Category Archives: Guest Post

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Rebirth of Hope by Sau Le Hudecek

THE REBIRTH OF HOPE
My Journey from Vietnam War Child to American Citizen
by
Sau Le Hudecek
  Genre: Memoir / Inspirational
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press
Date of Publication: June 15, 2017
Number of Pages: 160
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Born in a demilitarized zone during the Vietnam War to a Vietnamese mother and American soldier, Sau Le arrived in the United States as a young woman with only twenty dollars in her pocket. Though bullied and abused since childhood, she nevertheless came to her new homeland armed with courage and determined to build a decent life for herself, her infant son, and her traumatized mother. This is the story of how she overcame every conceivable hurdle—significant culture shock, a daunting language barrier, serious illness, heartbreak, and betrayal—to become a landlord, a successful business owner, a joyous wife and mom, and a woman blessed with generous, loyal friends. She describes an arduous journey, both physical and emotional, from a place of terror and utter despair to a life overflowing with love and prosperity. Ultimately, this is a story of hope, something Sau Le thought she’d lost long ago in the minefields of Vietnam. Her goal is both to uplift and to remind everyone born on American soil that anything in this land is possible for those willing to put dedication, faith, and passion to work.
Praise for The Rebirth of Hope:
“Sau Le has an innate abundance of beauty, wisdom, loyalty and dignity which led her to overcome unbelievable challenges and fully realize her dream in America. Thus proving once again that adversity builds character. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Dan Jenkins, bestselling author of Semi-Tough

“Sau Le lifted her head and walked through years of hard work and determination, inspiring other women along the way! Every word of her personal journey was written to remind all of us!” 
—Robin Sanders, Sanders Travel Agency

“An inspiring story of a Vietnam refugee’s journey to achieve the ‘American Dream.’ This book is a lesson for everyone.” 
—Martin C. Bowen, financial executive

“To have written this remarkable story is one more example of the focus and tenacity that Sau Le Hudecek has shown in achieving her previous goals. You will remember this gripping tale of resilience and courage.” 
—Gail Williamson Rawl

“A truly inspirational story of a fearless person who overcame unbelievable odds to make a better life and obtain the ‘American dream.’” 
—Janie Beggs
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Excerpt from The Rebirth of Hope

 

We talked about my family and my readiness to be in America. I wanted to answer everything correctly.

And then the interviewer asked a question I didn’t expect, one that would reveal a new dimension in the world of my self-esteem, a part of me that would soon open in a way I would have never imagined.

“I hope you do not mind if I ask you an unusual question,” the American interviewer asked me, communicating easily and politely in Vietnamese.

“I do not mind,” I replied. I wasn’t about to complicate my interview if I could help it. He was free to ask whatever he needed to know, as far as I was concerned. And who was I to say what is an unusual question? None of this was usual to me.

“I am curious why you wear white makeup? Your skin is more of a brown color. It seems odd that you would wear white makeup on skin that is darker.”

I stared at him for a moment, not comprehending the question at first. And then I realized he thought I had a choice. So I answered, “This is the only color of makeup we have in my town and in my salon. I do not have any way to acquire any other color makeup. There is no makeup for my skin color.”

He paused, and smiled. And then he said something I will never forget: “Where you’re going, you won’t have to wear the white makeup anymore.”

He was telling me I was going to America, where I would find the right makeup for my face. The candle in my heart flamed brighter.

After this interview, my life changed forever. From this moment on, my family and I were essentially wards of the United States, although we still lived in Dam Sen. Everything, from room and board to all transportation for our numerous appointments, was funded by the United States government. Before this moment, my family and I had to work hard just to scrape by. Now this far-away place, this country that was still a stranger to me, was taking care of us.

We would leave Vietnam in November 1992.

 

Sau Le Hudecek owns a successful salon in Fort Worth, Texas, while still serving her own elite clientele.  In 1993, she arrived in the United States at the age of 22 and was sworn in as a citizen in 2001. She lives with her family in Granbury enjoying the sunsets from their home on the lake.



