It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing

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Book Review – Nina’s Memento Mori by Mathias B. Freese

Posted by mcm0704 on February 28, 2020 |

Nina’s Memento Mori
Mathias B. Freese
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Wheatmark (September 24, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 162787710X
ISBN-13: 978-1627877107

 

 

Near the end of Nabokov’s Lolita, Humbert makes an honest admission: “[A]nd it struck me…that I simply did not know a thing about my darling’s mind.” That line sums up the isolate game of memorializing a deceased loved one, which is the basic tension in Nina’s Memento Mori, an elegy to Mathias Freese’s lost wife. The profound responsibility of answering the question “Who was Nina?” is left to the lone memoirist:

I can say or write anything I want about her…There is much writerly power in that. I am the executor of her probate in all things now. She is mine now in ways she could not be when alive. I am the steward of her memory.

In a series of short chapters that are titled with terms from a film script such as: fade in and close up, the author gives numerous life lessons about loving – about living – about dying, and about grief.

About all of the things that make up the complex human condition.

There were many places where I highlighted a passage and this one about fathers was most poignant.

Writing about an experience he had with his boyhood friend who had just told him about seeing his father having to labor so hard at a job unloading crates of fruit onto a hand truck. “That was his father’s job all day long. When he told me of this he began to choke up, and, as I look back, I see Willy Loman, capitalism, the French Revolution, Rousseau, the indelible unfairness and cruelty of a marketplace run by men with the retread rubber heart of a Donald Trump. Arthur Miller got it right with Loman. My father worked in a pawn shop, and I once saw his boss tear into him. I felt time stand still as they both looked at me, and I looked at them, knowing that something was awry and awful between men, and between men & sons. Indeed, low men..”

And another memorable quote: “I was not fathered. a tragic experience, often unrecognized until later in life when we become aware that we have experienced a great cheat – cosmic bite out of the time we have.”

This book is as much about looking at our own mortality as we age as it is an elegy for Nina, the woman that the author was blessed to have in his life for two years. At one point in the writing, he stresses that he has written this book to honor her memory but also as a way to let her know more about him because they had so few days together. It is also a profound statement of all that is lost when a person dies. The things that were important to that person never mean the same thing to anybody else.

The title, Nina’s Memento Mori , refers to the fact that he considers himself her artifact: “I am grateful that she found in me some measure of peace and rest before she was secreted away by the galactic grim reaper”

This is a book that is well worth the read for those insights as well as reading a lovely love letter to the woman that he loved so late in his life. I highly recommend it.

BUY LINK

MATHIAS B. FREESE is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored seven books. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust won the Beverly Hills Book Award, Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016, Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards. The following year his second memoir appeared, And Then I Am Gone.

Find all his books on his AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

That’s all from me, folks. I hope your weekend starts off well and is filled with fun, friends and family. Be safe. Be happy

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Of Goats and Farmers

Posted by mcm0704 on February 26, 2020 |

Join me in welcoming Slim Randles as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. This story about Steve and the goat really resonated with me. When I first moved to my little “ranch” in East Texas, I wanted a goat. Despite what folks said about not getting a billy, I bought the cutest little kid, that soon grew into a raucous adult goat.

I learned my lesson. That goat went to a breeder, and I got a nanny, who was much calmer. Lucy was actually a very nice goat, and I enjoyed having her out in my back pasture for years.

Now, here’s Slim.

Steve was out in the Mule Barn truck stop parking lot the other day, tightening something with his wrenches under the hood of his pickup truck. The rest of us stood around looking wise.

“You sure it ain’t the solenoid?” said Bert.

“I don’t think they make them anymore,” said Doc.

“It’s usually the solenoid,” Bert said, with finality.

Out of self defense, Steve emerged from his cavern of wires and metal long enough to say, “Didn’t I see you have a goat now, Bert?”

Bert nodded. “That’s why I hate allergies.”

We waited. We stared.

“Well you see, Maizie’s allergic to cow’s milk, so we bought Ernestine for her.”

“And Ernestine is ….?”

“The goat … right. So what happens is somehow I have to milk Ernestine. Twice a day. We wanted to go overnight to the city last week. Ever try to find someone who will babysit and milk a goat?”

“I won’t do it,” said Dud.

“Neither will anyone else,” said Bert, sadly. “So either we stay home, or take the goat with us. Ever try to find a motel that takes goats?”

“Not recently,” Doc said.

“So we stayed home. Oh, it wouldn’t be so bad if she liked me…”

“Maizie?”

“Ernestine. See, she waits until I have her almost milked out, then she’ll stick her foot in the bucket and kick it all over me. The other day, I was standing in her pen and talking with Mrs. Gonzales next door, and Ernestine came running up behind me and ran right between my legs.”

“Did you fall?”

“Of course. And Mrs. Gonzales tried not to laugh, but it didn’t work.”

