Friday, November 9, 2018

Wisconsin books make great gifts

Give the Gift of Wisconsin this year.

LOGO: Wisconsin Historical Society

Membership is a great gift option too.

The store is open, full of great things from the annual ornament, a badger, to t-shirts, toys, mugs, and of course books!

The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin: Voices of Early SettlersA couple of the new books from Wisconsin Historical Press that I've reviewed this year include

And a new one from Michael Stevens, The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin, is also just out. The book features a dreamy image from the original mural of the centennial celebration of Wisconsin's statehood for a cover. Pioneer Wisconsin is the story of Wisconsin settlers in three sections told through letters, biographical material and a few photographs and other art. Stevens includes a prologue analyzing cultures in conflict as the European settlers encroached upon traditionally native tribal people's lands in the territory.

The main text is divided into three sections, Journeying West, Being in Wisconsin, and the aftereffects of immigration, or "I prefer America." Stevens chose letters from settlers representing the four main quadrants of Wisconsin; people who came by all means possible in the first half of the nineteenth century. Photographs, woodcuts and other artwork from the society's collection help to illustrate the text and letters which are retyped, not reproduced.

One early informative missive is from the first attorney to practice in Waukesha who removed his family from Vermont in 1838. His letters are almost as a diary of the journey to their new home, partly by steamship along the Great Lakes.

Many of the letters are lengthy, full of angst, triumph, despair and instructions. Descriptions often compare the climate in Wisconsin to the home country, whether it's the eastern US or overseas.

Brief biographies of the letter writers are included. For example, the Reverend Jeremiah Porter was a missionary evangelist, eventually landing in Green Bay in the mid-nineteenth century with a goal of promoting the temperance movement. His letter to a colleague which includes some of his reasons for his passionate attempt to ban alcohol sales is poignant. 
The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin: Voices of Early Settlers is a nice addition to other pioneer collections in local histories. Reading about life from the people in their own words is a moving experience. Recommended for those who like immigration and settlement stories. It is not a long book at 162 pages and nicely laid out. End notes which contains references and an index included.

Other books I've viewed and reviewed this year include:

Somos Latinos: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists

Wisconsin State Parks Natural Geology

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Family Film for the holidays Twice the Dream Blog Tour

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing, text and outdoor

Twice The Dream is an inspiring family drama about two sisters following their musical dreams together. Just as the sisters begin to discover their wings and take flight, a sudden family tragedy strikes. In the aftermath of tragedy, they discover that their dreams were the only thing that held the family together.

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Twice the Dream

Q&A with the director, Savannah Ostler

1. How was it to write and direct your first feature film, Twice the Dream?
A: It sincerely was a dream come true, in every sense. The cast and crew were all so incredible and really put on their "A" game. At the end, we all felt like family! Some of us of course, literally being family. ;P Haha and by that I mean, my husband was one of the producers, and was also the director of photography. My mom is amazing at art and making props, so she was in charge of the art and prop department. A lot of my lifelong friends helped as well, and my brother. So it truly was a dream come true making the movie I love, with the people I love. It was nothing short of magic!

2. What were some high points during the creative process?
A: There were so many high points, everything from writing the screenplay, to setting up that perfect shot. When writing the script, there seemed to be something so special about being so into the story, and so sucked into that world. But, as soon as we got on set, it was incredible to see those characters and scenes come to life. I would say that was a high point- seeing these characters come to life, living, breathing, and interact with each other. It was really fun working with the actors as well, and collaborating with them. The cast truly understood their characters- just as much as I do. Sometimes, maybe even more. A few of the actors would come to me with some ideas, or thoughts on scenes, and their character's journey, and sometimes would suggest certain lines of dialogue. 9 times out of 10, we were always on the same page, and I let them go for it. It was soooo cool seeing this!

3. What was your favorite scene on set?
A: Every scene! Haha jk. Although I did enjoy filming every scene on set, the concert scenes were the most fun to film. Everyone was dancing, laughing, singing along. Those were my favorite scenes to film... and we had three concert scenes! :)

4. Any learning moments you want to share?
A: Making this film has been a long journey, and throughout that journey, I have learned so much. Ultimately, I think that one of the most important things that I have learned would have to be to just trust myself and the stories that you want to tell. Along the way, a lot of people will try to discourage you- and that's just life. Just because someone else doesn't particularly get your vision, doesn't mean that it's not good. If you have a story that you want to tell, then you need to tell it. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

5. What inspired you to tell this story?
A: Growing up, I realized that there weren't a lot of inspiring, feel-good coming of age movies. Movies that I really wanted to see at that age, stories that I could relate to. It was always such an underserved market. (For the record, these types of moves aren't only limited to that age group, because I still want to see these kind of movies. They are for the young at heart.

