Sunday, June 30, 2013

Two years ago...

This was something I was sent two years ago, I wanted to share it again as it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever received:

In June 2011 I lost a dear sweet friend, author Elle Newmark.  For those of you that never had the chance to speak to her or read her work I would highly recommend it.  A wonderful woman and courageous up until her last days.

She sent an email to her friends (via her daughter) and I decided to share it as it sums up what kind of person she was.  I will miss her always!

Dear friends,

First, let me apologize for sending so intimate a message via so impersonal a medium. It is time for me to say goodbye and the stiff, business format of e-mail feels inappropriate at best, offensive at worst. But oxygen deprivation has left me unable to write by hand. So...

...What you are to me? I'm a scuba diver and I see watery, jewel-tones glimmering beneath salt-eaten planks and a barnacle-crusted bow. Silver fish dart in and out of polished wood, shards of ebonite, pearwood and coral. Buried treasure tangled in seaweed and algae, gifts from the waves. Each of you precious in your own right and together a treasure beyond measure. Even the brevity of our acquaintance cannot diminish the richness of our friendship. You have the subtlety pearls, the flash of emeralds, and the value of gold.

...What am I to you? Grateful. I will turn off my computer for the last time at the end of today. In the meantime, I want you to know how profoundly touched and privileged I feel to have known you.

I take comfort in the knowledge that we are all made of stardust and therefore part of each other. This is not a theory, it's a fact. The atoms that exploded to create this universe are the very same that animate us for our short stay on earth. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. The body is no mystery. We can watch it, birth to death, eventually absorbed into the earth and recycled. But where does the energy that makes me who I am go? This is a question I am very much looking forward to having answered.

Please don't grieve. Join me in celebrating a life blessed with an embarrassment of riches. The only nuisance has been this weakling body and I will be happy to be rid of it. But I will always carry some part of you in my (cosmic) heart, and I will always be part of yours. We have touched each other's lives and I am the better for it.

So until we meet again, this is my farewell.


This body is not me.
I am not caught in this body
I am life without limit.
I have never been born and I never die.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
Manifestations from my wondrous true mind.

Since beginningless time, I have always been
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
Sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide and seek.

So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say goodbye,
say goodbye to meet again.

We meet today
we will meet together
we meet at the source in every moment,
we meet each other in all forms of life.

From Thich Nhat Hanh
The energy of prayer
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Snow Day by Dan Maurer Virtual Book Tour - Win a Kindle Fire HD!

Join Dan Maurer, author of the thriller/suspense/horror novella, Snow Day, as he tours the blogosphere July 1 - September 27, 2013 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book! This tour is part of a huge Kindle Fire HD Giveaway. If interested in signing up for a review, interview, guest post, or book spotlight, please let us know by contacting Tracee at tgleichner (at) or leave a comment below along with your contact information.

SnowDay_Maurer_BookCover_Small_LowRez_287x459_Color_FinalABOUT SNOW DAY: A NOVELLA

It happens each winter, and has for over 35 years. Every time the snow starts to fall late in the evening before a school day, the dreams begin again for Billy Stone. They are always the same – there’s a dark tunnel, and there’s blood, lots of blood, and someone is screaming. In this chilling childhood tale, Billy, recounts the events of one unforgettable day in 1975. On that day, he and his friends played carefree in the snow, until an adventure gone awry left him far from home, staring death in the face, and running from a killer bent on keeping a horrible secret. Set in a time before Amber Alerts, when horror stories were told around camp fires instead of on the nightly news, Snow Day is a blend of nostalgia and nightmare that makes us question if the good old days were really as good as we remember. From a new voice in dark fiction comes a thriller about an idyllic childhood turned horrifying; a cautionary tale about how losing sight of the difference between feeling safe and being safe can lead to deadly consequences. Free Audiobook Sample — Snow Day: Prologue Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Audible Buy Snow Day at iTunes


