Saturday, December 7, 2019



How do two modern, quirky, twenty-something gals solve murders in a small, cozy USA town?
Easy. With a little time travel, some humor, and a lot of hard work. When the skeptical Brooke first meets the psychic Abby, she’s not impressed. But with the help of her comfort cat, her middle-aged roomie, her childhood friend, and a hunky detective hinting at a sweet romance, Brooke not only accepts that Abby has real gifts, it’s clear that these five people and one cat make up a crack team.

Got tea, anyone? In 1773, the Boston Tea Party sure did. Find out why going back in time helps break the case!

Book Details:

Title: Tea, Anyone?

Author: S. R. Mallery

Genre: cozy mystery

Series: A Brooke & Abby Cozy Mystery series, book 1

Published: November 19, 2019

Print length: 190 pages


Q: If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
A: I would definitely go back in time to my great aunt’s house in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. A simple clapboard New England hide-away, it didn’t have much property surrounding it and when you took the rickety, weather-beaten, wooden steps down to her little piece of private beach, you weren’t met with pristine white sand, just big bulky looking rocks, which made it impossible to move, much less swim or sun-bathe. But her screened-in porch overlooking the Menemsha Bay had a peaceful magic for me. With nearby buoys clanging, seagulls gently squawking as they swooped down and around in beautiful patterns, my frail, musicologist of a relative, always gave me wise, supportive counsel––and much love.

Q: If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
A: Before I became a writer at fifty, amongst a whole host of other careers, I was a quilt designer and lastly, an English As A Second Language teacher. I truly loved my students. Still do. They were wonderful examples of not only how hard it is to leave one’s own country and family to start a new life here, but also how they manage to do it with grace and humor. But I left teaching because preparing lessons and writing were basically sabotaging my brain. It’s not fun to alternate from a new lesson plan details to the inevitable, “What’s my latest character thinking as she’s doing this?” Particularly when you’re driving to work! Yikes!

Q: If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
A: A long time ago, I worked on the phones of a battered women’s shelter. I was glad to do it, but it sure wasn’t easy hearing all the horror stories of abuse. So this time, I think I’d rather volunteer to help veterans in some way. Their stories are more than sad as well, but the older I get, the more I feel badly about all the sacrifices they have made for our country. After all, these men and women deserve the very best, no?

Q: If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
A: That’s an easy one. Mark Twain. Boy, what a kick that would be! Imagine the breadth and scope of his insightful humor. Quotes such as, “Politicians are like diapers, they need to be changed often, and for the same reasons,”  “If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it,” and, “We have the best government money can buy,” says it all.LOL. I think I may be one of the few people who has a little Mark Twain quotations booklet in our bathroom.  Does that make me weird?

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: I would probably like living in one of those charming little British villages that figure so prominently in the “Midsomer Mystery” series. Of course, if I did live in such a small and quaint town, I would not want to be a murder suspect… or a victim.


5 things you need in order to write:  

    •    my laptop
    •    a pencil & pad
    •    my Merriam Webster Thesaurus
    •     Google Search
    •     my imagination!

5 things you love about writing: 

I’ll mention four things first then relate a little story, if you don’t mind.
    •    I like thinking about scenes, motivations, and plots. My overactive OCD brain seems to thrive on being involved with anything creative.
    •    I absolutely love editing. I know, I know, most authors don’t, but for some reason, after I sling my words down, I enjoy going back to “attack” them until they make sense.
    •    I enjoy jotting down ideas onto little papers or 3 x 5 cards, then put them away for later. Probably comes from sewing all those pesky little quilt blocks together in my former career.
    •    I love doing research, be it from the internet, TV, movies, or books.
    •    here’s the main reason: My very first short story was written just outside of a Macy’s Foundations department, where I waited for my then teenage daughter to select a few bras. She was taking her sweet time, so, as I sat on a leather couch nearby, I got out a little pad and pencil and started scribbling a short story. Forty-five minutes later, my daughter appeared, apologizing heartily for taking so long. I looked up at her, dazed, my mind exploding with inspired thoughts and images. “It’s okay, honey,” I told her. “Why don’t you go back and check out some panties?”
    Twenty years later, I feel the same way. Once I start writing, time stops for me.

5 things you always put in your books:  

    •    Because characters are so important to me, I always do research about their characteristics. For example, in my Genteel Secrets, an evil cousin blackmails the female lead into spying. I started out by making the cousin just plain mean. Then I thought about it. That was too simplistic. Why would she be that way? So I took out my book, The Writers Guide to Character Traits, by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D. According to her, sometimes a severe accident can change one’s brain enough to create character flaws. Bingo. Problem solved. She was thrown from a horse as a child––and was changed forever.
    •    I also work hard––along with my editor’s gentle reminders––to “Show Not Tell” my characters’ emotions. I first learned about that from the wonderful Harper Lee, who demonstrated all that so beautifully her To Kill A Mockingbird. Actions and little personal gestures speak volumes.
    •    Plots are important for me as well. Sure, I’d love to write the most glorious prose on the planet. Long, detailed and gorgeous paragraphs that make you swoon with admiration. But you know what? After a page or two of that, I’m usually bored enough to start flipping those pages to get to the ‘good stuff,’ the stuff I care about––plots, characters, and motivations. 
    •    Most of my books have been historical fiction, and even my new cozy mystery has some time travel in it. I work very hard to create the past as authentically as I can. That means learning about what went on at that particular time, both in film, TV series, books, and articles.
    •    I like to create vocabulary and phrase sheets of the era I’m portraying, so when you see my dialogues you’re never going to read someone say, “Sure thing, Babe,” when a man is talking to his mistress during the 1700s. My brain has closed for the night. Sorry . . .

5 favorite things to do:  

    •    Sometimes, to de-stress, I just go onto my Youtube app and watch all kinds of videos. Puppies, kittens, parrots, toddlers dancing to music, funny Late Night opening monologues, scenes from comical movies––whatever does the trick. Forget meditation. For me, letting those laughing endorphins loose hits the spot! 
   •    I also like to water my plants because I listen to music while I’m doing it and I’m outside (negative ions, negative ions). 
   •    I like to have family and friends over (once I’ve cleaned up the house, that is!). 
   •    I like my Senior and Fit exercise class. Not only is it helping me physically, as someone who is past thirty (WAY past), before class and after, it is like walking into a cocktail party, everyone is so chatty and friendly. 
   •    lastly, I LOVE to cuddle with my cat, Junebug. She’s actually featured in my Tea, Anyone? So now, I actually write notes on what cute things she does for future books in the series. Does she realize why I’m taking out a pad and pencil as I coo at her? Maybe. But chances are, she’s just wondering when I’m going to feed her next.

5 people you consider as heroes:  

I’m going to just name some groups of people.
    •    fire fighters who deal with such danger all the time. We owe them so much!
    •    people who stand up against injustices in the world, no matter their jobs or politics.
    •    scientists who work tirelessly to discover cures for horrendous diseases.
    •    people with crippling conditions who fight every day just to survive.
    •    people who quietly donate great sums of money to charities without any fanfare.


Q: What’s your all-time favorite place?
A: On the upper East Side of New York City, there is an old building that used to be someone’s mansion. It’s called the New York Society Library, and is actually the city’s oldest institution. Established in 1754, early on, it even served as the Library of Congress. I loved the fact that my voraciously well-read mother faithfully went there once a week. Inside, there was a main reading room, where huge armchairs and sofas surrounded a giant stone fireplace and nearby little brass lamps sat atop of a wide mahogany table. I marveled at the complete peacefulness and comfort it gave me as I sat with my own little pile of young girlie books, as my brother sat across the way, devouring scientific encyclopedias and our mother blissfully turned pages from one of the seven or eight books she had chosen for the week.

