Posted in animals, Cozy, excerpt, mystery, Spotlight on January 4, 2017

Synopsis

In the small town of Clarkesville, in the heart of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, a humble forester stumbles into the complex world of crooked cops and power-hungry politicians… all because he rescued a stray, injured dog on the highway.

Lehigh Carter didn’t really mean to adopt the dog. But his ex-fiancée, Stacy McBride, convinces him to do it, with a promise to help. Their rekindled romance angers her father, state Senator George McBride, who sees her backwoods suitor as a blemish on his carefully created political image. It also sets off a chain of events that entangle Lehigh in a life-or-death conflict with the senator’s hardnosed campaign treasurer, Paul van Paten, who had his own plans for Stacy’s future.

The Mountain Man’s Dog is a briskly told crime thriller loaded with equal parts suspense, romance, and light-hearted humor, pitting honor and loyalty against ruthless ambition and runaway greed in a town too small for anyone to get away with anything.

Excerpt

Lehigh slowed down around the S-curves on Brady Mountain Road even before the speed limit sign told him to. The fog rolled in thicker here due to the nearby lakes, intensifying the dark and making the night seem much later than it was. A guy never knew what the night fog might throw out of the woods in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, especially in late September. He didn’t want adventure on a Thursday night. He just needed some groceries, stuff that old man Patterson’s market didn’t carry, and anyways, he closed at five o’clock. So, as much as he hated doing it, Lehigh had to drive down the mountain into town.

Just go to WinCo, get some groceries, and leave. No distractions.

He braked just in time not to kill a coyote darting across the highway. It startled him and sweat rolled down his back in spite of the chill. He shook his head and took a heavy breath. Focus on driving, dumb-ass. Don’t get all riled up.

He kept his speed down below forty. Good thing, as it enabled him to brake in time once again, this time to avoid hitting a yellow hound dog limping across the road. Well, normally he’d call it a good thing. In coming years, Lehigh often argued it was anything but. He wasn’t much of a dog person, ever since Uncle Ted’s German Shepherd near tore his hand off as a kid. Or so he remembered. The injury grew with every retelling.

Lehigh didn’t so much fear dogs as loathe them. Dogs were nothing but a nuisance: noisy, smelly, always needing attention and cleaning up after. Kind of like a kid that never grows up. Still a committed bachelor at thirty-seven, his position on kids was pretty clear.

He came to a full stop for the yellow hound. It limped so badly, it hardly moved, really. Its brown eyes reflected the glare of the truck’s headlights, making them shine red like the indicator lights on his dashboard. The dog froze in his tracks as Lehigh waited. Then it lay right down across the center stripe, its bleeding belly exposed and vulnerable.

Dumb-assed dog. He could get killed like that. Of course, that might well have been the dog’s intention. Dogs, his uncle used to say, can smell their own death, and will go take care of it when the time comes. Maybe the dog wanted him to run it over.

Hmm. Tempting.

He shook his head. Nope. Can’t do it. Dogs may be mean, stupid little bastards, but he couldn’t just up and kill one of ’em. Maybe Uncle Ted’s nasty old shepherd, but not one that hadn’t done anything to him first.
He left the old Ford running, tucked his shaggy brown hair into the Dodgers hat he kept on the seat and stepped out into the fog. The dog looked up at him, stared a second, then lay his head back down on the pavement. Lehigh approached him, taking small steps, still wary, twenty-nine years after feeling that shepherd dog’s teeth on his fingers. He could just move the pup aside a bit. Move him and be on his way.

He fetched the wide aluminum shovel out of the back of his truck, just in case he had to prod the old hound to move. The dog looked friendly, but one never knows what a dog’s going to do. What if he’s rabid, like Uncle Ted’s dog? You just never know. Those shots hurt like hell for days and days. He had no desire to go through that again.

The lazy flap of the dog’s snakelike tail against the damp black pavement told him rabies were probably not an issue. Its pink tongue flickered between furry lips, anticipating rescue. The dog’s brown irises and black pupils filled the top hemisphere of its eye sockets in a steady, whimpering stare. Its bleeding belly and forlorn face melted Lehigh’s apprehension. Dogs may be a nuisance, he reckoned, but this one was just
hurting.

He set the shovel down and held his hand out, palm down, in front of the dog’s nose, the way Uncle Ted had taught him. Wet, gentle lapping on his knuckles confirmed the dog’s friendliness—or at least, its trust. “Let me take a look at you, boy,” he said in as soothing a voice as he could muster. He used the handle of the shovel to lift the dog’s hind leg, exposing more of its belly and crotch.

“Huh. I guess I shouldn’t call you boy no more,” he said, a little embarrassed. She licked his hand again. He looked closer at the cut. She’d somehow sliced herself across the belly, maybe jumping over a freshly-pruned hedge, or a barbed-wire fence, or maybe a cat or raccoon had clawed her. The ragged cut caused her skin to gape an inch or so apart. It would need stitches, probably several.

“Well, you ain’t gonna walk into a vet’s office all on your own,” he said. “But the sheriff’s office is on the way to town. Maybe he’ll get you there. Which means, I’ve got to get you to him. C’mere, girl.”

The dog found his eyes with her own, and laid her head back down on the pavement. He nudged her backside with his foot. “C’mon girl, get up.” She stayed put and glanced at him sideways, panting just a little. Moisture from the dog’s breath danced in the beam of his truck’s headlights.

“You gonna make me pick you up and carry you?” She didn’t look heavy. But to pick her up, he’d have to risk putting at least one hand near her head. Near her open mouth.

Pain. Fingers. Bleeding…

He shook his head. This dog knew more about pain and bleeding than he ever would. Come on, Lehigh, do what you gotta do here.

He crossed around the dog and slid the edge of his shovel under her furry back. At first she remained dead weight, a passenger in the next step of her journey. He pried her body up from the pavement, using the shovel as a lever and his foot as a fulcrum. He grunted under the awkward exertion. Six-one, one-ninety-five, he ought to be able to lift this skinny mutt with ease, but not from this position.

