Friday, April 30, 2021

Review: OLYMPUS, TEXAS



Olympus, Texas is the debut novel from Texas writer Stacey Swann, who possesses a distinctive voice, a Southern style of storytelling as befits Baja Louisiana. East Texas, in all its primordial, primeval, practically biblical glory (“The world without form and without shape”), is the fitting setting for the fictional Olympus and the sins of its minor deities. The big thickets east of Interstate 35 are “[n]ot a hiking forest but scratchy impenetrability” and the cottonwood fluff “rides a mud-saturated current” in the slow-moving Brazos. Olympus is fictional but only in the sense that you can’t locate it on a map. Everyone who grew up in or currently lives in small-town Texas (small-town anywhere) will recognize it viscerally; there are the comfort and claustrophobia, the generations of ne’er-do-wells and the fiefdoms, the practical if not literal incestuousness of it all, and the gossips who draw nourishment, vampire-like, from the foregoing. 

Click here to read the entire review. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Excerpt & Giveaway: INFINITY'S GATEWAY

INFINITY'S GATEWAY
by JAMES S. PARKER

Published by: Morgan James Publishing
Series: The Infinity's Gateway Trilogy 
Pages: 361 Pages
Pub Date: January 26th, 2021
Categories: Science Fiction / Adventure / Action

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Every year, all across the planet, people simply vanish, completely disappear and are never seen again. Some areas of the world are well known for this phenomenon. Infinity's Gateway opens with a very famous incident that took place just after the end of World War II with the United States Navy. The story then jumps to the present day with an unexplainable event that occurs off the coast of Florida, an event that cannot be ignored by the military.

The Navy ship Eclipse and its crew are sent to investigate, but after several days come up empty. Two days before returning to port, the event reoccurs, and the Eclipse is caught up in something it cannot escape. The Eclipse and its crew suddenly find themselves completely isolated, all communication lost, surrounded by a terribly hostile environment where each day is a struggle to survive. Infinity's Gateway is an intense, action packed story of survival, self-reliance, and discovery.



PRAISE FOR INFINITY'S GATEWAY:

"Infinity's Gateway is an engaging science fiction thriller with tones of Michael Crichton Tom Clancy.  To fans of the science fiction genre it will feel like an old friend with a surprising, and exciting new makeover."  --Joseph Mauceri, Executive Editor, Fearsmag.com


PURCHASE LINKS

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Excerpt from INFINITY’S GATEWAY

by James S. Parker 

“For the Eclipse to have just vanished from our screens like it did, we were expecting the worst. There could be no other explanation. But instead of finding evidence of the Eclipse’s destruction, there’s nothing there. There’s no oil slick, no debris, nothing that would point to something catastrophic having happened. The search is just getting started, but all things considered, we thought this was a rather significant development.”

“Thank you, Miller,” said Captain Ramirez. “Return to your post and keep us informed as soon as you get any other updates.”

Fairfax stayed where he was, staring at Ramirez. “I guess I’m being a little slow on the uptake, but is Miller suggesting that the Eclipse and her crew are okay? I pray to God that’s true. I want it more than anything, but ships that size do not just vanish.”

Ramirez had walked over and picked up the phone on the conference table. “Miller, forward the infrared feeds from the satellites into the conference room.” Ramirez waited for a moment and then said, “Yes, from both satellites. Thank you.”

“What are you looking to find?”

“For the moment, I want to see what Miller and the team saw. For all my years in the navy, I’ve never watched a ship simply vanish.”

Ramirez worked at a rapid pace with the keyboard in front of him. The large monitor in the room lit up. The feed was dated, time stamped, and gave the exact coordinates. The screen was dark except for a cylindrical form that had variations in color ranging from dark orange, to red, to a deep, purplish red. “That would be the Eclipse,” said Ramirez.

“What’s causing the bright red coloration midship?” asked Fairfax.

“The Eclipse is nuclear powered. That would be the reactor you’re seeing.”

The screen suddenly began to brighten, giving the appearance that the waters directly under and around the perimeter of the Eclipse were on fire, glowing with a bright, orange-yellow tone.

