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Blitz & Giveaway: 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.

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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Review & Giveaway: House of the Rising Sun by Richard Cox

Richard Cox
Category: Techno Thriller / Science Fiction / Adventure
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Date of Publication: July 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 408 pages
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Both a frightening apocalyptic story set in the southern United States and a character-focused, deeply moving literary thriller.

What would happen if technology all over the world suddenly stopped working?

When a strange new star appears in the sky, human life instantly grinds to a halt. Across the world, anything and everything electronic stops working completely.

At first, the event seems like a bizarre miracle to Seth Black–it interrupts his suicide attempt and erases gambling debt that threatened to destroy his family. But when Seth and his wife, Natalie, realize the electricity isn’t coming back on, that their food supplies won’t last, they begin to wonder how they and their two sons will survive.

Meanwhile, screenwriter Thomas Phillips–an old friend of Natalie’s–has just picked up Skylar Stover, star of his new movie, at the airport when his phone goes dead and planes begin to fall from the sky.

Thomas has just completed a script about a similar electromagnetic event that ended the world. Now, he’s one of the few who recognizes what’s happening and where it will lead.

When Thomas and Skylar decide to rescue Natalie and Seth, the unwilling group must attempt to survive together as the world falls apart. They try to hide in Thomas’s home and avoid desperate neighbors, but fear they’ll soon be roaming the streets with starving refugees and angry vigilantes intent on forming new governments. It’s all they can do to hold on to each other and their humanity.

Yet all the while, unbeknownst to them, Aiden Christopher–a bitter and malignant man leveraging a crumbling society to live out his darkest, most amoral fantasies–is fighting to survive as well. And he’s on a collision course with Thomas, Skylar, and the Black family…


House of the Rising Sun by Richard Cox is the type of book that reminds you of what the world could really be like and encourages you to examine your priorities. On the surface, this post-apocalyptic book isn’t that different from others in its genre. However, the idea that people would go so far as to blame a screenwriter because he wrote a movie that eerily resembled the current situation is just too delicious. The spectrum of paranoia in this novel is interesting to flip through. And much like The Walking Dead, you come to realize that the biggest threat is also your salvation.

In the world that Cox has built, the end is brought on by a supernova. And unlike a zombie apocalypse where civilization slowly grinds to a halt, the aftermath is instantaneous. With every device that relies on a microchip dead, there are only so many modern conveniences left functioning. While millennials are not the only ones running around like chickens with their heads cut off, it does seem like the majority of the characters who are either prepared or have adapted pretty quickly are Boomers and Gen Xers. Pretty much, if you remember how the world functioned without computers, you are okay.

Cox’s characterization of the different types of people is dead on. This skill not only drives us through riveting tales that eventually intersect, but it makes you wonder which camp you would fall into. What choices you would make. When he shifts the point of view, it is obvious and the thoughts and actions of each narrator feel very authentic. Cox delves into the ugly side of humanity without being gratuitous about it. I am not squeamish about violence and sex in books, but I always appreciate when authors leave some things to the imagination. That being said, this is a book about the end times, so there are some scenes that are reader discretion advised.

I found the pace to be perfect in the beginning, but somewhere near the end it felt a little rushed. My right hand held about 20 pages when I realized in distress that the author was trying to wrap things up. I hope that Cox has a sequel planned because I would devour it in a day like I did with this book.

I think that House of the Rising Sun offers an interesting premise and even more interesting characters. I believe that it could be made into a film and hold its own very well. There will always be comparisons to other post-apocalyptic books, films, or shows, but I really do think that this story is different enough to come out on top.

Richard Cox was born in Odessa, Texas and now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His newest novel is House of the Rising Sun. Richard has also published The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He’s written for This Land Press, Oklahoma Magazine, and
When he’s not writing or reading, Richard loves spending time with his wife and two girls. And hitting bombs.
He also wrote this bio in third person as if writing about someone else. George likes his chicken spicy!
1st: Signed copies of House of the Rising Sun & The Boys of Summer;
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Review & Giveaway: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride by Linda Broday

Outlaw Mail Order Brides, #4
Linda Broday

Categories: Western / Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: November 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.

Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father―a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.

But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.