Just before he let go to start over, the dog responded. With a herky-jerky motion she stumbled to her feet and sauntered to the open door of his pickup’s cab, panting, a hopeful and grateful dog-smile painted on her weary face.

“Wait,” Lehigh said. To his surprise, the dog obeyed. He scratched the stubble on his chin. “You been around people.” That changed his strategy a bit. He had intended to put her in the bed of the pickup, but he discarded that thought like an empty carcass. Instead he spread a small tarp onto the passenger’s side of the seat. The dog put her front paws on the truck’s sidestep and convulsed in a pathetic attempt to climb further. Fresh blood trickled down her hind leg. Lehigh winced. Careful not to touch the wound, he pressed the flat blade of the shovel against the dog’s hindquarters and pushed her onto the floor of the truck, then guided her onto the tarp.

“I don’t reckon you’ve done anything wrong,” he said after climbing in next to her, “but I think it’s time you and Sheriff Summers got acquainted.”

The dog responded with a quick lick of her lips, heavy panting, and a low, prolonged whine.

About the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, actor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to his novels, he writes on assignment for private sector, government, individuals, and not-for-profit clients, and his articles have been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.

Gary earned his B.A. in Political Science and Economics at Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!) and his Ph.D. at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), writing his dissertation on the politics of acid rain (1988). After working variously on farms, construction, in restaurants, and in various information technology positions, in 2005 he founded Gary Corbin Writing and Consulting.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, the Northwest Editors Guild, the North Bank Writers Workshop, PDX Playwrights, and the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area. A homebrewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetie.

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Posted in Giveaway, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on January 2, 2017

OF BULLETINS AND BOOZE

  A NEWSMAN’S STORY OF RECOVERY

by

Bob Horton

Genre: Journalism / Memoir

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

Date of Publication: March, 2017

Number of Pages: 284

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Bob Horton began his journalism career as a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Innate skill and good fortune took him from a modest Texas farm upbringing to Washington, DC, where he was thrown into the high-pressure world of the wire service, first as a correspondent for the Associated Press, and later for Reuters news agency. The stress was intense, but he found the rush to be intoxicating.

From his early days covering the Dallas murder trial of Jack Ruby, through three colorful decades as a newsman, Horton often found himself witnessing history in the making. He covered the Pentagon during the early days of the Vietnam War, was on board a Navy ship in the Mediterranean awaiting Israel’s expected attack on Egypt, was witness to the Watergate burglary trial, and attended a Beverly Hills church service with then-President-elect Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

The success Horton enjoyed as a journalist mostly hid the dark side of his career: a gradual descent into alcoholism. Of Bulletins and Booze candidly recounts the unforgettable moments of Horton’s career, as well as more than a few moments he would just as soon forget.

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Bob Horton has been in the news business for more than fifty years. In 1966 he received the Top Reporting Performance Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors organization, and in 1968 he and an AP cohort were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for general coverage of the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Today he is a radio news anchor with shows in Lubbock and Victoria, Texas. He lives in Lubbock.

 

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on January 2, 2017

Title: Solo

Author: Jill Mansell

Pub Date: January 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781492632429

Synopsis

It all starts at a party, as these things often do…

  • A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences
  • Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
  • An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
  • A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment

One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry.

Whatever’s going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now…

Amazon * Books-A-Million * Barnes & Noble * Indiebound

Question to Jill

What draws you to write romance?

I love it! It means spending your days with fictional people you’d really enjoy knowing and spending time with in real life. I particularly love writing sparky, witty exchanges between two characters who find each other attractive. What could possibly be more fun than that?

Excerpt

Parties full of strangers bored the knickers off Tessa.

“Well, you’re damn well coming to this one,” declared Holly impatiently. “You haven’t been out for weeks and it’s going to be brilliant. Everyone’s going. And just think, play your cards right, show a bit of leg, a bit of cleavage, and you, too, could find a husband like mine!”

Tessa wiped her hands on her already paint-streaked sweatshirt and picked up the bottle of ridiculously expensive Chardonnay that Holly always insisted on buying because she liked the label, and which neither of them properly appreciated. Pouring herself half a mugful and wincing at its icy dryness she said, “I don’t have a cleavage.”

“What God didn’t give you, scotch tape will,” pronounced Holly. “They showed us how on Blue Peter.”

“And I haven’t been out for weeks”—Tessa mimicked Holly’s despairing tones—“because I have been working. Working pays the rent. It even occasionally allows me to eat. I simply can’t afford to mix in your kind of social circles.”

“You can’t afford not to,” countered Holly. “These are the people who commission poverty-stricken artists to paint absurdly flattering portraits of their revolting children.”

“Besides,” Tessa went on, surveying the almost-finished canvas before her and beginning to realize that Holly wasn’t going to let her wriggle out of this one, “you aren’t married.”

Holly grinned, refilling her own mug with a flourish. “Ah! I didn’t say I had a husband, I said I’d found him. All that remains now is to exert a little gentle pressure.”

“And I suppose he’ll be there tonight.”

“There is that small chance,” conceded Holly smugly. “After all, it is his party.”

***

From the living room window of Tessa’s tiny cottage, perched on the side of one of the rolling, north-facing hills overlooking the spectacular elegance of the city of Bath, she could see in the far distance the equally spectacular and elegant Charrington Grange Hotel.

Even if Holly hadn’t been working there for the past two months and regaling her with endless details about it, Tessa would have heard of it. Everyone knew of the Charrington Grange Hotel, owned and run by the Monahan brothers and built up from nothing—well, scarcely anything—over the last fifteen years into one of the foremost country hotels in England. Originally a gracious Georgian residence commanding breathtaking views across the city from its position at the very top of the south-facing hills above Bath, it had fallen into hideous disrepair during its forty-year occupation by an elderly and eccentric Monahan maiden aunt. By the time of her eventual death the roof was barely intact, the walls of the gracefully proportioned rooms were streaked with damp and the entire place was overrun by the dotty old woman’s grand passion—several hundred decidedly un-housetrained cats.

Pulling every conceivable string between them, the notorious Monahan brothers, Ross and Max, had somehow managed to raise the vast amount of capital necessary to transform the crumbling old house into an opulent hotel catering to the very wealthiest clientele.

The press had had a field day at the time. The very idea that Max Monahan, moody and unpredictable, and Ross, with his mile-long reputation for carousing, heart-breaking and generally misbehaving, could pull off such a stunt was so ridiculous it was laughable. Max, the elder brother by two years, having been sent down from Oxford following a particularly outrageous prank involving a prostitute dressed as a nun and a visiting trade union leader, had rapidly established himself as a star broker on the Stock Exchange. Six months later, the day after his twenty-first birthday, he had abandoned this glittering new career, disappearing to the Caribbean and returning eighteen months later with the completed manuscripts of not one but two fat novels. These thrillers, with their winning combination of sex, violence, tension and wit were wildly successful, yet at the time Max had doubted whether he would want to do it again. It had been fun finding out that he could, but it was scarcely what he termed a proper job.

In the end, however, the vast sums of money offered, the luxury of being virtually his own boss, the flexible hours and the ease with which he conjured up fresh plots, won the day. To Max Monahan, writing was a doddle and the rewards were too great to pass up. He rapidly became established as one of those few lucky writers whose books were read by everyone. Over the years he had grown more level headed and now, with his astute business brain and almost ruthless determination to pile success upon success, he was recognized as the more down to earth of the two brothers. The Charrington Grange Hotel was owned jointly between them and although Max didn’t work there full-time he was involved in all the major decision-making and both he and Ross still lived there. Blockbuster novels remained his major—and considerable—source of income, but the hotel acted as an antidote to the solitude which writing entailed, and because he didn’t need to sweat over a word processor for eight hours a day like some writers he’d heard of, there was still plenty of time left over in which to enjoy himself.

Ross Monahan, on the other hand, devoted his entire life to enjoyment. Tessa had never made a particular point of reading the gossip columns but even she was aware of his wicked reputation. Expelled from more schools than anyone cared to remember, his notorious passion for fun was equaled only by his stunning good looks and lethal charm. Incapable of remaining in one place for more than a few weeks, in his early twenties he was the archetypal playboy, his outrageous exploits hitting the papers almost weekly. Men despised and envied him; women—apart from those whose hearts he had broken—adored him.

If everyone had been amazed when he had appointed himself manager of The Charrington Grange, they had been well and truly astounded when they finally realized what an out-and-out success he was actually making of the job.

And fifteen years on, Ross Monahan was still doing it, running the hotel with such panache and enjoyment that he had made it seem scarcely like work at all. Having always moved in the most glittering and outrageous circles, he had turned The Grange into a kind of open house for those who played as hard as he did. It was quite simply the place to stay if you wanted to have a really good time—and could afford to pay for it.

And according to Holly, Ross Monahan was absolutely lethal with women.

“Gorgeous, gorgeous!” she had informed Tessa, shortly after going to work for him. “But definitely dangerous to know. When I first met him I made a solemn vow with myself not to get involved.”

“But you have,” guessed Tessa, observing the sheepish look in her friend’s eyes. Holly had shrugged and smiled. “Given half a chance I would have done,” she’d admitted. “But the bastard isn’t interested. For God’s sake, Tess, he treats me like a friend!”

***

And now Holly was planning on treating him like a brother-in-law. She was passionately in love with Max, only Max didn’t know it yet. Tessa, who adored Holly but sometimes despaired of her, suspected that it would all end in tears and that most of them would land on her own inadequately small shoulders.

Meanwhile, Holly was returning in less than two hours to pick her up and take her along to this horrible party. And she really didn’t have a single suitable thing to wear.

About the Author

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

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Posted in excerpt, Historical, romance, Spotlight on December 28, 2016

Title: My Highland Rebel

Author: Amanda Forester

Series: Highland Trouble, #2

ISBN: 9781492605461

Pubdate: January 3, 2017

Genre: Historical Romance

Synopsis

A conquering hero

Cormac Maclean would rather read than rampage, but his fearsome warlord father demands that he prove himself in war. Cormac chooses what he thinks is an easy target, only to encounter a fiery Highland lass leading a doomed rebellion and swearing revenge on him.

Meets an unconquerable heroine

Jyne Cambell is not about to give up her castle without a fight, even though her forces are far outnumbered. She’s proud, hot-blooded and hot-tempered, and Cormac falls for her hard.

It’s going to take all of Cormac’s ingenuity to get Jyne to surrender gracefully—both to his sword and to his heart…

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Excerpt

Highlands, 1362

She had always wanted to have an adventure. That was her first mistake. Her second was to set off for a little privacy in the thick fog of the Highland morning.

Lady Jyne Campbell tramped along the cold ground of the Highland moor, trying to retrace her steps back to camp. She could not have gotten far. Could she? She considered calling out to her brothers for help, but rejected the idea. She wished to show her clan that she was capable of taking care of herself. Admitting she had gotten lost in the fog was not going to help her cause.

Being the youngest daughter, Jyne was accustomed to being bossed about by all of her fourteen siblings. And not just any siblings—Campbell siblings. Her eldest brother was David Campbell, laird of the pow­erful Campbell clan. The Campbell brothers were tall, broad-shouldered, hardworking, and a formidable foe to their enemies. The Campbell sisters were statuesque, brave, bold, and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with any man to defend the Campbell clan, or against any clansman who got out of line. Jyne’s mother had borne fifteen children, and not one of them had the audacity to die in childhood. No, frailty was not allowed in the Campbell household.

