First Herd to Abilene: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

An H. H. Lomax Western, #5
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 449

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HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

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Review

Four Stars

First Herd to Abilene is the fifth book in this series featuring the hilarious exploits of H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax, one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the pages of a western novel. If you’ve never read any of the previous entries into the outrageous circumstances and succession of adventures that puts H.H. at the confluence of every major event to ever be recorded about the Old West, don’t worry. Author Preston Lewis revisits those earlier escapades in Chapter One, while at the same time laying the groundwork for what is yet to come.

Lewis contends that he came across Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University, and though he “can’t vouch for their veracity,” these tales of encounters with the likes of Billy the Kid, Jessie James, Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and George Armstrong Custer (to name just a few) are told with such insightful historical detail as well as wit and humor that readers will find themselves totally engaged. “While some may question his credentials as a credible chronicler of the occurrences Lomax claims to have witnessed, no one can doubt his abilities as a humorous story-teller of the first rank.”

First Herd to Abilene takes Henry Harrison Lomax from the end of the Civil War to three years past the turn of the century and, as in the earlier volumes, allows Lomax to weave another yarn about his encounters with some of the most memorable characters in the history of the Old West, folks such as James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jessie Chisolm and Joseph G. McCoy.”

It begins with Lomax grousing about his disdain for all Texans, “a breed whose stupidity, greed, and depravity was exceeded only by that of politicians and lawyers.” His bitterness is really the result of a later tragedy, but at the outset of the book he begrudges Texans for making a fortune in the cattle industry while he “received nary a cent for all the hard work I put in and all risks I took to chart the course to Kansas.” Additionally,  Lomax feels slighted by Joseph G. McCoy, the entrepreneur who had the vision of transporting cattle by rail to Easterners starving for beef, but fails to give Lomax recognition and historical credit for being the first to blaze a trail from Texas to the stockyards and railheads in Abilene. That credit went to Jessie Chisolm, “an old coot who never traversed the route from Kansas to South Texas and back.”

It’s this bitterness that sets the tone for probably the most serious storyline of all the books in the series, with much of its 449 pages describing what it was like to be a part of the great cattle drives that defined this era in history. The arduous challenge of herding longhorn cattle over 700 miles from Texas to Kansas required months of backbreaking monotonous work that pitted cattlemen against the elements, disease, wild animals, hostile terrain, Indian attacks, and rustlers. It meant months of breathing in trail dust as well as the foul odors of the livestock, going without much sleep, eating the same food day-in day-out, no gambling or drinking, and very little human contact except between fellow trail riders… all of which grated on nerves and frequently resulted in the deaths of both man and beast. Preston Lewis certainly intersperses Lomax’s typical humor into this portrayal of a cowhand’s life, but he does so in a manner that doesn’t negate or gloss over the difficulties faced along the way.

Besides Lomax and the iconic historical figures mentioned above, Lewis creates a cast of characters that brings these hardships to life. Madlyn Dillon, an artist who has been spoiled and pampered her entire life, but the first Texan, male or female, to take an interest in Lomax and Joseph G. McCoy’s vision. Colonel Saul Dillon, her father. The Texas cattleman puts his trust in Lomax to get his cattle to Kansas and save his ranch. Ruth, orphaned by the Comanche but taken in and employed by Colonel Dillon. She falls in love with Lomax in an ill-fated relationship. Sainty Spencer, the ranch foreman who is sweet on Madlyn, and as trail boss is trusted to bring back the cash from the sale of the cattle in Abilene. Charlie Bitters, the cook, second in importance only to the trail boss, but whose cooking for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War is said to have led to its defeat. Jose Munoz and Pedro Ramirez, Mexican hands that will tend to the remuda during the trail drive. Martin Michaels, a sketch artist on the side and the first cowhand hired, and Tom Errun, an Englishman with no experience pared up with Michaels to lead the herd. Silas Banty, a former slave, who looks to the future with optimism and learns to read from Lomax. Toad Beeline, little understood by his fellow trailhands because he tends to mumble when he speaks. He and Silas are assigned to ride flank. Trent Parsons, a former Confederate soldier wounded at Shiloh who spends his spare time with the Good Book, and Jurdon Mark, an affable sort who excels at the game of marbles, will ride swing. Lastly, Harry Dire, a skilled roper but a malcontent, Chuck Muscher, a Yankee troublemaker, and Bartholomew Henry O’Henry, another former slave angry about his past with a mean streak in him, will all be assigned to ride drag which only adds to their alienation and seditious attitudes. Their actions bode ill for the success of the cattle drive.