“An awesome culmination to a great western romance series!”
~ Fresh Fiction 
“Broday concludes the Outlaw Mail Order Bride series with a sizzling finale that features a tantalizingly slow build to intimate trust that catapults into adrenaline packed ardor.”  ~Booklist

I have lost count of how many Linda Broday books that I have had the privilege of reading, but I can say that Once Upon a Mail Order Bride is one of my favorites by the author. Broday is one of those writers who consistently delivers interesting characters, heartfelt romances, and exciting conflicts. You may have read other romances that have a similar premise of outlaws building a new life away from other civilized towns, but I can guarantee that you have not read a love story like Ridge and Addie’s.

From the beginning, I was caught up in the mystery of Addie’s incarceration and her inability to speak. When Luke Legend comes to escort her to safety upon her release from a three-year sentence, I got a little giddy at the prospect of being reunited with some beloved characters from her other books. After a heart pounding encounter with the men sent to kill her, I was a little surprised that our main characters’ meet-cute happens early on, although the situation is quite nasty and not cute at all.

Broday is kind enough to not torment the reader too long with the question of whether Ridge or Addie remembers the other when they meet again. It makes for a nice moment of each gaining more respect for the other and helps break down the uneasiness that obviously comes with marrying a stranger. Although they were pen pals for a good while, Addie knew that some men would want to present themselves in a more positive light and Ridge acknowledged that everyone had secrets. But having met in literal cover of darkness in an evil situation, they knew what the other was made of and the kind of human beings that they truly are.

But Ridge and Addy are not the only people to show their mettle and kindness in the face of impossible odds. The people of Hope’s Crossing are truly remarkable in their ability to look beyond the past and throw their hearts into building a future for all. It was nice to see what was going on with characters from prior books and to learn more about a few of their backstories. You don’t have to read the other books to enjoy this one, but I have a feeling that you will go back for the others once you see how deep and well written this little book is.

I think that any western fan (man or woman) would really enjoy this book. Also, historical fiction fans would probably be inspired to do some research on outlaw towns and mail order brides after reading this one. I’m sad that this series has come to an end, but I take heart in the fact that I have about 10 other books by Broday that I need to catch up on. Also, with the crossover between the different series, I have a feeling that I can count on reading more about my favorite characters.

I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.

Full Autographed Set of the Mail Order Bride Series 
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Review & Giveaway: The Black Midnight by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Fiction / Historical Mystery / True Crime 
Publisher: Barbour Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 257
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Two killers, two detectives, and a menace called The Black Midnight may be the death of both of them.
Three years before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree on the streets of London, a killer struck fear into the hearts of the citizens of Austin, Texas. Some believe one man is responsible for both, while others lay the blame at the feet of someone close to the queen herself. With suspicion falling on Her Majesty’s family and Scotland Yard at a loss as to who the Ripper might be, Queen Victoria summons her great-granddaughter, Alice Anne von Wettin, a former Pinkerton agent who worked the unsolved Austin murders case, and orders her to discreetly form a team to look into the London matter. One man is essential to her team, and she doesn’t want to consider taking on this challenge without his expertise. Unfortunately, he’s back in Texas, with a bad attitude and a new profession. 

The prospect of a second chance at catching the man who terrorized Austin three years ago just might entice Isaiah Joplin out of his comfortable life as an Austin lawyer, even if it does mean working with the Queen’s great-granddaughter again. If his theories are right, they’ll find the Midnight Assassin and, by default, the Ripper. If they’re wrong, he and Annie are in a bigger mess than the one the lady detective left behind when she departed Austin under cover of darkness three years ago. 
Can the unlikely pair find the truth of who is behind the murders before they are drawn into the killer’s deadly game? From Texas to London, the story navigates the fine line between truth and fiction as Annie and Isaiah ultimately find the hunters have become the hunted.