“It was an explosion,” muttered Fairfax. “Look at that.”

As the two men watched, captivated by what they were seeing, the light began to expand outward from the Eclipse, growing in brightness and morphing into a tight ring around the ship of nearly pure, white light, speckled with faint traces of pale yellow. The ring of light continued to brighten, growing in strength. The monitor then appeared to blink. The brightness of the ring diminished significantly but held the same white-hot color as it had before.

“What just happened?” asked Fairfax.

“All of our satellites have the capability to take pictures of anything out there, including the sun. To protect the cameras from being damaged, they have filters especially designed to kick in and filter out light if it becomes too strong. One of those lenses just activated.”

“And Argos was measuring all of this?”

“Yes sir. As we discussed, Argos immediately sent the new readings to us and they were impossibly high.”

“How could that be?” While the question may have been somewhat rhetorical, Fairfax would have given anything for an answer.

The light continued to grow, spreading out within the circle, closing in on the Eclipse. Soon the Eclipse was totally enveloped by the light. The infrared signature of the Eclipse could still be seen but was beginning to grow fainter. For a few more seconds everything remained the same. Then it happened. Ramirez and Fairfax watched as the Eclipse slowly faded from view.

Once the ship had completely disappeared, the light that had engulfed it retreated back to the ring that had surrounded the Eclipse. Then it too began to fade and was soon gone. All that was left now was a black screen.

Fairfax dropped down into a chair, continuing to stare at the monitor. “What just happened?” his voice barely above a whisper.

“I don’t know, sir. At this point I can only speculate,” said Ramirez. He, too, was as shocked and numbed as the admiral by what he’d just witnessed.

“Speculate.”

Ramirez cleared his throat. He needed water badly. “My guess, and that’s all this is, is that one of two things happened to the Eclipse. Either that ship, and all aboard, were disintegrated by a powerful explosion, or . . . .” Ramirez stopped; it was too fantastic even for him. To talk about it and theorize was one thing. To actually see it happen brought a chilling reality to him that he wasn’t ready to accept.

“Or what, Captain?”

“Or we just watched one of the finest ships in this man’s navy pass through a portal into another dimension,” answered Ramirez. “May God be with them.”




Every now and then author James S. Parker has a vision.  And, when he does, he sees people and places off in the misty distance.  Sometimes these visions are futuristic and filled with danger.  Most often they are mystical, with good and evil and a cast of characters who beautifully represent both.

In his high school years James experienced a spine-tingling brush with the supernatural.  That single event - complete with the sound of heavy footsteps and an invisible visitor - etched forever in his mind the idea that life is much more mysterious than we oftentimes admit -- that the spiritual world is all around us, and that its impact on us cannot be denied.


Though he sees through a glass darkly, he writes as though he has been granted a glimpse into the unknown, one that has informed his novels and their powerful stories of good and evil and the struggles we all face every day to assure that good wins.


Infinity's Gateway, the first book in a fascinating sci-fi adventure trilogy, is his latest work.  James lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Margaret. He is available for in-person and online book club visits. 

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar April 25-May 2, 2021

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of April 25-May 2, 2021, compiled by TexasBookLover exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life.  

Special events this week include San Antonio's annual poetry Mega Corazón, ‌the Western States Virtual Book & Paper Fair, the Winnsboro Festival of Books, and the Austin SCBWI 2021 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. Most events are still online via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, and other venues. 

For a complete calendar of bookish events in Texas this week, including special events, daily listings, and exhibits, visit the GO! Calendar at Lone Star Lit.   



Sunday, April 25, 2021

Lone Star Literary Life - April 25, 2021

Lone Star Literary Life is brand new, hot off the pixels, and nutritious. Follow the link for the latest Texas bookish news, reviews, interviews, and goings-on, then subscribe to the newsletter-it's free!



Friday, April 23, 2021

Interview & Giveaway: THE MAD RAMBLINGS OF A JOKER

THE MAD RAMBLINGS OF A JOKER
By Brandon Dillon

Publisher: Paper Airplane Publishing
Pub Date: January 24, 2021
Pages: 156 pages
Categories: Poetry / Psychology / PTSD / Veteran Stories

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Poet Brandon Dillon makes his debut with The Mad Ramblings of a Joker, a brutally honest collection full of metaphor and vibrant imagery. His work covers topics such as PTSD, depression, and heartbreak, and softer moments of hope and reflective peace.