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6/10
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6/15
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Excerpt & Giveaway: Breakfast in Texas by Terry Thompson-Anderson

BREAKFAST IN TEXAS
by
Terry Thompson-Anderson
  Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine
Publisher: The University of Texas Press
Date of Publication: April 18, 2017
Number of Pages: 312
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Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Praise for Breakfast in Texas:
**A James Beard Cookbook Award Finalist**
“Bring a Texas-sized appetite to the table for Breakfast in Texas! A combination of home-style cooking and favorite dishes from restaurants across the great state, Breakfast in Texas is packed with recipes for simple to spectacular egg dishes, creative cocktails, meat lovers’ feasts, and pancakes and pastries, as well as vegan breakfast and brunch ideas. Beautiful photographs, mouth-watering recipes, and great menu and party ideas make this a must-have for your cookbook shelf.”
-Virginia Willis, chef and James Beard Award–winning cookbook author 

“I thoroughly enjoyed Terry Thompson-Anderson’s latest cookbook, Breakfast in Texas. I’m sure many of these recipes are going to become signature dishes for my family, as well as my loyal restaurant customers. Relish every story; enjoy every bite. This cookbook is Texas at the breakfast table.”
-Monica Pope, chef and author of Eat Where Your Food Lives

“Terry Thompson-Anderson’s epic breakfast book spans the cultures of Texas, as well as its regions. With recipes that run from simple to more elaborate, and range from libations to pastries, there’s something for everyone. Plus, Breakfast in Texas is a good read, with all sorts of fascinating information about Texas and its rich and colorful history.”
-Paula Lambert, owner of the Mozzarella Company and author of The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook and Guide
ed92b-excerpt

Introduction from Breakfast in Texas

By Terry Thompson-Anderson

 

A morning meal, the nutritionists tell us, is essential. It kick-starts our brains so that we can think, function, and work productively until lunchtime. But the morning meal that we know of as breakfast is much more than intellectual stimulation, well-being, or bacon and eggs. The history of breakfast in America parallels the history of the country. The North developed breakfasts featuring sausage and hash brown potatoes, while the South added grits, ham, and its beloved biscuits. The Creole culture of New Orleans introduced the concept of brunch to America with grand, leisurely, multi-course meals served later in the morning with exotic cocktails and special coffee concoctions, while westward expansion introduced Mexican and Czech influences and cooking the breakfast meal over open fires in cast-iron cooking vessels.

 

When settlers from other countries, with varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, first began to colonize Texas, they found a thriving Mexican culture in place with its tradition of rich, hearty, and spicy morning meals. For example, German immigrants who came to Texas in the mid-1800s brought their skills as sausage makers, and introduced potato pancakes and Apfelpfannkuchen (German puffy pancakes with apples). Czech immigrants introduced their timeless pastries, such as kuchen, kolaches, and klobasnikis (sausage-filled pastries). Today, though the definitive history of brunch in Texas is far from documented, Texas is a melting pot of breakfast styles reflecting the cultural diversity of the state itself.

 

In our travels researching, photographing, and interviewing people in the Lone Star State, Sandy and I ate a lot of breakfasts, and often shared some heavenly brunches, across the many miles we covered. We were struck with the regional and cultural diversity of the dishes served for the morning meal, both in mom-and-pop diners in the small towns and in luxury hotels and eateries in the big cities. We fell equally in love with the breakfast tacos in San Antonio, the saag paneer omelets in Houston, the pon haus in Austin, the delicious shrimp and grits in the unlikely location of Lubbock, the goat curry in Fort Worth, the caramel-drizzled donuts made from biscuit dough in El Paso, the blintzes in Dallas, and the many unique and innovative versions of eggs Benedict everywhere. We began to realize that breakfast is the all-day meal. And it often substitutes for dinner.

 

We shared an enthusiasm for trying many of these dishes at home to serve to our families and friends. Then we thought perhaps others, too, might like to make their morning meals more of an “experience” to be shared with the special people in their lives. In writing and providing the photographs for this book, we hope to inspire a breakfast revolution celebrating the many cultures of Texas—a revolution that will bring our readers together as families or groups of friends for a morning meal, or a leisurely Sunday respite before returning to the workplace on Monday. For those times, we’ve included a selection of tasty libations so that you can start your brunch experience off with a toast to many more shared morning meals.

 

Along the way, we also noticed that breakfast and brunch are getting a lot of attention these days. And it’s certainly not the same old bacon and eggs or bowl of dried cereal swimming in milk and sugar. Savory ingredients like meats (even game meats and fowl), fish and shellfish, and veggies, often topped with rich sauces, are being added to the breakfast table. Even when they’re in a hurry, it seems people are wanting a memorable taste sensation in the morning so they can start the day with a satisfied smile—even if it’s a mobile handheld breakfast in this day of mobile everything lifestyles.

 

Anthony Bourdain, America’s popular chef/food adventurer, is a great fan of the morning meal. We certainly agreed with his sentiments when he said, “What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?”

 

 fcbc4-abouttheauthor
Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.


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6/1
Sneak Peek 1
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6/4
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6/6
Book Trailer 2
6/7
Review
6/8
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6/9
Excerpt
6/10
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Promo & Giveaway: Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio

BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS
by
CAMILLE DI MAIO
  Genre: Women’s Fiction / Historical / Family
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: May 16, 2017
Number of Pages: 334
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After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

Check out the book trailer!
Praise for Before the Rain Falls:
Still wiping away tears! Before the Rain Falls is simultaneously heartbreaking, hopeful, and joyous: a story of complex characters with varied pasts and bright futures. Loved it! – Jennifer B. on Goodreads
This novel takes readers on an emotional, fast-paced, ride through one sister’s journey to self, redemption, and the true meaning of “freedom.” – Nicole W. on Goodreads
There is romance, mystery, and secrets that are kept till the very end that will have you not wanting this beautifully written story to end. – Carol B. on Goodreads
Camille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of 19 years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmer’s markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. The Memory of Us is Camille’s debut novel. Her second, Before the Rain Falls was released on May 16, 2017.

‬‬


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5/20
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5/21
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5/23
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5/24
Promo
5/25
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5/26
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5/27
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5/28
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Promo and Giveaway: Blood Oath by Melissa Lenhardt

BLOOD OATH
A Laura Elliston Novel, Book 2
by
MELISSA LENHARDT
!!NEW RELEASE!!
  Genre: Historical / Western / Action-Adventure / Romance
Publisher: Redhook
Date of Publication: May 23, 2017
Number of Pages: 384

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Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this action-packed follow up to Sawbones.

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run — from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura’s capture as their own. But the danger isn’t just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle have demons of their own and a past that won’t stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come.


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Watch Lone Star Book Blog Tours for the Badlands tour starting June 27th – with reviews of Blood Oath, Badlands, and Special Features with the inside scoop!



Melissa Lenhardt is the author the Jack McBride mystery series, as well as the Laura Elliston historical fiction series. Her debut mystery, STILLWATER, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and SAWBONES, her historical fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new subgenre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband and two sons.




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Excerpt: The Adventures of Miss Vulpe by Maria Elena Sandovici

THE ADVENTURES OF
MISS VULPE
A Coming of Age Story for Adults
by
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
  Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age
Date of Publication: April 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 160

Ana Petrescu (aka Miss Vulpe) is a troubled teenager determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ double suicide. Escaping the scrutiny of her legal guardian and the unwanted interference of several therapists, she starts looking up people from her mother’s past. Her sleuthing requires her to lie about her identity, her age, and her lack of experience with men. While impersonating Miss Vulpe is more fun than going to school, there’s bound to be trouble and heartache when her web of lies unravels.





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Excerpt from The Adventures of Miss Vulpe

By Maria Elena Sandovici


“Bucharest 2009”


I didn’t want to go to Louise’s party. But in the end I couldn’t stay away. And when I saw her I was glad to be there. She opened the door and smiled, not in surprise, but in acknowledgement that naturally, if she invited me, I’d come. She stood before me in her gold dress, almost a private joke between us, or maybe her way of making a point that she’d won an argument of sorts. She’d won more than that, in fact, she’d won a battle I didn’t want to see her lose. I was happy to see her like this, her cheeks slightly flushed, her glow restored. She was radiant again, the golden girl of days gone by, and as she grabbed my hand and led me into the room to introduce me I was mesmerized by her ability to rise from her own ashes like a phoenix. The rooms were lit by candles, jazz music was playing on an actual turntable, and the house seemed full of people, of champagne bottles, and of vintage ashtrays filled to the brims. All the windows were open, the curtains blowing in the linden-scented breeze of late spring in Bucharest, dancing dangerously close to the candles, and everything had an air of magic and mystery. I had no idea who most of the people were, or where she’d collected them from. It was one of her talents, wilting then re-blooming, dropping away from the world, then reigniting her social life out of nothing. The only one I recognized was her dentist – Louise had constant trouble with her teeth, and the man was an eminence of sorts to whom the old dragon paid a small fortune. He was supposed to be in high demand. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Louise had met all the others in his waiting room, a place where even people with connections were reduced to spending hours.