PRAISE for The Black Midnight:

“Warning! Don’t read this historical romantic suspense at night!” DiAnn Mills, Expect an Adventure 
“Impeccably researched with sparkling dialogue and riveting history, Kathleen Y’Barbo’s The Black Midnight puts a pair of star-crossed Pinkerton detectives on the trail of a Texas killer who may also be the notorious Jack the Ripper. Very highly recommended and sure to keep you reading well past your bedtime!!” Colleen Thompson, RITA-nominated author of Deadly Texas Summer 
“You’re in for a wild ride as Kathleen Y’Barbo takes you on a story through some of America and Britain’s grisliest murders and somehow manages to weave in a delicious romance. From Texas to London, the ties that bind may be more linked than you previously believed. Settle in for a novel of suspense and romancejust be sure to look over your shoulder every now and then!” Jaime Jo Wright, 2018 Christy Award-winning author of The House on Foster Hill and 2020 Inspy Award-nominated The Curse of Misty Wayfair



The Black Midnight by Kathleen Y’Barbo is one of the most balanced and flawlessly written historical fiction books I have ever read. And that is quite an accomplishment when you consider that it is loosely framed about the infamous Jack the Ripper case. It can be difficult to suspend the reader’s disbelief or incorporate fictional characters around such a case, even with the holes in evidence.

As a murderino (a fan of the My Favorite Murder podcast), I was already familiar with the various theories about Jack the Ripper but completely forgot about the possible connection to murders in Austin, Texas. Having lived in Austin while I attended the University of Texas at Austin, it was thrilling to read about the city and the university from an imagined 19th century point of view. Beyond the obvious horse and buggy references, we have historic landmarks like the Driskill Hotel breaking ground and the capitol under construction. I always get a thrill from sartorial details that solidify the time period: pin watches, bowler hats, and sprigged patterned frocks.

Y’Barbo delivers a smart mystery and a touching love story all in one. She sets up the “present” time and jumps to the past to explain the tense encounter between the ex-Pinkerton partners. Y’Barbo also shifts seamlessly from Annie’s perspective to Isaiah’s, and even more smoothly transitions from the gumshoe to the heartstring moments.

As much as I enjoyed Annie and Isaiah, my favorite characters in the book were Queen Victoria and the housekeeper Miss Hattie. I couldn’t picture anyone’s face clearly in my head, but the dialogue and gumption of those two characters in particular made me smile every time. Normally, the lack of physical descriptions would bother me, but this novel contained minute details like tics and differentiated speech patterns that kept my attention focused on more important things.

I think that anyone who has an interest in historical fiction and unsolved mysteries would enjoy this story. Even though it is not categorized as a romance, I think that fans of the historical romance genre would like this one as well. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and author of more than eighty books, with almost two million in print. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and several Top Picks by Romantic Times magazine.

Kathleen celebrated her fifteenth year as a published author by receiving the Romantic Times Inspirational Romance Book of the Year Award for Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Lives of Will Tucker novel. Her novels celebrate life, love, and the Lord—and whenever she can manage it, her home state of Texas. Recent releases include The Pirate Bride, River of Life, and My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas.

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Guest Post & Giveaway: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis


  Genre: Historical / Biographical / Sports Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow 
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 240
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A cross between Friday Night Lights and The Atomic City Girls, When The Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel based on the true story of Tylene Wilson, a woman in 1940s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, became a female football coach in order to keep her students from heading off to war.

Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.
Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over eighteen and under forty-five are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.

Faced with extreme opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees — and even the players themselves — Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team — and the town — to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.

Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

“Sublimely ties together the drama of high school football, gender politics, and the impact of war on a small town in Texas.” – Best of Books, 2018, Sports Illustrated

“A beautiful story that stays in your heart long after you finish reading.” – Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author

“Based on a true story that most people probably don’t know, readers will find plenty to love in Herrera Lewis’ debut.” — Kirkus Review




Two different ways to approach reading When the Men Were Gone

Guest Post by Marjorie Herrera Lewis


I have been asked by a number of book clubs to submit discussion questions/topics for member meetings. What I’ve done here is write out questions/topics for not only book club and individual inquiry but for high school (advanced) and middle school readers to digest and dissect. In doing this, I will present the novel, When the Men Were Gone, with questions geared towards my intended two different ways to read it. I wrote When the Men Were Gone to be read as two entirely different novels – and as I’ve been told by readers who have read it twice, it worked.