“Bert,” said Doc, “why don’t you just buy goat’s milk at the store?”

“Maizie says she needs it fresh, because it’s better. You guys ever notice how a goat has horns and cloven hooves?”

We nodded.

Then Bert said, “I don’t think I need to add anything to that.”


Brought to you by Ol’ Jimmy Dollar, Slim’s children’s book about a happy hound-dog man and his “kids.” See it at riograndebooks.com.

In addition to hosting a radio show, Slim Randles writes the nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here on the blog, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of the columns he has shared with us, as well as the 4 million readers of the newspapers where his columns appear.

I hope you enjoyed this offering from Slim. Please do let me know in a comment.

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Book Excerpt – Desperate Season: Book Three of the Seasons Mystery Series

Posted by mcm0704 on February 24, 2020 |

Sharing another excerpt of the new Seasons Mystery, Desperate Season. I’m doing a final edit, then I hope the book will be ready for a publishing home.

Sarah Kingsly eased back to a comfortable lope a quarter of a mile from home, then slowed to a walk for the final block to cool down. When she’d headed out for her run at seven that morning, it had been cool. Now it was already hot. When was she ever going to learn? It wasn’t as if she was new to Texas and didn’t know how hot it could get in early spring. The big joke around the department was that there were only two seasons in Texas, hot and cold, but most of the time it wasn’t that much of a joke. There was none of that slow slide into spring that she remembered from her childhood in Tennessee. In Texas, you could be freezing your ass off one day and boiling the next.

Of course, if she’d come straight home instead of stopping for coffee at the convenience store, she would have missed the worst of the mid-morning heat. But then she would have missed the neighborhood gossip from Hussein who owned the gas station. He spoke excellent English for an Iranian immigrant, and he liked it when Sarah hung around, even when she wasn’t on duty. He’d once told her she just looked like a bad-ass cop even in her jogging clothes, and that was enough to keep the bad guys away. Of course, he politely called her Miss bad-ass cop, the mix of formality and slang always making her smile.

Pulling the neck of her tee-shirt up, Sarah wiped sweat from her face, then dug the key to her apartment out of the pocket in her shorts. She reached out to insert the key in the lock and the door moved slowly away from her. She immediately went on high alert, easing through the opening and glancing in. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust from the bright sunlight to the dim interior of the entryway, and in that moment, she mentally scrambled for a reason the door would be open that didn’t involve some maniac waiting for her. Since she had nothing for protection except her bare hands and a few keys on a key ring, she tried to convince herself that nothing was wrong. Perhaps she had inadvertently left the door open.

As soon as that thought formed, Sarah dismissed it. There was no way she left the door unlocked. Inadvertently or otherwise. She had never in her whole life forgotten to lock a door. Her mother had instilled the importance of security in Sarah the child by pointing out the crazy man on the next street who liked to go into people’s houses and take things. It was rumored that he took more than things, but her mother had never elaborated on that.

Then there was the number one safety thing they were taught in the police academy – locked doors do deter most thieves. Although in practice, Sarah had found that thieves who were determined did not let something as minor as a lock stand in their way.

Thankful that her apartment was small, Sarah did a quick visual sweep of the living room and kitchen. It was hard to tell if anything had been disturbed. She wasn’t the neatest of housekeepers, so the living room always had a “tossed” look to it. A second look around and she noted that her TV was missing, and something else registered. She didn’t hear Cat. He usually came running out of the bedroom when she returned from her morning run. He knew it was time to eat, and not much stood between the cat and his food.

The silence grated on her nerves. She couldn’t decide if it was good that she couldn’t hear anything. That meant that whoever had been in her apartment was gone. But it also meant that Cat was gone…or… She didn’t want to think about “or”. She didn’t care about the TV, but if someone hurt her cat, they’d pay for it.

Sarah slipped quietly into the kitchen and grabbed the big butcher knife from the wooden block on the counter. She’d rather have her gun, but that was in the drawer in her nightstand in the bedroom. No way was she going in there armed with just her keys. When the ring tone sounded on her cell phone, Sarah almost dropped the knife. Damn. She scrounged the phone out of the pocket in her shorts and answered in a whisper.

“Kingsly?” the voice of her boss responded. “What the hell are you doing?”

She resisted the impulse to ask him what the hell he was doing calling her on the first Sunday she’d had off in weeks. “I’m checking out my apartment.”

“For what?”

“Someone took my television.”

“Did you call 911?”

“Why? I’m already here.”

She heard Lieutenant McGregor release a long breath. She worried that she might be the death of him yet. “Have you cleared the premises?”

“One room to go. On my way.” She disconnected, then dropped the phone back into her pocket before pushing through the bedroom door, making it slam into the wall and anyone who might be lurking behind it. A quick scan of the room showed her nothing had been disturbed. Odd that someone would break in and just steal a television. Wasn’t even a high-end set. She quickly retrieved her gun and cautiously opened the closet door. Nobody hiding there, and nobody in the bathroom.

