Yes, we all know what today is, but in this post, I want to highlight another big event. I have the privilege of spreading the word about a new novel! Saddled Hearts, has just been released by good friend, and fellow author, Jan Sikes.
It has a paranormal twist, perfect for a late night read, once the miniature goblins and ghouls have finished their visitations. All you have to do is click on the link below to purchase.
Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to enter for the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
A Word From Jan Sikes
Thank you, Mark, for offering to host me on this blog tour to promote my new book, Saddled Hearts! I am deeply grateful!
Every story has side characters, and in Saddled Hearts, one of the most loved is Hank Griffin, the Double L Ranch foreman.
There is an air of mystery surrounding Hank, and Colt finds himself wondering if Hank is even his real name. I enjoyed creating Hank and could visualize him as a grizzled cowboy, maybe in his early fifties. He is loyal and trustworthy, but he has secrets, something he’s running from.
I’ll share a couple of short excerpts:
The men made small talk as they covered the miles. Colt knew very little about Hank. He’d showed up a few months back with calloused hands and chaps thrown across his shoulder, asking for work. Said he had experience with ranching. He hadn’t lied about that. And he’d stuck around. Colt made him foreman after a few weeks and trusted him to keep things running smoothly.
His many years on the rodeo circuit taught Colt not to ask too many questions. As long as Hank did the work, he didn’t pry.
A man’s business was his own.
Hank fell in beside him while Mattie and Sheila ran ahead.
“There’s a man in town I need to pay a visit, and I hate to ask, but would you mind riding along with me? I’d feel better if I have a witness in case he tries anything.”
“That Tompkins fellow?”
“Yeah. That’s the one.” Colt related the diner incident.
Hank let out a whistle. “Sounds like some dirty shit going on, for sure. I’ll ride along, but I can’t afford to get in any trouble.”
Colt studied his foreman’s set jaw in the dim light emanating from the barn. Hank had secrets. No doubt about it. “There won’t be any trouble. You have my word. I just want to get to the bottom of this and move on.”
Hank pulled to a stop in front of the ranch house and got out, tossing Colt the keys. “Again, I’m sorry, boss. If you want me gone, just tell me.”
Colt stared at the cowboy before answering slowly. “No, Hank. I don’t want you gone. I need you here. Don’t worry. I won’t say anything.”
Hank scuffed the toe of his boot in the dirt. “Thanks.”
The cowboy trudged toward the bunkhouse, his shoulders sagging. Hank had troubles, and Colt hated that he’d brought it all to the forefront.
Happy Friday! Today I have the privilege of bringing you a new release from talented wordsmith, Tonya Penrose!
What’s it about?
A few unexplainable facts have left botanist Abby Drake dazed and confused: why she can’t account for three lost hours, why a road detour she was traveling changed into a closed loop around a mountain town called Charm, why she can’t find the place on her map and a route home, and why way too handsome, Mayor Nash Walker has appeared offering an introduction to Charm’s uncommon ways.
Good Reads Reviewer : “What an awesome story. You’ll find yourself not wanting to put the book down until you’re finished and at the same time not wanting it to end!”
As an author, Tonya’s moved by the effect humor and narratives have on readers. That observation illuminates why her stories often convey messages inviting personal exploration. She is enthusiastic about crafting stories with beguiling characters, adding dashes of snappy humor, and engaging dialogue that leaves her fingerprint on each page.
When Tonya relocated to the mountains, she found fresh writing ideas waiting. From her favorite porch chair gazing at a tranquil lake, the nudge to scribe her first novel came calling. From her beach chair, she got the idea for a cozy series, Shell Isle Mysteries. Tonya confesses new respect for a chair’s ability to motivate writers. She chases her writing joy from the mountains to the seashore.
The Shell Isle Mystery Series introduces two novels: Baubles to Die For,Red, White, and Boom and Numbers Call a Murder (releases summer 2022). The characters of Page and Betsy keep chattering to Tonya, so expect future stories in this collection.
Tonya’s other books include Old Mountain Cassie: The Three Lessons and A Secret Gift.
Welcome to Charm is a new release.
Her fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines. She’s a member of Poets and Writers. Tonya Penrose is her fiction pen name.
Well, we’ve come to the tail end of November, and I must admit to being ‘offline’ for the entire month. Too much has been going on and I haven’t typed a single word on my WIP, blog, or any social media. I also regret that I haven’t been reading any blogs or following social media, other than a bit of Instagram. I’m being candid here, and I admit that my whole attitude this month best be summed up as, “Meh.”