Book Club and Advanced Readers: A novel narrated by a grieving mother 

  1. The Prologue is a metaphor for the book. Discuss the imagery used as metaphor.
  2. Discuss the symbolism. Why does Tylene focus on a “box”? A body in a “box,” a letter jacket in a “box,” the “box” at the end of the book. What role does a “box” play in motivating her on this journey? How does a “box” fit in with Tylene’s distaste for the word “over” or the words “if only?”
  3. The reason for Tylene’s journey is set out in the first several pages of the book with the metaphor of her expectations when she walked to the field for what would have been the first day of practice. She expected to see “our crossbars standing tall in each end zone, hovering over an empty playing field like parents at the dining table waiting for children to fill the seats between them.” Who do those goal posts represent?
  4. This yearning is reinforced several times throughout the book in her words but also in her movements. For example, she catches a football from Moose, brings it down, and stares at the football while cradling it in her arms. Why? What is the metaphor?
  5. When the principal tells Tylene, “This is 1944, not 1984,” what does this say about women in football? Were things different for women by 1984? Are they different today?
  6. Tylene becomes a football coach. Why? What was her underlying motivation, and why didn’t she just come out and tell everyone?
  7. Tylene tells the readers why she does it at the point in the novel when she and Moose leave Ida Mae’s home, and Moose asks Tylene if Ida Mae will be OK. This is the novel’s big reveal, but to the readers only and not to Moose. Why does she not reveal the purpose for her journey to Moose?
  8. Is When the Men Were Gonea book about football? Why? Why not?
  9. Tylene knows the Lions would have beaten Stephenville had she put Bobby Ray back into the game for the final play. Why didn’t she do it?
  10. What does it mean when on the night before the game, Tylene and Wendell come across each other at the football field, speak, and when Tylene walks away, she smiles at him “in solidarity”? What solidarity? What does that mean?
  11. Tylene invites her friend, Mavis McSorley, to watch practice. While practice is beginning, Mavis becomes agitated and begins to shout. What does this scene tell us about the role and expectations of a wife in the 1940s? Why is Mavis angry with her husband?
  12. Tylene is clearly a woman ahead of her time, but she is also a woman of the 1940s? How those gender expectations playout?
  13. If you believe this is a sweet story, great, but what have you missed? What emotion is imbedded in the voice of the narrator, Tylene?

Middle School: A novel about a woman who doesn’t let gender norms define her and becomes a football coach even when the odds are against her

  1. What traits show us that Tylene is a strong woman?
  2. Why is she so determined to take on a role that was “for men only”?
  3. What was her relationship like with her father, and how did that help set her up for the journey to coaching football?
  4. Why did Tylene learn football in the first place?
  5. How do we know John knew Tylene was a woman ahead of her time?
  6. How do we know John was supportive of Tylene and of the decisions she made?
  7. Why did John and Tylene argue the night before the game?
  8. Why did Moose finally come to trust Tylene?
  9. Why didn’t the boys on the football team come to the first practice?
  10. Why was Tylene shunned by the men at the football coaches meeting?
  11. Why was the principal hesitant to hire Tylene to coach football?
  12. Why were people so mean to her? Why did they come around and cheer for her?
  13. What does Tylene teach us about inspiration and perseverance?


Marjorie Herrera Lewis is an award-winning sportswriter, named the first female Dallas Cowboys beat writer when she was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She later joined the SportsDay staff of The Dallas Morning News, where she continued to cover the NFL and professional tennis. She is currently a contributing sportswriter for 

While writing When the Men Were Gone, she became inspired to try her hand at coaching football herself and was added to the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff in December 2016. Marjorie has degrees from Arizona State University, The University of Texas in Arlington, Southern New Hampshire University, and certificates from Southern Methodist University, and Cornell University. She is married and has two grown daughters and one son-in-law.
June 18-28, 2019

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Author Video & Giveaway: High Treason by DiAnn Mills

An FBI Task Force Novel, #3
Genre: Inspirational /Mystery / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: February 6, 2018
Number of Pages: 416

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When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised—and none too happy—when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt.
Kord and Monica must quickly put aside interagency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit—plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince—or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?  

“Compelling characters and a riveting plot that fits seamlessly with current events make this novel impossible to put down. Readers can count on being glued to the pages late into the night – as “just one more chapter” turns into “can’t stop now.”” – RT Book Reviews

Who is DiAnn Mills?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed.