So, at the tender age of 14, I started writing my story, "Twice The Dream." Something about this particular story had set my soul on fire. The characters had absolutely consumed me, but in the best possible way. I knew it was my mission to get this story told through film. I could hardly think of anything else!

6. How is it being a female in the film business?
A: Being a female in the film industry is definitely tough. At times, it really seems that all of the "suits" in Hollywood making the decisions are men. I sat in many meetings like that. They would be interested in my story, but they would insist on making certain changes- changes that would change the very heart of the story. Although these offers were sometimes tempting, I would resist, remaining stubborn. I've even been called a "B" word because of this. But you know what? I think it's necessary. As women in this industry, we have to stick up for ourselves. Luckily, I think this is changing. Slowly, but at least we are getting somewhere. People are starting to realize that half of the population are women. And as such, I think it's safe to say that we know what a large portion of the population can relate to in film. Together, we are changing this.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
A: My number one piece of advice is to stick to the story that you want to tell. Don't let any "suit", or colleague, teacher, or even a family member try to convince you otherwise. You're set on the story you want to tell? Great! That's the one you need to go with. Because as we all know, making a movie is hard work. So you have to love your story so much, that you would be willing to go on this journey with it. And another thing... never give up.

8. Do you think your experience as an actress helped in directing other actors? Why?
A: I absolutely think it helped. Truthfully, I believe my experiences as an actress have helped me as a writer as well. Since I'm familiar with the actors process, and the way actors think, I found it fairly easy to convey direction to the cast. And they always took that direction so well, and would totally understand where I was coming from. We were always on the same page!

9. How did you finally get to make your movie?

A: I know the reason that I was able to achieve this dream is because I have been so fortunate to have such amazing support from my family and friends. They always have kept me going, and amazingly enough, they were the same people that saw my dream to the very end. 

10. What is your next step with Twice the Dream?
A: We are knee deep in post production right now, finalizing the sound mix, original score, color grading, etc. It's been a fun but long process in itself, but I feel like I've learned a lot. We are currently exploring different distribution options. Looking for the right partner! Our goal is to release it theatrically first. (Even if it's a limited release) Following our theatrical run, we plan to release it on various VOD platforms such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc. 

11. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
A: Oh, most definitely. Since I'm crazy, I'm currently writing two different scripts- both female driven like Twice The Dream, but very different genres. One is a thriller and the other is a fantasy. I also am still working on my YA fantasy novel series and re-launching that. 

Dreams are important, but I know it's hard. There are days, sometimes months when you feel like your dream might be impossible. At times, it can feel like the whole world is against you. During the pursuit of my dream, there were times when it felt like I was going nowhere. Sometimes, it was very painful. Blood, sweat, tears, and many other losses went into this pursuit. I would then ask myself, "Is this pain really worth it?" There were many times when I felt like I had absolutely hit rock bottom, and that my dream may never come true. BUT.... Yes, that's a "but." Here is the important part:I refused to give up. No matter how long it took, or how hard it was. This dream was too important to me. And I remembered why I had been holding on for so long.Moral of the story is: NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP. Period. Dreams come true, even if it takes over a decade. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hot Cash and Hair Calamities

Cozy Inspirational Mystery

Gail Pallotta

Hair Calamities And Hot Cash 

Pelican Book Group

Nov 2, 2018

Ebook $5.99


What happens when a New York stockbroker crashes his car into Eve Castleberry’s North Carolina beauty shop … on the same day the young widow’s defective hair products are causing wild hairdos? Soon, Eve finds herself helping the handsome stranger hunt the thieves who stole his client’s cash...and hot on the trail of two of the FBI’s most-wanted criminals!

Romance blossoms amid danger, suspense and Eve’s hair-brained plan to get back the money.

My review:

Meet Triville, North Carolina.

Triville is a fabulous place to drive through on a spring day. Gorgeous mountain vistas, a fun downtown, sweet restaurants, and a great beauty shop should you feel a need for a quick clip or curl. Eve has loads of experience, and thank goodness, lots of friends who are willing to come back after accidental bubbles and perms make haywire on the heads of her clients.

When a big city businessman careens into Eve’s life, her life is upended further. What’s not to love about a guy who gets on his hands and knees to mop a ton of bubbles for a stranger?

Fall under the enchanted spell of Triville and town that brings sweet magic to its residents and visitors alike. If you like Mitford, you’ll get a huge kick out of Triville! Eve is an inspiration as she works out her challenges and disappointments while wondering if widowhood should be a “permanent” condition, or it a little adventure might get her out of her routine.

About the Author:

Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she's a Grace Awards Finalist and a 2017 Reader's Favorite Book Awards recipient. She's published several books, poems, short stories and two-hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit Gail’s website at

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Robin Mason Book Bash Cover Reveal

Blog tour hosted by Bird’s Nest Books.

“When you pretend to be something you’re not, it always finds you out.”
Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. Don’t ever, for anyone, hide your true self. Know your true self, and shine like God made you to be.
Today, I’m celebrating my debut novel’s fourth birthday. A brief word of explanation— Tessa, has a double birthday; at the prompting and with the help of a friend, I first released her in early March 2014, but for Kindle only. I quickly learned the value of having print copies, and with the help of that same friend (who did all the formatting for me) I released and had all the celebration in October.

Tessa’s official book birthday is 31 October, which is fitting for the story—she assumed an identity not her own, thus “wearing a mask.”

One mother.  Two daughters.  One favorite.  One not. 

When Cassie Barclay is presented with an opportunity – or is it a curse – she jumps at the chance.  She takes on a new life, her sister’s life, and although at first, it holds appeal and promise, she soon realizes sometimes the fairy tale is tainted.

Assuming the name of Tessa, Cassie moves into the life that was her sister’s, and faces first one realization then another, one disappointment after another. Stepping into Connie’s life does not automatically grant her all that Connie had or was. But it does deny all that she had and was as Cassie. As herself.

Just when she believes her life is on an even keel, something comes along to ripple the waters and remind her of her secret. Until the day she gets a phone call that rips her world apart. Who is the mysterious caller? And who knows her secret?

“I’ve always had voices—er, stories in my head. I once said I should write them all down so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!” Ms. Mason has seven novels, Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy, in the unsavory heritage series, and The Long Shadows of Summer, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, and The Whispering Winds of Spring in her Seasons series. All of Ms. Mason’s books are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is working on a on One for the Price of Two, the first story in her new series, FourSquare, to release next year.

dat first cover doh…

‘Dat first cover’ was my uneducated and oblivious attempt at cover design.  The second try captured the essence I wanted, but didn’t convey well to the second and third books in the series. Number three was professionally done, but as lovely as it is, I still didn’t love it. I took the design back into my hands last year with the fourth cover, but it was missing something. Now, for Tessa’s birthday, she has a stunning new look!
 Isn’t she gorgeous!!

Birthday Blitz Bash for Robin E. Mason’s debut novel, #Tessa is under way, starting with this Blog & Social Media Blitz! Tessa is available on Amazon, both in print and Kindle format!  Purchase here:

Bird’s Nest Books is celebrating Tessa’s fourth birthday with a tour-wide #giveaway! Robin is gifting one reader a Prize Pack that includes:
A signed print copy of Tessa
3 oz packette of Tessa’s Tea
unsavory heritage mug
necklace with paint palette pendant
unsavory heritage bookmark
three (3) framed mini art prints
BONUS  BOOKS from Heather Gilbert, Lisa Lickel, and Linda Rodante


a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Giveaway is sponsored by Bird’s Nest Books, and is not affiliated by any social media venues. Open to US residents only. Through November 7, 2018

#BirdsNestBooks #bookbirthday #Tessabookbirthday  #unsavoryheritage #RobinEMason

“Maybe you have to know the darkness to truly appreciate the light.”—Madeline L’Engle

Friday, October 19, 2018

99cent mystery from Gail Pallotta

Hair Calamities and Hot Cash has its roots in the Western North Carolina Mountains. The elevation of the small town reaches nearly to the tops of the peaks to allow for breathtaking, romantic views, but the characters resemble the residents from my hometown at the foothills.

A Christian bond binds them whether they are acquaintances, best friends, people who only tolerate one another or folks who keep their distance. They squabble, and each of them likes some people better than others, but they respect each other. When one of them faces a hardship, death, illness or any other crisis, the rest of the residents reach out to one of their own. In the blink of an eye they’re ready with open hands, outstretched arms and casseroles.

It’s a quiet place with little to do, and everyone knows everyone else’s business, so they gossip. No newspaper, and probably not the internet, could keep up with their word-of-mouth broadcasts.  When Philip Wells, a stockbroker from New York, crashes his car into the young widow Eve Castleberry’s beauty shop, word spreads like lightning. At the same time, everyone in town hears how Eve suddenly created frizzy hairdos and dyed people’s hair red instead of blond. When she and Philip start dating...Well, there is no end to it.

The two of them do manage to keep Philip’s robbery a secret while they try to solve the crime. Of course, they don’t realize they’re chasing two of the F.B.I.’s most-wanted. But I must stop adding to the gossip, relax and enjoy the view.

About the Book:
“A comedic romp from small town to big city in search of missing money, hair catastrophes, and love. A truly fun read”—Cynthia Hickey, author of the Shady Acres Mystery series.

What happens when a New York stockbroker crashes his car into Eve Castleberry’s North Carolina beauty shop...on the same day the young widow’s defective hair products are causing wild hairdos? Soon Eve finds herself helping the handsome stranger hunt the thieves who stole his client’s cash...and hot on the trail of two of the F.B.I.’s most-wanted criminals! Romance blossoms amid danger, suspense and Eve’s hair-brained plan to get back the money.

About the Author:
Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former Grace Awards Finalist and a Reader’s Favorite 2017 Book Award winner, she’s published five books, poems, short stories and two-hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. She loves to connect with readers.
Sign up for her newsletter at
Visit her website at

Hair Calamities and Hot Cash is on pre-order for .99 at Amazon

For a special treat, Gail is giving away an electronic copy of her book Barely Above Water

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Near future good scary read with Victoria Buck


Wake the Dead
Victoria Buck

Near future inspirational science fiction
Series: Killswitch, and Transfusion

July 2014, Pelican Book Group
Ebook $.99
Print $16.99

About the Book
What if the first man reborn of an evolutionary leap doesn't like his new life? Is escape even possible? The time is right for introducing the world to the marvels of techno-medical advancements. An influential man, one loved and adored, is needed for the job, and who better than celebrity Chase Sterling? After suffering injuries no one could survive Chase is rebuilt like no one has ever seen before. In the not-too-distant future a man—if he can still be called a man—breaks away from the forces taking over his life and finds new purpose in the secret world of hiding believers.

My Review
Let me begin by saying that I bought the sequel when I finished reading this book. Although you can read Wake the Dead as a complete story, be prepared to want to carry on. The book opened like a terrible nightmare. I’m not a fan of reality shows, but I can’t ignore the hype that surrounds them, and when it’s no longer a secret in the near future that a quasi-government has taken control of life as we know it, I am draw reluctantly but compellingly in. Scary.

A TV star and his brilliant but cheeky assistant go too far while researching the next astounding giveaway for a reality game show which promises to “Change Your Life.” In a new era when expectations are lower than they’ve ever been, the only way ordinary citizens can achieve is through a lottery of sorts, a game played with their lives, upon which they must, in turn, serve Big Brother.

Chase, however, has a secret weapon he’s not even aware of…until he dies in spectacular technicolor. A victim of his own research into providing a profound medical breakthrough for his contestants, he slowly wakes up to reality and the truth of his own world. He’s given real choices for the first time in his life. His decision-making journey is what creates the thrilling last quarter of the story of a dystopian society crying for recognition. Chase has the power to truly help the world “Change” if only he’ll risk enough.

Told through the eyes of the main character, Wake the Dead is a novel well written and researched, and frighteningly plausible.

Victoria  BuckAbout the Author

Victoria Buck is a native Floridian running a small business with her husband, who teaches her everything she needs to know about both melodrama and comic relief. Wake the Dead is her debut novel. Killswitch is the follow-up to book one. Transfusion is the last book in the trilogy about the world's first transhuman. Now, on to other stories! If you like the futuristic stuff, there's a little steampunkish novelette called Gears available on Kindle. Victoria is currently working on two present-day novels. No transhumans or insurrections. Of course, there has to be a bit of a weird twist!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Supreme Court nominee will do anything

It's still cold out there...

When nobody loves you, you have nothing to lose.

Lily Masters is not getting involved with any fake job scheme covering a sex trafficking operation supposedly cooked up by her stepbrother, prison guard Art Townsend. Hoping to get help at a friend’s place deep in the woods of northern Wisconsin before a blizzard, Lily loses her way. At first, she doesn’t realize how fortunate she is to be found by Cam Taylor, a poetry-spouting former lit professor. Cam has his own reasons to hide while writing a biography of his Civil Rights activist grandparents and accidentally stirs up a cold case murder involving a potential Supreme Court judge. When trouble follows, either of them is the likely target.

Beneath every story is layer upon layer of trust and lies. Who can they believe when things go from surreal to devastating?

Amazon Print:
Amazon Kindle:

Women’s Fiction
Romantic Suspense
Keywords: racism, prejudice, Wisconsin, suspense, sex trafficking, prison life, dogs, blizzard, Civil Rights

The underlying theme of UnderStory is prejudice—how we look and perceive others and judge them and ourselves by the way they look, whether we can see the physical or emotional scars. Lily Masters is born with a genetic condition, Poland’s syndrome, which colors her world, makes her feel unloved and unwanted, and although she’s learned to hide her condition and feelings, get a good job and function in public, she can never again connect with someone who would learn about her physical problem and reject her. When Lily is rescued by a biracial Literature professor, Cam Taylor, who is dealing with prejudice on so many levels, and they are stranded together, she begins to learn not to judge people and situations by what others say or even by her own standards. Lily and Cam’s journeys are about learning that shame is a reaction they choose based on others’ perceptions and standards, not something they have to accept. Learning to free herself from the bonds of self-loathing, Lily realizes how to be strong and fight for her family and how to accept love as well as give it. Cam comes to a peaceful place as he learns to see the world through what is, not through what he anticipates.

Lisa Lickel weaves together a masterful tale of intrigue and romance, and the multilayers of complexity will leave the reader turning the pages. The characters are well-developed, and overarching themes involving racism and prejudice will resonate with the reader. The story takes place in the Midwest—in a small town that harbors a big secret—perhaps more common than anyone dares to imagine. UnderStory is one of those rare books that’s not only a great read but makes a statement about what’s most important—in the midst of depravity, unfairness, and greed.
—Lorilyn Roberts, award-winning author and founder of the John 3:16 Marketing Network

Drugs, human trafficking, and corruption all play their part in Lisa Lickel’s atmospheric thriller, UnderStory, but it’s the characters and the love story you’ll remember most. In some ways, the book reminded me of the movie Fargo—quirky locals, investigators facing not only ruthless criminals but also a frozen winter landscape of snow and ice in an isolated far north town. The blizzard is the catalyst that brings together two emotionally damaged strangers when Cam finds the mysterious Lily unconscious near his isolated cabin. When he brings her inside, he becomes involved in both love and dangers he never expected when he hid himself away in the woods.
—Robin Johns Grant, author of Summer’s Winter.


Cam Taylor listened to ice crystals pinging his kitchen window pane. Too cold to make decent snowflakes.
He’d let his dogs inside last night—early morning—when they made a ruckus. After filling a water bowl and offering treats, he let them stay near the woodstove. The mercury plunged way below the fat red zero on the ancient Wisconsin Bank of the Great North Woods outdoor thermometer. It was really cold out there in the driving blizzard…not counting wind chill.
He gulped the last of his coffee while he watched the two animals pace between the kitchen stove and the front door, restless. They were as mixed up a breed as he. Lear was mostly retriever, the shelter said, and Iago, part Shepherd with the usual dark markings, but shorthaired.
“So, you want to show me what you found? Hmm? Maybe some deer hide we can salvage?” Fatally cold out there, yeah, but a brisk walk through lashing snow might shake the vapors of the ghosts that clung after his dreams.
While he dressed for outdoors, he continued to talk to them. “Better be more exciting than a rabbit, guys.” The white stuff already heaped six inches deep in places, and he couldn’t tell exactly where his driveway started. The dogs shot out the door as soon as he opened it. Lear and Iago howled and acted stupid, pouncing and prancing in the blowing fluff. Cam lashed his snowshoes to his boots, grabbed his poles, and took off from the porch steps after them. One deep breath sent him sputtering and rasping. He tied his scarf across his face and muttered, “Twenty-four below, one gangsta ready to roll…”

Author Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books, collects dragons, and writes inspiring fiction. She also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. Lisa is a member of Women Fiction Writers of America, the Council for Wisconsin Writers, the Chicago Writer’s Association, and vice president/instructor for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at

Amazon author page:

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette

$16.95 Print
$9.99 Ebook
Buy on Amazon

About the Book:
On September 14, 1969, Private First Class Judy Talton celebrates her nineteenth birthday by secretly joining the campus anti-Vietnam War movement. In doing so, she jeopardizes both the army scholarship that will secure her future and her relationship with her military family. But Judy’s doubts have escalated with the travesties of the war. Who is she if she stays in the army? What is she if she leaves?

When the first date pulled in the Draft Lottery turns up as her birthday, she realizes that if she were a man, she’d have been Number One—off to Vietnam with an under-fire life expectancy of six seconds. The stakes become clear, propelling her toward a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any draftee.

The Fourteenth of September portrays a pivotal time at the peak of the Vietnam War through the rare perspective of a young woman, tracing her path of self-discovery and a “Coming of Conscience.” Judy’s story speaks to the poignant clash of young adulthood, early feminism, and war, offering an ageless inquiry into the domestic politics of protest when the world stops making sense.

A brief interview with the Author:
Rita, what do you love about this book? 

I love the fact that this is a woman’s story and point of view about the Vietnam War, which is an era we think about as being all about the men and their voices. As we note the many 50th anniversary milestones of the period, it’s time, as we sit back and are able to be less raw about the subject of the war, to realize that there are many angles and stories that are important that have yet to be told. The story of women is and should be at the top of that list. 

In my novel I wanted to present a female dilemma with the same emotional intensity as the key issue of the day for the men. For them it was: do I go and probably lose my life to fight in a war that I don’t believe in and my country no longer supports? Or, do I go to Canada, which is another kind of death, where I lose my history, my family, my country. I’d be alive, but everything else would be gone. 

In The Fourteenth of September, Private First Class Judy Talton, in college on a military scholarship, goes on a similar journey to her “Coming of Conscience,” as she weighs her concerns about the war and her role in it. 

Rita, introduce us to your most challenging character. 

By far the most difficult character to write, all the way through the penultimate version of the manuscript, was Judy’s mother. It was important that she reflected her military background and the overall generation gap in her determination to ensure that Judy stayed on her version of the straight and narrow path. It was what she had learned was lacking in her experience. She wanted Judy to have a better life. 

However, I continued to make her so mean and unyielding that she always ended up a one-dimensional villain. Perhaps I was letting in too much leftover anger from my own relationship with my mother, and it’s true the computer really “smoked” when I wrote those scenes. 

Eventually, I settled into what I hope is a vision whereby the objective reader can clearly see that although her mother’s methods may be a bit harsh, she clearly is trying to help Judy in the only way she knows how. And Judy, being a teenage girl, doesn’t see this at all. 

Share two things you learned while researching this story. 

The first were the rapid developments within the timeframe of the story. Though I had lived through the real-life incidents depicted in the novel, I had a researcher fact-check and was astounded at how quickly the historical events unfolded. This influenced the pacing of the novel. I originally wanted Judy to take far longer to “change” and more slowly evolve into what would become an imperative to make her very important decision. However, this being historical fiction, I had to make it happen within the very short time constraints of the real occurrences. The entire story takes place in only a few months. The time between Judy walking into the Tune Room and the Moratorium is only a month, the March on Washington only a month after that, the Lottery another month. The rhythm of the plot had to move from genuine historic incident to incident. 

The speed of events also dictated the structure of the story. Originally, I had been planning a narrative about the three key women—Judy, Vida and Marsha—showing different aspects of the women’s experience of the time and how they were drawn into the movement, etc. However, there just wasn’t “time” in the historical framework of the novel, so it became Judy’s story. 

The second thing I learned was about the women’s movement in these early days of feminism. Though I had a clear focus of what I’d experienced, through research I learned more about what happened outside my own campus. Though many of us had felt disenfranchised, I came across those who knew that women had actually been in charge of much of the antiwar movement and bristled at the old phrase that “men manned the battlements while women made the coffee.” I ended up acknowledging that although there were always strong and vocal female leaders, the tremendous sexism of that early-feminist era intimidated many others. And sometimes that intimidation—as in my own case—was self-imposed. 

What are you reading now? 

I’ve been reading a lot of local authors as I’ve become more involved in the literary community while bringing my own novel to market. I’ve offset the frenzy of final editing and book-launch details by immersing myself in wonderful books written by writers of staggering talent: Swarm Theory, by Christine Maul Rice, Once in Lourdes by Sharon Solwitz, and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. Next up is Paulette Livers’ Cementville, another female point of view on Vietnam. 

What’s coming up next? 

I have three projects in various stages of development: 1) a homage to The Sun Also Rises about expats in their ’50s and ’60s who have come to San Miguel de Allende with their last dream; 2) “Master Race,” a novel about women (German and American) in World War II and how their war experiences shape themselves and their children and grandchildren; and 3) “Violating the Prime Directive,” a memoir in essays.

Those sound exciting. Thank you, Rita.

About the Author:
Rita Dragonette is a writer who, after spending nearly thirty years telling the stories of others as an award-winning public relations executive, has returned to her original creative path. The Fourteenth of September, her debut novel, is based upon personal experiences on campus during the Vietnam War, and she is currently at work on three other books: an homage to The Sun Also Rises about expats chasing their last dream in San Miguel de Allende, a World War II novel based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, and a memoir in essays. She lives and writes in Chicago, where she also hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.

My review:
The Fourteenth of September is a glimpse into the life of a co-ed during the tumultuous draft lotteries of 1969-1970. At Central Illinois University, Private First Class Judy Talton has a lot to consider as she walks in her mother’s footsteps. An army nurse who served in World War II, Judy’s mother pushes her oldest daughter into the one avenue that would get Judy out of their narrow lower middle class lifestyle and into the bigger and better world. Their timing is terrible, as Judy, scheduled for nurse’s training through Walter Reed Hospital, will most certainly be sent to Vietnam once her education is finished.

Judy jumps out of her shell at age nineteen during her sophomore year to force open her own eyes and heart about the student protest movement. Can students—can she—really change the world? Is that what life is all about?

Rita Dragonette, a Chicago author and former public relations executive, uses her experience of being on campus during the turbulent years when the lotteries were being held, as the structure for her debut novel.

Written in three consecutive parts, the novel traverses a transformative period in which Judy meets a dynamic campus leader, David, and his cadre of dedicated fellow rebels seeking to make their voices heard. Vida becomes her closest friend. They want to stop what they view as a senseless war, to stop the killing using any means, even violence, and join the outcry from campuses across the States.

Once Judy makes her fateful decision on her birthday, September 14, to immerse herself in counter-culture, she can no longer go back to her former naïve self. “She was starting to feel there was an incredible groundswell everywhere she looked,” Dragonette writes, “and in everything she listened to about love and understanding and a common agreement that there was no longer any need for war. The army was wrong and Vida was right. She felt the world had started to turn a corner, and was convinced she didn’t want to be left out of it.”

As the story progresses, Judy tries to stay out of any limelight that will betray any or all of the fronts she’s fighting: her friend Pete in the ROTC who reminds her that she made a vow to serve her country; her new friends who are practicing what they believe with a fervor she partially fears; and her mother who cannot accept Judy’s need to see both sides of the story.

“This is a different war,” Judy tries to get through to her mother.

In Part II, student groups from CIU join thousands of others who travel to Washington DC in an attempt demand President Nixon hear their opinion. By Part III, the second semester opens upon reality. Until now, the students have been protesting for something they’ve heard, or read about, or watched on television. When the lottery starts, the war hits home, especially when Judy sees her male counterpart with the same birthday, Wil, receive the lowest draft number, meaning a certain call to report for service. Wil chooses to accept his fate, prompting Judy to continue to reexamine her own choices. When betrayed, Judy has more decisions to make which shows the extent to which she’s willing to go to end the violence, the killing, in her own place and time.

The story is beautifully written with compassionate and thoughtful narrative and engaging characters who play out all the angst of the era set on a Midwestern college campus when America was at its most vulnerable. Dragonette show us what we can be, both in our best and in our worst. The story contains liberal drug use, sexual situations, and language that parents may want to discuss with their early high-school-aged children prior to reading.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Black Diamond meets his match!

Black Diamond Regency series
The Captain’s Conquest

White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures LLC
Fifth full-length novel in the Black Diamond series
September, 2017
$5.99 Kindle
Inspirational Regency

About the Book:
Captain Jared Allendale is weary of war, but Wellington gives him one final assignment before he is free of his obligation to the Crown: retrieve a package in Scotland and return it safely to London. Easy assignment for a man who's been an aide-de-camp for the past several years—until the package turns out to be Lucy Cameron, daughter of the Duke of Diamond. Lord Diamonte was banished to France for his treasonous acts. As Jared fights old demons, the dangerous journey south begins. The spectre of death hovers over them as Lord Diamonte's minions hunt Lucy and Jared. It will take love, gifts and their faith in God to help them overcome the evil that looms. Can Jared deliver his package without either of them losing their lives...and their hearts?

My Review:
The British throne is under threat from obvious enemies like Napoleon, as well as from subtle enemies, such as the evil Lord Diamonte during the early nineteenth century. This is the era of haves and have nots, the titled and landed gentry, those who know their places in society, and those with secrets. It’s time to reveal some of them, like the whereabouts of the treasonous duke’s daughter—the one who can defeat him.

The evil duke needs a virgin to sacrifice to his malevolent master in order to secure the power necessary to wrest the British throne. Unfortunately for him but mightily fortunate for her, his daughter Penelope, aka Lucy, has fallen into an accidental marriage with her escort. As Captain Allendale follows his orders to retrieve Lady Penelope from her hideout in Scotland and return her to London, he completely understands she is far above his minor standing in society He would not make a proper husband in any case after the horrors he’s been through as a prisoner of war in France. He plans to retire to the boring countryside alone after this final mission. But he learns he cannot fight both his own night terrors and the calm, soothing Lucy’s love. By the time they need to fight together, they and their family and friends are more than ready to put an end to the Black Diamond for good.

Twists and turns, red herrings and false impressions guide the reader through this well-drawn picture of the Regency era. While this episode in the series, as all of the books, can be read on its own, or in any order, readers familiar with the background of the family members and friends of the title character will enjoy reuniting with them. Captain has endured unspeakable ill treatment at the hands of the enemy, while Lucy has been trained to fear her father and love the Lord. Written in alternating voices, readers of inspirational historical romance who don’t mind reading about brutalities of war, hints of satanic ritual, or second sight will appreciate this fitting endcap to an evil lord, but hopefully not an end to other regency romances.

About the Author:
Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. She has a degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and serves in church ministry.

You can learn more by following her blog, her twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page,

Other books in the Regency Black Diamond series
Two novellas:

Full length novels in the series:

Black Diamond series – now available, the first three full length books in one: The Virtuous Viscount, Lord Phillip’s Folly, and Sir Michael’s Mayhem
All three for $15.99

Friday, September 21, 2018

Zoe McCarthy and the Putting Green Whisperer

About the book:
Suddenly unemployed, petite and peppery Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina to caddy for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters Shoo Leonard. The easygoing caddy drives Allie insane, but Shoo's uncanny ability to read the contours of the greens and his determination to overcome a personal hand injury, fascinate Allie. She finds herself agreeing use her sport science degree to become his trainer...and then she falls for him. Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn't ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he's content to be her fist-pumping buddy...but then he falls for her. What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she's become a distraction to Shoo's career. Is it time for her to step away or can the putting green whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

$5.99 ebook
White Rose Publishing, an imprint of Pelican Ventures, LLC
September 14, 2018

Buy on Amazon

A brief interview with the author:

Zoe, what do you love about The Putting Green Whisperer?
Allie Masterson lives golf, she caddies on a men’s PGA tour, and her father is a pro golfer, so she associates mostly with males. She’s more a tomboy than prom queen type. I love that guy caddies are romantically drawn to Allie—except Shoo Leonard. He’s the caddy with high ideals and destined for pro golf, the one she’s painfully in love with. Shoo is still raw from a broken engagement and is content to be Allie’s best friend. I like the social play between the guys and feisty but loyal Allie.

Introduce us to your sidekick.
Caddy Mark Hampton is hero Shoo’s best male friend. Mark’s pro player is off his game and not making it into the money. So, the stocky guy suffers financially, eating Ramen noodles and rooming with other caddies in cheap motels. He comes across as blunt, moody, and slovenly. But under his façade, is a loyal friend with a big heart and a good golfer.

Share something you learned from researching The Putting Green Whisperer?
I was surprised to learn that many pro golfers as well as their caddies struggle to financially stay on the PGA tour. Some pros are well off enough to fly to the next tournament, while others have to drive through the night to make the next tournament in time. Also, I learned that the PGA has a Tuesday night fellowship that includes worship and a Bible study.

What do you hope readers will tell others?  
Although the book has a golf background, I hope readers will tell others that the book is humorous and tender. I hope they’ll mention that the book is full of relationships that help Allie to grow in character and faith, such as with her father, her stepmother, Shoo, the other caddies, Shoo’s family, and Jesus.

What are you reading now?  
I’m embarrassed to admit, I have several books going. My husband and I live about forty minutes from stores and like to travel, so I read to John in the car. To him, I’m reading The Taking of Carly Bradford by Romana Richards. After lunch in my office before I plunge into the next writing task, I read Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Phoebe’s Light. In bed, I’ve been reading the Newberry winner hardback, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. When it’s time for lights out, I enjoy reading And Then Blooms Love by Sally Jo Pitts on my iPad.

What’s next for you?  
Edits should be back soon for Book 2 of the Twisty Creek series, The Identical Woman in a Black Dress for which The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress is Book 1. My nonfiction, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days will release this fall, so I’m preparing to promote that book. Also, I've started writing a novella for a 2019 Valentine Day's collection, which will host five authors’ Valentine’s Day romances.

About the Author
A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. She is the author of The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress, Gift of the Magpie, and Calculated Risk. Believing opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. Zoe and her husband live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Website and blog: