Thursday, October 28, 2021

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Book Boyfriend By Jeanna Louise Skinner

 


Let us find solace in the quiet…"

 

Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real and maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren't so far-fetched after all.

 

A handsome stranger–wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past–appears in Emmy's bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him in an ancient book. But when growing threats to her safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, Emmy must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page? 

 

Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.

 

Trigger warnings:

Mental health issues, panic attacks, grief, references to abuse, references to cheating, character taking medication, references to therapy, references to suicide, references to section, references to body image references, misogyny.

 


 Buy Links:

  Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon CA   Amazon AU

 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 EXCERPT

The stranger turned, and the book Emmy had just picked up almost slipped from her grasp again. It was yesterday’s knight-in-less-than-shining-armour, this time sporting a frilled collar, a kind of ruby coloured velvet blouson, and what appeared to be matching tights. This guy is weird, she thought without charity, hissing at the tiny, treacherous part of her that was delighted to see him again.

“Allow me, my lady.” He knelt to help, and in the scramble to pick up the books, their fingers brushed. Emmy jumped as a crackle of static bounced between them; dust motes sizzling and swirling in tiny eddies. Emmy shook her head sure she was imagining things. She allowed herself a rueful smile. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“Thank you. Now you’ve left the sword at home, is there something I can help you with?” The whispers in her head were growing and her big toe throbbed. She wasn’t in the mood for chivalry.

“I would take great pleasure in accepting your kindness, my lady. Your tone, however, suggests I hath offended again. I should leave you in peace. I will not risk your ire further by rolling the dice today.”

He rose and headed for the door.

“What? Wait! You can’t keep barging into my shop like this, looking like you do, talking in riddles, and then flouncing off! How do you know my name? What do you want?” Emmy was on her feet too, anxiety now piqued with anger. She balled her fists at her sides and stood up as tall and straight as her six feet two inches allowed, but it was more a self-defense mechanism than the action of an aggressor.

The stranger faced her again, blue eyes blazing with an emotion that cut through Emmy’s temper, weakening her resolve. I just want to understand him, that’s all. Nothing more than that.

“What do I want? My freedom. Good day, my lady.”

Then he was gone. Again. Stymied, Emmy watched as he strode past the window and out of sight. She uncurled her hands, wincing at the nail marks she’d dug into her palms, which were now red and sweaty. What on earth? Why does he need my help, no, my assistance? ‘I would take great pleasure in accepting your kindness’, yeah and I would take great pleasure in…in -

Her eyes widened at the preposterous turn her thoughts were taking. “It couldn’t be,” she breathed. “‘I would take great pleasure in licking the sweat from your bosom, as I lay your delectable body across my table.”’ Then she remembered his comment about not rolling the dice and, with her heart hammering a piano concerto, quickly locked the shop door before tearing up the stairs. Her hands trembled and the skin on the nape of her neck prickled. She tried to tell herself to stop, that she was over-imagining things, she needed to start her relaxation techniques: You’re stressed. You’re taking too much on. You’re grieving about Maggie. And you stupidly didn’t take your meds again last night!

Thinking about Maggie was a sobering slap to the face, and she paused, resting her riotous head on a low beam and panting as if winded. But Maggie reminded her of the letter, and the letter reminded her of Jonathan and The Book, and round and round her thoughts went until, with a deep breath, she looked down at the old volume and opened it. The familiar smell of lignin drifted up to meet her nostrils and she inhaled it like smelling salts, allowing its comforting scent to strengthen her spine and bind her resolve. The Book was heavy, but her hands were now steady, and she remembered childhood swimming lessons, diving to the bottom of the pool to lift the dead weight. She shivered, sweat beading on her top lip and trickling down her back. ‘A clean and natural sweat’. With fevered eyes, she read the random page she’d opened the book at:

 I remove my doublet and shirt, affording me small, sweet relief from the stifling heat.

With creeping foolishness spreading through her veins and heating her cheeks, Emmy closed her eyes and waited. When nothing happened, one eyelid crept up like a roller blind. Nothing. She threw The Book back on the bed, as if its surface scalded, dashing away the treacherous sting of tears on the back of her hand. Jesus, Emmeline! What did you think was going to happen? Your mystery man was going to pop up out of a book as if by magic? Keep taking the tablets, Em.

Laughing through her tears, she made her way down to the shop, glancing over her shoulder as a familiar voice called her name. Maggie?! She was halfway up the stairs again, heart almost exploding with relief before reality kicked her hard in the shins. Another hallucination. She sank on to the cold metal steps, one hand gripping the railing, the other at her chest. After several minutes, she stood, straightening her clothes, her face set. She kept her eyes on each step as she headed back down the spiral staircase, daring herself not to cry. Then the wind was knocked clean out of her and she almost went sprawling as she collided with something as hard as oak.

Her head snapped up and Emmy found herself face to face with the very real - and very near-naked - handsome stranger!

What the???

Ignoring voices and visions was difficult, but rationally she knew they weren’t real, even if sometimes they got the better of her. She could cope with them most of the time. This was different. Reasoning with herself that it wasn’t possible, that things like this couldn’t happen, Emmy couldn’t deny the very solidity of him in the air; the way his ribcage rose and fell; the sound of his shallow breathing; his spicy scent spiked with old vanilla and musk. Swallowing her fear along with the key to an imaginary chastity belt, Emmy didn’t step away. Instead, she lifted her chin and spoke clear and strong.

“Okay, Mister. I’ve had enough!  You’re going to tell me what the hell’s going on. Right now!” She punctuated with precise jabs of one pointed finger in the centre of the dense, dark hair on the man’s torso. Her breathing quickened, indignation sending tiny thrills pulsing between her chest and belly. This would be so much easier if he didn’t have a marble chest, alabaster abs, and eyes like lost galaxies. Emmy scrambled to pull herself together, imaging how Lizzie would scoff at how easily Emmy’s mind had run to typical romance hero descriptors. Scrambling for neutral territory, she cast her eyes downwards and started when she saw he was still wearing the ruby tights. Or were they called hose? Either way, they were very tight tights. 


Jeanna Louise Skinner

Jeanna Louise Skinner writes romance with a sprinkling of magic. The Book Boyfriend is her debut novel and she is currently working on a prequel. She has ADHD and CRPS, a rare neuro-inflammatory disorder, and she is passionate about writing about people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Shes also the co-creator of UKRomChat, a much-lauded, Romance-centric live Twitter chat. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children, and a cat who sounds like a goat.

 Social Media Links:

 Website   Twitter   Twitter Chat   Facebook   Instagram






Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Spotlight on C.J. Adrien, author of The Lords of the Wind (The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book 1)

 

The Lords of the Wind
(The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book 1)

Narrated by Gildart Jackson.

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

"The Lords of the Wind" by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader's Favorite annual international book award contest.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence

Praise

"If you want to sit down with an extremely well-researched tale involving heroic battles, first loves, and the making of a legend, this book is for you."

The Historical Novel Society

 

 


Buy Links:

 This series is available on #KindleUnlimited.

The Lords of the Wind (Book 1)

In the Shadow of the Beast (Book 2)

The Kings of the Sea (Book 3)


 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 C.J. Adrien

Five Fun Facts
(Stuff you may or may not already know!)

Fact #1: I am the third generation in my family to publish

On my father’s side, I am the third generation of writers. My grandfather published two memoirs about his life building an international commercial fishing empire and more recently a book on climate change. My father has written six novels in total, all of them based in the country of Peru where his girlfriend lives. What makes this fact a little more interesting is that I, the third and last generation, was the first to press and inspired the others to write!


 Fact #2: I once caught an owl with a car.

In 2008, I drove home from my grandparents’ house on the island of Noirmoutier to my dad’s house in Nantes, near the airport where I had a flight to catch the following morning. I drove a 1987 Volkswagen Golf Boston with the old yellow lights that made it hard to see far ahead. The sun had set, shrouding the bocages on either side of the narrow French countryside road in darkness. A shadow emerged from the trees to my right around one corner just outside of St. Lumine de Coutais. A dark mass collided with the front of my car, and I screamed! The road was windy and narrow. I knew if I stopped to look at what had struck my car, another car might not see me and cause a worse accident, so I decided to continue to the next village before stopping. The dark mass hung lifeless on my grill, its disheveled feathers fluttering in the wind. Whatever I had hit, I thought, was dead.

A few moments later, the animal I thought I had killed sprung to life. An owl, the size of a medium-sized dog, rose up from the grill with a rigid body, in the same manner Dracula rises from his coffin. Its head swiveled around, and we locked eyes. With a slow and dramatic raise of its wings, it attempted to fly off, but its foot had caught in something on my grill. The beast knew it was trapped.

We spent an uncomfortable five-or-so minutes staring at each other until we arrived at the church at the center of St. Lumine de Coutais. The church lights allowed me to see my hitchhiker more clearly. I stood outside my car and examined him for a moment. His eyes looked at me, too. A taut silence set in between us. It was cut short by a sudden double honk and the arrival of a French police car. Two gendarmes emerged and sauntered toward me.

You are parked illegally in front of the church. Give us your pa…”

Before the gendarme could finish his sentence, his colleague interrupted him: Oh, merde!

Their attention turned to my hitchhiker, who fluttered his wings with a majestic and authoritative grace. I laughed at their reaction and said, Could you help me get him off?”

I don’t know how,” one of them said. The other shook his head.

My dad’s house is five minutes away,” I said. We have tools.”

D’accord,” they said. Drive safely.”

I had to laugh. Gendarmes have a reputation for doing no more than what they need to do. These two had gotten me to move out of an illegal parking position, and that was all they felt they needed to do. As I sat back in my car, I caught them taking selfies in front of the owl. I shook my head, put the car into gear, and puttered away. What a joke!

Returned to the darkness of the French countryside, I kept my speed under 30km/hour to prevent disturbing my passenger. Bright lights flashed in my rearview mirror, and a car zoomed up behind us. As French drivers tend to do, they flashed me and even honked to tell me how displeased they were with how slow I drove. As they passed, I noticed a black Peugeot 605 with a whole family inside. The father extended his arm and hand to flip me the bird but stopped short when he caught sight of the owl. His eyes opened wide, his wife in the passenger seat gawked, and the children in the back smushed their hands and noses against the window. Their car lingered beside mine so they could stare, then sped off ahead of us.

My dad saw my lights pull into his driveway and decided to come out to greet me. When he saw the owl, he had no reaction. He just shook his head, grinned, and said, Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire difficile.” (translation: why do things simple when we can make them hard)

My dad put on a pair of leather gloves and pulled apart the car’s headlamp. He allowed the owl to grasp his hand, and he held it up like a falconer. We did take a picture with a disposable camera, but my dad misplaced it in his house somewhere and never had it developed. Alas, all I am left with is the memory of my dad casting the owl off into the night and hearing the beating of its wings echoing in the street.

Fact #3: I had the fastest tennis serve in my conference at 17.

When I was seventeen, I played a lot of competitive tennis. My claim to fame was my serve. It was once clocked at 137 miles per hour, making it the fastest serve in my conference.

Fact #4: My fiancé and I recently released a kids' book about the Vikings

 I’m a Viking!” is a history book about the Viking Age for kids. Join Leif, a chieftain’s son who wants nothing more than to grow up to be a Viking just like his dad. Follow Leif as he gives you a tour of his life—the things he must learn, the things he likes to do for fun, and much more. I’m a Viking!” is an excellent primer for young minds interested in the past. Don’t be fooled—grown-ups may learn a thing or two, too.

 


Fact #5: My sister says I talk a lot.

In writing these fun facts, I asked my sister (who is autistic) what she thinks is a fun fact about me. She said I talk a lot. 


C.J. Adrien

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as LAssociation des Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others.

 Social Media Links:

 Website   Twitter   Facebook   Linked-in    Instagram   BookBub   Amazon Author Page   Goodreads



Friday, October 22, 2021

33rd Annual Fall Foliage Festival - November 6, 2021 - Talihina, OK - featuring writer K. Meador



K. Meador

K-Trina will be at the 33rd Annual Fall Foliage Arts and Crafts Festival on November 6th from 8 am until 4 pm located at 803 Railroad Street Talihina Oklahoma. (Corner of Jackson and Railroad Street right off 271 North). 

If you are in the area please stop by and say hi!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


About K-Trina

Ironically, I never saw myself settling in Oklahoma since my roots are in Texas, but here I am living on twenty beautiful acres named Timberland Forest.

I love to spin stories for children and adults in the genres of clean romance, stories based on true life events, Christian inspirational/devotionals, and, of course, children’s.

In addition to writing, I have spent over twenty years in the aviation industry, first as an aircraft mechanic and then as an inspector fulfilling leadership roles within that timeframe. I currently work for Pratt and Whitney as an engine inspector. I have a passion for those in prison and work as a volunteer teacher through Prison Fellowship serving at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center (MBCC) and Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (LARC).

I am extremely proud of my two sons who are actively pursuing their own careers. Five cats and one very large dog adopted me and keep me company on a daily basis. Their antics keep me laughing and will quite possibly end up in a book or two.

I'd love to hear from you, so send me an email at authorkmeador@gmail.com

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Amazon Author Page   Website   Blog   Twitter   Facebook



 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Traitor’s Knot Quest for Three Kingdoms by Cryssa Bazos


England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace . . . 

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government after the execution of King Charles I, and to raise funds for the restoration of the kings son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitors daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with an outlaw. 

The loversloyalty is tested through war, defeat, and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Trigger warnings:

Violence, animal injury/death.

 

Buy Links:

 Universal Link

 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 EXCERPT

James raced along the highway under a dark moon, crouched over Sovereigns bare back. The wind ripped through his hair, and his cloak snapped behind him. Barely touching the ground, the horse galloped in a fluid motion, muscles bunching then exploding as he devoured the road. A wildness had seized him, and he unleashed it on the strip of highway beneath Sovereigns pounding hooves.

Outcast. Twice cursed. Hammonds slurs pounded in his head. Elizabeth had heard it all.

James kept at this speed until Warwick Castle melted away into the horizon, a dark blur against a midnight sky. Blood coursed through his veins, and a thin sheen of sweat beaded his brow. He reined in Sovereign, slowing the horse to a brisk trot. They turned off the main road and struck for the river road.

Without a destination in mind, James set his course by the stars and kept the flowing river on his right. Though they had travelled down this path countless times, he kept a sharp eye on the road and a tight hand on the reins. A low overhang of branches snatched at his cloak, but he brushed past them. Underfoot, thick mulch muffled Sovereigns hooves. They continued along the trail, and the farther they descended into the woods, the richer the scent of resin that filled the warm air.

The woods were alive under a dark moon. A small creature scurried across their path, and James checked Sovereign. Pausing, he heard the frantic clicking of nails scrambling up the bole of a tree and the enraged shriek of an owl missing its catch. James was in sympathy for the offended bird. Pressing the horses flanks, he urged Sovereign on his way.

When they reached the edge of the woods, James drew to a halt, reluctant to move forward yet unwilling to turn back. A wide swath of meadowland stretched before him, its grasses rippling in the night breeze. He recognised this pasture and knew where it led. If he were to cross the meadow, he would test the fine edge between recklessness and daring. If he were to proceed, there could be no retreat. A prudent man would return to Warwick and deal with his troubles another day.

James struggled against the raging conflict. A hard knot lodged in his chest. He could think of a million reasons to withdraw but only one to press forward. Finally, drawing a deep breath, he pressed his knees against Sovereigns flanks and urged the horse onward.

He found Ellendale shuttered and dark and as daunting as a thirty-foot wall.

Pathetic fool.

Madness carried him here this night—what was he hoping for? Reassurance that she didnt think less of him for what she heard, that against all odds she cared?

He rode to the guest wing, wondering which window was hers. One of the casements was slightly ajar. He couldnt imagine Isabel or Jennet risking a chill—it had to be hers. He dismounted and tethered Sovereign to a birch tree.

James stared at her window with the intensity of one warring with his demons. He needed her, this night more than ever.

He scooped up a handful of pebbles and rolled the stones in his palm while he gauged the distance to the window. He selected one, took aim and threw. The pebble tapped the centre of the glass and bounced against the sill before dropping to the ground.

A light flickered, and a wavering shadow took shape in the candlelight. Then he saw her at the casement. Elizabeth leaned out, dark hair tumbling in heavy waves past her shoulders. James watched her in silence, his heart open and raw. Would she turn away?

Their eyes met. She didnt raise her hand or call out, only stood there. In the next instant, she disappeared from the window, and the light was snuffed out.

Right, then. He had his answer.

James turned his back on the manor and returned to Sovereign. Its better this way, he thought as he tightened the horses girth and prepared to leave.

A sound like the scatter of leaves made him pause. He whirled around to find Elizabeth running to him. When she reached the birch grove, she stopped, breathless. Her expression was questioning; her lips parted, but she didnt speak.

Some things were beyond words.

James held out his hand, and she stepped into his embrace.  

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth-century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. A forthcoming third book in the standalone series, Rebel's Knot, will be released in November 2021.

 Social Media Links:

 Website   Twitter    Facebook    Instagram   BookBub   Amazon Author Page    Goodreads



Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Spotlight on Helen Steadman, author of Widdershins

 



The new audiobook of Widdershins is narrated brilliantly by talented actor, Christine Mackie, from Downton Abbey, Coronation Street, Wire in the Blood, and so on. 

The first part of a two-part series, Widdershins is inspired by the Newcastle witch trials, where sixteen people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known. In August 1650, fifteen women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches.

Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John Sharpe, the witchfinder who condemns her to death. Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his fathers beatings to his uncles raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.

Praise for Widdershins:

The Historical Novel Society said of Widdershins: Impeccably written, full of herbal lore and the clash of ignorance and prejudice against common sense, as well as the abounding beauty of nature, it made for a great read. There are plenty of books, both fact, and fiction, available about the witch-trial era, but not only did I not know about such trials in Newcastle, I have not read a novel that so painstakingly and vividly evokes both the fear and joy of living at that time.

Trigger Warnings:

Domestic abuse, rape, torture, execution, child abuse, animal abuse, miscarriage, death in childbirth.

 


 Buy Links

Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon CA  Amazon AU    Audible   Blackwells   Waterstones

  Kobo   iBooks   iTunes   Foyles   Book Depository   Universal eBook Link



 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´

Helen Steadman


Fun Facts
(Stuff you may or may not already know!)

 

Thanks very much, Mary Ann for interviewing me on your blog. While thinking up five fun things for you, I’m enjoying a lovely morning coffee while looking out of my window at the hills and forests of Durham and Northumberland, which is where Widdershins is mostly set.




Fun fact #1: I once trained in tree medicine

When I decided that the witches in my book would be wise women who used herbs to heal, I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about herbal remedies. Luckily, I live only fifteen miles away from Dilston Physic Garden, which is renowned for its herbal training courses and research. I signed up for a couple of courses and spent time learning to identify trees and plants correctly (very important), and I then went on to harvest berries, bark, and leaves, which I turned into various remedies. I was very impressed with tree medicine and you’ll see many instances of it in Widdershins and in its sequel, Sunwise.

 

I also set up my own mini physic garden, which I call my magic tea garden. This contains a dozen or so herbs, which I grew so I could learn about plant cycles and growing, harvesting, drying, and preparing herbs. They also make a lovely cup of tea. (Please be very careful before using any plants as many are poisonous and even the safe ones can be risky if you’re pregnant, on medication, or have an illness or condition. In addition, some safe plants resemble toxic ones, so please get advice from a professional before harvesting berries, flowers, leaves, bark, and seeds.)

Fun Fact #2: I’ve forged a sword

Spurred on by my experience of learning about herbal medicine, when I came to write my third book, The Running Wolf, which is about a German swordmaker who wound up in an English prison, I decided to train in blacksmithing. I started off by making a pendant, a fire steel, and a rat-tailed poker. I made the poker using a power hammer, which was especially exciting.

 

Then, I went on to hand forge my own sword. This was extremely difficult work, and even though I had a lot of help, I’ve never been so physically exhausted in my life. I’ve also never been so hot in my life. Hats off to anyone who forges metal whether for work or pleasure (or both). If you look closely at the photo of me holding my sword, you’ll notice my sooty fingernails and the various grazes on my hands. If you think I look rather clean in this photo, this is because I’d finished the sooty forge work and had spent the day filing the bronze handle.

 


Fun Fact #3: I can say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

This is the name of the longest place name in Europe (and the second-longest in the world, by all accounts). It’s a small village on the Welsh island, Anglesey (Ynys Môn, in Welsh). My maternal grandfather was from a nearby village on Anglesey. During a childhood visit, and after much pleading, he taught me how to say it and I proudly got on the bus one day and asked the driver for a ticket to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. He gave me a long-suffering look and replied, ‘Llanfair PG would’ve done, love.’ Although my grandfather’s first language was Welsh, I only know a few words, and most of them aren’t suitable for sharing here…

Fun Fact #4: I’m terrified of flying

This isn’t really that much fun now I come to think of it. I enjoy the experience of flying, but I’m always very anxious about what might possibly go wrong. I’ve tried hard not to pass on this fear to my children, but I expect the sight of my white knuckles gripping the armrest for dear life might be a bit of a giveaway. I was very pleased with myself when I flew solo to Germany to research one of the locations for my third book. I wasn’t too bad going out, but I was quite anxious coming back. It must have shown on my face because I was taken to one side at the airport and searched in front of everyone, which included having to take off my boots. I’ve always wanted to go to New York City, and I’m determined to pluck up the courage to do it, once Covid-19 is less of a threat. Although I might have to ask the airline whether they do a ‘sedate and crate’ option.

Fun Fact #5: I have two dogs, with only three ears between them

This one doesn’t sound like much fun either, but it has a happy ending. When I went to the dog’s home to pick up Elsie, I went into the kennels where all the dogs live, one per cage. Before I reached Elsie’s cage, I spotted Eddie, who was jumping up and down in his cage, with his front paws in the air, desperate for a new home. His little ears were bald and he looked so pitiful. The dog’s home told me he’d been born on the streets and that he and his mother had been brought to the home. He’d been adopted twice, but then rejected each time and returned to the dog’s home. So, I took him home too.

 


With a bit of TLC, his bald ears healed and turned into the delightful, silky ginger ears you see today. Elsie only has one ear and I worried that she’d been involved in some awful dogfighting or something but the vet said it was most likely she’d been born that way as she was missing the inner cartilage, too. Despite having only one ear, Elsie has excellent balance and she can hear the snack tin opening from the far end of the garden, no matter how carefully I remove the lid. And she always seems to attract a few extra pats from people we meet on dog walks.

                    

Dr. Helen Steadman


Dr. Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins, and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by a group of Lutheran swordmakers who defected from Germany to England in 1687.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers, and berries.

The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who left Solingen, Germany, and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.

Helen is now working on her fourth novel.

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Christine Mackie 
Audiobook Narrator 

Christine Mackie has worked extensively in TV over the last thirty years in well-known TV series such as Downton Abbey, Wire in the Blood, Coronation Street, French & Saunders and The Grand. Theatre work includes numerous productions in new writing as well as classics, such as A Midsummer Nights Dream, Comedy of Errors, Richard III, An Inspector Calls, and the Railway Children. In a recent all-women version of Whisky Galore, Christine played three men, three women, and a Red Setter dog!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Spotlight on Tammy Pasterick, author of Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash


It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America's immigrant ancestors made.

 


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Tammy Pasterick

Fun Facts

(Stuff you may or may not already know!)

I began my career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board after graduating from Penn State. I carried an official government badge and conducted union elections at a wide variety of workplaces in Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. I oversaw elections at healthcare facilities, construction companies, and factories, but the most memorable was at an oyster processing plant and a nuclear power plant.

 

 Photo courtesy of Pixabay

When I was seventeen, I spent a month in Würzburg, Germany as a foreign exchange student. Eight years later, I returned to Germany as a university student after leaving the NLRB. I spent four months studying at the Universität Bayreuth and riding the rails on weekends. I caught a serious case of wanderlust that I still can’t shake. My favorite European destinations are the German and Austrian Alps, Tuscany, Italy, and the Greek islands.

 

The view towards Salzburg, Austria from The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany. 
I traveled there with friends in August 2012.

I’m an avid photographer. I don’t have any real training other than years of taking way too many pictures while traveling the world. I became especially skilled at capturing moving objects when my kids were little. These days, they hide from my camera, but my dog is always willing to pose. I just have to bribe her with a few baby carrots or blueberries.

 

 I took this portrait of my chocolate Labrador retriever, Pippa, 
after a nor’easter dumped five inches of snow on us in February 2019.

I rediscovered skiing in my late thirties. I spent lots of time on the slopes of Western Pennsylvania when I was a teenager, but my tight budget during college and the years after made it difficult for me to continue with the sport. There were years when I never even put on a pair of skis. That all changed when my kids were in elementary school, and my husband and I were looking for a fun family activity to fill the boring winter months. We enrolled our kids in ski school, and they absolutely fell in love with the sport. Our family now skis in Vermont at least once per year and has even made it as far as Canada and Montana.

 

 My family and I traveled to Stowe, Vermont this past winter. 
It was 0 degrees with 40 mph wind gusts when my husband took his photo.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it—buying pumpkins and gourds, screaming my way through haunted houses and terrifying hayrides, and dressing up to go trick-or-treating.

 

 My husband is very tall, but his platform shoes give him an additional six inches. 
He gets all the attention when we go trick-or-treating. 

Tammy Pasterick

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

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