Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Bo Briar

Bo, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe Morgan Hall for us in 140 characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?                
Well, love never dies, and revenge never sleeps in Morgan Hall.

Morgan Hall is a desolate country estate that has been in Lady Christie Morgan’s family for almost 400 years. A family cursed by eternal tragedy, and now Christie is the last Morgan. Apparitions appear, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men who love her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely.

This is a saga of mystery and sordid family history weaving intrigue for the passionate love triangle. Past and present war as the secrets of three aristocratic families unfold - resurfacing in a spine-chilling mystery of passion and lust, ghostly happenings, and blood-curdling murders.

Emotions run high as their world spins wildly out of control. Are they all cursed to repeat the grizzly past? Does sweet revenge claim its prize? That’s up to you the reader to find out…

When did you begin writing Morgan Hall?  What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
I wrote the first draft of Morgan Hall after having my first child. When she was a baby I was always alone at home with her for most of the day so did much writing, and somehow I was really inspired to at the time so it didn’t take long. I finished the polished version when I took a sabbatical from work later on though so it was an on-off thing. Left for a few years before proper completion.
Boarding school inspired me. It was set in an early 18th century ex-stately home with 300 acres of landscaped gardens and a glorious lake. The estate had been inhabited and owned by aristocratic families since the 12th century and the ruins of the old manor were both beside and at the bottom of the lake. It was both beautiful and spooky and I had quite a few eerie experiences there of a ghostly nature. I did think to myself I must write a spooky novel one day in a similar setting but wasn’t actually able to sit down and do it until I was much older.
There was quite a lot of research into history and architecture. Even though it is a work of fiction, the details must be absolutely right. 

What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
I think I’ve always just had a tale brewing within me. As a child I was always fascinated by ghost stories, classical architecture, historical places and drawn to heroes that were a bit dark and mysterious such as the classical Heathcliff and I would have loved the modern day Lestat. I’ve always had that romantic gothic inclination. Then as you grow up, you meet certain people, experience intense emotions both good and bad and get thrown into situations out of our control; basically life is one big story. Together with a creative imagination and much life experience Morgan Hall just evolved naturally within me until I had to write it down on paper and transform it into novel.

What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
Morgan Hall was the first book I have written and it is published by a traditional small press.

Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual? 
I’m not sure if my writing habits are unusual as such, but I write from bouts of inspiration. It just suddenly comes to me. I know the ending first, then the beginning and then everything in between falls into place.

Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart? 
Christie, the heroine is very much a part of me. She possesses parts of my own character plus everything I love and hate as well as everything I aspire to be – all within Christie. I also love the hero Anthony, very much.

What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you? 
Everything someone I love gives me is special but I have this pendant given to me by my brother over 20 years ago that I still wear daily today. It is a replica of a museum piece, an ancient Persian ram’s head. It’s very me and I still wear it every day on a black leather choker.

What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet? 
I would like Morgan Hall to become a best seller and made into a big box-office movie but I haven’t got around to doing it yet LOL.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase?  
An unbreakable magic wand that would grant my every wish including getting off the island. In fact, add two more of those just in case one gets lost!

What is your all-time favorite book? 
Morgan Hall of course.

Other than yourself, who is your favorite author? 
Anne Rice.

If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
It would definitely be a drama – serious but with a sense of humour. I would like the actress Eva Green to play the leading role. Of course we are nothing alike, but it could be a movie based on my life and the character based on me, but it doesn’t have to be exactly the same.

The theme song will be “Dreams” by the band Van Halen because it is my favourite song and I truly believe in it: in picking yourself up, looking forward and not back, rising up above hardships and following your dreams.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Are you an early bird or a night owl? 
Both. I’m a night owl because I was born one. I’m an early bird because I’m organised and therefore have to be.

What is your favorite TV show and/or movie? 
My favourite TV series is the 1981 British version of “Brideshead Revisited” based on the classic by Evelyn Waugh. My favourite movie is “Dead Poets Society”, I love all the “Harry Potter” movies, “Amadeus” and “Titanic” (I’m fascinated about anything to do with the Titanic), and more recently “Dark Shadows” (the movie).

If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why? 
If this is a dinner party I’d like it to be fun and entertaining. So I will choose Lord Byron because he must be the most amazing man to ever have dinner with. Cleopatra because that would just be fascinating. Anthony Longfield-Lothian from Morgan Hall – read the book and find out why. Elizabeth Swann from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” because she’s a kick-ass woman in a man’s world. And Johnny Depp because I think he’d add an interesting twist to it!