His poetry is deep and unforgettable, a beacon for a dark world that needs a friend to say, “I’ve been there. I understand.”

PURCHASE:






Interview with Author Brandon Dillon 

Q: Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?

A: I didn't really pick, it's more like it picked me. As a kid and now as an adult I have a hard time expressing my feelings. One day in my early teens a friend committed suicide, and I didn't know how to deal with that, so I wrote out a letter to him, and it just kind of went like that, but I never really showed anyone until I was an adult, after two combat zones, and I showed my therapist, and got the courage to do my first open mic, and from there things just kinda led me here. Short answer: poetry is an amazing way to deal with the trauma of the world.

Q: Where did your love of writing come from?

A: In the beginning, just dealing with life and the trauma and pain that comes with being alive. But what I have found I truly love is going to an open mic (absolutely terrified to read on stage) and feeling the energy of the room, the people, the night air, and just getting up there and baring my soul, my heart, my fear, my emotion, and seeing and feeling people pick up on that and give me their emotion back! There isn't anything quite like it.

Q: What does your perfect writing spot look like? Is that what your ACTUAL writing spot looks like?

A: My perfect spot would be at a desk in a dimly lit room, with a lamp, one of those that kind of hums when the light is on, maybe a beer and just quiet, no noise, just me and my demons arguing on what to write about. My actual writing spot is usually in my truck while my kids do swim practice or some other sporting event or waiting to go into work at night. Sometimes I'll write in bed before I go to sleep, pretty much anywhere I can scribble something down is my current writing spot.

Q: How do you write? Any backstory to your choice?

A: I love to write with just a pen and paper. It just feels right, like that's how it's supposed to be. I actually dislike typing out my writings; for whatever reason, it starts to feel like work whenever my fingers start clicking away on the keyboard. But that pen gliding across the paper, hearing the scraping and scratching, the smell of the ink invading my nose, drawing the curves and bodies of the letters, to me that's where the soul of writing is.

Q: What cultural value do you see in books?

A: Books are the life blood that link the generations and cultures together bringing us back to that one single thing we all share, we are all humans, flawed and scared, full of life, love, and adventure, and it’s through books and reading that we can experience the life of a Pharaoh, or the king of England, the life of a small mischievous boy, or flying through the stars in a galaxy far, far away. Whether a fantasy story about middle earth, or a book of arithmetic, we would not be where we are now as a species without written words. This is the reason I love to read my two boys bedtime stories and encourage them to read. I want them to have a love of reading because it is so important not just for them and us, but for future generations.

Considering the cultural value of my own contribution, there was a time when I didn’t see any value in my writing besides processing my feelings. My mom said they would help someone one day, and I didn’t understand then what she meant. My writing is harsh and dark at times, but it deals with the veteran community and the mental health community, and I believe it will help people understand they aren't alone. There is a huge stigma even nowadays surrounding mental health and suicide. People are scared to speak up. I think my book’s cultural value is in showing others they aren't alone, and its ok not to be ok.

Q: How does your book relate to your life path?

A: I'm not really religious or spiritual, but my life path I'm on now is dealing with my trauma and trying to show other people that even though the world is harsh and cruel, it is ok, we can still live here even if we are a bit broken. 

Q: What was the hardest part of writing this book?

A: The hardest part was just putting myself out there. In an open mic or social media post, you read it or post it, and it's over. I mean, even the social media post, you can delete it like it never happened. But this, this book is eternal. It’s forever. My soul has been stripped naked and shown to the world for everyone to see till the end of time.




  
Brandon Dillon is an award-winning poet who writes from the soul about his life as a child born into poverty, his travels around the world as a U.S. Marine, love won and love lost, and the trauma that life brings. If you ask him his biggest accomplishments thus far, he will tell you they are the laughter and tears of the audience as he reads his words on the stage for them. He is amazed when people feel his emotion and in turn show him their emotion. 