Q: What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
A: Having graduated with a Bachelor of Music as a voice major, I soon faced a dilemma. Although I was told my voice was pretty enough, when it came to performing, I froze. I had gotten several church soloist jobs, always with so much nervousness it wasn’t fun. But then it hit me. I simply needed to loosen up more. It was 1979 and disco was coming in big time. So I tried out in front of a small band as their female singer. I got the job and we played at various inconsequential places here and there. But one place was a college type bar, much like the one in Cheers. Little did I know that singing there was about to change my life.
In the audience was a really good looking man who, after talking to me on a couple of my breaks, finally asked for my phone number. I insisted on taking his, calling him two days later. And the rest, as they say, is history. I had met my hubby of forty years.

Q: What’s your favorite time of day?   
A: Mornings . . . definitely! Even if I don’t get a ton of sleep the night before, just give me a couple of cups of half caffeine, half decaf, poured into my thermos with some Almond milk, and I’m a happy camper. While hubby watches some morning news, I’m off to our bedroom with my laptop, with whatever I’m working on, along with my pencil and eraser, my thermos, and my cellphone. Soon, our kitty, Junebug, jumps up to join me, with her usual squoosh-one-side-of-her-face-against-my-fingers before she circles around once or twice, then flops down close to me to make sure she’ll get more pets and rubs as I work. And we’re off and running. I do take breaks to exercise and clean up a bit. And sometimes, if sleep deprived, by afternoon, I’m ready for a nap. By night, as far as ideas coming into my head, the right side of my brain doesn’t work that well. Remember, I’m an established morning gal. However, my left side works just fine.  So sometimes, I design my promos then.

Q: What’s your favorite dessert?
A: Ice cream. Ice Cream. Ice Cream. And then, of course––there’s always ice cream.

Q: What’s your favorite color?

A: Mauve or Periwinkle blue. My hubby says I obviously got to play with a much bigger crayon set than he did, so I learned early about extensive color pallets).

Q: What book are you currently working on?
A: Brooke & Abby Cozy Mystery Book 2, When In Rome. This time, the clairvoyant, Abby, goes back to Ancient Rome and finds out about poisons . . . and how they were used. Oooooh.

Q: All-time favorites with pictures:
A: This first one is me at four years old, with my brother. I have NO idea why I was wearing that crazy space outfit. I looked ridiculous! And talk about being a major blockhead. Twenty-six later, I was thirty and looked a bit more normal. That’s just after I had married my husband (I checked the wedding ring in the picture).

The other photo is of Venice, Italy. I was just shy of twelve and that summer my family went to England and Italy. So many good memories, but I remember how much I loved Venice. So beautiful, and the sounds of the water lapping, the gondoliers . . . back then, it was heaven. I hear now they have far too many tourists around with huge cruise ships barging in.

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: I’ve discovered PB2 Chocolate powder. I use it to make up mug cakes, freeze into little cookies, and turn into popsicles. Recently, I’ve also blended two tablespoons of it with a frozen banana, a little almond milk, and a splash of vanilla, then poured it into a small tub to freeze. Talk about Yummmm. Excuse me while I go make up some more for tonight . . .
Music: Frankly, I am completely eclectic when it comes to music, no matter the genre. If it’s good, I like/love it. But recently, I’ve been appreciating some movie music scores, particularly when they help to create a dramatic mood or tell a story. For example, in The Firm, the constant banging of an old piano really creates tension throughout. In Vertigo, those haunting sounds are perfect. And let’s face it, Jaws is amazing, and The Godfather theme captures that old Sicilian feeling like nobody’s business!
Movie: Green Book. Loved it for its touching appeal and great character personality arcs.
Book: I recently read a sci-fi A.I. book, which completely surprised me how much I got into it. I mean usually anything that says A.I., I’m already tuning out. But this one was very well done. It was written by Inge-loss Goss, called, No Freedom.
Audiobook: Pride and Prejudice. Now I have to say, I love all the movies made from Jane Austen’s books, but, reading her has always been a problem for me. She’s a bit too clause-oriented. I mean, those commas keep coming and coming. However, when I got a free copy of Pride and Prejudice, narrated by the fine actress, Rosamund Pike, I couldn't believe how much she made Austen’s work come alive. Bravo to her!
TV: Mysteries of the Museum and Lucky Dog.
Netflix/Amazon Prime: Recently, I’ve watched Succession and Peaky Blinders.
Miscellaneous: I enjoy putting my once-a-month Newsletter together, not just for promoting my own books, but also to give back to authors—like you do so well, Amy! I may start releasing it twice a month, starting next year. We’ll see . . .

Q: What books do you currently have published?
A: The Dolan Girls
In 1800s Nebraska, where ladies of the night, brutal outlaws, colorful land rushes, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows are the norm, can a whorehouse madam and her schoolmarm daughter both find true love?
Ellie & The War on Powder Creek 
It’s 1891 and The Dolan Girls western romance saga continues. It stars the feisty Ellie Dolan Parker, who finds herself caught up in the middle of the Wyoming Cattle Wars. Filled with Rich, greedy cattle barons, crooked politicians, a major kidnapping, local ranchers in life-threatening danger, and a troubled marriage, this story is a colorful portrayal of a forgotten time. A time when these events and people filled the newspapers.
Unexpected Gifts 
Can we learn from our ancestors? In this 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold medal winner, a confused college student learns about life from her ancestors’ journals, as she reads of their time during Vietnam, Woodstock, McCarthyism, the Great Depression, their arrival on Ellis Island, and fighting as Suffragists.
Trouble in Glamour Town
Murder. Corruption. Romance. Movie Stars. A modern-day TV shoot ‘em up? No. It’s 1926 Old Hollywood, and a film producer is gunned down in cold blood. In comes Rosie, a pretty bit-player, who, in spite of her stage-mother’s expectations, just longs to be happy. Silent screen idols Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Lon Chaney, and Rudolph Valentino float in and out, as Los Angeles’ corruption is exposed, the era described, and a chase to find the killer revs up before there’s another hit.
Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads
History, mystery, action, and romance are all rolled into one book in this 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal winner. These short stories follow drug traffickers using hand-woven wallets; a U. S. slave sewing freedom codes into quilts; a cruise ship murder mystery; hiding Christian passports in Nazi Germany; Salem Witchcraft quilt curse; the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and a 1967 Haight-Ashbury love affair gone horribly wrong, just to name a few.
Tender Enemies  
It’s 1941 in New York City, a time before Pearl harbor, when Nazi spies are everywhere in the U. S. and no one knows who’s working for whom. In comes beautiful Lily, paid to gather intelligence by setting up a “honey trap” for Joe Stiles, a supposed German infiltrator. Problem is, she soon faces a danger she isn’t prepared for––falling in love.
Tales To Count On 
Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these stories, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic collides with gothic, will remind you in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.
Genteel Secrets 
What do a well-bred Southern Belle and a Northern working-class Pinkerton detective have in common? Espionage…and romance. At the start of the U.S. Civil War, while young men begin dying on American battlefields and slavery is headed toward its end, behind the scenes, female undercover work and Pinkerton intelligence are alive and well. But in the end, can this unlikely Romeo and Juliet couple’s love survive, or will they be just another casualty of war?
Snippets In Time 
Drift back in time with award winning S. R. Mallery, as she presents some excerpts––or “snippets”––from her different books. They range from an American family saga to full, historical adventures involving sewing; from a U.S. Civil War Romeo and Juliet couple defying all odds to a 1926 Old Hollywood romantic murder mystery; from both a colorful Western romance and a Nazi spy romance thriller to short stories that keep you guessing.

A USA Today Best Selling author and two-time Readers' Favorite Gold Medal winner, S. R. Mallery—as her fans say—"brings history to life."
They say she's as eclectic as her characters. She's been a singer, a composer, a calligrapher, a quilt artist, and an ESL/Reading teacher. But it is the world of writing historical fiction where she feels she's come "home." It's where she's received various awards and in addition, get to do her second love: Research.
When people talk about the news of the day, or when she listens to music, her overactive imagination likens the story to a similar kind of news in the past, which helps her conjure up scenes between characters she's yet to meet.