Moving on, I intend to remedy this and will begin anew. My only regret is that I missed a chance to host a wonderful author and person, Yvette, M. Calleiro, with her new release. I didn’t see her message until recently, and had her send me the info, so I could at least offer some, ‘late to the party’ support.
I’ve read a few works by Yvette and can vouch for her talent. I’m going to let her take it from here:
Cici’s junior year in high school is going to be the best year ever. Popular co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, she’s dating the starting quarterback. Even her jealous co-captain’s attempts to steal her boyfriend can’t curb her enthusiasm.
When her mom moves in with her fiancé, a handsome, wealthy man, only one small detail threatens Cici’s perfect life. The school’s social pariah is about to become her stepsister, and Cici wants nothing to do with her.
Everything changes when someone Cici cares about throws her life into a tailspin, and the one person Cici couldn’t stand becomes her only ally.
Warning: This story contains scenes of sexual assault.
To follow along with the rest of the Hype tour, please visit the author’s blog. Thanks for supporting Yvette M Calleiro and her work!
Meet Yvette, discover her many works, and order your copy:
Yvette M. Calleiro is a heavily addicted reader of both young adult and adult novels. She spends most of her time pseudo-living in paranormal worlds with her fictional friends (and boyfriends). When she’s living among real people, Yvette M. Calleiro is a middle school Reading and Language Arts teacher. She’s been sharing her love of literature with her students for over twenty years. Besides writing about the various characters that whisper (and sometimes scream) in her head, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the beauty of the ocean.
Yvette lives in Miami, Florida, with her incredible son who has embraced her love for paranormal and adventurous stories. She also shares her space with an assortment of crazy saltwater animals in her 300-gallon tank.
I’m sitting out on my back deck, finally enjoying a cool breeze as I peck away at this post. It’s quite a treat, really, considering the soupy humidity we’ve slogged through in the last three days.
Today I have the privilege of introducing Authors Lisa and Tony Fisher, who’s books delve into the systemic racism that is unfortunately still a part of today’s world. Lisa was inspired to write due to a painful personal experience. I’ll let them tell you their story.
The Manor Exposed book series is a nonfiction read about how this new age of computers social media has raised the platform of racism, specifically in the workplace and around the world. The connection between a racially charged environment and the internet. It also touches on the issue of cultural racism in a way never before seen or documented in the media.
Lisa Fisher, a Brooklyn, New York, woman is sharing her story of the unthinkable racist abuse she suffered. She’s an African American woman who was compared to an ape on Instagram.
Back in 2013 Lisa was discriminated against on her job at an assisted living facility located in Coney Island. Two coworkers took her picture without her knowledge and posted it on Instagram, along with a monkey and a nasty caption indicating that’s how she looked. These coworkers had located a picture of Ari (mistakenly referred to in the photo as Cornelius) from the 2001 movie, Planet of the Apes, and had placed her photo next to it. Lisa did not find any sympathy or recourse when she reported the incident to her employer. Instead, she had ended up cutting back on her hours at work to try and avoid these coworkers who continued to harass her.
From that moment on their lives were turned upside down. Eventually, Lisa went from being a victim to a victor. She sued the job and won, making history by creating a precedent in the courts for this type of hatred.
Her husband encouraged her to write so that she could share the story of her pain. In 2019, Lisa and Tony became authors of, The Manor Exposed book series, a memoir that delves into the very essence of systemic racism in the workplace.
Lisa believes her book is a call to action and she wants to be an advocate or a voice for many who have remained silent through these painful acts. This is reality and she hopes that through her message hostile workplace experiences will come to an end.
We hope The Manor Exposed book series will help you find your way in seeking justice. All lives do matter, stand up and make a difference even if you stand alone.
A poem inspired by the need for solving problems of race discrimination.
My yesterdays were filled with exciting and new Now the days are like thunder So dark and so blue
With rainy nights as I dried my eyes and tried to sleep I drowned in my thoughts like an ocean so deep
The sun use to shine with blue skies dancing in the wind But now I’m reminded of how people sin
Like the gentle breeze sliding across my forehead as I float in thin air Is it now the new normal to treat people unfair
With no care in the world But still I was worried If the evilness of jealousy would ever be buried
I tried to imagine that things would get better Then I got threatened with a termination letter
So far away And too high to reach It made the lessons I learned so hard to teach
It was like for never happening and I became worse This Instagram photo was more than a curse
-Lisa and Tony Fisher
Meet Lisa and Tony
We’re Lisa and Tony Fisher, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. We met in 1995. A year later, we became the two of hearts and got married on Valentine’s Day. Living life simple took us on great adventures from enjoying long walks across the beach to becoming authors. Together we get to explore our creative expression and what it means to reach the minds of others through written words. We would like to share with you how a great tragedy can change your life.
