Blackhorse Road

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Merida Johns and her women’s fiction/romance novel, Blackhorse Road.

Author’s description

Under another hand, Blackhorse Road could all too easily have been a singular romance. Johns provides more as she follows Luci down the rabbit hole and out the other side of life experience, bringing readers into a world where . . . transgression changes everything and challenges carefully-constructed foundations of belief and values. As Luci lets go of her lifesavers and navigates obstacles to happiness, her story becomes a vivid portrait of hope and self-examination which ultimately moves into unexpected territory. Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road’s ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way.

– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

 

It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and her love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.

 Writing for People Who Relish a Compelling Story

I’ve always struggled with others’ needs for me to define my target audience.

“Uh, people who like to think? Maybe people who are curious?” I told the woman in charge of placing my paperbacks in the local bookstore.

She gave me an eye roll. “I’m going put them in young adult,” she said.

Arrgghhh. So, when Merinda Johns described her book as “more than a romance novel” I was curious. Who did she see as her intended audience? I asked her and I love her response!

Yes,  Blackhorse Road is more than a romance, and there’s an unusual backstory about what propelled me to take an offramp from writing nonfiction, mostly textbooks, to authoring fiction.

After I retired from academia, I started my practice as a leadership coach and focused on helping women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. During the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.

About three years ago, I was on a conference call with fellow life coaches, and we were discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life.  Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great Profits fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers.  No!  They got their message across through stories.

Since I was ten-years-old, I had wanted to write fiction, but my professional career steered me in another direction.   Now, I saw an opportunity to follow the dream I had had as a child and write books that immersed readers in the human experience rather than writing about frameworks and theories.

Blackhorse Road is best characterized as women’s fiction—a story of a woman’s journey toward a fulfilled life. It is a story about how an ordinary woman tackles challenges, lives through sorrow and betrayal, struggles with self-doubt, and acts on her aspirations to achieve flourishing life.

Blackhorse Road blossoms from my imagination that is influenced by my experience, perspectives, and observations that give the story authenticity and sensitivity, helping readers connect with the characters and feel their joy, disappointment, sorrow, and happiness.

But Blackhorse Road has more—it is enriched by the backstories that set the context for the characters and events in the story—historical incidents, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and psychology that influence the values of the characters and ultimately the consequences of their actions.  As Connor, one of the characters in Blackhorse Road says, “Time and place shape a person.” It’s the intermingling of these forces that creates a complicated explosion and tension within and among the characters.

Even though Blackhorse Road fits squarely into women’s fiction, it is a story that can appeal to everyone.  This realization came from two “ah-ha” moments that I had.

The first came during a virtual launch party for Blackhorse Road when an audience member asked the beta readers if the book would be appropriate for younger readers.  What prompted that question was the beta readers’ observation about how the lines of communication between Luci (the protagonist) and her father play a critical role in the formation of Luci’s values and belief system, and her grit to achieve autonomy.

In response to the question, one of the beta readers said that she had given the book to her seventeen-year-old granddaughter so that the two of them could read it together, and another beta reader shared that she was reading the book with her fourteen-year-old daughter.  The consensus among the beta readers was that the book was appropriate for teens fifteen and older—an insight we had not discussed at the original meeting of the beta readers seven months earlier!

Okay, I said to myself.  Blackhorse Road is for women readers fifteen years and older.

But then a  second ah-ha moment came roaring through like a tornado when I received a text from a fifties-something man.  “Just finished Blackhorse Road.  WOW!  Very powerful.  Made me cry!  Great job.  Let me know when you have a book signing event in my area.”

So, in the end, while Blackhorse Road has a lot of romance in it, it is more than a romance novel. Blackhorse Road is for anyone who relishes a compelling story about how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through love gained and loss and sorrow and betrayal, and who struggle with self-doubt, and act on their aspirations to achieve flourishing lives.