Dan Maurer is an independent author, publisher, theater producer, director, and digital marketer. He is also a proud member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Horror Writers Association. Throughout his career in publishing and marketing, he has been involved in the publication of bestselling titles such as John Grisham’s The Firm, Richard Price’s Clockers, and Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s Lost Moon, which became the film Apollo 13. As a digital marker, he has supported popular publishing brands including Curious George, Peterson Field Guides, and The Polar Express. He has also developed marketing strategies for many corporations, including Citizen, Dun & Bradstreet, RCN and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dan is a member of an acclaimed New Jersey-based theater company and has won awards for his producing, directing and sound design. He lives with his wife and their daughter in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
An Excerpt from Snow Day: a Novella by Dan Maurer
Copyright © 2013 by Dan Maurer. All rights reserved.
Prologue January, 1975
     Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… ”Hello?” My voice was cautious as I called into the darkness. It wasn’t my house and I had no business being down in that cellar. By the look of the boards on the windows upstairs, and the weeds that strangled the front yard, it hadn’t been anyone’s house for a long time. But still, even at ten, I knew in my bones that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. One of the windows was busted at the corner, and the cold wind whipped and whistled at the breach. Outside, a loose metal trash can rolled and rattled and knocked about with each new gust. It made a soft, distant sound. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… The only light was an old Coleman lantern that I found there. It lay at my feet, the mantle fading and sputtering. Beyond the meager glow that lit no more than my boot-tops, it gave me the terrifying certainty that someone was here, or close by, and would soon — Was that a sound? I held my breath and listened carefully, trying hard to dismiss the pounding pulse that thrummed in my ears. Was that a shuffling sound, maybe feet moving and scraping across loose dirt? “Hello…? Anyone here…?” I squinted hard but it was useless. The darkness was unyielding and oddly thick with the smell of freshly turned earth. Someone had been digging down here. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… Running into the house to hide from the police was my only option. The place should have been empty, long abandoned. But it wasn’t, and I knew now that I had to get out. I turned to leave, to run; and then I heard it, a word from the darkness. It was whispered and pitiful and — it was my name. Someone in the darkness called my name. ”B-Billy?” ”Who’s there?” I called out. ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy.” Both the voice and its stutter were familiar. Just hearing it made my guts twist. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I snatched up the lantern at my feet, recalled my scout training, and worked the pump to pressurize the kerosene. The lantern’s mantle hissed a bit, burned a little brighter, and pushed back the darkness. ”Holy shit…” The light washed over a young boy. Like me, he was just ten, and I knew his name. ”…Tommy?” It came out like a question, but it wasn’t. Tommy Schneider lived next door to me and was part of our snowball fight just a few hours before. When the light touched him, Tommy flinched and turned his shoulder, as if anticipating a blow. He shivered and folded his arms across his chest, hands tucked in his armpits. He paced and shuffled his feet in a small circle, as if his bladder was painfully full, and he whined and muttered; half to himself, half to me. “It w-wasn’t m-my fault, Billy. I…I just w-wanted to play.” His eyes were swollen and red, and the tears ran streaks through the dirt on his freckled face. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… “Tommy, what the hell are you doing down here?” ”I..I…I’m sorry, b-but I d-didn’t do nothing wrong, Billy. I’m s-sorry.” He kept his hands tucked under his armpits, but motioned with his chin. And that’s when I saw it, just a few feet from where I stood. Naked and half buried in a pile of loose earth lay the dead body of a boy that appeared to be our own age. ”Jesus Christ…what the hell, Tommy.” ”No….” His whining grew and fresh tears were coming. ”What the hell did you do?” ”Nooo…” he whined more and covered his ears. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.” Frantic now, I held out the fading lantern, quickly looking around. We were still alone. The scene before me was unfathomable. In the half-shadows of the cellar where the lantern struggled to reach, there was a pile of fresh, moist earth and broken shards of concrete. I saw some tools – a sledgehammer and a shovel, and I think a pickax, too. A few brown sacks of cement mix were piled against the wall. And there was a large hole; a gaping wound in the cellar floor that reached beneath the foundation of the house, a hole that led down into a place where the lantern’s light could not touch. Nearby, a stray boot lay in the dirt, just beyond it a gym sock, and another lay close by my feet. A faded, wadded up pair of jeans was perched at the edge of the hole. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I shivered, despite my layers of clothing and new winter coat. Tommy was freezing. He wore only jeans and a t-shirt pulled over a long-sleeved sweatshirt. His breath, like mine, fogged in the January air, and his jaw waggled helplessly from his shivering. “Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the body. At first, Tommy’s eyes followed my finger, but then he just moaned and cried some more, and turned away. I couldn’t tell if the boy on the ground was from our immediate neighborhood, or my school, or Boy Scout troop, or baseball team. It was difficult to discern much about him at all. He lay on his belly in a pile of dirt, and the loose earth covering his face and parts of his torso were, it seemed, tossed on him carelessly by whoever dug the hole. The backs of his pale white thighs glowed in the lantern’s light. The only stitch of clothing left on him was a pair of white Fruit of the Loom jockeys tangled around one ankle. I picked up one of the gym socks from the ground, pinched it into a ball and held it with the tips of my fingers. Kneeling beside the dead boy’s head, I held the lantern close with one hand and used the sock to brush the dirt from his face with the other. Like a fossil being unearthed by an archeologist, the truth came slowly. As the seconds passed, the light and each stroke of my hand brought broken, bloodied and indecipherable features into sharp focus. But the crushed and jellied eyeball put me over the edge. I jerked back from the body. ”Oh, God! Tommy, what — “ My stomach lurched. I dropped the lantern and fell backward onto the ground. Turning and scrambling away on hands and knees, I found a corner and began to wretch. My back arched and my body convulsed uncontrollably. It was the Coney Island Cyclone all over again, but this time nothing came up, only thin strands of bile dripped from my mouth and down my lips. In time, the convulsions faded. I finally rolled over and just sat there, looking at Tommy, wiping the spittle from my lips with the back of a shaky hand. My head throbbed and my mind was fuzzy. No words would come. The wind howled through the broken cellar window again. Outside, the passing cars made a distant shushing sound as they crept along Woodlawn Avenue, tires rolling through the snow and slush. My heaving, stinking breath clouded in the cold air, and Tommy just cried. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… I was ten years old and had just seen my very first real dead body – still and soulless, and battered beyond recognition – lying on the floor of a cold, dark cellar of an abandoned house. What the hell did I get myself into? Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Staggering to my feet, I picked up the lantern and held it out. ”Tommy… who did this?” My throat was dry and pained. Just as the words passed my lips, something in my mind and in my ears opened up – popped open, really, like in the cabin of an airliner during descent. That sound. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… It was different. It was continuous. It wasn’t the rattling trash can anymore. The sound came from a distance but it was there, and it was distinctive. I knew exactly who was standing impatiently, hip cocked and jaw set, banging on the lip of a dinner bell with her soup ladle. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Tommy looked at me. He heard it too and knew what it meant. ”Your Ma’s calling, Billy.” ”Who, Tommy?” ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy,” Tommy whined. “I just w-wanted to play.” ”Tommy…” ”It was ol’ George,” he finally said. “He did it. Stay away from ol’ George.” And then he started to cry again, whimpering. “I just wanted to play,” he mumbled through the tears. ‘ …just wanted to play…” Clang, clang… Clang, clang…Clang, clang