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why? 
I have romantic visions about certain times in history – the buildings people lived in, the way they dressed and behaved and so forth. But the reality I know is far from it and humanity has definitely grown more civilised since the days of old.  So as much as I love reading about history, I’d much prefer to live for today or catch a glimpse into the future.

What are you currently working on? 
I am working on the sequel to Morgan Hall and plan on creating a series. Like with Morgan Hall, the characters are passionate, dark, romantic, deep and intriguing. This time the story is very contemporary and takes the characters (new and old) from the UK up to the icy mountains of Switzerland and half way around the world to Hong Kong in the mystical East. The villain is even worse than the last! The sequel is much scarier. I get chills writing it.

Where can people connect with you online? 
Email me at:

I am very happy to receive emails from readers and anyone interested in Morgan Hall and it’s good to meet new people. I always reply.

My website: is under construction. 

Thank you so much Bo for being on Hardcover Feedback!

Lady Christie Morgan is not the only occupant in this desolate English estate. A young apparition appears, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men closest to her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely. A saga of mystery and sordid family history weaves intrigue for the passionate love triangle. Past and present war as the secrets of three aristocratic families come to light.

Enter to win an ecopy of Morgan Hall by Bo Briar by completing the mandatory entry in the Rafflecopter form below, then complete whichever other entries you want. It is not mandatory to follow this blog, but I would greatly appreciate it:)

The giveaway is open internationally and will end August 5 at 11:59p.m. (EST).

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bay Area Mommy 1st Blog Anniversary!

Bay Area Mommy
Bay Area Mommy is celebrating her 1st blog anniversary with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire (or $200 Amazon gift card) and 2 Diamond Candles! The Kindle Fire giveaway is open worldwide, but the giveaway for the 2 Diamond Candles is restricted to the US only since they don't ship outside the US. 

Giveaway will run from July 25, 12:01am EST to August 15, 11:59pm EST. Good luck! 

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for prize shipment.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox (Book Spotlight and Giveaway)

Kristina's stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it's all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable. When Hester's cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it's actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem. In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can't refuse.
Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends ... and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn't get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the "Black Shard," Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag. Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it's in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

    Chapter 3 - Return to Bernovem 
    “Kristina?” a male voice called to her from the nearby trees.
    The voice caused a shiver to run up her spine. “Who said that?”
    Kristina said, looking around, slightly confused.
    A young man suddenly appeared. Kristina looked bewildered.
    “Who ... are you?” she asked.
    “Come on—has it really been that long?” he said, just before
    cracking a familiar smile.
    Kristina’s stomach flooded with butterflies.
    It can’t be, she thought.Her heart began to pound. He was taller, more muscular, and his
    voice was deeper—and he was more handsome than she could ever
    have imagined.
    “Werrien!” she cried.

    • Reading level: Ages 9 and up
    • Book two in series, book one is The Magic Warble 
    • 266 pages with 1-2 pages per chapter
    • Publisher: Two Harbors Press (October 4, 2011)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1937293149
    • ISBN-13: 978-1937293147
    • ASIN: B0084AA7RO
    • Available to purchase at Amazon: PRINT & KINDLE ($2.99)

    Victoria was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She now lives in Western Washington with her husband, Russ and their three children, Toby, Kristina, and William. Her other family members are a Chihuahua, named Pipsy and two cats, named Frodo and Fritz. Besides being an author, Victoria is a home-schooling mother of twelve years and an elementary school art teacher of eleven years. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys managing her two older children's Celtic band. She also loves writing, reading, painting watercolors, hiking, good movies, and just simply hanging out with her family and friends.


    Enter to win a copy of The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox - there will be four winners! One winner will receive a printed copy (US only) and three winners will receive an e-copy (Int.).

    To enter, all you have to do is follow this blog in at least one way, follow Victoria in at least one way, complete the mandatory entries and then complete whichever extra entries you want in the Rafflecopter form below. If you are not familiar with how to use Rafflecopter HERE is a link to a how-to video. Giveaway ends August 5th at 11:59p.m. (e.s.t.). Good luck!

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    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison (Book Promo)


    Mormon girl Leesie has life figured out until devastated Michael lands in her small town high school. He needs her like no one has before. A rare journey into a faithful LDS teen’s intimate struggle. 

    "[Morrison] handles the topics of religion and premarital sex gracefully without passing judgment. The message has less to do with religion than learning to respect and cherish others while staying true to one’s own beliefs.” – Publisher’s Weekly, starred review 

    Brand new paperback and reformatted ebook with fully scalable fonts. Includes bonus, never-before-published scene, "Airport Good-bye!" 

