Friday, December 30, 2011

Upcoming Events for 2012


I posted my special monthly features for 2012 on  my Upcoming Events page. You can see what types of books and products we'll be highlighting next year. There is less emphasis on books and more on products for 2012, which is what I have been looking to do anyway.

I'm hoping I can get sponsors to help with this event, so keep an eye on the calendar to see how things fill up. You can find all upcoming events at http://booktoursandmore.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-events.html

Thank you for your support!

Looking Forward to 2012!


I've been thinking a lot about Books, Products and More! lately. I love this blog, but I haven't been able to turn it into the family friendly blogging place that I intended to at the beginning of last this year. Well, 2012 is right around the corner and I spent today making some changes.

Here's what we can look forward to in 2012:
  • More posts about family living
  • Recipes
  • Organizational and time management tips
  • Posts about my gardening exploits--these should be funny as I have the brownest thumb of anyone I know
  • More product and movie reviews
  • Interviews with successful bloggers--maybe they'll share a few tips
  • Giveaways (fingers crossed, as this depends on me finding more sponsors)
  • We'll continue with the themed months
  • If I can afford it, a new professional look for the site
  • I'll be moving some of these posts to alternate sites to make this site more family friendly
I hope you'll consider following Books, Products and More! and letting me know what you would like to see here. Remember, we're running a giveaway for great prizes once we reach 500 followers. See this post for additional information.

Books, Products and More! 500 Follower Giveaway


Since Christmas is the season for giving, I figured it was about high time I ran a giveaway here. I'll be giving away prizes to multiple winners as soon as I hit 500 followers. Here is what's up for grabs:

Prize Package #1


Prize Package #2


Prize Package #3


Prize Package # 4


Prize #5 - $25 Amazon Gift Card (International)

Our contest will begin once we have reached 500 followers. If you would like to keep up to date on our progress, please do the following:
  
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Like our Facebook page.  
  • Feel free to help us spread the word by tweeting about this post. @BooksProductsMo 500 Follower Giveaway http://tinyurl.com/865jvul #BOOKSPRODMO
Thank you for your support!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking for Products and Movies to Review in 2012


I've been working hard to add more than books to this blog, but finding products and movies to review has been tough. I've mostly been relying on free samples I get through the mail. Here are products I would be interested in adding here:

  • home decor
  • gardening products
  • eco-friendly household products
  • cooking and baking supplies and products
  • family movies
  • TV shows to DVD--family friendly
  • Veggie Tales movies
  • dramatic movies
  • documentaries--American Civil War, American Revolution, American presidents, the pioneering era
If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate them. If you are a sponsor of these products, please contact me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com to schedule a review. I'm getting between 3,500 and 4,700 page views per month. I have over four years experience in providing professional reviews.

Facebook Friends: 603
Twitter followers: 1036
LinkedIn: 456 Connections

Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Spotlight: Ruins Artifacts by Janie Franz


Dark secrets and murder, danger and temptation conspire to prevent Kate and Paul from unraveling another ancient mystery.

Read an excerpt!

Kate wasn’t sure what awakened her. Had it been the clatter of a lizard across the wood floor of the inn? Or had it been a snatch of disturbing dream that only vanished upon awakening? She stirred under the thin sheet covering her sweating body. As she rolled onto her back, the yards of mosquito netting swathed over the bedposts filled her vision in the dim light. Thin, gauzy, and delicate—how like bridal veiling it looked! But it was deceptive—not only did it protect her from flying pests, but it trapped air so well, breathing became a chore. Kate began to wonder if the netting, like a giant web, had not trapped her, too, to be offered up as sacrifice to a primal god like those just outside the window.

She shivered even in the muggy heat and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep memory from breaking into reality. But images leaked out—images of a blood-drenched stone, a bird figure, and an obsidian knife.

Kate reached across the pillows for Paul, needing to feel his healing presence. Her hand found only heavily starched muslin, coarse under her fingertips.

PURCHASE RUINS ARTIFACTS FROM MUSEITHOT PUBLISHING AND AMAZON!

Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and a degree in anthropology, her writing skill and curiosity have generated thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications for over a decade.

She has co-written two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and has self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!

She runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine (www.refrainmagazine.com), is a book and music reviewer, and was a radio announcer, a booking agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.

Ruins: Discovery is her fourth published work of fiction.

I purchased a copy of this book from MuseItHot Publishing during their after Christmas sale. I look forward to reading it in 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Spotlight: The Premier by Janie Franz


Susan Davyss faces Hollywood temptation when filmstar David Salizon threatens to become more than a dream hero in her novel.

Read an excerpt!

The door opened. A tanned, dark-haired man, slight of build, entered.

Susan recalled the lines from her book. “…the stranger’s black hair that was beginning to gray at his temples caught her eye. It was an odd quality in someone his age with his obvious Spanish lineage and apparent refinement. She scanned his features, taking in his sensitive mouth and a nose hinting at an Aztec-like hawkishness…. His dark eyes concentrated intently for a few seconds on her and then retreated into his thoughts as if he could only focus on the world around him in brief glimpses…”

My God! Susan thought. If he looks at me like that, I’ll…I’ll… She took a deep breath. I’ll smile and shake his hand, she bolstered herself.

He was more than a handsome man and successful film star, more than a romantic leading man. He emanated an aura of confidence and aloofness, both irresistible qualities. Though he wore a casual tan bush shirt and snug European fit slacks, he still looked elegant, crisp, and neat as if he could repair his car and not smell of gasoline.

PURCHASE THE PREMIER FROM MUSEITUP PUBLISHING!


Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and a degree in anthropology, her writing skill and curiosity have generated thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications for over a decade.

She has co-written two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and has self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!

She runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine (http://www.refrainmagazine.com/), is a book and music reviewer, and was a radio announcer, a booking agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.

The Premier is her seventh work of published fiction. Visit her online at http://janiefranz.fourfour.com/home


January 2012 Non-fiction Releases from Penguin Group

For four hundred years, Americans have wrestled with and fought over two concepts that define the nature of the nation: the proper relation between church and state and between a free individual and the state. These debates began with the extraordinary thought and struggles of Roger Williams, who had an unparalleled understanding of the conflict between a government that justified itself by "reason of state"-i.e. national security-and its perceived "will of God" and the "ancient rights and liberties" of individuals.

This is a story of power, set against Puritan America and the English Civil War. Williams's interactions with King James, Francis Bacon, Oliver Cromwell, and his mentor Edward Coke set his course, but his fundamental ideas came to fruition in America, as Williams, though a Puritan, collided with John Winthrop's vision of his "City upon a Hill."
Acclaimed historian John M. Barry explores the development of these fundamental ideas through the story of the man who was the first to link religious freedom to individual liberty, and who created in America the first government and society on earth informed by those beliefs. The story is essential to the continuing debate over how we define the role of religion and political power in modern American life.

Roger Williams and The Creation of the American Soul coming January 5, 2012 from Viking!


In 1987 writer Whitley Strieber exposed the world to the truth about alien abduction in his landmark memoir, Communion. For the first time in years, Strieber revisits his encounter with alien intelligences-but now dramatically widens his search to explore how "the visitors" connect with today's persistent and globe-spanning reports of anomalous phenomena, such as crop circles, cattle mutilations, UFO sightings, alien abductions, near-death experiences, close encounters, and unexplained bodily implants.
In his magisterial style, Strieber contextualizes these bizarre and unsettling reports with his own childhood memories of strange schools, sinister experiments, and family secrets. In exploring today's most convincing cases of unexplained phenomena, Strieber reasons that they are not unrelated events. Nor are they the result of mass delusion. In some of his most persuasive writing, Strieber argues that the wave of mysterious episodes marks a transition that humanity is undergoing right now. Against all conscious understanding, we are experiencing a broadened awareness of dimensions of reality that exist beyond our current perceptions.

Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is To Come coming January 5, 2012 from Tarcher!


At age thirty-four, Heather Donahue's life went to pot. Literally. After starring in The Blair Witch Project-the tiny indie film- turned-blockbuster that Roger Ebert named one of the ten Most Influential Movies of the Century-she became a household name. But the afterglow of the movie waned, her acting career stalled, and she feared the day her epitaph would read, "Here Lies the Girl from The Blair Witch Project." Determined to start a new life, she left most remnants of the old one in the desert, meditated on things for a few days, then followed her brand-new boyfriend to her brand-new life- growing pot.

Growgirl is Heather's year living in Nuggettown, California, among "The Community"-a collection of growers, their "pot wives," and the reason for it all: "The Girls." They help one another build grow rooms, tend to their crops, and provide a glimpse into this rarely seen world that's currently the source of much intrigue and discussion. Though her relationship hits rocky territory, Heather's new life brings unexpected solace, and she's surprised to finally find normalcy in the least likely of places.

Growgirl coming January 5, 2012 from Gotham!


General Stanley McChrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large. He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a "rock star." During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McChrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone. For days, Hastings looked on as McChrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership. When Hastings's piece appeared a few months later, it set off a political firestorm: McChrystal was ordered to Washington, where he was fired unceremoniously.

In The Operators, Hastings picks up where his Rolling Stone coup ended. He gives us a shocking behind-the-scenes portrait of our military commanders, their high-stakes maneuvers and often bitter bureaucratic infighting. Hastings takes us on patrol missions in the Afghan hinterlands, to late-night bull sessions of senior military advisors, to hotel bars where spies and expensive hookers participate in nation-building gone awry. And as he weighs the merits and failings of old-school generals and the so-called COINdinistas-the counterintelligence experts-Hastings draws back the curtain on a hellish complexity and, he fears, an unwinnable war.

The Operators: The Wild and Terrfying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan coming January 5, 2012 from Blue Rider Press!

For more new titles coming from Penguin Group visit them online at http://us.penguingroup.com/!

Shadow Lake by Chainbooks Authors

When it’s time to retire from the Chicago Police Department, Cliff Morgan decides to leave big city life behind and settle in a picturesque small town in upstate Wisconsin. After an invitation from his old friend and partner, Ben Jackson, Cliff drives to Shadow Lake in search of serenity, relaxation, and all the comforts that retirement affords. But soon Cliff realizes that Shadow Lake, and the residents of this quaint little town, share a series of deadly secrets that span several generations. As a former police detective he’s up to the challenge, but does he really want to delve into the past? And if he does, who can he trust?

Shadow Lake is a tale of mystery and murder--the brainchild of twenty-three different authors who have joined together to write it. In the end, the outcome is just as twisted and complex as the unpredictable people and bizarre events that are…Shadow Lake.

Chainbooks is an online social networking site dedicated to the promotion of literacy via book authorship. Shadow Lake is chainbooks’ initial publication and the five-month collaborative effort of twenty-three authors from three countries. The authors had no prior knowledge of the chapter that would precede their own and had only five days to complete their submissions, making it even more challenging. They hope you enjoy the book, and invite you to join them to finish what others have started—literally. Join them at chainbooks.com.

PURCHASE SHADOW LAKE AT CHAINBOOKS.COM!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fiction Coming from Simon & Schuster on January 3, 2012

"From the executive producer of 24 and co-creator of Homeland, the exciting follow-up to Gideon’s War involves a harrowing attempt to stop a homegrown terrorist plot to destroy the U.S. government.

Gideon Davis has settled into the quiet life of an academic and is weeks away from being married when he discovers evidence of an impending terrorist attack on U.S. soil. He brings his suspicions to his ex-girlfriend, FBI Agent Nancy Clement, but her bosses are leery of Gideon’s source: a meth-head informant affiliated with a white supremacist group. Both Gideon and Nancy become increasingly convinced that a serious plot exists, but their informant is murdered before they can get more details from him. So Gideon enlists his brother, Tillman—newly sprung from prison through a presidential pardon— as an undercover operative to infiltrate a group of white supremacists who may be involved.

Eventually, Gideon and Tillman get on the trail of the real conspirators and uncover their audacious plan to eliminate the entire top tier of the U.S. government during a high-value, mass-casualty attack. With only Nancy’s support, Gideon and Tillman go rogue to stop the powerful titan behind the conspiracy before the entire government is toppled.

With nonstop action and ticking time-bomb suspense, Hard Target will keep readers turning pages and their hearts pumping fast."




"SCARECROW IS BACK AND READY FOR ACTION

Deep in the Arctic, a long-forgotten Soviet military base enshrouds a weapon of unimaginably destructive force—a Cold War doomsday device with the power to obliterate the planet. When a mysterious and brutal terrorist group known as the Army of Thieves seizes control of the remote base and unleashes the weapon upon an unsuspecting world, there is only one team close enough to sabotage them: a ragtag band of Marines and civilians led by Captain Shane Schofield, call sign “Scarecrow.” Outnumbered, outgunned, and with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance, Scarecrow has only a few short hours to bring down the Army of Thieves—or see the Earth go up in flames.

Filled with nonstop action and told in Matthew Reilly’s characteristically white-knuckle prose, Scarecrow Returns is a work of gripping suspense and complete exhilaration."


"Married to one man. Desiring another. Beautiful Lady Anne Stafford, ladyin- waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, is torn between her love for her husband, George, Lord Hastings . . . and the king’s boon companion, the attentive Sir William Compton. But when King Henry VIII, amorous as always, joins the men clustering around her, Anne realizes she has become perilously enmeshed in the intrigues of the court. Will she be forced to decide between the two men she desires—and the one she doesn’t?
Kate Emerson charms again with a heroine who steps out of the pages of history to win our hearts in this sumptuous novel of Tudor scandal and intrigue."

Pre-order here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays! May 2012 be filled with much health and happiness.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Interview with Dr. Michael Norman, Author of Unbridled Grace


You have an incredible story. I am not quite sure where to begin. I mean, you graduated college, answered an employment ad in the newspaper and unknowingly went to work for the Russian Mafia. How does something like this happen?

They (Mafia) were very good at what they do. They knew exactly what they were looking for. They live in a world of total deception just like all evil does. Nothing about their world is real and my book portrays what evil looks like. If someone has never been exposed to this type of world, they are easy prey. That was me.

And then, a few months later, despite your cooperation with the government investigation, you become one of their prime targets, culminating in an early-morning armed raid upon your home and arrest, all in front of your five-year-old daughter. I guess the scary thing for me, after reading your book, is that this could happen to any of us if it happened to you.

Absolutely it could. The storm just kept getting darker and darker for our family. I was surrounded by deception on all sides and for a while, nothing in my life was real anymore. It started with the deception and greed of the Russian Mafia and ended with the deception and arrogance of the federal government.

You live in Texas. What was the Russian Mafia doing in Texas? It sounds rather bizarre.