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Guest Post #2: The Republic of Football by Chad S. Conine

Legends of the Texas High School Game
Chad S. Conine
Genre: Texas Sports History / Biographies
Date of Publication: September 6, 2016
Publisher: University of Texas Press
# of pages: 288
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Anywhere football is played, Texas is the force to reckon with. Its powerhouse programs produce the best football players in America. In The Republic of Football, Chad S. Conine vividly captures Texas’s impact on the game with action-filled stories about
legendary high school players, coaches, and teams from around the state and across seven decades. 

Drawing on dozens of interviews, Conine offers rare glimpses of the early days of some of football’s biggest stars. He reveals that some players took time to achieve greatness—LaDainian Tomlinson wasn’t even the featured running back on his high school team until a breakthrough game in his senior season vaulted him to the highest level of the sport—while others, like Colt McCoy, showed their first flashes of brilliance in middle school. In telling these and many other stories of players and coaches, including Hayden Fry, Spike Dykes, Bob McQueen, Lovie Smith, Art Briles, Lawrence Elkins, Warren McVea, Ray Rhodes, Dat Nguyen, Zach Thomas, Drew Brees, and Adrian Peterson, Conine spotlights the decisive moments when players caught fire and teams such as Celina, Southlake Carroll, and Converse Judson turned into Texas dynasties.

“This is a wonderful, well-written book, full of compelling details and stories. A ‘must read’ for any Texas football fan.” —DAVE CAMPBELL Dave Campbell’s Texas Football

 University of Texas Press

The Memorable Moments

Guest Post

By Chad S. Conine

There are moments from writing The Republic of Football that resurface and make me wish I was still in the middle of the adventure of gathering all the material for the chapters.

I interviewed around 130 former and current football players and coaches during a 14-month period that was kind of a roller coaster. That 130-ish might sound like a big number, but the actual number of interviews doesn’t seem that high to me. It’s less than 10 a month when I could have easily and happily conducted 10 per week. The big number is the quantity of emails and phone calls I made to get the interviews. That anxiety I felt as I waited for returned calls or emails definitely proved the most difficult part of the project. Those are not the moments that I remember fondly. But they had their purpose.

In the summer of 2014, I was attempting to patch together an NFL training camp tour. This was a key part of the project because once the NFL season started, I knew I would have a hard time getting access to the players I wanted to include. Then, following the season, they would scatter, and I really wouldn’t be able to do any interviews until OTAs (optional team activities) in May and June of 2015. I was supposed to turn in the manuscript by the start of football season 2015, so it wasn’t going to be possible to turn 15 interviews from OTAs into chapters in that amount of time. It had to be in training camp.

Then things came together. I targeted a specific area of the country that had some of the biggest names from Texas — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby, Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, and Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding. Others said “no” but the ones I listed are the ones who said “yes” by the last Saturday in July of 2014, when I got in my car and headed north. The next 12 days produced many of the moments I mentioned above, in the first paragraph. Moments like: driving into downtown Detroit and eventually all the way up 8-Mile Road, all the while listening to Eminem; playing golf in Chicago with my buddy Sean DelBacarro and his dad; making friends and having drinks with the person who checked me into my hotel in Mankato, Minnesota; looking out of my car window at the beautiful West Virginia state capitol (oh yeah, I ended up going to West Virginia too, more on that later); and turning a corner in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and discovering there was a massive Manchester United versus Real Madrid soccer match that sold out Michigan Stadium that day.

I haven’t made it back to Mankato, Minnesota, but it’s on my to-do list. That’s where I arrived after the first two days of driving because that’s where the Vikings were holding training camp. I checked into the hotel and asked the friendly person at the desk, whose name was Lindsey, where I should have dinner. She told me to go unpack and she would have some recommendations when I was on my way out. That’s what I did and we chatted for a few minutes before I headed for a local Italian place. When I returned to the hotel, she was still at the desk and it was a slow evening, so we must have talked for most of an hour.

The next day, after I interviewed Adrian Peterson, I went to a coffee shop that Lindsey recommended. I wanted coffee and I needed to record the interview and send some emails. One of the emails I sent went to the New Orleans Saints. Having had a great interview with Peterson, I was feeling momentum, so I inquired about speaking with Drew Brees. Within an hour, the Saints called and said Brees agreed to the interview. That meant that after I interviewed Stafford the following Friday in Detroit, I would then drive across Ohio to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the Saints were holding camp. But it would be worth it.