But still no sign of Cat.

She’d never considered having a cat, or any other living thing depending on her for that matter. No pets. No houseplants. Nothing. But she’d become quite attached to the little orange tabby who’d arrived cold and starving on her doorstep right after John’s death. Had it really been already over a year?

Yeah. Closer to two years.

Now she imagined the cat outside somewhere, frightened. Or had the someone who’d broken in taken Cat? What on earth for? Heaviness settled in her stomach, and she sat down on the bed, trying to hold back tears that warmed her eyes. She swiped at the wetness. Get a grip, woman. It’s just a cat for heaven’s sake. But crying had come all too easy since John. He’d been her first and only partner after she’d gotten her shield fifteen years ago. Losing him, and then having to kill the kid who’d shot him had been the lowest point of her life. Sometimes she felt like she was still down there in that deep black pit.

Shrugging off those dark thoughts, she reached out to put her gun back in the drawer and something nudged her foot. “Holy crap!” She jumped up, heart racing, and lifted the edge of the sheet that had slid part-way off the bed. There was Cat, huddled in a shadowed orange ball. Sarah got down on her knees and held out her hand. “Hey there. You want to come out?”

His eyes were huge, the orange of his iris almost obscured by the black pupil. A sure sign he was terrified. Sarah waited, not wanting to reach in to pull him out and risk getting scratched in the process. Then her phone rang again, and the noise startled the cat. He let out a yowl and ran deeper under the bed. Sarah leaned back on her heels and answered the phone.

“Is everything okay, Kingsly?” McGregor asked after she said hello. “I’ve got units on their way to—”

“Not necessary. Nobody is here. And nothing is missing, except my television. I found my cat.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Call off the cavalry.” Even as she said that, she could hear sirens in the distance drawing near. Damn. “Could you at least tell them to kill the sirens?”

Start reading the series with Open Season, only 99cents for Kindle. And enter this giveaway for a chance to win a new Kindle ereader, and a paperback copy of Open Season. Contest ends tonight at midnight. Please let me know what you think of the excerpt.

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Sitting on a Fortune Book Blog Tour and Review

Posted by mcm0704 on February 21, 2020 |

SITTING ON A FORTUNE

The Sisters, Texas Book 9 
by
BECKI WILLIS

Genre: Cozy Mystery / Romance / Women Sleuths
Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
Date of Publication: February 11, 2020
Number of Pages: 228

Scroll down for giveaway!

 

Hidden fortune. Hidden danger. 

Madison Reynolds deCordova is about to uncover a dangerous secret…literally.

During In a Pinch Professional Services’s latest gig at an upholstery shop, Madison finds a chair that’s perfect for her husband’s birthday gift. At least it will be, once she removes the worn velvet. Hiding the chair at Granny Bert’s, Madison tackles her first solo upholstery project but soon discovers more than she bargained for! A hidden treasure beneath the cushion puts her in the middle of a new mystery and new danger.

The treasure isn’t her only problem. While helping a young boy find his lost dog, Madison lands on the wrong side of surly businessman Lamont Andrews. Meanwhile, best friend Genny is worried about one of her café patrons. Mr. Pruett’s wild stories are getting wilder each day, and now he’s missing. Plus, there’s the matter of a troublesome new habit Maddy seems to have acquired: breaking and entering. It’s a harsh term for simply trying to rescue a dog and save an old man.

Somehow, she knows it all fits together. But what does a lost dog, a cluttered old barn, Mr. Pruett’s disappearance, and a hidden treasure have to do with her chair? Now someone is stalking her and her grandmother, and Madison knows that danger is on its way.

As always, The Sisters are full of fun, excitement, family antics, and more danger than the law allows!

Okay, I know Monte, the 11-year-old boy and his missing dog are not the main players in this mystery. But I couldn’t help but love that child who came in with his wad of crumpled bills and coins and pleaded with Madison to find his dog who had disappeared. Who could resist?

Monte is just one of the delightful characters who take part in this story. The relationship between Madison and her grandmother Granny Bert is equally delightful and the bond that they have is strong.

Then there’s the predictable Mr Pruitt, he of the tall tales and conspiracy theories that he shares at the diner when he comes in for his three times a week lunch of chicken-fried steak. His order is as dependable as the khaki pants and khaki shirt that he wears everyday.

One of his stories is about how people hid their valuables, especially gold, during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. That was a time when people were encouraged to give their gold to the government in exchange for certificates.

When Madison hears that, she can’t help but wonder if that’s how the gold got to be in the old Victorian chair she’s recovering for a birthday present for her husband, Brash, who just happens to be the chief of police. The need to find out who might have put the gold in the chair, and why, took Madison into the past.