    10 Year Anniversary 
    Ten years ago this week, Taken by Storm's scuba-diving hero, Michael, swam out of Angela's brain and onto her page. Join the anniversary celebration! Win your own copy ofthe brand new paperback! Snag Taken by Storm's Kindleebook for only $ .99! UnbrokenConnection (Book 2) and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The promotion ends Friday, July 20th. Don't own a Kindle? Download free Kindle apps for your laptop, tablet, iTouch, or phone.

    Links to Buy:

    Author Bio:
    Angela Morrison is the award-winning YA author of Taken by Storm (Books 1-3) and Sing me to Sleep. She graduated from Brigham Young University and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Eastern Washington on the wheat farm where Taken by Storm is set. She's an advanced NAUI, Nitrox certified scuba diver. The hurricane that kills Michael's parents was inspired by a real-life diving accident. 

    After over a decade in Canada, Switzerland, and Singapore, Angela and her family are happily settled in Mesa, Arizona. She enjoys speaking to writers and readers of all ages about her craft. She has four children--mostly grown up--and the most remarkable grandson in the universe. 


    Meet Michael:
    from Michael's Dive Log, Chapter 1, Taken by Storm, "Before"

    The dive starts perfect. Perfect water. Perfect sky. Perfect wall. The ocean, warm, flat, perfect. I leave my wetsuit drying on the Festiva’s dive deck. Saltwater slips silky over my skin like Carolina’s caress.
    Jeez, I miss her. Caroleena. She insisted on Spanish pronunciation. I thought this trip would help, but I can’t forget lying in the sun, curled together, my face lost in her thick black hair, holding on. Three months. Every day. More when she felt like it. I always felt like it, but I didn’t want to use her.
    She dumped me on my butt when I took off to dive all summer at the condo. I wanted to bring her to Florida. Keep her close. Keep her safe. But she had to stay in Phoenix and work. Her family’s got nothing. And Mom flipped when I mentioned it was a shame the sofa bed in the living room would be empty. Dad was cool with it. He’s cool with everything. It should have been Carolina and me all summer, diving.
    The creep b-ball jock she’s with now is after one thing, as much as he can get. Possessive, too. Freaked when I called her from the Keys. And when we were all back at school, she wouldn’t even look at me. Dad knew something was up, let me cut a week for the club’s annual “hot deal” hurricane season trip. So, I’m scuba diving my brains out, free diving whenever I can get a spotter, trying not to think about that jock pawing my Carolina.
    Love. Makes me crazy. All of it. You get so close, like she’s part of you. And then she’s gone. You ogle the smiling waitress on the boat, who has your girl’s hair and wears a loaded bikini top and a sarong slung dangerously low. You appreciate the view while she serves you a virgin pina colada, but you still ache inside because now you’ve got a hole in your ribcage that won’t fill, a gash that heals way too slow. Salt water’s my therapy of choice.
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    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Interview with Lauren Carr

    Lauren, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! Would you tell us a little about yourself?
    Certainly! I’m a middle-aged mystery writer and the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in my series are It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard. They’ve have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The next book in this series, Shades of Murder, which was released last month.

    A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe Shades of Murder for us in 140
    characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?
    Mac Faraday is heir to an unbelievable fortune—it’s a masterpiece with a murder attached to it.

    When did you begin writing Shades of Murder? What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
    Shades of Murder took about the same length of time to write as it does to have a baby. I started thinking about the book last year when some readers of my first series, the Joshua Thornton Mysteries, said they wanted me to go back to Joshua Thornton. My last Joshua Thornton mystery was A Reunion to Die For, which was released in 2007. It is now in re-release. But I love Mac Faraday. I mean I love Joshua, too. But I was at a different place emotionally when I wrote that series. Joshua is more serious than Mac. Then, I thought, what if I brought the two of them together? Two mysteries in one? Yeah!

    As far as research, I had to find out how the various different law enforcement agencies work together on a case, especially when you have two murders, at different times, in different states that end up being connected. For that, I went to a source that I have who used to be a homicide detective. As you write over the course of years, you will find that you accumulate sources that you can count on to go to when you have a question in research.

    What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
    My mother. We’ve shared this love of murder mysteries. She noticed early on that I have this tremendous imagination. It was something she didn’t squelch, but encouraged.

    What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
    My first book was the Great American Catastrophe. I was eighteen years old and wrote my first book on an electric typewriter. This was before computers. So we aren’t talking about a word processing program, folks!