All except Jyne. She had been born a little too soon and had always been small. In childhood, she was prone to illness and had a delicate constitution. Being of questionable health during her formative years, she was never chosen to travel or have any adventures. Though her dreams were as big as any of her siblings, she had to content herself with listening to the stories of others and making herself useful about the castle, while the other siblings returned with wild tales of their exploits.

Jyne paused a moment, straining to hear sounds from the camp. She would rather search for hours than admit to her over­protective brothers she had gotten lost in a bit of mist. She continued walking in the thick gray fog, which blanketed the rugged landscape. Straining to see ahead of her in the fog and stepped onto something she thought was firm ground, but suddenly wasn’t.

“Oh!” She fell forward into a bog, gasping as the cold, muddy water engulfed her to her thighs. “Oh, no!” She struggled, trying to find firm ground to drag herself out of the treacherous moor, but everywhere she touched was made of cold, wet mud. Her efforts were rewarded only by her sinking into the bog a few inches more.

The freezing sludge seeped through her clothes and held her fast, like an icy claw. The smell of rotting swamp gas made her gag. Her heart pounded in her throat, along with the remnants of her last meal. She had heard stories of people getting trapped in the bog and never returning.

She clenched her teeth to stop them from chatter­ing. Should she call for help? The thought of the looks on her brothers’ faces to find her stuck in the bog shut her mouth. She made another try for solid ground, straining her reach for a crop of grass.

She could almost make it. Her fingertips brushed tantalizingly against the stems of the grass, but there was nothing to grasp. She could not reach solid ground. Her efforts had only caused her to sink another few inches as fear slithered down her spine. Nothing she could do was going to get herself out.

“Help! David? Help!” Her pride was gone. She only hoped her brothers would hear her before she was gone. “Can anyone hear me?”

She had expected her siblings to come running as soon as she called. She could not be that far from camp. Could she? She listened for footsteps, for any hint that help was on the way. She heard nothing.

Panic surged within her, tinged with frustration. The one time she actually wanted her brothers to hover over her, and they were nowhere in sight. She made another lunge for solid ground, but the more she moved, the farther the bog sucked her down, and soon she was up to her waist, panting with exertion and sheer terror.

She closed her eyes and screamed with all her might, “Help! Heeeeeelp!”

“Here, lassie, take my hand.” A man, a stranger to her, flung himself onto the solid ground and reached out his hand over the murky bog. She grasped it, and he began to back up slowly, pulling her from the quagmire. He pulled hard, but the swamp resisted, as if unwilling to release its prize from its cold clutches. Finally, he wrenched her from the deadly swamp, and she collapsed beside him on firm ground.

“Thank ye,” she gasped, not sure if she was trem­bling from the fear of coming near death or the frozen chill of the mire still permeating her bones.

“Are ye hurt?” asked the stranger. He was a tall man dressed in the plaid kilt of the Highlander, belted at the waist and thrown over one shoulder. He had a wild mop of unruly brown hair and glint­ing dark eyes. He was armed with a bow and quiver of arrows and had several scrolls stuck into his wide leather belt.

Her teeth chattered. “N-nay, just relieved to be out o’ the bog.”

The stranger stood up and took her with him, easily lifting her to her feet. “Ah, lass, ye’re chilled to the bone.” He pulled her close and wrapped the ends of his plaid around her, warming her with his own heat. She melted into the comforting warmth and safety of his arms.

Jyne sighed. She had a vague feeling she should not be enjoying an embrace with a total stranger. She must be simply thankful to be out of the bog. At least that is what she told herself to justify resting her cheek against his chest.

“Thank ye. I dinna ken what would have happened to me if ye hadna come along,” said Jyne into the man’s solid chest. “Ye must have been sent by the angels to save me.”

The man laughed. “Angels? That would be the first time anyone said that about me.”

Jyne looked up at him. He had a decided jawline and sharp cheekbones. His face was almost angular, but attractive. His dark green eyes gleamed in the early morning light. He was a trim, muscular man who looked to be in his early twenties. Perhaps it was her brush with danger, but she decided he was the most handsome Highlander she had ever seen.

“Then I am glad to be the first to say it to ye. Ye truly are my hero.” Jyne’s voice trembled with sincerity.

“I’m nobody’s hero.” He tilted his head with a sardonic smile.

“Ye are to me. I am Jyne and much in yer debt.”

He shook his head. “Ye owe me naught.”

She touched her hand to his cheek, and he tilted his head toward her, leaning closer.

“Unhand my sister!”

Jyne jumped away from the stranger and turned to see her brother, Laird of the Campbells, emerging from the mist.

About the Author

Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance was way more fun. A Publishers Weekly Top Ten author, her books have been given starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. Whether in the rugged Highlands of medieval Scotland or the decadent ballrooms of Regency England, her novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest outside Tacoma, Washington.

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Posted in excerpt, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 27, 2016

The Conversations We Never Had, by Jeffrey H. Konis, is a historical fiction novel / memoir that highlights the importance of family history.

Synopsis

When Jeffrey’s grandma died, he was left with a sense of guilt and profound regret for not having gotten to know her better.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “I lived with Olga for over two years and she would have been able and willing to tell me about my real grandparents, my dad as a little boy and so much more had I simply asked the questions.  I never did.  Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I wish I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.


Excerpt

From Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and . . . .” “Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.

Praise

“Jeffrey H. Konis won my heart from the very first page and had my eyes glued to the pages throughout the entire narrative…The Conversations We Never Had is a book that will warm your heart and lead you toward the pursuit of love and gratitude for those who are part of your journey to yourself. Beautiful and inspiring, this book is highly recommended!” – 5 Stars, Romuald Dzemo for Readers Favorite

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning.

His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016.

Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

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Posted in Spotlight, Young Adult on December 22, 2016

Synopsis

Two months before Troye Saavedra’s senior year of high school, his father’s drinking problem skyrockets. When Troye’s parents make an impulsive move to Georgia in order to “help” him finish high school on a positive note, he is forced to leave behind everything he knows. Things couldn’t get worse for Troye. That is, until he meets three enigmatic teenagers: Adelaide, an independent violinist with radical ideas; Zaidan, fiercely loyal and always funny; and Arabella, a girl who harbors secret struggles. Together, the four friends try to pick up the jagged pieces of their lives without getting hurt themselves. An insightful tale of perseverance, Silence Interrupted is a young adult novel about the beauty and peril of traversing the world as a teenager.

About the Author

Sania Shaikh is a junior at Cambridge High School. Inspired to write from a young age, she worked on Silence Interrupted, her debut novel, starting in eighth grade.

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Posted in excerpt, nonfiction, self help, Spotlight on December 20, 2016

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Synopsis

Are you suffering from a personal energy crisis?Are you constantly running through your day, feeling chronically exhausted? Are you desperately overcommitted? Do you find yourself sacrificing your health, family time and quality of life just to meet the never-ending demands on your time? Are you exhausted when you go to bed at night and still tired when you awake? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then you may be suffering from a personal energy crisis.
Unfortunately, this way of living — and working — not only robs us of our health and puts a strain on time and energy resources, it blocks our access to our most essential sources of energy, leaving us feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.

In his new book, Energize Your Life, Dr. Del shows you simple things you can do everyday to fuel your life and work with positive energy. Drawing from his years of experience consulting with executives, entrepreneurs, small business owners, career changers and self re-inventors, as well as the wealth of new research over the past two decades on positive psychology, employee engagement and play, Dr. Del demonstrates how you can program the brain — and the subconscious — for productive, beneficial action.

Energize Your Life is different from other positive energy books and personal energy management programs. Its unique advantage is that it shows you how to fuel your life and work with positive energy from seven distinct sources.

And why is it important to increase your daily dose of positive energy? Well, several studies have clearly demonstrated that chronic stress and negative energy shuts down the creative problem solving brain, slows your productivity and puts you in fight or flight mode where very little gets done.

Energize Your Life will challenge and inspire you to develop a personal action plan to fuel your life and work with positive energy everyday. Thereby, improving your personal well being, enhancing your work engagement, and helping you feel more alive.

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Excerpt

The 7 Pillars of Positive Energy

  1. Ignite Your Passions…Fuel Your Purpose

Passion energizes.  Purpose motivates.

  1. Accelerate Your Personal Evolution

Self-awareness leads to emotional maturity, which frees us to respond differently.

  1. Cultivate Physical Vitality

Physical vitality expands our energy capacity.

  1. Become a Conduit for Positive Energy

Positive energy attracts.  Negative energy repels.

  1. Practice Positive Psychology

Positive thoughts and emotions program the brain (and our subconscious) for positive action.

  1. Increase Your “Prosocial Behavior”

Simple acts of kindness, good for the doer too.

  1. Give Yourself Permission to Play

Play increases our capacity to respond appropriately to the unexpected.

Chapter 5: Become a Conduit for Positive Energy

“Positive energy attracts. 

Negative energy repels.”

– Del Millers

Pillar #4: Positive Energy

It was December 2013, and I was flying home to Los Angeles from Charlotte, NC via Chicago O’Hare airport.  Unfortunately, flying through Chicago in the winter during bad weather automatically spells delays and canceled flights.  And that was exactly the case.  The flight that was supposed to leave before mine from Chicago to Los Angeles was canceled.  And so was mine.

Imagine being one of those American Airline attendants that night trying his or her best to accommodate 300 angry, stranded passengers.

But, as I stood in line that night waiting my turn to talk to the attendant, I made a radical decision to adopt a positive outlook about my situation.  I had every right to be as pissed off as everybody else in that terminal, but I chose instead to focus on one thought to the exclusion of all others:  “I am on the next flight to Los Angeles.”

I kept repeating that one single thought in my head over and over again with a single mindedness of purpose.  I would also look at the attendant every so often and send her a silent message — “you’ve got a seat for me on that next plane, I know it.”

By the time I reached the counter, I was told that the next flight was fully booked.  I looked at the attendant with a smile and said, “rough night isn’t it, Nancy?”

“You have no idea,” she replied with a sigh.

Then with a smile I said “Nancy, I know you’re probably all booked up, but I’ve got an event in Los Angeles tomorrow and I’m the keynote speaker, so I would be forever grateful if you could somehow get me on the next flight out tonight.”

She said, “Mr. Millers we’re all booked up, but please have a seat and I will see what I can do.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was standing in line with a boarding pass in hand, waiting to board my flight to Los Angeles.

Yes, I know the pessimists would say that I just got lucky.  But did I?

Or did I create the right conditions that led the universe to conspire in my favor?

The truth is, I don’t know.  All I know is that I was sitting on the next flight home while most of the angry people were on their way to a hotel for the night.

Here’s what I do know for sure.

My positive optimistic attitude allowed me to stop thinking about myself long enough to empathize with Nancy’s situation.  When I said to Nancy, “rough night, isn’t it?”  I genuinely meant it, and she felt that.

Here’s something else I do know for sure.

When you go out of your way to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective, it often creates a win-win situation.  You’ll find that most people will go out of THEIR way to accommodate your needs.

Now, I don’t know what exactly Nancy did that night to get me a seat on that last flight out of Chicago to Los Angeles, but I’m certain she went out of her way to accommodate me.

Why would she do that?

Positive energy attracts positive results and people to youNegative energy repels.

There’s a lot of negativity in the world.  We are surrounded by it.  It’s inescapable.  You hear about it every time you turn on the television.  It’s thrown in your face when you walk out the door and have to listen to your neighbor complaining about how much he hates his dead end job. Again!

The world is filled with negative energy because it boosts television ratings and helps to sell newspapers and magazines.  Negative energy is controversial, provocative, and confrontational.  Just watch an episode of most Reality TV and you’ll see what I mean.

Positive energy, on the other hand, is subtle, purposeful, and uplifting.  It’s the kind of energy that gives you the momentum you need to move in the direction of a larger vision for your life.