Granny Bert proves that the chair Madison found in a resale shop once graced the halls of the house that had belonged to Juliet and was bequeathed to Granny years ago. In her research, Madison finds out more about Darwin Blakely, who had dalliances with the two sisters, Naomi and Juliet, for whom the two neighboring towns are named, as well as information about gold prospecting right in that area of Texas years ago. This was an interesting look into the past for Madison, and reading Juliet’s journals became integral for ferreting out the truth about the treasure in the chair.

That mystery eventually connects up with some of those stories Mr. Pruitt spins, as well as the disappearance of the dog. At first, those two elements seem almost incidental, especially when Madison finds the dog. (oops spoiler alert). This makes for a plot that is not as simple as it might appear in the beginning, and I highly encourage you to keep reading the book. There is much more to come after my little spoiler that comes early on in the story. Stay with it for the rest; it’s well worth the read.

CLICK TO PURCHASE

WATCH THE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE

 

 

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!

Website ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads  ║ Email  Facebook ║ Instagram║ Pinterest

 

 

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

GRAND PRIZE: Kendra Scott necklace + eBook of Sitting on a Fortune
2nd Prize: Audio Codes for the first four The Sisters, Texas books * 3rd Prize: Autographed paperback copy of Sitting on a Fortune 

February 20-March 1, 2020 * (U.S. Only) 

ENTER NOW

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

2/20/20 BONUS Post All the Ups and Downs
2/20/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/21/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
2/22/20 Review Sydney Young, Stories
2/23/20 Review The Clueless Gent
2/24/20 Review Missus Gonzo
2/25/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
2/26/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/27/20 Full Series Review Reading by Moonlight
2/28/20 Review Forgotten Winds
2/29/20 Review Hall Ways Blog

 

  

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Good Deeds Go Unnoticed, Sometimes

Posted by mcm0704 on February 19, 2020 |

Slim Randles is here as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. The guest here at my house is a return of the nasty cold I had last week. I thought I’d kicked it out, but somehow it slipped back in. Must have been that day it was unseasonably warm here in Northeast TX, and I had a window open. If anybody has some chicken soup, send it on over. In the meantime, all I can offer for refreshments is a cup of hot tea. Grab one and enjoy Slim’s story. I’m going back to bed.

Windy was at it again the other day … Helping Day.

There aren’t an awful lot of things a semi-retired half stoved-up cowboy and camp cook can contribute to make his community a better place. With Windy Wilson, it sure as sugar wasn’t money. He couldn’t put a down payment on a free lunch. So he helped someone, about once a week, depending on weather.

Part of the fun of it was not saying anything to the vic … er, recipient of his largesse, that is. Just go do something nice for a day.

Today, the lucky recipient of his Herculean labors was old Dan Gurule. Windy knew through the grapevine that he hadn’t been well, so he drove over to Dan’s place and shoveled the sidewalk and his porch steps free of snow. When he finished, Windy threw the snow shovel in his pickup and prepared to leave.

No sign of Dan, which was unusual, because there was almost always a cup of coffee for Windy on Helping Day. He drove down to the Mule Barn, waved an empty cup at Loretta and turned to the guys.

“Wellsir, went over to Dan Gurule’s house, boys,” Windy said. “You know, did a little snow shovelin’.”

“Helping Day, Windy?”

“Right you are, Doc. Never did see ol’ Dan, though. Musta been asleep.”

The guys looked at each other. “Windy,” said Doc, “Dan passed away last week.”

Windy shook his head. “Sorry to hear ‘bout that. Prolly why I didn’t exasperate a cup of coffee off him today.”


Brought to you by Ol’ Jimmy Dollar, Slim’s children’s book about a happy hound-dog man and his “kids.” See it at riograndebooks.com.

In addition to hosting a radio show, Slim Randles writes the nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here on the blog, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of the columns he has shared with us, as well as the 4 million readers of the newspapers where his columns appear.

I hope you enjoyed this offering from Slim. Please do let me know in a comment. And I hope no germs made their way from here to you through cyberspace. I did use hand sanitizer before I typed. Whatever you day holds, be safe. Be happy.

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Book Excerpt – Third Book in The Seasons Mystery Series

Posted by mcm0704 on February 17, 2020 |

Over the next few months I’m going to occasionally share an excerpt from the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series, Desperate Season. I’ve been trying to get this book completed for a few years now, but life and other books interfered. Other than having to clean up the rough parts of the last two chapters, the book is finished. Now all I have to do is find a publisher. I’m hoping the one that published the first two will consider this one.

Obviously, this isn’t the cover that will be on the book. I just thought a visual would help set the scene. I’m a writer, not a graphic artist, so this is rudimentary at best. 

Chapter One – Sunday March 4, 2018

Felicity wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand, then picked up her soccer ball. It wasn’t so hot this early on a Sunday morning in March, but the workout brought out the heat in her body. She’d run laps then practiced dribbling with her friend Maria for almost an hour. Now Maria was dashing off the field and called out, “See you tomorrow?”