I’ll say! My understanding became that there was a spread of organized criminal activity that developed out of Russia after the break-up of Communism. There really isn’t any part of the world that is immune from the reach of their tentacles. They go where the money is.

I have to ask the obvious question. Why didn’t you hire an attorney early on in your ordeal?

Two reasons: I had no money and I did nothing wrong. I thought if you were innocent, you didn’t need a lawyer. Also, I relied heavily on free legal advice at that time. As the book relates, we all know where this got me.

Do you fear any retaliation from the Russian Mafia or the government?

No.

Did you write this book as “payback” for what was done to you and your family?

Absolutely not. This book is about God’s victory and all the incredible blessings that have resulted from this experience. I wrote this book to share what God can do in all of our lives despite anything we are facing. We simply must trust Him and then courageously choose His will. It’s not easy but it is truly the greatest of all roads to travel.

Okay, let’s talk specifically about your book. The cover photo is beautiful. Where was it taken?

This is on top of a peak in the Dolomites mountain range in the Alto Adige region of Italy (the northern-most region of Italy in the European eastern Alps).

Where did your title, Unbridled Grace, come from?

I wanted to hopefully convey the reality of complete, unrestrained grace that God wants to share with all of us. As I said in the book, a highly contagious ripple-effect of God’s grace can be unleashed through our life choices that can rapidly spread through our lives, our families, our churches, our cities and our world. I have found that God works through us in this way but our cooperation is necessary.

How long did it take to write this book?

On again, off again for about 10 years. There were several times I boxed everything up and packed it away in a closet but I kept “rediscovering” it. For me, it was the story that wouldn’t go away, even though I tried.

The theme of your book is the power of choice. Explain the importance you place on this.

It’s everything. It’s God’s greatest gift to us and it can unleash the most powerful force on the planet, His grace. I wrote about the fact that all of God’s new doorways for our lives can be bigger than the previous ones, if we use our power of choice for Him. Our lives simply keep expanding if we allow them to. Now the opposite is also true. When we mis-use His gift, our power of choice can lead to a “shrinking” of our lives until we begin to choose differently.

And this “shrinking” of our lives is what you called a hell of our own creation?

Yes, and I knew it well.

Have you always placed such importance on the power of choice?

Absolutely not, as the early part of the book describes. Although, looking back over the years, my favorite movies have always been the ones which show alternate versions of life possibilities for the character if they had chosen differently. My favorite is still “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We all have an infinite number of life possibilities available to us depending on the choices we make.

You include inspiring but challenging meditations at the end of each chapter for readers. Where did these come from?

I don’t know how else to answer that except, they were lessons that came out of the pain. I wish I could have just learned them from a book instead! The themes of the meditations mirror their respective chapters and the events that unfolded within them. They’re kind of like “classroom notes” over several years.

Are you worried they are a little too challenging for the average Christian?

They are absolutely challenging. I read them often to help push myself. I know they won’t be for everybody. I have painfully learned that Christ challenges all of us to become more than who we are today. For me, this was difficult then, just as it remains difficult today.

Don’t you worry about the “hypocritical, holier-than-thou” label?

I’m used to it as a father of a teenager!

No, seriously.

Yes, there is always that possibility but it is far riskier to not write this book. This is God’s victory that is told, not mine. He permits all of us to pass through trials and difficult life experiences for a reason and it remains up to us to give a testimony to His power. If we don’t, who will? Everybody loves a good story. Why not share true stories that tell of His victories? I would love to see the book market flooded with them.

In your book, you share an incredible Marian experience that you and Laura received. How did this impact the eventual outcome of your ordeal?

I don’t think there would be a story without this event. It changed Laura and I completely. I write about how we were given a momentary glimpse beyond the veil and I am so thankfully humble to have received this awesome blessing and gift. I mean, we were able to make the courageous and impossible choice of risking a loss of family, freedom, friends, career, finances, home, everything. It helped us stand up for God and accomplish His will.

What about those who do not believe in Marian experiences or do not believe you?

I am sure there will be plenty. But Christ also tells us ‘by their fruits you shall know them.’ This is what I prefer to use as my “barometer”. I hope they would as well.

Although you are currently studying for a degree in Theology, you have no other formal theological training or credentials. Do you think this hinders the chances for your book being successful?

First of all, I consider my book a success if only my children and grandchildren would be able to read about God’s victory and the choices I made. That’s why I wrote it.

Fair enough. What about your lack of theological training and credentials?

As a hindrance to success? I think a theology “textbook” is difficult for most people to understand and apply to real-life experience. This is a true story that could occur to any of us and illustrates how theology can become practical and lived out in real-life.

Since your ordeal, what has been your biggest surprise?

When I speak to groups and share this story, I have met so many people who have gone through similar experiences within our legal system.

What were some of the biggest challenges in the writing of Unbridled Grace?

One of the biggest was overcoming the conflicting advice from the publishing world. From the beginning, they told me to choose “mission or market” but not both because that is not possible. It was strongly suggested that I bring this story to market as a strictly secular account with all the “winning” elements: an incredible true story, individual accomplishment and triumph over adversity. I just couldn’t do it. Without Christ and what truly helped me, this story could no longer be considered true. In the end, I would have cheated both, the secular market as well as the Christian market.

Where do you go from here?

My prayer is that Unbridled Grace helps many people and it could open the door to allow me to continue writing.

So, there may be a future book?

Hopefully.



Unbridled Grace: A True Story about the Power of Choice
Dr. Michael J. Norman
Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN: 978-145750-096-1
Available at Ingram, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and fine bookstores everywhere

 
Dr. Norman will be touring with Unbridled Grace in February 2012 with Pump Up Your Book. Visit http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2011/12/07/unbridled-grace-virtual-book-publicity-tour-january-2012/ for more information or if you are interested in hosting him.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Three Gifts (2009)


In the midst of taking a break from baking, I stumbled upon The Three Gifts, a 2009 Hallmark Channel movie starring Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and Jean Louisa Kelly as a childless couple who have been unsuccessful in starting a family of their own.

Jack (Cain) and Cherie (Kelly) Green are local toymakers who agree to take on three orphans when the orphanage run by Jack's aunt (Mimi Kennedy) is forced to close for repairs. Wary of fatherhood, Jack is concerned by the orphanage's holy terrors. When Ray (Spencir Bridges) thinks he overhears the Greens might adopt one of the boys, Mike (Dylan Sprayberry) and Henry (Alex Zubarey) begin competing along with Ray to be the one that gets adopted.

This is a touching and funny seasonal movie that families will love. Cain is such a fabulous actor, it would be difficult not enjoy his performance as the childlike toymaker whose not certain becoming a father is his cup of tea. Though Cherie is thrilled to have the boys with them for Christmas, the reality is that the business is struggling--costs are up and profits are down.

Veteran actor Reginald VelJohnson (Families Matter) portrays Rodney, one of the workers at the toy factory. He's a superb actor and you can't seem to go wrong when he's part of a film. I love his touching scene with Ray when the boy is talking about losing his parents.

Seasonal movies don't get better than this one!

You can catch The Three Gifts December 27th on Hallmark Channel at 6 PM/7 PM Central and midnight or December 28th at 8 AM/9 AM Central.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Spotlight: Sugar Magnolia by Janie Franz


Music journalist/artist Shivaun Corbin, on assignment at charismatic rocker Daniel Madux’s Sugar Magnolia, discovers dark secrets and hidden passion.

Read an excerpt!

