Wednesday, November 27, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: STEVEN MANCHESTER









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




EARLY PRAISE



“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).





 
FRIDAY
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?”
“No.”
“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.”
“Why?”
“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.
“Nah.”
“Perfection?”
“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.”
“Really?”
“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.”
“Okay.”
“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 

Buy the book:
Amazon

Monday, November 25, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: MIKE MARTIN








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












Ifs




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.





Ands



5 things you need in order to write:

    •    light
    •    coffee
    •    internet connection
    •    inspiration
and
    •    determination

5 things you love about where you live:

    •    peaceful
    •    clean
    •    bright
    •    quiet
and
    •    has coffee

5 things you never want to run out of:

    •    coffee
    •    inspiration
    •    determination’
    •    empathy
and
    •    love

5 things you always put in your books:


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

5 favorite places you’ve been: 

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

5 favorite authors:

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

5 people you consider as heroes:

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


Whats


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:
Amazon




Thursday, November 21, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: SHARON PRENTICE








Becoming Starlight is a memoir about the process of grief and its relationship to the mysteries concerning the afterlife. This book will bring comfort to those who are feeling unrelenting sorrow over the loss of loved ones. This memoir is a story of surviving grief and mending the wounds of loss.



Book Details:

Title: Becoming Starlight: Surviving Grief and Mending the Wounds of Loss


Author: Sharon Prentice, PhD

Genre: memoir / spirituality

Publisher: Waterside Productions (May 8, 2018)

Print length: 220 pages








Q: Sharon, what inspired you to write this book?


A: Becoming Starlight is/was truly my life and death struggle with spiritual darkness and loss of faith. Having been raised within a very loving and supportive family, I was totally unprepared for the tragedy that would find its way into my life. I had no idea how to deal with life and death issues so, when death came knocking on my door and spirited away my newborn daughter, I fell into an abyss that had no end. Her death, followed a few years later by the death of my husband, became the impetus for what became the most transformative moment of my life—the SDE (Shared Death Experience)—my night among the stars. Becoming Starlight chronicles my journey from death and despair to being held, cocooned within, and becoming one with the Presence that lives in Starlight-God Himself.
I wrote Becoming Starlight for two reasons. By way of explanation, I work with seriously ill, terminal patients and their families. The question they ask more than any other is “Should I be afraid?” I understand that question on such an intimate level because that is the very question that burned a hole in my Soul but one I didn’t have the courage to ask or, quite possibly one I didn’t want to become vulnerable to! When confronted with a life-altering diagnosis, even the strongest and most fearless among us doesn’t know how to face that worst of all trauma and the darkest of all emotion in life. The fear of abandonment by God, the fear of leaving your family, the fear of falling into nothingness, the fear of losing yourself to the darkness and to the unknown—your gut responds, your jaw drops, and the true nature of your humanity emerges: mortality and you fall. It’s a shattering loss that causes previously unknown fear and anxiety to blot out all other emotion.
I wrote Becoming Starlight for them. For years, I have told all my patients about my Starlight night (my SDE) in an effort to dispel some of the fear. When that question is asked, as it always is, I take each one of them in my arms, hold them tightly, and tell them my story of great loss and despair and the eventual renewal within God’s presence. Giving them part of my Starlight night in hopes they will understand that they are part of all creation; part of something they do not fully understand; part of something so much bigger than themselves; something they cannot see or hear or touch or even imagine; that they are part of God himself; a part of the permanence of all Creation—to dispel the fear of losing themselves to the nothingness of the darkness is something I try to bring to them as I tell them about the light of God that I was taken into. They have all asked me to “write it down, tell the story” so they could have access to my words when we weren’t together. So I did.
The second reason, and by far, the single most important reason for the existence of this book is this: the loves of my life mattered and their story was one that needed to be told.

Q: What do you hope readers will get from this book?


