Tag Archives: Civil War

Read-a-Chapter: HAZARDOUS UNIONS, by Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the Historical Romance, Hazardous Unions, by Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery. Enjoy!

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Hazardous_Union_Front_Cover

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor.

Title: HAZARDOUS UNIONS

Genre: Historical Romance

Authors: Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery

Website: www.alisonbruce.ca & www.katflannery-author.com

Publisher: Imajin Books

Find on AMAZON.

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Maggie

Fall 1862.

The Yankees were coming.

We’d seen the signs days ago. News was, most of west Tennessee had fallen under Union control. Thaddeus scouted them out while hunting rabbits in the brush that bordered the plantation’s cotton fields. We’d prepared as best we could as fast as we could, and now I was waiting for them on the front veranda of Bellevue.

“Why me?”

“Someone has to meet them, Miss Maggie,” Mammy said, setting out tea things as if the neighbors were coming to call. “Mrs. Hamilton hasn’t got your nerve and Miss Patience wouldn’t be a lick of good even if she would come downstairs.”

“I’m just a servant,” I objected half-heartedly.

“Yeah, like Tad here is just a dumb nigger.” Mammy cocked her head to one side and a moment later I heard the faint but shrill whistle of the kettle. She smoothed the skirt of her greying white pinny over her faded grey dress. Eventually, the two garments were going to match. “Watch out for her, boy,” she said, before heading around the corner of the wraparound porch toward the kitchen door.

Only Mammy could get away with calling Thaddeus “boy” or “nigger” without coming under the resolute stare of a man who looked like he could have been carved out of a huge block of obsidian. Mammy was his aunt and had raised him, along with Major Hamilton, from nursery age. The boys had been more like brothers than master and slave, Mammy said, until Master Ned was sent off to West Point to be made an officer and a gentleman. It was hard for me to reconcile her picture of Master Ned with the aloof man who had employed me to take care of his wife.

I was barely sixteen when I was hired by the Captain, now Major Hamilton. Some days I felt that I was twice that age now, instead of just a couple of years older. Today, watching the Union contingent approach, I felt like that frightened girl again. I took small comfort in the pair of pistols hidden in the pockets of my crinoline. Knowing that Thaddeus was watching over me from the shadows, armed to the teeth, was more reassuring.

Half a dozen hard looking men approached the house. Four of them spread out, some facing us, some partly turned to keep an eye on the out buildings. Two of them rode up the path towards the porch. I felt like I was being ringed in by a pack of hungry wolves. The leader of the pack rode up to the bottom of the front steps.

Wolfish was a description that fit him. Hard muscled, wary eyes, shaggy dark hair spiking out from his cap, he looked old with experience and young in years. His uniform had seen better days and his beard was untrimmed, but it appeared that he had made some effort to clean up before approaching the house. That was a good sign.

I had also made an effort for appearances sake. Instead of my usual long braid, I had twisted my blonde hair into knot and allowed tendrils to fall free on either side of my face. I was wearing one of the calico dresses Mrs. Hamilton bought me in St. Louis. She wanted to make it clear that I was no mere servant any more. I was using it today for similar reasons.

“Afternoon, ma’am. I’m Captain Seth Stone. I have a cavalry troop under my command that needs to set up quarters for the winter.”

“I see.” My voice was steady, but I could feel my knees wobble beneath my skirts. “And?”

“And this looks like a good place to stay.”

“How many are you expecting us to accommodate?”

I heard a chuckle from one of his men. It was stifled with a sharp look from the grim-faced sergeant behind the captain.

“Not so many as there should be,” the Captain said, ignoring the interruption. “If you’d oblige me by asking your man to lay down his arms, maybe we can discuss terms.”

Gott hilf mir,” I prayed, but held my ground. “You have your protectors, Captain. I have mine.”

With a hand gesture, he signaled his men and they all dismounted as neatly as if they were on parade. Then he dismounted and held out his reins to the sergeant.

“Thaddeus, would you lead these troopers and their horses to water?”

Thaddeus stepped out of the shadows, empty handed. “Yes, miss.”

The two men passed on the stairs. Thaddeus was significantly taller and broader than the Union officer and was doing his best guard dog imitation, but the Captain didn’t flinch when they passed. He did keep his eye on Thaddeus until he was in the range of his own men. Then he turned his attention back to me and I lifted my head up to make eye-contact. He may not have been as tall as Thaddeus, but he was not a small man and I am on the short side for a woman.

Having asserted his dominance, he backed up a step.

“I understand this is the Hamilton home. Are you Mrs. Hamilton?”

“No, sir. I am Magrethe Becker, Mrs. Hamilton’s companion.”

His eyes widened. “Maybe I should be speaking to the lady of the house.”

“Mrs. Hamilton is indisposed and asked me to…” I stopped, looking for the right word. Meet with him? That sounded too friendly. Deal with him? Almost rude. “Negotiate terms with you.”

He let out a short bark of laughter.

“My terms are simple, Miss Becker. I need to winter seventy men and three officers, plus myself. It’ll be tight, but this place looks like it has enough room with the house and out buildings. We’ll need food and fodder of course. You can either offer, or I will take.”

I shook my head. “No.”

He barked out a longer laugh. “What makes you think you’re in the position to say no?”

“Twelve wounded union soldiers in our care, Captain Stone.”

 

Matty

 

Fort Wayne, Michigan

December 1862

 

What had she done? Matty Becker was going to hell, and there’d be no one to save her. A loud snore echoed from the other room. She peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse of Colonel Black’s stocking feet. She’d burn for sure. She glanced at the paper she held and groaned. She was a horrible, devious, scheming letch. Maggie wouldn’t be pleased. Maggie wasn’t here. Another snore blew into the kitchen and she placed her head onto the table banging her forehead twice. There was no turning back now.

Last night she’d pushed aside her conscience and let fear guide her. For her plan to work, she’d have to throw all sense to the dogs, not that she hadn’t done so already by following through with the blasted thing. She couldn’t fail now. If her family found out what she’d done they’d never forgive her. Worse yet, if Colonel Black found out she’d be locked behind bars, a fate far better than the one that got her in this mess to begin with.

She placed the paper on the table and went into the bedroom. Colonel Black lay on the bed with his clothes stripped off and tossed about the floor. He’d been out for nine hours and would wake any minute. Matty stood, pushed all thoughts of reason from her mind and removed her dress, corset and pantaloons. Her face heated and the room spun. He rolled over and she jumped into the bed next to him, pretending to sleep. She knew the moment he’d woken. The bed stilled and she couldn’t breathe the air was so stiff.

“What the hell?” He sat up and she knew the instant he saw her. “Son of a bitch.”

She felt his nudge once, twice and now a shove almost knocking her from the bed.

“Wake the hell up,” he growled.

She squeezed her eyes closed and willed strength into her soul so she could face the dark Colonel. She rolled over pretending to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

“Who are you?” He placed his head in his hands. She’d bet he had one heck of a headache.

“Your wife,” she said.

“The hell you are.” He shot out of bed without grabbing the sheet, and she averted her eyes.

“Please cover yourself.” She held up the sheet and he ripped it from her hand. “The marriage license is in the kitchen on the table if you do not believe me.”

She watched as he grabbed his head and closed his eyes. The heavy dose of laudanum she’d placed in his drink the night before had done the trick and it wasn’t but a mere suggestion they marry that the Colonel jumped to the challenge. Soon they were standing in the dining room in front of a preacher. Words were spoken—words she thought to say with someone she loved, someone who’d wanted her. Her stomach lurched and her mouth watered with the urge to vomit.

“How did this happen?” he asked sitting on the end of the bed.

“Mrs. Worthington sent me to see if you needed anything.”

“I was drinking.” He looked at her. “I was drunk.”

She shrugged.

He stood holding the sheet tight to his midsection.

She couldn’t help but notice the rippled stomach and defined muscles on his chest.

“We can annul. I had too much to drink. My head wasn’t clear.”

She shook her head.

He frowned.

“We have consummated.” A lie of course but she was desperate.

His mouth fell open. A moment she knew he’d not remember. After the preacher left, she’d taken him to the bedroom where he passed out before hitting the bed.

“Impossible. I’d remember that.”

She shook her head again praying he’d buy the fib.

He pulled on his pants and dress shirt. “I don’t even know you. Why in hell would I marry you?”