Pump Up Your Book and Dan Maurer are teaming up to give you a chance to win a new Kindle Fire HD!

Here's how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. If your blog isn't set up to accept the form, we offer another way for you to participate by having people comment on your blog then directing them to where they can fill out the form to gain more entries. This promotion will run from July 1 - September 27. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on September 28, 2013. Each blogger who participates in the Snow Day virtual book tour is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. If you would like to participate, email Tracee at tgleichner(at)  What a great way to not only win this fabulous prize, but to gain followers and comments too! Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway ------------------------------------------------------------ ADD COUNTDOWN WIDGET!

Snow Day Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, July 3 - Book reviewed at Midnight Thrillers
Monday, July 3 - Book featured at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
Monday July 3 - 1st chapter reveal at Rainy Day Reviews
Tuesday, July 4 - Book reviewed at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Tuesday, July 4 - Guest blogging at Midnight Thrillers
Wednesday, July 5 - Book featured at Mom with a Kindle
Thursday, July 6 - Guest blogging at Rainy Day Reviews
Thursday, July 6 - 1st chapter reveal at Parenting 2.0
Friday, July 7 - 1st chapter reveal at Inside BJ's Head
Friday, July 7 - Book featured at Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem
Friday, July 7 - Guest blogging at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, July 10 - 1st chapter reveal at Read 2 Review
Wednesday, July 12 - 1st chapter reveal at Book Him Danno
Friday, July 14 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Tuesday, July 18 - Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Wednesday, July 19 - Book reviewed at Sarah's Organized Chaos
Monday, July 24 - Book featured at Parenting 2.o
Monday, July 24 - Book featured at Books R Us
Tuesday, July 25 - Book featured at My Cozie Corner
Thursday, July 27 - Interviewed at Broowaha
Pump Up Your Book
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Book Blogger Hop - June 28

This week's question is:

So, would you read a book just because of the hype?

Would I? Of course, I have and will probably do it again. Sometimes I get lucky and I agree with what the popular consesus is about a book. For example, I loved The Hunger Games and Divergent, but hated Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray. I try not to put TOO much stock into what other say, but if I see a book that is being talked about EVERYWHERE, chances are I'll pick it up and give it a shot, at least at some point.  Do you have a book that was hyped and you didn't agree?  I'd love to hear!  Thanks for visiting my site:)
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Feature and Follow #6

 Gain New Blog Followers

 Here is this weeks question:

Q: What is your preferred reading format? Hardcover, eBooks, paperback etc?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Years ago I bought a Nook. It was the one I wanted at the time and I did get use out of it. I now own a Nook, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad and I do use them all (my iPad more than the others). But, with that said, nothing will ever replace the feel of a 'real' book in my hand. I read on my ereader at night before bed because it is backlit and makes it easier. But, if I am reading during the day I have a 'real' book handy. I also have a large library of books in my house and will never stop buying them...EVER. Hence the title of my site, lol! I can't wait to find out if there are people that prefer ebooks over paperback or hardcover, and why. Maybe I'm in the minority? (but I don't tink so). Happy Friday!
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Idiot of Funkyville by Ash Hoden Book Feature


What is travel? Asking this question is like asking, "What is life?" or, "Who are you?" (or, as I've frequently been asked, "Who are you?"). The answers to such questions are as numerous as the people asking. The Idiot of Funkyville: Becoming an Everywhere Citizen takes a chronological snapshot of actual personal experiences as a young and less-than-young man living and playing abroad; exploring each of the above questions in the context of a displaced American piecing himself together on foreign turf. Contained therein: perhaps an excess of sex, more than a healthy dose of drugs, and all the rock 'n' roll one can ask for. Balance is achieved as the vignettes build one on top of the next. Pondering the course of my life from the confines of a Qatari jail cell, reminiscence begins with teenage confusion at a Mexican bar and concludes with grown confusion as an expat in the Middle East. In progression, the narrowing spiral of personal growth leaves finer grained finger prints as the tales evolve through destinations and age. In theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But that's for the experts to decide. Having dismounted a train, plane, boat, or rickshaw in nearly forty countries (including Canada), The Idiot of Funkyville documents a life of travel as a point-blank portrayal of my life through travel. And who doesn't love life and travel both? Whether you've already gone or have no intention of ever, ever going near the place, wonder is universal. We all have questions. A good majority of my questions just happened to be pondered abroad.