Taking up her camera, Shivaun removed the lens cap, stuffing it into her jeans pocket, and turned the camera on. “Could you do some cuts from your new album so I can get a feel for the cover? Music Gumbo didn’t send me any samples.”

“That’s my fault,” he said.

Shivaun moved to take a shot of Mad Man adjusting his nearest set of Ziljan cymbals while banging his foot on the bass drum pedal. He looked like a gnome behind a bunch of mushrooms. Shivaun smiled.
“I control what goes out of the studio,” Daniel said, raising his voice and drawing her attention back to him.
She focused her camera lens on Daniel as he spoke, twisting the lens to a close up of his eyes. They were gray and obscure and could have been those of any vacant, older man of any era. Panning out to capture his signature hair and mustache, he became the Daniel Madux of myth.

“No one hears anything before it’s on the market except me. I have a lot of people to protect,” he added.

Daddy—her mind labeled his control. “I’m sure you do,” she said politely.

PURCHASE SUGAR MAGNOLIA AT MUSEITHOT PUBLISHING AND AMAZON!

Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and a degree in anthropology, her writing skill and curiosity have generated thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications for over a decade.


She has co-written two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and has self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!


She runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine (http://www.refrainmagazine.com/), is a book and music reviewer, and was a radio announcer, a booking agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor


Drawing from years of experience in music journalism, “Sugar Magnolia” became her fifth published work of fiction.


Visit Janie online at http://janiefranz.fourfour.com/home and her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Janie-Franz-Author/115142155208007.

Movie Review: Christmas Comes Home to Canaan

Photo credit Hallmark Channel and New York Daily News

Christmas Comes Home to Cannan brings viewers back to Canaan, Texas. Now it's the late 70's , and Daniel Burton (Billy Ray Cyrus) has been a widower for more than a decade. The racial strife that plagued the area in the 1960's left Bobber (Liam James) crippled. Now, there might be a chance that going to California for surgery will help him to walk again.

When Daniel meets Dr. Briony Adair (Gind Holden), the attraction is clear. But as Daniel and Briony draw closer, they realize that Daniel isn't ready to move on. He's not sure his daughter Sarah (Emily Tennant) is either. In the year that he and Briony are apart, Daniel searches his soul and reaches out to Shoup (Julian D. Christopher) to help his business.

I feel Christmas Comes Home to Canaan is one of those movies that had tons of good intentions but fell totally flat. I did not know that this was a sequel to Christmas in Canaan (2009), which also starred Cyrus. The 2009 movie told the story of how DJ (a white farm boy) and Rodney (an African-American) became friends in the racially charged town of Canaan, Texas. Years have passed, and now Rodney is a writer, DJ is running the farm, and Sarah has aspirations of going to college.  Life for Bobber is going to get a bit more challenging, as he goes under the knife in the hopes of walking again. Though the years have passed, not everything in Canaan has changed. White people still drive miles out of their way to purchase supplies rather than travel into town to Shoup's General Store.

While Christmas in Canaan was Hallmark Channel's highest-rated movie in 2009, perhaps they should have left well enough alone. Christmas Comes Home to Canaan proves that Billy Ray Cyrus is not a dramatic actor. While he has the widowed county boy down from years of playing Robbie Ray on Hannah Montana, he has an expressionless face. He doesn't exude passion, surprise, or even love. If you go to this photo gallery for the movie, you'll see what I mean. For the life of me, I can't imagine why I sat through the entire movie except that I kept hoping it would get better.

Emily Tennant pulled off a winning performance as a young daughter who was thrust into the role of surrogate mother to the family after Daniel's wife passes away. She is confused over whether she should attend college and leave the family she has cared for since her mother's death. While she is happy that her father is interested in Briony, she can't get over the feeling that her presence in the house is wrong.

It has a classic feel-good Hallmark ending, which is just about all that makes the movie worth watching. Cyrus has a new song out titled, Home. The viewers are treated to seeing the video at the end. It's beautiful and features clips from the movie.

Seasonal Movie Review: The Christmas Pageant

Photo credit Hallmark Channel

Director Vera Parks (Melissa Gilbert) has a career that is going nowhere fast. Labeled as difficult, she gets fired from several jobs in a row. Her manager, Peter (Steve Lawrence) manages to get her a job directing a small town Christmas pageant.

Things go from bad to worse quickly. While some are eager to work with her, others are destined to fight any change Vera suggests. Vera has problems adjusting from her glamorous life in New York City to the simple life in Ashton Falls. Then she runs into her ex-fiancé, Jack Harmond (Robert Mailhouse). Vera is soon considering whether she should return to New York or stick it out in Ashton Falls.

If ever there was a movie that Melissa Gilbert was born to star in, it's The Christmas Pageant. If Little House on the Prairie was set in modern times, then the storyline from this movie would be a perfect fit. A woman whose life centers around her career and posh city life, ends up in a simple town where there is one mail carrier and everyone knows each other. It's not long before Ashton Falls and its people begin to grow on Vera.

A blend of funny and sweet, this is a classic Hallmark romance. With a superb cast and quaint setting you can't go wrong. If you are looking for a story that will touch your heart and remind you of the joys of being home, be sure to catch this movie on the Hallmark Channel in December. The next showing is Wednesday, December 21st at 10/9 Central.

Sook Spotlight: A Log Cabin Christmas by Wanda E. Brunstetter, et.al


Experience Christmas through the eyes of adventuresome settlers who relied on log cabins built from trees on their own land to see them through the cruel forces of winter. Discover how rough-hewed shelters become a home in which faith, hope, and love can flourish. Marvel in the blessings of Christmas celebrations without the trappings of modern commercialism where the true meaning of the day shines through. And treasure this exclusive collection of nine Christmas romances penned by some of Christian fiction’s best-selling authors.

PURCHASE AT AMAZON!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Short Story Review: Mistletoe and Miracles by Wendy Davy

Looking for a tender inspirational romance for this holiday season? Pick up this free short story from Wendy Davy.

Noelle Barkley is planning to catch the attention of a man at her upcoming Christmas party. When she lands in the arms of a stranger, she soon discovers that patiently waiting for God's plans to be revealed is much better than trying to rush things along.

Mistletoe and Miracles is the perfect short romance to snuggle up with in front of the fire. Filled with humor and tenderness, it will warm your heart as you watch Noelle learn a very important lesson about God's timing.

This is a story you won't get tired of reading over and again.

Title:  Mistletoe and Miracles
Author: Wendy Davy
Publisher: Pelican Book Group
Current price: FREE

I downloaded a free e-copy of this book from the publisher's website. I received no monetary compensation to provide this review.

Seasonal Titles: Gold, Frakincense, and Murder by Barbara Early

High school geometry teacher, Donna Russell likes her life well-ordered and logical, even if it is a tad solitary at times. But when a charming co-worker at the local food bank disappears just before Christmas, Donna is left with more questions than solutions.


After the missing man's neighbor, muscle-bound EMT Sam Holton, volunteers as Donna's crime-fighting sidekick, sparks fly between them. Donna wonders if Sam can be trusted, or if he's trying to throw an unknown into her calculations—and her life.

And when police recover a body from the icy Niagara River, Donna is faced with the most frustrating equation of all: can murder plus mayhem ever equal romance?

Read an excerpt!

Food pantries are lousy places to meet men.

