Tarnished Brass

Page Publishing LogoI’m pleased to announce that I have again signed with Page Publishing, Inc. of New York to publish and distribute my latest book, Tarnished Brass. A release date has yet to be determined, but I’m hoping everything will be completed either by the end of this year or the beginning of 2019. There is much yet to be done. In the days ahead I’ll be working closely with a Publication Coordinator regarding editing, page formatting, and cover design.

Tarnished Brass looks at America’s involvement in El Salvador’s ten-year civil war (1980-1992) and its consequences for both countries. Today, twenty-six years later, socio-economic conditions remain unchanged for the vast majority of Salvadoran citizens while gang violence has replaced and, in many ways, surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged conflict. Though a work of fiction, the book also speaks to the current divisions in our own country over immigration policy and the rise of gang violence (notably MS-13.) Tarnished Brass will definitely resonate with readers looking to understand current events in the context of history.

I want to thank Page Publishing for its continued support of me as an author. Writing is a craft that requires many things, not the least of which is someone willing to represent your efforts to potential readers. Name recognition greatly aids such consideration, and many books found at book stores, retail outlets and online are by writers or public figures whose fame ensures sales. But for the aspiring author, it is the willingness of those within the industry to take a chance on your book and go through the publication and marketing process with you.

 

The Edge of Over There: Author Interview

 

THE EDGE
OF OVER THERE

The Day the Angels Fell, Book 2
by
SHAWN SMUCKER
  Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 384
 
Scroll down for Giveaway!
The captivating sequel to the award-winning The Day the Angels Fell
 
Abra Miller carries a secret and a responsibility she never expected. 
 
Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller’s life had been predictable. Safe. Normal. But after the Tree, everything has felt fragile . . . like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. After years of fruitless searching for the next Tree, she begins to wonder if it was nothing more than a vivid dream.
 
Now sixteen, Abra finds a clue to the whereabouts of the next Tree of Life when an ominous woman—who looks exactly like a ghost from her past—compels her to travel to New Orleans where she’ll find one of seven gateways between this world and Over There. But she’s not the only one interested in finding the gateway. There’s also a young man searching for his father and sister, who escaped through it years before. As Abra enters the Edge of Over There and begins her pursuit of the Tree once more, she doesn’t know whom to fear or whom to trust.
She’s also starting to think that some doorways should never be opened.
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Praise for The Edge of Over There:
“Blending Biblical elements and urban myths, Smucker creates an enthralling story of supernatural battles between the forces of good and evil.” — Publishers Weekly


“The Edge of Over There is a mesmerizing, menacing fantasy. Shawn Smucker fuses New Orleans lore, Christian themes, and dystopian landscapes in a thorough exploration of love and its unintended results.” — Foreword Reviews (Starred Review) 

AuthorInterview

INTERVIEW WITH SHAWN SMUCKER

Why did you choose to write in your particular sub-genre?

I love how imaginative kids and young people can be. It’s inspiring to me, and I think someone with a well-developed imagination is better at critical thinking. We are all hardwired with these amazing imaginations, but in most people, they go untapped and eventually fade. So, writing mystical realism feels to me like partnering with other people who also have imaginations they haven’t forgotten about.

 Which character from The Edge of Over There is least like you?

Abra is definitely least like me – she is adventurous, spontaneous, sometimes reckless, and she doesn’t let her fear become a barricade. I am the opposite of most of those things.

Did you first experience rejections when submitting this manuscript for publication?

For the first book in the series, yeah, there were a lot of rejections. I couldn’t get an agent for years, and then when I did, and we submitted The Day the Angels Fell, we got 15 – 20 rejections, mostly from acquisitions editors who loved it but didn’t know where to place it. Is it religious? Is it secular? Is it for adults? Is it for kids? It’s hard when you write a book that doesn’t check all the boxes. But eventually we got there.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I’m a full-time writer. Most of my income is derived from co-writing books for other people. I’ve been doing that for about ten years and have found it very rewarding. But it does sometimes wear down my writing muscle. I find I only have a certain number of words per day, so when I’m busy with co-writing, I have to find other times (evenings, weekends) to work on my own things.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  Have any of them impacted your writing?

Well, the writing doesn’t always pay the bills. I’ve painted houses, worked at farmers’ markets, sold baked goods, worked at fairs, and most recently driven for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. You can read more about those adventures by searching the #RideshareConfessional hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. But I think it’s good to be involved in other things. Writing can be a lonely endeavor.

 

Shawn Smucker is the author of The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him on his website, where you can also sign up for his newsletter in order to find out when and where the Tree of Life will turn up next.

WEBSITE   FACEBOOK

 ————————————— 
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
GRAND PRIZE: Both Books in the The Day the Angels Fell series + Color Changing Tree Mug + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
2ND PRIZE: Both Books + Tree of Life Journal
3RD PRIZE: Both Books + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
(US ONLY)
  July 17-26, 2018
CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
7/17/18
Author Interview
7/17/18
Book Trailer
7/18/18
Excerpt
7/19/18
Review
7/20/18
Review
7/21/18
Top 10 List
7/22/18
Notable Quotable
7/23/18
Author Interview
7/24/18
Review
7/25/18
Guest Post
7/26/18
Review
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God Save Texas: My Review

God Save Texas Book CoverPulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright has written what can best be described as a meditation on what it is is about Texas that makes it so unique and influential. His thoughts are presented with a great deal of wit and humor, and contain insightful information on everything from history to culture to politics.

Politically, Texas has always influenced national discourse and policy. Three of its favorite sons –  Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and George H. W. Bush were elected to the presidency of the United States. And today, its leaders in Austin have made it one of the most conservative states in the Union, not only aligning Texas with the nationalistic policies of the Trump administration but leading the fight against illegal immigration and the establishment of sanctuary cities.

Wright voices his misgivings about the direction of this leadership both in Washington and Austin, but does so in an introspective contemplation on why he loves Texas so much. Obviously, when you’re searching for the “soul” of what makes Texas… Texas, you have to look beyond political differences to examine everything that sets it apart from every other state.

Oil magnates, cattle barons, musicians and writers have all shaped our conception of the Lone Star State, and Wright covers them all. He journeys from Austin to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso (and all places in between from the Rio Grande Valley to the plains of West Texas.) He discusses the oil boom from its beginning at Spindletop to today’s fracking in the Permian Basin and the role oil, cattle and cowboys have played in forging the image of Texans to the rest of the world. He looks at NASA and our place in space exploration, the influence of Texas musicians from Buddy Holly to Willie Nelson, and the contributions of authors like Larry McMurtry with his ode to the great cattle drives (Lonesome Dove) and his description of life in an isolated and dying Texas town (The Last Picture Show.)

Wright also describes the beauty and diversity of the land from the pine forests of East Texas to the deserts of the Trans-Pecos. He finds serenity in Big Bend National Park, and relishes the quirkiness of places like Marfa, Texas that attracts artisans and tourists with its emergence as a cultural center smack in the middle of nowhere, its linkage to one of the most influential films ever made about the state (the 1956 movie “Giant” starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean) and, of course, the eerie phenomenon of the Marfa Lights that fuels speculation about extraterrestrial visitations.

There’s really no way to encapsulate all the ground covered by Wright in this book, nor his ability to truly entertain readers as he does so. I’ve lived in Texas almost fifty years, but wouldn’t know where to even begin to attempt to articulate why Texas is so extraordinary. My hat is off to Lawrence Wright who manages to educate, intellectually stimulate, and delight readers with a thoroughly engaging portrait of a state that I also happen to love.

The Which Way Tree: My Review

The Which Way Tree Book CoverI wasn’t sure how I felt about the book as I read it. The style is unique. It evokes the humor of Mark Twain in both “Tom Sawyer” and the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” while also recalling the work of Charles Portis and his novel “True Grit.”
The story unfolds in a series of letters written by seventeen year old Benjamin Shreve in which he gives testimony to a circuit judge about a chance encounter with a hanging and its perpetrators. It’s the letters and manner in which they’re written that are reminiscent of Twain.
To give his testimony Benjamin also tells the story of his younger half-sister Samantha and her relentless pursuit of a panther that mauled her face and killed her mother. It is her dogged determination for revenge that is at the core of the story and which reminded me so much of the character Mattie Ross and her need to avenge her father’s murder in Portis’ novel.
It wasn’t until the final few chapters that I truly appreciated all the colorful characters that take part in this adventure, the dialogue and locales that capture the Texas Hill Country of the late 1800’s, and a tale that might well have been handed down as legend in Comal County.
Frankly, I’m still mulling over my reaction to the book, which is exactly why “The Which Way Tree” is worth reading!
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COMMENT: Let me know whether you’d like to see “STAR” ratings attached to these reviews. I’ve avoided doing so to date because of their subjectivity and different interpretations dependent upon the social media platform in which they appear. I prefer to simply post my written review and let the reader decide.

The Demise of Billy the Kid: My Review

The Demise of Billy the KidPreston Lewis has once again combined his sense of humor and gift for story telling to give readers the real life history of the Lincoln County War as told by someone who claims to have been involved in most of the momentous events that shaped Western lore, H. H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax.
In the first of a series of books featuring the adventures of this fictional character, the author begins with his purported discovery of Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University. While acknowledging that most historians have dismissed their authenticity, he expresses his own tongue in cheek confidence that they were indeed written by H. H. Lomax but he “can’t vouch for their veracity.”
So begins the humorous recollections of Lomax’s association with Billy the Kid, the legendary cattle baron John Chisum, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and the factions that fought over cattle interests and control of the dry goods business in the New Mexico Territory in the late 1800s.
Lewis certainly captures the violence of the period. The Lincoln County War began with the cold blooded murder of John Tunstall by the Jessie Evans Gang. Tunstall, an Englishman, was a newcomer to the territory who challenged the monopoly of the local general store known as “The House.” Billy the Kid was in the employment of Tunstall at the time, so he and his “Regulators” followed up his murder with a revenge killing of their own. The ensuing feud resulted in countless deaths and continued until 1881 when Pat Garrett finally hunted down and killed the famous gunman at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Lewis ameliorates the historical accuracy of his narrative with his typical wit and humor. H.H. Lomax rides a mule named Flash, is frequently mistaken for a conman and swindler by the name of Gadrich Lomax who pays in counterfeit money, sells a blind horse, cheats at cards, and peddles bad liquor, and Lomax also has the same love interest as Billy the Kid, the hot-tempered señorita, Rosalita. Of course all of these lead to hilarious circumstances and outcomes, indelibly establishing H.H. Lomax as someone who “had the good or bad luck to be where Western History was made,” and whose subsequent exploits will link him to the Outlaw Jesse James, the Gunfight at the
O.K. Corral, and Custer’s Last Stand.
I’ll definitely be along for the ride!

The Fleecing of Fort Griffin: My Review

The Fleecing of Fort Griffin Book CoverI can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much. Preston Lewis has crafted a story chocked full of indelible characters whose antics in pursuit of money will keep you smiling throughout.
The locale is Ft. Griffin, the westernmost Army post and town in Texas. It is the Spring of 1878, and royalty has arrived by stagecoach in the person of English Baron Jerome Manchester Paget, who proposes to buy land upon which he plans to establish a buffalo ranch.
The absurdity of this idea is highlighted even more by the $25,000 equivalent in British currency that he carries about in a satchel and openly flaunts in a frontier town renown for its lawlessness. The expression “a fool and his money are soon parted” becomes the prevailing attitude amongst both residents and visitors in Ft. Griffin, all of whom scheme to swindle the baron out of his money.
There’s Cat Tails, a Tonkawa Indian with an unquenchable thirst for whiskey and the feline appendages from which he derives his name.
There’s Colonel John Paul Jenkins, the commander of the military garrison whose Buffalo soldiers bear no love for their leader.
There’s the widow Flora Belmont, whose five previous husbands have died under suspicious circumstances.
There’s the Reverend G.W. (God Willing) Tuck, whose sermons and apparent miracles serve to line his pockets, not give hope or redemption to sinners.
There’s the gunman One-Eyed Charlie Gatliff, who aims to kill the baron and take his money, and the professional gambler Joe Loper, who won’t let that happen before he can get the baron in a poker game and cheat him at cards.
There’s the husband and wife team Wanda and Wallace Sikes, who use her sexuality to get men into compromising situations so they can be blackmailed.
There’s Lop-Eared Annie Lee, whose disproportionate bosoms keep customers lining up for a peek and a poke. And… so many more!
Baron Paget must use his wits and the services of fourteen-year-old orphan Sammy Collins and a rooster to ward off this colorful cast of characters.
Someone is certainly going to get fleeced, but who and how is at the heart of this humorous western classic that will have readers guessing and howling with laughter.

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COMMENT:  Some followers of this blog are going to notice book reviews that have appeared previously on other literary websites such as Goodreads and Amazon. My purpose in re-posting them here is to reach the widest possible audience.

Memorial Day 2018

 

May 28 (1)

Every year I wonder how many Americans pause on Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifice made by the men and women who have been killed fighting the nation’s wars. Because society no longer bears a collective responsibility securing our freedoms, it is only military families that truly share and understand the anguish, pain, and pride of losing someone under combat related circumstances.

The cost in human lives has been and is staggering. The following numbers reflect combat related deaths in America’s principal wars and combat operations since World War I. They do not address the number of wounded, missing in action, or the psychological toll of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Battle Deaths:

WWI – 53,402   WWII – 291,557   Korea – 33,739   Vietnam – 47,434   Iraq (Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel) – 6,855   Afghanistan (2001-2017) – 942.

Think about those numbers for a moment and let them sink in. Then think about countless other wars from the American Revolution to the present that are not listed. Then think of the ongoing war against terrorism. Freedom is not free!

Today we have men and women stationed in hot spots around the globe protecting America’s interests. The reality is that many of these individuals will also give their “last full measure of devotion” to preserve our democracy.

If you really want these numbers to sink in, visit one of the 147 national cemeteries or 24 permanent American burial grounds on foreign soil. Gaze upon the row upon row upon row of headstones. It is both overwhelming and inspiring. Finally, get on your knees and give thanks for such courage, commitment, and love of country. You may have not known a single one of them, but you owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

God Bless the deceased and God Bless America!