Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Courting the Cat Whisperer

Courting The Cat Whisperer (A Nocturne Falls Universe story)Courting The Cat Whisperer by Wynter Daniels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A man wakes up in a ravine and can’t recall how he arrived there—or his name. The only clue he has to his identity is a rain soaked piece of paper in his pocket that says “Harr”. He decides his name must be Harry and follows a cat who leads him back to civilization.

Pet-sitter Jordan Vaughn struggles to shine, but is always overshadowed by her “smarter, prettier, more lovable” identical twin. While attempting to climb into the window of a house full of hungry cats, she literally falls into Harry’s arms.

Living in Nocturne Falls, where Halloween is celebrated every day of the year, Jordan’s used to strange things, but never has seen a hot hunk who is actually interested in her—and doesn’t appear to be another loser.

After someone tries to break into the house where Jordan is pet sitting, things begin to heat up outside and in Harry’s arms. Is the bungled burglary a random act or is it the beginning of something more ominous?

With the help of feline friends who share clues, Jordan and Harry race to unravel this mystery before someone gets hurt—again. I give this purrfectly fun read 5 kitty biscuits and 5 gold stars!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

In Honor of Deaf History and Women's History Month: Wordless Love

Sharon, Age 3, with Cousin Gloria
In 1954, at the age of three years old, my mother put me on a plane in Washington, D.C., and sent me to Connecticut to live with my deaf grandmother, my aunt, uncle, cousin, two Chihuahuas, and a parakeet. At night, I would cry because I missed my family. As I sobbed, my grandmother would take me in her arms and hug me, making grunting noises. I’d fall asleep to her wordless lullaby of love, wondering if I’d ever see my family again, not knowing that my parents were divorcing.

A year after being shipped north, I was reunited with my family. Another year later, we moved out of my aunt’s basement and into government subsidized housing. Now when we visited my aunt’s house, I had to share my grandmother with my siblings. On birthdays and graduations, she created scavenger hunts for us, leaving a trail of written clues. She must have spent hours planning the hints, writing them out in her beautiful calligraphy, and placing them throughout the house.

As I grew older and wrestled with the demons of poverty and abuse, my desire to break away from my home life dwarfed my relationship with my grandmother. Opportunity arrived in the form of a large scholarship to a university in Texas, over a thousand miles away from my mother. During the first semester of my freshman year, my grandmother became ill and died at home at the age of eighty-nine. Claiming that she didn’t want to “disrupt” my studies, my mother withheld the knowledge until I came home months later. I was devastated. I never had the chance to say good-bye to the woman who loved me unconditionally.

As I hit my fifth decade, I began to reflect on my life and lack of closure regarding her death. I felt compelled to research my family tree, beginning with my grandmother. My only clues were embedded in childhood memories of kitchen table conversations between my mother and aunt. The family legend, told and re-told, with hand-signed consultations for verification, was that my grandmother was born hearing and healthy to a wealthy family.

“Oh yes, her people were landowners,” my aunt said.

“She had pet peacocks,” my mother added, “and a pet pig that came when she clapped her hands.”

“She came down with spinal meningitis when she was three. If her parents hadn’t been so rich, she would have died,” my aunt said between puffs on her cigarette.

“Grandma’s parents sent her off to a boarding school for ladies,” my mother recalled. “She was too wealthy to be with the other girls, so she stayed with the teachers.”

As I searched for family records, calling my sister and brother for confirmation, tantalizing tidbits emerged.

“After she graduated, she went to work in Washington, D.C., addressing envelopes for a Congressman because she had such beautiful handwriting,” my sister said.

“Grandma and Grandpa were fixed up on a blind date. He was a wild young man with a motorcycle, a graduate of Gallaudet University. He was deaf from scarlet fever.” My brother, the oldest child, recalled vividly. “They fell in love and married against her family’s wishes. She was supposed to go back to Kentucky and marry a cousin, but she wouldn’t leave her gardener.”

Oral history wasn’t much to go on, but it was a start. It helped that I recalled the name of the town where we’d visited another uncle, aunt, and cousin on the way to Texas: Stanford, Kentucky. Using an online genealogy site, I was able to see U.S. Census records dating as far back as the 1700’s. I rooted around in the 1800’s with no luck. One night, I received an excited call from my best friend from high school and genealogy genius. By searching in an online National Society Daughters of the American Revolution registry, and entering two of my family names, Engleman and Harris, my friend found my Stanford, Kentucky ancestors and my family lines tracing back to the Revolutionary War. Thanks to the DAR, I had the first clues in my very own family scavenger hunt.

The elusive “ladies’ school for the deaf kept me awake at night. More weeks, more digging, more walls. After months of research, I was ready to quit. But I kept feeling as if my grandmother was standing behind me at the computer, smiling and urging me to find her. At last, I found the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD), in Danville, Kentucky. It was the first public school for the deaf in the United States, originally called the Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf & Dumb when it was built in 1823. I emailed the school, asking for information on a possible alumna named Bessie Engleman.

In the meantime, I kept mousing around in the 1900 Census files for Danville and randomly selected Enumeration District 88 (ED 88). When I retrieved the image, I discovered that the majority of people counted in ED 88 were enrolled at the Kentucky Institute for Deaf Mutes. My eyes adjusted to the old-fashioned script of the census taker, and there she was on line 19: Engleman, Bessie, White, Female, born in 1883. Within days of that find, a KSD staff member sent me an email telling me he had found her original admission card.

Bessie Engleman was student number 933 admitted to KSD. The daughter of George and Susan Harris Engleman became deaf from meningitis at sixteen months, not age three, as the family legend told. The middle child in a three girl family, KSD admitted her from Lincoln County, Kentucky when she was eight years old in 1889 and graduated her in 1902 when she was twenty-one years old. Nine years later, she married Carl E. Rhodes on September 20, 1911 and lived in Washington, D.C. in 1918.

I now had enough information to find my great-grandparents, my great-great-grandparents, and beyond, because all my grandmother’s “people” lived in Lincoln County, Kentucky—and married their cousins. In some census records, I found Harris and Engleman in-laws, brothers, sisters, and cousins, all living in the same household.

My curiosity was piqued. If the oral history about my grandmother was fairly accurate, why wouldn’t the part about my grandfather be true, too? Gallaudet University’s alumni office found my grandfather’s records on microfilm. According to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, my grandfather, Carl E. Rhodes, was deemed a “…proper person to be received into the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and to be instructed and maintained therein at the expense of the United States…” The same department responsible for the welfare of Native Americans in the 1800’s was responsible for my grandfather’s education. He attended the Kendall School from 1892 to 1903, but did not attend Gallaudet University, contrary to family stories. And, he wasn’t deaf secondary to scarlet fever. Congenitally deaf, a midwife home-delivered the sixth child, Carl E. Rhodes, to a grocer named James H. Rhodes and his wife, Elizabeth Cockrell Rhodes: my great-grandparents.

Despite their incredible obstacles in life, my grandparents attended school, graduated, obtained good jobs, weathered the anger of my grandmother’s wealthy family, and raised six hearing and speaking children to become productive members of society. During the depression and beyond, my grandfather was employed by the federal government as a gardener, often tending to the roses and other plantings at the White House. My brother owns a book, handed down from my grandmother, with a photograph of my grandfather working as the Assistant Head Gardener in the U.S. Botanical Gardens.   

What predicts who will be disabled in life? What foretells if a disability will cripple an individual emotionally? When I was a little girl and refused to cave in under my mother’s abuse, she would say I was stubborn, “just like your grandmother.” Instead of being humiliated, I was proud to be linked in some clear way to the woman who raised me, who loved me, and whom I adored. Today, looking back across half a century, I have a few clues to her inner strength and resilience. When I think of her, which is often, I thank her for teaching me that having a disability does not mean inability and for holding me tight and rocking me to sleep with her lullaby of wordless love.  
The deaf heroine of Eye of the Eagle, Phoebe Wagner, is a graduate of Gallaudet University. While I wrote, I felt like I was channeling my grandmother's personality into Phoebe. She is smart, funny, stubborn, and compassionate. Eye of the Eagle is on sale until March 29th for 99cents. If you are interested in a feisty heroine who fights like a girl, I hope you give this book a read. Here's the link to buy it on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Wilde One by Jannine Gallant

When Griff Wilde, a sunken treasure hunter, receives a handwritten letter from a man claiming to have Nazi war loot, he is initially skeptical. His curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to accept the challenge.

Ainslee Fontaine, an exhausted and emotionally defeated inner city teacher, has packed up her SUV and plans to escape the city, going to the West Coast for a new start. She gathers her last bit of mail and finds a letter in a spidery hand inviting her to join a scavenger hunt for treasure.

Griff and Ainslee meet at the bank where the first clue awaits them in a safety deposit box. Much like “Rat Race”, there are more contestants in this cross-country puzzle, some of them with less than pleasant attitudes toward their fellow contestants.

The two decide to join forces and become partners in a race from clue to clue. Along the way, romance flares, but will it fizzle when the game’s over?

Jannine Gallant had me at Nazi loot. Combined with a Greatest Race plot and sexy interludes, this is a fast-paced story that makes me want to read about the rest of the Wilde Family! I give it 5 ankle biters (read to find out why) and 5 gold stars and I highly recommend it!
Buy at Amazon for 99 cents! Sale ending soon! Grab it while you can!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Interview with Jean M. Grant, Author of A Hundred Breaths.

What made you decide to be an author? Childhood passion? I always loved art and would follow my art teacher around to help. This love of the creativity ventured into writing. Detoured by the science career life for a decade, I'm now a full-time author.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? Love: creativity, hearing my characters, watching them grow. Loathe: rejection, editing (usually by round 20...)

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing?  Interesting life experiences, including heartache, make for great material. I like to subtly (or not subtly) weave my own stories of this adventurous life journey into my stories. Villains—watch out if you wronged me! (joking…well only partly). I also live by the 3 P’s in writing and life: Perseverance, Patience, and Putting in the Time.

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Not really dictated, but my characters do make surprising decisions that stray from my outline.

I’ve written 4 novels (2 being released after this one, this spring—one of those is a novella) and are working on a 5th novel (the third in the “Hundred” trilogy). This number doesn’t include the 3 practice novels now collecting dust in a drawer.

What’s your favorite time management tip?  Post-its, spreadsheets (mostly for promotion work), and setting daily or weekly goals. Also, being okay with deviating from those goals when I need to. When I am in writing mode, I love to put in at least 2000 words a day (or set a weekly goal of 10,000), for example.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer?  I am a plotter, complete with beat sheets and GMC and character charts. However, the outline is written in pencil, as I said above, sometimes these quirky characters take me in a new direction than I had planned. I am in love with my character charts, though. I used to be plot first, character second. Now I delve into my characters first, and from that, the plot unfolds.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? My 3 P’s above: Perseverance, Patience, and Put in the Time. Resilience and effort are key.

Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? Not one song, but I do enjoy listening to non-word or minimal lyrics music (soundtracks, Celtic). I love the entire The Architect album (Kerry Muzzey, with the Chamber Orchestra of London).

Tell me more about A Hundred Breaths.

 Healing his heart…with her last breath.

1263, Scotland

Simon MacCoinneach’s vengeance runs deep. The blade is the only way to end the blood-thirsty Nordmen’s reign upon Scottish soil. His soul might be lost, but the mystical Healer he kidnaps from the isles could be the answer for his ailing mother…and his heart.

Isles-born Gwyn reluctantly agrees to a marriage alliance with this heathen Scot in return for the sanctuary of her younger brother from her abusive Norse father. Her brother’s condition is beyond the scope of her Ancient power, for larger healings steal breaths of life from her own body.

As Simon and Gwyn fight to outwit her madman father and a resentful Norse betrothed, Gwyn softens Simon’s heart with each merciful touch. Gwyn’s Seer sister foresees a bloody battle—and an end to the Nordmen—but Simon will also die. Will Gwyn save Simon on the battlefield even if it means losing her last breath?

How about an excerpt from A Hundred Breaths?

“I’m your wife, and still I am guarded?”

Simon shrugged though she couldn’t see. He’d given up on excuses. “What must I do to prove I won’t flee? I signed your marriage contract. I said my vows.” Her voice broke on those words.

Was she crying? He laid the tray of food on her table and approached. He didn’t touch her, as much as he wanted to link his arm within hers as they’d done during their walks. He reached inside his ganache and withdrew her small, simple dagger. Unadorned with jewels or carvings, it possessed a bone hilt and a blade worn from use. Likely from tree limbs, flowers, and household use. His smith had sharpened it and cleaned the hilt.

“Here,” he said, placing it in her lap. Gildy had retrieved the sheath from Gwyn’s laundered gown.

Gwyn stared at it, her fingertips dancing butterfly wings hovering over the hilt. After a moment, she drew her hand around it and pulled it from its leather sheath. She rose and whirled on him, the dagger pointed out before her, barely pressing into his chest.

He didn’t retreat as he met her fiery, misty gaze.

She made no move to remove the dagger’s tip.

“A smidge to the center, Gwyn, and you’ll be square over my blackened heart.” He held her glower. The heat blazed in her entrancing blue eyes like the devil. He fought a smile.

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Jean, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.


Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

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