Bookending this description of the cattle drive and the fate of these characters is the story of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane told as only H.H. Lomax can, again putting himself right smack dab in the middle of the action over a span of years that begins in Springfield, Missouri and ends on that fateful day in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. But what does a “Rattle Jar,” head lice, an illicit game of poker at the library,  a stolen gold Waltham watch, cherry pie, an impromptu lynching, counterfeit wanted posters, and the “romance” between Wild Bill and Miss Martha Jane Canary and their final resting place  have to do with that narrative? For those insights, you really do need to read the book. In fact, once you do, I highly recommend that you go back and read the entire series. You won’t be disappointed!

Finally, to give a complete review of First Herd to Abilene, I need to mention errors in editing that I had not encountered in Lewis’ previous books. I seldom comment on SPAGs, but readers will undoubtedly come across them in the course of reading the novel. Preston Lewis is a great storyteller and a deserving winner of the Spur Award for western literature, but this book would have benefitted from a final edit before publication.

That said, as someone who once wrote that the “western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media,” I can definitely say that Preston Lewis’ books are the exception, helping keep western literature alive, vibrant, relevant and entertaining.

I received a free copy of First Herd to Abilene in exchange for my honest review.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

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4/28/20
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4/29/20
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4/30/20
Author Interview
5/1/20
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Scrapbook Page
5/3/20
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5/4/20
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5/5/20
Author Interview
5/6/20
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For Spacious Skies: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

FOR SPACIOUS SKIES
KATHERINE LEE BATES AND THE INSPIRATION FOR “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”
by
Nancy Churnin
illustrated by Olga Baumert

Picture Book Biography / Women’s Suffrage / Woman Poet
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Date of Publication: April 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 32

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As a little girl growing up during the Civil War, Katharine Lee Bates grew up to become a poet, professor, and social activist. She not only wrote “America the Beautiful” but gave this anthem to America as a gift. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a suffragist who stood up for a woman’s right to vote and lived to cast her ballot in presidential elections, Katharine believed in the power of words to make a difference. In “America the Beautiful,” her vision of the nation as a great family, united from sea to shining sea, continues to uplift and inspire us all.




PRAISE for For Spacious Skies: 
“Churnin tells that story in a spare and lively text beautifully complemented by double-page spreads highlighting Baumert’s gorgeous panoramic illustrations . . . A handsome volume befitting its subject.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“The story ends on a high note in 1920, with Bates casting her ballot after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted voting rights to women . . . The richly colored, nicely composed artwork will help children visualize the period setting while enjoying the portrayals of Bates and beautiful landscapes. A picture-book biography of a notable American.”—Booklist
 
“Nancy Churnin has written a delightful book that helps children understand the many dimensions of my great-aunt Katharine Lee Bates. This book does an excellent job conveying her ardent passion for equal rights and for her country. She was a poet, a professor, and a world traveler, but she was first and foremost a citizen who loved America, in all its beauty and diversity.”—Katharine Lee Holland

 

 

Guest Post by Nancy Churnin

There’s so much confusion and conflict about what patriotism is. One reason I wanted to write about Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote one of our most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful,” is that she goes to the heart of what patriotism truly is. Her scrupulously sculpted words are not just about how beautiful America is, but how beautiful America can be if we crown our good “with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.” To me, that is true patriotism—not just loving your country, but helping your country live up to her ideals of equality and kindness. Katharine was a little girl during the Civil War, when Americans hated and hurt each other during conflict and for years afterward.

A minister’s daughter and fierce advocate for help and support for the poor as well as equal rights for women, she gave the song to America for free, as a gift, hoping to inspire fellow Americans to see themselves as part of one inclusive family. Most people don’t know the name Katharine Lee Bates, and I wanted kids to know the name of this extraordinary woman who refused to accept the limitations that women were given in her time and went on to get an education, become a poet and professor, live an independent life in a world of women, and leave the world a better place.

I am also thrilled to pay tribute to her this year, the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. People have many ways of standing up for equal rights, and those different ways deserve to be acknowledged and honored. Katharine Lee Bates spoke up, but she also relied, more than anything, on the power of her pen.

Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies with a ninth due in 2021. 
 
Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick that will be featured at the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in May. The William Hoy Story, a Texas 2X2 pick, has been on multiple state reading lists. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. 
 
Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master’s from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats. 

Website ║  Blog ║ Facebook  ║ Twitter ║ Instagram

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ONE WINNER receives signed copies of both For Spacious Skies and Beautiful Shades of Brown 
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April 16-26, 2020

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4/16/20
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4/16/20
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4/17/20
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4/17/20
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4/18/20
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4/19/20
Author Interview
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4/21/20
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4/25/20
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Why Do We Read Books?