    Determined to be a novelist, I devoted a whole summer to my masterpiece. The television was off. Meals consisted of peanut butter sandwiches that were quick and easy to make. Hours that I used to sunbathe for a golden tan were spent composing. I stopped going out with my friends. Not a minute that could be devoted to literary creation was wasted. At the end of the summer, I proudly emerged from my bachelorette apartment pale, thin, and socially bankrupt. In three months, I had written the Great American Catastrophe, all 846 pages of it in hardcopy. 

    The only thing is, at eighteen years old in a small town in Ohio, I had no idea what to do with it. This was before Internet. I couldn’t e-mail it to an agent and do you know how expensive it is to copy 846 pages? It’s now boxed up in my mother’s basement and I hope no one ever reads it. 

    Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
    I can write anywhere and everywhere. I have a writer’s studio, but if I’m inspired first thing in the morning, I’ll write on my laptop in bed. Next thing I know, it’s noon and I’m still in my jammies. Or I’ll end up in front of the fireplace. My husband will find me everywhere with my laptop perched in my lap except my studio, not because I don’t like it there, but because I keep getting dragged away into the zone.

    Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
    Gnarly. I’m a sucker for dogs, especially loveable bad dogs.

    What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
    My son. I consider him a gift from God. Yep, I still have him.

    What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet?
    Read all of the works of Agatha Christie in chronological order from her first book all the way to her last.

    If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase?
    One gallon of ice cream (I love ice cream). The complete works of Agatha Christie in chronological order. I guess now I’ll have time to read it without being interrupted. And a cell phone with a fully charged battery and a really strong signal.

    What is your all-time favorite book?
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I really liked the chemistry of the characters and it was an intriguing mystery.

    Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
    Tess Gerritsen

    If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
    Situation Comedy about a middle-aged wife of a church business manager and mother who writes murder mysteries. I am considered quite a character among friends, family, and my husband’s co-workers.

    Once, a young pastor visiting our church, upon learning that I write murder mysteries, asked me, “Do you ever kill anyone you know?” He had a worried expression on his face. 

    I replied, “Of course. I also kill complete strangers.”

    Leading Character: Elizabeth Shue to play me. On CSI, she is really good at coming across as both smart, funny, and sexy.

    Theme song: Anita Renfroe’s The Mom Song, sung to the Willliam Tell Overture. This song really captures the tone of our home.

    What do you like to do in your spare time?
    Cook. I am a gourmet cook and love to try new recipes.

    Are you an early bird or a night owl?
    Both! I am the first one up in the morning. My Australian shepherd Ziggy is a morning dog. He is up at the crack of dawn. So I have to let him out. I will get to working on writing and my publishing business, Acorn Book Services. At night, after dinner, I will work on my own books. So I’ll work late and am often the last one to bed at night.

    No, I’m not Superwoman. Often in the afternoon, if everyone is gone and the house is quiet, I will take a nap.

    What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
    Leverage. The plots and storylines are so very clever with all their twists and turns. They get me every time. I love it.

    If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why?
    Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason. Agatha Christie. Lieutenant Columbo. Cary Grant. Just think of all the lively stories they would tell about everything that they have seen in their lives.

    If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
    I would have to say Hollywood in the 1950’s. Hollywood’s heyday. I’d give anything for the opportunity to work with Alfred Hitchcock on some of his great movies like Rear Window or North By NorthWest.

    What are you currently working on?
    I’m starting a new series called the Lovers in Crime mysteries. (Don’t worry! I haven’t quit the Mac Faraday Mysteries! The next installment in that series will be next spring!) Coming this fall, Dead on Ice introduces a new series featuring Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates. In Dead on Ice, Pennsylvania State homicide detective Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of a porn star whose mummified remains are found in an abandoned freezer in Joshua’s cousin’s basement.

    For this book tour, I am holding a contest for readers to name the female porn star found in the freezer. Not only are they to supply the stage name the star used in her films, but her real name from her childhood in the Chester, West Virginia/Pittsburgh area. The winner will receive all three Deep Creek Lake mysteries, plus a print edition of Dead on Ice upon its release, as well as a Lovers in Crime coffee mug. Contest is running from June 1-July 31.

    Readers are to submit their entries to me via e-mail: writerlaurencarr@ Subject line is to read Name the Porn Star. Be sure to include your name, e-mail address, and mailing address. The winner will be decided by me and my muses (my two dogs).

    Where can people connect with you online?

    Thank you so much Lauren for being on Hardcover Feedback!

