Tarnished Brass: Cover Reveal & Update

Published Book CoverPart of the process of being a writer is to explore different formats and genres. To date, I’ve published a memoir, a novel, and my latest book, Tarnished Brass, is a novella.

While the scope of a novella is far less broad than a novel, it still entails a detailed exploration of subject matter with more fully developed characters and plot than a short story allows. Its concise nature definitely results in a quick read — individuals may find themselves completing this type of book in a single sitting — but it shouldn’t lessen the reader’s enjoyment or involvement in the story.

Tarnished Brass is historical fiction. It examines the civil war that was fought in El Salvador from 1980 to 1992, and the consequences of that conflict as seen through the perspectives of a US Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member.

Though a work of fiction, I drew upon my experiences from 1984 to 1986, as well as more recent trips in-country to tell this story. Anyone looking to understand past US foreign policy as well as current events (the rise of MS-13 and the immigration crisis on our southern border) should find the story compelling.

Earlier projections for a June release have been revised. Final edits are ongoing and the book should be available late Summer. I’ll post the press release when the book becomes available for purchase, but if you happen to be in San Antonio on July 29th, come to the San Antonio A&M Club at Aggie Park for their Monday Luncheon. I’ll be the guest speaker for a pre-release discussion. Doors open at 11:00 a.m. and my talk begins at noon. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

STIPULATIONS & COMPLICATIONS: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

 STIPULATIONS &
  COMPLICATIONS
by
BECKI WILLIS
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Romance / Women Sleuths
Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
Date of Publication: June 15, 2016
Number of Pages: 365

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S&C Book Cover

Life comes with stipulations.

If you want to fit into last year’s swimsuit, you can’t eat ice cream and a Gennydoodle cookie after every meal.

If you want to go to Heaven, you can’t raise Hell on Saturday night and show up in the church pew on Sunday morning, hungover and reeking of cheap perfume.

And if you want your hundred-year-old mansion completely updated and remodeled for free, you have to sacrifice.

Stipulations, my child.

–              Granny Bert Cessna

Now that Madison Reynolds has agreed to be part of a reality-television home remodeling show, she barely recognizes her own life. The show is an instant success, bringing cameras and reporters right to her doorstep, eager to chronicle her every move in the small Texas town.

With In a Pinch Temporary Services hovering on the thin line between prosperity and extinction, Madison takes on another quirky case, this one concerning a property dispute. Complications turn a simple mission into all-out danger, and once again Madison finds herself embroiled in an intriguing mystery.

Between her cantankerous grandmother, a moody teenage daughter, an ever-starving son, townspeople eager to grab their fifteen minutes of fame at her expense, and a mother-in-law appalled by her undignified foray into the public eye, Madison had her hands full, long before the skeleton was discovered. Now work is interrupted at the Big House, ghost stories abound, more secret passages have been unearthed, and someone is trying to scare her away from her new home.

What she needs is another session of Brash deCordova’s unique ‘river therapy’… not to mention the kiss that eludes them with frustrating regularity

What she gets is another round of stipulations and complications.

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Four Stars
     It takes a gifted writer to create characters, a setting, and a story line that spans eight novels, and keeps the reader invested in each new book in the series. Author Becki Willis has done just that!
     The third book in the Texas Series – The Sisters, STIPULATIONS and Complications, uses elements of romance, mystery, and even the paranormal to continue the story of Madison (Maddy) Reynolds and a cast of homegrown characters that live in The Sisters (the twin small towns of Juliet and Naomi, Texas.)
     Maddy’s arrangement to finance the renovation of a 100 year old mansion has turned her life completely upside down. “It is out of control, under a microscope, and scrutinized by everyone.” There’s the television crew, the townspeople, and even her own children, all affecting her ability to make the right decisions.
     Romantically, she is attracted to the star of the popular television show Home Again, Nick Vilardi, but her feelings for her teenage crush Brash deCordova go much deeper. However, it’s only been a few months since the death of her husband. Should she act on her feelings? And, if so, how will that be perceived by the public, or more importantly her daughter Bethani, who adored her late father? Believing Brash to be the perfect man for her, she proceeds cautiously. But she also knows that… “Perfect never lasts. Perfect’s not real.”
     To complicate matters, Brash is the chief of police, who must now solve the mystery of a decomposed body found in the Big House. Who is it and was foul play involved? There are rumors of ghosts and disgruntled spirits haunting the old mansion, and it is apparent that something or someone doesn’t want its secrets revealed. How far are they willing to go to prevent their discovery?
     Maddy also has ongoing sleuthing of her own unrelated to the Big House. In a Pinch Temporary Services, the company she founded, currently has two ongoing inquiries.  Lisa Redmond has hired Maddy to find out if her husband is having an affair, while simultaneously she also is looking into an acrimonious property dispute between the Wynn and Adams families. The property in question is unusable, so why is there a contentious fight over ownership of the land?
     All of these plots and many more play out in Becki Willis’ engaging and entertaining book. In fact, STIPULATIONS and Complications could easily describe the challenges of writing an entry into an ongoing series like The Sisters. Not every author can pull it off!
     In many ways the book reminds me of the cinema matinees of years gone bye. They were always cliff-hangers inviting you… no, compelling you to return to find out what happens next. I certainly recommend that you acquaint yourself with Madison Reynolds and don’t just pick up a copy of The Sisters, STIPULATIONS and Complications. Read the entire series. What better way to while away to the summer or relax at the beach!
Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of ’13, that dream became a reality. 
 
