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Deleted Scene & Giveaway: Before the Alamo by Florence Byham Weinberg

BEFORE THE ALAMO:
A Tejana’s Story
by
FLORENCE BYHAM WEINBERG
Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas History 
Publisher: Maywood House
Date of Publication: September 17, 2021
Number of Pages: 296 pages
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Emilia Altamirano, half Otomí Indian, half pure Spanish, is born in 1814, the year after the Battle of the Medina River, where her father fought as an officer in the Mexican Royalist Army. She grows up in Bexar de San Antonio unacknowledged by her father, raised by her Otomí Indian mother, and “adopted” as an unofficial ward by José Antonio Navarro, hero of the Texas fight for independence from Mexico. She learns to read, write, and acts as a page for the Ayuntamiento (City Council). She learns nursing during a cholera epidemic and later tends the wounded on both sides during and after the Battle of the Alamo. She survives, but as a Tejana, Spanish-speaking, and a loyal citizen of Mexico, she faces an uncertain future.

PRAISE FOR BEFORE THE ALAMO:
“Yesterday, I finished Before the Alamo, figuratively gasping for breath…Thank you for a joyful experience, so helpful in this time of disillusion and anxiety.” – reader Marti Nodine
Deleted Scene

From Before the Alamo: A Tejana’s Story

By Florence Byham Weinberg

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This episode followed Emilia’s encounter with the Comanche boy and her report to her mother. She is six-going-on-seven and shows her character in the midst of calamity. The flood of 1819 was a historical event, just as catastrophic as I depict it here. I got the details from the governor’s report as I worked in the Alamo Archive. Oddly, the Internet does not record that event as one of San Antonio’s catastrophic floods. Flood reports begin with the one in 1921. To find the earlier one, google “San Antonio flood of 1819.” Why did I delete the episode? Because, although it shows Emilia’s character, I had just done that with the episode of the Comanche boy. This episode did not further the plot, so out it went. Below is the first half of the deleted scene.

 

 

Before the Alamo

Episode cut from Chapter Two

 

Summer came. June weather was increasingly hot, and no rain had fallen since the end of the second week. July threatened to be even more unbearable. Flies swarmed through the kitchen windows, attracted by moist food smells; all sorts of creeping insects appeared, also in the jacal and even in the stone house, looking for cool shade. The river level fell, but typical for Béxar, humidity remained high.

María and Emilia went to bed on July 5, perspiring in the foggy air rising from the river. Far to the north, they could hear the growl of thunder.

“Maybe it will rain tonight, Mamá.”

“Maybe. But it has thundered before, and not a drop of rain here.”

They drifted off to sleep, but Emilia awoke when a blinding flash of light illuminated the jacal, followed almost immediately by an earth-shaking boom. She rose, trying not to disturb her mother, who had slept through the noise. She padded to the door and pulled the cowhide curtain aside. All was silent, and then a few huge raindrops began to plop into the dust beyond the threshold. Dawn light showed gray in the east. She was on her way to lie down again, when she felt the earth tremble beneath her feet. The hair on the nape of her neck and on her arms stiffened. Now she could hear a roar.

“Mamá! Mamá! Wake up! Something terrible is happening!”

María sat up, eyes wide, staring around her. “What’s that roaring?”

Then, abruptly, something struck the side of the jacal with great force and just as quickly rushed through the door. Water! Rushing, powerful water.

“Come, m’hija, we must warn our people in the house!”

They found they could not run the short distance to the back entrance; the force of the water was nearly irresistible. It reached their knees before they got inside the door.

“Señora Carmen! Juan Andrés! Get up! Flood! Water everywhere!” They ran through the rapidly filling house.

Andrés appeared in his nightshirt, sloshing toward his wife’s bedroom. “Come, Carmen, get up! We must save ourselves!”

The water now was knee high inside.

Carmen came to the door, a simple shift pulled over her head. “What shall we take?”

María shouted over the noise of the rushing water, “Yourselves. Nothing more!”

Andrés stopped long enough to pull on a pair of trousers, grabbed up Emilia, and ordered his wife and María to follow him. They heard a cracking sound from behind the house, over the continued roaring. María had made her way to the back door. “The jacal and the kitchen! The water swept them away.”

Juan Andrés shouted. “Out the front door! Now!”