Connect with Sarah:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram  |  Newsletter  |  Amazon  |   Audible  |  BookBub 

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019


It’s September 1902, and Mary MacDougall has fulfilled her greatest dream—opening her own detective agency. But the achievement doesn’t come without complication.

Mary’s father insists that an older cousin come to work with her—as both secretary and minder. Jeanette Harrison pledges to keep the plucky sleuth away from danger, as well as from her unsuitable suitor Edmond Roy.

The new agency’s first cases hardly seem to portend danger or significance. There’s the affair of the nicked napkin rings…the problem of the purloined pocket watch...and the matter of the four filched felines.

Mary and Jeanette have not the slightest notion that one of these modest matters will blow up into something consequential and perilous. What begins in triviality mushrooms into disappearance, betrayal, international intrigue, and murder. As she learns more and more, Mary’s prospects for making the acquaintance of an assassin’s blade improve dramatically.

Witty, fast-paced, and enthralling, A Fatal Fondness delves deeply into Mary’s world and paints the portrait of an unconventional young woman ever ready to defy propriety for the sake of justice.

Book Details:

Title: A Fatal Fondness

Author: Richard Audry

Genre: historical mystery

Series: The Mary MacDougall Mysteries, book 4

Publisher: Conger Road Press

Date Published: November 15, 2019

Print length: 260 pages
On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


Q: If you could talk to someone (dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
A: I was a bit under three months old when my mother died. So, of course, I have zero memories of her. I’d like to meet her when she was in her late twenties and get to know her. I’d ask her about her childhood (I have a cool picture of her with her tricycle), her career in nursing, and her dreams and aspirations.

Q: If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
A: Another sentimental journey, I’m afraid. I’d love to go back to when I was, say, nine years old, and be with my dad and mom at one of the supper clubs we’d go to on the weekend. (My dad remarried and my step-mom became my adoptive mom.) And we would talk and talk and talk. I’d love to recapture that feeling and see my folks—both long gone—again, when they were young.

Q: If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?
A: I’m a classical music fan and I’ve had this longtime fantasy of time-traveling back to Vienna c. 1790, with an ample purse of gold coins. I’d go find Herr Mozart and hire him to write me some music. Cello concertos and viola concertos. Operas based on Shakespeare and Cervantes. More string quartets. Solo guitar music. And then I’d stick around long enough to meet Beethoven and Schubert.

Q: If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
A: An author whom I’ve already met, though he died many years ago. Back in the day I worked at a weekly newspaper, and books and authors were one of my beats. Frank Herbert was in town on a book tour and I spent the better part of day hanging out with him. I’d love to have his perspective on the state of American democracy (he was there in person at the McCarthy hearings in the early ’50s) and on what kind of chance we might have in the face of climate change. One of the great science fiction innovators—there was never a bigger sci-fi blockbuster than Dune—he was a fun, gregarious guy, with an incredible laugh. But he saw things painfully clearly. He would pull no punches.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?

A: In a small, modernist house just off the beach, somewhere in the Florida Keys. A rental or lease. I wouldn’t want to own beachside property, what with climate change.


5 favorite possessions:

    •    my car
    •    my Olympus DSLR camera
    •    my Larrivée guitar
    •    my movie collection
    •    my street photography archive

5 things you love about writing:

    •    creating credible worlds and vivid characters
    •    entertaining readers
    •    that feeling of finishing a book and knowing it’s good
    •    holding your book in your own hands
    •    the excitement of embarking on a new book

5 favorite foods:

    •    salmon
    •    buttered bread warm out of the oven
    •    a great sharp cheddar
    •    turkey sloppy joes
    •    blueberry pie à la mode

5 favorite books: 

    •    The Wind in the Willows
    •    The Great Gatsby
    •    Gaudy Night
    •    The Lonely Silver Rain

    •    any Agatha Raisin mystery

5 living people you’d like to invite to dinner:

    •    Michael Palin
    •    Joni Mitchell
    •    Michelle Obama
    •    Stephen Colbert
    •    Bob Dylan


Q: What’s your all-time favorite movie?
A: I love a great romantic comedy more than almost anything. And my ideal rom-com, which I watch every November, is Moonstruck. Cher was never more gorgeous and feisty and magical. And the young, scintillating Nicholas Cage stays with her every step of the way, chewing scenery like mad. No film better captured the jaw-dropping irrationality of infatuation and lust—under a moon that makes everyone loony.

Q: What’s your favorite meal?
A: My wife and I used to go to place called Palomino that served a wonderful salmon with polenta. Just heavenly. We occasionally make it ourselves, though it never quite recaptures that old magic.

Q: What’s your favorite vacation spot?
A: The North Shore of Lake Superior, near where I grew up. Sue and I love to hike the wonderful state parks up there.

Q: What’s your favorite beverage?
A: A gin martini on the rocks that I make myself, using a quality gin like Bombay or Plymouth. I quit ordering them in restaurants because they’re never as good as my own and cost too much. A close second would be a well-made latté.

Q: What’s your favorite hobby or past-time?
A: I’ve been a photographer since I was a kid. My main photo genres have been street photography, landscapes, unusual botanicals, and travel. I’ve had five exhibits of the street photos and they’ve been in several national magazines, here and in the UK.

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Chicken wrap using collard greens for the wrap
Music: Mongolian rock band The Hu
Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Book: Any of the Slough House Series by Mick Herron
Podcast: Breakfast All Day (movie reviews)
TV: The Good Place
Netflix/Amazon Prime: Stranger Things
Miscellaneous: You Tube travel vlogs The Endless Adventure, Daneger & Stacey, and Travel Man

Richard Audry is the pen name of D. R. Martin. As Richard Audry, he is the author of four Mary MacDougall historical mysteries and three King Harald Canine Cozy mysteries. Under his own name, he has written the rip-roaring Johnny Graphic ghost adventure trilogy. He’s also the author of the hardboiled PI mystery Smoking Ruin and two books of literary commentary: Travis McGee & Me and Four Science Fiction Masters.

Connect with Richard:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

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Sunday, December 1, 2019


Who knew a New Year’s trip to Budapest could be so deadly? The tour must go on – even with a killer in their midst…

Recent divorcee Lana Hansen needs a break. Her luck has run sour for going on a decade, ever since she got fired from her favorite job as an investigative reporter. When her fresh start in Seattle doesn’t work out as planned, Lana ends up unemployed and penniless on Christmas Eve.

Dotty Thompson, her landlord and the owner of Wanderlust Tours, is also in a tight spot after one of her tour guides ends up in the hospital, leaving her a guide short on Christmas Day.

When Dotty offers her a job leading the tour group through Budapest, Hungary, Lana jumps at the chance. It’s the perfect way to ring in the new year and pay her rent!

What starts off as the adventure of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare when Carl, her fellow tour guide, is found floating in the Danube River. Was it murder or accidental death? Suspects abound when Lana discovers almost everyone on the tour had a bone to pick with Carl.

But Dotty insists the tour must go on, so Lana finds herself trapped with nine murder suspects. When another guest turns up dead, Lana has to figure out who the murderer is before she too ends up floating in the Danube…

Introducing Lana Hansen, tour guide, reluctant amateur sleuth, and star of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly.

Coming soon: Books 2 and 3 in the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series!

Book Details:

Title: Death on the Danube: A New Year's Murder in Budapest

Author: Jennifer S. Alderson

Genre: cozy mystery

Series: Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery, book 1

Publisher: Traveling Life Press (November 28, 2019)

Print length: 200 pages

A few of your favorite things: books and my bicycle.
Things you need to throw out: travel magazines! My bookcase is becoming a fire hazard! 