Since that time, she has published numerous books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction, Best Women’s Detective Fiction, and Best Audio Book, won the 2018 RONE Award for Paranormal Fiction, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world. 

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, Writer’s League of Texas, Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Connect with Becki below. She loves to hear from readers and encourages feedback!
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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
6/20/19
Chicken Scratch, #1
6/20/19
When the Stars Fall, #2
6/21/19
Stipulations & Complications, #3
6/22/19
Home Again: Starting Over, #4
6/23/19
Genny’s Ballad, #5
6/24/19
Christmas in The Sisters, #6
6/25/19
The Lilac Code, #7
6/26/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/26/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/27/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/27/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/28/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/28/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/29/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
6/29/19
Wildflower Wedding, #8
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Max… Attacks: Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Blitz & Giveaway

MAX … ATTACKS
by
KATHI APPELT
illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan
Children’s Picture Book / Humor / Stories in Verse
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 40Scroll down for the giveaway!


 

Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? 

 

Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat. Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.




Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max … Attacks

 
She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning illustrator whose work includes illustrations for ad campaigns, book publishers, magazines, newspapers, products, videos and most recently, children. Max … Attacks is her debut picture book.
 
Penelope works from her home studio in Indianapolis, Indiana where she also home schools her daughter, plays in the river behind her house, and tends to her front-yard garden.
 
She is especially interested in collaborating with brands that support sustainability, simplicity, and wellness. Connect with Penelope on her Website.
 
The real Max was neither blue, nor did he have a switchy tail. In fact, he didn’t have a tail at all. He was an American Bobtail, almost fire red, and in his prime he weighed in at over twenty pounds. For seventeen years, he served as best friend and roommate to the author’s oldest son Jacob Appelt, who adopted Max from the local animal shelter. Together they wrote music, traveled, entertained friends and family, and kept an eye on the neighborhood parrots. Even though Max was famous for attacking anything that moved, he was, and always will be, the biggest, sweetest cat ever! 
 
And many thanks to Jacob for the line: “a mighty nap attacked our Max.” Best line in the book!
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June 6, 1944

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France will be observed today on the beaches in Normandy, at Pointe du Hoc, at the nearby town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, and at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. These will be solemn tributes to the thousands of men who gave their lives to begin the reclamation of Europe from Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. The Nazis had suppressed freedom for four long years and the fate of the world hung in the balance as the largest seaborne invasion in history landed troops on a fifty mile-wide stretch of beach on the coast of France.

None of the Allied objectives were achieved on that first day at the staggering cost of over 10,000 lives in the first twenty-four hours. Alone, 2,400 casualties (killed, wounded, or missing) occurred at “Bloody Omaha Beach.” It took tremendous courage, sacrifice, perseverance and determination to finally break through the coastal defenses and begin movement inland. The liberation of Paris would follow in August 1944, but the unconditional  surrender of all German forces would not come until May 7, 1945. Neither would have been possible without the success of “Operation Overlord.”

Dignitaries from the United States, Britain, France, and Canada will honor the dead as well as the veterans still living today. Due to the passage of time, only a handful remain. They’re in their 90’s now and this will be the last major celebration for those that survived the chaos and carnage of that day. They should be honored for their bravery and certainly world leaders will speak to their heroism. The Press will cover the speeches and most Americans will take pride in their words, but that remembrance will be fleeting. Less than 1% of our country’s population serves in the military. Few have any personal knowledge of the sacrifices made by our military members and their families, and they go about their lives without much reflection on wars past or present.

So, how will you observe D-Day?

I would be in France if I could to be a part of this last great celebration. I’d like to meet face-to-face with the veterans and hear their stories. Their numbers are dwindling and their first-hand recollections are all but gone. Their pride in being a member of the Greatest Generation and their pain over the loss of their friends and comrades will recede from public consciousness. Soon, their recollections will be just words in a history book.

I can’t be there, so I’ll watch the news. I’ll read the paper. I’ll put on my two favorite movies about D-Day, The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan. These are insufficient gestures at best, but at least I’ll be remembering. For me it is a very emotional journey back in time. We face a far different world today thanks to their sacrifices. However, it is one no less dangerous. Threats evolve and echoes of the past remain. The 9,388 crosses and Stars of David at Colleville-sur-Mer remind us of the cost of the Normandy landings, while ongoing burials at all our National Cemeteries attest to the price in human lives of ongoing wars. I hope that we will always remember. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

So, how will you observe D-Day?

 

American Heritage History of the Civil War: My Review

History of the Civil War Book CoverAnyone who follows this blog realizes that periodically I read yet another book on America’s Civil War in an attempt to understand the complexities of that monumental struggle. For all practical purposes the war ended April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. That was over one hundred sixty years ago yet the cultural, economic, and demographic differences that divided the nation still remain. Today, the discord that resulted in five years of bloody conflict still resonates in the debates over reparations to the ancestors of former slaves and the removal of Confederate monuments.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Bruce Catton first released his book in 1960 complete with photos, maps, illustrations, captions, and an introduction by James M. McPherson, Professor Emeritus of U.S. History at Princeton University. This Kindle version (which I downloaded for free) contains none of the amplifying material, retaining only the original text. However, for anyone trying to understand the underlying causes of the war; the attitudes, desires, and fears from both sides, as well as the major events, places, or key military and political figures involved, there is no better reference material. There are certainly voluminous works by many noted historians on the subject, and for those who want detailed analysis of the politics, military campaigns, battles, strategies and tactics, they should most certainly be read.

Catton synopsizes this information in a manner that is deeply insightful, easy to read and understand. It isn’t so bogged down in details that it becomes a challenge to comprehend and a labor to complete. It is a concise overview of the social, political, and military forces that propelled the nation to war, tore it apart, and despite decades of efforts to heal those wounds, left a legacy of racial division and cultural misunderstanding that continues to impact our politics and our interaction with one another.

I highly recommend the book regardless of where you are in your study of America’s Civil War. It can serve as an introduction to your reading or a very important companion piece to the books you’ve already read on the subject.

 

This Week’s Blog Post

For those of you who follow this site on a weekly basis, you would normally expect to find a new entry today commenting on the latest book or tour at Lone Star Literary Life or one of my own publications. However, my focus has been on preparations for our son’s wedding tomorrow which my wife and I are hosting here at the house. Needless to say, with friends and family coming in there has been a lot to do, and concentrating on writing a review or other post (much less finding the time to so) just hasn’t been possible.

Look for me to get back on schedule next week. In the interim, catch up on previous posts or go to LSLL’s website for all the latest literary happenings in the state of Texas, and congratulate the happy couple!

Brian & Karolina

Photo on 4-28-16 at 7.00 PM

On Wings of Silence: Afterword

ON WINGS OF SILENCE:
Mexico ’68
by
DEDE FOX
Genre:  Historical / Novel in Verse / Literary Fiction
Publisher: Lamar University Literary Press
Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Number of Pages: 196Scroll down for the giveaway!


On Wings of Silence is the story of seventeen-year-old Diana Green, who travels from Texas to Mexico City searching for adventure, freedom, and romance. She finds all three. 
 
Then Diana’s first love Guillermo vanishes during the revolutionary chaos prior to the ’68 Olympics. Heartbroken, she searches for the truth about his disappearance. As police track, threaten, and abuse those who ask questions, she refuses to be silenced and risks becoming one of the missing.
 
Based on real events, On Wings of Silence uses historical details to bring to life the horror of the Tlatelolco Massacre, presented through the eyes of a young woman readers will care about and admire.
“This incredible story…is told in a masterful way that engages the reader with its protagonist and the other characters from the start. They are authentic. We know people like them and we care what happens to them. In Fox’s clear voice, mystery, romance and suspense build steadily to the end. Pitched toward young adult readers, this is a good read for any age.” — Dianne Logan
 

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Excerpt

AFTERWORD

From On Wings of Silence: Mexico ‘68

By Dede Fox

Some stories take fifty years to surface. On Wings of Silence is one of them.

The first readers to recognize the significance of this topic were Anne McCrady and 2008 Texas Poet Laureate Larry D. Thomas, who selected my poem “Chapultepec Park” for the 2008 Christina Sergeyevna Award at the Austin International Poetry Festival. When critique partner Joy Preble said she believed there was a novel hidden within that poem, I began to search for answers to lingering questions about the chaos prior to the 1968 Olympics. Dr. Cliff Hudder, my earliest Beta reader, directed me to Elena Poniatowska’s Massacre in Mexico, and Alicia Salazar, whose uncle survived the bloodbath, contributed as a sensitivity reader.

Other beta readers of the full manuscript included Dr. Molly McBride, Dianne Logan, Juan Paloma, and Kim O’Brien. Their insights, as well as critiques by Bob Lamb and Suzanne Bazemore, along with inspirations from Charles Trevino’s SCBWI “Critique Critters” at Lone Star College, improved my storytelling. Fellow author Kathryn Lane helped with the wording of the Spanish version of the Corrido. I am especially grateful to my mentor and friend Dave Parsons, 2011 Texas Poet Laureate, who helped me develop my poetic voice.

For a quarter century, the Tlatelolco tragedy remained buried. With increasing access to Internet data, I eventually confirmed my worst fears; Communist instigators encouraged the student protests and the United States sent weapons and ammunition to Mexico to quell any conflict.

When former Mexican President Luis Echeverria spoke up about the young victims of the massacre, he said, “These kids were not provocateurs. The majority were the sons and daughter of workers, farmers and unemployed people.” According to him, then President Diaz Ordaz ordered snipers to shoot the students. How tragic and ironic that Mexican leaders used U.S. weapons to kill students protesting for a more democratic government while agents from the Soviet Union encouraged the demonstrations.

Triggered by this knowledge and my memories of running across advancing troop lines on the Avenida de la Reforma in Mexico City, I created the fictional On Wings of Silence: Mexico, 1968 with details supported by primary historical sources–testimonies from Massacre in Mexico, photos, letters, and newspapers, some with my byline.

Diana’s friends and acquaintances are fictional, with one exception. The student leader with the white van was real and a total mystery. I suspect he was a U.S. government agent whose purpose was to destabilize student leadership in the American university during turbulent times.

And Guillermo? Like my protagonist, I grieve for him, for all of the Guillermos and Guillerminas, and their families. Their truncated lives and unrealized dreams will forever haunt me. Diana and I hope our voices will rise on the wings of their silence.

Half a century ago, Olympic posters read, Todo es possible en la paz. I share that belief, but now have the maturity to know that peace is only possible when we put away our weapons and listen to one another.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

MASSACRE IN MEXICO by Elena Poniatowska1968: THE YEAR THAT ROCKED THE WORLD by Mark Kurlanskyhttp://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97546687http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB10/intro.htmhttp://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9802/04/mexico.massacre/http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/2/newsid_3548000/3548680.stmhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/11/world/americas/11students.html?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/01/world/americas/mexico-tlatelolco-massacre.html

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/laques-honoring-president-are-coming-down/

http://www.latinorebels.com/2018/10/05/tlatelolcomassacrephotoessay/

 

Dede Fox is the 2017-2022 Poet Laureate of Montgomery, Texas. Since 2016, she has been the NEA/DOJ Artist-in-Residence at the Bryan Federal Prison Camp for Women, where she teaches creative writing. Through Houston’s Writers in the Schools, Dede also writes with hematology and oncology patients at Texas Children’s Hospital.
 
The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin, Dede’s first novel, was listed in the 2010 Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens. Her poetry books include Confessions of a Jewish Texan and Postcards Home. Dede’s poem “Chapultepec Park: September 25, 1968,” the catalyst for this novel, won the Christina Sergeyevna Award at the Austin International Poetry Festival.
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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

5/9/19
Guest Post
5/10/19
Review
5/11/19
Excerpt
5/12/19
Playlist
5/13/19
Review
5/14/19
Excerpt
5/15/19
Guest Post
5/16/19
Review
5/17/19
Afterword
5/18/19
Review
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