He managed to keep his feet, carry Emilia, and somehow support his wife, the least able to withstand the current and debris hurled against them. He looked wildly for something solid to climb on.

“There’s no… way to reach… the old mission.” He gasped. “Look! That live oak… at the end of the street.”

They struggled in that direction, Juan Andrés and María keeping Carmen upright in rushing water halfway up their thighs and rapidly rising. Emilia wrapped her arms around Juan Andrés’s neck as he fought the current and batted away floating objects that became projectiles. They headed for the huge oak tree on Real Street. Its horizontal limbs drooped five feet above the water, so it should be easy to climb. Unless…

By some miracle, they reached it and Andrés perched Emilia in the crotch of a limb, then lifted Carmen beside her. Next, he turned to María, who had expected no help from her ‘master.’ A second low-bending branch offered a refuge, and she leaped, using the current to boost her, grasped the branch, and with the strength of desperation, pulled herself up until she lay with her body along the branch. Andrés joined her and their combined weight bent the branch within a few inches of the flood.

Andrés gasped. “We must… climb higher.”

Emilia gave a little scream and pointed. A dead body, a man, floated under them, dressed in a nightshirt. His face torn and disfigured by a collision with something—perhaps the wall of a stone house—he floated on too quickly for them to identify him. Emilia, in shock, did not cry.

By now, the sun had risen, illuminating the bizarre scene through heavy clouds, and they could see their town amidst the waters that had filled the valley of Béxar like a huge cup. Hardly anything other than the church still stood, and it, too, seemed heavily damaged. Jacales had been swept away, and the adobe buildings were melting ruins, collapsing before their eyes. Some stone houses were damaged worse than the church, walls partially tumbled or tumbling down, the mortar between the stones melting. Worst of all, they could see many bodies of the drowned, both human and animal. Any horse, cow, sheep, pig or goat that had been enclosed in a barn or tethered, had drowned. The water still rushed swiftly as it drained southeastward toward the Gulf, and the bodies of man and beast alike bobbed along downstream toward a salty grave. Here and there they could see another tree, loaded like this one with survivors.

Florence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch as well as a farm and travelled with her military family during World War Two. After earning a Ph.D., she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written four books in the Pfefferkorn historical mystery series, three additional historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs, horses, and conversations with great-souled friends.
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Day 7 of the @ENIGMASERIES #ShortStory Journey

WELCOME to DAY 7 of the @ENIGMASERIES

#ShortStory Journey Dec 8th to Dec 15th

#GIVEAWAYS Available 

Please leave a comment below for a chance at a free gift

Gifts available for Day 7 are two ebooks of the featured short story plus one ebook of the newest release Hidden Target. That’s 3 winners.

Author Insights

Multiple generations of the R-Group focused on helping those impacted by oppressors, power seekers, and thieves who steal wealth at the expense of the average person. The primary goal for this group is maintaining a high ethical ground when choosing the path for solving the problems. Jacob Michaels, a continuing character in the Enigma Series and one of the leaders of the R-Group, learned this from his grandfather, Wolfgang

The series as stories set in contemporary times where technology is todays weapon of choice. They were however founded by three men during World War II who fought tyranny at the hands of the Germans. Wolfgang was a founding father of the R-Group.

As authors, we received many questions about our cyber heroes and how they take the battle to their enemies. Jacob and Wolfgang often discussed the right choices to make on behalf of their private clients and the countries they serve. When Jacob learns more history of the R-Group, he discovers it is easy to see right from wrong at multiple levels.

When Jacob and his team mates take the leadership roles, he worries about sharing enough information in meaningful examples with the next generation. In The Enigma Beyond, Jacob held a heartfelt conversation with Wolfgang.  Jacob wonders what more he can do to instill the value for the next generation of the R-Group to maintain their integrity. YouTube link: https://youtu.be/Q-pprbk4-iY

This conversation led us to create a short story and then release a complete novella in 2021 to learn about the original men who escaped Poland in 1939. These men risked their lives to stop the German military machine. Out of Poland – Novella is a gripping tale that vividly paints the picture of war, pride, hope, and death for a country without support from its allies.  Out of Poland is about how great things come out of extreme adversity.

About the Short Story

Beneath the storm clouds of a deadly war, three men need to unlock the secrets to redeem the world.