Things you need in order to write: notepad, pen, and my passport. Mint tea is a plus.
Things that hamper your writing: social media and television.

Things you love about writing: creating new worlds and characters.
Things you hate about writing: the final rounds of editing! By that time, I have read the manuscript so often than I know the words by heart!

Things you love about where you live: I currently live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and love the canals, architecture, and proximity to world-class museums.
Things that make you want to move: over-tourism in the summer.

Favorite foods: olives and feta cheese.
Things that make you want to throw up: paté of any kind.

Favorite music or song: I love electronic dance and guitar rock.
Music that make your ears bleed: I am not a fan of twangy country music.

Favorite beverage: mint tea.

Something that gives you a pickle face: beer.

Favorite smell: cinnamon, lavender, and lilies.

Something that makes you hold your nose: diapers! I am so glad my son is older now.

Something you’re really good at: kayaking.

Something you’re really bad at: rock climbing. I love to abseil, but usually freeze about halfway up! 

Something you wish you could do: paragliding. My fear of heights keeps me grounded.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: embroidery. I almost went blind trying to finish my first and only project! It is quite beautiful, though.

Last best thing you ate: raspberry cheesecake.

Last thing you regret eating: fresh goat-blood cake (during a birthday party in Kathmandu, Nepal).

Things you’d walk a mile for: great music or artwork.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: rats.

Things you always put in your books: references to travel.

Things you never put in your books: graphic violence.

Favorite places you’ve been: it’s a five-way tie: Fiji, Thailand, Nepal, Venice, and Rome.

Places you never want to go to again: a Nepali prison (luckily, I wasn’t behind bars!).

Things that make you happy: spending time with my son and husband, biking, visiting museums, walks in the forest, swimming in the ocean.

Things that drive you crazy: traffic and aggressive parents.

Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mysteries and Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries—and standalone stories.

After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before settling in the Netherlands. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.

Connect with Jennifer:
  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  BookBub

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019


It’s the winter of 1984. Twelve-year old Herbie and his two brothers—Wally and Cockroach—are enjoying the mayhem of winter break when a late Nor’easter blows through New England, trapping their quirky family in the house. The power goes out and playing Space Invaders to AC DC’s Back in Black album is suddenly silenced—forcing them to use their twisted imaginations in beating back the boredom. At a time when the brothers must overcome one fear after the next, they learn that courage is the one character trait that guarantees all others.

This hysterical coming-of-age tale is jam-packed with enough nostalgia to satisfy anyone who grew up in the ‘80s or at least had the good fortune to travel through them.

Book Details:

Title: Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the ‘80s

Author: Steven Manchester

Genre: commercial fiction (family)

Publisher: Luna Bella Press (November 19, 2019)

Print length: 288 pages

On tour with: Providence Book Promotions Virtual Book Tours


“If you loved the ever popular A Christmas Story, be prepared for another classic. Bread Bags & Bullies is a must read! Funny, poignant, and heartwarming—Steven Manchester is a master storyteller.” – Jamie Farr, Actor, M.A.S.H.

Bread Bags & Bullies is a detailed eye-opening experience of the Big Hair decade. Enjoyable whether you were there or not—or just can’t quite remember it.” – Barry Williams, Actor, The Brady Bunch

“Steven Manchester’s Bread Bags & Bullies captures a simpler time, just before technology began dominating America’s time and attention. This nostalgic story is hilarious, told by a family of characters you won’t soon forget. A must read!” – Ed Asner, Actor, Lou Grant

“Steve Manchester’s Bread Bags & Bullies is a fantastic blast from the past, evoking all the fun and nostalgia of the ‘80s—even my big hair!” – Audrey Landers, Actress, Dallas

“In Bread Bags & Bullies, the writing is so vivid, the pace and rhythm so quick, that I truly felt I was watching it on screen.” – Joan van Ark, Actress, Knots Landing

“Steven Manchester’s latest book, Bread Bags & Bullies, made me recall the town I ‘grew up in’— mythical Mayfield. Instantly taking you back to 1984, the characters and situations are so believable that you’ll want to keep turning the pages.” – Tony Dow, Actor, Leave It to Beaver

“It’s always fun to be a part of history and pop culture. Reading the Waltons’ famous ‘Goodnight, John-boy’ referenced in Bread Bags & Bullies was a special treat—especially since the reply was ‘Night, Erin.’” – Mary McDonough, Actress, The Waltons

“In Bread Bags & Bullies, Steven Manchester’s writing style is very reminiscent of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story—but for the ‘80s.” – Lynne Marta, Actress, Footloose

Bread Bags & Bullies is not only fun, but educational in its own way. What an entertaining read!” – Marla Gibbs, Actress, The Jeffersons

"Bread Bags & Bullies rocks!” – Billy Squier, ‘80s Rock Icon, Stroke Me

“You can like this book if you want to. You can leave your friends behind. Because if your friends don't like this book…well, they’re no friends of mine.” – Ivan Doroschuk, Lead Singer of Men Without Hats, Safety Dance

“In Bread Bags & Bullies, Steven Manchester captures the ‘80s to the smallest detail. With each page turned, memories flood back. Using the lightest of touch, he tells his story with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Bread Bags & Bullies is a delight!” – Nick van Eede, Lead Singer of Cutting Crew, Died in Your Arms

“Bread Bags & Bullies is so—like, totally—‘84, it makes me want to get out my leg warmers and glow sticks, backcomb my hair, and romp around the room to Footloose. And then I remember, I don’t have any hair.” – Thomas Dolby, ‘80s Recording Artist, She Blinded Me with Science

“Manchester’s book, Bread Bags & Bullies, brings to mind many of our techno ditties. ‘How you gonna keep ‘em down on Maggie’s Farm once they’ve seen Devo?’” – Gerald V. Casale of DEVO, Whip It

A few of your favorite things: my family, friends and time to write.
Things you need to throw out: reality TV.

Things you need in order to write: time (period).
Things that hamper your writing: lack of time. 

Things you love about writing: once I find my rhythm, there’s no happier place for me.
Things you hate about writing: the first 20 minutes of any writing session.

Words that describe you: perseverance; loyalty; integrity.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: OCD.

Favorite foods: pasta, seafood, Mexican food.
Things that make you want to throw up: split-pea soup (no kidding).

Favorite music or song: 80s rock.
Music that make your ears bleed: rap.

Favorite beverage: coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: tomato juice.

Favorite smell: my wife’s perfume.

Something that makes you hold your nose: sweaty dance shoes.

Something you like to do: love the beach.

Something you wish you’d never done: that’s a tough one (even the worse times taught me).

People you consider as heroes: moms, dads—folks who take good care of their families.

People with a big L on their foreheads: self-importance.

Last best thing you ate: eggs.

Last thing you regret eating: clams.

Things you always put in your books: an original poem.

Things you never put in your books: anything that would hurt someone.

Things to say to an author: What are you working on?

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I’d write a book if I had the time.

Favorite places you’ve been: Greece; Paris.

Places you never want to go to again: Iraq.

Things that make you happy: quiet time with family/friends.

Things that drive you crazy: shopping.

Best thing you’ve ever done: being a dad.

Biggest mistake: there are none (all roads lead to here and now).

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: served in combat zone (Iraq); worked for 10 years in a prison.

Something you chickened out from doing: jumping off a bridge.

The last thing you did for the first time: visited Portugal.

Something you’ll never do again: go to war (I hope).