A: There really is only one empowering lesson in Becoming Starlight. But that lesson is multi-faceted. It involves accepting something that none of us wants to accept—that life and death go hand in hand. It involves acceptance, surrender, faith, hope, and an understanding of those things that all of us seek to understand but never fully do understand except from the standpoint of belief in the fact that we are never alone; that we are never separated from the all-loving and all-consuming mercy of the One Who formed us from His very thoughts; that we are all connected, one to the other, by the mere fact that we exist in this universe; and that, above all else, nothing you could ever do could separate you from the love of God. And while we may laugh or cry or shout or rage at the heavens, it matters not how far into the muck you have face planted. You can rise and thrive. Going “through it all” instead of “rising above it” leads you to your victory or at least to a peace that can be life affirming.

Q: How did you come up with the title of your book?


A: The title, Becoming Starlight, was then, is now, and will always be the only title ever considered for my book. Why? Because that is exactly what happened. I didn’t need to search or agonize or go looking anywhere else for the title, and I wouldn’t listen to or consider any other title that was presented to me. Why? Because, once again, I had to be true to the story. I wrote Becoming Starlight for a purpose—to tell a story of a complete fall from Grace, a total and utter loss of faith, a human condition that involved agonizing grief and despair and a need for revenge against life itself and the eventual renewal and life affirming peace that came within a Blessing from Creation Itself. As the Stars came to “collect” me at the moment of my husband’s death, I found myself in the very Presence of God, all within and of Starlight. 

Q: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?


A: Writing Becoming Starlight was truly a labor of love for me. At the same time, it was one of the most tremendously difficult tasks I have ever assigned myself. When I decided to write this book, I mistakenly thought I would be able to put all emotion aside and just write. Just pick up my computer and start writing. I found out very quickly that my thought process was completely and utterly flawed. Not only did I find it almost impossible to start writing but, once I did get started, I soon found that finishing the book, in its entirety, was going to be almost as difficult. Having to recount the most horrendous events in my life, having to actually put them down on paper, having to relive each and every thought, emotion, and moment of those extremely life altering events—well, let’s just say Becoming Starlight almost didn’t “become.”
Here’s what I found . . . writing this book became my very own daily dose of therapy. In my practice, I tell all my patients to journal because there’s something about writing it down that gets it out of the soul. Issues that remain hidden away from the sunlight become dark and dank so putting it “all” out there where the light can get at it, dispels the darkness. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Sure does, but the reality is quite different. It isn’t easy to pull those memories out of spirit, those memories that are marked with “Danger: Do Not Open.”  And that is exactly what I did to myself when I took on this project. I had to open up those “Danger: Do Not Open” portals, and I was even surprised at myself for being so fearful to actually get in there and rip them open. The guards at the gates of these portals are fearsome indeed and getting past them took so much strength and courage that I didn’t even know I possessed. Writing this book, telling this story meant re-living the deaths of two people I carry within my soul always, and that was one of the most difficult tasks I have ever encountered in my life.

Q: If you had a swear jar, would it be full?


A: Full to brimming and in need of emptying every day! As a psychologist, I am privy to some of the most unflattering, selfish, insane, mixed up, tangled up, and downright squirrelly conversations anyone could ever imagine—and I am supposed to straighten them all out! At least, that’s what patients think when they walk through my door. They quickly find out that the only person who can fix their issues is themselves. It takes hard work to get deep down into the recesses of the “no-go zones” of the spirit, and I am a very hard task-master. I will not take “no” for an answer when someone’s life is on the line, and I will dig and peel away at the portals of pain until they open wide and say, “enough already!”  You wanna talk about swear jars? I have words that I didn’t even know existed tucked away in those jars! Words for bodily functions that, to this day, I don’t think were ever used in any other conversation anywhere else. Made up words that were, well, let’s just say my patients have great imaginations. I have learned them all and kept some for my own use.

Q: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?