I slammed another dusty can of sauerkraut into the rough wood shelving to punctuate that thought, enjoying the reverberation through the brick storefront. Don’t get me wrong. That’s not why I volunteered. My days of pining after some testosterone-charged he-god passed a decade or so ago when all my friends married and started having kids. I’d officially become “Aunt Donna,” and I was pretty okay with that.

Most of the time.

I had my friends, my students, and my cat. Only my friends were all busy chauffeuring their kids to basketball practice and dance recitals, my students at the high school drove me up the wall, and my black cat was one of those independent sorts, content stalking birds from the window. He rubbed against my leg twice a day when I filled his food dish, and that was pretty much the extent of my physical contact with other living things.

Read the reviews!

"Wonderfully written with a nice mix of thrills, chills and laughs, Gold, Frankinsense and Murder is a lovely short story to curl up with on a winter's night. I loved the scene with the cat attacking the tree - something my cat did reguarly - and the sleuthing Donna reminded me of Miss Marple. It's 83 pages are jam packed with vivid descriptions and action that keep you turning pages."

--Clare Revell, author of Saving Christmas




PURCHASE GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MURDER AT PELICANGROUP.COM AND AMAZON!

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.


Visit Barbara online at http://www.barbaraearly.com/ and her blog at http://barbearly.blogspot.com/.

Short Story Review: A Very Holly Christmas by Sheila Roberts



It is a year after the big Christmas strike in Holly. Joy thinks her husband Bob is turning back into Mr. Humbug. Sharon Benedict is determined to have a beautifully decorated house inside and out. And things are moving forward for Carol White and Jerri Rodriguez.

If you read On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts, you certainly won't want to miss this short follow up story that returns to the town of Holly one year later. Just as funny as the original story, you'll be aching for more from the ladies of the knitting club and their families. If you didn't get a chance to read On Strike for Christmas, then this short will give you a great glimpse into a talented writer who knows how to touch your hearts and tickle your funny bone.

Title:  A Very Holly Christmas
Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sold by: Macmillan
ASIN: B005T54NYK
Current price:  FREE

I downloaded a free e-copy of this book from Amazon. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide this review.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guest Blogger: JoAnn Carter, Author of Hidden Paths

Staying in Vermont on the family farm wasn’t what JULIE HEMMINGWAY had envisioned for her life. After all, she had just spent two years at the community college in preparation to join a mission agency to use her nursing skills overseas. However, those plans quickly change when her father suffers a massive heart attack and dies. Out of necessity, she stays at home to help her mom manage the farm.


To help make ends meet, Julie accepts a new job at a construction company where many unexpected things happen, including working with the handsome, ADAM JACOBS. Will Julie learn that she can trust in God and the path He has planned for her life – even when it looks totally different than what she expected?

Read an excerpt!

Julie Hemmingway's thoughts centered on one thing -- and one thing only -- the letter which had arrived yesterday. Her dreams were coming true at last. She hummed a little Christmas tune and pushed her cart to the return rack. Scooping up her bags, Julie turned to walk out of the grocery store. The next thing she knew, her face was planted against a wool sweater and a coat's zipper. The paper bag filled with groceries crushed against her midsection with a sickening crunch. Thankfully, with a firm grip, she somehow managed to hold onto the second bag. She stood stunned for a moment. Please tell me I didn't just run into the person behind me.


"Are you okay?" His warm bass voice vibrated through his chest and beat against her cheek.

So much for that wish.

Julie wrapped her arm tighter around the bag resting between them to prevent it from plummeting to the floor and pushed herself back.

The guy gently gripped her forearms to steady her. "I'm sorry. I should have been paying closer attention to where I was going." He pointed with his thumb toward the colored lights twinkling merrily in the window. "I was looking at the decorations. They're amazing."

Julie let her gaze travel up until she met his blue eyes. The second bag, which had managed to escape the fiasco, slipped out of her grasp. She looked down in horror at the mess on the floor. "Oh man, it looks like I just did some decorating of my own -- but not the pretty or festive kind." She groaned. "I think that bag had my eggs."

"If that's the case, they're now scrambled." He took the bag, with lettuce spewing over the side, away from her and stepped back to assess the damage. "Or at least, sunny-side up."

Julie grinned at his quick wit as she kicked loose coffee beans off the top of her shoe.

With a crooked smile, he introduced himself. "I'm Adam." Before Julie could tell him her name, he plucked a piece of lettuce draped over her sleeve like a scarf. "I must say, these lovely, um... accessories, don't do your beautiful coat justice."

Julie, caught between his humor and her self-consciousness, tried to think of something -- anything -- to say. Unfortunately, her mind was as blank as a school chalkboard over summer vacation. If only she could attribute this temporary loss of words to the near fall. However, that wouldn't be totally honest.

Perhaps it was his disposition, his good looks, or ease with himself, but something about him intrigued her. The man seemed larger than life and although the groceries had been smashed between them, no food clung to his clothes as they did to hers. In fact, he looked like he could have stepped out from a magazine page.

"Let's get this stuff picked up." He stooped to retrieve a can of soup that had rolled toward the door.

"Let's." That was better than the alternative -- to stand and stare at him. The sooner this mess was cleaned up, the sooner she could leave and move on with the dream which had, up until the last few moments ago, been her sole focus. Once again, her heart galloped at thought of the acceptance letter. Her desire to become a missionary was nothing new. Rather, her heart and imagination were captured ever since a speaker, who worked in Africa, gave a presentation at her church when she was twelve. Now she was close to seeing it come to fruition.

Julie sighed. She couldn't wait to share the news from New Hope Missions with her grandmother, who was visiting for the holidays. She sank her teeth into her lower lip, hoping to hide the goofy grin that threatened to escape.

Adam turned, and whack! -- they collided again. She rubbed her head. That's what I get for daydreaming.

The whole situation suddenly reminded her of an episode of one of her father's favorite old-time television shows with one guy bopping another on the head.

Adam winked. "Jinx."

Mirth bubbled in the pit of her stomach until she couldn't help but laugh. She shook her head and stuffed a cantaloupe into a bag. "I am so sorry. My bad this time. I was thinking about something else." She narrowed her eyes. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"Nah, I have a pretty hard head." He reached for another bag and began to fill it with the groceries. "But I guess you found that out for yourself."

Julie rubbed her scalp. "I guess I did... the hard way," she chuckled.

The store manager rushed over with new bags and began to help pick up the groceries as well. "I saw it happen. Are you two all right? We need to hang a mirror or something over the door. This isn't the first time this has happened."

Adam gave a teasing grin. "You mean she does this all the time?"

Julie's jaw dropped, and the manager laughed. "No, no. Of course not. Other customers have had similar run-ins." He gave them both the once-over. "You sure you're all right?"

Nodding toward Julie, Adam answered for both of them. "We're fine."

"Follow me to the courtesy counter," the manager motioned. "I'll replace or reimburse you for the broken eggs and whatever else has been damaged."

How much does pride cost?

Julie ducked her head.

The manager continued, "What would you prefer?"

Julie had no idea what she looked like, but she knew how she felt -- a big, sticky, eggy mess, albeit a mess who was impatient to get home. "I think I'll just stop back later if that's okay."

"Sure. Just don't forget your receipt."

"Got it." Julie nodded toward Adam, "Thank you for helping me corral my groceries."

"My pleasure."

She turned and ran out the door, leaving traces of egg to mark her path. As she raced through the parking lot, she couldn't help but think about how she had clung to the stranger's arm and then whacked him in the head. Some days it felt like she could tackle anything the world sent her way, and other days -- well, it made her realize how woefully inadequate she still was.

