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:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Now in paperback Justice with Emily Conrad

About Justice
Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?

Released from Pelican Ventures last March, Justice is now available in print! $16.99
Read my review here

What do you love about Justice?
I love the way the circumstances of the novel challenged my faith. As I wrote, I studied some tough questions about suffering, marriage, justice, and forgiveness. I hope the way this reflects in the characters’ lives and actions is as encouraging to readers as it was to me throughout the drafting process.

Introduce us to your sidekick.
I have two sidekicks—my dogs. Luther is a coonhound mix. When he’s up and moving, he’s a troublemaker, but he also really likes to be comfortable, so he spends a good portion of his day curled up in the papasan chair next to my desk. Our pit mix Sadie, is older and quieter. Sometimes she naps nearby, other times, she looks for a quiet corner farther from Luther’s habit of barking at passersby on the sidewalk outside the window.

Share something you learned from researching.
In Justice, a character is coping with the aftermath of a sexual assault. I learned that the number of women who face this is much higher than I ever suspected. reports that 1 in 6 American women have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. Find that statistic and other resources here:

It’s my prayer that Justice deals with this sensitive and important topic well and in a way that offers hope.

What do you hope readers will tell others?
I hope readers will tell others the story hooked them and left them thinking long after they turned the last page.

What are you reading now?
It’s not very glamorous, but I’m reading a book on the mechanics of punctuation, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide. It’s important for writers to know the basics.

What's next for you?
I’m drafting a series of Christian romances where each novel follows a different member of a rock band. These have been so fun to write, and I hope someday they find a publisher!

Emily Conrad lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence her debut novel is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Manhattan Grace by Clarice James

Manhattan GraceManhattan Grace
Clarice G. James

Elk Lake Publishing
June 1, 2018
eBook $7.99
Print $12.99

About the Book:
When a door opens for Gracie Camden to leave Cape Cod and move to Manhattan as a nanny for a Juilliard drama instructor, she fully expects God to use her acting talent and launch her to stardom. She’s been here been six months. What’s taking him so long?

Seymour Kaufman relocates to New York City from Iowa due to a shortage of mohels (circumcisers) in the tri-state Messianic congregations. Secretly, he hopes to explore a deeper relationship with Metropolitan Opera star and fellow Moldovan, Polina Zelenka. Seymour is conflicted when he meets her less complicated, widowed cousin.

Meanwhile, fresh from Palm Beach, the Chief plans to cap off his short yet lucrative career as an international jewel thief with a multi-million dollar heist during the Met’s gala in Polina’s honor. His usual modus operandi is to work alone—but this time is different.

While Seymour celebrates every closed door by believing God will open a better one, Gracie whines and wonders why God doesn’t bless her plans. Gracie finally learns success is not about making it big in the Big Apple, but about living God’s perfect plan for your life.

My Review
I just like these characters and this fun story. Gracie has a ways to go to grow up, but don’t we all? I loved her grandmother who kept her grounded with fun sagacity and the always funny “say goodnight, Gracie” schtick that never grows old. I thought Seymour was a hoot, especially since I have family near Postville and really enjoy hearing how people adapt to the craziness of America.

I wondered how on earth these two stories were going to intertwine and, while I occasionally got a little impatient waiting for something to happen, was thoroughly entertained by a jewel thief, ala Cary Grant, prepping for his biggest heist. I figured out several whos, and loved finding out the why, which all came together in a symphonic, justifiable end.

Written from multiple viewpoints, readers follow a young woman on her way to fame and fortune and a middle-aged Jewish immigrant on the hunt for his soulmate. Strangers not for long in the Big Apple, they blunder and assist each other to the good and Godly life.

About the Author
Author Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women's fiction. When she's not writing, Clarice is reading, planning another New England Christian Authors Round Table Talk, or involved in a home decorating project. She and her husband, David, live in southern New Hampshire. Together, they have five married children and ten grandchildren.