The holidays have you stressed out? Curl up with a book and let that stress pass you by!
Obviously we all have our favorite genres and writers that we tend to gravitate towards. But, may I suggest that there are countless new authors and their works worth looking into, many of them to be found at Lone Star Literary Life.
My latest book Tarnished Brass is among the many featured titles. Set in El Salvador, it looks at the civil war that was fought in this small Central American country from 1980-1992. Except those that were involved in the conflict, few Americans remember that the United States provided arms and training support to the El Salvador Armed Forces. Some may recall the Iran Contra scandal, but U.S. foreign policy at the time and the reasons behind it are all but forgotten. Tarnished Brass is loosely based on my memories as a young Army officer thrust into the midst of this brutal war, but the story has been fictionalized to also give voice to the guerrilla movement, the refugees who fled the fighting, and the rise of MS-13. If you enjoy historical fiction or there’s someone on your Christmas list who does, this book might just be for you!
Tarnished Brass and all my books can be found at many online retail bookstores. At Amazon.com you can peruse the reviews, decide whether to purchase, and perhaps (after you’ve read it) add one of your own.
When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants.
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.
Jen Waldo’s latest novel, Why Stuff Matters, can be enjoyed on so many different levels. Set in Caprock, Texas the story focuses on an antique mall where the antics of the tenants will cause readers to smile while also bringing into focus the human condition and how people deal with aging, death, and abandonment.
Both the building and the vendors are old. Layers of dust literally coat the shelves and merchandise, while figuratively the same can be said for the people. They’re resistant to change of any kind and will lie, scheme, conspire, and even commit murder to maintain things as they are. That layer of grime not only describes their surroundings, but their lives. They suffer from any number of maladies with almost everyone affected by respiratory ailments because they refuse to clean their stalls or replace the rugs that are so old they’re filthy, bug infested, and moldy. Most of them are involved in some type of nefarious activity vice selling the merchandise in their stalls. In fact, they so over value the items that there is little possibility that a would be buyer will not go elsewhere to make the same purchase. Their connection is not to people but to inanimate objects that should long ago have been, sold, replaced, or junked. Why do they hold onto things that have no intrinsic value and forgo meaningful relationships? Perhaps because everyone eventually dies or moves on leaving them alone with the “stuff” they’ve collected… the sum total of their lives. They also refuse to consider what happens when they die. They don’t have wills or end-of-life designations; they leave that for others to sort out once they’re gone. Oh, they’ll split the merchandise or share equally in any money left behind by someone else because that’s just the way it’s always been done, but don’t ask them to consider any end-of-life planning for themselves. That requires an emotional attachment beyond just their possessions.
The person left to sort things out and deal with these cantankerous old folks is Jessica, a grieving widow who has inherited the antique mall when her mother died. Her passing is only a small part of her grief. Parents most certainly die eventually, but the sudden death of her husband and children in an automobile accident has left her with emotions that alter her sense of normalcy and cause her to be complicit in the questionable and criminal activity of her tenants. She is no longer the caring wife, mother, or school teacher that she was before the tragedy. That person is buried underneath overwhelming grief leaving her to normalize immorality. She goes about the day to day requirements of running the business and arbitrating the grievances of her vendors with a detached, no nonsense, matter of fact impatience, yet not only overlooks drug sales and other unscrupulous activities that she’s aware of, but helps dispose of two bodies that the pink-haired, gun-toting Roxie has dispatched over a collection of baseball cards. She’s numb to the murders and lies to the authorities with incredulous yet somehow plausible reasons for their disappearance. She’s lost everything that she’s ever loved and is indifferent to life itself. Can Jessica ever care for anyone or anything ever again? She’s about to find out when her husband’s ex-wife unceremoniously dumps her twelve year old daughter on Jessica’s doorstep.
Lizzie is the last thing Jessica needs at the moment. She’s been abandoned by a self-absorbed mother, leaving her to fend for herself at a time when she desperately needs a mother’s love and attention. After all, it was her father that also died in that crash. Lizzie needs parental guidance; the one thing that Jessica is unwilling to offer. To compensate, Lizzie begins accumulating stuff of her own. If it isn’t gifted by the vendors, she steals what she wants. She learns about sex by reading lusty pirate and cowboy romances, and takes ridiculous risks to her person by sifting through debris to see if there’s anything of value under the piles of rubble. She deludes herself that her mother is coming back to get her, while Jessica is left to house, clothe, feed and protect her with nothing more than a written consent to get medical treatment in an emergency. Lizzie is a manipulative screwed up teenager who is crying out for inclusion and belonging. She latches onto to Joe, a would be suitor to Jessica and the policeman investigating the missing persons. She also comes to Jessica’s aid when a threat endangers them both. Is there a permanent bond between these three that is in the offing? There’s certainly an evolution to their relationships, but don’t expect any definitive resolution in the end. I got the sense that everything will work out, but fittingly, the author leaves it up to each reader to decide.
Jen Waldo juxtaposes tragedy and comedy with aplomb. She writes with a wit that captures life’s absurdities and creates locales and characters that will remind you of other small towns and individuals you’ve known. Some scenes will cause readers to suspend disbelief, some will cause them to laugh, some to question why people do what they do. All will leave them thinking about the vagaries of life and what they might do under similar circumstances.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.
Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.
Lone Star Literary Life is honored to present the cover
of the fifth book in the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries
by Alexia Gordon & Henery Press.
To be released March, 2020
PRESENTING . . .
ABOUT THE BOOK: 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?
EXECUTION IN E TO BE FEATURED ON LONE STAR BOOK BLOG TOURS MARCH, 2020
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 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.
Although Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, the theme is universal… giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Often we’re so caught up in the hectic pace of our daily existence that we forget to take a moment to reflect on those gifts that God has bestowed upon us. It isn’t the material possessions that we own or the status we’ve achieved that matters most, though we seem to gauge life by wealth and celebrity. It is the love of family and friends that should be the measure of our worth, for without them all the money in the world cannot buy happiness.
Today, in the midst of celebrating the holiday with parades, football games, television specials and food, way too much food, pause long enough to express your gratitude in thought or prayer for the people around you and those that may be separated from you because of physical distance or even death but remain close in your hearts. The bonds that unite us are our greatest blessings regardless of our circumstance or situation.
Although Tarnished Brassis a work of fiction, it is based on my memories of the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992.
United States involvement in that conflict was principally focused on training support to the Salvadoran military. In a departure from US policy in Vietnam, American military advisers were prohibited from accompanying Salvadoran forces during combat operations. Their role was solely to train the ESAF [El Salvador Armed Forces] and change the way it prosecuted the war. Of course, in spite of these restrictions, the Operations and Training Teams (OPATTs) assigned to Salvadoran Infantry Battalions often found themselves in harms way.
Reports of fighting involving US troops, however, was a closely guarded secret. It would not be until 1996, four years after the peace accords were signed, that the twenty-one American service members killed in El Salvador were finally recognized.
Their headstone in Arlington National Cemetery does not contain their names. It simply states… El Salvador 1981-1992. Blessed are the peacemakers. In sacred memory of those who died to bring hope and peace.
Of course, I was not acquainted with everyone who died in the war, but I did have a personal and professional relationship with one of the deceased. Lieutenant Colonel James M. Basile, US Air Force, served as deputy commander of the US MilGroup, San Salvador. He was killed in a helicopter crash on July 16, 1987, at age forty-three.
Official recognition of his service to country and that of the other twenty individuals helps to heal old wounds. William G. Walker, the former US Ambassador to El Salvador (1988-1992), best phrased that sentiment when he spoke to those assembled at the cemetery — For too long, we have failed to recognize the contributions, the sacrifices, of those who served with distinction under the most dangerous of conditions.
It’s one thing to write a book and quite another to get the word out following its publication. To that end I’m including the official press release from Page Publishing in today’s post. The publisher has already provided the release to local, regional, and national print, broadcast and online media, but no one is more important than you (the reader) at creating “buzz” about the book. I encourage comments at this site and reviews posted to platforms such as Goodreads and Amazon. A word or two or an in depth discussion of your reaction to the novella is very much appreciated.
Author Max L. Knight’s new book “Tarnished Brass” is a gripping and potent work of realistic fiction examining the brutal civil war in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992. Short Description
Recent release “Tarnished Brass” from Page Publishing author Max L. Knight is a riveting novella capturing the savage violence of a military regime determined to preserve its social hierarchy and the desperate resistance of an oppressed people fighting for their lives in the El Salvadoran Civil War. Rich in vivid detail and the author’s deep knowledge of the country, its people, and the conflict itself, this story, though a work of fiction, informs and resonates with timeless and global issues of human rights and military intervention. Long Description
Max L. Knight, a married father of five residing with his wife, Janet, in San Antonio and decorated US Army veteran who served for twenty-four years as an air defense artillery officer, retired in 1997 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and after 9/11 once again volunteered to serve his country as a contractor for the Department of Defense in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Central America, has completed his new book “Tarnished Brass”: a spellbinding work of historical faction bringing the twelve-year conflict in El Salvador to life. Max writes, “From 1980 until 1992, a brutal civil war was fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador. ‘Tarnished Brass’ looks at America’s involvement in the conflict; the United States provided funding, arms, and training support to the Salvadoran military. It also examines current issues affecting both countries—twenty-six years later, gang violence has replaced and even surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged conflict. The war and its aftermath are told through the perspectives of a US Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member. By giving voice to all three, it looks not only at history but at the current crises. Today, El Salvador has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, and the influence of MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) has spread beyond its borders to many cities in the United States.” “Tarnished Brass” is a timely examination of a conflict fought over thirty years ago that continues to resonate today. Though a work of fiction, the author draws upon his experiences in-country to write a story that will definitely resonate with readers looking to understand past US foreign policy as well as current events.
Published by Page Publishing, Max L. Knight’s engrossing book is a compelling read for anyone interested in Latin American and US military history. Readers who wish to experience this engaging work can purchase “Tarnished Brass” at bookstores everywhere, or online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play, or Barnes and Noble.
Today is the final day of the Giveaway. If you haven’t yet registered at Rafflecopter for a signed copy of Tarnished Brass and a $25.00 Amazon gift card, be sure to do so by midnight CDT. You could be the winner!
I also recommend that you check out Lone Star Literary Life, the go-to website for all things “bookish” in the State of Texas. Sign up for free to receive the latest literary news. You’ll be introduced to a range of Texas authors and their works, and you’re sure to find your next great read.
Finally, in support of my book or any book that you’ve read and enjoyed, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are the lifeblood that affect not just book sales, but the craft of writing. Feedback is essential in honing craftsmanship for future projects and authors welcome your comments. I know I do!