“After school. I’ll be here. I want more practice before the tournament.”

“Me, too.” Maria waved and hopped on her bike to ride home.

The two girls were the stars of their club soccer team, and they were proud of it. But not too proud. Felicity’s mother told her what The Church had to say about pride, so she tried to contain her thrill over what she could do with her powerful legs on the soccer field. Today she’d managed to get past Maria eight times out of ten, and Maria played the best defense on the team.

Felicity checked her watch. Almost eight. She’d better hurry if she was going to make it home in time to clean up for 10 o’clock Mass. She trotted over to the picnic bench where she’d left her backpack. At home earlier, she’d dumped her school books so there would be room for her soccer ball and a bottle of water. As far as she was concerned, those were more important than math or social studies. She had dreams. Big dreams of being a soccer star. She’d watched the Olympics when the American team had won gold, and that is what she wanted to do. Play for the United States and win. After that, maybe she’d become a coach. Help some other young girl find a dream that was worth hours of sweat and a multitude of sore muscles.

Hoisting her backpack, she hurried to where she’d locked her bike. A cool breeze blew across her face; it dried the beads of sweat and actually made her shiver. She didn’t like being in the little park alone. She wished Maria would have stayed so they could have shoved off together. Sometimes an older boy would hassle them, wanting them to buy some dope. “It’s cheap,” he’d say. “Just two bucks. And you can share.”

She often saw him giving stuff to other kids who were there practicing soccer or to play on the swings and slides. They were little kids, even younger than she was, and some of them would take the little plastic bags of white powder. Felicity couldn’t deny that sometimes she was tempted to join in whatever fun they were having after sniffing the drug. She could go along to get along. But then she thought of her Olympic dream. No way would she achieve that if she did drugs.

The park was starting to fill up with other kids, and she knew she’d better hurry if she wanted to get out of there before the boy showed up.

After putting on her helmet, Felicity quickly unlocked her bike, pocketed the lock, and swung her leg across the seat. She hoped her parents wouldn’t be angry if she was late. Especially her father. He got angry so quickly of late. She did not know what worried him, but something had changed him from the teddy-bear of a father he used to be to a mean old black bear that growled a lot.

Just as she brought the pedals around to shove off, Felicity heard a whisper of a sound behind her. Before she could turn to check it out, she heard a loud click.

Then, nothing.

I hope you enjoy the excerpt. Please let me know what you think in a comment. Hope your week starts off on a good note. Be safe. Be happy.

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Collision of Lies Blog Tour And Giveaway

Posted by mcm0704 on February 15, 2020 |

COLLISION OF LIES
(Detective Amara Alvarez, Book One)
by
TOM THREADGILL

Genre: Contemporary Christian Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

PRAISE FOR COLLISION OF LIES:

Threadgill plunges a detective from the San Antonio Property Crimes Division into a deep-laid plot involving murder, kidnapping, and myriad other crimes above her pay grade.”— Kirkus Review

“I have a new favorite author. Tom Threadgill kept me reading for hours. I didn’t want to put this book down . . . couldn’t put it down. I absolutely adore Amara Alvarez and her relationships with her coworkers, friends, and her iguana! Now I want one. She was a heroine who made me laugh and one I could really relate to. I can think of a few words to describe this book: amazing, incredible, intriguing, mesmerizing, unputdownable. . . I could go on, but I need to stop so I can go buy up the entire backlist of my new favorite author.”  — Lynette Eason, award-winning, bestselling author of the Blue Justice Series

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CHRISTIANBOOK.COM  ⬫  iBOOKS  ⬫  KOBO

OTHER RETAILERS

 

It’s hard not to be intrigued by a police detective who has an Iguana as a pet. Right away we know Amara Alvarez is not going to be a stereotypical cop, and she isn’t. Then there’s Dr. Pritcchard, the ME, who eats Cheetos with chopsticks so he doesn’t get the orange powder all over his hands.

Added pleasure in reading the book was the descriptions that captured a moment perfectly. As Amara is watching video from a security camera, she notes that people “scurried to and fro like ants that had stumbled into a puddle of an energy drink.”

When trying to decide if she will consider a double-date that the Texas Ranger, Sara proposes, Amara hesitates, thinking about the homicide detective who is easy on the eyes. But it’s apparent that there’s something in her past that makes her reluctant to dive into dating. She says, “I don’t know. Larry’s the jealous type.”

To which Sara responds, “Yeah, well, until he starts buying your dinner, I say keep looking.”

Larry is the Iguana.

In addition to the wonderful cast of characters, I appreciated that the author didn’t spend a lot of time setting each one up and giving tons of backstory in one big info dump. We learn what we need to know as the story progresses, and some mysteries in the backstory help to hold the reader’s attention. For instance, an ongoing tease in the story is why the homicide detective is called Starsky. Amara is as intrigued by that secret as much as she is about the man himself.