We never aspired to become writers, but with love and understanding it all came true. As a message, we would like to say, when two people love each other, as we do, you can conquer just about anything. But most of all, when you have loyalty and trust there’s no limit to what you can achieve. If that’s where your heart is, just do it.
Happy Friyay! Today I’ve got my author friend, Jacqui Murray, here to provide you with some great writing advice! She’s also launching her latest prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, the second book in the Dawn of Humanity, trilogy. You can find out more about Jacqui, her book, and how to get your copy, just below the interview!
I turn the floor to you, Jacqui. Thanks so much for being a guest today!
Writing Hacks By Jacqui Murray
Writing is hard. And satisfying. And an opportunity for the long-sought-after huzzah moment. The harder something is, the more gratifying and the greater sense of achievement it gives.
If you find writing unduly challenging, try some of these simple hacks I’ve tried. Some were time-wasters but others were exactly what I needed. There are three posts on hacks. Two are straightforward and one is told with a sense of humor:
Believe in yourself This is fundamental. Believe in your writing ability. It doesn’t matter if no one else does. Lots of writers go through that. Find your voice and your core and keep writing.
Consider reading research, not a break What a boon for those of us who love reading! Writers must find out about their topic and explore their genre by devouring related books. This isn’t wasting time. It’s part of being a writer.
Write in the active voice. “I was going…” might sound like your internal monologue but it’s boring. “I sprinted…” is much better.
Too often, we write in the passive voice to take the edge off of what we are writing, make it less judgmental or absolute. Resist that urge. Readers want you to be sure and put them there with you.
Unless you write dark or dystopian fiction, avoid negatives. Search your ms for “not” and “n’t” and change them to the positive of the word. For example: “I didn’t listen” can be reworded as “I ignored”.
Readers often read to escape, find a better world, join someone who can actually solve their problems. If you pepper your writing with ‘not’ and ‘n’t’, readers will subconsciously feel that negativity.
Run your ms through a grammar/spell checker before letting anyone see it.
Too many writers think its OK to have grammar/spelling errors because an editor will fix it for them. The problem is, your critique partners and beta readers get annoyed/tired/disgusted with poor grammar and will think less of the story.
If the novel is too short, add detail.
There are suggested word counts for genres. If you’re below yours, fix it by adding detail. Find where you mentioned something narratively and add detail or a scene about the room or the character’s feelings or the memory.
When you find you’re “showing-not-telling”, add a scene that ‘shows’ the action.
This is an easy fix that lots of people avoid. Sharing an event in scene–showing it–puts the reader right in the middle of the action. It will make it more interesting and add length to your ms (if you need that).
What are your favorite hacks?
In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa. Though they don’t know it, they will be the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
Fresh blood streaked Short-tooth’s muzzle, her golden eyes alert to every movement around her as she munched on Gazelle’s meaty carcass. Each movement made the Cat’s tawny fur ripple over the powerful muscles beneath her skin. She raised her head, chewing slowly while studying the grass field in front of her, especially toward the back where it blended into the forest. She couldn’t see Mammoth but smelled it, close to the Uprights, maybe protecting them. Despite being the size of a boulder, this pachyderm could outrun most predators and would think nothing of crushing them beneath its massive feet.
Short-tooth wasn’t interested in the Uprights. Their bodies had little meat and less fat. Gazelle was more satisfying.
Catripped a slab of fragrant meat from the hind leg. Snarling-dog—to the far side—slapped the ground. He was hungry but wouldn’t eat Gazelle until Short-tooth finished. Cat purred loudly, close to a snarl, and Snarling-dog withdrew, but not far. Carrion-bird overhead tightened its circle and a tiny shrew the size of Short-tooth’s paw waited patiently, out of Cat’s range, eyes bright, nose twitching. A shred from the carcass was all it needed.
None of these creatures mattered to Short-tooth. She was the apex predator in her savannah habitat.
Sticky yellow globs of Mammoth dung slid down Lucy’s back and plopped to the dry thatch. The dung coat was melting under Sun’s intense heat, exactly as Lucy planned. Its purpose was to confuse Short-tooth Cat. The hotter Sun became, the stronger Mammoth’s smell.