Julie had been so sure of everything when she opened the letter this morning. But now that her elusive dream was about to become a reality, doubts about her future whispered and wrapped long, spindle-like bands around her heart. She wasn't quite twenty yet -- fresh out of community college. Did she really think she was prepared to join others of great faith in the mission field?

Yet, the light of her hopes and dreams flickered again then set ablaze the shadows that threatened to lurk. She pushed back her shoulders. Guatemala, here I come!





A Christmas Prayer for You by JoAnn Carter

Well, here we are it's almost Christmas. Not only are we preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I have the privilege and joy of releasing Hidden Paths, a young adult inspirational romance that readers of all ages can enjoy. Can a holiday get any better? :) Thank you, Cheryl for letting me share a bit about this story here on your blog! I hope you won't mind if I start with the note that I wrote to the readers at the end of Hidden Paths. It's my prayer that this will be a blessing and encouragement to your blog followers...


Well, here we are at the close of another story... Hidden Paths. I have to chuckle a bit at the irony of the situation. You see, that's the perfect title for my own personal journey that the Lord has been guiding me through.

Although I have other books in circulation, this was the very first story I ever drafted fifteen years ago. I started writing on a whim. Don't ask me why. In fact, have you ever watched Night at the Museum? The first time we saw that movie I cracked up. I am so like that museum director. Some days it seems as if I can't put a complete thought -- let alone sentence -- together to save my life. Couple that with dyslexia and grammar and spelling that would make any English major cringe and... yup, that's me. Yet, here I find myself, walking down the path that once seemed so elusive and hidden to me.

Quite a few years after I wrote this book, I went to a writer's retreat. I prayed and prayed that God would show me what He wanted me to do and give me direction. I knew writing was something I enjoyed but was this what God wanted me to do? I struggled with that, and to be honest, still do on occasion.

I walked away from that weekend with as many questions as I arrived with. I was so discouraged. Didn't God hear me? I wanted to follow His will for my life, yet felt like He was far away and unwilling to give me the direction I so desperately craved.

He had heard my prayers, yet I was too close to the situation to see that He had been, was, and still is guiding me. I stand amazed as I think about this now... God has led me to friends who had a passion for the craft of writing and the gift of encouragement. I've been blessed with a family who supports my writing endeavors, and I've learned a ton of stuff along the way... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the gist.

What I've come to realize is I don't need to have everything figured out. I serve an awesome God who knows what's best for me. Sometimes I may not particularly care for what needs to be done. The road may seem long and hard and the mountains too big to scale. Yet, God loves me too much to let me settle for the easy road where I would forget where true strength is found.

Perhaps like me, you have been struggling with direction in your own life. I would like to challenge you to place your hand (and your life) in God's hands and allow Him to plot your course. You might find yourself in for a crazy ride -- on a path, like Julie, that you would have never imagined.

And that, my friends is my Christmas prayer for you. That you would follow the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Have a wonderful holiday season!

JoAnn Carter writes stories that will encourage your faith through her inspirational romances. She resides in Vermont with her wonderful husband and four children. JoAnn is available for speaking engagements to book clubs, reader groups, library groups, women's ministry events, school events and church retreats.
 
You can visit her webpage at http://home.comcast.net/~jo.glenncarter/site/.

PURCHASE HIDDEN PATHS AT DESERT BREEZE PUBLISHING, AMAZON, BARNESANDNOBLE.COM AND OTHER E-RETAILERS!

January is Product Review Month


We will kick off the new year with another month of product reviews. There are already several products lined up. See our Upcoming Events page for a current list. If you would like to have your product reviewed, please contact Cheryl at ccmal(at)charter(dot)net

Seasonal Short Story Review: It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Marie Higgins

Running for his life, Justin Monroe escapes his wedding rehearsal dinner and heads for the mountains. Little does he know that Brooke Cavanaugh is sleeping in the back of his friend's Jeep. When Brooke awakens, Justin isn't too thrilled to see her. She's just ruined his secret getaway. What's more important, now she could be in danger too. With the way the snow is piling up outside, it looks like they'll be stuck spending some time together.

If you're looking for a short, sweet romance then It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Marie Higgins will fit the bill. While predictable in its nature, it blends a man and woman who have every reason not to want to be attracted to each other, a blizzard, and a cabin in the mountains to create an enjoyable seasonal story.

I tend to prefer romantic suspense, where there is a bit more action, but Justin's plight combined with Brooke's past and their banter keeps readers turning the pages.


Title: It Must Have Been the Mistletoe
Author: Marie Higgins
Publisher: PMC Publications
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B0065TVYLY
Kindle price: 99 cents


I cannot for the life of me remember how I obtained a copy of this book. I thought I purchased it from Amazon, but I don't see it in my Kindle store history, nor do I see it on my Smashwords purchase history. Rest assured this review is my honest opinion, for which I received no monetary compensation.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Spotlight: Right to Bragg by Tanya Hanson

Disowned by her family, Tiffany Vickers faces a lonely Christmas and takes great comfort in the baby boy in her care. Her faith in tatters, she guards her heart against the baby's uncle, handsome cowboy Bragg Martin, a man with baggage of his own. While Bragg longs to open his heart and family to the lovely nanny, he doesn't understand her interest in his arch enemy. Saving a man's life and saving Tiffany's faith bring the couple together…and home to Hearts Crossing Ranch.

Read an excerpt!

Tiffany got up for another cup of coffee, Matty’s eyes watching her every move.

“He sure notices you,” Bragg remarked as the baby drained the bottle.

“Yeah. We bonded right off. I’m so glad about it.” As she’d made a snap decision just then, she rushed on. “I left behind my precious nephew. I guess in my psyche somewhere I figured maybe nanny to Matty might help ease that hole in my heart.” Gently she rubbed her hand over Matty’s head, the edge of her hand tugging at Bragg’s shirt and causing a funny havoc. Mostly though he listened to her pain.

She sank back down into a kitchen chair, resting her cheek in her hand. “I was with Connor from the moment he was born. Paul and Diana wanted me there. Then things went haywire. It was my fault. You talk about forgiveness, but there isn’t any in this case. And I miss that little boy. Oh, I miss him so. I need him. His love was unconditional, you know. He’s three now. I can’t let him forget me.”

Bragg’s heart tugged at the agony on her face, and Matty’s little hand flailed. Tiffany took it at once. “It can’t be that bad, can it?”

“I’ve been disowned, so, yeah, Bragg. It’s that bad.”

PURCHASE RIGHT TO BRAGG AT PELICAN BOOK GROUP  AND AMAZON!

Tanya Hanson is a California beach girl who love her cowboys. A former high school English teacher, she loves traveling with her firefighter hubby when she’s not working on her eight-book Hearts Crossing Ranch series. The two recently returned from a fantastic tour of the East Coast just in time to welcome their daughter’s first child, their second grandson. Their son’s little boy stole Tanya’s heart upon his arrival four years ago. God is good.

Visit Tanya online at:


www.petticoatsandpistols.com


www.tanyahanson.com


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tanya-Hanson-author/221563541211944?sk=wall


Seasonal Titles on Kindle

Here is a list of seasonal titles that are currently on my Kindle:

Evergreen A Christmas Tale by Richard Taylor

A dying grandfather tells the story of the first Christmas tree to a family wrenched by strife.

Currently available for FREE at Amazon!



One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she’s allowed

Currently available for $9.99 at Amazon!

Occupy The North Pole by Joel Andre (short story)

With the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, the elves at the North Pole have decided to take a stand and quit Christmas.

Currently available for 99 cents at Amazon!

I've read Occupy The North Pole. It's funny and there's a great twist at the end.

It Must Have Been The Mistletoe by Marie Higgins

When a man flees danger to protect himself in a mountain hideaway, will he be able to protect his heart from the woman he discovers in the back seat of his Jeep? Looking for someone who really understands her, she dares give her heart and trust to a stranger.

Justin Monroe's future father-in-law wants him dead. Running for his life, Justin escapes his wedding rehearsal and head for the hills. A December snowstorm and a stowaway are the last things he needs.

When Brooke Cavanaugh wakes in the back seat of the wrong car, she is confronted with more than a blizzard. Although leery of men, Justin captures her interest ... and her heart. It must have been the mistletoe.

Currently available for 99 cents at Amazon!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Spotlight: Dax Rigby, War Correspondent by John Rosenman

As WWIII rages on Earth, War Correspondent Dax Rigby travels to the savage planet Arcadia to investigate and report on the Western Alliance’s mission there. Soon, he fights not only to save two intelligent alien species from extinction, but also to rescue a dying human outpost threatened by a mysterious disease.

Facing assassination attempts, seduction from a passionate pilot, and his own mysterious powers of resurrection, Dax struggles to maintain his loyalties and complete his mission. The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance. Will he find a way to redefine both his identity and his destiny in time?

Read an excerpt!

Chapter One


Welcome To Paradise

Dax left the ship and stepped into madness.

First there were the cheers and then the blinding tropical sun as he moved out onto the ramp. Fumbling in his pocket, he hurriedly donned his sunglasses and looked out at Base Camp, humanity’s only foothold on the planet Arcadia. In front of him, other passengers froze in their descent, stunned by the heat and their reception.

At least two dozen in the camp had turned out to welcome them, shielding themselves with umbrellas against the sun. Dax saw men and women in ragged shirts and shorts shouting up at them. They all looked shrunken and withered, yet riveted by the ship’s arrival.

Why were they out in this terrible heat? Dax figured they must be damn happy to see their replacements. The ship’s arrival was proof they were finally going home. Otherwise, why risk death by heatstroke?

Feeling someone press against him from behind, he moved forward with his gear and descended the stairs. When he reached the ground, he adjusted his hat and scanned the area.

Base Camp consisted of thirty sorry units. According to accounts, they’d been here only three years. They looked faded and worn, bludgeoned by the planet’s heat. In just minutes, Dax was drenched with sweat and a bit woozy, too. He took a step and swayed on his feet.

“Easy, son, this heat’ll do it to you.”

He turned. Merriwether, the vice-captain of their ship. The man’s ancient eyes widened, as if to impart some secret.

Dax blinked, realizing the cheers had died. “We just got here, and you go back tomorrow?”

“Yes, and most of them do, too. Including the toughest ones who signed up for three years instead of one or two.” Merriwether rubbed his gray beard and gazed at the camp’s population, who mingled enthusiastically with the passengers. Dax heard laughter, and someone brayed, “Man, are we all glad to see you!”

“I hope you’re successful investigating the Hopper and Flyer war,” Merriwether said. “Even if you find out why they hate each other so much, how can it possibly help us beat the Eastern Alliance?”

Good question. He reached for his handkerchief and mopped his face. “I don’t know.” He didn’t say his major task was to discover why the WA—the Western Alliance—was so interested in the creatures in the first place. “By the way, I’m supposed to report to Major Campbell. Do you know where her quarters are?”

“I’m afraid not,” Merriwether said. “You might ask one of the camp members.”

After Merriwether left, Dax approached an emaciated, unshaven man with a parasol and asked him.

The other pointed theatrically. “Behold.”

Dax turned, seeing a faded plastic silver shack fifteen meters away. While the archaic word implied a stately sight, this battered prefab with its droopy awning looked indistinguishable from its fellows. Dax swung back to see if the man referred to another structure. The stranger, though, still pointed at the silver shack to emphasize his pronouncement.
“The major awaits your pleasure,” his informant said and limped away.

Left behind, Dax felt lost and abandoned. He’d studied Arcadia’s harsh conditions in advance, but it hadn’t fully prepared him for being here. Dax was convinced he’d been picked up and dropped in the most godforsaken backwater of the universe. This feeling intensified as the meeting of the incoming and outgoing crews rapidly became a boisterous party totally oblivious to him. Unless he was mistaken, it would soon disintegrate into an orgy.

Dax heard coarse laughter and witnessed the pouring of libations. And those funny-looking sticks going around—he’d smoked a few of them himself. A man and woman embraced, the woman a scrawny, beef-jerky greeter of her plump guest. She clutched the pudgy man, seeming to drain the life from his body. Glancing around, Dax realized most of the outgoing crew looked more than exhausted and physically depleted. Judging from their expressions, they were desperate as well.

What could have done this to them? And perhaps equally important, why didn’t any of the reports he’d read mention this?

Though only twenty-three, Dax knew how to size up places quickly. Water, food, and the climate were reportedly safe on Arcadia. However, something seemed wrong. He was tough, having brought himself up by sheer guts and determination after his mother, his only parent, had died when he was ten. But he already felt—or imagined he felt—this world creeping into his bones, draining his spirit.

He raised his eyes and gazed out past the camp. Though the land had been cleared for a dozen meters beyond, the rain forest crouched on all sides, waiting to pounce. The lush fertility, the towering green trees, and glorious, multicolored flowers seemed ominously excessive. Dax wondered if they drew their vitality from the withered souls they surrounded.
The thought was a little dramatic for him. Yet he shivered in the heat and wondered about the fatality rate.

Shouts. He turned to see a bottle being passed around. Why didn’t Major Campbell stop this behavior, or at least control it? The question made him remember his mission here, and he lowered his bag to the ground. Reaching in, past the plastic holo of his girlfriend, Lexis, he took out one of his minicams and thumbed a button.

“This is Dax Rigby reporting for TransWorld,” he said, sighting around at the camp. “Today, July Nine Standard, we landed at Base Camp on Arcadia after a journey of thirty-one days. My initial impressions of the place are—”

An especially loud outburst of laughter made him press the Stop button. He watched as several groups dispersed for the privacy of shacks. When things settled down, he pressed the Record button and opened his mouth.

No words came out.

He knew he should discuss Arcadia’s oppressively hot beauty and the unusual reception they’d received. He should speculate as to why the Flyers and Hoppers fought, and even more, why it mattered. Why, in short, had the WA bankrolled an extended mission to this remote sweltering outpost, and what in hell did they hope to accomplish here? For some reason, though, Dax didn’t say anything. Instead he squirmed, pulling at his clothes. His shirt stuck to his skin with sweat, and his underwear had wedged up tight in the crack of his buttocks.
He remembered how Jarret, his bureau chief, teased him concerning this assignment. “Sorry there’s no high tech there. Boy, I know you love your comforts. Take my advice and look on it as a challenge.”

Dax stopped adjusting his clothes. There were no vids and foam mattresses here, and worse, perhaps no AC either. Jarret was right. Dax did enjoy his comforts. Still, he could take it, heat and sweat and all. He could take anything this place threw at him because it represented his golden opportunity.