About the Author

Merida Johns takes her experience as an educator, consultant, and businesswoman and writes about the human experience. In 2018 Merida took an unlikely off-ramp from writing textbooks and motivational books to authoring women’s fiction. Her stories are learning lessons where awareness and curiosity transport readers to the most unexpected places within themselves.  Merida hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, grew up in Southern California and has lived from coast-to-coast in the United States.  Besides writing, she enjoys fabric arts, including weaving and knitting. She makes her home in the serene Midwest countryside that gives her the inspiration and space for storytelling.

Find the Author at:
Her website:  www.MeridaJohnsAuthor.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MeridaJohnsAuthor/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/meridajohns
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Merida-L.-Johns/e/B001IU2KBS
Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/MeridaJohns
Buy Blackhorse Road on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Uncertain what to make of Luci’s stillness, Barry brought his head close to hers and asked, “What are you thinking?”

Luci held back, still gazing ahead. She turned and drilled into Barry’s blue eyes. “I guess, using an Irish term, I could say, ‘What a bunch of malarkey!’” She drew back her lips in a saucy grin and weighed his reaction.

Luci’s response was unarming but charming. Barry laughed. “No one has ever told me in such a nice way that I’m full of bullshit.”

“Well, I guess there’s that!” Luci chuckled, then turned thoughtful. “Putting the ‘BS’ aside, I’d say the story is about choices, not a lovestruck fairy tale. It’s about risks and consequences and being true to your values. It’s about living who you are and not how someone else expects you to live.”

A Hundred Lies

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Jean M. Grant and her historical fantasy romance novel, A Hundred Lies.

Author’s description

1322, Scotland

Rosalie Threston’s fortune-telling lies have caught up with her. Uprooted yet again, she’s on the run from a ruthless English noblewoman. She flees to Scotland and seeks refuge in the arms of a laird’s son who happens to be a real Seer.

 

A bloody past and inevitable future plague Domhnall Montgomerie. He avoids physical contact with others to ease the painful visions. When an accidental touch reveals only delight, he wonders if Rose is the key to silencing the Sight. Mystical awakening unravels with each kiss. But can Domhnall embrace his gift in time to save her life, even it means exposing her lies?

My Review

In A Hundred Lies, Jean M. Grant has created a likable hero in Rosalie, the fake fortune teller. She has placed her in a fascinating time and place, and done the research to make the setting come alive. Finally, she’s given her a thorny dilemma to vex her, and a threatening nemesis to chase her, so we all can hold our breath, hoping the best for her as we turn the pages. I enjoyed reading Rosalie’s adventures.

I wish I’d found the tortured nobleman who loves her to be as compelling, but I never quite did. He is an honorable man with a real talent for seeing the future, and I’m all for having feisty female leads attracted to someone interesting who isn’t a jerk. But he does spend a lot of time brooding about past mishaps and his relentless remorse gets a bit tiresome. Luckily, most of the rest of the cast, including his own mother and sister, and Rosalie’s aunt and uncle, keep things moving.

I appreciated the author’s ability to articulate this distant world, but she sometimes rambled through it a bit too slowly for my tastes. Some scenes cut in and out of past memories and included local facts in ways that reduced the punch of her narrative. That minor complaint aside, I enjoyed how well everything from knowledge of herbs to catty servant girls gave me the feel of being there.

I recommend this book to those who like their romance novels to have more to them than just a couple getting together, and I also recommend it to those who enjoy historical fantasy and wouldn’t mind a romance story as part of the package. Either way, I think readers will find a lot to like about this tale.

About the Author

Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines and websites. When she’s not writing or chasing after children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

Find the Author at:
Website https://www.jeanmgrant.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/JeanGrant05
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jeanmgrantauthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16582543.Jean_M_Grant
Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jean-m-grant
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Jean-M.-Grant/e/B0728KFXP9/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jeanmgrant/

Yes, there is a giveaway

Jean M. Grant will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

She drew his hand into her palm. Her pulse drummed in her ears. Breathe, Rose. Breathe. His fingers trembled in her hand but neither of them released the look. She tried to convey trust and understanding with her own gentle smile. When he seemed settled, she turned her gaze to his hand. After a pause, she said, “It is as I said. Air is your element.”

