Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Book Spotlight: Times of Turmoil by Anna Belfrage


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It is 1718 and Duncan Melville and his time traveller wife, Erin, are concentrating on building a peaceful existence for themselves and their twin daughters. Difficult to do, when they are beleaguered by enemies.

Erin Melville is not about to stand to the side and watch as a child is abused—which is how she makes deadly enemies of Hyland Nelson and his family.

Then there’s that ghost from their past, Armand Joseph Chardon, a person they were certain was dead. Apparently not. Monsieur Chardon wants revenge and his sons are tasked with making Duncan—and his wife—pay.

Things aren’t helped by the arrival of Duncan’s cousin, fleeing her abusive husband. Or the reappearance of Nicholas Farrell in their lives, as much of a warped bully now as he was when he almost beat Duncan to death years ago. Plus, their safety is constantly threatened as Erin is a woman of colour in a time and place where that could mean ostracism, enslavement or even death.

Will Duncan and Erin ever achieve their simple wish – to live and love free from fear of those who wish to destroy them?

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Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. 

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

More recently, Anna has been hard at work with her Castilian series. The first book, His Castilian Hawk, published in 2020, is set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, while the third, Her Castilian Heart, finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain! The fourth book, Their Castilian Orphan, is scheduled for early 2024.

Anna has recently released Times of Turmoil, the sequel to her 2021 release, The Whirlpools of Time. Here she returns to the world of time travel. Where The Whirlpools of Time had Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin navigating the complexities of the first Jacobean rebellion in Scotland, in Times of Turmoil our protagonists are in Colonial Pennsylvania, hoping for a peaceful existence. Not about to happen—not in one of Anna’s books! 

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com 

  Author Links:

 Website: www.annabelfrage.com

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

 Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor

 Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage

 Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG  or  http://amazon.com/author/anna_belfrage   

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage




Monday, October 30, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Who She Left Behind by Victoria Atamian Waterman


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Who She Left Behind” is a captivating historical fiction novel that spans generations and delves into the emotional lives of its characters. Set in various time periods, from the declining days of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey in 1915 to the Armenian neighborhoods of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the 1990s, the novel completely immerses its reader in a lesser-known era and the untold stories of the brave and resilient women who became the pillars of reconstructed communities after the Armenian Genocide.

It is a story of survival, motherhood, love, and redemption based on the recounted stories from the author’s own family history. The narrative is framed by a mysterious discovery made almost six decades later of a pair of Armenian dolls left at a gravesite. 

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Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Left-Behind-Victoria-Atamian-Waterman-ebook/dp/B0CHJK7YQX

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Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1144042403?ean=9781962465021

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/who-she-left-behind

Historium Press: https://www.thehistoricalfictioncompany.com/victoria-atamian-waterman

 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


 “Where?” Her whisper struck the silence like gunfire; Victoria winced, searching the ground near the tree for a good spot.

“Shush. There.”

Neither girl had experience digging holes in hard-packed, root addled soil. The morning’s soft rain hadn’t softened the soil much. For what seemed like hours, they traded the spade until the hole was nearly big enough for their bundle.

Victoria’s stomach clenched when she pushed the bundle into the misshapen hole. The dolls didn’t know what was happening, but she couldn’t bear to think of their unseeing eyes, like dead girls in a grave. Yegsabet’s eyes were huge and wet with unshed tears.

Victoria took the spade. “Tell Nuri to be a good girl, and we’ll be back when she wakes up.”

The mound of disturbed soil was obvious when they were done.

“Let’s find some rocks and cover it up.”

The rocks didn’t make a lot of difference; the disturbed ground was obvious, but they were out of time. The light was shifting.

Sweating and chilled, they slipped through the house, stashing their dirty clothes under the bed and washing hastily. Mayrig would be furious with them for sneaking out if she found out.  


Victoria Atamian Waterman is an Armenian American storyteller and speaker who draws inspiration from the quirky multigenerational, multilingual home in which she was raised with her grandparents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Her empowerment of today’s women and girls makes her voice ideal for telling the little-known stories of yesterday’s women leaders. Her TED Talk, “Today’s Girls are Tomorrow’s Leaders” has been seen by thousands of viewers. When she is not writing and speaking, she is reading, puzzle-making and volunteering.