The setting is Poland—1939. Germans are marching toward Warsaw, crushing everything in their path. The Polish people feel the crush of their defensives and their brave cavalry. Fighting against the Nazi military machine is a death wish realized all too clearly.

Death, destructions, pillage, and woman brutalized at the hands of soldiers with no honor marks the invaders’ path. As much as the citizens of Poland pray for a different outcome, everything they have known, loved, and grown up with is gone.

Three young men take on the task of finding and extracting the German military communications device, Baby, kept under heavy guard. Polish patriots die to aid the three in getting the information and then fleeing with the prize. The race is on as the Germans try to match wits with the clever patriots who risk detection at every turn.

Ambassador Ferdek Watcowski insists that his son Ferdek with Wolfgang and Tavius, flee with the families while there is still time to reach a border. Their goal—escape with Baby intact.

Hitler’s forces so outclass Poland’s military that survival is key to fighting another day. Facing great peril and odds against their survival, the men resolve to make a difference so those who died helping them would not have sacrificed in vain. They vow to undertake a lifetime of fighting tyranny.

Successful survivors must look ahead.

We consider this the prequel to the Enigma Series. It is available on Amazon https://bit.ly/OOPolandN  We look forward to your review and comments on our short stories.

About the Authors

Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey are co-authors of the award-winning Enigma Series. Their characters demand that their stories are told. The storytelling began with a few heroes, then expanded to those with self-serving motives. We love storytelling and hope readers enjoy learning  more about our shorts. Looking forward to your feedback and reviews of our stories.

Breakfield is a technology expert specifically in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II his­tory, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles is also a fan of wine tastings, wine making, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Burkey is a25+ year applied technology professional who optimizes technology and business investments for global customers. She focuses on optimized customer experiences. Rox loves interviewing authors, writing white papers, reviewing books, and loves creating fiction.

Together they create award-winning stories that resonate with men and women, young and experienced adults, and bring a fresh new view to technology threats of today. Please visit their website, look around, and grab some free stuff https://www.EnigmaSeries.com.

Find us and Follow us

Website:      https://www.EnigmaSeries.com

Blog:           https://EnigmaSeries.com

https://RoxBurkey.com

LinkedIn:     https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesbreakfield  and

https://www.linkedin.com/in/roxanneburkey

Twitter:       @EnigmaSeries and @1rburkey

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheEnigmaSeries/

YouTube:    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Vz4x5ctTnx3yUhZk1OJkw

For the other stops on this tour click here  https://www.enigmabookseries.com/

Thank you for visiting. Please leave your comment below for a chance to win.

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Review & Giveaway: Scattered Legacy by Marlene M. Bell

SCATTERED LEGACY: MURDER IN

SOUTHERN ITALY
Annalisse Series, #3
by
MARLENE M. BELL
 
Genre: Mystery / Romance
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
Date of Publication: November 4, 2021
Number of Pages: 352 pages 
 
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To outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, high adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules a getaway trip to show Annalisse his mother’s Italian birthplace, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The key to it all might be a gifted set of rosary beads where Annalisse can use her skills for appraising artifacts to uncover the truth. She leads Alec toward answers that are unthinkable—and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

Link to the video trailer on YouTube
Review

Scattered Legacy by Marlene M. Bell is an exhilarating read filled with suspense, history, romance, and beauty. While I have not had the pleasure to read the first two books in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the characters’ backstories through Bell’s excellent exposition skills and shifts in point of view. With each passing chapter, my resolve to go back and read the first two books grew stronger when a particular tidbit stoked my interest.

From the beginning, you have to wonder how Annalisse isn’t a private detective instead of an art gallery owner. But then you realize that as an antiquities valuator, she must use excellent observation skills and have the talent to find obscure details through deep research. The opening chapter gives us a sneak peak of her complicated life, which makes you a little less jealous of her cushy job and amazing boyfriend who is about to whisk her away to Italy.

Bell wastes no time throwing us into the action. From an attempted burglary to the family name being dragged through the tabloids, our lovebirds jet off to Italy in the wake of a strange message that involves a blackbird of some sort. There is a lot of intrigue percolating and while you have to assume that all of the strange events are related somehow, we definitely do not have enough details to tie them all together yet.

The author has a nice pace to her writing and allows us to luxuriate in the beautiful sights and scents of walking through Bari. She somehow makes a meal as simple as bread with sliced meats sound utterly delectable. But don’t worry, our travelers also partake of other authentic fare such as seafood, soups, bread, and pasta when they’re not finding dead bodies or getting tailed by the mafia. While Bell spares no details on the setting or Annalisse’s inner conflicts, I’m glad that she treads lightly when describing murder scenes.

While you do not have to read the first two books to enjoy this one, I would say that if you can, do it. I definitely plan on reading them as I await the next installment of the series. Spoiler: There’s a bananas cliffhanger ending that made me groan in disbelief. So exciting!

Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.
Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

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1st SUPER GRAND PRIZE ($425 VALUE): Patricia Nash leather bag; Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Puglia Region of Italy; Orecchiette Pasta from the Puglia Region; Weekly 2022 Engagement Spiral Calendar; Silver/Gold Italy Coin necklace on 18” silver chain; autographed copy of Scattered Legacy; $50 VISA gift card.
2ND PRIZE & 3rd PRIZE – Signed copies of Scattered Legacy.
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/10/21)
 

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Promo & Giveaway: The Big Empty by Loren C. Steffy

THE BIG EMPTY

by
LOREN C. STEFFY
Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
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When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.
Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.
Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.
What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.
PRAISE FOR THE BIG EMPTY:
“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”
The Epoch Times
“Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”
Southern Review of Books
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Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off)
GuestPost

LIFE IMITATING ART IMITATING LIFE –

OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT

GUEST POST BY LOREN STEFFY

Originally published July, 2021, on the author’s blog

Perhaps I should have used a rocket company instead of a semiconductor manufacturing plant.

I found myself thinking that earlier this month, as all eyes were on West Texas for the launch of billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket.

I started writing my novel, The Big Empty, almost 20 years ago, and the idea of a rocket factory in West Texas would have seemed even more over the top than a chip plant. Besides, I knew what chip factories were like. I had toured several of them, and I covered the semiconductor industry.

While my brother is in the private space business, the idea of making the outside company moving into the tiny town of Conquistador an aerospace firm never occurred to me.

At any rate, all this came rushing back to me with the Blue Origin launch, in part because of some excellent reporting by my old paper, the Houston Chronicle. Andrea Leinfelder has a thoroughly reported series on the impact of the private space on small-town Texas. She takes a deep look at both Boca Chica, Space X’s launch site in far south Texas, and Van Horn. The Van Horn piece, in particular, sounds eerily familiar:

This town, like a thousand other rural communities, has seen agriculture diminish and infrastructure deteriorate. Its local improvements often depend on grants. And with Blue Origin’s higher-paid workforce, the town no longer qualifies for citywide grants reserved for low- to moderate-income communities. Residents talk about the tight housing market and problem-plagued water system.

Still, people are excited to see what comes next, with the possibility that Van Horn will become a major launch site for space travelers.

Those were many of the same ideas I tried to capture in The Big Empty. It was what I saw first-hand in the late 1990s when, as I described in my recent guest essay for the Chronicle, I found myself on a sprawling West Texas cattle ranch to cover a tech story.

I’ve always been fascinated with how people live in different environments. When I visit a new place, I like to see what life is like for the residents. I’ve found myself driving through neighborhoods in the interior of Maui and walking through the residential streets of Riyadh (against the “advice” of my government handlers).

Of course, the issues facing small towns in Texas — and across the country — have been going on for decades. But with the Blue Origin launch in Van Horn, I was struck by the old idea of life imitating art (not that I’m ascribing the “art” tag to my book, but you get the point).

In a way, it’s happening again. I’ve been working on a sequel to The Big Empty, which could be described as “a billionaire comes to town.”

Sound familiar?

Loren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.
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Blitz & Giveaway: Under the Texas Mistletoe by Karen Witemeyer


UNDER THE TEXAS MISTLETOE

by
KAREN WITEMEYER
Genre: Holiday Fiction / Christian Historical Romance / Novellas
Date of Publication: August 31, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
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This historical romance novella collection presents “A Texas Christmas Carol,” where a town’s wealthy, Scrooge-like bachelor finds his world invaded by a woman set on earning his donation for helping the local poor, and the penetrating questions of three mysterious visitors. It also includes “An Archer Family Christmas.” When the Archer clan gathers for the holiday, they encounter an unexpected request for help that will require all their effort and a Christmas miracle to see them through. In previously published “Gift of the Heart,” a widow uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local resort owner. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love this Christmas.
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Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes.

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Autographed copy of Under the Texas Mistletoe
+ a decorative Christmas sign;
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Autographed copies of the book
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Review & Giveaway: Gone to Dallas by Laurie Moore-Moore


GONE TO DALLAS:
THE STOREKEEPER
1856 – 1861

by
LAURIE MOORE – MOORE
Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas Pioneers / Civil War
Publisher: Goat Mountain Press
Date of Publication: October 4, 2021
Number of Pages: 348 pages 
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Sara’s husband was a disappointment in life, but she had to admit he was a handsome corpse.
Climb aboard an 1856 Dallas-bound wagon train and join a plucky female protagonist for the journey of a lifetime in Laurie Moore-Moore’s richly entertaining new book, Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861. Far from your average historical novel or western, Gone to Dallas is a compelling tale of migration, betrayal, death and dreams—peppered with real people, places, and events. With a cast of interesting characters and more bumps and hazards than a wagon trail, Gone to Dallas tells the unforgettable story of a formidable frontier woman in the context of true Texas history.
It had seemed so romantic when Morgan Darnell courted Sara in Tennessee, finally convincing her they should marry and join an 1856 “Gone to Texas” wagon train traveling along the “Trail of Tears,” through Indian territory, and across the Red River into Texas.
In a twist of fate, Sara arrives in Dallas a 19-year-old widow, armed with plenty of pluck, and determined to open a general store in the tiny settlement of log cabins on the Trinity River. Standing in her way as a young woman alone are a host of challenges. Can Sara (with the help of her friends) pull herself up by the bootstraps and overcome uncertainty, vandalism, threats, and even being shot?
Follow Sara as she strives to create her store while living Dallas’ true history — from the beginnings of La Réunion (the European colony across the Trinity) to a mud and muck circus, a grand ball and the mighty fire that burns Dallas to the ground. Dallas is a challenging place, especially with the Civil War looming.
Even with the friendship of a retired Texas Ranger and Dallas’ most important citizen — another woman — is Sara strong enough to meet the challenge? The risks are high. Failure means being destitute in Dallas!
In Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861, author Laurie Moore-Moore spins a page-turner of a tale salted with historically accurate Texas events and populated with real characters. It’s Portis’ True Grit meets Texas history.
READER PRAISE FOR GONE TO DALLAS:
“Creative and captivating…five stars!”
“An unforgettable journey…superb writing.”
“I was hooked at the very first sentence.”
“Lovely work of historical fiction…can’t wait for the sequel.”
“Brilliant!”
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Review

Gone to Dallas by Laurie Moore-Moore surprised me in all the right ways. I was expecting a lighthearted, romantic Texan tale of a young widow who opens a cute shop and finds love among the quirky townspeople of a newly established Dallas. Instead, it was an often heart-wrenching journey of a young woman who persevered despite many setbacks.

The book begins much like the old computer game, Oregon Trail. Sara and her new husband have to buy supplies and balance them carefully in a covered wagon so that they can ford streams and rivers safely as they make their way to Dallas. Life lessons are learned and several lives are lost, but Sara keeps her head up with the aim to make her dreams into reality. The author goes into great detail about the conditions of the town, the particulars of claiming land, and what is needed in order to set up a new business. Those were things that I wished to know more about when reading similar novels, so I absorbed all of the information eagerly.

Moore-Moore has a knack for breathing life into characters, endearing them to you instantly. But while you are able to identify who can be trusted and who should be avoided rather quickly, the author is quite skilled at taking a sharp turn into a totally unexpected, yet completely plausible, series of events. I appreciated the thought put into including important pieces of history, even the unsavory bits, in order to serve the reader with a story that is quite robust.

I, too, married a man who didn’t turn out to be who he said he was. As a result, I am turning a new chapter in my life, much like Sara did. This book was exactly what I needed to read at this moment. If you love historical fiction or romance, you will enjoy this book. If you’re someone like me who is looking for hope and inspiration, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next installment of the series.

From the author: “My husband, Roger, and I have been blessed with many adventures in life—from trekking across India’s Thar desert on a camel (and sleeping in the sand on our camel blankets) to repeating marriage vows in a remote Maasi village in Kenya (my dowery was one cow and one goat). My favorite adventure? As a fifth generation Texan, it is discovering more and more Texas history and writing about it!
We live in Dallas, Texas but sneak away when possible, to a mountain-top cabin overlooking a lake in former Indian Territory (the Oklahoma Ozark Mountains) The cabin is unique—there is a nine foot chainsaw bear in our entry hall. The house was built around it. Never thought I’d own a piece of chainsaw art, much less a nine-foot bear. Life is full of surprises. . . just like a good historical novel.”
Laurie Moore-Moore is a retired entrepreneur who has built and sold multiple businesses and served on the Board of Directors of an international corporation.
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Review & Giveaway: Holding on Loosely by Dana Knox Wright

HOLDING ON LOOSELY

by
DANA KNOX WRIGHT
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction / Memoir / Self Help
Publisher: Carpenter’s Son / Clovercroft Publishing
Date of Publication: August 24, 2021
Number of Pages: 208 pages
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Helicopter parents. Control freaks. Perfectionists. Intolerants. Over-consumers. Social media junkies. We all fit in there somewhere. Read one woman’s stories of clinging, turning loose, and becoming free.

We are overly busy helicopter parents, control freaks, perfectionists, intolerants, over-consumers and social media junkies–who worry, fear, laugh less, and always want more. In the midst of it, we wonder what it would feel like to open our hands and turn loose of all of it.

In HOLDING ON LOOSELY: Opening My Hands, Lightening My Load, and Seeing Something Else, author Dana Knox Wright tells stories of one who is hardwired to cling. To her children when they asked for a blessing to go. To someone else’s ideas, when she didn’t trust her own. She held on to prejudice when she would tell you she didn’t. She shut down for days while clinging to fear. She clung to youthfulness as if what would come next couldn’t be her life’s cherry on top.

In a particular season of her life, she recognized her bent to possess, to keep, to hold tightly, and to control was completely contrary to Jesus’ example. This is one woman’s history of holding on and her stories of turning loose–stories of the gentle and firm, humorous and heartbreaking ways God led her to turn loose. It is living minimally from the inside out.

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Review

Holding on Loosely by Dana Knox Wright couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. A whole book filled with meaningful stories about letting go. Letting go of material things, old beliefs and behaviors, and even people. Ironically, I am clinging so tightly to those stories about losing people because of the place I am in currently. In the wake of a divorce, I’ve lost my last grandparent and the best friend that I ever had. I chose to let go of my husband, I had no choice about losing my grandmother, and by acting childish, I lost a dear friend.

Wright’s words are a balm to my wounds, knowing that maybe years from now, I can reflect on these losses with sage-like clarity. Because I can tell you that at this moment, I am hurting so badly and it often feels like I can’t catch my breath. The optimism in these pages gives me hope that time will ease the pain and that I can learn to open my hands and let things and people go. Let that butterfly rise into the sun, hold more sand in my open hands, that sort of thing.

Perhaps if I wasn’t disillusioned with Christianity at the moment, I could feel something other than bitterness with the occasional dash of sadness. Wright is frank about the times that fellow Christians have wounded her or others, and I wish that I was that secure in my beliefs to act the same. If she says it in the book, I missed it, but I think that the key to letting go is often forgiveness. Not always, but I think it often is the answer. Forgiving someone for their wrongdoing, even if that person is yourself. Maybe especially if that person is yourself.

This book is for anyone who is struggling with change. While Wright does include stories from her childhood and adolescence, I think that this book is really aimed at more seasoned readers.

Dana Knox Wright began letting go of fear at fifty. It’s the decade where, in an odd twist, Sandra Bullock asked for her autograph—the decade she began hiking to places with seriously wild animals, rafting in crazy rivers and eating wild blackberries with only mild concern rabid foxes eat from the plants, too. After a long career in radio voiceover, she found a passion for spreading goodness and living to the full. She has offered readers encouragement, hope and sisterhood for almost ten years through her essays published on her blog. Dana holds a degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and is the author of Saving Stories: Afternoons with Darrell (2017). She is the mother of three adult children and three grandchildren and currently lives in a small river town in the Texas Hill Country with her husband and an English Mastiff named Pearl.

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Review & Giveaway: Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt

ONCE UPON A CAMEL
by Kathi Appelt
Categories: Middle Grade Fiction / Historical / Friendship / Ages 8-12
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 336 pages

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Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion. But those stories were from before.
Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.

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Review

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt is a heartfelt story with beautiful illustrations by Eric Rohmann. It is a delightful mix of prose and adorable puns, as well as a tale of adventure and true-blue friendship. What could have easily just been the journey of a camel traversing a Texas desert with two baby birds on her head, Appelt has painted a lush tale of immigration from Turkey to West Texas. She envelopes the reader’s every sense in her description of the sights, sounds, and smells of each location.

Appelt also deftly slips in educational tidbits quite effortlessly (i.e., historical facts, the evolution of a species, etc.) without being distracting. There are even links in the back of the book for anyone who wants to learn more about camels and West Texas. While I didn’t need it personally, I appreciate that she also placed a glossary in the back of the book to define the Turkish, Latin, and French phrases used throughout. I feel that Appelt does an excellent job of providing context clues so that young readers can surmise the definition of an unfamiliar word or phrase. She provides a fun way for children to practice the various reading skills that are taught in school.

This book is targeted towards children in grades 3-7, but I think that it could even be used in the upper grade levels because of how much substance resides within the pages. I hope that I don’t ruin the story for anyone, but I feel like it is a commentary on issues such as identity, gender roles, prejudice, self-esteem, class systems, and I’m sure that I’m missing many more. I would also definitely recommend that this book be included in children’s literature courses at the college level.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Mogie, the Heart of the House. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and five gifted and talented cats.

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Review & Giveaway: Rio Bonito by Preston Lewis

RIO BONITO
The Three Rivers Trilogy, Book 2
By PRESTON LEWIS
Categories: Western / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Pub Date: August 18, 2021
Pages: 336 pages
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With Lincoln County teetering on the edge of lawless turmoil, small rancher Wes Bracken avoids taking sides, but his goal is complicated by his devotion to what he sees as justice and by his friendship with William H. Bonney, who’s developing a reputation as Billy the Kid.

As Lincoln County devolves into explosive violence, Bracken must skirt the edge of the law to guarantee the survival of his family, his spread, and his dream. But dangers abound from both factions for a man refusing to take sides. Before the Lincoln County War culminates on the banks of the Rio Bonito during a five-day shootout in Lincoln, Bracken is accused of being both a vigilante and a rustler. As the law stands idly by, Bracken’s ranch is torched, and his wife is assaulted by the notorious outlaw Jesse Evans. Survival trumps vengeance, though, as Bracken tries to outlast the dueling factions aimed at destroying him.

At every turn Bracken must counter the devious ploys of both factions and fight against lawmen and a court system skewed to protect the powerful and politically connected. Against overwhelming odds, Bracken challenges the wicked forces arrayed against him in hopes of a better life for himself, for his family, and for New Mexico Territory. And throughout it all, Bracken stands in the growing shadow of his sometime pal, Billy the Kid.

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Review
Rio Bonito by Preston Lewis is the third book that I have read by this author. Given how much I enjoyed two of his other books, I knew that I would be in for a wild ride. Even though I had not read the first book in this Three Rivers Trilogy, I feel like Lewis did an excellent job of bringing the reader up to speed. I quickly felt like I knew Wes Bracken and admired his devotion to his wife and stepson, as well as his best friend and partner Jace Cousins.

To be completely honest, I was waiting for the punchline for a few chapters because the two H.H. Lomax books that I read were these historical reimaginings softened by some slapstick comedy. But at some point it finally dawned on me that I was reading a pretty serious story about a man just trying to live as straight as possible in a town run by outlaws.

To say that things are complicated would be a severe understatement. In order to protect his family and the friends that he cares about, Bracken often has to resort to criminal activity himself in the name of justice. When the law is doled out by men easily swayed by money or power, how do you define justice? And who is really the keeper and enforcer of it? I don’t know if the final installment will answer these questions, but I do know that it will be an exciting and interesting story nonetheless.

I am a huge fan of bringing in historical figures into fiction, so you can bet that I was delighted to see Billy the Kid in this book. The Kid’s charm and bucktooth grin were pretty much the only comedy in the story, but they were replaced with something very grave and dangerous by the end. The transformation would be startling if not for the harrowing turn of events that Lewis unravels at a perfect pace. I truly look forward to seeing what happens next and you can bet that I will backtrack and read the first book in the series beforehand.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of 40 westerns, historical novels, juvenile books and memoirs. He has received national awards for his novels, articles, short stories and humor.

In 2021 he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for his literary accomplishments. Lewis is past president of Western Writers of America and the West Texas Historical Association.

His historical novel Blood of Texas on the Texas Revolution earned a Spur Award as did his True West article on the Battle of Yellow House Canyon. He developed the Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series, which includes two Spur finalists and a Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award for western humor for his novel Bluster’s Last Stand on the battle of Little Big Horn. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin and two of his YA novels have won Elmer Kelton Awards for best creative work on West Texas from the West Texas Historical Association.

He began his writing career working for Texas daily newspapers in Abilene, Waco, Orange and Lubbock before going into university administration. During his 35-year career in higher education, he directed communications and marketing offices at Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Angelo State University.

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 lives in San Angelo with his wife, Harriet.


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Review & Giveaway: Creatrix Rising by Stephanie Raffelock

CREATRIX RISING: UNLOCKING THE POWER
OF MIDLIFE WOMEN
By Stephanie Raffelock
Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
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From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within.

Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability.

None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.

PRAISE FOR CREATRIX RISING:

“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author
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Review

To be completely honest, I have no idea where to begin when describing the effect that Creatrix Rising by Stephanie Raffelock has had on me. I can tell you that my initial thoughts were: (1) pretty cover, clearly a book on female empowerment; (2) Creatrix – that’s a cool word; and (3) Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women – I’m almost to midlife, so let’s do this!

I’m going to say some things that seem completely contradictory, but I hope that you will stay with me. This book was everything that I expected from it yet so much more at the same time. I figured that this book would be written from the perspective of an older and wiser woman with the aim to motivate middle-aged women to fulfill their hidden potential. I was curious about this potential, so I dived in looking for these answers. What I found was something different and, dare I say, better.

It could be a coincidence, but I think that the universe has been working in mysterious ways for me lately. Today, my brother told me about a Harvard study which stated that females pass down mitochondria to only their female offspring. Which prompted my mother to add that people who claim to be Jewish are only really Jewish if their mother is. So, of course, I had to add a really cool genetic nesting doll idea that I came across years ago about how since females have all of the eggs that they will ever have in their lifetime in their bodies, then I was already inside of my very first female ancestor however many years ago that was.

You’re probably thinking, “Cool, but what does that have to do with anything?” Raffelock talks about how she has “felt her ancestors walking with her, whispering to her.” She is “not the only woman who feels connected to the spiritual DNA of her ancestors, the ancient women who sang ancient songs.” I truly believe that it is this science and spirituality that makes women special and something to truly celebrate. So yes, Raffelock is a mature woman who likes to motivate women, but that is not the only thing she does in this book.

She shares stories that demonstrate different struggles that women face, whether during the 1930s or the current Coronavirus pandemic, and leaves us with the inspiration to find the answers or solutions for ourselves, using the path of those before us as a guide, but not necessarily as a turn-by-turn map. She encourages connection, especially with other women, but she subscribes to the notion that there are sometimes people who come into your life for a reason or a season. So do not despair over what you think you may have lost, whether that is some object, a person, or even some former version of yourself.

Creatrix Rising is a call to action, for women to set aside the idea that even though your reproductive years are behind you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create. As a soon-to-be-divorced woman on the cusp of midlife, I am inspired to take my destiny in my own hands and find the path to my creative calling. For such a short book, there is so much ground covered and really great questions and writing prompts at the end of each chapter that can help you sort through your thoughts and goals.

If you are a woman who struggles with some obstacle in your life, whether it’s a job or relationship issue, a deep-seated insecurity, or a general feeling of not knowing what to do next; I think that this book can shed some light on various paths that you might consider exploring. Even if it means just meandering a different path in your mind before committing to making new moves. That’s sort of the point of sharing experiences with other people, and both accepting and giving the gift of experience by living vicariously through each other.

I am really surprised that this book was written and published during the pandemic. It is very well thought out and the prose is beautiful like poetry. Not to mention, the whole package is pristine: from the beautiful cover art, to the nicely constructed hardcover, to the impeccable editing. While obviously timely, I think that this book is also timeless. It has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf and will be referenced at various intervals in my life. Not to mention, I will definitely share it with other women as well.

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles, Care2.com, as well as SixtyandMe.com.

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

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Review

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LSBBT Blog

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Author Interview

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9/6/21

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Reading
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