The mystery plays out in an intricate plot centered on a train accident in the town of Cotulla in which a busload of children were killed. But were they? That’s the question that haunts Amara after a mother of one of the children comes in to the station to report that they have received a text message from their son. From that simple beginning, comes a tale of conspiracy and an extensive cover up of what really happened and why.

I highly recommend this book to those who love a good, complicated mystery with a wonderful protagonist.

Tom Threadgill is a full-time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for LPC Books, a division of Iron Stream Media. He lives with his wife in rural Tennessee.

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GRAND PRIZE: Copy of Collision of Lies + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card 

SECOND PRIZE: Copy of Collision of Lies + Composition Notebook Pouch

THIRD PRIZE: Copy of Collision of Lies

February 6-16, 2020  (U.S. Only)

 

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

2/6/20 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
2/6/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
2/7/20 Review Max Knight
2/8/20 Guest Post StoreyBook Reviews
2/9/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
2/10/20 Review The Clueless Gent
2/11/20 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
2/12/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
2/13/20 Excerpt Sybrina’s Book Blog
2/14/20 Review Tangled in Text
2/15/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy

 

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2

Meet Mystery Author D.B. Borton

Posted by mcm0704 on February 12, 2020 |

Please help me welcome D.B. Borton to the blog as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She is the author of Bayou City Burning, the first book in a new mystery series that I reviewed here last Sunday. Since the story takes place in Houston, TX in the summer, when even the sidewalks melt in the summer, maybe a cool glass of iced tea is in order. Those of us who are still shivering in the cold of winter can pretend. We are good at that. Right?

Iced mint tea

What prompted you to set your story in 1961?

You may be surprised to learn that the answer is mathematical (my accountant will definitely be surprised to learn that!). I was drawing heavily on my own childhood in Houston, and I wanted Dizzy to be a certain age—specifically, not yet a teenager. Dizzy is actually a little older than I was in 1961.

The discovery of all the historical events taking place in the spring and summer of 1961—especially regarding the moon mission and plans to bring a space center to Houston—was pure serendipity. As most writers will confirm, that happens more often than you’d think.

The book reads a little bit like a Noir PI story, with a whole lot of Nancy Drew thrown into the mix. How did you come to write it that way?

These are both genres I have enjoyed in the past. My love of mysteries started with Nancy Drew. I discovered hard-boiled detective fiction much later in life, when I became a film student, so I saw the movies before I read the books. BAYOU CITY BURNING began with a simple question: what would a hard-boiled detective look like ten or twelve years down the road, when he had orthodontist’s bills to pay?

Why did you decide to make Dizzy such an important character? She’s a delight, by the way.

Dizzy was part of the original conception; I never thought of not making her an important character. I always assumed that both Harry and Dizzy would narrate. What I couldn’t decide was which of the two should open the book. I actually asked friends of mine, a couple, to read both versions—one in which Dizzy’s narration came first (the original version I wrote) and one in which Harry’s narration came first—and they agreed that Harry should speak first, but that Dizzy should speak soon afterward. Of course, an older Dizzy gets the prologue.

Do you enjoy writing stories with a Noir feel to them? Are more planned?

I hadn’t done it before, and I had a lot of fun with it. The model for me was Raymond Chandler, and it’s a delightful challenge to attempt to imitate his style. I am planning further books in the Harry and Dizzy Lark series.

If you could go through a wormhole, would you go into the future, the past, or stay right here? Why?

I’m perfectly content to stay where I am. Many middle-class Baby Boomers like me led privileged lives. We didn’t experience the hardships of the Depression or World War II, and we didn’t experience the kinds of pressures that kids do today, when social media contribute to an epidemic of bullying and depression among young people.

What gives you the most pleasure in writing?

Living vicariously through the characters and inhabiting the worlds I create.

What other creative things do you do?

For many years I was a potter, but I was never good enough to satisfy myself. Now that I’m retired, I plan to find an art form that is cheaper and more portable with less environmental impact. I also hold a third-degree black belt in Aikido.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native Texan, Borton became an ardent admirer of Nancy Drew at a young age. At the age of fourteen, she acquired her own blue roadster, trained on the freeways of Houston, and began her travels. She left Texas at about the time everyone else arrived.

In graduate school, Borton converted a lifetime of passionate reading and late-night movie-watching into a doctorate in English. She discovered that people would pay her to discuss literature and writing. But because she found young people interesting and entertaining, she became a college teacher. Later, during a career crisis, she discovered that people would pay her to tell stories, although even less than they would pay her to discuss stories written by someone else.