Lucy and her young pairmate, Garv, lay motionless, like Snake sleeping, bodies pressed into the prickly grass, oblivious to the feathery feet that scurried over their backs. She and Garv, too, wanted what Short-tooth didn’t consume. They were more patient than Snarling-dog but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t eat first. The first to arrive got the best of the leftovers.
Lucy rubbed her raw eyes, bleary from watching Cat bite, rip, and chew. If Short-tooth knew of their presence, it was not because she saw them. Lucy and Garv blended into the landscape. Their skin was the color of dirt and dry grass, impossible to find if you weren’t looking. No part of their bodies moved except their narrowed eyes as they scanned the surroundings, evaluating each new arrival to the feast. The dominant scents never changed—Snarling-dog, Short-tooth Cat, something decaying in the nearby forest, her pairmate Garv’s sweaty body, and Gazelle’s ripening offal.
Sun’s relentless heat washed over Lucy in waves. Sweat dripped down her face, over her pronounced brow ridge and into her eyes, but for reasons she didn’t understand, despite his fur pelt, Snarling-dog was dry. He reminded Lucy of Ump, her tribe’s Canis member. Even on the hottest days, Ump didn’t sweat. Instead, he panted more.
Today, Snarling-dog panted hard.
Short-tooth raised her feline head, inspecting her habitat as her jaws crunched through the fresh carrion. She reeked of malevolence which meant scavengers like Lucy and Garv willingly waited their turn.
Sun climbed through the cloudless blue sky. The morning haze had burned off long ago. The dew Lucy hadn’t licked off the leaves, Sun’s heat had. Her throat was dry, lips cracked, but that mattered less than securing scavenge. Her tribe was hungry.
Lately, unexpectedly, when Lucy sat quietly as she did now, a tingle deep inside her chest told her Raza, her former pairmate, was in trouble. The first time she experienced this tingle, what Garv called “instinct”, it churned through her body as a current does in a stream. She thought she was sick until Garv explained this was instinct and it warned of danger, not illness. He told her always to listen, but how was she to do that? Raza had been captured by the tribe’s worst enemy, a formidable Upright called Man-who-preys. She didn’t know where they’d taken him. As often as she brushed the feeling away, it returned, each time stronger than the last.
Cat’s yellow eyes snapped open and her methodical jaws slowed. Something caught her interest, maybe Snarling-dog’s impatience or Carrion-bird’s relentless approach. After a warning hiss, Short-tooth shook her big head and pawed her face. A swarm of black flies lifted, buzzed briefly, and then resettled where they’d started, again gorging on the blood and carrion that stuck to Short-tooth’s face
The flies are thicker than usual.
Short-tooth returned to her meal and Lucy sniffed, wondering what drew Cat’s attention. She didn’t expect to see Man-who-preys here, but took nothing for granted. The tall, big-headed, hairless enemy always carried a long stick which he used to kill prey. Sometimes, he didn’t eat the animal, just watched it die. This unpredictability, that he followed no norms, made him more treacherous than other predators.
She inhaled, but didn’t smell his stench so turned her attention back to the hunt.
Carrion-bird floated overhead, feet tucked beneath its sleek body. The longer Cat ate, the more of the huge birds arrived. They thought their powerful sweeping wings, sharp claws, and piercing beaks made them the mightiest among the scavengers. What they didn’t realize was that Lucy and Garv possessed an even greater weapon: They could plan. Before Carrion-bird or Snarling-dog got too close, Lucy and Garv would take what they needed and flee.
They always did.
In the edging forest, Cousin Chimp hooted, the pitch and length describing the location of a tree newly bearing fruit. Leaves rustled as his band raced away. Lucy hoped they would leave enough of the succulent produce for her and Garv.
She hunkered deeper into the tall waving stalks, tracking the other scavengers and noting again how far away the trees were in case she needed to flee. A snake slithered over her foot, through the thatch and out of sight. She and Garv had been motionless for so long, Snake probably viewed them as dirt mounds in its path.
Garv tweaked an eyebrow and Lucy motioned, hands a tight circle in front of her chest, well hidden, “Dull colors, no knobs on snake’s tail—no danger.”
Her kind—Man-who-makes-tools—used a sophisticated blend of communication including body language, hand gestures, facial expressions, mimicking, and vocalization. One of their greatest defenses in this brutal world was the ability to become part of their surroundings. Voices were unusual sounds heard nowhere in nature except from Uprights, mostly the big-headed Man-who-preys. Lucy’s kind occasionally whispered and Tree-men, like Boah who was part of Lucy’s tribe, rarely made any sounds beyond huffs, grunts, howls, and moans. Only Man-who-preys jabbered endlessly.
Lucy’s eyelids drooped. This hunt had started yesterday when Lucy and Garv found the fresh cloven prints of a Gazelle herd. Lucy’s kind ate copious amounts of roots, nuts, fruit, juicy stems, and insects, but only meat gave them the energy to survive their dangerous lives. Because they hunted only dead animals, they depended upon predators to make the kill. Gazelle’s fleshy body always attracted Cat and its cousins, like Short-tooth. They would pick off the injured, and Lucy’s tribe would eat what they left.
Because not enough daylight remained yesterday, Lucy and Garv set out today, at Sun’s first light. They followed the herd while the rest of the tribe—the Tree-man Boah, the child Voi, and the Canis Ump—stayed at the homebase’s cave. Before Sun had traveled far, a snarl and a screech told Lucy a predator claimed its prey. When Carrion-bird and its cousins started to circle, she and Garv knew exactly where to go.
Garv nudged Lucy, the movement so subtle the grass didn’t even move. “Short-tooth is leaving.”
Lucy bit her lip and shot a look at Garv. His face radiated excitement.
She studied Short-tooth, tried to see what Garv saw and finally gestured, “I don’t see anything. Why do you think she’s finished?”
He motioned, one finger moving against his palm, “Instinct.” Nothing else.
But that was enough. Garv had taught her to stalk prey, knap tools, hunt, and protect herself. Because of him, she became an accomplished hunter, never missed a print, a bent frond, the fragrance left on leaves or bark, or any other sign. As partners, they always brought meat to the tribe. Most hunters didn’t.
Garv’s instinct had found more prey than Lucy’s tracking skills or senses ever did. She had no doubt Short-tooth would soon leave.
Cat’s big tongue, as long as Lucy’s forearm, licked the bloody scraps from her muzzle, a sign even to Lucy that she had finished. Lucy shifted to her hands and toes, knees hovering above the ground, prepared for what must come next. Garv did the same, his body hard from the life he lived, senses alert to every noise. Carrion-birds cawed and tightened their circle. On the opposite side of the field, Snarling-dog’s pack bared their canines, tails stiff. Drool dripped from their jowls and their gaze bounced between Cat and the Uprights, knowing from experience the scrawny but agile creatures were vigorous competitors.
You are fast, Snarling-dog, but we are smart. We will always get there first!
Lucy tensed as Short-tooth pushed up to her massive paws, canines red with blood, saliva dripping in strands from her jowls. She yawned, her mouth a dark cavity vast enough to swallow Lucy’s entire head, and ambled off. Lucy and Garv exploded to their feet and sprinted toward the carcass. Their powerful legs churned while nimble hands pulled cutters and stones from the sacks strung around their necks. Lucy’s job was to delay Snarling-dog and Carrion-bird while Garv stripped the carrion.
“Argh!” Lucy roared, waving a leafy branch through the air to make herself bigger to Snarling-dog while Garv attacked the carcass. Ignoring the fetid stench of dung and urine, he swung the sharp cutter and sliced through the hide and then muscle and tendon.
Lucy flung a stone at the lead Snarling-dog. It hit his temple, hard, and he dropped with a squeal. His pack slowed to reassess the upright creature and Lucy threw another stone, this one at the new leader’s eye. He yipped and stumbled, shook his head, and pawed at the blood that oozed from the wound and dribbled down his muzzle.
“Lucy!” Garv tossed an almost pristine haunch to her and then swung his chopper at Gazelle’s ribs. Carrion-bird, well into its death dive, talons extended, screeched its imminent attack.
“Let’s go!” Lucy called, the unexpected sound of her voice meant to startle the scavengers.
She hurled a rock at the lead Carrion-bird. It squawked and withdrew, which slowed the rest of the flock. Lucy grabbed an almost-meatless leg bone. It would be filled with nutritious bloody marrow. Meat secured over her shoulders, she and Garv fled. No one chased them. Why abandon certain meat for an uncertain meal? Lucy raced past a termite mound, noted its location, rounded a boulder bed, and lost sight of the fracas.
Not the scent, though. The tantalizing aroma sailed through the air, announcing to every scavenger around the availability of meat.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.
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