Ash Hoden is a writer, foreign correspondent for a California-based design studio, and architect currently living, working, and writing about living and working in Qatar. His pursuits have always involved creation. He firmly believes social contribution is a fundamental requirement for a happy existence. He attended Colorado State University where he received the American Society of Landscape Architect's Honor Award for exceptional academic design work. In addition to ongoing contributions in the business world, he previously founded an independent design firm and organized CambodiaFund, a method of providing basic school supplies to Cambodian children in need. The Idiot of Funkyville is his first published book. You can visit Ash Hoden's website at

The Idiot of Funkyville Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, May 6 - 1st chapter reveal at Freda's Voice
Wednesday, May 8 - Guest blogging at Between the Covers
Friday, May 10 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Tuesday, May 14 - 1st chapter reveal at Parenting 2.0
Wednesday, May 15 - Guest blogging at Allvoices
Thursday, May 16 - Interviewed at Examiner
Monday, May 20 - Guest blogging at Books, Books, the Magical Fruit
Wednesday, May 22 - Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book
Thursday, May 23 - Interviewed at Book Marketing Buzz
Monday, May 27 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Tuesday, May 28 - Guest blogging at The Writer's Life
Thursday, May 30 - Book featured at Authors and Reader's Book Corner
Wednesday, June 5 - Interviewed at Digital Journal
Thursday, June 6 - Guest blogging at Redroom
Friday, June 7 - Interviewed at Blogher
Monday, June 10 - Interviewed at Books, Books, the Magical Fruit
Tuesday, June 11 - Guest blogging at Allvoices
Wednesday, June 12 - Book featured at Literarily Speaking
Thursday, June 13 - Book featured at Plug Your Book
Friday, June 14 - Guest blogging at My Cozie Corner
Monday, June 17 - Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Tuesday, June 18 - 1st chapter reveal at As the Pages Turn
Wednesday, June 19 - Interviewed at Between the Covers
Thursday, June 20 - Book featured at My Cozie Corner
Friday, June 21 - Guest blogging at Reading Through Life One Page at a Time
Monday, June 24 - Book featured at Beyond the Books
Tuesday, June 25 - Interviewed at Broowaha
Wednesday, June 26 - Interviewed at The Writer's Life
Thursday, June 27 - Book featured at I'm Shelf-ish
Friday, June 28 - Book reviewed at The Self-Taught Cook
Pump Up Your Book
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From the Shadow Anthology Book Review

From the Shadows
Title: From the Shadows 
Author: Numerous
Publisher: Triad 
Date Published: February 13, 2008 
Pages: 276 pages

About the Book

Embrace the darkness in this collection of stories from thirteen authors of contemporary horror. From vampires and werewolves to serial killers and supernatural places, From the Shadows will take you to a world that will frighten and delight your senses. Stories by: Jumpers (Norm Applegate), Eleven (Rebecca Benston), Night Whispers (Kathy Blaylock), The Slasher (E.W. Bradfute), A Dark Secret (April Campbell), Killing Time(Kevin Lucia), The Wooden Box (Thomas McReynolds), The Town (T.M. Mason), Blood Alley (Yvonne Mason), The Artist (Kevin Morrison), Destiny (Fran Orenstein), Bloody Mary's Sister (Sage Sinclair) and The Freeway Reaper (Nicholas Grabowsky).

My Review

 I don’t read a lot of short stories. I used to, but seem to have gotten out of the habit and I am not really sure why. So, when I had the opportunity to review this collection I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled, first and foremost, because it was my favorite genre, horror. But the other thing that is so intriguing about the world of short stories is that even if the story isn’t that great, it is over with quickly and you are on to another one. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about that this time.

This book consists of 13 scary tales…how appropriate. I have been fortunate enough to read and review books by two of the authors in the collection – Norm Applegate and Fran Orenstein. And I was pleasantly surprised at the other talent that was exhibited in the other stories as well. This collection will appeal to everyone’s fears, whether it is superstitions, vampires, cults, werewolves, or madness that lives only within your head. I am not sure if I would be able to pick a favorite, and even if I did I am sure if I read them again it would change. The Artist by Kevin Morrison reminded me of an old Vincent Price movie that if I saw it today would still scare me. The Wooden Box by Thomas McReynolds delves into madness which starts at a Grandfather’s funeral and spirals out of control. Jumpers by Norm Applegate ponders the questions, what would you wish for if you were given the opportunity? And would you use it wisely if you found out it came true? These are just some of the great stories told here. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good scare – some truly chilling and some just hinting at the terror, letting your imagination take you over the threshold and beyond. I look forward to reading some more by some of the authors included here. Great job to all of you!
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Abundance Triggers by Kanta Bosniak Book Review

Title: Abundance Triggers 
Author: Kanta Bosniak
Publisher: CreateSpace 
Date Published: August 2, 2011 
Pages: 174 pages


Most people get that “happy” is the launch pad for personal and professional success. But, where’s the “happy button?” Author, minister and coach Kanta Bosniak has made a lifetime study of state-shifting and offers readers a whole toolbox of happy buttons she calls abundance triggers.” “Abundance Triggers is a practical how-to for shifting negative thoughts and the emotions they produce to those good feelings which boost energy and support well-being. Bosniak begins with simple yet efficient physical awareness techniques and guides readers through a process of how to build their own more advanced and personalized triggers for relaxation, increased energy and sense of purpose. Once the toolbox is built, she then delves deeper into disengaging those limiting beliefs and the habitual negative emotions they generate and replacing the old sad “stories” with more resourceful ones. Bosniak also shares entertaining anecdotes and personal stories. Her writing voice is warm, conversational and engaging and the book is filled with refreshingly lighthearted and whimsical doodle art as well as creative journaling exercises to help the reader anchor and habituate a feel-good new “normal.”  

Purchase your copy at:




Tracee's Review

Over the past 10 years, my husband and I have learned to be thankful for all we have. After getting pregnant when we were told we would never have children, we learned to take the most from each day. After reading Kanta's book, I feel as if I was given a lesson plan on how to go through life and find what matters most. The exercises that are discussed are a fabulous tool for you to retrain your thought process and find out how to tap into a different part of your brain. Everyone can find something useful in this book, and to me, I know this is a book I will use as a daily tool to keep my life on the right path.  Read this book and find your 'abundance triggers'. This book is highly recommended!


Kanta Bosniak is an artist, writer and minister with over 40 years experience an educator in spiritual growth. She is a frequent speaker at churches, universities and conferences throughout the US. Venues have included Yale, Columbia, SUNY, Virginia Tech, UNCW, Camp LeJeune Midway Center for US Marines, The Association for Research and Enlightenment, Unity Churches, and many more. Kanta is the author of 12 books and 5 audio recordings and was twice Artist-in-Residence at Omega Institute. Collectors of Kanta's art include a Nobel Prize Winner, an Emmy-winning producer, a popular television actress, several authors, a U.S. National champion athlete and people of all walks of life. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women.







Abundance Triggers Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Wednesday, June 5 - 1st chapter reveal at My Devotional Thoughts
Friday, June 7 - 5 Things at Literarily Speaking
Monday, June 10 - Interviewed at Gina's Library
Tuesday, June 11 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Thursday, June 13 - 1st Chapter Reveal at Parenting 2.0
Tuesday, June 18 - Interviewed at My Cozie Corner
Wednesday, June 19 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Friday, June 21 - Book reviewed at The Dark Phantom
Monday, June 24 - Book reviewed at Thayer's Grey Matter
Tuesday, June 25 - Book featured at Authors and Reader's Book Corner
Wednesday, June 26 - Book reviewed at I'm Shelf-ish
Friday, June 28 - Book reviewed and interviewed at The True Book Addict
Pump Up Your Book
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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Softer Side of Vikings by Gina Conkle

The Softer Side of Vikings

Maybe you’re scratching your head at that.  Afterall, Vikings spent all their time raiding and pillaging, right?

True.  They did some raiding and pillage. But, they made great strides in a dark time of world history.  When you dig a little deeper, you’ll find passionate storytellers, artisans, and builders of the finest ships…and yes, even law-abiding citizens and diplomatic warriors.

There’s a lot of beauty and adventure to the Norse people, and some pretty peace loving people, too.
Case in point: Gunnar of Hlidarendi found in Njal’s Saga.

Why do I like Gunnar so much?  He was an outstanding warrior, highly skilled in combat, many say without equal in his time. He swam like a seal, jumped high even in battle gear, and never missed when he aimed bow or spear. Gunnar was also handsome, loyal, and considerate to others, and yet he disliked killing.  He preferred to use wits to solve a problem.


A Viking who’d rather use brains than brawn to settle a dispute? 


A young kinswoman, Unn, approached Gunnar.  She had inherited much wealth but lost it to another man.  Perhaps pleading youthful female stupidity, she appealed to Gunnar, “Help me recover some of the wealth I lost.”

Gunnar could’ve strapped on battle gear and charged at the Viking who swindled poor Unn.
He didn’t. He did two things that astound me.  First, he went to an older relative for advice (Njal).  That advice?  The quick summary: Dress up like a poor traveler and swindle it back.

The second astounding feat…Gunnar followed that advice. He won back much of Unn’s lost wealth, using cleverness and wits.

The hero in my book Norse Jewel reminds me of Gunnar.  Hakan, a chieftain of some renown, wants to lay down his sword and live a peaceful farmer’s life.  But, Norse Jewel’s about all the things that happen --- deceit and old loyalties --- that call upon his warrior’s ways, thus, keeping him from a quiet farm life.

And just to clarify, Gunnar was not the inspiration for Norse Jewel. I wrote Norse Jewel years ago and started reading the sagas later.  The initial spark of inspiration for my book came from the movie “Gladiator.” If you didn’t see it, Roman General Maximus Decimis Meridius tells the emperor he wants to go home and farm. At the time, I read lots of Viking history books (still do). My “what if” moment came when I pictured a Viking chieftain as the reluctant warrior.

I’m amazed by the breadth of Norse culture: their sense of democracy, the great equality women enjoyed, and their art and ship engineering.  But, for now I share with you a peek of one real warrior and one fictitious warrior.

I hope you enjoyed this quick Viking snapshot.  I welcome you to leave a comment and share your impressions of Vikings and Viking history. 

And thank you “I'm Shelf-ish” for this opportunity to be a guest on your blog.

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He saw wetness on her lashes. She turned her face to the fields, and another piece of the riddle that made Helena fell into place.
Hakan cupped her chin. His thumb stroked her scarred jaw. “Your pouch, the stone is the reason for this. Magnuson said as much.”
She nodded, sniffling and swiping at tears that rolled down her cheeks.
His thumb brushed a tender stroke over her cheek’s curving pink scar. “The stone almost cost you your life. Why?”
Hakan, with great tenderness, stroked her face. The salve had done its work: smooth, touchable skin remained. But the salve only healed skin deep wounds. Some wounds lurked deeper than the Dane’s cut. What ached beneath the surface? More fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I am a peasant maid.” Her voice quivered. “When Guerin wanted me, I felt…” Helena sniffed and chewed her lower lip. “I was suddenly important. A woman of value. Without it…”
Her vulnerable admission was a tender spot for her. Couldn’t she see her worth was higher than any stone?
His thumbs wiped away her tears. “Keep the pendant. It came at a great price. Wear it for all to see.”
Hakan took her hand in his and set the necklace in her palm. He curled her fingers over jewel and chain.
“Aye, Helena, the stone could buy more thralls. But ‘tis metal and stone. They do nothing for me.”
Her lashes, spiked with wetness, fluttered at him. Bewilderment writ on her face, he soothed his voice as if calming a babe.
He shook his head. “I’ll not trade you for that.”
“I don’t understand.” Her eyebrows knit together.
How could he explain what he didn’t fully understand? He was on shaky ground. From the corner of his eye, part of a red sail caught a strong breeze and fluttered. Selig replaced the rocks that tamped down the sail before the whole cloth blew free. The vibrant red waved at him, a banner by which he could escape explaining why he would not let her go. Hakan waved his arm at the sails drying in the meadow.
“Look what you’ve accomplished in so short a time. You promised me great talent weaving fine linens…to expand my wealth.” Hakan’s arms folded across his chest. “Strong sails for my ships. This I understand.” Tilting his hand toward the jewelry in her own, the corners of his turned down. “Stones do nothing for me.”
A thousand glittering stones couldn’t equal her worth. He stared into the depths of her blue eyes and called himself a coward for not admitting this to her.
Helena sniffed again and clutched the pendant, returning it to the leather pouch. “Is there no custom? No means to gain my freedom?” she asked, her voice hoarse with emotion.
Hakan sighed. “There are ways.”
“Mardred told me a thrall can earn her freedom after some years of service. Is this true?”
“Aye.” His arms stayed crossed, unmoving. He’d give no more.
“Then, may I strike such an agreement with you?”
“Such as?”
“I want to earn my freedom.” Her eyes pleaded with him.
Hakan shifted his stance, cagey about giving an inch. His neck and shoulders knotted.
True, many a valuable thrall gained freedom after years of service. Most stayed.
“Serve me well for seven years, Helena, and you’ll be a freewoman.”
“The time cannot be shortened?” She clasped her hands together. “Seven years,” she groaned. “So long.”
“I will not be swayed on this.”
She canted her head at him, doubt clouding her features. “But, will you keep your word, my lord?”
“What makes you doubt me? The way I’ve mistreated you?” 
Helena flinched at his sarcasm. She was not satisfied. Seven years must feel like one hundred to her. Her fingers plucked at her apron, and she kept silent. A stab, like a hot brand, hit him. This was rejection. An arm’s length from her, Hakan shut himself away as if in a distant fortress. “I require your respect. For seven years.”
Pain flashed from her eyes. She dabbed at their corners and nodded.
Hakan needed to move. He needed something to ease the itch that plagued him. He needed to keep a good distance from her. His ax leaned against the barn. He grabbed it and swung the heavy tool over his shoulder.
“I have to clear some trees,” he announced. The field did need widening, and he needed wood.
The tree line would keep him a safe distance from her, yet he could keep an eye on the longhouse. And the loom where she would sit. Hakan walked to the edge of the yard and something pushed him to needle her.
“I expect fresh bread at my table tonight. See to it.”
Her eyebrows shot up at his harsh command. He hadn’t spoken to her that way since the journey to Svea. Her body visibly bristled at his tone. He waited, and Helena bowed her head in exaggerated servitude. Hakan whistled on his way to chop wood, pleased at gaining the upper hand.
Much could happen in seven years.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Feature and Follow #5

 Gain New Blog Followers

 Here is the question of the day:

Q: Share your favorite literary quote!

I know this one has been shown so often, but it is still so true. And, considering how he is my favorite author, I thought it was fitting I choose one of his quotes.  Can't wait to see what others are chosen!
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interview with Peggy Webb, author of the Forever Friends Series


Brick and Helen Sullivan had been a team, onstage and off. When she walked out of their marriage without an explanation, he swore he’d never play another role with her, in the bedroom or otherwise. But Fate brings them together to reprise their roles in The Taming of the Shrew, and the sparks begin to fly. Laugh – and cry – as the famous and lively lovers try to untangle a web of misunderstanding and find their way back to the place where they belong. (Forever Friends, Book 1).           Only His Touch


Kathleen Shaw has lost everything – the only man she’ll ever love, the husband who had rescued and adored her, her career, and now her eyesight and hearing. She has even lost the Forever Friends because she’s too proud to call for their help. That she survived the boat explosion is a miracle. When Hunter La Farge returns to Jefferson Parish searching for her, is it too much to ask for another miracle? (Forever Friends, Book 2.)           Bringing Up Baxter


Attorney B. J. Corban’s fiancée is on their honeymoon – with another woman! When her zany sister packs her off to the mountains to get over being jilted at the altar, B. J. takes enough camping equipment to fight off mosquitoes, bears and famine. But she hadn’t counted on a heart-stealer on a Harley, appropriately called Crash. Nor had she counted on a little stray dog she calls Baxter. Crash lays claim to the dog – and her heart. She fights to keep both, but can Crash teach B. J. that to lose her heart is also to keep it?

The Interview

Why was writing Can’t Stop Loving You (Forever Friends, 1 of 4) so important to you?
I confess to a great love of Shakespeare, particularly his hilarious The Taming of the Shrew. I was mid-career when I wrote Can’t Stop Loving You, and by that time, I had the freedom to be experimental. What fun! I pulled out all the stops on this book, playing around with one of my favorite themes, second chance at love, and also being gleefully inventive with Shakespeare!
What was the writing/creative process like?
The creative process differs with each writer. In my case, every book starts with the characters. Sometimes they pop into my head unexpectedly. Other times I’ll attend an event, hear a song or see a friend that will set my creative wheels turning. Characters come to me with their names, attitudes and their baggage attached. I once heard an author say she could call her character Jane or Susan or Beth, and it was all the same to her. My muse was jumping up and down, stamping her foot and shouting, NO! My characters are my friends. I wouldn’t dare change who they are. Once the characters are firmly entrenched in my mind, I write a bare-bones synopsis, sometimes a mere paragraph or two, and then sit down at my computer to let them lead me through the story. I’m a seat-of-the pants writer with a great fondness for surprise. Just when I think I know where a story is headed, my characters will do something unexpected that knocks my socks off!
How did you come up with the title?
Do you remember Ray Charles singing that great song, “I Can’t Stop Loving You?” I’m a sucker for music of all kinds, particularly blues. As you know, titles can’t be copyrighted, and Can’t Stop Loving You was ready made for Helen and Brick Sullivan, the team of actors who warred and wooed onstage and off.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was born a writer and knew from the time I was ten that I would someday see my books in print. I’d sit in the hayloft on the farm where I grew up, writing poetry and stories that I now know were Gothic. I continued to write throughout my childhood. By the time I was in high school, I had the thrill of seeing my poetry published in a National Anthology of High School Poetry. Several years, a marriage and two children later, I wrote a monthly humor column that appeared in two international trade magazines. More than 200 humor columns later, I turned my pen to romance and saw my first book published 1985. That little book, Taming Maggie, took the number one spot on romance bestseller lists and garnered a Best-selling New Author award from Waldenbooks.
What books do you believe influenced you in your life?
I have been greatly influenced by the short stories of fellow Mississippian and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Eudora Welty. Her short story, “Why I Live at the PO,” is one of the funniest I’ve ever read. I was born with a funny bone, and would like to think that someday a reader will say of me, “Peggy Webb’s romantic comedies and comedic mysteries made me laugh so hard I cried.” I am also in love with the lyrical prose of Pat Conroy, Alice Hoffman and Elizabeth Berg. Their books speak to the music in my soul. If I can achieve that sort of beauty in The Sweetest Hallelujah, my literary fiction novel written under the pen name Elaine Hussey, I will turn cartwheels under a full moon. But not while the neighbors are watching! They already think somebody needs to get the net to me.
How much influence did you have in the cover of your book? Did you initially have a different idea of how it would look?
Kim Van Meter is the cover designer for my Forever Friends series. All I have to do is give her a general idea of what I want, and she creates these amazing covers! I have final approval, but rarely do I make any changes. I think she reads my mind!
Can you describe a typical day for you?
The days I cherish most are those when my dogs and I hang out in the kitchen while I make breakfast, then head to my front porch or one of my glorious gardens to eat while we watch the birds. Afterward, they stay in the garden to play while I sit at my desk to write, a cup of coffee nearby and a CD of Native American flutes playing. The doggie babies come back inside for my lunch break and their treats, and then I’m back at the computer, tapping away while my characters lead me through the story. I like to spend at least five hours a day writing. But sometimes, I get caught up in the business end with promotion/travel/booksigning/speaking. Then I stay at the computer as long as it takes to meet a deadline, sometimes eight, ten, twelve hours a day. I’m happy to say that in a career that spans nearly 30 years, I’ve never missed a deadline.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Play my baby grand piano, sing in my church choir, putter in my gardens, sit on the front porch with a good book, visit with family and friends. I’m not much of a shopper, though I do like fancy shoes and pink lipstick as much as any girly girl you’ll meet.
What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My family and friends are my biggest fans! My family is enormously proud, and friends say reading one of my books is the same as sitting down to visit me. Still, I’m so happy that to friends I’m still the same Peggy, to my children I’m simply Mom, and to my grandkids I’m just Gigi.
What do you think is more important – a good plot, or good characters? Why did you choose the one you did?
My books are character-driven. I try to make my characters so real that readers will cheer for them, root for them and cry for them. If I can achieve that, I consider the book a success. But I don’t discount a good plot, particularly in mystery, thriller and romantic suspense. Much of the lure in those genres depends on a plot that leaves the reader breathless. Dangerous Desires (coming July 2 for .99) is a prime example. In this boxed set of six full length books and two novellas, there is never a let-up in action. CJ Lyon and Debra Webb weave plots that scare your pants off. V.R. Marks will have you on the edge of your seat. Vicki Hinze, Kathy Carmichael, Regan Black and I grab hold of the heart and don’t let go as we propel the characters through a fast-paced romantic suspense plot. Still, when I think of books, the characters always come to mind first – Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs), Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind), Jess Harris (Obsession), Helen and Brick (Can’t Stop Loving You), and Billie and Miss Queen from my alter ego Elaine Hussey (The Sweetest Hallelujah). Thank you so much for letting me stop by to chat!


When her sister B.J. asks Maxie to be godmother to her son, the zany interior designer is happy to comply – until she learns she will be sharing god-parenthood with Mr. Perfect. Lawyer Joseph Beuregard is successful, drop-dead handsome and lethally sexy. There are only two problems: he’s the cause of Maxie’s Most Embarassing Moment and he’s B.J.’s brother-in-law. Maxie ruins every man she touches. She’s not about to follow her heart and in the process destroy her sister’s family. Besides, she and Joe can’t even see eye to eye on the christening party. How could they ever have a relationship? But Joe has other ideas. Can two people so totally opposite give their godson the best party in the world and find true love?



Peggy WebbPeggy Webb, author of 70 novels and 2 screenplays, lives in a cottage in Mississippi surrounded by gardens she designed and planted.  A musician and actress as well as writer, she sings in her church choir and has sung in musicals at Tupelo Community Theater as well as played dramatic roles in Steel Magnolias and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She started her career in 1985 with a romantic comedy that took the number one spot on romance bestseller lists. Romantic Times presented her with the prestigious Pioneer Award in recognition for her contribution to romantic comedy.  Peggy is currently bringing the best of her romantic comedies back to fans as eBooks. In 2008 she  turned her talents to mystery with the hilarious Southern Cousins series starring Elvis, the sleuthing basset hound who thinks he’s the King reincarnated. This multi-talented author also pens literary fiction as Anna Michaels and Elaine Hussey. Pat Conroy calls her literary work “astonishing” and former Disney exec Kathie Fong Yoneda calls it “brilliant.” The author composed the blues lyrics that appear throughout her literary novel, The Sweetest Hallelujah, Elaine Hussey, due in bookstores July 30, 2013. To learn more about this bestselling, award-winning author, visit her websites at and       

The Forever Friends Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, June 3 - Book featured and First chapter reveal at Faerotic Prose
Wednesday, June 5 - Book featured at Miki's Hope
Monday, June 10 - Book featured at Bookingly Yours
Monday, June 10 - Book reviewed at Rainy Day Reviews
Thursday, June 13 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Monday, June 17 - Book featured at Authors and Readers Book Corner
Monday, June 17 - Book reviewed at Books+Beach=Escape
Tuesday, June 18 - Interviewed at Herding Cats & Burning Soup
Wednesday, June 19 - Book featured at I'm Shelf-Ish
Friday, June 21 - Interviewed at Examiner
Monday, June 24 - Book featured at Confessions of a Reader
Tuesday, June 25 - Book reviewed at Janna Shay
Thursday, June 27 - Book featured at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, June 27 - Guest blogging and First chapter reveal at Queen of the Night Reviews
Friday, June 28 - Bringing Up Baxter reviewed and Guest blogging at Melina the Reader
Pump Up Your Book
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