Borton is the author of two mystery series—the Cat Caliban series and the Gilda Liberty series—as well as the recent mystery Smoke and the comic novel Second Coming. She draws on her academic research to write a blog on the history of girl detectives, available on her WEBSITE, where you can join her mailing list. You can also follow her on FACEBOOK

BOOK BLURB:  It’s hard to be hard-boiled when your biggest fan and worst critic is your 12-year-old daughter, especially when she’s cracking your case for you and defending you from the bad guys, joined by pals human and feline.

Comedy meets mystery and history in the summer of 1961, when Houston is still a cowboy backwater—overheated and under-air conditioned. P.I. Harry Lark and his daughter Dizzy team up to solve several mysteries. The Freedom Riders are inspiring the local civil rights movement and the dockworkers are preparing to strike, so things are really heating up when an out-of-towner entangles P.I. Harry Lark with President Kennedy’s moon mission. LBJ and his Texas cronies are plotting to get NASA to build a space center in Houston, but somebody is out to stop them.

BUY LINK

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0

A Message of Hope

Posted by mcm0704 on February 10, 2020 |

The following was taken from a letter that I, along with many others, recently received from Beto O’Rourke. It lays out many of my reactions to recent events as I try valiantly to cling to my faith in America and our government.

I won’t publish the entire letter as it is very long, but I’ll share what I think are the most important parts. And I ask you to read through to the last two paragraphs. They have a great message.

Grab a cup of tea and read on…

When the Constitution was adopted on June 21, 1788, it immediately became the exception to the rule of human history, announcing to the world that we would be governed by laws and not by men. To guard against human tendency to concentrate power and authority — to keep would-be kings, dictators, strongmen and thugs from wresting control of this noble experiment — a system of checks and balances was implemented. There would be separate branches of government, and a division of power and responsibility between them. And in the sole branch of government where power is not shared but held by one person, the executive, there would be a further check: impeachment.

Under the Constitution, there is the aspiration that we will all be treated equally under the law and that each of us will have equal opportunity to guide the affairs of this country through free and fair democratic elections.

Today, two hundred and thirty-three years after its adoption, it has been replaced by something else.

“Functionally a monarch,” is how Presidential historian Jon Meacham described Donald Trump earlier this week, after a feckless Senate majority refused to call witnesses, subpoena documents, or hold anything remotely resembling a fair trial after his impeachment by the House.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters that “Congress had failed”… as though she is a passive spectator of Congress instead of a majority Senator who in fact possesses extraordinary leverage and power to keep it from failing.

Perhaps she should have looked to Mitt Romney, her only colleague in the majority to vote to convict Donald Trump — becoming the first and only Senator in our history to vote to convict a President from his own party.

Romney explained that “the Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it.”

At its core, the President’s trial — our country’s trial — comes down to this question: Will we have the rule of men or the rule of law? Those Senators who accepted the argument that the President can do anything he chooses as long as it helps his re-election, as his defense team argued, support the former. Those who choose to hold him accountable because of, in Mitt Romney’s words, “an appalling abuse of the public trust,” support the latter.

By a 52–48 vote, our country, through our representatives in the Senate, chose the rule of men.

Only some men, to be sure. Those powerful enough, shameless enough, enabled enough, to live above the law.

This past Saturday I saw a photo of white men in camouflage, tactical gear and face masks, armed with military-style assault weapons in the Capitol Building in Frankfort, Kentucky. It was chilling to witness this defilement of democracy by armed thugs who sought to intimidate lawmakers and the citizens they represent.

It wasn’t an aberration. Two weeks ago, similarly heavily armed and masked men paraded through the Virginia capitol in an effort to intimidate lawmakers who had the audacity to introduce bills requiring background checks on firearms purchases. And it wasn’t unconnected to the impunity with which the President acts or the breakdown of the rule of law in our country.

Those men marching up the capitol steps in Kentucky are listening to Donald Trump. They anticipate a tide that is turning, and in the obscenity of their act of masked intimidation presage the beginning of rule by men and not by laws. Just like the white nationalist thugs who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.

We are watching in real time the destruction of the most noble experiment in the whole of human history, a descent, as Adam Schiff put it, into “constitutional madness.” And if we are unable to stop this slide, the victims will number more than just our democracy, our Constitution, and the institutions that have produced the most successful country in the history of the world — they will include any of us not able to purchase power or arm themselves with it.

This was the end of Adam Schiff’s closing argument to the Senate on Monday:

I put my faith in the optimism of the founders. You should too. They gave us the tools to do the job, a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to constrain: impeachment. They meant it to be used rarely but they put it in the Constitution for a reason:

For a man who would sell out his country for a political favor. For a man who would threaten the integrity of our elections. For a man who would invite foreign interference in our affairs. For a man who would undermine our national security and that of our allies.

For a man like Donald J. Trump.

They gave you a remedy and they meant for you to use it. They gave you an oath and they meant for you to observe it. We have proven Donald Trump guilty, now do impartial justice and convict him.

Despite the outcome in the Senate and this darkest of moments for our country, my faith is still in the optimism of the founders.

We are tempted to despair, and that is understandable. But we must understand that should despair take hold, it will leave us defenseless against the greatest challenge America has yet faced.

Perhaps the most alarming thing that came out of Iowa this week was not the incompetence of the party and the failed technology that leaves us still in the dark as to the final results of the caucus… what should most concern us is that turnout might have barely kept pace with 2016 levels, and fell well below the historic turnout of 2008. We’re in the middle of a national emergency, and people are staying home.

Discussing this with a friend, he reminded me of how despair spread across Germany in the 1930s — of all the people who were not Nazis, but neither were they simply passive observers of the Nazis of all that transpired… the countless thousands who were completely devastated by what they saw happening to their country, felt utterly powerless to stop it, and, over time, quietly retreated from the world into darkness and despair. And today? How many millions are so heartbroken by what has come to pass in America that they have already retreated from the world?

I refuse to be one of them. I still have faith in this country, faith that we can follow the optimism of our founders, faith that we can follow the example of El Paso… but it will take all we have from all of us who are willing to fight to save this country to make it so. And in this struggle, as Lincoln said at another defining moment in our history, “we shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

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1

Review – Bayou City Burning by D.B. Borton

Posted by mcm0704 on February 9, 2020 |

Bayou City Burning
D.B. Borton
File Size: 1856 KB
Print Length: 390 pages
Publisher: Boomerang Books (June 1, 2019)
Publication Date: June 1, 2019
Language: English
ASIN: B07PYL443C

BOOK BLURB: It’s hard to be hard-boiled when your biggest fan and worst critic is your 12-year-old daughter, especially when she’s cracking your case for you and defending you from the bad guys, joined by pals human and feline.

Comedy meets mystery and history in the summer of 1961, when Houston is still a cowboy backwater—overheated and under-air conditioned. P.I. Harry Lark and his daughter Dizzy team up to solve several mysteries. The Freedom Riders are inspiring the local civil rights movement and the dockworkers are preparing to strike, so things are really heating up when an out-of-towner entangles P.I. Harry Lark with President Kennedy’s moon mission.

LBJ and his Texas cronies are plotting to get NASA to build a space center in Houston, but somebody is out to stop them. Then Harry is hired to clear a local civil rights group of involvement in a string of firebombings. Meanwhile, Dizzy and her chums are running a lost-and-found out of a suburban garage when they’re hired to find a missing father. All of these cases converge as Harry admits that he needs all the help he can get, even if it comes from a preteen Nancy Drew fanatic.

REVIEW: This is the first of a new series by this author, and I love the idea of a father/daughter team of investigators – especially when the daughter is so young.

By the way, I think Dizzy upstaged Harry most of the time, but that’s generally true with a very smart, precocious 12-year old. I did enjoy the team of sleuths that Dizzy pulled together for the Lost and Found business. All of the girls were distinct as characters and fun to meet in the pages of Bayou City Burning.

This book felt like a mix of a young adult caper-type mystery, similar to plots in Nancy Drew books, and elements of the Raymond Chandler noir PI mysteries. As a fan of both, it was a real pleasure to see those elements in this book.

The connection between what Dizzy and her friends were doing – trying to find information about the man who was supposedly killed in a horrible train wreck – and how that tied into what Harry was doing took a little time to develop. But the time was well spent, as the characters came alive and the story took on more depth.

A reader might question some of the things that Harry shares with his daughter, especially letting her handle guns and taking her to a shooting range. I did at first, but then I remembered that that things were different in 1961. At that time, it was more common for things like that to  happen, especially with people in law enforcement, as well as farmers & ranchers. Most of those folks wanted to  teach their children how to safely handle a weapon.

One of the things I especially liked about the story was the fact that Dizzy and her father had equal roles in solving the overall mystery and bringing the cases to a close.

If you’re a fan of a good mystery with great characters and a lot of humor, this is the book for you.

BUY LINK

A native Texan, Borton became an ardent admirer of Nancy Drew at a young age. At the age of fourteen, she acquired her own blue roadster, trained on the freeways of Houston, and began her travels. She left Texas at about the time everyone else arrived.

In graduate school, Borton converted a lifetime of passionate reading and late-night movie-watching into a doctorate in English. She discovered that people would pay her to discuss literature and writing. But because she found young people interesting and entertaining, she became a college teacher. Later, during a career crisis, she discovered that people would pay her to tell stories, although even less than they would pay her to discuss stories written by someone else.

Borton is the author of two mystery series—the Cat Caliban series and the Gilda Liberty series—as well as the recent mystery Smoke and the comic novel Second Coming. She draws on her academic research to write a blog on the history of girl detectives, available on her WEBSITE, where you can join her mailing list. You can also follow her on FACEBOOK

Do come back on Wednesday when D.B. will be my guest.

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