Soon after I received the call from the Saints, Lindsey came by the coffee shop to hang out for a bit. We made plans to drink beer at a bar near the hotel called the Loose Moose. We ended up talking and playing pool until pretty late. That was a good day.

And that’s why, when I’m at the gym on a run-of-the-mill Wednesday these days, and certain songs come through my headphones, I wish I was still driving around the Midwest running down the interviews that formed The Republic of Football.

Conine is a freelance sports
journalist who has written for the Sports Xchange, Reuters, and, among others. He has been covering Texas high school and college football since the late 1990s. He lives in Waco, Texas.


  September 5 – 19, 2016
Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

Guest Post 1
Author Interview 1
Kara The Redhead
Reading By Moonlight
Guest Post 2
Author Interview 2
Country Girl Bookaholic
Guest Post 3



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West Texas Middleweight by Frank Sikes

The Story of LaVern Roach
(Sport in the American West Series)
Frank Sikes
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Scroll down for Giveaway!
LaVern Roach, a skinny kid from the small town of Plainview, Texas, rose from obscurity to become one of boxing’s most popular figures during the 1940s. Roach’s rise to prominence occurred during an era when boxing shared the spotlight with baseball as the nation’s top two professional sports. As a result of Roach’s death—which marked the first nationally televised fight during which a boxer died from injuries received in the ring—the sport of boxing came under closer scrutiny by the general public than ever before.
West Texas Middleweight is the story of Roach’s all too brief journey from a West Texas amateur, to enlistment in the US Marines, where he captained the nation’s most successful military boxing team, to becoming a Madison Square Garden main eventer. He received the distinction of being named The Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” for 1947 and was considered a top ten contender for the middleweight championship of the world. This book chronicles Roach’s road to his final fight—and it explains why, as noted by legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, “boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
phone: 800.742.2982
Sikes guest post pic 2


By Frank Sikes


The Muhammad Ali-Angelo Dundee partnership created a boxing legend which lasted for over half a century. Ali, arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, recently died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74. His partner in fame, Angelo Dundee, arguably the best boxing trainer who ever lived, passed away on February 1, 2012 at the age of 90.


What does this have to do with West Texas Middleweight, the Story of LaVern Roach?


Angelo was a seasoned trainer, who had already produced his first world boxing champ in Carmen Basilio, when he first met 18 year old Cassius Marcellus Clay. The relationship got off to a rocky start. After Clay won his gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, all of the trainers were trying to sign him to a professional contract. All with the exception of Dundee, who didn’t want to take the time and trouble in helping turn an amateur into a professional fighter. Fate eventually brought the two together, forming boxing’s most successful boxer/trainer relationship and the rest is history.


Go back in time to 1945. World War II was over and the soldiers were coming home. Among them was twenty five year old Angelo Dundee, who in his own words, said “I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” His older brother Chris had put together one of the largest boxing teams in the country, called Dundee’s Dandies. He offered Angelo a job, which Angelo best described as a “gopher” – running errands and doing whatever Chris wanted done. Chris discovered that Angelo had a talent for writing and soon had him writing publicity material to send to the young boxer’s hometown newspapers.


There was one boxer that he was really impressed with and had no problem in producing sporting clips to send back home. His name was LaVern Roach. LaVern, a twenty year old Texan, had gotten out of the Marine Corps, where he won a national Golden Glove championship, the best fighter to come out of the Marines in World War II, and was named the Amateur Boxer of the Year by Look Magazine. Just like Clay years later, LaVern’s ambition was to become a world champion boxer. Instead of going back to Texas, he decided to stay in New York City, which was the heart of the boxing world. He soon became the star of the Dundee Dandees, forming a friendship with Angelo. In Angelo’s own words, “I had the pleasure and honor to meet LaVern Roach as a person and a human being – great on both accounts – He would have been a fistic star at ‘any time’ – championship material. Walked like a champ in and out of the ring.”


Angelo’s skills working with the young boxers were soon recognized by bother Chris, and his duties expanded to where Angie began his training in the boxing ring as a bucket-man, then a cut-man for LaVern and the other boxers.   So before there was an Angelo Dundee, there was a LaVern Roach.


Angelo Dundee reached the summit of boxing with Muhammad Ali but received some of his earliest training with LaVern Roach.