It was the afternoon of Friday 13th, the last day before February vacation. A whole week off from stupid middle school, I thought, excitedly.
From the moment I stepped onto the bus, the atmosphere felt electric, everyone happy for the much-needed winter break. Nena’s song, 99 Luftballoons, was playing on some concealed boom box in the back.
Many of the bus’s green fake leather bench seats were split and duct-taped. As I made my way down the narrow aisle in search of a seat, I heard the usual remarks offered to most eighth graders from the high school kids who’d already claimed their territory.
“You can’t sit here, dufus.”
“This seat’s taken.”
Even on such a joyous afternoon, I was quickly reminded that riding the bus was a hard kick in the teeth. It didn’t matter whether they were wearing black leather vests and chain wallets or Swatch watches and turned-up collars on their pastel IZOD Polo shirts, the high school kids were just plain mean.
As I made my way further down the line, the objections got even stronger.
“Oh, I don’t think so, dweeb.”
“If you even think about sitting, you dink, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”
Eat shit and die, I replied in my head, but never out loud.
I hated sitting with the nerds or the kids that smelled like spoiled lunchmeat, but after receiving enough rejections I began to wonder, Maybe the older kids see me the same way?
Although school had its social order, this mobile environment was even less forgiving. At a time in life when the mind is impressionable—constantly worrying about what others think of you, even about what you think of yourself—the bus’s sadistic hierarchy created scar tissue that would help to define many lives for years to come. It was a cruel testing ground for survival, where the tougher or more popular kids claimed the back of the bus. Those coveted seats were sacred territory that most of us spent years aspiring to. On the big, yellow school bus, physical threats were the least of our worries. This is psychological warfare, I realized early on.
Besides having to deal with the pecking order, there was incredible peer pressure to do things most of us would have never dreamed of doing—like distracting the elderly driver, Mr. Gifford. Given that the bus had no seat belts, this daily practice seemed pretty insane to me. I’d never actually seen Mr. Gifford’s eyes; the two narrow slits were usually squinting into the rear-view mirror.
“Sit down!” he constantly yelled.
There was always the smell of smoke wafting from the back, though I was never really sure it was cigarette smoke. Usually, there were two kids making out—a boy and girl—and it wasn’t always the same couple. The bus had its own sub-culture, a microcosm of the twisted society we were growing up in.
It’s amazing Old Man Gifford can keep this giant bus on the road and not in one of the ditches we pass on our way home, I thought.
As I claimed my seat beside another outcast Junior High-Schooler, I spotted my brother, Wally, sitting toward the middle of the vessel. Wally had straight brown hair, serious brown eyes and the chunky Bloomfield nose. He looked like my father. Unfortunately, a terrible case of acne was in full bloom, taking away from his rugged handsome looks. Our eyes locked. I nodded toward him. Although he returned the gesture, he was much more subtle in his action. You’re such a butthead, I thought.
A cold breeze tapped me on the shoulder. It’s freezing in here, I realized, turning around to see that the windows were open in the back of the yellow torture chamber. As I turned, I caught a whiff of my bus mate. And thank God they’re open, I thought, trying to place the unusual smell. Fried Spam? I guessed, before noticing that the stinky kid was wearing a Smokey the Bear sweatshirt that read, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. I had to do a double-take. No way, I thought in disbelief, it looks like Beetlejuice, here, has a death wish…wearing a lame pullover like that. I’m surprised he doesn’t have a Just Say No campaign button pinned to the front of it. I chuckled aloud, drawing a look from my new best friend. I pity the fool, I thought, quoting Mr. T.—one of my favorite TV personalities—in my head.
I’d just popped my last Luden’s cherry cough drop into my mouth when I heard it. There was a commotion behind us, much louder than the usual raucous. What the hell? No sooner did I turn in my seat to investigate the ruckus when my heart plummeted past my stone-washed jeans straight into my worn Chuck Taylor high tops.
Owen Audet—the most feared enforcer on Bus 6—was standing toe-to-toe with Wally. He was more than a head taller than my poor brother. Oh no, I thought, Wally’s gotta be shittin’ bricks right now. I swallowed hard. I know I would be. Owen was big, dumb and mean—and heavy on the mean.
“I need to borrow another book,” the Missing Link barked, looming over my brother.
There were a few laughs from the bully’s brain-dead minions.
My mouth instantly went dry, while my heart began to race. Although my brother was on the “big-boned” side, built like a Sherman tank, he still looked so small next to Owen. That dude’s a Clydesdale, I thought, and Wally’s road pizza.
“Sor…sorry, but I can’t do it,” Wally refused, his voice three octaves higher than normal. Even though he sounded like a yipping dog, he somehow stood his ground.
Owen’s face turned beet red. He obviously didn’t appreciate being challenged in front of the crowd. It’s Friday the 13th, I remembered, and Jason’s back. Owen grabbed for Wally’s backpack, who pulled away violently.
“Ooooh,” the crowd groaned. “You must be out of your damn mind, loser,” the aggressor hissed.
“I…I would be if…” Wally stuttered, looking like a terrified Kindergartner, “…if I let you take another book.”
I didn’t blame him. After the way Pop reacted the last time this same nightmare happened, I thought, Wally has no choice. My find quickly flashed back.


A month earlier, Owen had snatched one of Wally’s school books, opened the bus window and tossed it out—while everyone laughed nervously, hoping they weren’t next.
This could never happen to me, I realized, priding myself on the fact that I never took a book home. This wasn’t because I wasn’t supposed to, or didn’t need to. I’d simply decided early on that if the material couldn’t be learned in the classroom, there was no way I was going to “get it” at home.
When we got home, Wally explained that he’d been “bullied on the bus.”
Our father’s reaction was even worst than the crime Wally had reported. “Bullied?” Pop roared, addressing Wally, me and our little brother in the living room, “there’s no such thing as being bullied unless you allow it, right?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Lions are not bullied by sheep,” he barked, “and I hope to God I’m not raising sheep!” “Okay, Pop,” Wally mumbled at a little more than a whisper, “I get it.” “There’s only one way to set a bully straight,” Pop added, staring my older brother in the eye. Any one of us could have recited his next words by heart. “Punch him square in the nose as hard as you can.”
“Walt!” my mother yelled from the kitchen, clearly opposed to the tough lesson.
Pop peered even harder into Wally’s eyes. “As hard as you can,” he repeated through gritted teeth.
Three heads nodded.
Message received, I thought, loud and clear. When teaching us, Pop never gently peeled back the onion. He always sliced it right down the middle, cutting straight to the bitter tears.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Wally had heard two earfuls over the missing book—not just from our father but from his teacher, as well. My brother had reported that his book was missing; that he’d lost it. It was better than the alternative. If he’d told the truth, it would have been so much worse. Owen would have been enraged and Wally’s classmates would have labeled him a stool pigeon. And Pop, well, Pop would have thought he was a coward—a fate worse than death itself.
Yup, it’s so much better to lie sometimes, I decided.


Back on the bus, the crowd grew louder. “Oooooh…” they sang in chorus; everyone was now up on their knees to witness the inevitable pummeling.
I’d always looked up to my brother. Now, I just felt bad for him.
As Owen’s jaw muscles flexed violently, his beady eyes darted back and forth—his baby brain clearly considering his options. He looked toward Mr. Gifford, whose squinted eyes were looking into the giant rear view mirror positioned directly above his head.
“You’re lucky, you little queer,” Owen spat at my brother.
Wally kept his ground. “Why don’t you pick on…on someone your own size?” he stammered.
I couldn’t believe my ears. It was like experiencing a scene from Karate Kid. Wally’s sticking up for himself, even though Magilla Gorilla’s threatening to bash his squash in. Although my brother had found the courage to stare the predator down, I knew he wasn’t crazy enough to accept the giant’s invitation to tussle.
Owen laughed, cynically. “Oh, you’re my bitch now,” he said, “and I’m gonna take care of you good when we get back from vacation. You got it, bitch?”
The crowd didn’t laugh this time; everyone feeling bad for Wally. It could be any one of us at any time, I thought. Owen was an equal opportunity bully who didn’t discriminate.
“I’m gonna beat you down,” Owen promised Wally, “and it’s gonna be like that for the rest of the year.” He chuckled. “And next year, too.” By now, his putrid breath was inches from my brother’s crimson face, spittle flying with every terrifying word he spouted.
I’d never felt so freaked out, and the scumbag wasn’t even talking to me. I don’t know how Wally’s staying on his feet, I thought, proud that my brother’s eyes never left Owen’s.
As the bus screeched to a stop in front of our house, Wally turned to leave. The brakes weren’t done squealing when Owen pushed him in the back, collapsing him to the filthy floor. Eyes wide, Wally looked up from his prone position.
“Say one word,” Owen growled, “and I’ll kick your friggin’ teeth in right here.”
Wally scrambled to his feet and glared at him again before marching off the bus, hyperventilating from either fear or anger. Most likely both, I figured.
As the bus’s folding door closed and the air brakes belched out a sigh, I turned to Wally. “Do you think the Sleestak will actually…” I began to ask.
“Shut your damn mouth before I kick your teeth in!” he barked.
“Well, okay then,” I mumbled. My big brother was a master of wedgies and Indian sunburns, with years of experience under his belt. I hope you get yours after vacation, I thought.