Positive energy is like a magnet.  It attracts positive people and positive results into your life.

But how can you become a conduit for positive energy in a world obsessed with sensationalism, controversy, and fear?

You cultivate positive energy by taking positive actions every day.  Or as Jon Gordon puts it in his book, The Energy Bus, you must “feed positive dog:”

A man goes to the village to visit the wise man and he says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind, and gentle dog and then I have this angry, mean-spirited and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don’t know which is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and he says, “I know which is going to win. The one you feed the most, so feed positive dog.”

About the Author

del-millersDr. Del Millers is the founder of TheBestYouAcademy.com, EnergizedLifeAcademy.com, and author of eight books on nutrition, fitness, and personal growth.

A PhD Nutritionist with a Masters degree in psychology, Dr. Del teaches simple mind-body principles to busy entrepreneurs and professionals to help them energize their lifestyle, improve their personal wellbeing, and enhance their work engagement.

Dr. Del has appeared on FOX Television (Good Day LA), E-Entertainment TV (DR 90210), numerous nationally syndicated radio shows, and in magazines, and newspapers throughout the United States and Australia (LA Sports & Fitness, Australian Ironman, Health & Fitness, Stuff, Fighting Fat and others).

Dr. Del’s greatest passion is sharing what inspires him with others. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three daughters.

Buy any of Dr. Del’s books and forward your receipt to gifts@delmillers.com for Dr. Del’s special bonuses worth hundreds of dollars. Subscribe to Dr. Del’s weekly podcast

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Posted in excerpt, paranormal, Spotlight, suspense, Thriller on December 19, 2016

Synopsis

Out of darkness and danger

You can’t hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery—he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he’s never offered another human being: himself.

Dawns a unique and powerful love

Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death—if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

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Excerpt

Minds of Madness and Murder. The glossy poster advertising today’s seminar was taped to the closed auditorium door. Someone had drawn tears of blood dripping from each of the M’s.

Lathaniel Montgomery’s gut gnawed at his backbone, but not because of the poster or the bloody tears.

Holy Jesus. How was he going to manage being in an audience surrounded by hundreds of people, with all their smells, all their memories?

Gill touched his arm like he always did to get Lathan’s attention. “Going in?”

“Yeah.” But Lathan’s feet had grown roots into the floor. He hated how nothing in his life was normal. He hated the f*ed-up sequence of genetic code that had enlarged the olfactory regions of his brain. He hated that he smelled everything. And he especially hated the ability to smell the energy imprints of people’s memories. Scent memories. Memories that could overwhelm him and annihilate his reality.

Gill stepped up close and examined Lathan’s left eye—the eye the SMs always invaded first, the eye that would roll around independently of the other one, making him appear in need of an exorcism.

“Quit with the eye exam. I’m all right.” For now. Concentration kept the SMs out of his mind. Vigilance kept them under control.

“Your seat is directly in front of the podium. You won’t have any trouble reading Dr. Jonah’s lips. After the presentation, introduce yourself. He’ll recognize your name.” Gill gave him the don’t-screw-this-up look. “Convince him about the Strategist.”

The Strategist.

Lathan’s freakish ability had generated leads for nearly every cold case he worked. Except for the Strategist’s.

“Explain how each person has a scent signature. Explain that you smell the same signature on thirty-eight unsolved murders. Explain that the FBI won’t do anything unless he confirms there is a connection among the kills.”

“Save the lecture. This whole f*ing thing was my dumbass idea.” Could he maintain control of the SMs long enough to make it to the end of the presentation? “If I—”

“There is no if. You’re not going to lose control.” Gill had read his worries as easily as Lathan read his friend’s lips. “Maybe I should go in with you.”

“I don’t need you holding my hand.” Lathan showed him a raised middle finger—a salute they always used in jest, forced a smile of bravado across his lips, and then pushed through the doors before he made like a chickenshit and bolted from the building. Barely inside, the SMs hit. Millions of memories warred for his attention, tugged at the vision in his left eye. He sucked air through his mouth to diminish the intensity, to maintain control.

Never in his life had he been around so many people at once and been coherent. Maybe he should leave.

No.

He clenched his fists. Knuckles popped, grounding him, giving him an edge over the SMs.

He strode down the steps toward the front of the room. Thank whoever-was-in-charge the presentation hadn’t started yet.

An empty seat in the front row had a pink piece of paper taped to it: RESERVED. Lathan would’ve preferred the anonymity of the back row, but he couldn’t see Dr. Jonah’s face from that far away. He ripped off the sheet and sat in the cramped space.

His shoulders were wider than the damned chair. His arms overflowed the boundary of his seat. The woman on his left angled away from him, the cinnamon scent of her irritation infusing the air. Typical reaction to his size. And with the tattoo on his cheek, she probably assumed he’d served a sentence in the slammer.

The woman on his right reeked. But it wasn’t her fault. The rot of her body dying was a stench he recognized, along with the sharp chemical tang of the drugs that were killing her so she could live. Cancer and chemo. Her emaciated features evidenced the battle she fought. And yet, she was here. At this presentation. She was a warrior. And he was a f*ing pussy for bellyaching about the SMs.

His ears picked up a faint snapping noise. Clapping. Everyone applauded enthusiastically.

Dr. Jonah walked to the podium. His clothes were baggy and ill fitting, his face wrinkled, his head topped with a mass of fluttery gray hair. Even though he looked like he’d just awakened from sleeping under an overpass, he possessed the look of frazzled genius. The look of someone whose work mattered more than living life. The look of the nation’s most respected profiler.

A door on Lathan’s right opened. A young woman lugged a folding chair across the room. Toward him.

He held his breath.

No. She couldn’t be there for him. No one here knew him. Knew about him. Except Gill. And Gill wouldn’t—

She opened her chair and sat facing him. With an overly enthusiastic smile that showed the silver in her back molars, she started to sign.

He looked away. A long bitter whoosh of air escaped his lips.

About the Author

Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.

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Posted in Giveaway, Interview, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 18, 2016

WALKING THE LLANO

  A TEXAS MEMOIR OF PLACE

by

Shelley Armitage

 

Genre: Eco-Memoir / Nature

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Date of Publication: February 15, 2016

Number of Pages: 216

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When American explorers arrived in the Texas Panhandle, they dubbed the region the “Great American Desert.” Its rough terrain appeared flat, dry, uninhabitable. Later, cell phone towers, oil rigs, and wind turbines added to this stereotype. Yet in this lyrical ecomemoir, Shelley Armitage charts a unique rediscovery of an unknown land, a journey at once deeply personal and far-reaching in its exploration of the connections between memory, spirit, and place.

Armitage begins her walk by following the Middle Alamosa Creek thirty meandering miles from her family farm to the Canadian River. Growing up in the small llano town of Vega, Texas, she finds the act of walking inseparable from the act of listening and writing. “What does the land say to us?” she asks as she witnesses human alterations to the landscape—perhaps most catastrophic the drainage of the land’s most precious water source, the Ogallala Aquifer.

But the llano’s wonders persist: colorful mesas and canyons, vast flora and fauna, diverse wildlife. While meditating on the region’s history, Armitage recovers the voices of ancient, Native, and Hispano peoples as interwoven with her own: her father’s legacy, her mother’s decline, a brother’s love.  The llano holds not only the beauty of ecological surprises but a renewed kinship in a world ever-changing.

Reminiscent of the work of memoirists Terry Tempest Williams and John McPhee, Walking the Llano is a soaring testimony to the power of landscape to draw us into greater understanding of ourselves and deeper connection with the places we inhabit.

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 PRAISE FOR WALKING THE LLANO

Both an intensely lyrical and intimate scrapbook of familial history and a uniquely sublime travelogue of the American Southwestern landscape” A Starred review from Kirkus

“. . .an enticing mix of memoir, nature study and the hunting of ghosts. [ Walking The Llano] is a testament to the value of slowing down and watching where you are going.” Ollie Reed, The Albuquerque Journal

. . .[Armitage] is an explorer, and from her book we learn much about people who settled [the llano] and those who must now make gutwrenching decisions about modern methods of energy extraction. . .a perfectly balanced memoir.” Kimberly Burk, The Oklahoman

“With a cleareyed appreciation for landscape and our place in it combined with uncluttered flowing writing, Armitage establishes her place in the tradition of the best American nature writing.” Mark Pendleton, INK

“Once you’ve ambled into the lyrical, evocative pages of Shelley Armitage’s ‘Walking the Llano’, the Plains will never seem plain again.” William deBuys , Author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

“Shelley Armitage’s prose is as poetic as it is intelligent. She masterfully weaves together her personal story with the narrative of the Llano, and she does so in a way that begs the question of what lies ahead for the people and the land she loves. If literature is a study of the human heart—and it is—then Walking the Llano is a quiet masterpiece.” BK Loren, Author of T heft:A Novel and Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays

“In Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage does for the Staked Plains what John McPhee did for the Northern Plains in Rising from the Plains. She carefully mines the history, character, and geology of the Llano Estacado and combines it with a compelling personal narrative to create an account that flows with lyricism, authenticity, and wisdom. A splendid and cleareyed book.” Nancy Curtis – Coeditor of Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West

What kind of research did you have to do for your book?

As the book grew, I found I could bring together oral history, memory and a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I interviewed local folks about history, events and their memories of the area and also consulted university historians and archaeologists. I took a course on memoir at the UNM Writers’ Summer Conference in Taos, NM and continued research on key scholarly works on geology, geography, archaeology, history, Native American culture and the pastores. My study and certification as a  Texas Master Naturalist also was a great help.

As an academic, I love the detective work and the opportunity to incorporate a number of other scholars and writers I had read during my time teaching environmental writing and literature courses. These helped me build the case for eco­wisdom as the book became a meditation on the meaning of place.

Anything surprising you found in conducting your research?

All of it surprised me because just along this modest drainage to the Canadian had been incredible history: the major 19th century American expeditions (Abert, Whipple), major Spanish entradas (Coronado, Onate), ancient trade routes and meeting/trading places, important spring sites in a high desert landscape (one spring still flowing after 400 years), sites of Clovis and Folsom people, connections to one of the primary and oldest industries in North America ­ the Alibates Flint Quarry, last used by the Comanche.

While the book is factual and well­researched, I use the evidence of this earlier life to discuss cultural adaptations and beliefs, keys to understanding our places and our relationship to them. One thing that sticks in my mind is discovering ancient petroglyphs and pictographs on private land, sites few people would ever see. These were sacred places. What are they now? Can they be sacred to us as well? Can we recognize that we are a part of our landscapes not separate from them?

The book treats the complexities of change and consequent decision­making about our responsibilities to the natural world, questions about whether the “spirits of place” can survive development, whether concepts of beauty must be revised, how memory and story are acts of conservation.

Are there under-represented groups or ideas in your book?  If so, discuss.

Absolutely!  One of the main thrusts of Walking is to give voice to a landscape much ignored or maligned and similarly to forgotten peoples who lived there: ancient cultures, Natives such as the Antelope Creek Phase people, the Comanche and Kiowa, Hispanos who were among the first permanent settlers.  I also wanted to raise the issue of facile acceptance of the wind turbine industry which despite its green advantages can also threaten land and wildlife as well as transform places into commercial settings.  The “use” of land rather than our being in a place is an idea I address through witness and learning from the world view of other dwellers, like Native people, on the llano.  The book is an interweaving of ideas and experiences in the present, through time, and in memory.  I posit memory not as living in the past but as a way of sending meaningful stories forward.

How long did it take you to put together your memoir?

I began the hikes around 2005 and published the book in 2016. During that time, I wrote and rewrote the manuscript several times, almost giving up on it. During the hiking and discoveries, both my mother and brother passed away, like my father years before them. One of the underlying themes in the book is loss in the face of gain. Though we take this for granted now, I was unnerved, as a woman, by the prospect of being solely responsible for the farm and decisions about it as I eventually inherited it ­ alone. But the kinship I felt because of the experiences with the land comforted me and made me feel part of something larger again.

Why do you feel it’s so important to share the story of this part of the country?

My hope was to write a literary work that would not just present facts and reflections about the area, but one that would also speculate lyrically on how we can feel akin to a landscape and thus care about, protect and conserve it. We learn more about ourselves and others by rediscovering our relatedness within and to places. The book is about a specific place, long marginalized and ignored, but also a narrative and meditation that is universal in meaning. As the Navajo have observed, beauty is about being “emplaced.” My hope is that no matter where our places, we may focus our attention on them, their care. We’ve understood, perhaps most profoundly through the distant photographs by astronauts of the earth as a living, breathing cell. Up close and personal, we have a chance to realize ourselves as part of this livingness. As Eckhart Tolle has said, we can learn from nature’s stillness, its being. The degree to which we respect and care for our places is the degree to which we care for others and ourselves. The llano comforted me as well during its own changes and my personal losses.

What do you hope readers most get out of your book?

I hope readers find an appreciation and heightened awareness of what it means to truly be part of our environment rather than think of it as “other.” Thought the book is about a part of the southwest, my hope is that the ideas and experiences resonate across lives and places. As Wendell Berry has said: “There are no unsacred places, only desecrated places.” I’d like my readers to be transported and perhaps transformed by what I hope is lyric prose, so full of the cadence of poetry and how poetry means lastingly ­ how it teaches us, affects us. And that story and memory about our places and our interrelationships are acts of conservation that are not so much about a past as about the shape of the future. It’s also a book about accepting change, seeing the beauty in it and about how adventure and loss are complexly mixed. During my hikes I lost all of my family. The book chronicles those deep sadnesses and how we may grow from them, also the challenge of a woman alone inheriting a farm she must learn to manage and care for.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

To be named a Distinguished Fulbright Chair of American Literature at the University of Warsaw, representing the United States but also bonding with fellow world citizens, learning about their country. This is the highest Fulbright honor and I am still amazed that someone like me who was a graduate of state universities and a small town high school could have the privilege of such a position.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I love this question because years ago I saw a New Yorker cartoon which I clipped and put on my office door.  Two men are in a cemetery looking at a friend’s grave and one comments to the other:  “Well, he published but he perished.”

Dr. Shelley Armitage is Professor Emerita from University of Texas at El Paso where she taught courses in literature of the environment, women’s studies, and American Studies.  She is author of eight award winning books and 50 scholarly articles.  She resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico but still manages her family farm outside of Vega, Texas.

Armitage grew up in the northwest Texas Panhandle in Oldham County.  She owns and operates the family farm, 1200 acres of native grass—once part wheat and milo—bordering Interstate 40 on the south and near the Canadian River breaks on the north.  Armitage shared this landscape from her childhood on, riding with her father and grandfather to check crops and cattle and later jogging and more recently walking the farm roads.  Though most of her adult life has been spent away from the Panhandle as a university professor, Armitage has always returned to the “farm” which offered until recently a 360-degree view of earth and sky.  Wind energy farms, oil and gas, microwave towers, and strip mining have greatly altered her childhood landscape.

Throughout her distinguished university career, Armitage’s professional life offered her a connection with landscape. Because of senior Fulbright teaching grants in Portugal and Finland, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Literature in Warsaw, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Studies in Budapest as well as research, writing, and teaching in Ethiopia, the American Southwest, and Hawai’i, place has taken on special meanings.  As the Dorrance Roderick Professor at University of Texas at El Paso and a Distinguished Senior Professor in Cincinnati, she decided in her most recent book to write about the meaning of home place as connected to the land’s own ecological and human stories.

As the holder of three National Endowment for the Humanities grants, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and a Rockefeller grant, Armitage nevertheless prizes a recent recognition from the United States Department of Agriculture most highly.  Commended for her “commitment to the spirit, principles, and practices” of the Conservation Reserve Program, Armitage has restored the farm to grassland in an effort to heal fragmented landscapes by recreating wildlife corridors and habitat.  Like the fragmented narratives of stories lost, she says: “If we could read the land like a poem, we might more intimately learn from it, understand what it says of natural and human cycles—and that sometimes uneasy relationship between them.”

Author Website * Amazon Author Page * Facebook * Goodreads

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Check out the other blogs on this tour

12/12 Excerpt A Novel Reality
12/13 Review Reading By Moonlight
12/14 Author Interview Books and Broomsticks
12/15 Scrapbook Page Chapter Break Book Blog
12/16 Review Forgotten Winds
12/17 Excerpt The Page Unbound
12/18 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
12/19 Review Country Girl Bookaholic
12/20 Scrapbook Page Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books
12/21 Review Hall Ways Blog

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Posted in Science Fiction, Spotlight on December 18, 2016

memory-blankISBN: 978-0-9672984-5-0

Paperback: $15.99

E-book: $4.99

Mystery, Science Fiction

ReAnimus Press

198 pages

December 15, 2016

Synopsis

Cal Donley wakes up covered with someone’s blood. He’s on the orbital colony Daedalus. And the last ten years are a total blank.

His wife, Nikki, is a tantalizing stranger. His only ally is Vincent, a wise-cracking, AI Smart Watch. As Cal tries to unscramble his missing memories, people around him begin to have fatal accidents.

What disaster has stripped away so much of his memory – and why? And what about the dried blood on his hands…?

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About the Author

Science fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate.

It was during the summer Science-Math Institute for High School Students at Cloud State College, John served as editor for the school paper, but several more years would pass before the urge to write, strengthened by years of loving to read, was too compelling to ignore.  His stories vary, but his books are packed with suspense, mystery, and humor.

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

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