    ABOUT Shades Of Murder:
    Question: What do you get the man with everything?
    Answer: When that man is the heir of the late mystery writer Robin Spencer, retired homicide detective Mac Faraday, you get him cold case to solve.

    In Shades of Murder, Mac Faraday is once again the heir to an unbelievable fortune. This time the benefactor is a stolen art collector. But this isn’t just any stolen work-of-art—it’s a masterpiece with a murder attached to it.

    Ilysa Ramsay was in the midst of taking the art world by storm with her artistic genius. Hours after unveiling her latest masterpiece—she is found dead in her Deep Creek Lake studio—and her painting is nowhere to be found.

    Almost a decade later, the long lost Ilysa Ramsay masterpiece has found its way into Mac Faraday’s hands and he can’t resist the urge to delve into the case.

    A world away, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; former JAG lawyer Joshua Thornton agrees to do a favor for the last person he would ever expect to do a favor—a convicted serial killer. 
    The Favor: Solve the one murder wrongly attributed to him.

    Joshua finds an unexpected ally in Cameron Gates, a spunky detective who has reason to believe the young woman known to the media only as Jane Doe, Victim Number Four, was the victim of a copycat. Together, Joshua and Cameron set out to light a flame under the cold case only to find that someone behind the scenes wants the case to remain cold, and is willing to kill to keep it that way.

    Little do these detectives know that the paths of their respective cases are on a collision course when they follow the clues to bring them together in a showdown with a killer who’s got a talent for murder!

    • File Size: 304 KB
    • Print Length: 232 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1470082446
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: Acorn Book Services (May 7, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0081BZB4K
    • Available to purchase at Amazon: KINDLE & PRINT


    “What does the letter say?” Archie came back in from the kitchen. With the scissors, she broke
    through the plastic cord wrapped around the box.
    Mac was still reading the first letter. “It’s a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. This guy, Archibald
    Poole, died. He had left this to Robin Spencer. In the event of her death preceding his, it was to be
    passed on to her next of kin. Since that’s me, I get it.”
    Archie stopped snipping. “Archibald Poole?”
    Gnarly stopped sniffing.
    “Did you know him?” He was breaking through the seal of the white envelope addressed to Robin.
    “Creepy old man. One of those eccentric rich guys. He didn’t make it all on the up and up. I think
    Robin remained friends with him because he was good material for her books. He lived in a big
    mansion up on top of a mountain in southern West Virginia.”
    Mac was only half paying attention. “He left Robin a painting.”
    With one end unsealed, Archie peered inside the box to see that the contents were wrapped in
    brown paper and padding.
    Sitting on the top step leading down into the dining room, Mac read the letter out loud:

    Dearest Robin,
    If you are reading this, then I’m dead and you are now observing my gift to you. So, what
    do you leave to the girl who has everything? When that girl is Robin Spencer, it’s a mystery.
    You will find that I have left you an Ilysa Ramsay painting. That alone makes it worth
    a fortune. But, ah, my dear Robin, this is not just any Ilysa Ramsay painting. It is her lost
    You will recall that Ilysa Ramsay was brutally murdered on your own Deep Creek Lake in
    the early hours of Labor Day in 2004. At the same time, her last painting was stolen from her
    studio where her dead body was discovered. She had unveiled what she had declared to be
    her masterpiece to her family and friends the same evening that she was murdered.

    Grasping the frame wrapped in packaging, Archie tugged at the painting to pull it out of the box
    while Mac continued reading:

    Everyone in the art world has been searching for Ilysa Ramsay’s last work of art. With only a handful of people having seen it; and no photographs taken of it before its theft; its value is priceless. 
    As my good luck would have it, a month after her murder, my guy called me. He had been contacted by a fence representing someone claiming to have the painting and wanting to unload it. Being familiar with Ilysa Ramsay’s work, I was able to authenticate it. Also, I had seen reports from witnesses who had described it as a self-portrait of Ilysa. 
    As I write this letter, Ilysa’s murder has yet to be solved. Nor do I know who had stolen the painting. It was sold to me by a third party. 
    And so, my dear lovely Robin, I leave this task to you. Here is the painting that the art world has been searching for, for years, and a mystery of who stole it, along with who killed its lovely artist. Enjoy, as I know you will!
    My Love, Archibald Poole

    Her yellow suit droopy, Archie slapped her hat down on the dining room table, and ripped through
    the padding to reveal the painting of a red-haired woman lying across a lounge with a red and green
    clover pattern. She was dressed in an emerald gown with a ruby red choker stretched across her
    throat. Ruby red jewels spilled down her throat toward the bodice.
    Gnarly sat on the floor at Mac’s feet to gaze at the painting.
    They studied the image together.
    “Just what I always wanted,” Mac said. “A stolen priceless painting with a dead body attached to it.”

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    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    Review Copy Cleanup Challenge


    I just joined this challenge to help me shrink my review books that have been piling up lately. The start of this challenge is still a ways off, so I am not sure what books I will be reading for this challenge.

    If you want to join, sign-ups are open until August 15. Click HERE to join.

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    FREE Blogger Opp: Kindle Fire & Diamond Candles Giveaway

    Bay Area Mommy will be celebrating its one-year anniversary on July 27th! They are going to have a Kindle Fire & Diamond Candles giveaway with 2 winners!!!

    • The giveaway will run: July 25 – August 15
    • Signup Fee: FREE for 1st link (Facebook only)
    • $3 for each additional link
    • Open worldwide. 

    If the winner is not from the US, he/she will get the cash equivalent.

    Please tell them Hardcover Feedback referred you. Thank you. 

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    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Promise for Miriam by Vannetta Chapman

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

    You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

    Today's Wild Card author is:

    and the book:

    Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

    ***Special thanks to Ginger Chen, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

    Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

    Visit the author's website.


    Amish schoolteacher Miriam King loves her students. At 26, she hasn’t yet met anyone who can convince her to give up the Plain school at Pebble Creek. Then newcomer Gabriel Yoder steps into her life, bringing his daughter, an air of mystery, and challenges Miriam has never faced before.

    Product Details:

    • List Price: $13.99
    • Paperback: 352 pages
    • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0736946128
    • ISBN-13: 978-0736946124
    • Available to purchase at Amazon

    Pebble Creek, southwestern Wisconsin
    Three years later
    Miriam King glanced over the schoolroom with satisfaction.
    Lessons chalked on the board.
    Pencils sharpened and in the cup.
    Tablets, erasers, and chalk sat on each desk.
    Even the woodstove was cooperating this morning. Thank the Lord for Efram Hochstetler, who stopped by early Mondays on his way to work and started the fire. If not for him, the inside of the windows would be covered with ice when she stepped in the room.
    Now, where was Esther?
    As if Miriam’s thoughts could produce the girl, the back door to the schoolhouse opened and Esther burst through, bringing with her a flurry of snowflakes and a gust of the cold December wind. Her blonde hair was tucked neatly into her kapp, and the winter morning had colored her cheeks a bright red.
    Esther wore a light-gray dress with a dark apron covering it. At five and a half feet and weighing no more than a hundred and twenty pounds, Miriam often had the unsettling feeling of looking into a mirror—a mirror into the past—when she looked at the young woman who taught with her at the one-room schoolhouse.
    In truth, the teachers had often been mistaken for family. They were similar in temperament as well as appearance. Other than their hair, Esther could have been Miriam’s younger sister. Esther’s was the color of ripe wheat, while Miriam’s was black as coal.
    Why did that so often surprise both Plain people and Englischers? If Miriam’s black hair wasn’t completely covered by her kapp, she received the oddest stares.
    “Am I late?” Esther’s shoes echoed against the wooden floor as she hurried toward the front of the room. Pulling off her coat, scarf, and gloves, she dropped them on her desk.
    “No, but nearly.”
    “I told Joseph we had no time to check on his cattle, but he insisted.”
    “Worried about the gate again?”
    Ya. I told him they wouldn’t work it loose, but he said—”
    “Cows are stupid.” They uttered the words at the same time, both mimicking Joseph’s serious voice, and then broke into laughter. The laughter eased the tension from Esther’s near tardiness and set the morning back on an even keel.
    “Joseph has all the makings of a fine husband and a gut provider,” Miriam said. “Once you’re married, you’ll be glad he’s so careful about the animals.”
    Ya, but when we’re married I won’t be having to leave in time to make it to school.” Esther’s cheeks reddened a bit more as she seemed to realize how the words must sound.
    Why did everyone think Miriam was embarrassed that she still remained unmarried? Did it never occur to them that it was her own choice to be single?
    “Efram had the room nice and warm before I even arrived,” she said gently. “And I put out your tablets.”
    Wunderbaar. I’ll write my lessons on the board, and we’ll be ready.” As Esther reached to pull chalk from her desk drawer, Miriam noticed that she froze and then stood up straighter. When she reached up and touched her kapp as if to make sure she was presentable, Miriam realized someone else was in the room.
    She turned to see who had surprised the younger teacher. It was still a few minutes before classes were due to start, and few of their students arrived early.
    Standing in the doorway to the schoolroom was an Amish man. Pebble Creek was a small community, technically a part of the village of Cashton. Old-timers and Plain folk alike still referred to the area where the creek went through by its historic name.
    Miriam was quite sure she’d never seen the man standing in her classroom before. He was extremely tall, and she had the absurd notion he’d taken his hat off to fit through their entryway. Even standing beneath the door arch, waiting for them to speak, he seemed to barely fit. He was thin and sported a long beard, indicating he was married.
    In addition to clutching his black hat, he wore a heavy winter coat, though not the type worn by most Wisconsin residents. The tops of his shoulders, his arms, and even parts of his beard were covered with snow. More important than how he looked standing in her classroom was the fact that he held the hand of a small girl.
    Gudemariye,” Miriam said, stepping forward and moving past her desk.
    The man still didn’t speak, but as she drew closer, he bent and said something to the girl.
    When Miriam had halved the distance between them, he returned her greeting as his somber brown eyes assessed her.
    The young girl next to him had dark-brown hair like her father. It had been combed neatly and pulled back into a braid, all tucked inside her kapp. What was striking about her wasn’t her hair or her traditional Plain clothing—it was her eyes. She had the most solemn, beautiful brown eyes Miriam had ever seen on a child.
    They seemed to take in everything.
    Miriam noticed she clutched her father’s hand tightly with one hand and held a lunch box with the other.
    “I’m the teacher of the younger grades here, grades one through four. My name is Miriam King.” The girl’s eyes widened, and the father nodded again. “Esther Schrocks teaches grades five through eight.”
    He looked to the girl to see if she understood, but neither replied.
    “And your daughter is—”
    “Grace is eight years old, just this summer.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I’m Gabriel Miller.”
    “Pleased to meet you.” Miriam offered her best smile, which still did not seem to put the father at ease. She’d seen nervous parents before, and obviously this was one. “You must be new to our community.”
    Ya. I purchased the place on Dawson Road.”
    “Dawson Road? Do you mean the Kline farm?”
    Ya.” Not quite rude, but curt and to the point.
    Miriam tried to hide any concern she felt as images of Kline’s dilapidated spread popped into her mind. It was no business of hers where this family chose to live. “I know exactly where you mean. My parents live a few miles past that.”
    “It’s a fair piece from here,” he noted.
    “That it is. Esther and I live here at the schoolhouse during the week. The district built accommodations on the floor above, as is the custom in most of our schoolhouses here in Wisconsin. We both spend weekends at home with our families.”
    “I don’t know I’ll be able to bring Grace in every day.” Gabriel Miller reached up and ran his finger under the collar of his shirt, which peeked through the gap at the top of his coat.
    Miriam noticed then that it looked stiff and freshly laundered. Had he put on his Sunday best to bring his daughter to school on her first day? It said something about him if he had.
    “A man has to put his farm first,” he added defensively.
    “Some children live close enough that their parents can bring them in the winter, and, of course, most everyone walks when the weather permits.” Miriam paused to smile in greeting as a few students began arriving and walking around them. “Others ride together. Eli Stutzman lives past Dawson road, and he would be happy to give your dochder a ride to school.”
    “It would be a help.” Mr. Miller still didn’t move, and Miriam waited, wondering what else the man needed to say.
    She looked up and saw one of the older girls, Hannah, walking in the door. “Hannah, this is Grace Miller. She’s new at our school. Would you mind sitting with her and helping her this week?”
    “Sure thing, Miriam.” Hannah squatted down to Grace’s level and said something to the girl Miriam couldn’t hear.
    Whatever it was, Grace released her dat’s hand and took Hannah’s. She’d walked halfway down the aisle when she turned, rushed back to where they stood, and threw her arms around her father’s legs.
    One squeeze and she was gone again.
    Though it was fleeting, Miriam saw a look of anguish pass over the man’s face. What could be going through his mind? She’d seen many fathers leave their children for the first time over the last eight years, but something more was going on here.
    “She’ll be fine, Mr. Miller. We’re a small school, and the children look after one another.”
    “It’s that…” he twirled his hat in his hands once, twice, three times. “Before we moved here, Grace was…that is to say, we…well, her grossmammi homeschooled her.”
    “I understand. How about if I write a note letting you know how Grace is doing? I’ll put it in her lunch box at the end of the day.”
    Something like relief washed over his face.
    Danki,” he mumbled. Then he rammed his hat on his head and hurried out the door.
    Esther caught her attention from the front of the room and sent a questioning look toward the man’s retreating back, but Miriam shook her head. She’d explain later, at lunch perhaps. For now they had nearly forty children between them to teach. As usual, it would be a busy morning.

    Gabe did stop to talk to Eli Stutzman. He wanted to make sure he trusted the man.
    It helped when three girls and a boy who were the last to climb out of the long buggy stopped to wish their father a good day. The littlest girl, probably the same age as his Gracie, wrapped her arms around her daddy’s neck, whispered something in his ear, and then tumbled down the steps into the chilly morning.
    “That one is my youngest—Sadie. Always full of energy, but she’s a worrier. This morning it’s about a pup she left at home in the barn.” Covering the distance between them, the older man removed his glove and offered his right hand. “Name’s Eli Stutzman. I take it you’re new here, which must mean you bought the Kline place.”
    “I am, and I did. Gabriel Miller.” Gabe stood still in the cold, wishing he could be done with this and back on his farm.
    “Have children in the school?”
    “One, a girl—about your youngest one’s age.”
    Eli nodded, and then he seemed to choose his words carefully. “I suspect you’ll be busy putting your place in order. It will be no problem giving your dochder a ride back and forth each day.”
    “I would appreciate it.”
    Stutzman told him the approximate time he passed the Kline place, and Gabe promised he’d have Gracie ready at the end of the lane.
    He turned to go and was headed to his own buggy when the man called out to him.
    “The Kline place has been empty quite a while.”
    Gabe didn’t answer. Instead, he glanced out at the surrounding fields, covered in snow and desolate looking on this Monday morning.
    “If you need help, or find something that’s worse than what you expected, you holler. We help each other in Pebble Creek.”
    Gabe ran his hand along the back of his neck but didn’t answer. Merely nodding, he moved on to his buggy.
    He was accustomed to people offering help. Actually delivering on it? That was often another story, though he wouldn’t be judging the people here before he knew them.
    Still, it was in his nature to do things on his own if at all possible.
    Was his new home worse than he had expected?
    Ya, it was much worse.
    The barn was falling in on itself, and the house was not a lot better, but he knew carpentry. He could make them right. At least the woodstove worked. He’d been somewhat surprised to find no gas refrigerator, but he had found out who sold blocks of ice carved from the river. The icebox in the mudroom would do.
    Gracie would be warm and fed. She’d have a safe place to sleep and to do the drawing she loved so much.
    He didn’t think he’d be calling on Eli for help.
    He’d see that Grace Ann made it to school and church—he’d promised her grossmammis as much. But other than that he wasn’t looking to make freinden in Pebble Creek. He wanted to be left alone. It was the reason he’d left their community in Indiana.
    He could do without any help.
    His parting words to his parents echoed back to him.
    “I can do it on my own.”
    As he drove the buggy toward home, Gabe looked out over high ridges and low valleys. Dairy farms dotted the snowcapped view. Running through it all was Pebble Creek, no doubt a prime place for trout fishing most of the year. He’d heard the call of wild turkeys and seen deer. It was a rich, blessed area.
    Pebble Creek ran through the heart of Cashton, the closest town. It also touched the border of the school grounds and meandered through his own property. It bound them together.
    As he approached home, Gabe’s mind was filled with thoughts of the day’s work ahead of him. He wondered where he’d find the energy to do it all, but somehow he would.
    For Gracie he would.
    His parents had offered to send his youngest brother along for the first year, but Andrew was needed on the family place. And, truthfully, Gabe preferred to be alone—just he and Grace.
    “I can do it on my own.”
    “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” his mother said. She had reminded him as he was packing their things that pride was his worst shortcoming, though the Lord knew he had many to choose from when it came to faults.
    Was it pride that scraped against his heart each day? He couldn’t say.
    He only knew he preferred solitude to company, especially since Hope died.
    That seemed ironic, even to him. She had been his hope, his life, his all, and now she was gone. Her death had happened so quickly—it reminded him of one of the Englisch freight trains barreling around the corner of some bend.
    A big black iron thing he hadn’t seen coming. A monstrosity with the power to destroy his life.
    Which wasn’t what the bishop had said, or his parents, or his brothers and sisters.
    He slapped the reins and allowed his new horse, Chance, to move a bit faster over the snow-covered road. He’d left Indiana because he needed to be free of the looks of sympathy, the well-intentioned words, the interfering.
    So he now had what he’d wished for—a new beginning with Grace.
    If it meant days of backbreaking work, so much the better. Perhaps when he was exhausted, he would begin to sleep at night.

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