I didn’t like this crowd, but I didn’t care. I didn’t like her portrait on the wall, something one of the guests, a pretentious fellow with an obvious drinking problem, had painted. I didn’t like that she hesitated in introducing me.

“This is Richard, my…” My what, Louise? My lover? “My husband’s friend, I mean my ex-husband’s friend.” I let it slide. In the end, I was grateful he wasn’t there, the current husband. By the look of things he’d been gone a long time, and I was hoping he’d stay gone forever. “Richard often comes by to see my girls,” she lied to no-one in particular as nobody was listening at this point. They were all drinking heavily. I also doubted they knew her well enough to know how many husbands or children she’d had. They were all blissfully unaware of the girls sleeping upstairs. I was sure the old dragon was of the school of thought that children should be seen and not heard, but the thing about Louise’s children was that one never got to see them either. It was as if they inhabited a parallel universe, and I knew more about them from Rogers then I ever did from visiting their mother.

I tried to put that out of my mind. I didn’t like the party, but I liked watching her. She was so in her element. She was putting on a show for her own amusement, and everything and everybody was part of it, from these people who barely knew her to the portrait on the wall that didn’t really look like her but that validated the role she chose to play that night. I knew this Louise. She was the lady of the manor, the centerpiece in a tableau vivant she had created for her own artistic satisfaction, like a director casting us all in a scene from a movie. I liked this side of her, the energy she put into weaving together elaborate fantasies to entertain herself.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. She looked pleased with how the evening was turning out, pleased with her own reflection in the mirror hanging above the improvised bar on top of the credenza. Maybe she wore the dress not so much as a symbol, but because it matched the sparkle of champagne in the glasses, and champagne seemed to be the theme of the evening. Somebody must have bribed the old dragon with several cases full of it, and Louise must have decided it needed to be consumed right away.

When people started leaving, she started making eye contact with me from across the room. I decided I’d talk her into coming back to my place. There wasn’t any way I’d spend the night here on the old dragon’s domain, and if Louise thought that was kinky in a fun way, I’d have to talk her out of it, which would be hard. But then I heard a key in the door, and Petrescu walked in. He looked like shit, pale and skinny and like he hadn’t showered or slept in a while. Louise’s face registered a look of surprise first. But then she flew to him. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The two other couples that were still there looked at him, and I wondered if these people even knew who he was.

“A party,” he said, “it’s nice to come home and find a party. But I have urgent business with my wife.”

The women in the room laughed, and one shoved her husband.

“Why can’t you be more like that? See, that’s hot!”

“Excuse us,” Louise said. “Please stay, we won’t be a minute.”

Among her guests, I was the only one who wanted to leave. The wife who’d misinterpreted Petrescu’s intentions with Louise was now busy using what she’d thought she’d seen to add passion to her own marriage, so she’d climbed onto her husband’s lap and was kissing him. The other couple were draining all the champagne bottles strewn across the room.

I pulled out my phone and called myself a cab. The only good thing about Louise’s guests was that they were drunk enough to be oblivious to anything that didn’t concern them. No one would notice my departure.

“Two minutes,” the dispatch said.

I got up and stepped into the hallway. I heard Louise’s heels clicking on the linoleum, saw her gold dress shimmering in the dark. She was coming from the kitchen. 

“Richard,” she said. “Don’t leave.”

She followed me outside.

“I’ll only be a minute,” she said, as if I were an unreasonable child clinging to her skirts when she needed to go use the bathroom. 


Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.




CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
5/20
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5/20
Excerpt 1
5/21
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5/22
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5/22
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5/24
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Excerpt 3
5/28
Promo
5/29
Review
5/29
Sketchbook 3
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Promo: Nowhere Near by Teddy Jones

NOWHERE NEAR
Stories
by
Teddy Jones
  Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas
Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: May11, 2017
Number of Pages: 206
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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.
Praise for Nowhere Near:
“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky
“Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it’s currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more.” –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker


Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time.
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One Grand Prize: Signed copies of both Nowhere Near and Jackson’s Pond, Texas, set of 10 hollyhock notecards, and a 11×15 print of the cover art from Jackson’s Pond.
1st Runner-Up: Signed copy of Nowhere Near + choice of notecards or print
Next Three Winners: choice of notecards or print
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CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
5/11
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5/13
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5/14
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5/15
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5/17
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5/18
Review
5/19
Author Interview 2
5/20
Review


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Excerpt and Giveaway: The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell


THE GRAVE TENDER
by
By Eliza Maxwell
  Genre: Women’s Fiction / Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: April 11, 2017
Number of Pages: 248
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A chilling psychological suspense novel, The Grave Tender explores the dark boundaries people cross to save loved ones, and the limits of family bonds tested by the deepest of betrayals.
Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.
When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.
But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need or putting their lives in danger?
The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.
“The Grave Tender will grasp you in its hooks from the beginning as you try to figure out the truth behind each character, because no one is truly what they seem … Addicting, easy to read, and hard to put down.”Shelbi LeMeilleur, Insite Magazine
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4a231-excerpt

Most people, if asked, would tell you that Cooper Abbott had surely had some sort of accident.  Maybe he’d been bitten by a snake, or fallen into the river and hit his head on a rock.  There were as many rumors as people to spread them, and a thousand possibilities to choose from.

The one thing they all agreed on was that tropical storm Jolene had been a true misfortune, carrying off any clue to finding the boy.  Probably carrying off the boy himself, down the river toward the Gulf of Mexico.

No one suspected anything more sinister.

Not at first.

By Thursday night the skies had cleared.  On Friday, the clean-up began.

The Dixon’s power was still out, as it was in many places across town, but Hadley didn’t care.  She was happy to be outside, helping to haul downed branches into a pile and picking up dropped nails while Walker took the boards off the shutters.  Light slowly came back into the dim house.

It was just after lunch when the Sheriff’s car pulled slowly up the drive, gravel crunching under the tires all the way.

Ben Hammon was an old friend of Walker’s.  They’d gone to school together way back when, and still met up for poker night every other Friday.  But it wasn’t a social call that brought Sheriff Hammon out to the Dixon house that day.

The Sheriff wasn’t alone.  One of his deputies got out of the passenger side of the car.  The deputy looked forbidding in his brown uniform and hat, his eyes scanning the trees behind their home.  But he smiled and gave Hadley a wink when he caught her watching him.

“Hey, Ben.  Any news on the Abbott boy?” Walker asked.

The Sheriff shook his head.  “Nothing yet.  We’ve picked up the search again, but frankly Walker, I don’t expect to hear anything until we get a call from somewhere downriver.”

Walker cleared his throat and motioned in her direction.

“Hadley, you remember Sheriff Hammon, don’t you?”

She knew good and well the reminder was for the Sheriff, so he wouldn’t say anything else that meant something.  Cooper is my friend, Hadley thought, tired of being treated like a baby.

“Actually, Walker, we’d like to speak with Hadley, if you don’t mind.”

Walker’s eyebrows shot up.

“What’s this about, Ben?”

“Dan Abbott was in to see us soon as the weather let up,” the Sheriff said.  “He says the kids had a run in with your brother last weekend.”

The camp out.  An image of Eli looming over them in the doorway of the tent filled Hadley’s mind.

“Eli?” Walker asked, glancing down at Hadley, clearly confused.  She’d never told him what had happened last week, and so much had happened since.

“What’s Eli got to do with anything?”

The Sheriff tipped his hat back and scratched his head, not looking entirely comfortable in his own skin.

“Probably nothing, to tell you the truth.  But a boy is missing, Walker, and we have to do our jobs.”

All three men turned to Hadley then.  Her eyes went wide.

Walker squatted down next to her.

“Hadley, honey, you don’t have to be scared.  You’re not in any trouble.  Just tell the men here what happened.  Nobody can be hurt by telling the truth.”

Hadley knew that wasn’t true.  If it were, her father wouldn’t look so worried.  But she couldn’t see another option, so she did as he asked.  She told the truth.

 

Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever patient husband, two impatient kids, a budgie named Sarah, and a bird dog who lives a tortured existence.  She’s an artist and writer, an introvert and a British cop drama addict.  A former bookseller with a lifelong love of the written word, she can often be found barefoot on the front porch lost in a good cup of coffee and a great book.
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