“What else do you see?” He leaned in, closer. Sweat, sage, hmmm…male? Was male a scent?

Feeling his eyes upon hers, she continued to scrutinize, drawing light touches over the mounds. “You’re somewhat content, though you spend hours alone to get away?”

He held a straight face. “Easy enough facts to guess. I’m a watchman. Fortune-tellers are good in their ploy.” She refrained from arguing. He was on the defense. Understandable. Most people were. He was correct after all. She stroked his fingers. Pretended to examine. His hands were ice-cold.

All right, memory. Time to shine. The marketplace fire, something from his youth. Domhnall liked animals. Seemed to not like fire or touch. She chanced the next statement. “Something in your past upsets you.” Again, stone-faced. At least his hand had stopped trembling.

She would throw out statements until one stuck. Had she been incorrect in her eavesdropping? Surely the servants had been gossiping about Domhnall.

He chewed his lip. Held her gaze.

She paused and pushed the candle closer. “To see better.”

He flinched.

Yes. Fire. It bothered him.

The Secret Spice Café Trilogy

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Patricia V. Davis and her magical realism/women’s paranormal fiction trilogy, The Secret Spice Cafe.

Author’s description

Book One: Cooking For Ghosts

Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef’s mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there’s always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, COOKING FOR GHOSTS is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.

Book Two: Spells and Oregano

A mother desperate to save her twin sons, a war veteran in torment, a beautiful young psychic with a terrible secret, a powerful magician with a shattered soul, and a Queen steeped in history and glory. These extraordinary beings cross paths and set off a remarkable chain of events in Spells and Oregano: Book II in The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy.

Overcome by despair after a trauma when she was sixteen, Sarita Taylor has spent the past ten years isolated and lonely aboard her beloved RMS Queen Mary. Fearful of outsiders, she dedicates her time to managing The Secret Spice Café, now an award-winning restaurant. Until Luca Miceli, a man with a dark past, steps on board.

Patricia V. Davis deftly spins past and present, mystery and magic, into a potent story of passionate longing and family tragedy all at once. Spells and Oregano is a compelling tale of atonement, devotion, and undying love, set aboard one of the world’s most magnificent, haunted ships.

The Secret Spice Trilogy is an Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection.

Book Three: Demons, Well Seasoned

Dare to Believe in Your Power…

A long-lost grandmother. A stay-at-home mom. A comic book fan. A five-year-old girl with a star-shaped birthmark. And nine more.

The cast is bigger, the stakes are higher. When Sarita’s grandmother, a Vodou priestess, foresees a terrible evil, Cynthia, Jane, Angela, and Rohini reunite on a heart-rending mission to save all that’s precious to them, including the iconic ship, the RMS Queen Mary. They cannot do it alone–the priestess tells them there must be thirteen on the night of the thirteenth moon. in this life-or-death pursuit. Yet, can she be trusted?

Spiced with history and the supernatural, Demons, Well-Seasoned takes us from 1930s Glasgow, to New Orleans and Harlem in the 1950s, to present-day southern California, and back again, on a metaphysical voyage that is both exhilarating and poignant. But before you embark upon this final sail with the denizens of The Secret Spice, be warned: expect to lose sleep, and keep tissues at hand. These valiant characters might just stay with you long after their story comes to a close.

Characters, Characters, Characters

Patricia V. Davis has woven a complex tale, spanning generations. I asked her what techniques she used to make sure her readers didn’t get lost in her large cast of characters. Here is her fascinating response.

To keep a reader turning pages in novels such as these, they have to be invested in the characters as much as they are in the story. With a large cast of characters, it’s always a challenge to make their voices distinguishable from one another.  In the case of Angela, Cynthia, Jane, Rohini, Sarita, and Cristiano, who are the main players in an even larger cast of characters, I had to consider the region of the world from which they each came, their ages, their sex, and even their life experiences.

