Enemies of Doves: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review

ENEMIES OF DOVES
by
Shanessa Gluhm

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Publication Date: March 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 324 pages

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Told in alternating timelines from World War II to 1992, debut author Shanessa Gluhm’s Enemies of Doves is a tale of family secrets, jealousy, and deception perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Webb.

On a summer night in 1932, twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett wanders into an East Texas diner badly beaten and carrying his unconscious brother, Clancy. Though both boys claim they have no memory of what happened, the horrific details are etched into their minds as deep as the scar left across Joel’s face.

Thirteen years later, both men still struggle with the aftershocks of that long-ago night and the pact they made to hide the truth. When they find themselves at the center of a murder investigation, they make a decision that will change everything. A second lie, a second pact, and, for a time, a second chance. In 1991 college student Garrison Stark travels to Texas chasing a rumor that Clancy Fitchett is his biological grandfather. Clancy has been missing since 1946, and Garrison hopes to find him and, in doing so, find a family. What he doesn’t expect to discover is a tangle of secrets spanning sixty years involving Clancy, Joel, and the woman they both loved, Lorraine.


PRAISE for Enemies of Doves:
Enemies of Doves weaves a timeline of events that makes for compelling reading. It’s an ecological system of interlocking decisions, discoveries, and circumstances that spans some sixty years of love, danger, and revelations.” —D. Donovan, senior reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“I’ve read some amazing thriller and suspense stories this year, but Enemies of Doves takes the mid-year prize. I’m not one for dual timelines, but this one was perfection with the fifty-year time-span moving forward in tandem. Garrison’s search will cause time to collide, unlocking a lifetime of secrets, and THE PLOT TWIST OF 2020!” —author Felicia Denise

“Shanessa Gluhm is a brilliant writer. I very seldom read a book that I cannot figure out how it will end, but this one literally blew me away!” —Lori Thomas Harrington, author of The Point

 
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Review
Four Stars

That night brought more memories. And if memories weren’t enough, in came the ghosts.

It isn’t often that a mystery can keep readers guessing until its conclusion but Enemies of Doves, the debut novel by author Shanessa Gluhm, not only maintains the suspense but does so with intersecting narratives and timelines, unexpected twists and turns, and a well concealed ending.

The tangled web of family secrets and lies plays out over the span of fifty years. At the core of the story is the bond between two brothers, Joel and Clancy Fitchett, whose suppressed memory of a violent act has left both of them emotionally scarred and one with a physical reminder of the incident. Their relationship is complex, with feelings of resentment, anger, jealousy, regret, and self-sacrifice affecting how they perceive and interact with one another. The two brothers struggle to not only maintain their pact of secrecy about the incident but their need for love, acceptance, and belonging. Complicating matters is their attraction to the same woman, Lorraine Applewhite, and the murder of their domineering and abusive father. Tom Fitchett’s murder will lead to  Joel’s imprisonment and the disappearance of Clancy and Lorraine.

Fast forward fifty years later. College student Garrison Stark experiences the painful loss of family when a terrible car accident claims the lives of his parents and his grandmother succumbs to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Before she passes away, however, she intimates that Clancy is his true biological grandfather. Longing for family, Garrison sets out to find him.

His search for the truth begins in the library archives where he is introduced to Molly Hamilton, another college student whose course curriculum has her researching the Fitchett murder. She is convinced that Joel is innocent of the crime. Due to their mutual interest in Joel and Clancy, the two agree to help one another.

To find Clancy Garrison will also interview Joel in prison. The initial meeting doesn’t end well, but Joel is just as interested in locating Lorraine as Garrison is in finding his brother, which leads to more meetings between the two and the disclosure that  someone has been putting money into Joel’s prison account over the years, and he is convinced that it is her.

Garrison’s obsession with unraveling the case and possibly locating the only remaining member of his family will destroy his engagement to his girlfriend Amber, ignite romantic feelings for Molly, and uncover hidden identities and familial relationships, the revelation of which could threaten her. Molly has no inkling of her linkage to the case beyond her academic pursuits and desire to free an innocent man, or the evil that exists within her own family.

Author Shanessa Gluhm, in her very first outing as a novelist, has written a multi-layered narrative of unrequited love, child abuse, dementia, murder, PTSD, secrets, lies, and regrets. Enemies of Doves not only seamlessly weaves all these elements together, but engages you from the very beginning, doesn’t come full circle until the very end, and leaves you thinking about it long after its completion.

I received an advanced copy of Enemies of Doves in exchange for my review.

 

Shanessa Gluhm works as a librarian at an elementary school in New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and children. It was during her own elementary days when a teacher encouraged Shanessa to write and share stories with the class. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Enemies of Doves is her debut novel. 

 

 

 

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8/3/20
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ldren. It was during her own elementary days when a teacher encouraged Shanessa to write and share stories with the class. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Enemies of Doves is her debut novel. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Republic of Jack: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Author Interview

THE REPUBLIC OF JACK
by

Jeffrey Kerr

Political Satire / Texas Humor / Texas Fiction

Publisher: Independently published
Date of Publication: April 7, 2020
Number of Pages: 253

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Jack Cowherd will do anything to win the Texas governorship, even flirt with twenty-first-century secessionists in the Texas Patriot Party. Victory is achieved, but only at the cost of Texas being tossed out of the United States. The Republic of Texas lives again! And Jack is president. 
Friend and political advisor Tasha Longoria has long warned Jack of the dangers of his demagoguery. Now when he tries to halt the madness, the worst comes to pass: he is impeached, arrested, and charged with treason, the penalty for which is death.
 
Jack has but one chance to save his beloved Texas, not to mention his life. But success depends upon help from the one person least likely to give it . . . Tasha.


PRAISE for The Republic of Jack:

“Jeff Kerr’s Republic of Jack is a ribald, raucous farce of Texas politics that often exposes the self-serving cynicism boiling beneath the surface of public debate.”

—Texas political reporter R.G. Ratcliffe 


“Jeffrey Kerr’s ideal Texas politician—a man truly for these bitter times—bites off more than any enabler could ever chew in this romp of a new novel, The Republic of Jack! It’s time for readers to discover this writer’s range, intelligence, humor, and, ultimately, compassion. Or maybe you should just go and see his movie or read his catalog of nonfiction titles! In any case, it’s Jeff Kerr’s time.”

David Marion Wilkinson, author of Not Between Brothers and co-author of One Ranger
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AuthorInterview

Interview with Jeffrey Kerr

How has Texas—or being a Texan—influenced your writing?

My nonfiction books are about Texas because, living in Austin, I have ready access to Texas historical archives. My two novels are set in Texas and about Texans because, having lived here most of my life, I know and love the state and its people as well as anyone.

Where did your love of books and reading come from?

My parents. Dad never went anywhere without a book, while one of Mom’s favorite sayings is, “If you can read, you’ll never be bored.”

How long have you been writing?

I published my first book in 2004 and have been writing ever since.

What kinds of writing do you do?

My published works include nonfiction, historical fiction, and a satirical novel. At one time I kept a blog on my website, to which I posted regular history columns. I’ve also co-written the screenplay for a feature film and the narration for a documentary.

 Why did you decide to self-publish?

I had an agent represent this book to numerous publishers. Several expressed admiration for the work but ultimately passed. I finally self-published because I’m as proud of this novel as anything I’ve written and believe there is a readership out there for it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

As I wrote I imagined certain famous actors playing my characters. I found it quite entertaining to “hear” these actors running through the dialog I was writing.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I roam all over the literary landscape when choosing what to read, but I am particularly partial to historical fiction, crime novels, suspense novels, and well-written histories.

Who would you cast to play your characters in a movie version of your book?

Jack Cowherd – Chris Pratt

Nadine Cowherd – Anna Kendrick

Tasha Longoria – Tina Fey

Fred Halsey – As I wrote I imagined the late Rip Torn as Fred, but Jack Black would also be great.

Charlie Clutterbuck – Will Ferrell

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose names?

Names are extremely important. They must be distinctive but feasible. For The Republic of Jack I also wanted them to convey a sense of Texas.

 

 

Jeffrey Kerr is the author of three nonfiction books on Texas history, a historical novel, and, most recently, The Republic of Jack, a satirical novel that imagines Texas as an independent country in the twenty-first century. His history of Austin’s founding, Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, was named one of sixty essential books about Texas by Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman. Kerr also co-wrote and co-produced the documentary film, The Last of the Moonlight Towers, and a feature film, the psychological thriller Writer’s Block. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two dogs.

 

 

Website ║ Facebook  ║ Twitter  Instagram

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All Things Left Wild: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review

ALL THINGS LEFT WILD
by
James Wade

Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Number of Pages: 304 pages

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After an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill. 

Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.


Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.

PRAISE for All Things Left Wild:
“A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah Bird, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

“James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn

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Review
Five-Stars
     
     All Things Left Wild is a remarkable debut novel by a very gifted author. Written in a style reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, it deals with issues of life and death in a world where people endure rather than prevail, where morality doesn’t exist, and where violent acts are so horrific that innocence is forever lost and salvation beyond reach.
     The story is set in Arizona, New Mexico, and on both sides of the Rio Grande in Mexico and Texas. It is a vast, rugged, treacherous, yet sublimely beautiful landscape. James Wade writes for visual impact and his descriptions of this part of the world conjure indelible breathtaking images of a pristine unchanging land corrupted only by the lawlessness and cruelty of man.
     There are but two natures, one is man’s – human nature – and the other is nature itself from which we have separated ourselves.
     Caleb Bentley and Randal Dawson are the two main characters in this exploration of men’s souls. Both are tragically linked by the death of Dawson’s twelve year old son. In a botched horse theft, Caleb accidentally kills the boy and now desperately seeks forgiveness and redemption as he flees across the American Southwest. If he can escape, he hopes to… never give another thought to all these things left wild.
     Randall is in pursuit, out for vengeance to somehow prove his manhood, but ill-prepared for the journey over unforgiving terrain or the lawlessness and violence that he encounters along the way that will change him into that which he loathes.
     He would become all things that he hated and thus grow to hate himself, and in that hate he would find the only solace left to him. He would let it fester and rot until every trace of his humanity became consumed by blackness. If the world was full of monsters, he would
become one.
     James Wade’s personal and direct style of writing, his passionate voice, elaborate dialogue, poetic language, and unapologetic graphic depictions of pure evil are hypnotic. There are passages with so much lyricism in them that I found myself reading and re-reading them over and over again.
     The novel doesn’t neatly fit into any particular genre or category. Though it takes place in the west, it is not your typical western. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, it is not your usual action-adventure. Describing the loss of innocence, it is not your normal coming of age book. It is at once a beautiful elegy to the land and a profound look into our existence and our mortality.
     The world is of itself and nothing else, and it will be as it is and as it always was. There is no changing for the world, only for the man.
     Deeply fatalistic; evil is an inexplicable reality and death is inescapable, All Things Left Wild belongs in a category all to itself. In a word, it is extraordinary!
     I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my review.

 

James Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel.
  Website ║ Facebook Blog 
 Instagram ║  YouTube ║ Goodreads 




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The First Emma: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Author Video

THE FIRST EMMA
by
Camille Di Maio

Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

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The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler. Whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses – both also named Emma – and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

 

PRAISE for The First Emma

“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus

“A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana


“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends

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Author Video

Camille Di Maio, author of bestselling historical fiction, loves to illuminate the stories of women from the past. From the challenges they overcome to the loves they embrace, her characters – both real and fictional – have something to teach us in the present.

Join Camille as she introduces her books and invites her readers to keep in touch.

The First Emma

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Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach. 
 

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Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Promo

COVEY AND JAYJAY
GET EDUCATED
Audio Book Tour
By Shelton L. Williams
Narrated by Kathy James
Covey Jencks Mysteries, Book 2
Genre: Murder Mystery / Social Thriller / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Audible
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Publication Date: March 18, 2020

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Amateur detectives Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls are drawn into a triple murder on the campus of Baker College in West Waverly in the Texas Hill Country. Both end up taking positions at the college: Covey as an adjunct instructor and JayJay as a visiting actor. 

 

Initially they believe that money is the motive for the murders, but over time they learn that the college is a cauldron of political and social intrigue. The college’s new president and his beautiful wife, various staff members, a prominent trustee, and parties not associated with the college have the motives, opportunities, and wacky agendas that might implicate them in the murders. It turns out that a white nationalist group may be using a college house for its nefarious activities, but are they more talk than action? 
 
The West Waverly police are little to no help in the investigation, and Covey himself has to depart the college to deal with his father’s death. JayJay takes over and makes a critical breakthrough. Upon Covey’s return, the couple must rely on deception, a bit of luck, and martial arts skills to solve the crimes and to try to prevent a high-profile assassination.

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he taught for nearly forty years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on four occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

 

Kathy James. My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  


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SECOND PRIZE: Both Covey Jencks books in Kindle editions
THIRD PRIZE: Covey and JayJay Get Educated in Kindle edition
MAY 7-16, 2020
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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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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. 

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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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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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Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

RIO RUIDOSO
Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

 

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

 

Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

RIO RUIDOSO

BY PRESTON LEWIS

As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

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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