He has twice performed by invitation, reading his poetry at the FASOLT Fine Arts Expo, and has participated twice in “Color: Story,” a collaboration between poets and visual artists, winning first place in 2019. When he is not working or taking care of his two sons, Brandon frequents open mic readings for poetry and all genres of writing with the group Writespace and performs at open mic and slam poetry events with the group Write About Now, at times reading something he just wrote that day. 

He is never far from his notebook, fitting his writing in between shifts at work, kids and homework, and sleeping. Brandon lives in Houston, Texas.

Connect with Paper Airplane Publishing:

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ONE WINNER:
Autographed copy of The Mad Ramblings of a Joker
+ leather journal (5.7'' x 8.5'')
(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, April 26, 2021)

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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
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4/20/21

Notable Quotable

Hall Ways Blog

4/20/21

Review

Missus Gonzo

4/20/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

4/21/21

Excerpt

StoreyBook Reviews

4/21/21

Review

Forgotten Winds

4/22/21

Review

It's Not All Gravy

4/22/21

Top Five List

The Clueless Gent

4/23/21

Author Interview

Texas Book Lover

4/23/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight





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Monday, April 19, 2021

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar April 18-25, 2021

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of April 18-25, 2021, compiled by TexasBookLover exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life.  

Special events this week include San Antonio's annual poetry Mega Corazón, 20th Annual Poetry at Round Top, 14th Annual Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, Texas Library Association Annual Conference,  Independent Booksellers Day, and the 2nd Annual National Antiracist Book Festival. Most events are still online via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, and other venues. 

For a complete calendar of bookish events in Texas this week, including special events, daily listings, and exhibits, visit the GO! Calendar at Lone Star Lit  



Friday, April 16, 2021

Book Blitz: THE TAKEAWAY MEN



THE TAKEAWAY MEN
By Meryl Ain

Publisher: SparkPress
Pub Date: August 4th, 2020
Pages: 265 pages
Categories: Historical / Jewish Literature / Sibling Fiction / Holocaust

With the cloud of the Holocaust still looming over them, twin sisters Bronka and Johanna Lubinski and their parents arrive in the US from a Displaced Persons Camp. In the years after World War II, they experience the difficulties of adjusting to American culture as well as the burgeoning fear of the Cold War. 

Years later, the discovery of a former Nazi hiding in their community brings the Holocaust out of the shadows. As the girls get older, they start to wonder about their parents’ pasts, and they begin to demand answers. But it soon becomes clear that those memories will be more difficult and painful to uncover than they could have anticipated.

 Poignant and haunting, The Takeaway Men explores the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, secrets, and lies on parents and children in mid-twentieth-century America.


PRAISE FOR THE TAKEAWAY MEN:

“At a time when the darkness of the Holocaust is being whitewashed, Meryl Ain’s remarkable debut novel illuminates the postwar Jewish American landscape like a truth-seeking torch. An emotionally rich and lovingly told saga of survivors, with great sensitivity to what was lost, buried, and resurrected.” Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible.

“The author’s tale is sensitively composed, a thoughtful exploration into the perennially thorny issues of religious identity, assimilation, and the legacy of suffering.” Kirkus Reviews

Purchase Links: 

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes and Noble 

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Meryl Ain’s articles and essays have appeared in Huffington Post, The New York Jewish Week, The New York Times, Newsday and other publications. In 2014, she co-authored the award-winning book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, and in 2016, wrote a companion workbook, My Living Memories Project Journal.  She is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on television, radio, and podcasts. She is a career educator and is proud to be both a teacher and student of history. She has also worked as a school administrator.

The Takeaway Men is the result of her life-long quest to learn more about the Holocaust, a thirst that was first triggered by reading The Diary of Anne Frank in the sixth grade. While teaching high school history, she introduced her students to the study of the Holocaust. At the same time, she also developed an enduring fascination with teaching about and researching the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. An interview with Robert Meeropol, the younger son of the Rosenbergs, is featured in her book, The Living Memories Project. The book also includes an interview with Holocaust survivor, Boris Chartan, the founder of the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, New York.

Meryl holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She is a lifetime member of Hadassah and an active supporter of UJA-Federation of New York.  She lives in New York with her husband, Stewart. They have three married sons and six grandchildren. This is her first novel.

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar April 11-18, 2021

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of April 11-18, 2021, compiled by TexasBookLover exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life.  

Special events this week include San Antonio's annual poetry Mega Corazón, the annual meeting of the Texas Institute of Letters, and the 53rd Comparative Literature Symposium. Most events are still online via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, and other venues. 

For a complete calendar of bookish events in Texas this week, including special events, daily listings, and exhibits, visit the GO! Calendar at Lone Star Lit  



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Lone Star Literary Life - April 11, 2011

Lone Star Literary Life is brand new, hot off the pixels, and nutritious. Follow the link for the latest Texas bookish news, reviews, interviews, and goings-on, then subscribe to the newsletter-it's free!






Author Interview & Giveaway: DIRE'S CLUB


DIRE'S CLUB
by Kimberly Packard

Publisher: Abalos Publishing
Publication Date: March 23, 2021
Pages: 326 Pages
Categories: Action & Adventure / Contemporary / Women's Fiction

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Dying isn't just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That's where Dire's Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure-so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life...and death.


Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.


Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire's business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word, and a smile. Dire's Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy's lies, were piling up. It's only a matter of time before he's forced to face a different type of death.


A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone's life.


Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.


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Interview with Kimberly Packard 

What cultural value do you see in reading?

I read a while back that readers of fiction are more empathetic, and I couldn’t agree more – and I’m sure that’s even more true of authors. When we read (or write) someone’s story that’s very different from ours, we get to slip into someone else’s life, feel their struggles and feel their joy. In a time when we see more divided than united, reading something that’s a bit outside of our world view is even more important than before. 

How does your book relate to your faith, spiritual practice, or life path?

DIRE’S CLUB could probably be summed up as my mortality book. But I don’t think it started that way. It’s really much more about life than dying, it’s about enjoying every last moment we have on this beautiful planet, and about enjoying every second we have with those close to us. And it’s also about forgiving ourselves and giving ourselves grace. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself. 

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

I think the hardest part was Charlotte’s POV. It’s no secret that she struggles with thoughts of ending her life. I started writing the first draft the very week both Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade died by suicide. I had to take several breaks from writing her to go for walks, at least until she started to heal. 

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Honestly, the group. As a kid I loved the movie The Breakfast Club, so in some ways this is my attempt to pay homage to that John Hughes classic. I adored Levi, I almost want to write a whole prequel of Levi Livingston and all of his raucous 80s hair band adventures. 

How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?

So, this is pretty funny, but one of the influences in addition The Breakfast Club is Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I always enjoyed what Chaucer set out to do, and tragically he died before completing his work. Since I’m a nerd, I signed up for a class in college just on Chaucer. I think diving deep into The Canterbury Tales has stuck with me for all these years.  

What projects are you working on at the present?

My next project is a story about two women who share the role of a pop star – one is the face and the other is the voice – and the reporter who uncovers it. I’m nearly done with the first draft of it, and I have to say, it’s fun to have these two dynamically different characters start to take on the positive traits of each other. I’ve lovingly dubbed this my “Girl Power” book. 


Dire's Club trailer from Kimberly Walton on Vimeo.



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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
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4/6/21

Book Trailer

Chapter Break Book Blog

4/6/21

Review

That's What She's Reading

4/6/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

4/7/21

Review

Momma on the Rocks

4/7/21

BONUS Promo

Hall Ways Blog

4/8/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

4/8/21

Notable Quotable

The Page Unbound

4/9/21

Review

The Clueless Gent

4/10/21

Review

Jennie Reads

4/11/21

Author Interview

Texas Book Lover

4/12/21

Review

Bibliotica

4/13/21

Review

It's Not All Gravy

4/13/21

Playlist

All the Ups and Downs

4/14/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight

4/14/21

Deleted Scene

Book Fidelity

4/15/21

Review

Rainy Days with Amanda

4/15/21

Review

Forgotten Winds



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