The answer to that question is as varied as individual preferences and literary genres. As a young boy, my tastes tended towards adventure stories. I saw myself as a Knight of the Round Table, a buccaneer or pirate roaming the high seas, an explorer in deepest darkest Africa, a defender at the Alamo. The descriptions of far away places, heroic deeds, and narratives about mythical kingdoms and creatures fueled my imagination.

As I grew older, the power of the written word translated into thoughts and emotions about the human condition. I learned details about history and insights into other people’s lives that caused me to view things from different perspectives, and my awareness of the world past and present built a sense of community and empathy with different cultures, languages, religions, social situations and mores. It opened me up to the connection that we have with one another in spite of our differences and the shared manner in which we handle life’s challenges. The expression of this commonality can be found in flowery language or gritty realism, beautiful and captivating imagery, deeply personal pain and suffering, the triumph over adversity, or in the extraordinary nature of commonplace things.

My love of literature led me to a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Texas A&M University, and more recently to write books of my own. My first book Silver Taps looks at death, suffering and growth, the importance of family in healing, past regrets, faith… a very personal reaction to my father’s passing. If you’ve suffered loss because of the ongoing COVID-19 virus, I cannot claim to know what you’re going through, but my thoughts and emotions might mirror your own or perhaps help you out of such an emotionally significant event. My second book Palo Duro hearkens back to my love of westerns. It looks at westward expansion and the Southern Plains Indian Wars. It is an ode to a genre that is fading from public consciousness, and a tribute to the the individual ruggedness that forged this nation. My latest book Tarnished Brass is based on my experiences in El Salvador during its ten-year civil war. It looks at America’s involvement in that war and how our immigration and border issues and the rise of the brutal street gang MS-13 evolved from this conflict.

Books can be the pathway that lessens our isolation from one another and in these uncertain times that bond is essential. Obviously, I’d love to have you as one of my readers, and should you choose to do so, I’d very much appreciate your feedback by providing comments on this website or by writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Most importantly, I encourage you to read! Today many of our libraries and book stores are closed to the public but are finding ways to offer curbside service or availability of books online. Virtual book club meetings and readings are ongoing. Podcasts allow authors to discuss their books, and social media platforms offer blog tours of the latest releases. Support them all if you can. You’re sure to find something to your liking that will ease your social isolation and lift your spirits.

Christian Faith and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Oberammergau

The Thirty Year’s War fought between German Protestant states and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1618-1648 forever altered the balance of power in Europe, but the more immediate impact to the small villages and citizens throughout the countryside was the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. Especially hard hit was the Bavarian village of Oberammergau where one in four residents died from the “black death.”

Legend has it that the surviving citizens met within the parish church to petition God to spare them if they promised to perform the Passion Play, enacting Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, every 10th year in perpetuity. After the pledge it is said that no one else in the village died.

The first performance of the play occurred in 1634 and the villagers have steadfastly maintained their promise ever since. And while Passion Plays are performed regularly throughout the world, Oberammergau is the only place where the play is the result of a sacred vow.

There have been a few disruptions in these performances, notably during both WWI and WWII when war related casualties resulted in insufficient male participants. However, missed dates have resulted in postponements, not cancellations. This year’s performance would have been the 42nd time the play has been staged, but the pandemic that is currently ravaging Germany and the world has led to a two year postponement. There are currently no COVID-19 cases in Oberammergau, but on Palm Sunday there were 91,000 infections with over 1,300 deaths throughout the country, and local infection was believed to be just a matter of time.

Oberammergau is adjusting to a new reality. Like churches throughout the world, all religious services have been cancelled. These closures are particularly difficult for the faithful who would normally be celebrating the entirety of Holy Week culminating with Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 12th.

In times like these people desperately seek hope and redemption, and empty churches on the holiest day of the Christian calendar are worrisome. But faith is not defined by empty pews resulting from the need for social distancing. It is a belief in the divinity of Christ Jesus and his resurrection. However dire the circumstances, God is with us wherever we are. Celebrate Easter in your heart, and just as the villagers in Oberammergau will one day resume their pledge to perform the Passion Play, so will churches again be a place of fellowship and worship.

Have a Blessed Easter and stay safe. “This Too Shall Pass.”

Destiny’s Way: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

DESTINY’S WAY
A Novel of the Big Bend
by
Ben H. English
Historical Fiction / Suspense
Publisher: Creative Texts Publishers
Date of Publication: January 18, 2020
Number of Pages: 363
 

Kate Blanchard woke up one morning in a dream home she could no longer afford, with a young son who needed a man’s influence, and not a friend among those who had claimed to be prior to her husband’s mysterious disappearance.