Angelo’s first words to me were “Boxing Changed because of LaVern Roach.” His parting words were “Good luck with the book. Boxing is in need of a good story.” Angelo died six month later, but not before he attended Ali’s 70th birthday party.


Angelo (age 90) and Ali were reunited for the last time at Ali’s 70th birthday party. Angelo Dundee died about two weeks later.


Frank Sikes, a third-generation West Texan, grew up in Plainview, where LaVern Roach, along with Jimmy Dean, were hometown heroes.  Sikes graduated from Texas Tech in 1967, then was a US Navy Officer proudly serving aboard the USS Little Rock stationed in Gaeta, Italy from 1968-1970.  He attended the University of Houston School of Business, from 1973 to 1975, and got his master’s degree in religion from Wayland Baptist University in 2011.

Frank and his wife Nancy have been married for 50 years and have two grown children out of the house, and two Boston Terriers, Molly and Maggie (or as some suggest Boston terrorists) who rule the house. Lubbock has been home for the past 30 years with stops in Newport, RI; San Francisco, CA; Gaeta, Italy; Houston, TX; and Albuquerque, NM.  West Texas Middleweight is his first book.
Connect with the author on FACEBOOK.

 Each Wins a Signed Copy of the Book 
Each Wins a Signed Copy of the Book PLUS a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card


   June 1 – June 10, 2016

7/1       Country Girl Bookaholic  – Review

7/2       My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview #1


7/3       Forgotten Winds – Guest Post #1


7/4       Margie’s Must Reads Review



7/6       StoreyBook Reviews  – Author Interview #2


7/7       Book Chase Review


7/8       The Page Unbound Author Interview #3


7/9       Missus Gonzo  – Guest Post #2


7/10    It’s a Jenn World Review


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It Happened at the Book Fest


It Happened at the Book Fest
Two Books. One Wild Event.
On sale February 14 thru 23!!!
Welcome to the Lake Morgan Book Festival!
Each year, Mr. Denton McCray and his eclectic team of volunteers hosts the most anticipated, and the most mysterious, book fest in a cozy, lakeside community near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Though many accounts have highlighted strange occurrences, readers are drawn to the book fest each year by the hundreds, and authors are thrilled to receive a hand-delivered invitation to participate.
The season is autumn. The day is overcast. There’s an electric crackle in the air that foreshadows the arrival of approaching storms. Tops of trees sway under the weight of winds that bear more than the threat of rain.  The book fest takes place in an old building that once served as a high school.  It has been decades since students roamed the halls … living students, that is.    


The Lake Morgan Book Fest opens at 6 PM and runs until midnight.  So, grab a cup of hot tea, and dive in!
Within these pages, readers will discover just how weird the Lake Morgan Book Fest can get.  

Tales of time travel, science fiction, paranormal, speculative fiction, urban fantasy, comedy, and even a little romance await discovery!  

Authors of This Volume:
Kimberley Montpetit
Tyber North
Belle Whittington
A.L. Kessler
Linda M. Au
H.A. Lamb

BUY for 99 cents!


Within these pages, readers will discover just how sexy things can get at the Lake Morgan Book Fest.

Tales of romance, paranormal, and erotica await discovery! 

This volume is for more mature audiences.
Authors of This Volume:
Alexia Purdy
Dicey Grenor
Mia Bishop
Lizzy Pope

J.L. McCoy

BUY for 99 cents
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AUTHORS’ PICK: Favorite lines from each story

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Carrying the Black Bag by Tom Hutton MD

Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales
Author: Tom Hutton MD
Genre: memoir
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: December 7, 2015
# of pages: 240
In his thirty-plus years of practicing medicine, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these extraordinary individuals, Hutton gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit. Hutton’s patients—and the valuable lessons they taught—served as the inspiration for Carrying the Black Bag.
Carrying the Black Bag invites readers to experience what it’s like to be a doctor’s hands, eyes, and heart. Imagine the joy of witnessing a critically ill five-year-old who, against all odds, claws her way back from a coma and near certain death. Meet a lonely Texas widower with Parkinson’s disease who hosts elaborate pinochle parties for a pack of imaginary canines. Step into the surgical booties of the author when he attempts to deliver his own child amid heart-stopping obstetrical complications—during a paralyzing Minnesota blizzard.  
Through real-life patient narratives, Hutton shines light on ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. Moreover, this captivating tale captures the drama of medicine—its mystery, pathos, heroism, sacrifice, and humor.
        Each story slipped into The Black Bag is a shining jewel, polished to perfection and written with empathy, sensitivity and humor. Hutton brings to life a doctor’s unflagging dedication to the human condition as a healer with utmost respect for each patient fortunate enough to be graced by his compassion and commitment. Every tale once begun, entrances.
        -Antoinette van Heughten, author of USA Bestseller Saving Max, and The Tulip Eaters
        Being a physician is a privilege, in no small part because of the powerful insight it provides into the human condition. Tom Hutton addresses themes of interest to all readers–love, loyalty, family, and mortality, and shows how he could affect a positive outcome, and how he, in turn, was changed by those for whom he cared.
        -William L. Henrich, MD, President, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
        How many doctors have you come across who can write this well, especially for the lay reader? He’s a natural, that’s for sure! Carrying The Black Bag is a must-read for anyone interested in following a wonderful doctor on his rounds.
        -Bartee Haile, newspaper columnist and author of Texas Depression-Era Desperadoes, and Murders Most Texan
        A wonderful journey through the training, practice, triumphs, and travails of a dedicated physician.
        -D. P. Lyle, MD, author of Dub Walker and Samantha Cody thriller series.
Chapter 9
Heavy double doors banged behind me. I located the unidentified woman responsible for my stat page. A glance revealed a small body eclipsed by monitors, a wheezing ventilator, and a virtual spaghetti bowl of wires and catheters.
Somewhere across the intensive care unit, a ventilator alarm shrieked, a telephone jingled, and infusion pumps thrummed. Nurses with intent facial expressions scurried about the unit on rubber-soled shoes, providing care for these, the very sickest of the hospital’s sick.
(Her husband arrives and provides a surprisingly poignant description, transforming his wife in my eyes)
“Doc, do everything you can.” His voice cracked and faltered before struggling on. He finally blurted out, “I…I love that old gal.”
After his description I no longer could think of Maggie Croft as a shriveled old woman with failing physiology. She had become an energetic harvester who had struggled through desperate decades tightly bonded to her husband. She had evoked the strongest display of public emotion of which I felt Ned Croft capable.
And struggle to save her life we did. We addressed her brain swelling to eke out precious millimeters of space within her skull to buy time for the blood clot to recede. We tried every management strategy to salvage the life of Maggie Croft—but in the end our efforts came to naught.
I recall Ned’s slow pace as he departed the intensive care unit. He pushed at the swinging doors, opening them a crack. Ned glanced back at his deceased wife’s body, his eyes vacant. Ned Croft with his tattered appearance and pained emotions was abruptly lost from view as the doors slammed shut behind him. The complexity of love has baffled the wisest sages. But for me, Ned’s simple utterance said it best. “Doc, I love that old gal.”
Excerpt from Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales (Texas Tech University Press) by Tom Hutton, MD
 If you follow my blog, you know that I reviewed another book written by a doctor recently. I am pleased to say that this book is completely different. Hutton has a style that borders on quirky mystery (makes sense as he confesses to reading mysteries growing up). And funny/beautiful descriptions aside, the doctors in this book are in their profession to save people and better lives, not fatten their pocketbooks. (Hutton keeps it real by making side cash with ambulance and hockey game gigs.) They go out on the limb and try risky, new procedures to do everything in their power to help a patient get better, rather than sit back and play it safe to prevent lawsuits.  After several family members went through the grueling schedule and schooling of med school, I thought that I already had a healthy dose of respect for doctors, but this book prescribed me even more.
Such an array of emotions we are privy to, from feeding off a family’s faith in a situation that seems hopeless and beyond medical/scientific ability, to being faced with having no choice but to care for an admitted family member, to playing detective to find out who is behind continuous arsenic poisoning. I’m glad that Hutton has chosen to share these incredible stories and insight with the world.
Tom Hutton, M. D., is an internationally-recognized clinical and research neurologist and educator. The past president of the Texas Neurological Society, Dr. Hutton served as professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medical and Surgical Neurology at the Texas Tech School of Medicine. He now lives on his cattle ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas.



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