How does that translate to the page? It’s simple enough to give a character description, a synopsis of all of the above for each. Simple, but boring.  I could have written, “Angela was a forty-five-year-old Italian-American from the east coast of the USA,” or I could show that by her actions, her thoughts and perceptions, her manner of speaking.  Each character was given “tells”—phrases they use routinely, motions they make, habits they have.

A reader could go through each novel with a highlighter if they wished, and find these things. Sharp eyes would notice that Rohini rarely, if ever, uses contractions when she speaks, for the reason that her English is careful and precise, as it’s her second language, and she learned how to speak it in her native India.  Cristiano, from Spain, will often sound more like he comes from Mexico. He explains that in the storyline. Sarita nibbles on her thumbnail when she gets nervous, Cynthia moves her hands way more than most, Jane sometimes uses expressions from her native northern England, such as “you lot” to mean, “you people,”  that a number of American readers unfamiliar with the lingo might think is a typo.

I got lucky—so lucky—on the audiobook narrator, Ann Marie Gideon. She loved the idea of all the accents, regions and ages so much, that she spent a lot of time with me, asking questions about each character. And she really nailed them. Her audiobook narration is the best I’ve heard.

Bottom line, writers worth their title research meticulously each character’s background, socio-economic level, life experiences, and take all of that into consideration when writing dialogue, and action.  I’m lucky to have met many people from many different parts of the world. That made it easier for me. I enjoyed writing them, as much as I enjoy hearing a reader say how ‘real’ the characters seemed to them.

They are real, as real as my imagination and pen could make them.

About the Author

Patricia V. Davis’s debut novel series, The Secret Spice Cafe, is comprised of three books: Cooking for Ghosts (2016), Spells and Oregano (2017) and Demons, Well-Seasoned (2019.) The audio books will be released in 2020 by Tantor Media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon.

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California.

Find Patricia V. Davis at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorpatriciavdavis/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patriciaVdavis
TikTok: @patriciavdavis
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_V._Davis

Read my review of her first book, Cooking for Ghosts!

Yes, there is a giveaway

Patricia V. Davis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

from Demons, Well Seasoned

The rain was beastly. It blackened the sky. Like a serpent, it sprang from the pavements, coiled around potholes, and slithered along the road’s perimeters. But when it hit the car windows, it fell like tears, the tears of the inconsolable, the tears the Queen hid in her heart.

They were almost there. The most arduous part of the journey, the five-hour train ride from Ballater, was over. They were only six miles from Clydebank, thereabouts, and that was a mercy. She was exhausted already, and apprehensive about speaking in public for the first time. Not to a small gathering, moreover. She’d been told to expect an audience of two hundred thousand at least. That number had her clenching her gloved hand in her lap. Nerves and worry crawled and bumped around inside her in the same way the black Daimler limousine crawled and bumped over the drenched cobblestones and grooved steel tram tracks of Glasgow Road.

Her role was to maintain an air of serenity and confidence, so she kept her jitters to herself. It would be unthinkable to her to voice them aloud, which was just as well, as no one else shared her mood. Certainly not today. Despite the wet gloom saturating the shoes and clothing of the endless thread of men, women, and children who stood four and five deep on both sides of the streets, their expressions were jubilant as they waved to the Royal motorcade going by. And George, sitting beside her, waved back proudly. As he should do. As he deserved to do.

He’d saved them all.

Cooking for Ghosts

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Patricia V. Davis and her magical realism/women’s paranormal mystery novel, Cooking for Ghosts.

Author’s description:

Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef’s mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there’s always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, Cooking for Ghosts is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.

My Review

Cooking for Ghosts is based on a great premise and is filled with a terrific cast of characters and just enough ghostly activity to keep you on the edge of your seat. It has plenty of humor, a lot of romance, and a few surprises.

My favorite aspects of this book included the many strong female characters and the wide variety of people who are written with affection and empathy. I appreciated the detailed look into the foodservice industry (where I once worked) and the wonderful descriptions of mouth-watering dishes.

I also thought the author hit exactly the right notes in this mostly-gentle ghost story. The paranormal parts were interesting and occasionally thought-provoking without being either horrifying (or disgusting) or being too cute.

I did struggle with the sheer amount of drama and trauma in every character’s life and, after a while, I found myself yearning to be introduced to someone without major issues. I  also got frustrated a few times when the backstories went on too long. I wanted to get back to the action moving this story forward.

The things I liked about this book far out-weighed those I didn’t, so I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates complex stories of women’s lives, or novels about cooking fine food, or well-done ghost stories. If you enjoy two out of three, you are going to love this book!

About the Author:

Patricia v. Davis’s debut novel series, the secret spice cafe, is comprised of three books: s Cooking for Ghosts (2016) Spells and Oregano (2017) and Demons, Well-seasoned (2019). The audiobooks will be released in 2020 by Tantor media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon.

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California.

Say hello to Patricia at her author website: www.TheSecretSpice.com.
You can also find her at
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/authorpatriciavdavis/
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/patriciaVdavis
TikTok:        @patriciavdavis
Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_V._Davis

Buy The Secret Spice Cafe trilogy on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Patricia v. Davis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.

Hers.

And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.

“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”

She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.

But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”

Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.

But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.

“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”

Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.

Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.

Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice-cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.

Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spices, she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.

“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”

The Duplex

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Lucky Stevens and his historical LGBT  novel, The Duplex. 

Author’s description

THE DUPLEX is a thrilling tale, set in 1950s L.A., of four gay friends who hatch a daring scheme to live life on their own terms, during a time of systemic governmental persecution.

Los Angeles, 1956. Shangri-La. Palm trees, swimming pools, movie stars. And if you’re gay—persecution. In a society that demands conformity and lockstep conventionality, gay people find out quickly and the hard way, how difficult, dangerous and downright terrifying it is to be different.

So, when the constant fear of arrests, evictions, job loss and ridicule become too much, four gay friends and lovers pull together to hatch an ingenious scheme designed to allow them to live freely, without harassment.

But their secret plan is not without its flaws. Internal struggles and personality conflicts conspire to make their situation harder and more life-altering than any of them could have predicted, leading to valuable and universal lessons about the high cost of blending in—or not.

My Review

In The Duplex, Lucky Stevens has written a story that both packs a punch and needs to be told.

I liked so many things about this book, including the way Stevens captures the fifties along with all its many ingrained biases. I enjoyed watching the tale evolve through the eyes of four protagonists, often seeing the same incident through different points of view. I appreciated how Stevens demonstrated the way prejudices against any group seep into the beliefs and self-images of those most adversely infected until they begin to doubt themselves. Sometimes it was painful to read, but, as I said, it’s a story worth telling.

In fact, I liked almost everything about this compelling tale. It moved quickly, and the voices rang true. I suppose one could complain that certain aspects of the two gay men, and two lesbian women, were too stereotypical, and they would have a point. I suppose others might struggle with four alternating first-person points of view, although I liked it.

Some might prefer a neater, more happily-ever-after ending for all, but I thought the ending worked fine. Without giving anything away I’ll just say things get messy but happiness is found, much like in real life.

I recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who like historical novels, are fascinated by the 1950s, or are fans of reading about Los Angeles. The novel may appeal to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but I have a special recommendation and this one comes from the heart.

I HIGHLY (caps intended) recommend this novel to those with close friends or family members who are LGBTQ. It’s an eye-opening look at the world they could be living in. I know it made me aware of the need for us all to be vigilant about preserving the basic human rights this group has had to fight so hard for. This novel is important food for thought for a caring community.

About the Author

Lucky Stevens lives, works and plays in exotic North America.  He has written three novels.  He was also a finalist in a nationwide screenplay writing contest.  He was inspired to write The Duplex because he wanted to tackle a subject that grappled with universal themes in a creative and exciting way.