About all she had left was a ramshackle ranch along Terlingua Creek, sitting forlornly in the desolate reaches of the lower Big Bend. It was the only place left she could go. There she finds a home and a presence of something strange yet comforting that she can’t put her finger on or fully understand.

With that ethereal presence comes Solomon Zacatecas, a loner with his own past and a knowledge of her land near uncanny in nature. He helps her when no one else can and is honest when no one else will be, but she suspicions that he is not always completely so.

Yet her quiet, unassuming neighbor proves to be more than capable in whatever situation arises. That includes when standing alone against those who would take everything else that Kate had, including her life as well as her son’s.



PRAISE FOR DESTINY’S WAY:

“This is one of those rare books that you simply can’t put down. Ben English ‘s writing style is pure magic. He really brings this historical fiction book to life. Immediately, you are drawn to the main characters Kate and Solomon and feel as though you are right there next to them, experiencing what they are experiencing. Destiny’s Way is one that would do well on the Silver Screen.”
Catherine Eaves, published author“Ben does a superb job with this book! Excellent characters, true-to-life environment that is part and parcel of the story, twists and turns enough to make you wonder what is going on, and a slice of life down in Big Bend that rings true. That area has historically been full of ‘characters’ throughout its history, and Ben brings those characters into the book, raising the hair on the back of your neck. Highly recommended!”
J. L. Curtis, author of the Grey Man series“Ben, I love how your words and your memories reach out and connect the past with the present and touch so many people along the way. You are the connector! Bravo Zulu, my friend.”
Matt Walter, Museum of the Big Bend Curator

 

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GuestPost

Dreamers and Castaways of the Big Bend

Guest Post by Ben English

image001

“Surrounded by the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert, it also marked the end of the line for the ancient, crumbling remains of the Ouachitas. Even mountains die, given enough time, and the Ouachitas were slowly dissolving away, decaying relics mastered by other ranges that rose up and reached for the heavens hundreds of millions of years later.

This collision with far younger mountains, as well as those of the Sierra Madre Oriental from Old Mexico, made for geological strata and anomalies not found anywhere else on the North American continent. They say that when God finished making the world, He took everything left over and deposited it in the Big Bend. When one took inventory of what was there, that whimsical adage took on a dimensionally larger meaning. For here lay mysteries upon mysteries compounded by time, nature, and human imagination.

Different? Yes, almost in a forbidding way. But this sphinxlike, timeworn place had called out to her with the bewitching song of a desert siren. At first, she had very much been a stranger in a strange land. But here she had stayed and found a temporary home, providing solace for broken dreams and near-broken hearts.”

These are the lines that help introduce the main female character in Destiny’s Way. Kate is a strong-willed woman who has faced a great deal of tragedy and disappointment in her life and coming to the lower Big Bend was her instinct when the world seemed set against her. Or worse, could have cared less.

This country can mend a heart or just as easily break one, some would say the latter comes easier. I have seen it go both ways repeatedly, and often a person has no real idea of their fate until the moment they see sunshine or shipwreck.

It is the land of broken dreams, dotted by the remnants of those dreams going back through the centuries.

And those desert sirens keep singing out, bringing both hope and doom to the castaway dreamers who seek them.

My beautiful picture

“The more she went, the more that ranch and the old headquarters pulled at her heart and spoke to her innermost soul. The thick, stucco-covered adobe walls had seen a lot of days under the West Texas sky. They had sheltered past occupants from the blistering heat of summer, the cold winds of winter, and everything else in between. Now they protected Kate from the increasingly topsy-turvy world outside and gave respite to her loneliness and growing uncertainty.

The discolored tin roof covering those thick walls had done the same. It not only served to shield from the sun but also collected rainwater to supply the cistern out back. The dog-run, now screened in, provided a place for rest when the house itself was too warm for comfort. It was situated to catch the slightest summer breeze, and the wide porches with morning glories spiraling up goat-proof fencing further cooled the desert drafts.”

This excerpt is part of a discourse about an old adobe house that figures prominently in the plot for Destiny’s Way. People have started asking me about that place after reading the book, wanting to know more about it. Like most every other structure or terrain feature mentioned it exists even today, though in a substantially different form.

The photograph was taken by my mother circa 1967, my younger brother Lyndon and I are sitting on a couple of half-broke horses our grandfather gave us. Note the hackamores and the old Texas-style saddles that make up our gear.

This original headquarters, much like the ethereal presences that make up part of the novel, figures large into the background of both photograph and story. We lived in that house when we first came to the ranch and I got to know it well. Many of the incidents involving this place as described in the book actually occurred.