Victoria lives in Rhode Island and is enjoying this next chapter of life with her husband, children, and grandchildren. “Who She Left Behind” is her first novel. 


Author Links:


Website: https://www.victoriawaterman.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/victoria.waterman.9

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorwaterman/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoriawaterman/

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Friday, October 27, 2023

Book Spotlight: The Winds of Change by Joan Fallon


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The Winds of Change is a story of love, loyalty and betrayal on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, when the country is political turmoil with strikes and demonstrations, unemployment is high and the people are starving.

In this complicated love triangle we meet Ramon, a member of the Republican Left, who has accidentally killed a policeman and is on the run from the Guardia Civil and Hugo, the son of the wealthy owner of a local sherry bodega. Both men are in love with Clementina, the beautiful daughter of a well-known gypsy horse trader but there are obstacles in both their paths.

Hugo finds that when he tries to see Clementina again, both his parents and hers do everything they can to stop him.

Meanwhile Ramon's brother, Pedro, is arrested and imprisoned because he will not reveal his brother's whereabouts to the Guardia Civil. Now Ramon has to choose between his brother and the woman he loves.

This fast moving historical novel is a story of love, politics, class prejudice, intrigue and betrayal in the year leading up to the Spanish Civil War.


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Teacher, management trainer, and businesswoman, the Scottish-born novelist Joan Fallon moved from the UK to Spain in 1998 and dedicated herself to full-time writing. She is now the self-published author of eighteen books, many of which are historical novels set in southern Spain and focus on two distinct periods in the countrys history, the Spanish Civil War and Moorish Spain.

More recently, she had turned her attention to writing contemporary crime fiction, with a series of novels entitled The Jacaranda Dunne Mysteries, but her love of historical fiction has lured her back to writing about Spain in the 20th century in her latest novel, The Winds of Change.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Merchant’s Dilemma by Carolyn Hughes


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1362. Winchester. Seven months ago, accused of bringing plague and death from Winchester, Bea Ward was hounded out of Meonbridge by her former friends and neighbours. Finding food and shelter where she could, she struggled to make her way back to Winchester again.

Yet, once she arrived, she wondered why she’d come.

For her former lover – the love of her life – Riccardo Marchaunt, had married a year ago. And she no longer had the strength to go back to her old life on the streets. Frail, destitute and homeless, she was reduced to begging. Then, in January, during a tumultuous and destructive storm, she found herself on Riccardo’s doorstep. She had no plan, beyond hoping he might help her, or at least provide a final resting place for her poor body.

When Bea awakes to find she’s lying in Riccardo’s bed once more, she’s thankful, thrilled, but mystified. But she soon learns that his wife died four months ago, along with their newborn son, and finds too that Riccardo loves her now as much as he ever did, and wants to make her his wife. But can he? And, even if he can, could she ever really be a proper merchant’s wife?

Riccardo could not have been more relieved to find Bea still alive, when he thought he had lost her forever. She had been close to death, but is now recovering her health. He adores her and wants her to be his wife. But how? His father would forbid such an “unfitting” match, on pain of denying him his inheritance. And what would his fellow merchants think of it? And their haughty wives?

Yet, Riccardo is determined that Bea will be his wife. He has to find a solution to his dilemma… With the help of his beloved mother, Emilia, and her close friend, Cecily, he hatches a plan to make it happen.

But even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. And the path of love never did run smooth…


The Merchant’s Dilemma is a companion novel to the main series of Meonbridge Chronicles and continues the story of Bea and Riccardo after the end of the fourth Chronicle, Children’s Fate. It is a little more romantic and light-hearted than the other Chronicles but if you’ve enjoyed reading about the lives of the characters of Meonbridge, you will almost certainly enjoy reading The Merchant’s Dilemma, too!

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.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´


Riccardo had found himself distracted most of the morning, even when in conversation with his client. It was fortunate there had been only one, so once they had shaken hands on an agreement, he was able to spend some time alone, walking and thinking through the situation and what and how to tell Bea.

His heart swelled whenever he thought of her. It had never done so at the thought, or even sight, of Katherine. She was not an unattractive woman, but her nervous nature and seeming lack of interest in him, discouraged him from even trying to love her. Even when he was lying next to her in bed, he had to steel himself to turn to face her. When he put out a hand to touch her breast, she would flinch, then when he rolled on top of her to complete the task – for “task” it did seem to be – Katherine would whimper, not with pleasure, he was certain, but with urgent longing for it to be over. It was scarcely surprising the so-called act of love with his wife was one he came to dread and even balk at. In truth, it was a wonder little Oliver had ever been conceived.

It had not been that way in those few months before his marriage, when Bea had lived here with him. Their love-making had been full of delight and pleasure for them both. In that short time, he had grown to love her deeply. When he was obliged to marry Katherine, and effectively abandon the woman he adored, he had been distraught. He blamed himself, both then and now, for being the cause of Bea leaving Winchester. And, therefore, of the terrible events in Meonbridge that at length brought her back to the city, but as a homeless beggar.

These past three months had been the happiest he could remember for a long while. His worry about Bea’s health aside, their easy, loving relationship – albeit they were sleeping apart until she was fully well – made each day one to look forward to. And to make his happiness complete surely Bea should no longer continue as his mistress, but become his wife.

Yet, marrying her would not be easy. For, if his father learned of Bea’s former life, he would refuse to sanction marriage to her and would almost certainly deny him his inheritance.

Finding himself in the cathedral precinct, Riccardo slipped into the building. At the main west entrance, scaffolding had been raised, and masons were dismantling some of the ancient stonework. He had heard that Bishop Edington had plans to alter the west end of the building, from the ancient Romanesque original to a more modern style. He looked forward to seeing their fine cathedral transformed into an even more magnificent monument to God, albeit he regretted the dust and noise that were the inevitable result. A result that would continue for many years.

But, despite the noise outside, inside was peaceful enough, if chilly, in stark contrast with the gentle warmth of the April day. He was not entirely alone: a few people, mostly aged women, were standing or kneeling before the high altar, mumbling prayers. He approached the altar too, but kept a distance. He dropped down onto one knee for a moment, then stood up again and, with bowed head, muttered a few prayerful words himself, asking for some sort of guidance in the awkward conversation he had ahead of him.

In truth, he did not feel he received an answer to his entreaty, but hoped it might come to him if he thought the matter over a little further. Despite the coldness of the vast, high building, he made his way to the south transept, where there was a stone bench he could sit on for a while.

He returned to thinking about his father. Would it matter if he was deprived of his inheritance? As the elder of the two Marchaunt sons, he was entitled to the principal Marchaunt estate and the greater proportion of his father’s wealth. Yet the money was not important, nor even the artefacts his father had acquired over the years, magnificent as many of them were. He had made such a success of his own business, he was more than prosperous enough to maintain a wife and family.

No, what really mattered was nothing to do with money.

His first concern was a matter of the heart. He really wanted to own Chilcumbe Hall, the splendid manor house a few miles outside the city. He had been looking forward to the time when he could raise his own children in the place where he and his brother spent such a happy childhood. How disappointing it would be if he lost that opportunity!

But the second concern was even more important. His father was much admired and respected amongst Winchester’s great and good. He had been a master of the guild, several times a city alderman, and was once elected mayor. Riccardo’s own success as a businessman was due partly to being his father’s son. If he was not his father’s principal heir – if he was known to have been cast aside – he would be disgraced, his standing in society ruined.

There was so much to lose: not just the legacy, and his status as his father’s heir, but everything he had worked for, and even his authority to continue his career.

He closed his eyes a moment, contemplating what such a loss might mean. If all that happened, he supposed he could leave Winchester, and try to establish himself again elsewhere. But the prospect of doing that, at his age, was daunting. And not what he wanted.

Until three months ago, he had presumed he would at length find another wife, a woman from another respectable city family. Hopefully one with a pleasanter disposition than poor Katherine. But he had not been in any hurry. He had expected to find his bride himself, and would not approach his father for advice. Although he might have asked Mama if she knew of any suitable young women looking for a husband.

But that was all before he discovered Bea collapsed on his doorstep. Now, the only woman he wanted as his wife, and the mother to his children, was her. Yet, either marrying her, or living with her in a sinful state, accepting their children would be illegitimate, would surely enrage his father. He would simply consider it unacceptable for his heir to sire children upon a woman such as Bea, whether or not they were legitimately man and wife.

Riccardo sat upright and flexed his shoulders. His back was aching from the cold seeping from the stone bench up through his clothes. He pushed himself to his feet, ready to go home.

So, what was the answer?

In truth, it was obvious, if disagreeable. He refused to give up Bea, but the consequences of losing his father’s favour were so serious, the only answer was to wait until the old man was no longer able to cast him aside.

He had to wait until his father died.


Carolyn Hughes has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, word-smithing for many different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Although she wrote creatively on and off for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest that writing historical fiction took centre stage. But why historical fiction? Serendipity!

Seeking inspiration for what to write for her Creative Writing Masters, she discovered the handwritten draft, begun in her twenties, of a novel, set in 14th century rural England… Intrigued by the period and setting, she realised that, by writing a novel set in the period, she’d be able to both learn more about the medieval past and interpret it, which seemed like a thrilling thing to do. A few days later, the first Meonbridge Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, was under way.

Six published books later (with more to come), Carolyn does now think of herself as an Historical Novelist. And she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Carolyn has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media.

 Author Links:


Website: http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingcalliope

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolynHughesAuthor/

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carolyn-hughes

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carolyn-Hughes/e/B01MG5TWH1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048212.Carolyn_Hughes



Monday, October 23, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: If It’s the Last Thing I Do by David Fitz-Gerald


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It's 1975, and Misty Menard unexpectedly inherits her father's business in Lake Placid, New York. It never occurred to her that she could wind up as the CEO of a good old-fashioned manufacturing company.

After years of working for lawyers, Misty knows a few things about the law. Her favorite young attorney is making a name for himself, helping traditionally owned companies become employee-owned, using a little-known, newly-passed law. When he offers to help Misty convert Adirondack Dowel into an ESOP, pro bono, Misty jumps at the chance.

The employees are stunned, the management team becomes hostile, and the Board of Directors is concerned. Misfortune quickly follows the business transformation. A big customer files for bankruptcy. A catastrophic ice jam floods the business. Stagflation freezes the economy. A mysterious shrouded foe plots revenge. Misty's family faces a crisis. The Trustee is convinced something fishy is going on, the appraiser keeps lowering the company's value, and the banker demands additional capital infusions. Misty thought she had left her smoking addiction and alcoholism in the past, but when a worker's finger is severed in an industrial accident, Misty relapses.

Disasters threaten to doom the troubled company. After surviving two world wars and the Great Depression, it breaks Misty's heart to think that she has destroyed her father's company. All she wants is to cement her father's legacy and take care of the people who built the iconic local business. Can a quirky CEO and her loyal band of dedicated employee-owners save an heirloom company from foreclosure, repossession, and bankruptcy?

Get your copy of the thrilling If It's the Last Thing I Do now... if it's the last thing you do!

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.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


During my first week at Adirondack Dowel and Spindle Company, I learned a lot about Father's employees by greeting them in the morning and seeing them off each day, to the chagrin of the general manager. I was determined not to let The Three Stooges make me lose my cool. But Moe, Larry, and Curly must not be permitted to have their way. Whether they liked it or not, I was the owner and president of the Adirondack Dowel and Spindle Company, and that meant that I had the right to do with the company as I deemed best. The sooner they came to accept it, the better, as far as I was concerned. Despite my determination, I dreaded the confrontation, and it rattled me all weekend, knowing that it was coming. Comparing them to famous comedians amused me, but there was nothing funny about my predicament.

After everyone arrived, I asked Joanne to inform Stuart, Art, and Doyle that I wanted to meet with them in my office at 10. Judging by the looks on their faces, they didn't appreciate being sent for. Maybe they didn't like the idea of being called to a meeting, or perhaps they took issue with the short notice. I had set five chairs so that we could face one another.

Doyle crossed his arms over his chest, sat back in his chair, and spread his legs widely. His red cheeks and scowling face made him look angry, and there was no mistaking his dark mood.

The business manager's small frame squirmed on his seat, and he cast his gaze about the room as if he were looking for a safe corner in which to hide. His fingers tapped on his leg, one after the other in a repetitive loop. He never made eye contact with me, and I couldn't help wondering why he had brought his briefcase with him. I began to wonder what he carried that was so important to him that he couldn't be apart from it.

Stuart had a smirk on his face, and I couldn't tell whether he was amused by the novelty of meeting with his colleagues, entertained by the predicament I had found myself in, or eager to watch the sparks fly. Some people revel in drama at work to help pass the time or lessen the dullness of their daily routines.

Joanne looked surprised when I called her in and asked her to bring her stenographer's notebook. "Would you take notes for our meeting? I'd like to keep a record of the things we discuss and the decisions we make." Joanne crossed her legs, set the notebook on her lap, and prepared to record the first meeting I had ever conducted at work. At the law firm, I'd attended quite a few, but running meetings was new territory for me.

I took a deep breath and looked at Doyle. "We are the leaders of this company, and I think it is important that we work together to make it better. Every Monday morning, I'd like us to sit down together like we're doing now."

Doyle blew air through his lips like a toddler in his high chair, rejecting unwanted baby food. "Why on earth would we want to do that? Meetings are just a waste of time. Every minute someone is talking is a minute they're not working. I've got real work to do. There are two lathes out there that need fixing and dozens of employees that need watching over. Employees slow down to half speed when nobody's watching. You know that, don't you?"

I was prepared for Doyle's arguments. "Communicating is crucial. When we know what's important to one another, we can help each other out. And I'd like to think you could place more faith and confidence in our workers, Doyle."

"Shows what you know. If I don't ride herd on them, they'll take advantage, and before you know it, nobody will get anything done. I went to business school, Missy, and I spent a couple of years in the army. So I know a few things about subordinates, and if I've learned one thing, it is that people need to be told what to do."

I can't help wondering whether Doyle recognizes that the general manager of a company reports to its president. How could he not know that? Coolly, I said, "My name is Misty, not Missy. You should be very proud of our workers, but I don't want them to feel like soldiers."

I hoped to move on to another subject, but Doyle wasn't willing to drop the matter yet. He practically spat his words at me. "What's wrong with feeling like a soldier? And since when do we care how they feel? They are paid to do a job. I expect them to do it. I'm not going to burp and diaper them or wipe their noses."

Doyle was pushing my patience to the limit, but I reminded myself that I wasn't going to lose my temper. I placed my hands on my knees, leaned forward, and said, "We're not at war, Doyle. People deserve to be treated with respect and decency. Yes, they should do a fair day's work for their pay, but they should also know why they're doing the things they're doing. I believe any task can be performed with dignity as long as one knows why that task is important and how it contributes to the reason we're all here."

The retort came hot and fast. "If I want them to do something, I'll tell them what to do, and they'll do it without a fuss, by God, or they'll find themselves in the unemployment line so fast their heads will spin. As long as I'm the general manager here, I run the factory, and we'll do it my way."

That's when I lost it. I could feel my face twist with rage. I was so angry, I didn't know exactly what I was saying, but Joanne wrote it all down. Spittle flew from my lips as I screamed at the man. "This is my company. You work for me. If I want you to sit in a meeting all day, that's what you're going to do. I'll treat you with respect, but if you can't do the same for me, it will be your head spinning in the unemployment line." I could feel the daggers shooting from my eyes into his perpetually worried-looking forehead. My hands balled into fists, and I pounded my knees with each word as I finished, "Is that clear, Mr. Polk?"

He answered firmly with one word, "Yes." But I heard, "Yes, sir." It was clear to me that he understood and was deferring to me because I was his superior officer and for no other reason. That would have to do.

I looked at the clock and was surprised to see how little time had passed. I wished that I could have a few minutes by myself to collect my wits before continuing. In my imagination, a smoke break provided a brief interlude. Instead, I swallowed hard and looked from person to person. "The next thing I want to talk about is our profits. Friday afternoon, I met with our accountant, Vernon Crawford. He has finished the company's taxes for last year. We just barely squeaked out a surplus. The good news is that we will not have to pay a lot of taxes, but Mr. Crawford said that a successful business needs to generate income in order to grow and prosper. If it loses money, it cannot survive, and we came close to losing money last year. I know everyone is working hard, but we're not making money. If you have any thoughts about that, I'd like to hear them. If you want to think about it, we'll talk about it again next week. Perhaps we should discuss it every week."

Doyle found his voice again. "Hey, my job is to get the product made and delivered on time. The rest is up to Art and Stuart. Maybe you should get up in their business instead of mine."

Trying to regain my composure, I said, "I don't want to get up in anybody's business. I want to work together so that the company can make a profit."

I looked from Doyle to Art, but Stuart spoke instead. He said, "I thought you cared how the people felt, not about how much money you make."

"If we all work hard, we should all expect to make more money, shouldn't we, Stuart?"

The sales manager grinned, shrugged, and nodded.

"That's why I'd like to put in a profit-sharing program. When we make a profit, we should distribute a portion of it as a bonus, and everyone in the company will share it. Most of the profits have to go back into the company, but I think if we're successful, we should be able to give ten percent of it back to the employees."

Art's eyebrows twitched frightfully. "Oh, no, no. That will never do. What if the customers find out? They'll demand we drop our prices. There won't be any money in the checkbook by the time we're through."

"I think it will be alright, Art. As long as we charge a fair price, it is up to our company to decide how to split the profits. Anyway, think about the bonus idea, and also think about how we can make a fair profit. We'll talk again about it next week."

We'd covered a lot of ground, but we still hadn't filled an hour yet. I asked Stuart what he could tell us about his visits with our customers. He sat up and talked about his plans to visit hardware stores downstate, but it was clear that Doyle and Art weren't listening. Warning bells went off in my head, but I stopped Stuart anyway. I said, "I'm sorry, why isn't anybody paying attention to Stuart?"

Doyle said, "That's just sales talk. I don't want to hear about all the time Stuart spends skiing, golfing with customers, and plying customers with martinis during two-hour-long lunches at the country club. I'll pay attention to the orders when they come in. Getting the orders is Stuart's problem. Figuring out how much to charge is Art's job. What's it to me?"

I held my head in my hands, frustrated, and said, "Don't you numbskulls get it? We're all in this together. If we succeed, we succeed together. If we flounder, we all suffer. If the ship goes down, we're all sunk. That's what I'm trying to tell you."

Art said, "It's eleven o'clock. Time's up. I have to get to the post office and pick up the mail and then the bank." His bony fingers grabbed the briefcase handle as he stood and backed away from the group as if fearful of turning his back to us.

I shook my head and looked up at the ceiling just as a spider dropped from a long strand of web and landed on my face. I jumped to my feet, slapped my face, and knocked over my chair. My management team was gone, but Joanne hurried to my side. Thank heavens for Joanne.



David Fitz-Gerald writes historical fiction in his spare time with the hope of transporting readers to another time and place.

If It's the Last Thing I Do is his 7th novel.

​Dave has worked for more than 30 years as an accountant, employee-owner, and member of the management team at a "silver" ESOP (employee-owned) company. He has championed the cause in national, non-profit association leadership roles.

​Dave’s family roots run deep in the Adirondacks, going back generations. He attended college and worked at a deli in Saranac Lake during the 1980s. He spent two summers as an elf at Santa’s Workshop on Whiteface Mountain in the 1970s and is an Adirondack 46-er, which means he has hiked all of New York’s highest peaks.

 Author Links:


Link Tree https://linktr.ee/authordavidfitzgerald

Soundtrack Album https://www.itsoag.com/last-thing-soundtrack

Soundtrack on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/73HwBAKV3gYzztld8jW7Ck

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Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: War Sonnets by Susannah Willey


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1942: In the war-torn jungles of Luzon, two soldiers scout the landscape. Under ordinary circumstances, they might be friends, but in the hostile environment of World War II, they are mortal enemies.

Leal Baldwin, a US Army sergeant, writes sonnets. His sights are set on serving his country honorably and returning home in one piece. But the enemy is not always Japanese…Dooley wants Leo’s job, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it…Leo finds himself fighting for his reputation and freedom.

Lieutenant Tadashi Abukara prefers haiku. He has vowed to serve his emperor honorably but finds himself fighting a losing battle. Through combat, starvation, and the threat of cannibalism, Tadashi’s only thought is of survival and return to his beloved wife and son. As Leo and Tadashi discover the humanity of the other side and the questionable moral acts committed by their own, they begin to ask themselves why they are here at all. When they at last meet in the jungles of Luzon, only one will survive, but their poetry will live forever.



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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´



The sea is calm; upon its boundless deep

Our troopship glides, lost in infinity.

Beneath her decks two thousand soldiers sleep,

Or, waking, wonder what their fate will be.

From my assigned position here on high

I peer ahead, and in the east I see

The dawn’s pale fingers clawing at the sky,

And then, a speck of land. The enemy

Will not be sleeping.

Now the troops are out

And stand in little groups beside each boat.

The gunship’s roar drowns out the sergeant’s shout.

Rope ladders fall, the LCIs, afloat,

Receive two thousand men in war array.

Each boat, full loaded, quickly moves away.



Leo sat against a pile of life rafts, his knees bent to support the letter he was writing. Dooley perched on a pile of rafts next to him with a handful of Aussie sailors. Their ship, the Australian transport Westralia, was part of a large convoy escorted by agile destroyers. …

 “I could spend the rest of the war right here.” Dooley patted the life raft. “Whatcha think, Yankee boy?” Ever since they’d left New Guinea, Dooley had acted like his outburst at Leo’s promotion had never happened.

Leo set down his pen and took a moment to stretch his arms. “I think I’d rather be almost anywhere but on a ship.”

Dooley took a last, deep drag on his cigarette. “With our luck,” he said, exhaling smoke through his nostrils, “we’ll get sunk by a submarine before we get to Luzon.” He flicked his cigarette into the water.

“Not funny.” Leo growled.

“More likely some crazy kamikaze,” an Aussie sailor said, “locked into a bomb-loaded plane they call an Okha. But Baka is more like it: a bloody fool.” His fellow seamen snickered.

“Those mates are crazy.” The sailor propped himself up on one elbow. “One of ’em nearly sent us to kingdom come a couple months ago.” He glanced at his fellow Aussies. “Ain’t that right, mates?”

“Yeah, up in Leyte,” said another. “Missed us by a wallaby’s tail.” He held up his thumb and forefinger, an inch apart.

“About eight of them just dropped from the clouds.” The Aussie launched into his story. “Before you could blink, one of them crashed head-on into one of our carriers. Our mates couldn’t do anything but watch.”

Sitting on the open deck, Leo felt exposed. He subconsciously scanned the sky for enemy planes, strained to hear their engines. His brain struggled with an indistinct image of planes impacting with ships—something he’d really rather not imagine.

“Instead of cats and dogs, it was raining planes and bodies, machine-gun fire and bombs. Seemed like those bloody bastards were hell-bent on dying.”

One of his mates picked up the story. “The ship next to us got clobbered. Bloody Baka took out half the crew. Men flyin’ through the air like rag dolls, others stuck with shrapnel. They said the deck was covered with Jap guts and brains, all kinds of body parts and plane wreckage.”

That was something Leo couldn’t begin to imagine, and he was grateful for that. He dang sure didn’t want to get obsessed about being split into pieces by a kamikaze. “Sitting ducks” was a perfect description of their situation out here in the middle of the ocean. Except a duck was a lot harder to hit than a troopship.

The Aussie storyteller looked at Dooley. “You should’ve seen it, Yank. Helluva mess.”

Dooley bristled at that last remark. “Don’t call me a Yank.”

One of the Australian soldiers snickered. “Well, that accent of yours sure ain’t Brit.”

Dooley jumped to the deck, fists clenched at his sides. “You can call Sergeant Baldwin here a Yank cause he’s a northerner. But I’m from Loo-siana, and where I come from, calling a southern boy a Yank is fightin’ words.”

The Aussie held up a hand. “Don’t go getting your civvies wrinkled, mate. It’s just what we call Americans.”

“American’s full of goddamned mongrels, and I ain’t one of them,” Dooley growled. “We got Russkies and Polacks, Wops—and Yankees.” He spat out the word as if it was the sourest bit of vomit. “We got so many Nips they had to build prison camps to keep ’em outta our hair. And that don’t even count the spics and ni—”

Leo had about enough of Dooley’s bragging and bigotry. He held his hand out for Dooley to stop. “Yeah, we get it. You southern boys are some kind of special all right.”

Dooley glared at Leo and started pacing. “All’s I’m sayin’”—his deep southern drawl thickened as he stopped and pointed an accusing finger at the Aussie—”is don’t put me in the same kennel with the mutts.”

The sailor put up his hands in a defensive gesture. “Slow down and speak English, mate. Whatever language you’re talkin’ sounds more like Chinese.”

“Ain’t no goddamned Chink, mate. Dooley put up his fists, took a step toward the rafts.

The Aussie jumped off the raft, ready to fight. “You ain’t winnin’ this fight, Yank.”

Dooley snarled and lunged toward the Aussie sailor, who raised his fists and took a step toward Dooley.

 “Come on, fellas.” Leo didn’t want any part of this fight. Dooley was being a jerk, and it embarrassed Leo. He stepped between the two men, cautiously put a hand on Dooley’s chest. “You’re making this a bigger deal than it oughta be. Step back and cool off a minute.”

Dooley glared, but what Leo noticed was beyond Dooley: a cloud of smoke bursting from a destroyer escort in the near distance. In seconds, the air boomed with the report of multiple firing K-guns.

The harsh tones of the General Quarters alarm sent the men on the life rafts scrambling. As troops en route to the front lines, they weren’t much more than cargo—there was nothing for them to do but hide.

Adrenaline surged through Leo’s body as his brain went to work. K-guns fired depth charges. Depth charges meant enemy subs. Enemy subs meant torpedoes—likely the ones the Japs called kaitens, manned suicide bombs not unlike the kamikaze planes. They were notoriously inaccurate, but how accurate did a danged torpedo have to be? His mind was spinning out of control even as he fought to stay calm.

“Leo!” Dooley shouted from under the pile of life rafts and gestured for Leo to join him.

Dooley’s shout got his attention.

Leo’s instincts took over. He looked across the ship’s deck, crowded with frantic soldiers trying to find their way, being pushed and shoved by the ship’s crew trying to do their jobs.

“Come on, Yank.” Dooley’s voice was strained and insistent. “Get in here.”

Leo scrambled under the life rafts, pushing his way well back into the pile.

All sound was muffled now, the incessant alarm, the boom of exploding missiles, the shouts of men who hadn’t yet found cover. The skirmish sounded deceptively far away.

Leo’s heart pounded. Every breath took effort in the suffocating enclosure created by the life rafts. Was that a plane he’d heard? He struggled to shut out the noise and concentrate. His body tensed, waiting for the explosion that would collapse the deck underneath him. He struggled to breathe.

This was too soon. They weren’t supposed to fight until Luzon.

Leo thought about his future, his belief that hard work and ethics were all it took to be a success. He hadn’t counted on random things like kamikaze and kaiten. He hadn’t faced the fact that life and death didn’t take sides. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, forced himself to slow his breathing.

I’m not ready to die. Not yet.

At last, the battleships went quiet, the General Quarters alarm stilled, and the order came to stand down.

Leo pulled himself from his hiding place, watching as soldiers slowly emerged from where they had taken cover. Many of them had merely lain prone on deck with their hands covering their head.

“Holy shit.” Dooley slipped out from under the life rafts. “What in hell was that?”

Leo’s hands still trembled as he brushed off his fatigues. “Too close is what that was.” He scanned the ships in the convoy. “Doesn’t look like anyone took any damage.”

Dooley stood and turned in a slow circle as he surveyed the ships. Leo noticed that Dooley’s hands trembled almost as much as his own. The sea was quiet now, the sun bright on the water as each ship sailed on its own reflection. Neither Leo nor Dooley felt compelled to disrupt the calm.

At last, Dooley completed his rounds and turned to Leo. “Yankee boy, I think we’re at war.”

Susannah Willey

Susannah Willey is a baby boomer, mother of four, grandmother of three, and a recovering nerd. To facilitate her healing, she writes novels. In past lives, she has been an office assistant, stay-at-home-mom, Special Education Teaching Assistant, School Technology Coordinator, and Emergency Medical Technician. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Computing from S.U.N.Y. Empire State College, and a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design from Boise State University.

Susannah grew up in the New York boondocks and currently lives in Central New York with her companion, Charlie, their dogs, Magenta and Georgie, and Jelly Bean the cat.

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