A: Actually both! I am introverted in situations where all I want to do is watch and listen. I am a perpetual people-watcher and listener and, as such, I stay in the background in social situations where I feel the need to “see” and “feel” the environment. I choose very carefully where and when I decide to participate in any situation and will very quickly say “No” to something I simply do not want to do. I would much rather stay home with a good book or watch chick flicks and eat Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars all night. I just seriously love my alone time.
But, at the same time, if there is something I really want to do, I will be smack dab in the middle of it all. I choose very carefully who I share my life with and those chosen to be in my inner circle are very special to me. Being with those who are real and true to themselves and to others, and to those who are never false or full of pretense—that is where you will find me laughing and playing and enjoying life to the utmost! Those closest to me are privy to “the real me” in all my incarnations.

Q: What's your favorite snack for movie night?


A: I’m such a chocoholic . . . an entire bag of the stuff doesn’t last 15 minutes with me! I’m seriously addicted. So, for movie night, it’s a line-up of Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars (yes, that’s plural), a bag of Goldenberg Peanut Chews (yummy little nuggets of heaven), some popcorn and, just for health’s cake, a monstrous glass of water filled with lemon slices.

Q: What is the most daring thing you've done?


A: Well, to tell the truth, I don’t know if this was the most daring thing I have ever done or the most stupid! We lived in Memphis, Tennessee for many years and, as almost every person knows, Elvis Presley lived in Memphis at Graceland, his home for many years. One night, many years ago, my sister-in-law and I decided we wanted to go “visit” Elvis. We actually drove to Graceland and told the guard at the gate that we “were here to see Elvis.” Naturally, he very politely told us to vacate the premises. We did, indeed, vacate the premises . . . but only the premises around the gate where he kept watch. We parked our car around the back of the house and proceeded to climb up and over the huge stone barrier that surrounded the property, then ran like crazy people up to the front of the house. We actually made it up to the front door when, what did we hear? Not the hoofs of reindeer on the roof but that of dogs barking . . . great big dogs barking loudly . . . and headed straight for us! Well, needless to say, I didn’t know I could run as fast or jump as high as I did that night, but we left Graceland intact . . . no dog bites and no police with handcuffs. Was it worth it? You bet your life it was worth it! Would I do it again?  Only if the ghost of Elvis was reported as being on the premises.

Q: How long did it take you to write this book?


A: It took me three years to complete Becoming Starlight. It was a very difficult book to write. Reliving the most horrendous moments of my life, pulling them out and having to look them square in the face, that took me some time. As a matter of fact, the version that is now “the book” is actually the fourth incarnation of Becoming Starlight. The first two versions were simply nothing less than a horrific outpouring of emotion that I didn’t even know I still harbored in my soul. And the chapter about my daughter’s death took me a full six months to write. I would start and stop . . .  sob . . .  start and stop . . .  and sob again.  That one chapter is the very reason the audio of Becoming Starlight is narrated by an amazing woman named Gabrielle Du Cuir . . .  I couldn’t read the chapter without my throat closing. I still can’t!

Q: How long have you been writing, and how did you start?


A: Becoming Starlight
is my first published book. I’ve been writing for years but only for myself. The only other writing I’ve ever had published is an article I wrote in high school about loneliness in teenagers and an “almost published” poem that I wrote for another student who hadn’t done his homework. Imagine our surprise when the English teacher told him she wanted to send the poem to Reader’s Digest for publication in their magazine column “Up and Comers in High School” . . . try explaining to a high school English teacher that you cheated with another student. Needless to say, that poem wasn’t sent anywhere except to the principal’s office, along with the two of us!

Q: Where do you prefer to do your writing?


