the founding pioneers and immigrants who forged a brief life in the port town. Gone forever are the names of Mary Elizabeth Ott and Ana Grace Walsh.

Johnnie Bernhard, a former AP English teacher and journalist, is passionate about reading and writing. Her works have appeared in the following publications: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Heart of Ann Arbor Magazine, Houston Style Magazine, World Oil Magazine, The Suburban Reporter of Houston, The Mississippi Press, University of South Florida Area Health Education Magazine, the international Word Among Us, Southern Writers Magazine, Gulf Coast Writers Association Anthologies, The Texas Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally.
A Good Girl received top ten finalist recognition in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, as well as featured novel for panel discussion at the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals.  It is a finalist in the 2017 national Kindle Book Award for literary fiction and a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.
Her second novel, How We Came to Be, is set for publication in spring 2018. It is a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition.
Johnnie is the owner of Bernhard Editorial Services, LLC, where she writes book reviews for Southern Literary Review, as well as assists writers in honing their craft.
Johnnie and her husband reside in a nineteenth century cottage surrounded by ancient oak trees and a salt water marsh near the Mississippi Sound. They share that delightful space with their dog, Lily, and cat, Poncho.
WEBSITE   GOODREADS
FACEBOOK   TWITTER   LINKEDIN

Johnnie will be on the road with A Good Girl at the following locations:  
October 26         Southern Bound Book Store, Biloxi, MS, 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., http://southernboundblog.net/index.html
October 27-28     Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge, LA, state capitol, http://www.louisianabookfestival.org/
November 4      Peter Anderson Festival, Ocean Springs, MS, Poppy’s on Porter, Washington Avenue, http://www.peterandersonfestival.com/
November 13     Live on KSHU Radio 1430 AM, Houston, Texas, 8 a.m. 
November 16     Calhoun County Historical Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas, 5 p.m. http://calhouncountymuseum.org/
November 18    River Oaks Book Store, Houston, Texas, 3 – 5 p.m., www.riveroaksbookstore.com
December 6 – 8    Words & Music Literary Feast, New Orleans, LA, www.wordsandmusic.org
December 10        Barnes & Noble, New Orleans, noon – 2 p.m.
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October 26-November 4, 2017
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28-Oct
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Notable Quotable
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2-Nov
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3-Nov
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Interview: Joanna Davidson Politano, Author of LADY JAYNE DISAPPEARS

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LADY JAYNE DISAPPEARS

by
JOANNA DAVIDSON POLITANO
  Genre: Historical Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
Number of Pages: 416
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When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet house guest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance—and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

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Praise for Lady Jayne Disappears:

“Emotional. Intriguing. Both haunting and romantic. . . In her historical fiction debut, Joanna Davidson Politano delivers a smart plot that navigates twists and turns with a mixture of wit, intelligent characters, and a refreshingly original voice. Reminiscent of Dickens’ classic storytelling, Lady Jayne Disappears is a debut to remember!”
Kristy Cambron, author of The Illusionist’s Apprentice

“Wonderfully unique, this compelling debut grabs you from the first intriguing line. The evocative English setting, textured characters, literary theme, and unusual romance make Lady Jayne Disappears a standout, the lovely cover offering a hint of the gem within. A must read!”
Laura Frantz, author of A Moonbow Night

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AuthorInterview

Why did you choose to write in your particular sub-genre?

I write historical novels because I dearly love family histories and vintage settings. It’s strongly applicable to our modern hearts even with a historical setting because humanity changes so little through time. The small nuances that have changed make for a fresh scene to paint the story.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love that it was so unexpected! I sat down to write this book for fun as a new stay-at-home mom when my daughter napped, and I never intended to publish it. I just thought I’d take every element I ever wanted to write into a story and use the writing voice and tone I loved, even if no one else ever read it. That gave me such freedom to simply enjoy this book’s unfolding. I didn’t set out with a plot or outline, only a small nugget of an idea that formed around the characters as they appeared on the scene. I truly delighted in every line of this book.

What are some day jobs that you have held? Did any of them impact your writing?

I used to be a medical writer for a pharmaceutical company. It’s odd to think it influenced my writing of historical fiction novels, but it certainly did! After eight or so years typing up sentences to describe clinical trials and reagent testing, all this color and creativity came bursting out of me onto the page with more energy than I ever could have written had I not bottled it up for so long to attend to my day job.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Future books will likely include a hint of each of my favorite story elements—big old houses, shadowy mysteries, quirky and enjoyable heroines, and a love story. Victorian England is the setting for everything currently in the works, and the next two include a vineyard and a countess.

How important are names to you in your books?