Golden opportunity? Those had been Jarret’s words. Sweating in the sun, Dax realized how his employer had manipulated him, playing on his poverty and curiosity, his hunger to succeed. “Son, be our War Correspondent on Arcadia. If you can find out why we’re there, it’ll make your fortune. You can write your own ticket!”
And the reward included marrying his daughter Lexis, whom Jarret, a snob, did not want Dax to marry. Oh yes, Dax saw now how skillfully Jarret had pushed his buttons, waving the banner of fame and fortune. Young and hungry, confident in his abilities, and fascinated by the opportunity to further his study of this mysterious planet, Dax had been unable to resist the challenge and had let Jarret send him nine hundred light-years from Earth.
A bittersweet memory struck: Lexis with her beautiful, almond-colored face, begging him not to go, flashing eyes fixed on him, and her slender, voluptuous form tense with fear. “It’s my father’s way of getting rid of you.” She’d sobbed. “You’ll never come back, and I’ll never see you again!”
“I have to go, Lexis,” he’d said. “It’s for our future. I have no choice!”

“I don’t need you to be rich, Dax. I need you!”

He’d shaken his head. “I’ve been poor all my life, Lexis. Believe me, it’s worth anything to have money. Besides, I feel I’ll be successful.”

“And I feel you’ll die on Arcadia, Dax. Please—stay on Earth!”

Glancing at the hot, miserable camp, Dax felt his illusion crumble. This place didn’t belong on the beautiful green and blue globe he’d seen on the ship’s display screen. God in Space, why had he come here?
A full month already gone… By now, Lexis could have found someone else. Men were attracted to her as ants to sugar. Even if he survived Arcadia, his assignment here lasted for a full year. And even with hyper-jumps, by the time he returned, at least fourteen months would have passed.
Don’t think of home. Dax swatted away one of the pesky drill flies and pocketed his cam. There’d be time later to record his first impressions of this place. He’d better wait until after he reported to the CO.

Wiping his face with his handkerchief, he picked up his bag and headed toward Major Campbell’s office.
Suddenly he heard an unearthly roar, a weird, piercing bellow. He whirled, searching without success for the source. Those who were still in the open froze in horror. The sound must have been a Hopper. He recognized its distinctive sound from a vid he’d seen.

The roar came again. This time it was louder, filling the sky and the world. Dax, with his reporter’s instincts, yanked out his cam and held it up to capture the sound.

The roar rose and fell, reminding him of…a crazed hippo. The roar’s dark modulations, the way it ululated and made the air vibrate…
In the camp, most ran for cover. A lone pair of new arrivals clutched each other. Dax watched them break for the nearest hut.
Where was Major Campbell? Why didn’t she get off her ass and do something?

Before Dax headed for cover himself, the roar faded and died. Trembling, he put the cam back in his bag. What luck! Ten minutes after he got here, he’d already recorded one of the warring monsters. For some reason, though, he didn’t feel much elation. The creature had sounded so creepy, so bone-chillingly eerie. Its cry continued to resonate inside him.
Dax shook it off. Come on, get a grip. More important, get a story.

Inhaling the hot air, he headed toward Major Campbell’s shack. He stopped at the door, reading the two signs on it.

The first was a steel plate. It read: Major Shade Campbell, Base Commander.

Below it, the other sign made him blink. It was done in what appeared to be red paint. The block letters were uneven and had dripped down the door, the color of fresh blood.
Welcome To Paradise.

Dax swallowed, raised his hand, and knocked.

“Come in.”

The voice sounded muffled. Dax wiped his face and lifted the latch.

Read the reviews!

“Dax is new on Arcadia. His job, report the facts for TransWorld. But from the moment he set foot on this world, everything seemed wrong. Major Campbell, the woman in charge, is high as a kite in her office, all the residents seem a little unhinged, and within an hour of his arrival, Dax has adopted a baby Flyer- a strange, bird-like creature that lives on Arcadia and is one of the reasons the Western Alliance has come to Arcadia.

His second day finds him lost on the wild planet after an attempt on his life, fighting giant alien insects and protecting his guide, Casey, whose advances become more and more difficult to resist. And it doesn’t stop when fate finally brings them back to their base camp. What more does this mysterious planet have in store for Dax and the rest of the humans stationed at the base? And what’s more terrifying–an unknown, alien threat or the threat that comes from within?

Electrifying. Absolutely enthralling. I’ve never really gotten into Sci-Fi stories like this one, set in our own distant future on a planet far, far away, where giant monsters threaten our very existence, but Dax Rigby: War Correspondent wasn’t that kind of story. There’s enough action to keep the plot moving, enough intrigue to keep your mind racing, and just enough romance to keep you searching for more. It draws on the world of chaos and violence that exists behind our network-news-filtered view of humanity and projects what the break-down of our society might look like if we keep down this path to self-destruction. It really gets you thinking–would I really push as hard as Dax to get the truth, braving warring aliens and multiple attempts on my life by those I thought were my friends? And if I found half of what Dax discovered on Arcadia, would I even be able to wrap my mind around it, or would I just curl up and wish it all away? All of this is only made better by the author’s eloquence, and the fluidity of his style makes the story just wash over the reader. You start reading and suddenly you’re fifty pages in and you know you just aren’t going to be able to stop reading. I will definitely be looking for more books by Mr. Rosenman!”

MR Review
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewer: Stacey

"I enjoyed the intrigue and how the story drew you further in as well as the comedic aspect that Dax shared via his thoughts to the situations surrounding him. I found the descriptions of the people and the scenes to be climatic in their approach, you couldn't help but wonder what was causing such mishaps and depravity to grow."

--Mad Moose Mama

PURCHASE A COPY OF DAX RIGBY, WAR CORRESPONDENT FROM MUSEITUP PUBLISHING OR AMAZON!

John recently retired as an English professor at Norfolk State University where he designed and taught a course in how to write Science fiction and Fantasy. He is a former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and has published approximately 350 stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and the Hot Blood anthology series. John has published twenty books, including SF action/romantic adventure novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars and Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), A Senseless Act of Beauty (Crossroad Press), and Alien Dreams (Drollerie Press and Crossroad Press). Shorter books include A Mingling of Souls and Music Man (XoXo Publishing), Here Be Dragons (Eternal Press), The Voice of Many Waters (Blue Leaf Publications), Green in Our Souls (Damnation Books), and Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird and Childhood’s Day (Gypsy Shadow Publishing). Recent developments: MuseItUp Publishing published two novels, Dark Wizard and Dax Rigby, War Correspondent. Another SF novel, Inspector of the Cross, will appear in February. MuseItUp Publishing also published More Stately Mansions and The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes, and it will release Steam Heat, a tale of erotic horror in December.

Readers can visit John at his website, www.johnrosenman.com, and other sites:

http://www.myspace.com/291520102\

https://twitter.com/#!/Writerman1,

https://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1164323809 and . . .

http://s631.photobucket.com/albums/uu31/jrosenman/.

Giveaways, Contests and Prizes!

In celebration of John Rosenman’s release of Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, he will be appearing at Pump Up Your Book’s 1st Annual Holiday Extravaganza Facebook Party on December 16. More than 50 books, gifts and cash awards will be given away including an ebook that is available at his website (unavailable: The Best Laugh Last, Introduction to Literature, and More Stately Mansions collection of stories) and a second winner residing in the U.S. will receive a printed copy of Beyond Those Distant Stars ! Visit the official party page here!