He can be contacted in the following ways:
https://twitter.com/LuckyStevens1
https://www.facebook.com/luckystevens.writer/
luckystevenswriter@gmail.com
https://bublish.com/author/luckystevens

Buy The Duplex at Amazon.  The book will be $0.99 and is
Amazon’s #1 New Release in LGBT Historical Fiction!

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

Lucky Stevens will be awarding $40 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

With the tone of the evening in its proper place, we exited the apartment.

As much as I adore Cliff, I figured I better latch onto Jerry. I don’t know, he just seems a little more like the babe-in-the-woods type. Besides that, it would give me a chance to get to know him. So I stood next to him and slipped my hand around his arm. I gave his bicep a little squeeze. “Ooh, al dente. Just right.” He smiled, and I smiled back. Naturally Cliff and Dot paired up themselves, and us girls held on to each fella’s arm as the men escorted us down the stairs.

As we headed to the car, I was happy to see that my landlady—her name is Mrs. Tambler—was on her patio watering her flowers. She has always been a very nice woman, but she can also be on the nosy side of the street. Because of this fact,

I have had to be careful with Dot, whom Mrs. Tambler has now seen numerous times.

I have told her that Dot is my closest friend, but I am not sure she buys it. For one thing, Dot is quite beautiful and ten years younger than I am. A fact that is a plus for me, but I think a little suspicious looking for Mrs. Tambler. I also only have a one-bedroom apartment, so the idea of Dot spending the night or ever moving in is strictly out.

In any event, with “our men” in tow, I waved to my landlady good and hard in an effort to build up some nice heterosexual brownie points for any possible future mishaps. She looked more than pleased to see Dot and me hanging off the arms of two handsome characters of the masculine variety, shall we say.

The boys, for their part, were just swell. Opening our doors for us, helping us off with our coats, the works. And the fact is, I think we all enjoyed it. It was fun. And nice to be pampered for the night. The boys took care of everything.

It was the perfect mixture too, of chivalry and flirting and teasing which was all made possible by the incontestable fact that no one of the opposite sex was attracted to each other. This is a situation that is very freeing. When there is no chance of romance. No sexual tension. We just played.

 

Single Chicas

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Sandra C. Lopez and her collection of stories entitled Single Chicas.

Author’s description

Single Chicas is a collection of stories about modern Latinas being in, out, and around the zany hurdles of relationships. One woman receives strange calls from a lonely soul, another seeks advice on how to love herself, and another wakes up in a parallel universe to a man she’s never met. These chicas will make painstaking effort to survive the complexities with humor and grace. Once again, López dazzles audiences with her brilliantly candid craft. Smart, witty, and funny, these stories will explore the true endurance of singlehood.

Read an Excerpt

Dear Single Chicas,
Hey, hey, love your site! I was wondering if you could help me. I have a boyfriend I’m crazy about, but he has a tendency to call me at work. It’s getting annoying. Any advice?
Sincerely, Looney Cell

“Ah, a typical relationship conundrum,” Simone said with a mouthful of pizza.
“Yeah, a typical headache,” Georgia added.
“So what do we say?” Chrissy asked.
“Try this,” Simone said, waiting for Chrissy to start typing.

Dear Looney Cell,
Your boyfriend needs to realize that, when you are at work, you are NOT his girlfriend. You need to give him specific hours, just like in any other job. Lay down the line with him. Point out that each time he calls you at your job, it keeps you from doing the work—work you’re getting paid to do and work that in no way, shape, or form involves him. Besides, it may get you in trouble with your boss, if it hasn’t already. Instead tell him to send you a simple text, but be careful not to overload your phone memory. Thanks for the shout out!
Single Chicas

The next email read:

Dear Single Chicas,
What’s up! Problem: I’m engaged and I’m totally freaking out about it. Would I be a fool to ask if we could postpone the big day until I’m less freaked?
Yours truly, Runaway Bride

Reply:

Dear Runaway Bride,
Absolutely not! Don’t do anything you don’t feel ready for. Be honest about it. If nobody can understand that, then you would save yourself the headache and the hassle, not to mention the time and money, for that whole shindig. If it wasn’t meant to be, then so be it. If, however, you have a guy that is willing to wait, then, by all means, let him wait. Wait, wait, wait until you are sure you can make it down that aisle without breaking out in hives. Just make sure you bring your running shoes on the big day….just in case. 😉
Sincerely, Single Chicas

The next email read:

Hey, Single Chicas,
I saw this one episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy suggests a vacation from marriage. What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay?
Sincerely, TV Addict

Dear TV Addict,
Yay! A vacation from marriage allows for the re-discovery of one’s individuality―the “I” before the “we.” There is such a thing as spending “too much” time together. Lucy said it best in that episode: “I’m sick at the sight of your face.” Take a vacation to avoid this sickness.
Sincerely, Single Chicas

About the Author:

Sandra C. López is a writer, artist, blogger, and book reviewer. She is one of today’s funny and influential authors in YA and chick lit. Her first novel, Esperanza, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Her most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas. She is currently working on the next installment of the Single Chicas series called Holiday Chicas. Release date coming soon! When not writing her stories, Sandra supports the art and literary communities with freelance work and book promotion.

Website: http://www.sandra-lopez.com
Book Review Blog: http://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraLopezAuthorArtist/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtistSandraL

The book is free during this tour!

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Single-Chicas-Sandra-C-Lopez-ebook/dp/B01KG85F1Y/

And yes, there is a giveaway too …

Sandra C. Lopez will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter the Giveaway

See the other stops on the tour.

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

woman traveling alone

She’s prohibited in a few places, and frowned upon in many others. Some fear for her safety, others decide she is asking for trouble. Few cultures, if any, are totally comfortable with a woman traveling alone.

These days, she travels for her work, sometimes, and that is understandable. Other times, she is on her way to help aging parents, or to meet friends or family, and of course that makes sense. But what about the woman on a journey, a whole journey, by herself, simply for the sake of enjoying herself? At best, it seems odd to many.

Yet, she does exist, and she wants to go places.

Women have more money than in times past. They also have (on the average) more of a yen to travel. Spouses, relatives and friends may want to go, too, but when they don’t, women are opting to go alone. For many, joining a travel group provides an easier, and possibly safer, way to do this.

Now, I’ve always been someone who enjoys researching a destination and making my own plans. The internet allows for fabulous discoveries for someone willing to invest the time, and I prefer to move on my own schedule and get off the most-traveled path. But I also have always had someone, usually my husband, traveling with me, and I wonder if I am up to taking  similar trips, to a foreign country very different from my own, by myself.

I recently went to Peru, and did it with my first tour group.

There were a lot of considerations. I wasn’t traveling alone, but with my daughter, and I didn’t want the role of tour guide. I was concerned about our mutual safety, our poor grasp of Spanish, and the fairly daunting logistics of getting from Lima to Cuzco, dealing with a 12,000 elevation change, then navigating buses and trains through the Sacred Valley, and securing two of the carefully controlled tickets into Machu Picchu and then doing it all again in reverse to get home. I knew I could manage it, but it sounded more like work than fun.

So I used the internet to find a company called G Adventures, and read about their modestly priced, no-frills modular tour concept. It seemed to include them doing the hard part (clean yet cheap lodging, train tickets) and us handling our own arrival in Peru, shopping, dining and all extraneous activities. I liked the approach.

When our group of sixteen convened for the first time at a hotel in Lima, we were an eclectic mix of two mother-daughter combos, two sisters with one’s husband, a married couple, a pair of twenty-somethings, and five solos travelers. We hailed from Canada, the US, Germany and Australia.

Four of the solo people were men, and one was an independent young professional woman who impressed me with her approach. She’d always wanted to go to Peru, and finally accepted that it wasn’t a priority for anyone else she knew. So, here she was.

That’s the way to do it, I thought.

We had a great time in Peru, and the tour thing worked out quite well as this was one destination where having some help was wise. I took away more from this trip than happy memories and fine photos, however. I took away an idea.

You see, there are a lot of places in this world I want to go. Many of them do not interest my husband at all. Relatives and friends may be persuaded to go to some of these with me, but hey, I don’t think I’ve got anyone who wants to see Kyrgyzstan as bad as I do.

Guess what? G Adventures offers a trip there. They also do to Bhutan. And Cambodia. And Antarctica. And there are other companies like them. And maybe, after doing some of these, I’ll feel ready to tackle more difficult destinations on my own. And maybe not.

Either way, the world is my oyster, as long as my health and my funds hold out. You see, I came home from Peru with more than pretty scarves and coco candy. I came back with a plan; a plan of how to be a woman who travels alone.

(For more on my trip to Peru see What you don’t know …. has the power to amaze you and History at its most exciting.)

Better or worse?

One of the unexpected advantages of deciding to write novels is that even introverts like me find themselves making “writing buddies” online. These kindred souls are often at about the same point in the journey, and they often write in a similar genre and have compatible philosophies about writing and maybe even about life. You might read and critique each others works, you certainly exchange “how to” information and encourage each other, and then you often move on. I remember each such buddy and remain thankful for their camaraderie as I strode into a frightening new world.

BrianRushBrian Rush was one. I liked his fiction; it tended more toward sword and sorcery fantasy than mine and it impressed me that while he was clearly a guy, his tales included strong believable females who had parts in the story that went well beyond merely love interest or spirit guide. He also writes a small amount of non-fiction, published and on his blog and I have enjoyed some of it at least as well.

Working full time and writing part time doesn’t leave room for a lot else, so I don’t communicate with these folks very often now. Yesterday I had occasion to read Brian’s blog. Looks like he has done a lot of writing lately, which is great, and lo and behold there he was posting about one of my favorite topics: Are things getting better?

I was once asked if I had a time machine and could go anywhere in history, where would I go? Well the first answer is that I would never under any circumstances get into a time machine, and if you want to know why you will just have to read my novel z2. But if forced into one at gunpoint, I’d set the dials for the future. There really isn’t a time in the past in which I would care to live.

raising13My family was incredulous at my answer. (I should point out that this was a discussion being held over Thanksgiving dinner). We had people at the table lined up for ancient Greece, Victorian England and somewhere when the druids were running things in Ireland.

“You have no idea what horrible things you might be heading into,” I was told. This is true. In the past the air was cleaner, the food was natural, and nobody checked their cell phone fifty times a day. We also had scurvy, slavery, open sewers, and societies in which religious tolerance was considered the work of the devil.

“Hello,” I said. “Has anyone noticed that I am female?” “Good point,” my daughter said, catching on quickly and reconsidering her one way ticket to the Italian Renaissance.

“There has not been a single point in history of which I am aware in which I would have been granted the rights, opportunities and respect that I enjoy today,” I elaborated for the rest of the group, whether they wanted to hear it or not. “Not that today is perfect. It’s just somewhere between better and a whole lot better.”

I said something like that anyway. I do believe it, too. In spite of the many stupid things we continue to do as a species (and my new book d4 coming out in two months is about this very subject!) we are improving. Learning. Becoming more tolerant and compassionate. Optimism is hard to maintain when you pull out the magnifying glass and examine the day to day news. On the other hand, it is impossible not to feel, when you step back and look at history.

Brian apparently agrees. He has written a great series of four blog posts about why he chooses not to write dark fiction beginning here and ending with this post on optimism. He concludes that “today, fewer people die from violence as a fraction of total deaths than ever before. Famine and epidemic have both declined as well. The general trend is that things have gotten better, and barring a collapse of civilization, we have every reason to expect that they will continue to get better. Take someone from 500 years in the past, pop him into a time machine to the year 2014, and his first impression on seeing the world of today would be that he had found Utopia.”

Well said, Brian. I’ll take my chances with implanted chips, genetically engineered food and climate change any day, as long as I get to be a full-fledged person when I get out of my time machine. Give me the freedom to be what I choose, and I can always use my influence to fight for a better world.