A: Now that seemed as if it was going to be a challenge! Everyone had their own idea of exactly how and where I needed to be and what I needed to do . . . none of them worked for me.  So figuring it out for myself was something I needed to do.
Contrary to what everyone else told me, I found that I didn’t need to change my physical environment . . . instead, I embraced it. The old Lazy Boy recliner that had been my dad’s “home base” before his death became my sacred space. I felt safe and peaceful there in that chair. It became my home, my sanctuary.  My body just seemed to conform to the indentations that had, for years, become its very nature, and I felt as if it “knew” me. I didn’t feel the need to have a totally private, quiet, locked away space that had no recognition of me and the joys and sorrows of my life. It was there, on my dad’s well-loved recliner that Becoming Starlight was birthed. That silly old recliner, worn and old, an extremely ugly faded-out green color is now my go-to place for writing. Matter of fact, I’m sitting in it at this moment!

Q: What’s one of your favorite quotes?


A: Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” If we all could just accept the fact that we cannot change anyone else, life would be a piece of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries on top.
How many times have you said to yourself, “He/she will change if I do this or that . . . or he/she will change if I say this or that . . . or he/she will love me enough to change once they understand.”  Those rose-colored glasses everyone puts on when they don’t want to truly “see” that change is not forthcoming, they need to be cleaned with an entire bottle of Windex and some powerful wipes! Having said that, change is possible but only if the person wants it for themselves. Just because you may have an “issue” with certain behaviors doesn’t mean they have to agree with you. Remember that.
There’s no trick here. You must decide what you will accept. What behaviors, belief systems, opinions, lifestyles, etc., you are willing to accept into your life. It’s not your job to change those that you allow into your life. It’s your job to decide who you let in, just as they are! You have no right to complain about or fall victim to those you allowed in, all the while thinking, “I can change them.”  Short of abuse that is well-hidden beforehand—you are responsible for “seeing” what you are being shown by everyone who crosses your path. 

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?


A: My passions lie with my family. The two-footed kind and the four-footers. The furry ones, the feathered ones, the scaled ones, the finned ones, and everything in between. My home is a menagerie of sorts and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
We are very dedicated animal rescue enthusiasts. And this dedication is not just for what we know as “companion” animals but also for what we, as a nation, deem as “farmed” animals. Recently, we adopted a baby calf, a steer named Miles who was rescued from a slaughter truck. He was exactly one day old when he was separated from his mother and thrown into a slaughter truck. The lack of compassion and respect for the sentient beings we share our planet with is in dire need of radical change! I try every day to change the minds and hearts of those who don’t see or want to acknowledge the cruelty and abuse that exists throughout the system in play today. To be a role model for others to develop an awareness and compassion for these sentient beings by not eating them, wearing them, or using them in any capacity is something I live every day. I hope this is seen and copied by those who are willing to “see.”  
When not writing or taking care of my “human” patients, you can find me with hair clipped to the top of my head, wearing rubber boots and heavy gloves to lift the bales of hay to feed my brood or providing huge bottles of milk to rescued farm babes or feeding my fish outside in the Koi pond or playing with my birds of every color and description imaginable or simply lounging somewhere on my beach. It’s all about living . . . not merely existing!

Q: How long is your to-do list?


A: Well, now that I have answered your questions, I can check off one more item! Seriously, I don’t live by a to-do list. I find those lists just too confining. There are so many wonderful things to see, places to go, events to be experienced, and people to bring love into our lives that getting bogged down to some arbitrary “to-do list” just doesn’t fit into my lifestyle. It’s more of a “don’t-do” list for me! Don’t be selfish. Don’t be prideful. Don’t be or bring harm to any living sentient being. Don’t gossip. Don’t abuse. Don’t compare. And, above all, don’t forget to love . . . and that includes loving yourself. See, now doesn’t that work better?












Dr. Sharon Prentice is a psychotherapist and spiritual counselor whose work focuses on helping patients process the grief of losing a loved one. Becoming Starlight is her memoir of healing from the devastating loss of her daughter and husband. She experienced a unique spiritual experience, known as a Shared Death Experience (SDE) which gave her a peek into foreverness and a sense of peace that was otherworldly.