Selecting names is like nibbling on chocolate for me—it’s my treat! I delight in crafting the name that best portrays each character and what has shaped them. I want the name to trigger an image of the character, presenting both their physical and internal traits. It should be so specific to the character who bears it that the reader will immediately recall who is being discussed when a certain name appears on the page.

 

Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. Her manuscript for Lady Jayne Disappears was a finalist for several contests, including the 2016 Genesis Award from ACFW, and won the OCW Cascade Award and the Maggie Award for Excellence. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her on her website.

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25-Oct
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Review: LOVING LUTHER by Allison Pittman

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LOVING LUTHER

by
ALLISON PITTMAN
  Genre: Christian Historical Romance 
Publisher: Tyndale House
Date of Publication: September 1, 2017
Number of Pages: 432
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Germany, 1505
In the dark of night, Katharina von Bora says the bravest good-bye a six-year-old can muster and walks away as the heavy convent gate closes behind her. 

Though the cold walls offer no comfort, Katharina soon finds herself calling the convent her home. God, her father. This, her life. She takes her vows–a choice more practical than pious–but in time, a seed of discontent is planted by the smuggled writings of a rebellious excommunicated priest named Martin Luther. Their message? That Katharina is subject to God, and no one else. Could the Lord truly desire more for her than this life of servitude?

In her first true step of faith, Katharina leaves the only life she has ever known. But the freedom she has craved comes with a price, and she finds she has traded one life of isolation for another. Without the security of the convent walls or a family of her own, Katharina must trust in both the God who saved her and the man who paved a way for rescue. Luther’s friends are quick to offer shelter, but Katharina longs for all Luther has promised: a home, a husband, perhaps even the chance to fall in love.


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Praise for Loving Luther

[Pittman] pens an exquisite tale, capturing the emotions of a nun grappling with the faith she’s always known vs. a new and unfamiliar freedom in faith.  Simmering with tension of Katharina’s discontent and longings, the novel unveils a slow morphing that follows Katharina’s own personal transformation, from reverence to spirited determination in choosing her own way in the world. — Booklist
 
Loving Luther is a moving and rich historical romance based on Luther’s relationship with his wife Katharina.  In addition, it shows how their marriage was actually significant to the Lutheran faith.  Instead of dwelling on the couple’s courtship, the story goes deep into the roots of the Reformation.  Luther and Katharina interrogate their faith, living out their convictions in a way that is both inspiring and profoundly human.  Loving Luther has depth, and it is unexpectedly touching.  Katharina and Luther, in search of a happy ending, find one another.  Their love, Pittman shows, really did change the world. — Foreword Magazine
 
A historical novel with characters who are brave, strong and willing to take chances in times of persecution.  The plot is partially based on the teachings of Martin Luther and the many lives he changed, some for the better, some for the worse.  Pittman is a talented author who touches on topics that have been debated over the decades and are still being talked about today. — Romantic Times Reviews

Fascinating Historical Romantic Tale of one of history’s less-known heroines during The Reformation

Katharina Von Bora would one day become the wife of the Master of Reformation, Martin Luther, but the story of how she got there is a less-known tale.  

Upon her mother’s death at an early age, her father left her at a convent to be raised in the Faith by the nuns of the Order.  She was cloistered and taught the ways of the Catholic church, bonding with many of the Sisters of the convent.  As was expected, she took her vows at sixteen and joined the Order, despite questions and doubts.  

She happens upon a bit of parchment with translated scripture upon it, written by the outcast Martin Luther, and even though she is forbidden to read them, she takes them, and takes the words to heart.  This begins a reformation of her own being, and before long, she has left the convent and her vows.  The rest of the book tells the story of her relationship with Luther and role in the Reformation movement, by his side.  It is a wonderful story of faith, love and loyalty.

I recommend this book to historical fiction readers who like the glimpse at what the life of lesser-known heroes and heroines who supported large movements in history and larger historical characters.  Well-done.

Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives near San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike.
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10/6
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10/8
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10/10
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10/11
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Review: AN INCONVENIENT BEAUTY by Kristi Ann Hunter

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AN INCONVENIENT BEAUTY
Hawthorne House, Book 4

by
KRISTI ANN HUNTER
  Genre: Regency Romance 
Publisher: Bethany House
Date of Publication: September 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 384
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Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. While he’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.
Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes—as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.
As all Griffith’s and Isabella’s long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?
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Praise for An Inconvenient Beauty:
“With the latest superbly written installment in her Hawthorne House series, RITA award-winning Hunter once again proves she has the key to inspirational-romance and traditional-Regency readers’ hearts as she gifts them with another gracefully executed love story that delivers all of the richly nuanced characters, impeccably researched historical plotting, and sweet romance they could ever crave.”—Booklist
“The final book in the Hawthorne House series brings Hunter’s saga to a sigh-worthy conclusion. These family members have become like real people, and although readers will celebrate that the characters have found love, it is bittersweet to say goodbye. The plot moves briskly, yet the romance never feels forced. The period details are, as always, charming, and entrench the reader in the culture and traditions of the era.”—RT Book Reviews
“Hunter’s final installment in the Hawthorne House series will delight those already invested in the series as well as any reader who enjoys stories set in Regency-era England. . . . As the London Season plays out, secrets are revealed, past loves return, and hearts align—despite a fair amount of underhanded conniving–to create a fitting finale to the series and a lovely addition to the Regency genre.”—Publishers Weekly starred review
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review
A Charming, Heartfelt and Delightful Regency-era Romance.

The Duke of Riverton knows it is time for him to take a bride and produce an heir, but he’s not taking the task lightly.  He’s picked the most practical and least exciting potential bride to court.  But her cousin, Isabella is always around, and as much as he doesn’t want the complication, he can’t help but be drawn to her.
Isabella Breckenridge comes to London for her first season as a debutant, but it comes with a hitch.  She’s struck a deal with her uncle to entertain the attention of the society men for his political advantage.  If she does what he asks, her family’s farm will be saved.  If she doesn’t, they risk losing everything.   So when she falls for Riverton, she must choose between love or family.
I’ve been very lucky to find so many wonderful historical romances this year, and this one ranks high up there amongst them.  Hunter’s writing is suberb and her voice is perfect for the era.  It was easy to imagine a ballroom filled with couples sweeping across the floor in dance as groups gathered on the fringes to watch and mingle. I was easily transported to the scenes, and eager to read more.  The romance between Griffith and Isabella is wonderful and swoon-worthy.  Both characters are struggling with their own problems and insecurities, and must rely on faith to bring them together.
It’s a wonderful, heart-warming story, and an ending with ALL THE FEELS.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 

 

Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is the author of the Hawthorne House series and a 2016 RITA Award winner and Christy Award finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.

Follow Kristi Ann Hunter online: 

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Excerpt: THE GERMAN MESSENGER by David Malcolm

The German Messenger by David Malcolm – EXCERPT

 

Chapter 1 – In London

It was a cold, wet December afternoon when my train pulled into Victoria. Clouds of steam billowed up in the damp air, up into the blackened arches of the station roof. Pigeons flapped aimlessly from one to the other. A tired, bleary-eyed, bad-tempered crowd pushed and lugged its bags, porters shouted hoarsely, soldiers stood in small huddles, smoking, drinking tea at steaming, makeshift canteens. As always when I came back to London, I was struck by the amount of khaki everywhere. The city, or at least its stations, its parks, its squares, all its public places were on a war footing. Soldiers everywhere, waiting, gathering, reading, larking, dashing purposefully or looking lost and confused. One came up to me, a scrap of official paper clutched in one hand, a huge kit bag weighing down his shoulder. In a broad Belfast accent he asked me, without saluting, where platform five might be, for God’s sake. His eyes were glazed with tiredness and worry. I turned him round and pointed him in the right direction. He didn’t even manage to stammer a thanks.

The motor cab jolted me through the wet, windswept streets. Evening was coming on, and they were lighting the lamps. The matinee shows at the music halls were finishing, and crowds milled on the streets along the Strand. Again I noticed the uniforms everywhere. London used to be such a civilian town, I thought to myself. Now suddenly, so many soldiers. And then I realized it was already the second year of the War, and, as I glanced down at my own Army greatcoat, that I was one of them too.

I let myself into my service flat. I had wired ahead so they had cleaned and aired the place, and a fire was burning in the sitting room grate. For a moment, my mood of depression vanished. Here I was safe, here I was at home, surrounded by my books and chairs, my pictures, my letters, my civilian clothes, by all the bric-a-brac of a life of sorts. And then as I unstrapped my boots and took off my greatcoat, I caught a glimpse of my face in the hallway mirror, and a wave of sadness and bile swept up from my guts to my throat.

I stared at the face in the mirror. The neck rose out of the khaki and brown thinner, more gaunt than I’d ever seen it. The face above was grey and stretched. The eyes stared out of bony hollows. The hair was going grey at the temples. The neat brush of a moustache that we all affected in those years was flecked with grey. I suppose the look was distinguished in its way, but for a moment I had seen myself without any protective layers of pretence or habit, without the company of others. I looked awful, I thought, like a walking dead man. I was wearing a grey mask, and only my eyes seemed half alive. No wonder the little Belgian had almost died of fright when I had stuck my face next to his (we were completely alone by then for I had sent young Morrisey out of the room; Lefranc of course stayed, cleaning his nails in a way even I found unnerving) and told him very quietly, and in very passable French, what it was in my power, my personal power, to do to him if he didn’t tell us exactly what he thought the Panamanian registered tramp due into Santander on Thursday was really carrying. He broke down at that point and seemed grateful rather than anything else when we told him that he would probably get four years in a French military prison for not letting us know earlier.

The face was not my father’s, not my father’s at all.

The face was not that of a happy man, nor of a kind one. By late 1916, I was neither of those things. Although I was alive, and that might have been cause enough for a brief smile or two. Sometimes I felt I knew more of the dead, than I did of the living. On bad days, I felt that I belonged among them myself.

Later, after I had bathed and changed into comfortable civilian clothes, and the lights glowed liquid in the jet black night outside, I reviewed the past few years of my life. I poured myself a whisky and sat by the fire. I was afraid to lose the heat of the bath, and I let the warmth from the flames play on my face. I was thirty-one years old, a major in the British Army, seconded to the War Office for special duties. The special duties had been no choice of mine. In 1914 I had tried to join up like thousands of other young men. It seemed only right, the logical continuation of my work for the past decade. At last, the final battle was coming. I was still young enough to believe that. They plucked me out within three days, put a captain’s uniform on me, and sent me to France to interrogate German POWs. Bullivant came to see me in the big house north of Paris. We could hear the German guns on the Marne and all our papers were in boxes and all the trucks were manned round the clock in case we had to leave at a moment’s notice. Bulllivant looked like a man who’d placed a bet on an unknown horse at the races and won a fortune. His bald head gleamed in the autumn sun and he glanced towards the east and the sound of the guns with a kind of grim satisfaction. “This is your war,” he said to me, waving his hand round the grand dining room we used for preliminary interrogations. “Not out there. A stray bullet and a decade of experience is wiped out. We can’t afford that. This war will be longer than most of the generals or politicians think, let alone the general public. Longer than any of them can begin to guess, either here or in Berlin. We need you to do the kind of work only you can do. We can always find brave young men to die. We need your knowledge and your brains.” And then he added with a smile, “And don’t think for a moment it won’t be dangerous. It will, I assure you, it will.”

So I fought my war not in the trenches, but in chateaux behind the lines, in tiny French provincial police stations, by the customs desks in Boulogne and Rosslare. I interrogated, browbeat, bullied, terrified, trapped. I watched lines of people stepping off boats. I scrutinized Swiss permis de séjour and bills of lading out of Varna bound for Christiansand. I travelled to Boston to trace Irish money that was buying German guns. I tried to buy or trap German clerks in Lisbon, and to unmask the German who was trying to do the same to British clerks in Zürich. I was five times behind German lines. Exciting visits, but not for telling about here. I was in Berlin when Casement visited in 1915. Later they sent me to speak to hard-faced Polish legionnaires in the forests round Kraków. In early 1916, I was in Pommerania checking on exercises for an invasion of Britain which the German General Staff appeared to be holding on the Baltic. A few months later they sent me into Galicia to look for a lost agent, gone missing with Austrian Army codes. The Germans almost killed me later that year in an Armenian restaurant in Bucharest. Bullivant was right – it was dangerous. I carried a few more scars, my bones ached from the last mad tramp over the Tatras, I sweated when I thought of a certain forest glade in the Carpathians and a yeshiva in Romanian Transylvania. Oh, yes, dangerous enough. That salved my conscience a little, but not much when the casualty lists started to come out in August 1916. No, not much.

Andrzej had stayed with me when the War started. Bullivant payed him a salary for work he did for us. He helped me with interrogations, freelanced and trawled for information on his own among the Central European emigrés of London and Paris, came with me when I travelled to Kraków and Galicia. It was he who knocked out the German agent who wanted to kill me in Bucharest. All for a free Poland (but he was on the wrong side if that was what he wanted), or all for adventure? Or was it simply that he, like me, had become used to a certain way of life, and neither he, nor I, quite knew what we would do without it?

Along the way, too, I had picked up another assistant. Corporal Alan McLeish, tall, red-haired, very hard, very Glaswegian, had come to me as my driver and batman in the autumn of 1914. I had quickly learned to value his violent efficiency and exemplary skill with vehicle engines. He brought other qualifications with him too. He had lived for several years in South Africa and spoke very decent Afrikaans and passable Dutch. I took him with me on my first trip into Holland in late 1914 when we played the part of a pair of Swiss and South African representatives of a certain Swedish shipping company that was willing to transport certain items to certain neutral ports for a substantial fee. We flushed out a whole network of secret German suppliers that time. McLeish, like Andrzej, was a useful man to have around in a tight corner. I once saw him stop a particularly nasty pro-German, Dutch gendarme with one of the best placed head-butts I have ever witnessed. We ran fast that night, I can tell you. I remember breathing a deep sigh of relief when the little fishing smack we commandeered made it out of Dutch territorial waters.

But I lost McLeish in early 1916. He gave me an ultimatum (we were on that kind of terms by then). Either let him join up in a line regiment, or he would simply go AWOL and get himself thrown in a military prison. I told him he was mad, he’d be dead in three months. He said he didn’t care, he couldn’t bear watching good men go West while he sat safe in “some fucking fancy French chateau, drinking wine like a pimp.” When I pointed out that we got shot at too, he just laughed. “Nothing against you, sir,” he said, “I know they won’t let you join the regulars. But we have a right cushy number here most of the time. I canna look mysel’ in the mirror much longer if I stay here. Just sign the bloody paper, would you? Sir.” So I did, and he went back to the Cameron Highlanders. I missed him. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year. He was most likely dead. I really did miss him. Young Morrisey couldn’t get a car started on a damp February morning; no prisoner believed he’d break every finger in your left hand without a qualm (they did when McLeish looked at them); my paper work wasn’t half as good as when McLeish was managing it. And I missed the covert and overt insults. Morrisey was a mild mannered young man from Hardy’s Wessex, not a Glaswegian thug deeply imbued with a Scottish contempt for authority. Ach, McLeish was probably frozen dead in some trench by now. And good luck to him.

Then I started. I stared into the fire and thought of the dead. When I was out on a job, I rarely allowed myself the luxury. Here in my own flat, by my own fire, I could hardly stop. You see, it wasn’t all safety behind the lines. My work took me to the front too, and not to some cleaned-up version that the brass-hats saw. I knew the mud and the wire and the trees like burnt matchsticks. I smelled the stench of the unburied bodies in No Man’s Land; I heard the heavy guns. But after a day or two I could go home. That was the difference. But even there the front pursued me. I talked to men on furlough, on rest detail, British and French. The stories were the same. The same endless, concentrated imitation of hell. But what was unnerving was that the German soldiers I interrogated told the same stories. They all shared a landscape of hell and madness – the same mud, the same stench, the same rats. A young Bavarian Feldwebel would paint the same picture as a corporal from East Lancs or a French poilou from Dijon. Sometimes it seemed they weren’t fighting each other, but the war. That was their common enemy, the bloody war.

I remembered a spring day in 1915. McLeish and I were lounging against the wall of an old French farmhouse. We’d stopped for lunch on our way back from a line H.Q. where they’d just captured a sergeant from a Prussian regiment. He was a tough old Berliner (with Social-Democrat leanings, I’d wager) who told us nothing of any use, so we decided to take the long way home and enjoy ourselves a little en route. The cold chicken and the white wine that Mcleish had conjured out of a passing French officers’ supply truck were excellent. The sun was shining, heating the old limestone walls of the farm house. The trees had a haze of green on them.

And then down the road marched a column of Scottish soldiers. Their badges were that of one of the new Glasgow regiments, one of Kitchener‘s New Army creations. But they looked good lads, well-disciplined, marching in good order, their trench kilts swinging like loose aprons. We raised our glasses to them as they passed, about a hundred and fifty of them, and they smiled and waved back. “Awa’ ye go, lads,” called McLeish. “Awa’ the bhouys!” I even knew the captain from school, a grim, dark-faced lad two years my junior who’d wanted to be a doctor. “Aye Gavin,” I cried. “Did ye make it to the Medical Department?” “Harry, man, Harry Draffen,” he called in return. “Aye, I did. MBChB. I got married too. A bonny lass. We live near where your grandad had his parish.” “Good luck to you, Gavin. Tak’ care.” “An’ you too, Draffen.” They marched on and McLeish and I watched them. There was yellow blossom in the fields. The trees had that tinge of green they only have in early spring. We watched them march away, and then silently, without exchanging a single word, we packed the basket, loaded the car and set back for base. We didn’t say a thing to each other for more than an hour. What was there to say?

I was in Divisional H.Q. when the flimsy came in for that sector. The afternoon we had seen them they had been wiped out attacking German fortified machine-gun emplacements. Every one of them was dead. That night McLeish and I drank a great deal. I think it was then he decided to leave me altogether.

But I never hated the Germans. Well, with my background and experiences I wouldn’t, I suppose. But it went further than that. You’d think, after that story of the Scottish column being wiped out, I’d blame it all on them and hate them for it. But neither McLeish or I did. We hated the War, we hated the bloody brass-hats on both sides who sent kids in to die in the mud and on the wire. But hate the Germans? Christ, they were dying like flies too, in the same mud, on the same wire.

It was as if we were all characters in some mad novel, written by a lunatic whom we couldn’t control. So many of us knew the whole thing was bad, but we could never break away from it. How could we? If we did, we’d be betraying our mates, the men who suffered and died with us. We’d have to confess that the two years of hell had been for nothing and that the men we let give us orders were fools. And that we were fools for obeying them. So we kept on serving the War that consumed those very mates of ours.

And the funny thing was, the men from the Wilhelmstrasse felt the same as we did. Some did, anyway. I met one in Zürich in early ’16, I remember. We were exchanging agents (oh, we’d become sophisticated enough to do that by then, provided we could keep it out of the papers and away from the brass), one of ours for one of theirs, on neutral territory by a pretty little summer house on the Lake of Zürich. It was spring, I remember. The snow was still on the mountains, but the leaves were beginning to bud and the birds were singing. The waters of the lake lapped softly on a grassy shore. Goethe had rowed here 130 years before and written one of my favourite lyrics. “Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut . . .”. (“And fresh nourishment, new blood. . . ” – it doesn’t translate well, does it? But it is beautiful.)

I was to meet one of theirs first, to settle details, to arrange terms. He stood by the lake, a tall, slim figure in a dark coat, smoking a cigarette. The smoke from his right hand curled against the sparkling blue of the water. We bowed ceremoniously and exchanged credentials. He spoke with a clear North German accent, and after we had finished our business, he smiled and offered me one of his cigarettes. I took it and we stared out over the water and its little choppy waves to the other side of the lake. Zürich was a cluster of medieval towers and steeples off to our left. The hills that surrounded the city were brown and their trees still leafless. The air was sharp, the light clear and thin.

I could think of nothing to say. I stole a closer look at my counterpart. The face was like a reflection of my own, thin, with shadowed eyes, the obligatory small moustache drawing out his face. The same age. I saw him making his way through the streets of Lübeck or Rostock or Hamburg to his university. I saw the friends he drank with, the girls he talked to. I knew the trips he had made to the Schwarzwald or Bavaria, to Hiddensee or Rügen. A Doppelgänger, I thought, how appropriate for this gothic, necromancer’s city.

“Goethe rowed a boat out there in the lake,” I said. It was all I could think of.

The German turned to me, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Ah, yes? You know that?”

“Yes. One of my favourite poems comes from that experience.” I quoted the first two lines. “Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut, saug’ ich aus freier Welt. . .”.

“Wie ist Natur so hold und gut, die mich am Busen hält,” he completed the sentence. “You are a German scholar, I see, sir.”

“A little. I was a student in Germany many years ago.” This was more than I should have breathed to him.

“Ah, yes,” he replied gently. “I too was a student for a time in your country. A year in Oxford. It was very charming. I remember it with great pleasure. So many people were . . . very kind. I studied Anglo-Saxon literature with your Professor Sweetman. I still remember how he would recite Beowulf. It was quite wonderful. I disagreed with his reading. It ignores the German tribal elements. But he was a great man, nonetheless. A great scholar. I think he is dead now.”

“I believe so. In 1913, I think.”

“Quite so. A sad loss.”

“There are many sad losses nowadays.”

“Many.”

“I hate this war. I loathe it with all my heart.”

He could barely conceal his surprise. He stared at me for a full five seconds before turning away and flicking his cigarette onto the pebbles of the lake shore. What was running through his mind, I wondered. Was this Englishman mad? Was he trying to entrap him somehow? Why this absurd, unprecedented confession? But his answer was strangely unexpected, yet wholly appropriate. He cleared his throat and poked the ground lightly with the shiny toe of his shoe.

“I hate it too, my friend. I too, with all my heart.”

And then we both cleared our throats together, and like men caught in some guilty act looked quickly around us. He gave a wry smile and I responded in kind. I shrugged my shoulders. We bowed briefly, shook hands and went our different ways back to our waiting cars. I turned as I opened the door of mine, and saw him sitting hunched in his, a brown gloved hand covering his face. Gulls were wheeling above the bright blue of the lake, crying sharply.

That night I went drinking in a small bar in a Niederdorf backstreet. The streetlight glanced off the black cobbles, damp from a spring rain shower. I walked down by the river and watched the black waters lap slowly against the stone embankment. I felt completely lost and empty, a living ghost in the night.

This night, too, in London, I downed my whisky and went to bed. The whisky killed the dreams and helped me sleep.

 

Aboutthebook

 

THE GERMAN MESSENGER by David Malcolm

Genre: Historical/Crime/Thriller

Published by Crime Wave Press/2016

 

german-messenger

Late 1916. Europe is tearing itself apart in the Great War. Harry Draffen, part Greek, part Scottish, British secret agent, cosmopolitan, polyglot, man of violence, is having a bad war. Now he is instructed to uncover a plot by the Central Powers against England. From the slums of East London to an Oxford college, from the trenches on the Western Front to an isolated house on the Scottish coast, on to a bloody showdown in the North of England, he chases a phantom and elusive German messenger. Betrayed, deceived, under attack from many enemies, bringing death to those he does not hate and even to those he loves, he tries to reach the heart of the mystery. In a final reckoning in a London tenement, he at last understands the full scope of the plots centered on the German messenger.

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abouttheauthor

david_malcolm (1)

David Malcolm was born in Scotland. He was educated in Aberdeen, Zürich, and London.

For over thirty years he has lived and worked in Japan, the USA, and Poland. He currently resides in Sopot, Poland.

His collection of short fiction, Radio Moscow and Other Stories was published by Blackwitch Press in 2015.

connect-with-the-author

Interview with Kena Sosa, author of KINDERTRANSPORT

What projects are you currently working on?

I am an extreme busybody, so I am always in the middle of a cornucopia of projects. Currently, I am promoting my latest release, Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey. This is my first middle grade chapter book, heavily influenced by interviews with actual Kindertransports, Jewish children who escaped to England just before the onset of WWII,  whom I was able to interview for oral histories at the University of Connecticut. Their generosity in sharing their experiences on the Kindertransport, coupled with the opportunity for trip with the Billie Levy Research and Travel grant, made this possible.  All of the interviewees shared a message of hope through the darkest times made this book a necessary and powerful story I couldn’t wait to write.

I am also awaiting the release of my third book, a new picture book called The Unhuggables, in early October. The Unhuggables is a fantastic action-packed tale about a boy named Oliver who doesn’t want to be hugged, and his mother who loves him through this wild, yet loving adventure. I look forward to sharing it with you soon!

I am also playing drums in a few local groups, specifically taiko for Dallas Kiyari Daiko, Goisagi Daiko and a fun, rockin’ cover band called Exactamundo.

And of course, I am adventuring with my awesome sons, Ale and Lucca, who inspire, entertain me and make me smile more than I can handle. My heart and my schedule are jam-packed. 🙂

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of writing Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey was hearing the heart-wrenching true experiences of the Kindertransports themselves. One broke down in tears as she told her story. I wanted to ensure they only told what they wanted to, knowing so many of the pieces of this would be unhappy for them. However, through it all, they persisted because overall, their experiences were ones of hope and they were grateful for the chance at life. They were fortunate, all three, in that they were reunited with their families after the war. I feared pushing them too much, making them relive sadness they didn’t want to remember, yet, surprisingly, they wanted to talk about it, even the saddest part. They wanted their stories told, and for that, I am forever grateful to all three: Rita Kaplan, Ivan Baeker, and especially Eva Greenwood, who attended my presentation in person at the end of the project. I had to honor them by telling their stories well and in the voice and eyes of a child. I think there are children who, although their experiences are very different, can identify with leaving home, or saying goodbye to a parent or loved one, or just living the unknown. This book brings a message of hope, that no matter how far away we are or who we are, we have the power to help others and in opening our hearts and doing so, we can impact lives. Each one of us wields this power, the question is whether or not we choose to reach out and use it.

What’s in a name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would I refuse thy name? The answer is yes and no. Names are so reflective and meaningful when you think about it. That was

Shakespeare’s Juliet’s dilemma because if she had any other name, she could have her Romeo. Names can indicate culture, gender, even class or status. I like names that reflect the personality more than anything else. A name that fits that particular person.

Names are always a challenge. I don’t like names that are too common for characters, because I want to picture a character when I hear a name. I chose the name Helen for the girl in Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey. It was my grandmother’s name. I think it sounds stoic, feminine and strong. When I hear a name I like, I jot it down in my notebook so that I can use it when I find the right character to fit it. I save the name I like for when that particular character is born.

Despite the frustration growing up with a weird name, having so many people spell it wrong or pronounce it wrong, I’m glad my own name is unique and unassuming. It suits me. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

What book do you wish you had written?

Just like names, I think some books were meant to be written by certain authors. I do secretly wish I had written Alice in  Wonderland because that story is just so timeless and wonderful. Yet, the story just wouldn’t be the same in anyone else’s voice. The books I wish I had written are yet to come. I do wish, however, I had the skills of some of

my illustrators though. Kudos to the artistic talents of those who’ve worked on my books, Jessica McClure on Rey Antonio and Rey Feo; Jeanne Conway on Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey, and coming soon, Alexis Braud on The Unhuggables.

I do dream of one day joining the ranks of author/illustrators and doing both jobs for a future book. Someday maybe I will!

What superpower do you wish you had?

When I lived in Japan there was a cartoon character I adored called Doraemon, a weird little blue, catlike guy who had a “dokodemo doa,” basically a door he could enter that would take him anywhere, kind of reminiscent of all the doors in the movie Monster’s Inc. I wish I had a “dokodemo doa,” then my fear of flying wouldn’t stop me from being anywhere I wanted to be. I could just turn the doorknob and go there-free, fast, and take anyone I wanted to with me! Til then, I am waiting for someone to build a transatlantic bullet train. Just putting it out there….

What jobs have you had?

Well, I still work as a school librarian, in addition to being an author. I have also been a teacher both here and abroad. I was a cashier at HEB grocery story in college in San Antonio. My first job was as a Sandwich Artist at Subway, so much fun and so many memories sandwiched into my early years. The worst job ever, I hope no one holds this against me but I was young and it paid the bills. I was a telemarketer for a while- I sincerely apologize to the world for that. Please, forgive me and read my books anyway! I promise, it built character in me and the unfortunate souls the computer called at random! I write much better scripts now!

Have you ever allowed a game of Monopoly to ruin a friendship?

Well, I have not allowed the capitalism of Monopoly to ruin anything, but my mom and I are known to play Scrabble to the death. We can play for hours and are fiercely competitive, but it’s part of the fun! My friend Sara and I also used to play air hockey until our fingers got bloody. I still challenge anyone on that, at the risk of injury to both their hands and their pride ;).

Chocolate or vanilla?

Oh chocolate any day, but only dark chocolate. The rest might as well be vanilla, which I tease my son who loves it, as the flavor which is the absence of flavor.

Tea or coffee?

Well, considering I have more coffee flowing through my veins than blood, I have to say coffee. I might actually need coffee rehab. I am allowed one vice. Yet, if you offer me bitter Japanese green tea, I will toss some coffee away. It tastes like memories of a place I miss. And if you offer me some authentic chai, I will take that too. Everyone needs some

spice now and then. If you want the perfect mixture of anything though, Turkish coffee reigns supreme. Wow, now I’m thirsty.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel?

Hands down, put me on the Ferris wheel. I enjoy observing people and things around me. Not only will I not get bruises from the Ferris wheel but I can enjoy the scenery and the breeze and the slow happiness of it. It’s like running versus walking. I won’t run unless you chase me, but I will walk endlessly and relish what it brings to all the senses any day.

—   —   —

Thank you, Tabatha, for your thoughtful and delightful questions! I can’t wait to hear what you think about Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey and greatly look forward to sharing The Unhuggables with you soon. Readers can contact me directly through email or Facebook if they’d like a great deal on a personally signed copy mailed straight to them 🙂

 

abouttheauthor

37

A school librarian by day, and writer by night, Kena Sosa adores words. She also loves playing the drums. She earned her Bachelors degree from Our Lady of the Lake University and her Masters in Bilingual Education from SMU. She lived abroad in Japan and Mexico, experiences which instilled within her a love for culture and language, as reflected in her stories.
Her first children’s book, Rey Antonio and Rey Feo, was born of the celebration of her colorful childhood in San Antonio. Her second book, Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey is a middle grade chapter book about the hopeful escape of children on the Kindertransport train just before the outbreak of WWII. This book, The Unhuggables, is a fun story about love and the power of hugs. Sharing stories with her two sons and other eager readers has been her favorite adventure yet!

 

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Aboutthebook

KINDERTRANSPORT – A CHILD’S JOURNEY

written by Kena Sosa; art by Jeanne Conway

Audience/Genre: Middle Grade Chapter Book/Historical Fiction – Holocaust/WWII

Kindertransport - A Child's Journey - 9781940310596-Perfect.indd

 

Just before the outbreak of World War II, the Nazis pushed Jewish families to do something they never imagined they would. They sent their children away on a train to faraway places to live with strangers so that they would be safe until the danger passed. As she gets onboard the Kindertransport, a train to hope, ten-year-old Helen will never be the same.

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