As we entered the house, Ma was at the stove, making a vat of hot dog stew. “How was everyone’s day?” the short woman asked. She had the kindest eyes and most loving smile—except on those moody days when she’d eaten a bowl of spiders for breakfast.
“Just great,” Wally said, storming toward our bedroom.
“Better than his,” I said, pointing at my brother.
Wally stopped at our bedroom’s plastic accordion door, spinning on his heels to stare me into silence.
The menacing look worked. “I had a good day,” I told my mother, prepared to quell any questions she might have. “Mr. Timmons, my science teacher, nearly choked to death on an apple in class today,” I told her, laughing.
“And you think that’s funny, Herbie?” she asked, disgustedly.
I shrugged. “You would have too, Ma, if you’d been there,” I told her. “He was just starting to turn blue when he coughed it out.”
“Dear God,” she said, “that’s enough. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
I smiled. Mission accomplished, I thought, knowing there was no way she’d remember my comment about Wally. “Oh, and we’re on vacation all next week,” I reminded her.
“I know, I know,” she said, her face incapable of concealing her disappointment. “When Alphonse gets home, I want the three of you to clean up that pig sty you call a bedroom.”
“Why would we clean it now, before vacation week?” I asked. “It doesn’t make sense, Ma. We’re only going to mess it up all week.”
“Because I said so, that’s why.” She stared at me for a moment. “If you want, I can have your father…”
“Fine,” I quickly surrendered, “we’ll get started when Cockroach gets home from school.”
My younger brother was still in elementary school and took a later bus. I have a half hour to play Atari, I thought, and that new Donkey Kong game is mint.

The Atari gaming system was the best Christmas gift my brothers and I had ever received. Although I’d begged for Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Ma adamantly refused. “Not on your life,” she told me, “the last thing you guys need is more encouragement to fight.” Instead, we received a much better—and completely unexpected—Christmas present.
The Atari 2600 came with two joystick controllers with red buttons, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and black game cartridges that looked a lot like Pop’s 8-track tapes.

Wally stormed out of the room just as I was entering.
“Where are you heading?” I asked.
“To do my paper route.”
“Can I come with you?”
“Come on, Wally,” I said. “I can help you and…”
“I said no,” he barked. “Besides, I need to hurry today and get it done quick.”
“None of your business.” He stepped through the kitchen, heading for the front door.
“Be back for supper,” my mother told him.
“I will, Ma,” he said, walking out of the house and slamming the door behind him.
“What’s wrong with Wally today?” my mother called out, just as I was starting to control the block-headed ape on the black-and-white TV screen.
Nice try, Ma, I thought, confident that I’d never make the same mistake twice. “He’s just wiggin’ to get his paper route done, so he can veg out tonight,” I told her. “The Dukes of Hazzard are on and he’s in love with Daisy.” I smiled, thinking, We all are.
“Well, there’ll be no Dukes of Hazzard, if you boys don’t get that room cleaned up.”
“We’ll get it done, Ma,” I yelled from the bedroom. “Me and Cockroach will tackle it when the space cadet gets home.”
I returned my attention to the TV screen, and began jumping barrels with my two-dimensional video ape.

Our bedroom door opened and closed like a cheap accordion, catching Cockroach’s fingers within its folds. “Ouch!” he yelled out.
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. In fact, each time my little brother screamed out in pain, Wally and I laughed like it was the first time he’d ever hurt himself. Cockroach’s injuries never get old, I thought.
As soon as he stopped his belly-aching, Cockroach and I went straight to work. “Either that,” I told him, “or Ma won’t let us watch Dukes of Hazzard.”
“She wouldn’t do that,” he said.
I shrugged. “You wanna risk it?”
“What about Wally?” he asked. “Isn’t he gonna help us?”
“He’s on his paper route.” I thought about it, surprised that I still felt bad for my older brother. “Let’s just get it done, you little cabbage patch kid.”
He flipped me the bird.
Our bedroom consisted of single bed and a set of bunkbeds that was also used as a fort, a spaceship, or anything our cross-wired brains could conjure up—with a bed sheet draped down from the top bunk. There were two bureaus, Cockroach’s padlocked toy box and a small black-and-white TV that sat on a rickety fake wooden stand, the Atari console and joysticks lying in front on the shag carpeted floor. Three beanbag chairs helped to complete the cluttered room. Cleaning was not as simple as it sounded. Not long ago, Ma had insisted, “You guys are gross and, from now on, you’ll be doing your own laundry and making your own beds.” I had KISS bedding that once belonged to Wally. Although Cockroach liked to pretend he was sleeping on Star Wars bedding, he enjoyed my hand-me-down astronaut set. It wasn’t easy changing the bedding on a bunkbed, but we finally got it done.
For the next hour, while we put away clothes and moved things around—mostly kicking everything under the beds—Steven Tyler from Aerosmith wailed away on Cockroach’s massive silver boom box. Although we each owned a portable stereo system, Cockroach’s was in the best shape. He takes good care of his stuff, I thought, in case he ever wants to unload it to the highest bidder. It was in pristine condition, with no stickers or corroded battery compartment,.
He barely used it, so this was a treat.
When we were done straightening up, I turned to Cockroach. “Looks schweet, huh?”
He nodded in agreement. Without a proper inspection, the place looked immaculate—or at least as clean as it had been in a very long time.
“Schweet,” he repeated.
It was amazing to me how different my brothers were. Being stuck in the middle of them, I usually played the family diplomat. Cockroach’s real name was Alphonse, after our Pepere—but we always called him Cockroach. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the way he scurried about, or because no matter how badly Wally and I beat on him we couldn’t seem to kill him. I learned later on that he’d actually been nicknamed after a character on one of Pop’s favorite TV shows, Hogan’s Heroes.
Cockroach was more like a skeleton wrapped in olive skin, while I was built on the sturdy side like my older brother. Although we also shared the small potato-shaped nose, I had blue eyes with curly blonde hair, which made more than a few people confuse me for a girl when I was young. Cockroach had darker eyes and a nose as slender as his build, making him appear like the one piece that didn’t quite fit into the family portrait.
“What do you want to play?” he asked me once we’d finished cleaning. His deep dimples framed a grin that was sure to make most females crane their necks.
“We could play with your Stretch Armstrong doll,” I teased.
His handsome face went white. I laughed, remembering that ridiculously violent day.


My brothers and I had enjoyed a few rare days of peace, until turning into our usual slugfest. During the melee, Wally grabbed Cockroach’s Stretch Armstrong doll, who ended up getting the worst of it.
Wearing blue bikini underwear, the bare-chested, blonde-haired rubber doll could take a real thrashing. We could stretch him and even tie him into a knot before he went back to his original bulky form. Whether catapulted high into the air or used as the rope in a heated tug of war match, the action figure was reputed to be indestructible.
Screaming for mercy, Cockroach watched on in horror, while Wally and I put that poor doll to the test. We pulled and pulled, both of us ending up on our backsides, digging in our heels to create more distance between us.
As the first break in the skin revealed itself, Cockroach cried out, “You’re hurting him!”
That’s when something came over me and Wally—who was also known as the Mangler. We pulled harder, mutilating Mr. Armstrong beyond recognition and dispelling the fact that he couldn’t be destroyed. As Wally and I finished ripping the arms off of old Stretch, a clear gel that looked a lot like Crazy Glue oozed out.
“No!” Cockroach wailed.
“That’s weird,” Wally commented, nonchalantly, “the jelly doesn’t have any smell.”
Inconsolable, Cockroach went down on all fours to mourn the death of his favorite playmate.


“You guys suck,” Cockroach said, back in the present.
I couldn’t argue with him. Our job as big brothers is to toughen you up, I thought, justifying the cruel act. I then realized that Wally the Mangler destroyed everything in his path. The new Merlin six-in-one hand-held electronic game I’d gotten for Christmas a couple of years ago, the table-top motorcycle game he unwrapped last year…everything.
“You want to play Operation?” Cockroach asked me.
“Half the pieces are missing,” I reminded him.
“Battleship?” I shook my head. “Can’t, the batteries are dead.” I smiled.
“What about Twister?”
“No way,” he said, “it just turns into a pig pile with me on the bottom.”
I laughed. That’s right.
His eyes went wide with excitement. “What about G.I. Joe’s, Herbie?” he asked. “We haven’t played war in a long time.”
I was well beyond the cusp of being too old to play soldier, but making Cockroach happy was the perfect excuse for me to play. It’s the least I can do after helping to murder Stretch Armstrong, I thought. Besides, war is not an individual sport.

Wally and I had received the entire G.I. Joe Command Center a few years earlier when we’d both gotten our tonsils removed. “It’s for all three of you to share,” our mother had announced, referring to the large gift. In recent months, Cockroach claimed the cool play set as his own, and we were good with it.
It didn’t take long for my little brother to set up everything on the floor we’d just cleared. The grey G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center was walled in the front and wide open in the back, allowing for the tank to drive in and out of its bay, and the Jeep to enter the Motor Pool. Multiple G.I. Joe action figures manned the communication tactical station with colorful stickers illustrating the security monitors. An armory, filled with weapons, was located directly beneath the Heli-Pad—home to the awesome Dragonfly Helicopter. A holding cell for captured enemies was normally empty—as Cockroach and I rarely took enemies—while machine guns and canons defended strategic positions on top of the spot-lit wall.
For the next hour or so, we fought—and defeated—battalions of imaginary enemies.
“Come in, Flying Squirrel,” I called into a damaged walkie-talkie, “this is Swamp Yankee. How copy, over?”
“I read you, Swamp Yankee,” Cockroach called back on his matching broken walkie-talkie. “The enemy has been neutralized.”
I laughed. Cockroach is too smart for his age, I thought. It must be from all the TV he watches. It didn’t really matter that our walkie talkies had been broken since we’d gotten them. We were kneeling side-by-side only a few feet apart.
“So you really like this girl, Donna Torres, huh?” Cockroach commented, parking the Jeep in front of our perimeter.
I wheeled the tank through the Headquarters compound. “Like totally,” I said, never looking up. Donna’s different, I thought, she’s beautiful. Most girls aren’t too hard to look at, but Donna’s in a class all her own.
“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” Cockroach joked, mimicking the funny commercial of an elderly woman pushing a panic button on her necklace.
That’s clever, bro, I thought. After a few moments of tank patrol, I blurted, “I think she’s the one.”
Chuckling, my little brother took the plastic helicopter into the air. “Sure she is, Herbie. You said the same thing about Abby Gerwitz last summer.”
He’s right, I thought. For as long as I could remember, I had a huge crush on Abby Gerwitz. But who hasn’t? I thought. “She likes Richard Giles and everyone knows it,” I told him, and because of that my feelings for her had died a very cruel death. “Donna’s the one,” I repeated, hammering my point home.
Cockroach stopped playing. “Have you told her?” he asked, giving me his undivided attention.
“Sort of.”
“Sort of?”
For weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about exchanging valentines with Donna; giving her those small chalk hearts that said everything I didn’t have the courage to tell her: Be Mine and I Love You. I decided that these colorful messages of affection were much safer to give than a greeting card or a box of chocolates. But what if she doesn’t like me? I kept thinking, torturing myself. I’ll be a laughing stock at school. I began getting heated, picturing Paul Roberts laughing at me, and then me punching his smug face over-and-over-and-over again. Even young, I sensed that love never went unpunished. On Valentine’s Day, I got to homeroom early and left a box of the chalk hearts in Donna’s desk. I signed the gift, From Herbie. While my heart pounded out of my chest, I watched from the back of the room as she found the candy. She looked back at me and smiled. “Thank you,” she said, and I nodded—my face feeling like it was on fire.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Donna had never gotten the real message I was trying to send.
“I gave her a Valentine’s,” I explained to Cockroach, “but I’m not sure if she thinks I gave it to her as a friend.”
“Oh…” He thought for a moment. “That’s pretty lame.”
“What do you know?” I snapped back. Cockroach was still too young to understand the risk and devastation associated with being rejected by a girl—especially a girl as perfect as Donna. It was like being picked for teams in gym class; no big deal unless you were picked last. And you only have so many shots in Middle School, I thought. If you’re rejected by more than one girl, then you’re destined to be stuck in Loserville for life.
“So what are you going to do?” he asked, bringing me back into the moment.
“I think I’m going to write her a letter.”
“No question.”
While we played, I began to daydream about my crush. I could picture Donna as plain as the bearded G.I. Joe doll I was holding.

Donna’s so choice, I thought. She had the prettiest chocolate-colored eyes and a smile that made me feel like I was the only eighth-grade boy walking the earth. Every day at school, she either wore Jordache or Sergio Valente jeans; these were skin-tight right down to a pair of jelly shoes or clogs. Unlike most of the other girls who wore big hair with bangs—mall hair, as we called it— or tied up in a scrunchy, Donna’s dirty blonde hair was parted in the middle and feathered back. Just like Farah Fawcett on Charlie’s Angels, I thought. She usually wore a shirt with shoulder pads and her jewelry was simple; gel bracelets and friendship beads. I’d only seen her in leg warmers and a colorful headband once, realizing she’d look good no matter what she wore.
Yup, I thought, I definitely have to write her a letter. It’s the only way she’ll ever know that I…

“Herbie!” I heard someone scream.
I looked up. Cockroach was gone and I was sitting on the floor alone. Wow, that’s weird, I thought.
“Herbie!” I heard again, struggling to register reality.
It’s Ma, I realized. “Sorry, Ma, I didn’t hear you.”
“How could you not hear me? I’ve been yelling for you for ten minutes.”
Now there’s an exaggeration, I thought. “Sorry, Ma,” I repeated.
“Your father’s home from work. Go get cleaned up for supper.”
“Now,” she said.

When I pulled my chair out from the kitchen table, Pop was already sitting at the head of it—wearing his faded dungarees and graying crew-neck t-shirt. Thankfully, his same-colored handkerchief—used to blow his nose and then yank out our loose teeth, sometimes one right after the other—remained in his back pocket.
Wally was also there, his face ruddy from the cold.
“How was school today?” Pop asked, blowing on his hot bowl of stew.
“Fine,” Wally mumbled, his eyes on his steaming meal.
“Good,” I added, “we’re on vacation next week.”
The old man looked across the table at Ma. “Lucky Mom,” he said, grinning.
“And we cleaned our room,” Cockroach reported.
“Well, what do you know,” he said, “it’s a winter miracle.”
For the next half hour, besides the occasional grunt or groan, we ate in silence.
“Lots of hot dogs tonight,” Pop commented, dunking a slice of buttered bread into his bowl. “Did we hit the lottery or something?”
Ma grinned. “They were on sale, Walt.”
As they discussed the expensive price of groceries, my mind drifted off again. I couldn’t help it. I don’t even care that Donna has a crush on Kevin Bacon, I thought, shrugging to myself. All those hearts on her Trapper Keeper, with his initials written inside each one—who cares. I inhaled deeply. I love it when she wears that Luvs Baby Soft perfume. I could actually smell the liquid baby powder when I closed my eyes. Ahhhh…
“I’m done,” Wally announced loudly, bringing me back to the table. After placing the plastic bowl into the sink, my brother grabbed his heavy winter jacket and put it on.
“Where are you going now?” Ma asked him.
“The cellar,” he said.
“Good,” she said, getting up. “Why don’t you throw a load of towels into the wash while you’re down there?”
Although Wally’s face contorted, he nodded in surrender. “Fine, Ma.”
Within seconds, she was back in the kitchen with an overflowing laundry basket of mismatched towels.
“Bo and Luke Duke are on tonight,” Cockroach reminded him.
“I’ll be back by then,” Wally said, wrestling the bulky basket out the front door.
My father was finishing his second bowl of soup when he asked, “What the hell’s he do down there, anyway?”
“Laundry,” Ma said, standing to fetch him another bowl of stew.

At eight o’clock, Wally, Cockroach and I watched our favorite show—the Dukes of Hazzard. While we sat entranced by Bo and Luke’s unrealistic car jumps in the General Lee—as well as Daisy’s really short cut-off jeans—Ma treated us to our favorite Friday treat: hand-cut French fries, salted and shaken in a brown paper bag. There’s no better snack on a Friday night, I thought. Hold the vinegar, please.
Once the show was done, the TV belonged to Ma—who watched Dallas at nine o’clock, immediately followed by Falcon Crest. For two full hours, she snubbed out one cigarette butt after the next into a giant ashtray that rested atop its decorative wrought iron stand right beside the couch. In no time, the living room was engulfed in smoke, a low-clinging fog that had quietly crept in. While Pop snored on and off in his worn recliner—a half-empty beer can in hand—my brothers and I decided to call it a night. We’d already second-hand smoked a full pack that day.

My brothers and I wrapped up the night with a lively game of Atari Pong. Cockroach preferred the longer paddles, while I was a bit more skilled and liked the shorter rectangles. I loved it. With virtual reality, there was much less need for actual reality.

Once Cockroach turned out the light and we retired to our beds, I called out to Wally,
“Goodnight, John-boy…”
My big brother normally responded like we were part of the Walton Family, but there was no reply tonight. There was no laughter—just silence.
It suddenly hit me. Wally’s still buggn’ out, I thought, realizing that my brother’s fear was so great that it was swallowing him whole. All because of that bullshit on the bus today. I shook my head. He just needs to take a chill pill. I mean, we’re off for an entire week.


Excerpt from Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the '80s by Steven Manchester.  Copyright © 2019 by Steven Manchester. Reproduced with permission from Steven Manchester. All rights reserved.

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; and the multi-award winning novels, Goodnight Brian and The Thursday Night Club. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is a multi-produced playwright, as well as the winner of the 2017 Los Angeles Book Festival and the 2018 New York Book Festival. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 

Connect with Steven:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

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Monday, November 25, 2019


Sergeant Winston Windflower and his trusty crew at the Grand Bank detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have more than a few mysteries on their hands. Windflower suspects that the three cases—a homicide, a near-homicide and a fire on Coronation Street—are somehow connected, but how is proving difficult to determine, especially now that he must battle his unusually cranky mood, the never-ending winter that has gripped the coastal region of Newfoundland and his new, power-hungry boss.

In Fire, Fog and Water, award-winning author Mike Martin is true to form, retaining the light crime genre for which he is known while delving into the most perplexing social issues of our time, including mental health, addictions and workplace harassment. Windflower must not only solve the drug-and-death crimes that threaten the otherwise tranquil lives of Grand Bank’s residents, he must resolve his own internal conflicts before they consume him as surely as the blaze that engulfed the house on Coronation Street.

Book Details:

Title: Fire, Fog and Water

Author: Mike Martin
Genre: mystery
Genre: mystery

Series: (Sgt. Windflower Mysteries), book 8

Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing (October 8, 2019)

Print Length: 280 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


Q: If you could talk to someone (living), who would it be and what would you ask them?
A: I would ask Greta Thunberg how she keeps going.

Q: If you could talk to someone (dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
A: I would ask my dead friend, Gary, what it’s like up there?

Q: If you could live in any time period which would it be?
A: I kinda like the comforts of today. But any period would be great if I were very rich.

Q: If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
A: I’m not crazy enough to think I could make a difference, but I’d still like to be alive to challenge Hitler.

Q: If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?
A: I think I would go somewhere warm for the winter, but come back at Christmas. Hey, I could do that now.

Q: If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
A: I would be a songwriter.

Q: If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
A: I would and do work for climate action in my community.

Q: If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, who would you choose to be one before and one below you?
A: I would like to be between Louise Penny and Stephen King. I would just like to be close to them on the list.

Q: If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
A: Stephen King. We would talk about the world and how we could make it a better place.

Q: If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?
A: I would like to live with the elves in Rivendel from Lord of the Rings.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: Probably Canada, but Australia for a few days.


5 things you need in order to write:

    •    light
    •    coffee
    •    internet connection
    •    inspiration
    •    determination

5 things you love about where you live:

    •    peaceful
    •    clean
    •    bright
    •    quiet
    •    has coffee

5 things you never want to run out of:

    •    coffee
    •    inspiration
    •    determination’
    •    empathy
    •    love

5 things you always put in your books:

    •    Sgt. Windflower
    •    Sheila, his wife
    •    Lady, his dog
    •    Molly his cat
    •    Amelia Louise, his daughter

5 favorite places you’ve been: 

    •    Australia
    •    Zimbabwe
    •    Italy
    •    Cuba
    •    Gros Morne National Park

5 favorite authors:

    •    Stephen King
    •    Charles Dickens
    •    Tolkien
    •    Donna Leon
    •    Agatha Christie

5 people you consider as heroes:

    •    Nelson Mandala
    •    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    •    John Lewis
    •    Anne Frank
    •    Greta Thunberg


Q: What’s your all-time favorite place?
A: Gros Morne National Park.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite memory?
A: Birth of my two children.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite movie?
A: Little Big Man.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite author?
A: Dickens.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite city?
A: New York City.

Q: What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard?
A: Sarah Brightman singing.

Q: What’s your favorite Internet site?
A: Google or Wikipedia, tie.

Q: What’s your favorite time of day?
A: Early morning.

Q: What’s your favorite meal?
A: Pizza.

Q: What’s your favorite vacation spot?
A: Cuba.

Q: What’s your favorite dessert?
A: Birthday cake.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do when there’s nothing to do?
A: Write.

Q: What’s your favorite candy bar?
A: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Q: What’s your favorite movie snack?
A: Really? Popcorn.

Q: What’s your favorite social media site?
A: Facebook.

Q: What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
A: Phone.

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Pizza
Music: Arcade Fire
Movie: Men in Black International
Book: A Better Man, Louise Penny
Audiobook: The Walker on the Cape, Mike Martin

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland, Canada. He is the author of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series. Fire, Fog and Water is the 8th book in the series. A Long Ways from Home was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year and Darkest Before the Dawn won for the 2018 Bony Blithe Award. Mike is currently Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers.

Connect with Mike:

Website  |  Facebook Twitter

Buy the book: