“These are real stories, gritty and true…” Code Name: Papa by John Murray [Excerpt]

Code Name: Papa

“Code Name: Papa” by John Murray

Published as… Thriller/Memoir

John Murray’s Excerpt

After a nice little walk, talking all the way, we came to the study. The butler opened the doors for us, and then quietly closed them behind us.

Panicking a bit, I blurted out, “Jake, just who in the hell are you?” He calmly replied, “It’s not who I am; it’s who my father is.”

I took a deep breath and asked Jake for a drink; he asked what I wanted and I said a Jack and coke with one cube of ice. Bill wanted a beer. As Jake fixed the drinks, it dawned on me that in every room in the house, there was someone available to wait on us, but not in the study.

We made small talk while sipping our drinks. At precisely three p.m. by the clock on the wall (and not by my watch because I had a weary old Timex), the big doors opened and Jake’s father walked in. Smiling, he asked how our stay had been. Jake asked his father if he could fix him a brandy. He replied, “Yes, I’ll have a brandy, very small.”

I noticed all the bottles at the bar were top of the line brands. Other than the Jack Daniels, I’d never heard of them. But the brandy Jake’s father asked for was Christian Brothers that struck me as odd given how inexpensive it was compared to the rest.

Jake’s father began talking about the day he’d received word from me about my injuries, where I was, and how I needed help to get home from Japan. Other than this brief review, he spoke about nothing out of the ordinary.

Finally, he said, “Gentlemen, what I’m about to discuss with you must remain within these four walls. If you disagree or do not want to be any part of it, or have no desire, I demand our conversation be left here. Do you agree to that?” Of course, we agreed. I briefly glanced over at Jake, trying to pick up if there was something I could get from his expression, but there was nothing. He did the same thing as we did: He just looked directly at his father.

His father continued, “There is an organization, and my position in the organization is second in command, and this organization is what you might call ‘peacekeepers.’ We are not soldiers of fortune; we work within the confines of the United States government. You might say we’re legal on one hand and illegal on the other. You will never, if you choose to become a part of this, receive a paycheck from the U.S. government, but you will be paid and paid well through a dummy corporation. My son Jake will hopefully be able to be the front man for your group. If you choose to join us, there is a lot of training involved. It will consist of four months of physical and mental training— and I do mean training. You will see and do things you’ve never done or heard of before in your entire lives. is work will involve going after people who are a threat to national and international security. Your wives, your children, and your best friends will never be able to know what you do for a living.”

“Now Bill, you’ve already been set up because you now, through my help and in other ways unknown to you, have a logging company. Your company is a cover.”

Turning to me, he said, “Your cover is yet to be determined. It probably will involve many things. Possibly we’d set you up in real estate, because that’s an avenue that might free you up to move at a moment’s notice without arousing suspicion. (It turned out, however, Papa decided my cover should be that of a construction engineer, hired by a European firm.) Jake, you already have an avenue; you’re an attorney.” I don’t know why, but Jake’s father’s statement shocked me with this disclosure. Who knew?

Looking at us very intently, he asked, “Does anyone want to leave before I proceed further?”

About the Book

After a lifetime of working for a secret international group, John Murray finally reveals his journey with the help of his wife, Sharon, and co-writer Abby. His memoir, Code Name: Papa – My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight, details his time within an organization that, while not connected to the US government, operated with the full blessing of top people in our government.

“With this book, I hope to educate the public and open up the conversation about what our country and others have really done on dangerous secret missions to help the world,” says John Murray (Papa), who deftly tells his fascinating and memorable life story, laying out facts but leaving it to readers to determine how they feel about each mission.

The highlighted missions include the deaths of eight counter covert operators in a major Las Vegas hotel conference room during a mission that has “stayed in Vegas” until now; a European mission to save sex slaves from major drug dealers; a successful all-out effort to save a small European country from takeover, and much more.

These are real stories, gritty and true—not the fantasy world of James Bond, Scandal, and others.

Synopsis:

Who’d have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals–both men and women–who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that’s what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.

Meanwhile you’re just going to have to call me “Papa” like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.

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About the Authors

For the sake of their own safety and that of their loved ones, the writers have chosen to move forward in revealing this story under aliases.

John Murray:

A Vietnam vet, John Murray, later known as “Papa,” has spent the majority of his adult life working as an undercover agent for the U.S., Canadian and various European governments. During this time, he rose from agent to the head of US Operations.

John was raised in the South by his grandfather who taught him at an early age how to survive by hunting and fishing, which all served him well for his future. He firmly believes that if he had not had the guidance of his grandfather and others who influenced his life that he never would have survived the ordeals that he did.

John, who enjoyed a very average American childhood, always wanted to be a ‘normal’ husband and father, but you’ll eventually understand why that was impossible.

Papa and his crews bore the responsibility of taking care of much of the world’s evil – evil that could never have come to the public’s attention.

Now retired, he and his wife are living in a small rural Western town. As ‘normal’ as he tries to live, he will always be haunted by the visions of what he saw and what he tried to prevent or rectify.

Sharon Murray:

Sharon is a retired business executive who has lived in many parts of the US and in Asia.  Happily married to John for over five years, she had no idea about his work until she experienced his nightmares about the past.

After discussions about how she might help John, he asked Sharon to help him write his memoirs just as something to leave behind, unpublished. After several years of working on them, Sharon convinced John it was a story worth telling to the world.  Working on this project has helped John start to face some of the things he experienced while trying to be a good guy in a world gone awry.

Abby Jones:

This is Jones’ fifth book.  She also writes for numerous magazines.  The original manuscript was handed off to Abby, a friend of Sharon, who has a reputation for her easy, conversational writing style.

Abby worked with John and Sharon for approximately eighteen months to make sure John’s voice was never lost in the rewrites.  She notes that both John and Sharon were wonderful to collaborate with via phone, computer and text.  By the way, she has never met John!

Abby currently lives on the West Coast. She has traveled extensively and lived in many other parts of the US as well as in Europe.

Code Name: Papa—My Extraordinary Life while Hiding in Plain Sight is the first in a planned trilogy. John, Sharon, and Abby are currently working on the second book, about Papa’s mentor, Amy.

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“…a civil war that will literally bring about Hell on earth.” Prophet of Chaos by J. Hamlet [Character Interview & Giveaway]

Prophet of Chaos

“Prophet of Chaos” by J. Hamlet (Chaos Theology #2)

Published as… Dark Fantasy

A Chat with…Derek Watts

Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
Derek Watts–Enchanger, Sort of: You can find me in Prophet of Chaos. For most of the other people in that story, it was just a continuation of more of the same. Maybe a little bit more hairy and violent than their usual, but not too much above and beyond what they’re used to dealing with. At least, not until the end. No one expected the kind of insanity that came out then.

For me, though? It was the end of everything I knew and the beginning of a whole new life. I walked into those events in a fog, thinking I knew who I was and what I was about. I was a graphic designer with a boring but well­paying job. First world problems, I know. Afterwards, let’s just say I’m a new and different man. If you can even call me that anymore.

Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
Derek Watts: I grew up in the suburbs of Philly. My dad was a composer, so I come from a bit of an artistic background. I lost my mom early on, but the circumstances around that ended up being more complicated than I’d originally thought. After a bad run­in with the police, I played it safe most of my life. My dad took me to this therapist who did something to me, something I’m just now beginning to understand. I wouldn’t call it brainwashing, but it was definitely a mind­trick that kept me from knowing a piece of myself, a piece of myself that was dangerous. I had gifts for calling on supernatural, occult powers. Specifically, I could enchant things. The therapist, a practitioner herself, ensured that stayed buried for as long as it could.

Nothing’s ever permanent though. As much as that part of me was held deep down inside, it wanted to come out. It did, and it attracted the notice of some bad people.

A Demon­worshipping cult wanted to kidnap me and force me to use my powers to finish a weapon they were building, one that would make it a lot easier to bring Demons over into our world. Thankfully, there were some people who tried to look out for me and protected me. One of them was Nathaniel. They called him the Prophet. He was the one who did the most to protect me from harm. He was also the one who taught me the truth about myself. I even left out the part about the Muse that visited me, the High Artisan of Limbo herself, but that’s a whole thing I’d rather not get into. It’s private.

Nathaniel and I wandered all over DC, trying to hide from the people hunting me and trying to get me to safety. Nathaniel knew what would happen if they got their hands on me. They called him the Prophet for a reason, and he saw a dark future if he failed to protect me. One where my powers would complete their weapon. I don’t even want to talk about what they planned to do with it.

Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
Derek Watts: He’s long­winded. And sadistic. Neither of those worked out very well for me. The shit he put me through was unbelievable. I mean, I understand that there were truths I needed to learn about me, about who I am. What I am. But did he have to send a group of armed cultists after me who also happened to be skilled at black magic? I mean, there had to be a more delicate way for all of that to go down. To start with, he sent some guy who mutated his body with Demon blood. Disgusting, and terrifying. Then there was another guy who could summon Hellhounds and all sorts of unsavory shit from down below. I got the point early on: magic is dangerous. It can get me killed. He could’ve stopped there, but he had to keep throwing things at me and Nathaniel, each one worse than the last. There had to be a better way.

Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
Derek Watts: It was a tough thing to get through. I don’t think I’ll be right for years after what I saw and what happened to me. And then there were all the people that died. Plenty of them deserved it, don’t get me wrong, but it was a brutal experience. In some ways, it could’ve turned out so much worse. Nathaniel told me all about that. His power of Prophecy showed him there were worse “versions,” as he called them. Maybe what happened to me, all that hiding and fighting and running, was the best possible version of what could have happened. At least I came out alive. The life I live now is so different than before. My powers, I’m learning to control them, to use them for something good. Even if those cultists made me do terrible things with them for the brief time they had their hands on me. I have to make sure something like that never happened again, that’s what this story told me.

Bella: Do you like being a character in the book?
Derek Watts: Everyone is a character in someone’s story, whether we want to admit it or not. Sometimes it’s about us, sometimes it’s not. I certainly wish this particular story had been about someone else, maybe someone stronger who could’ve rolled with the punches more. Maybe it could’ve been someone weaker, though, someone who would’ve cracked under the pressure. Maybe, like I said, it had to happen to me. It had to happen so I’d become more than I was.

Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
Derek Watts: As an enchanter, I can turn mundane objects into sources of arcane power or weapons. There’s clearly going to be no shortage of people lining up wanting me to do that for them. So far it’s paying a lot better than being a graphic designer, but I always have to worry about all the people that would just as happy to put me out of business permanently and with extreme prejudice. My life is more exciting now, what you’d call high­risk, high­reward, but I’m always going to be looking over my shoulder. There will always be threats, but there will also always be good people who need my help.

Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
Derek Watts: I’m sure the author, sadistic man that he is, isn’t done with me yet. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be too broken up about sitting a few volumes out if I have to, though. This work is exhausting.

Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about this book. Who do you want to play you, and why?
Derek Watts: Probably J. D. Williams or Maestro Harrell. Neither of them are exactly but my age, but they’ll do. I’m a huge fan of the Wire, even if I didn’t exactly grow up anything like that.

About the Book

Nathaniel is a man of many gifts. First and foremost is the power of Prophecy. Whenever he sleeps, he dreams of triumphs and tragedies alike, and how to either make them happen or prevent them. With that knowledge, he’s thwarted the world-shaking schemes of Angels and Demons alike. Not surprisingly, every elite agent of both Heaven and Hell are always hunting him, wanting to be the one to take down the notorious man known to most as The Prophet. He’s spent most of his life as a homeless drifter: hiding, dreaming, and passing along the intel from his revelations to those who can take actions, be they government agents, freelance wizards, or less savory occult figures.

Recently, he’s been plagued by a series of recurring visions that threaten to force him out of his shadowy life and into the spotlight. He’s seen the world ready to plummet into a new dark ages. A Senator with presidential aspirations is on one side, backed by the most ruthless of Heaven’s forces and seeking to transform the world into a brutal theocracy. A church of Demon-worshipping terrorists also stand ready to launch a bloody revolution through mass murders, demonic possession, and civil war that will literally bring about Hell on earth. Nathaniel stands in the middle, struggling to stop both sides from realizing their chosen versions of humanity’s future with everything in his mystical arsenal. And he can’t do it alone.

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About the Author

J. Hamlet Author Photo
Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind–­numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the cliches and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5″ disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.

Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I’m releasing entirely through tumblr. I’m probably going about this all wrong, but I don’t know any other way.

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Off Hiatus

Hello!

I have decided to not shut down the blog. I would still like to read and review, but I have decided to be more selective in the books I accept for review, my expectations, and what I accept for promo posts. So, to go with this new outlook, I’ve done some freshening up to the look and also updated the pages. 🙂

Thanks!

Bella

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“In Napa Valley, he who has the best grapes wins…” Crushed by Deborah Coonts [Character Interview & Giveaway]

Crushed

“Crushed” by Deborah Coonts

Published as… Contemporary Romance

A Chat with…Nico

Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
Nico Treviani: CRUSHED by Deborah Coonts. Yes, it’s a story about wine and love, two of my favorite things. A wonderful woman comes into my life, Sophia Stone, and she has cultivated some very unique grapes. And in Napa Valley, great grapes can bring out the worst in people.

Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
Nico Treviani: I’m a winemaker, by trade, quite successful at it, if you don’t mind a bit of bragging. But, my brother and I really were the team. My brother just died, you see. His daughters, thirteen-year-old twins, have come to live with me. I never had kids of my own, so things are a bit….crazy right now. And then, I don’t know if I can make good wine without Paolo—we balanced each other. Just when you think you have life figured out…

Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
Nico Treviani: Deborah? She’s nice enough. She let me tell my story, which I like. But she sure complicated my life, and just when I felt I’d hit my stride. Paolo and I were making incredible wine, life was going good. Then Deborah kills Paolo and life takes a ninety-degree turn. Change, it’s inevitable, I know, but couldn’t she have let me enjoy the smooth part for just a bit? And then, taking my brother away… I don’t like that at all. If you see Deborah, tell her that for me, will you? She broke my heart. But then, she did give me the girls…

Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
Nico: It’s a wonderful story, evocative and sensuous…just like wine…and just like Sophia. Wine is about love, and friends, and family.

Bella: Do you like being a character in the book?
Nico Treviani: I’m a character in a book? I guess we each are the stars of our own lives. so, to the extent that’s what you mean, of course I like it. I’m made some choices I regret, born some burdens perhaps I didn’t have to, let a bit of the free-run juice slip through my fingers. But that’s life, right? The only real mistake is to not learn from your less than ideal choices. I try to do that. Men aren’t very self-aware or introspective. Most I know aren’t particularly interested in personal growth. I try to do these things. My mother, she is very strong and she has made my brother, my sister and myself.

Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
Nico Treviani: Complicated. I’m Italian, and surrounded by women—my mother, my sister, my nieces—need I say more?

Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
Nico Treviani: Oh yes, many more. The story of Napa, and of Sophia and her friends has just begun. The valley is a fertile place where money and ambition collide.

Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about this book. Who do you want to play you, and why?
Nico Treviani: Do people really think this way? I’m not a movie star; I’m a wine maker. But, to indulge you, whoever he is he would have to love children, find passion in life, be enamored of women, and appreciate the art of wine.

About the Book

In Napa Valley, he who has the best grapes wins.

And in the pursuit of perfection, dreams and hearts can be crushed.

Sophia Stone is a widow on the brink of an empty nest, stuck in an unsatisfying job managing the vineyard for a mediocre Napa vintner. Faced with an uncertain future she wonders how do you choose between making a living and making a life? Between protecting your heart and sharing it? Five years ago, after her husband was killed in an accident, Sophia put her heart and dreams on ice to care for those around her. Now her home, her dreams, and her family’s legacy grapes are threatened by the greed of the new money moving into the Valley. Sophia has a choice—give up and let them take what is hers, or risk everything fighting a battle everyone says she can’t win.

Nico Treviani has one goal in life: make brilliant wine. A woman would be an unwanted distraction. So, while recognized as one of Napa’s premier vintners, Nico finds himself alone… until his brother’s death drops not one, but two women into his life—his thirteen-year-old twin nieces. In an instant, Nico gains a family and loses his best friend and partner in the winemaking business. Struggling to care for his nieces, Nico accepts a job as head winemaker for Avery Specter, one of the new-money crowd. And he learns the hard way that new money doesn’t stick to the old rules.

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About the Author

Deborah Coonts’ mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago. Deborah isn’t so sure—her mother can’t be trusted. These things we are fairly certain of though: Deborah was raised in Texas on BBQ, Mexican food and beer. She is the author of WANNA GET LUCKY? a humorous romantic mystery set amid the glitz, glamor and gaudy of Las Vegas that was a NY Times Notable Crime Novel and double RITA™ Finalist and received several starred reviews as have the five sequels. CRUSHED the first novel in her Heart of Napa series is out now. Deborah can usually be found at the bar, but also at her website.

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“Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.” The Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt [Character Interview]

The Dark Lady’s Mask

“The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary Sharratt

Published as… Historical Fiction

A Chat with…Aemilia

Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
Aemilia: You’ll find me in the pages of Mary Sharratt’s brand new novel, THE DARK LADY’S MASK: A NOVEL OF SHAKESPEARE’S MUSE. Of course, I’m also mentioned in Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Sonnets, but Mary’s portrait of me truly brings me to life as a fully fleshed, nuanced woman, a poet in my own right.

Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
Aemilia: I was born in 1569, the daughter of an Italian court musician, Battista Bassano, who was a Marrano, a secret Jew living under the guise of a Christian. It broke my heart when he died. I was only seven. After his death, I was fostered and educated by Susan Bertie, the Dowager Countess of Kent, who I immortalized in my poetry as the noble Mistress of my Youth. Lady Susan gave me the kind of humanist education generally reserved for boys in my era. Thanks to her largess, I learned Latin and Greek, philosophy and rhetoric. My time with her at Grimsthorpe Castle was one of the happiest in my life. But then my Lady Susan remarried and moved to the Netherlands. As an orphan with no title or fortune, I didn’t have many prospects. As a girl I had no way of putting my education to use to earn a living. All I possessed were my youth and beauty.

So I became the mistress of one of the most powerful men in England—Henry Carey, the Lord Hunsdon, who was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth. As Henry’s paramour, I enjoyed a few years of glory in court where Queen Elizabeth herself made much of my beauty and accomplishments. But all this came to an abrupt and inglorious end when I found myself pregnant with Carey’s child at the age of 23.

Reader, he dumped me and pensioned me off at £40 a year, then married me off to a man of a similar class background to my own—a court musician named Alfonso Lanier who only wanted my income, which he then proceeded to waste. You can imagine my horror and despair.

But one day in 1593, when I was desperate enough to visit an astrologer to see how my destiny would play out, I chanced to meet a young, ragged, obscure poet called Will Shakespeare and that changed everything. What could keep us two outsiders from beginning a secret literary collaboration? Then the plague came to London and we ran away to Italy. The rest you can read about in The Dark Lady’s Mask.

Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
Aemilia: Mary Sharratt says it’s her mission is to write women back into history and she certainly did that for me. I was England’s first professional woman writer, Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, and the author of the ground breaking poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, which is basically a vindication of the rights of women couched in religious verse, the only literary genre considered acceptable for women to write during my era.

Despite all my hard won achievements, I died in obscurity and my life and work were lost to history. Can you believe I was only rediscovered in the 1970s? Even now only a few English grad students and professors seem to know about me and what an important writer I was.

The Dark Lady’s Mask is aimed to make my life and work accessible to a much wider audience of readers so they will know why I matter. During my lifetime, I wrote praise poems to the women patrons who supported my literary career. The Dark Lady’s Mask is Mary Sharratt’s 397 page tribute to me.

Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
Aemilia: It’s smart and thrilling, both literary, romantic, and fun. I get to cross-dress! I get to smoke a pipe and quote Kit Marlowe and exchange bon mots with Ben Jonson. But it’s also serious and insightful. I travel all the way to Italy to explore my father’s secret Jewish roots, a pilgrimage that takes me to the Venice Ghetto and beyond. It’s riveting to see my life spun out in all its tragedy and triumph. Even in the scenes of deepest betrayal, Mary lets me emerge as a strong and resourceful woman. She’s framed my life to make me a real heroine who survived all manner of misfortune and defamation and still emerged victorious.

Bella: Do you like being a character in THE DARK LADY’S MASK?
Aemilia: I was a so unjustly maligned in Shakespeare’s sonnets. He said my breasts were dun and my hair was like wires. Hell hath no fury like a bitter ex-boyfriend, eh? He even complained my breath reeked, as if he were one to talk! What a relief to have a sympathetic woman author turn my life into an epic novel. Finally I get to be the center of the story, not just a footnote in Shakespeare’s more famous narrative. This year the whole world is celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary with countless celebrations to honor his legacy. But what about his female literary peers? Why is it that so many people—including smart, literate people—struggle to name a single woman writer before Jane Austen?

Mary redresses the balance in The Dark Lady’s Mask. In her book, you’ll learn not just about me about other female poets of my age, such as my dear friend Anne Locke, who was the first person to write sonnets in the English language.

Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
Aemilia: After our break up, Will wrote those bitter sonnets about me and I can’t let him have the last word, can I? After having him call me his “female evil”? No, I’ll pick up my quill and write the most passionate poetry, not just in my own defense, but in defense of all women.

Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
Aemilia: Mary’s new novel-in-progress is about Alma Mahler who lived in a completely different era—fin de siècle and early 20th century Vienna. But interestingly there are many common themes. The young Alma Schindler yearned to be a composer in her own right and was making significant progress with her own music when the great Gustav Mahler fell in love with her. He made it a condition for their marriage that she give up her own composing to serve his greater genius, and she was so in awe of him that she agreed. This, of course, cast a dark shadow over their marriage and would haunt Alma for the rest of her days.

Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about THE DARK LADY’S MASK. Who do you want to play you, and why?
Aemilia: I’d love Andrea Riseborough to portray me. She has gorgeous, raven black hair so similar to my own, and she is such a sensitive actor who has done period pieces and Shakespearean plays. She was born to play a Jacobean poet and she certainly deserves much bigger roles. Jane Campion will direct it, for she’s both a poet and a crowned muse among the living female film directors. If I were alive I would write her praise poems!

About the Book

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

The Dark Lady’s Mask will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Mary Sharratt Author Photo

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“It’s not about the war.” AFTER: The Battle has Just Begun by RJ Belle [Author Interview & Giveaway]

 
It’s not about the war. It’s about the warrior.

 

Publication Date: March 6, 2016
Genre: Military Non-Fiction

Meet eight combat-injured men who sustained life-altering injuries. Read eight inspiring stories of heroism and the re-building of independent, productive and fulfilling lives after seemingly impossible circumstances.

This project looks at the struggles of these incredible men to reshape their lives after combat. It also sets these stories within the context of current veteran healthcare; injury, suicide, and disability statistics; and looks briefly at the impacts on the caregivers who support these men. Being face-to-face with combat-injured veterans has given me an insight that all Americans should have. Veterans of the Vietnam era began the process of opening our eyes to the grim realities that await veterans both psychologically and physically. These men’s stories show how much more we have to accomplish.

This book isn’t about war or politics – it is about figuring out what it takes to move forward AFTER the war. I wrote this book to raise awareness of what our warriors need most when they return, what the government does and doesn’t provide and why there is a high demand for private non-profits to fill the gaps. Make no mistake – we are in this period of recovery and rehabilitation for decades to come. It also introduces the non-profit organization Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station which has taken on the task of helping our combat-injured men and women make the daunting transition from military to civilian life. 100% of the proceeds benefit them in this much-needed labor of love.

It’s not about the war. It’s about the warrior.

100% of the proceeds benefit Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station.

Amazon | GoodReadsShort Interview with RJ Belle…

1. Do you have any special writing habits or routines? Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

2. DC or Marvel? Marvel

3. If you were a superhero, what would your powers be? Predicting the future.

4. Who is your most popular character, and why? More people ask me about Colonel Carmichael than about Sutton. I believe he is looked at as the co-hero and everyone loves a hero.

5. Are your characters or plots ever based on real people or events from your life? Maybe

6. Who controls your books: you or your characters? They do!

7. Are you a plot/outline writer, or by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer? Both. I begin with an outline but my characters frequently take over.

 

R.J. Belle began writing as a teenager as a way to express her creative side. In 2013 she made the jump into writing for publication. R.J. left her career to write full time and within three months published her first Fiction Novel, First One Down: A Paul Sutton series novel. With a new stunning cover and additional editing First One Down is set to re-release in April 2016. Book two in the Paul Sutton series, Second Sight, will release summer 2016.

R.J. released her first non-fiction project in 2016 – AFTER: The Battle Has Just Begun. After explores the daunting task of physical and emotional recovery and rehabilitation for eight combat-injured men and the private non-profit that assisted in all eight transitions.

R.J. lives in Southern California with her family.

 

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“Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister…” The Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt [Book Blast]

The Dark Lady’s Mask

“The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary Sharratt

Published as… Historical Fiction

About the Book

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

The Dark Lady’s Mask will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Mary Sharratt Author Photo

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“A mission that could optimistically be described as suicidal…” The Adventures of Sir Edric, Vol One by Thaddeus White [Review]

“The Adventures of Sir Edric, Volume One” by Thaddeus White

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 31 March 2016
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Sir Edric’s Temple – When Sir Edric Greenlock, the Hero of Hornska, is summoned to attend the King in the dead of night he fears imminent execution. The King, however, has something else in mind. Priceless royal seals have been stolen, and the King dispatches Sir Edric to retrieve them in a mission that could optimistically be described as suicidal.

Along the way he’ll battle rockheaded golems, terrible sorcery and the Ursk: a race of brutal slavers who consider humans to be a sort of edible currency.

Accompanied by his pathologically loyal manservant Dog, the prudish elf Lysandra, and a man called Colin, he must travel to the Unholy Temple to retrieve the royal treasures from a mysterious thief.

Sir Edric’s Treasure – It isn’t always nice to be wanted, as Sir Edric discovers when an enormous bounty on his head attracts bounty hunters to him like dung attracts flies. To escape near certain capture, he embarks on a daring quest to pay off his bounty by winning the inheritance of the dying, and obscenely wealthy, Archibald Thrift.

Accompanied by his trusty manservant Dog, Raella the librarian and Belinda, a ten foot nun, he must find the Eye of Wisdom to win Archie’s wealth. But he’ll need all his cunning to best his rivals for Archie’s legacy, and the bounty hunters won’t give up their prey easily…

Review: This book contains two novellas. I previously read and reviewed the first one, which you can find here, and this review is specifically about the second novella, Sir Edric’s Treasure.

I was assured by the author that it was “funnier than a mongoose in a fez,” and I told him that if it wasn’t, that would be reflected in my review…

Well, he was right. Our author’s humor in this fantasy-comedy is totally inescapable, but I don’t mind, because I enjoyed it. I found myself laughing at several points, including many of the aside-snarks by our unlikeably likeable anti-hero, Sir Edric, as he goes on yet another adventure, somehow manages to get women into bed along the way, and gets out of every danger by happenstance, dumb luck, or his trusty manservant Dog. (Who is awesome.)

Something I’ve always liked about White’s books are his word choices. He comes up with some gems, like “rapscallions” or my new personal favorite “flittermice” (bats), but he keeps the rest of his prose on a straightforward level so that these word choices are just fun little dots along the way rather than a sign of an author who is trying way too hard to sound elevated.

While I’ve often commented on his previous stories as being “meandering,” this one feels much more like a straight line, but it’s a quest and that makes sense. There were a few “why is that scene here” scenes, such as the one with Jagra, but since this is not the first Edric tale, I presume these are seeds for future stories. (Pun not intended, but I’m leaving it there.)(Addendum: Now I actually see that this book is titled “Volume One,” so it looks like I was right!)

I’ve been in a reading slump for a while now, maybe even as much as a few months, but this story managed to hold me in place enough to read it in one night and greatly enjoy it. As such, and since I don’t really have any considerable complaints, it’s a 5 Fireball.

Oh, and the chicken at the very end? Priceless.

5 Fireballs

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“She Can’t Forget Him… He Can’t Let Her Go…” Her One True Love by Rachel Brimble [Interview & Giveaway]

Her One True Love

“Her One True Love” by Rachel Brimble

Published as… Historical Romance

Rachel Brimble’s Boom Baby Blast

1. One Random Fact: I haven’t had my hair professionally cut since my wedding day…18 years ago!

2. Fictional Character You’d Really Like to Be: Eve Dallas – JD Robb ‘In Death’ series

3. Your Authorial Theme Song: This changes but I’d say Katy Perry’s Firework has been a favourite for a while!

4. Favorite Part of Being a Writer: I love editing my first draft – the time when the words are on the page and I can read the book as a whole and tweak to my heart’s content. Also love the new covers dropping into my inbox.

5. Name of Your First Pet: Butch – he was a Norwegian Buhund and gorgeous.

6. Music, Television or Silence While Writing: Silence when writing, but I can work with all sorts of family noise when I’m editing.

7. Early Riser or Night Owl: Early Riser

8. Favorite Season: Summer

9. Did You Always Want to be a Writer: Yes, but did get sidetracked with my job in a bank and then children for many years. When my youngest daughter started school full-time, I had a ‘now or never’ moment and haven’t looked back since. That was 11 years ago.

About the Book

She Can’t Forget Him…

Jane Charlotte Danes has loved the squire of her idyllic country town for as long as she can remember. He is good, kind, and alluring beyond words… and he chose to marry another. Tired of dwelling on her futile longings, Jane plans a move to Bath, where she dreams of a new beginning. But the man who has so imprisoned her heart is only a few steps behind…

He Can’t Let Her Go…

Until now, Matthew Cleaves has endeavoured to meet the responsibilities of his position with dignity and good spirits–including his dutiful marriage. But when his wife leaves him for another man, Matthew is at last free to pursue his one true love. Only one vital question remains: will the captivating, stubborn, beautiful Jane allow him the challenge, and the pleasure, of winning her back?

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Rachel Brimble Author Photo
Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013, followed by a second in January 2014 and the third is released Jan 2015.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

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“The poignant, lascivious, and compelling inside story…” Outrageous: Rise to Riches by Neal Katz [Character Interview]

Outrageous: Rise to Riches

“Outrageous: Rise to Riches” (The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Vol I) by Neal Katz

Published as… Historical Fiction

A Chat with…Tennessee Celeste Claflin

Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
Tennessee: Hi, nice to be fully noticed, Thank you. I’m Tennessee Celeste Claflin Victoria’s little sister by seven years. You can find me in Volume One of the Victoria Woodhull Saga, OUTRAGEOUS: Rise to Riches.

Outrageous tells how my sister and I survived terrible childhoods, decided to manifest our own destinies, and opened the first women owned brokerage firm on Wall Street.

Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
Tennessee: Our success was the result of my falling deeply in love with a man over three times my age at twenty-four, the Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the richest man in America, and led to the near total collapse of the American economy in the Gold Scandal of 1869. The way Vickie and I gathered our information to help my dear ‘old goat’ is an intriguing tale. It is literally outrageous!

Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
Tennessee: Well, to be completely honest, I was worried about two things. First that a man could portray what we women experience, and that he would focus too much on Victoria. When he asked to interview me in dream state and I agreed to visit him, I felt a lot more comfortable on both accounts. I think the book shows that he honored my input.

Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
Tennessee: Relieved. For the first time the whole story is being told and both my sister and I, as well as all the other characters, are happy that we are presented as complex and multi-faceted, like my diamonds I so love.

Bella: Do you like being a character in the book?
Tennessee: Yes, very much so. I like that author Neal Katz calls it herstorical faction, that is, the book reveals the events that happened from a woman’s perspective and adhering to facts while creatively filling in the background.

Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
Tennessee: As you already know, Victoria’s first thirty-nine years and my first thirty-two took place in America. That takes us through volume two of the four-part saga, SCANDALOUS: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost. We publish the first women owned newspaper, Vickie and I go to Washington D.C. where she becomes the first woman to address Congress, I was nominated for the U.S. Congressional 8th District, and Victoria is the first woman to run for President in 1872.

Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
Tennessee: I was just getting to that before you interrupted! It seems to me your Century has so little patience … and courtesy. Volumes three and four cover our lives in Europe.

Vickie and I live in Europe to ripe old ages, me seventy-eight, and Victoria to age eighty-eight! We are the only original suffragists of our group to live long enough to see the American woman franchised to vote. We also advised dear Emmeline Pankhurst on the philosophy and strategies for the British Suffragettes. I spoke at several of their rallies.

I eventually made my primary home in a stunning castle built for me! I become Lady Cook, Viscountess of Montserrat outside of Lisbon. Queen Victoria liked me so much that she made my husband the Baron and thus I became the Baroness of Portugal.

I’ve discussed with Author Katz that he challenge himself and write the European part of the Saga from my perspective instead of Vickie’s! We will see if he is up to it.

Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about this book. Who do you want to play you, and why?
Tennessee: Really it would take a long running high production television treatment, like Downton Abbey to fully tell the story.

I’m afraid it is a short list, because I was so beguiling to men that they would talk gibberish and trip over their feet when they passed me on the street. I do not indulge in idle boasting, simply repeating what everyone said and wrote about me.

Marylyn Monroe and I have a hoot together on this side of the veil, she would be perfect, and obviously not available. Scarlett Johansson could play me, so could Amanda Seyfried. The woman I see with the right spunk, sparkle, and tenacity that I think would portray me best is Reese Witherspoon.

Bella: Thank you, Tennessee Celeste Claflin.
Tennessee: Bella, I like you and your format. Thanks for summoning me, and sorry about reacting so strongly. After a century, old habits…

About the Book

Historical fictionalized account of Victoria Woodhull’s rise to presidential candidate and wealth, coming from poverty and abuse.

What compels a woman and her youngest sister to overcome abject poverty and violent abuse to grow up to defy convention and obliterate every barrier to become the first women to own and operate a Wall Street brokerage firm and publish their own newspaper?

How did Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838 – 1927) become the first woman invited to speak to the United State Congress, and then the first female to run for president. What made Tennessee Celeste Claflin (1845 – 1923) so beguiling that the richest man in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt, fell completely in love with her?

What caused the sisters to live out their long lives as royalty and peerage in Europe. Victoria living as landed gentry outside of London, and Tennessee in a huge castle like a queen? Why aren’t these empowered and independent women iconic in our culture?

Volume One of The Victoria Woodhull Saga tells the poignant, lascivious, and compelling inside story of how the sisters worked closely with Cornelius Vanderbilt, who at age 74 fell in love with the beguiling 24-year old Tennessee. Victoria provided the titan of industry “Inside Her Information” gathered through the soiled sisterhood, the ladies of the evening working at the top seven brothels servicing the rich and famous of New York City.

This relationship resulted in the great lion of industry having his last public roar as together they manipulated the financial markets and created the impending collapse of the U.S. economy in the gold scandal of 1869. To avert the crash, President Ulysses S. Grant provides the richest man in America insider information on the gold market and telegrams Vanderbilt that his railroad company is “Too Big To Fail!” Vanderbilt was proclaimed “The Savior of the American Economy” for intervening in a crisis he helped create.

View Victorian America through the eyes and thoughts of one of its leading heroines., Victoria Woodhull. Watch as the infighting and elitism of the earliest suffrage women denigrating, castigating, and denouncing other passionate suffrage rights women delayed woman suffrage and equal legal standing for five decades. Learn wonderful anecdotes of the origins of products and phrases used today. Learn the story of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the most popular man in America, who transformed Christianity from his father’s “fire and brimstone” theology to one of a compassionate and loving Jesus, who will redeem all who turn to salvation with complete confession of their sins. The reverend’s personal life did not imitate his lofty and popular theology of his weekly sermons at Plymouth Church. He was a notorious womanizer, often bedding, and sometimes impregnating the wives, sisters, and daughters of his most ardent trackers and deacons of the church.

Written in the first person from Victoria’s viewpoint, Neal Katz weaves a compelling page-turning story that cleverly unfolds history while providing a wonderfully entertaining ride. Katz has pledged one half of book sale proceeds to charities dedicating to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

Buy the Book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo

About the Author

Neal Katz's Author Photo
Neal Katz is a semi-retired, serial entrepreneur, CEO with a passion for women rights. He lives a life based on self-awareness and Love. He practices Yoga, meditates daily, has taught A Course in Miracles, produced Oregon wines, enjoys being a gourmet chef, recites Vedic sutras, and writes his own inspirational poetry.

The saga of Victoria Woodhull appeales to Neal, as it serves three purposes. First, the story provokes public awareness of the historical and continuing denigration and subjugation of gender prejudice. Second, the tale exposes the historical basis for the manipulation of the free markets of stocks, bonds and commodities. Third, the story shows how existing financial and political power structures used prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Victoria Woodhull overcame all these obstacles in a remarkable life.

Neal chose to write in first person using Victoria s words, thoughts, and point of view to tell the tale, inviting the reader to see through her eyes. The style is magic realism along the lines of Allende, Marquez, and Kathleen McGowan (The Magdalene Trilogy). This is an expression of the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality championed by Emma Watson, and Neal proudly proclaims himself a male feminist!

Neal has pledged fifty percent (50%) of his author’s royalties from book sales and all ancillary revenues, including foreign print distribution and Hollywood rights to a foundation formed in tribute to Victoria Woodhull and her passion for woman rights. The foundation will promote and prove programs for the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

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