Connect with Sharon:
Website  |  Blog Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads  |  Instagram


Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: LYNN CAHOON









It’s October in South Cove, California, and the locals in the quaint resort seem to be happily pairing off in the lull before the holidays. Everyone, that is, except for Jill Gardner’s elderly aunt, who just dumped her besotted fiancĂ©—and she won’t say why.

When Jill hosts a talk at Coffee, Books, and More on the topic of elder abuse, all that’s really on her mind is lunch. But the topic hits close to home when she discovers Aunt Jackie has been getting mysterious calls. Jill’s certain the caller is a con artist, of course, but her feisty aunt claims to understand this, though she’s still shaken—and Harrold’s still heartbroken. Who’s behind the scam and why was her aunt targeted? When a volunteer from the Senior Project is found murdered, Jill’s detective boyfriend is on the case—and it soon becomes clear no one is safe when a caller from beyond becomes a killer in their midst. 



Book Details:


Title: Memories and Murder

Author: Lynn Cahoon

Genre: cozy mystery 


Series: Tourist Trap series, book 10


Publisher: Lyrical Underground (November 11, 2019) 


Print length: 182 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours
















Ifs




Q: If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
A: I want to do all the jobs. LOL. But my best job ever was working for a non-profit. Could I be a grant writer? Or does that break the rules?

Q: If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
A: I’d love to do my community service in a library. Shelving books, helping others with research.

Q: If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
A: My first reaction is Stephen King to talk about my writing career and what I could do. But I would probably be smarter to talk to Robyn Carr about career. I’ll save my coffee time with Stephen to Fan girl.


Q: If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?
A: Thunder Point, Oregon. I love that town and its inhabitants. 



Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
A: A little cottage within walking distance of the coast. Maybe Oregon, maybe OBX, maybe California.




Ands




5 things you love about writing:
    •    finding the story
    •    developing characters
    •    making familiar settings change as I want
    •    seeing my book on shelves
and
    •    people talking about my characters as friends, like I do


5 things you love about where you live: 

    •    herons on the water
    •    get to see deer
    •    close to a lot of fun activities
    •    history on every corner
and
    •    close to a lot of NASCAR tracks
 

5 things you never want to run out of: 
    •    chocolate
    •    potato chips
    •    contacts
    •    fish
and
    •    time


5 favorite foods: 
    •    French fries
    •    fish
    •    chocolate covered pretzels
    •    potato soup
and
    •    pumpkin cheesecake


5 people you’d like to be stuck in a bookstore with:
    •    Stephen King
    •    Robyn Carr
    •    Neil Gaiman
    •    JD Robb
and
    •    Jim Butcher


Whats

Q: What’s your all-time favorite place? 

A: OBX, North Carolina


Q: What’s your all-time favorite memory?

A: Watching the silver Christmas tree change colors.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite movie?

A: Sleepless in Seattle or One Magic Christmas.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

A: People not being nice.


Q: What’s the loveliest sight you’ve ever seen? 

A: There’s a cove on the lake in McCall, Idaho. The water was beautiful, but the stillness of the area almost made me cry.


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do? 

A: Get lost in a story.


Q: What’s your favorite ice cream? 

A: Vanilla.


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

A: My phone now.


Q: What book are you currently working on?

A: New series – light paranormal cozy mystery. 


Q: What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Smoked chicken pasta.
Music: Luke Bryan or Keith Urban.
Movie: I’m enjoying The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Book: Atomic Habits.
Audiobook: Jim Butcher’s Dresden series.
TV: Supernatural – so sad it’s ending.
Netflix/Amazon Prime: I really liked the chef shows.

Q: What books do you currently have published?
A: I have sixteen in the Tourist Trap series, three in Farm to Fork, soon to be six in Cat Latimer and several series under Lynn Collins – my romance pen name. You can find all my books at www.lynncahoon.com or www.lynncollinsauthor.com.  












Award-winning NYT and USA Today best-selling author, Lynn Cahoon,  pens several cozy mystery series. The Tourist Trap series is set in central coastal California includes nine, soon to be ten, novels with six holiday novellas. She also pens the Cat Latimer series (set in Colorado) available in mass market paperback. The Farm to Fork mystery series is set in her home state of Idaho. No matter where the mystery is set, readers can expect a fun ride. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and three fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

Connect with Lynn:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads  |  Amazon

Buy the book:

                                                Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Apple  |  Kobo






Monday, November 18, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: EMMA DAKIN








Moving to a quiet English village should have been tranquil, but Claire Barclay learns that even an invitation to tea can be deadly. Who killed Mrs. Paulson, the president of the local Mystery Books Club? Was the motive for murder located in the archives of the book club? The members of the books club might have reason to want Mrs. Paulson’s out of the way. She had lived in the village all her life, been involved in many organizations and societies and knew many secrets of the villagers. Was one secret too dangerous for her to keep? She had been wealthy and left her money to a member of the club. Could the legatee have been impatient for her inheritance? Who cared enough to want her dead? Claire, an expert in solving problems in her job as a tour guide, decides to delve into the archives and into the lives of the villagers—and find out.



Book Details:

Title: Hazards in Hampshire

Author: Emma Dakin

Genre: cozy
 mystery

Series: The British Book Tour Mystery Series, book 1


Publisher: Camel Press (October 2019)


Print length: 190 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours








IFs ANDs OR WHATs INTERVIEW WITH EMMA DAKIN


Ifs



Q: If you could talk to someone (dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
A: If I could talk to Max Planck who is long dead, I might be able to understand Quantum Physics. In spite of desperate attempts to read simplified books on this, the basic concepts drift past me. I have this idea that emotions can be explained by physics. It’s possible I really understand that emotions are unknowable. I still deal with them in my novels.

Q: If you could live in any time period which would it be? 
A: I’d like to live in the 1920s but with present day health care and, of course, plenty of money.

Q: If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
A: I would go back to moments when I did or said something that impacted my children negatively. I’d love to get a chance to get it right this time.

Q: If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
A: A research scientist on how people learn.

Q: If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
A: Playing back up violin in a travelling band.


Q: If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
A: Carola Dunn. We’d talk about Eleanor Trewynn and all the marvelous books yet to be written about her adventures.

Q: If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?
A: I’d like to live in Kerry Greenwood’s Melbourne, Australia, but only for a short time. It’s very hot there, but I’d like to explore it. Of course, if her character Corinna Chapman was showing me around, I might stay longer.



Ands



5 favorite possessions:  
    •    my violin

    •    my house overlooking the ocean
    •    my education
    •    my books
and  
    •    the odd little gifts given to me by family


5 things you need in order to write: 
    •    a computer

    •    time
    •    solitude
    •    functioning wi fi
and   

    •    coffee


5 things you love about writing: 

the unexpected production

new ideas

exploring characters
enjoying characters
and 

hearing others give their opinions of my books characters 


5 things you love about where you live: 

    •    the ocean and paddling on it

    •    the musical community which accepts me, amateur that I am
    •    my friends
    •    my neighbors
and 

    •    the ever-blooming countryside of this beautiful Sunshine Coast

5 things you never want to run out of:
    •    ideas

    •    brain cells
    •    food
    •    friends
and
    •    wine


5 things you always put in your books:
    •    humor
    •    characters you’d like to get to know
    •    characters you’d definitely NOT like to know
    •    pets
and 
    •    a new setting 

5 favorite books:  
    •    Emily of New Moon
    •    L.M. Montgomery, read when I was about 12
    •    The Revenge of Annie Charley by Allan Fry
    •    almost any of Dick Franics' for its fast-paced plot
and
    •    Hazel Holt’s series


5 favorite authors:
    •    Elizabeth Peters
    •    Sara Rosett
    •    Jo Dereske
    •    Liz Freeman
and
    •    Rhys Bowen

5 living people you’d like to invite to dinner: 
    •    Jacqueline Winspear
    •    Carola Dunn
    •    Sara Rosett
    •    Cathy Ace
and
    •    Frances Brody


5 people you’d like to be stuck in a bookstore with: 

    •    Cathy Ace because she would liven up the event
    •    Debby Fowler
    •    Sara Rosett
    •    Frances Brody
and
    •    Kerry Greenwood. Then we would have Welsh, Cornish, Texan, Yorkshire, Australian, and Canadian accents.


5 favorite things to do:  

    •    paddle outrigger canoes on the Pacific Northwest ocean
    •    read
    •    overhear conversations in airports
    •    play violin in groups
and
    •    meet my friends

5 things that drive you crazy:
    •    not enough time
    •    machines like computers that stop working
    •    missing the ferry
    •    favorite clothes that wear out or don’t fit anymore
and
    •    spam

Whats


Q: What’s your all-time favorite place? 

A: Cornwall.


Q: What’s your all-time favorite memory? 

A: The births of my children.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite city? 

A: York.


Q: What’s your all-time favorite library? 

A: Gibsons Public Library.

Q: What’s one thing that very few people know about you?

A: I’m an introvert.


Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

A: Irritatingly incorrect grammar.


Q: What’s your favorite hobby or past-time? 

A: Paddling.

Q: What’s the loveliest sight you’ve ever seen? 

A: Smiles on my family.

Q: What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard? 

A: An organ in Reykjavic Iceland played by an Italnian organist.


Q: What’s your favorite Internet site? 

A: Goggle.



Q: What’s your favorite time of day? 

A: Morning.

Q: What’s your favorite song? 

A: The flower song from Madama Butterfly.


Q: What’s your favorite vacation spot? 

A: Home.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do? 

A: Write.


Q: What’s your favorite snack? 

A: Chocolate.

 Q: What’s your favorite beverage? 

A: Wine, occasionally single malt scotch.

Q: What’s your favorite social media site? 

A: Facebook.


Q: What’s your favorite color?

A: Blue.



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

A: My glasses.


Q: What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop? 

A: A native design featuring my sister.



Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew then? 

A: Listen more, talk less.



Q: What movie genre do you prefer? 

A: Comedy.


Q: What smells remind you of your childhood? 

A: Chocolate; turkey cooking.


Q: What book are you currently working on? 

A: The third in this series, Perils in Yorkshire.

Q: What’s your all-time favorite place in your town?
A: The ocean.

Q: What’s your latest recommendation for: 
Food:  Roast lamb, Yorkshire pudding, fresh from the garden beans and carrots, roast potatoes from the garden and pumpkin cheese cake.
Music: Brahms Horn Concerto in F.
Movie: Love the Ice Mammoth ones.
Book: Liz Freeland’s Murder in Greenwich Village.
TV: Escape to the Country.
Miscellaneous: Exercise. The comedy value of aquafit in my local pool is hard to beat, and I’m in the middle of it.







This is Emma Dakin’s first series, set in Britain the homeland of Emma’s grandparents. Emma channels her mother’s inherited English culture along with the attitudes and sayings of the modern Brits. She travels widely in England and at one point this May while travelling through the Yorkshire Moors she had all the tourists in a tour bus looking for a good place to hide a body. As Marion Crook, she has published many novels of adventure and mystery for young adult and middle grade readers as well as non-fiction for adults and young adults and non-fiction on social issues. Firmly in the cozy mystery genre now, and committed to absorbing the culture and changing world of Britain, she plans to enjoy the research and the writing of cozies.


Connect with Emma:
Website  |   Facebook  |  Goodreads  

Buy the book:
Amazon Digital  |  Amazon Paperback  |  B&N Kobo  |   IndieBound