And yes, my entire family considered the house haunted, and for good reason. Yet like the presence described in Destiny’s Way, we also knew it never meant us any real harm.

Destiny’s Way is a work of fiction, but there are many past remembrances captured within its pages.

Ben H. English is an eighth-generation Texan who grew up in the Big Bend. At seventeen he joined the Marines, ultimately becoming a chief scout-sniper as well as a platoon sergeant. Later he worked counterintelligence and traveled to over thirty countries. 
 
At Angelo State University he graduated Magna Cum Laude along with other honors. Afterwards Ben had a career in the Texas Highway Patrol, holding several instructor billets involving firearms, driving, and defensive tactics.
 
His intimate knowledge of what he writes about lends credence and authenticity to his work. Ben knows how it feels to get hit and hit back, or being thirsty, cold, wet, hungry, alone, or exhausted beyond imagination. Finally, he knows of not only being the hunter but also the hunted.
 
Ben and his wife have two sons who both graduated from Annapolis. He still likes nothing better than grabbing a pack and some canteens and heading out to where few others venture.

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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

4/2/20
Guest Post
4/2/20
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4/3/20
Review
4/4/20
Excerpt
4/5/20
Top 15 List
4/6/20
Review
4/7/20
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4/8/20
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4/9/20
Author Interview
4/10/20
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Execution in E: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

EXECUTION IN E
A Gethsemane Brown Mystery,
Volume 5 
by
Alexia Gordon
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press
Date of Publication: March 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 252

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 
Romance is in the air. Or on the ‘gram, anyway.
 
When an influencer-turned-bridezilla shows up at the lighthouse to capture Insta-perfect wedding photos designed to entice sponsors to fund her lavish wedding, Gethsemane has her hands full trying to keep Eamon from blasting the entire wedding party over the edge of the cliff.
 
Wedding bells become funeral bells when members of the bride’s entourage start turning up dead. Frankie’s girlfriend, Verna, is pegged as maid-of-honor on the suspect list when the Garda discover the not-so-dearly departed groom was her ex and Gethsemane catches her standing over a body.
 

Gethsemane uncovers devilish dealings as she fights to clear Verna, for Frankie’s sake. Will she find the killer in time to save Frankie from another heartbreak? Or will the photos in her social media feed be post-mortem?

 

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER THREE

OF EXECUTION IN E

BY ALEXIA GORDON

A drink felt in order after her face-off with the happy couple from hell. Gethsemane extracted a half-hearted promise from Eamon not to blast Sunny, Ty, or their entourage with orbs, grabbed her vintage Pashley Parabike, and pedaled to the Mad Rabbit. She spied Frankie Grennan sitting with Verna and her younger sister, Vivian, in a booth at the back. Frankie waved her over. “I haven’t seen much of you this past week,” he said. “I haven’t seen much of you this past week.” She winked at Verna. Frankie blushed as red as his hair. “Frankie’s been teaching me about roses,” Verna said. Frankie, a keen amateur rosarian, had recently won a gold medal in the International Rose Hybridizers’ Association’s Thirteenth Annual Rose and Garden Show for his hybrid rose, ‘Sandra Sechrest.’ “You should see what he’s done with the old rose garden up at Carnock. You wouldn’t recognize it. It looks like a spread from Irish Garden magazine.” Gethsemane’s hand moved unconsciously to touch the scar on her forehead. Carnock, a desolate hill, better known by the locals as Golgotha, housed the remains of an abandoned insane asylum. Gethsemane’s first mystery had nearly been her last when the killer attacked her and set the asylum on fire with Gethsemane in it. The scar was a souvenir of the encounter. She never imagined the tangled brambles that covered the hill could ever be anything but an unredeemable mess of twisted canes and dangerous thorns, but Frankie uncovered the remnants of the rose garden planted when the asylum first opened and had used his award-winning horticultural skills to rehabilitate it. He gave Gethsemane a sneak peek of the work in its early stages, but she hadn’t yet seen the finished garden. “‘Fearless Brown’ is doing well,” Frankie said. “Not that I’d expect anything less from a rambler named for Dunmullach’s most intrepid transplant.” “Thank you for naming a rose after me, Frankie,” Gethsemane said. “By the way, ‘Fearless’ is a much better nickname than ‘Sissy.’” She made a face at the ridiculous sobriquet her family saddled her with decades ago and her friends in Dunmullach insisted on using to tease her, “so if you want to start calling me ‘Fearless’ instead…” “And miss seeing you cringe every time someone calls you ‘Sissy’? Not a chance.” Frankie winked. A waitress came over to take their orders. Their drinks arrived and they enjoyed them while chatting about the upcoming school term and about Vivian’s, a flutist, doctoral program at University College Cork. Gethsemane, Bushmills 21 in hand, glanced up from the conversation as the pub door opened. She paused mid-sip as the wedding photographer stepped inside. Frankie noticed her stare. “You know him?” “We’ve met.” She turned back to the sisters and tried to resume the conversation. Too late. Verna had noticed him, too. She paled and her hand shook as she set her drink on the table. Frankie put an arm around her shoulders. “Vern?” Vivian swore and jumped up. Her purse spilled to the floor. Its contents rattled and clattered as they rolled under the table.

“He’s with them. D’you want me to ask him to go?” Verna motioned her back into her seat. “Please don’t cause a scene, Viv.” “Who is he?” Frankie asked. “The photographer,” Gethsemane said, “for, you know…” “Ty Lismore,” Verna said. “You can say his name.” Vivian mimed spitting. “I’ll say he can burn in hell. As can the rest of that bunch.” “You know I’d never pressure you, Vern,” Frankie said. “Lord knows there are a few names from my past that won’t cross my lips except under duress. But the way you reacted when you saw him here a couple of weeks ago—” “Who was Ty Lismore to me?” Verna stifled a sob. Vivian reached across the table and laid a hand on hers. “The love of my life, the man I wanted to father my children, the gobshite who ripped out my heart and stomped on it.” Tears tracked down her cheeks.

 

 A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in North Chicago, IL. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories.

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Out of the Embers: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

OUT OF THE EMBERS
MESQUITE SPRINGS, BOOK ONE
by
Amanda Cabot
Historical Fiction / Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Number of Pages: 336

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Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.


At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.

PRAISE FOR OUT OF THE EMBERS:

Out of the Embers is part prairie romance, part romantic suspense. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a book more. Amanda Cabot has written an intriguing, chilling mystery and she winds it through the pages of a sweet romance in a way that made me keep turning the pages fast to see what was going to happen next. An absolutely excellent read. And now I’m hungry for oatmeal pecan pie!” 

Mary Connealy, author of Aiming for Love, book #1 in the Brides of Hope Mountain series
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE, PART THREE FROM

OUT OF THE EMBERS

BY AMANDA CABOT

Click to read part one, previously featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Click to read part two, previously featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours

One Friday, December 21, 1855

As they rounded the final bend in the road, the cause of the smoke was all too clear. The light from the almost full moon revealed the ashes and rubble that were all that was left of the building that had been Evelyn’s home for the past ten years. She stared at the blackened foundation, trying to make sense of something that made no sense. Well aware of the danger fire posed to a frame structure, Mrs. Folger was vigilant about safety. Yet, despite her caution, something had happened. The orphanage was gone.

So were its inhabitants. There should be close to two dozen children swarming around, yet Evelyn saw nothing more than a few men. Though her heart was pounding so violently that she feared it would break through her chest at the realization that she’d lost her home, she clung to the hope that Mrs. Folger and the children had escaped and had been taken in by some of the town’s residents. If not . . .

The possibility was too horrible to consider. Her mother had told her not to borrow trouble, and Evelyn wouldn’t. Instead, she’d ask the men what had happened. Surely everyone had been saved. But though she tried to convince herself that she would be reunited with the matron and the other orphans, in her heart she knew that was one prayer that would not be answered.

Evelyn bit the inside of her cheek, determined not to let Polly see her fears. But she failed, for the child began to tremble.

“What happened to the ’nage?” Though Polly’s diction was far better than one would have expected from the shabby clothing she’d worn when she was abandoned, whoever had taught her hadn’t included “orphanage” in her vocabulary.

Evelyn wrapped her arms around Polly and willed her voice to remain steady as she said, “It’s gone.” And, if what she feared was true, so were Mrs. Folger and the children who had been her family.

As she descended the small hill and approached the front drive, Evelyn saw that the men were wandering around the yard, their casual attitude belying the gravity of the situation.

“Ain’t no one left,” one called to the others, his voice carrying clearly through the still night air. “Smoke musta got ’em.”

No. Oh, dear God, no. It couldn’t be true, and yet it was. Once again, she had lost everyone she loved, everyone except the girl who clung to her, her own fear palpable. Once again, it was night. Once again, she was powerless to change anything, but at least this time it had been an accident.

Evelyn shuddered and said a silent prayer that Polly wouldn’t realize the extent of the tragedy. Somehow, she would protect her. Somehow, she would help her recover from all that they had lost in this terrible accident.

“Can’t figger it out,” another man chimed in. “Who woulda wanted to do ’em in? No mistakin’ them kerosene cans, though. Somebody set the fire.”

Evelyn gasped, feeling as though she’d been bludgeoned, and for a second everything turned black. The fire wasn’t an accident. Someone had deliberately destroyed the orphanage, planning to kill everyone inside. Including her.

Where is she?” The memory of the voice that still haunted Evelyn’s dreams echoed through her brain, shattering the fragile peace Mrs. Folger’s assurances had created. Tonight proved that she wasn’t safe, not even here. Someone wanted to kill the last of the Radcliffes.

Why? That was the question no one had been able to answer ten years ago, the question that had kept Evelyn from leaving the sanctuary the orphanage had promised. Now that promise was shattered.

She closed her eyes as fear and sorrow threatened to overwhelm her. The life she had built was gone, destroyed along with the building that had been her refuge and the people who had become her family. Oh, God, what should I do?

The response was immediate. Leave.

It was the only answer. She could do nothing for Mrs. Folger and the others, but she could—and she would—do everything in her power to give Polly a safe future. The question was where they should go. Evelyn stared at the stars for a second, then nodded. Gilmorton, the one place she would not consider, was east. Resolutely, she headed west.

“What happened?” Polly asked again, her voice far calmer than Evelyn would have expected. Either the child was too young to understand the magnitude of what had happened, or she’d experienced so much tragedy in her life that she was numb.

“We need a new home.” For the first time, Evelyn gave thanks that Polly had formed no strong attachments to anyone other than her. That would make her transition to a new life easier. While grief had wrapped its tendrils around Evelyn’s heart, squeezing so tightly that she had trouble breathing, Polly seemed to be recovering from her initial shock.

“Okay.” Though the child tightened her grip on Evelyn’s arm, her trembling had stopped. “Where are we going?”

“It’ll be a surprise.” At this point, Evelyn had no idea where she and Polly would find their next home. All she knew was that it had to be far from here, far from whoever had set the fire, far from the Watcher.

Polly was silent for a moment before she said, “It’s okay, Evelyn. You’ll be my mama, and you’ll find me a new daddy.”

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Cimarron Creek trilogy, as well as the Texas Crossroads series, the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.
 

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Copy of Out of the Embers + Special Hill Country Sweets Cookbook
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March 10-March 20, 2020
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3/13/20
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3/13/20
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The Law West of the Pecos

One of the most colorful characters to come out of the Old West was Judge Roy Bean, the self-proclaimed “Law West of the Pecos.” As Justice of the Peace, Bean had a reputation as a tough hanging judge. However, while he was known to occasionally stage hangings to scare away criminals, he never actually hung anyone.

Bean settled in Vinegaroon, Texas in 1881 at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers where he set up a tent saloon to sell liquor at exorbitant  prices to railroad workers (mostly Chinese laborers.) Two years later with the construction of the Pecos High Bridge the rail lines shifted away from Vinegaroon and Bean relocated to the town of Langtry where he built the Jersey Lily Saloon and Judge Roy Bean’s courtroom on the railroad right of way.

Western legend holds that the town was named after the British stage actress, Lillie Langtry. Bean is said to have fallen in love with a portrait of the lady though he never actually made her acquaintance. Nonetheless, he followed her career, wrote her letters inviting her to visit the West Texas town, and even constructed an Opera House adjacent to his saloon in the hope that she would one day perform there.

As Justice of the Peace, Judge Roy Bean’s methods and rulings were often questionable, mainly carried out to line his own pockets. One of the more humorous judgments handed down was fining a dead man $40, the exact amount found in the deceased’s pockets! Judge Roy Bean died in 1903 after a particularly heavy drinking spree.

Lillie Langtry did visit the town six months after Bean’s death during a brief stop of the Sunset Limited on its way from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Among the gifts presented to the actress by the townspeople was Judge Roy Bean’s six-shooter. The Jersey Lily Saloon and the Opera House were sold to a wealthy Texas cattleman and later donated to the state of Texas.

Judge Roy Bean’s story has often been portrayed on the silver screen, most notably in William Wyler’s 1940 movie, “The Westerner” (Walter Brennan won an Academy Award for his portrayal) and in John Huston’s 1972 film, “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” starring Paul Newman.

 

Chasing the White Lion: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Character Interview

CHASING THE WHITE LION
(Talia Inger, Book Two)
by
JAMES R. HANNIBAL
Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Number of Pages: 384

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Cover hi res Chasing the White Lion

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle, and no one escapes unscathed.

WANT TO BE A REAL HERO?

Want to be a real hero? Compassion International, a real organization fighting child poverty, stars in Chasing the White Lion. By giving hope and a sense of identity to these kids, they’re helping families slam the door on human traffickers. A portion of every book sold will go to support Compassion’s work. You can join the fight simply by buying a copy of Chasing the White Lion.

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Character Interview

An interview with stuntman and rumored thief, Michael Finn,

from Chasing the White Lion

By James R. Hannibal

Duxford Airfield

Cambridge, UK

Last week, I caught up with the infamous Aussie Michael Finn at the Flying Legends Air Spectacular in Duxford. Pulling him away from his, shall we say, highly-dedicated local fan club was no easy task, but I wanted to pin him down with a few questions about his past and his recent extracurricular activities. The answers were worth a few scratches.

Read on.

    Q: First, I noticed a big change in your stunt routine. Your signature airshow entrance is a wingsuit drop from an exploding weather balloon. This morning you shocked the crowd with a motorcycle stunt. Explain.

    A: A stuntman must keep things fresh, you know—push the envelope a little farther every season. Last year, I got some backing from a heaps great investor, and I pitched the idea of a drone big enough to carry me and my bike straight to show center. He went all in.

    Q: For a certain percentage of the take, right? I mean, your investor should get a return on his cash.

     A: Defo, mate. He’ll get his money. Always does. But he was an easy sell. He likes to play with drones and motorbikes too, if you catch my drift. We recently did this job in Bangkok. Massive bridge. Railway line running right beside it. The cable supports almost cut me in . . . Well, that’s another story for another day.

   Q: It certainly is. Sounds dangerous—right up your alley. What about loved ones? Any special girl in your life wringing her hands every time you strap on a parachute or pop a wheelie?

     A: There may be a special someone, but her life is as dangerous as mine, so no worries there. The situation is in flux. Right now, we’re struggling to see eye to eye on a few things. Matter o’ fact, let’s change the subject.

     Q: Your love life is off limits. Got it. Okay, let’s return to this mystery investor of yours. According to rumors, international businessman Adam Tyler has hired you and others for contract jobs like the one you mentioned in Bangkok—jobs outside the law. You detractors claim Mr. Tyler is a thief and assassin. They say he should be locked up, and you as well. Your response?

      A: I can neither confirm nor deny any association with this Adam Tyler you speak of. But I’ll tell you what. You come out to Wolf Trap, Virginia and spend a day with my mystery investor and his team. If you don’t think what we do makes the world a better place—refugee kids rescued, warlords disappearing, criminals locked up—then you can write whatever you want about us, expose my boss to the world.

     Q: Deal. Although, I’m not sure he’ll agree. I might cut my losses and steer clear. Might I ask just one follow-up question on this topic before I let you go?

      A: Shoot.

      Q: You mentioned refugee kids. Care to elaborate?

      A: One of our recent excursions may or may not have involved a crime syndicate with its fingers in the human trafficking market. The world needs to know that refugee kids are a prime target for traffickers. Anything our team did to stop this activity and rescue some kids is small potatoes compared to the work of an organization called Compassion International. They are the heroes. My investor calls them God’s special forces. We’re talking unconventional warfare. Compassion attacks from the flank, where the enemy least expects them, by providing hope, care, and a sense of identity. When kids and family’s living in poverty gain hope and self-worth, the doors to human traffickers slam closed. That’s all I’ve got. I’ve gotta run, you know? My fans miss me.

Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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Losing Ground

I would normally be publishing a literary related post today (look for a Lone Star Book Blog Tour post 3/7/20), but I’ve just returned from a trip to  Muskegon, Michigan and thought to comment on the erosion along the banks of the lake that I observed while there.

Climate change is triggering record high water levels on the Great Lakes impacting not only the coastline, but inland communities as well. Heavy winter and spring precipitation is to blame and lake levels are expected to remain high. Normal evaporation which might otherwise offset the rising waters isn’t occurring due to the extremely cold weather.

Gusting winds and high waves have created swift water currents that have washed away people, roads, bridges, and embankments that previously protected private property. The soil is being undercut by the waves, destroying homes that previously offered spectacular views of long sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets. Desperate efforts are underway to move houses away from the shoreline before they too fall into the water.

Due to the dangers of getting too close to the edge and the extreme cold that kept me bundled up inside, I only got these two photos of the property belonging to my sister and her husband. They’ve lost about 15-20 feet of land in just the last two years, and the gradual disappearance of their yard continues unabated. Fortunately their home was moved back years ago and isn’t in any immediate danger, while their neighbors home is perilously close to the receding embankment.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Wilson has yet to declare a state of emergency. Local jurisdictions like Muskegon are working with county emergency managers, but there is little that can be done to alter the course of Mother Nature.