“My name is Matty Beck—Black. I was employed with the Worthington’s. You’ve come to dinner several times.”

His brown eyes lit with recognition. “You’re the house maid.”

“Yes.”

“I married a maid?”

The words stung and she turned from him so he wouldn’t see the disappointment upon her face.

“Why would you marry me if I was into the spirits?”

“You seemed fine to me.”

He took a step toward her. “Why would you marry me at all when you don’t even know me?”

She gripped the blanket on the bed. “You…you said kind words, and I…I believed them.

“How desperate are you to marry a stranger?” he yelled. “You found out who my father is. You want money. You tricked me.”

Well, he got the last one right, but the first two irritated her. She was not the kind of person to marry for money. Really, who did he think she was?

“Sorry to disappoint you but I refused my inheritance years ago.”

“If you mean to say that I could not find myself a suitable husband because I am a maid, then you’re wrong.”

“That is exactly what I am saying Miss—”

“Black.”

“The hell it is.”

He went into the kitchen picked up the marriage license and stared at it.

Matty dressed quickly and inched into the room. Confusion pulled at his features and she began to feel sorry for him. This was her fault. She’d planned this. Now she had to continue telling the lie she’d told. She glanced outside and shivered. Boldness, be my tongue. Shakespeare’s words echoed in her mind. It was worth it. She’d been living in fear for a week. Colonel Black had been her saviour, and she risked a life full of love and happiness for this—a lie in which she’d speak for the rest of her life. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and willed the tears not to fall.

“Why can’t I remember?” He glanced at her. “And why in hell would I marry you?”

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A Conversation with Holly Bush, author of ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

Click on cover to purchase

Q: Thank you for this interview, Holly. Can you tell us what your latest
book, Reconstructing Jackson, is all about?

I’d love to and thanks for having me. Reconstructing Jackson is set a few yearsafter the Civil War and follows Confederate veteran, Reed Jackson, as hemoves west to begin again after the devastation of the war.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Reed Jackson is in a wheelchair, having lost part of one leg and the full use
of the other from a war injury. When he arrives home, his father decides
because of his injuries, he is unfit to carry on the Jackson legacy, and deeds
the plantation to Reed’s younger brother. With that deed goes Reed’s fiancé
from a neighboring plantation. Reed’s mother urges him to move to Fenton,
Missouri, where her nephew, Henry Ames’, operates a successful hotel and is
eager to help his cousin get settled in a new town.

Belle Richards is dirt poor farm girl and lifetime resident of Fenton. She
endures an abusive family with one quest in mind – learning how to read.
Circumstances throw Reed and Belle together in a violent fashion.

Beulah Freeman manages The Ames Hotel for Reed’s cousin Henry. She is an
oddity, as a former slave, to be in a position of responsibility, literate and
teaching others to read.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally
from your imagination?

Totally from my imagination!

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do
you discover it as you write?

I do not know the entire plot of the book at the outset, but I do quickly know
the arc or dramatic turn of the book. Mostly, I see characters in my head and
record their actions and write their dialogue. With Reconstructing Jackson,
I saw a man, a young man, in a wheel chair on a dusty train platform, with
his trunk beside him looking around as if thinking about where to go next. I
wondered why such a young man would be in a wheel chair, why no one was at
the station to meet him. Where was he from, where was he going?

Q: Your book is set in Fenton, Missouri. Can you tell us why you chose this
city in particular?

The state of Missouri was the site of battles and guerilla warfare before and
during the war. The Dred Scott case, eventually argued by the Supreme Court,
originated in St. Louis and the state sent money and soldiers to both sides of
the war. This split of sympathies must have resulted in some dramatic and
horrible rifts among families and neighbors, even in the fictional town of
Fenton.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The time period plays a major part in the development of the story because
while Missouri was an obvious place for violence and tension, these kinds of
stories played out across America as social change was far ahead of general
sentiment.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Belle is holding a dictionary. She has never seen such a book before in her life
and is overwhelmed when she sees a word she knows. The book is a gift from
Reed.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Reed’s cousin, Henry, visits him his first evening in Fenton.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at

Father’s business for a while. Didn’t care for it much. Had a dream of moving

west. Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful

woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I

know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s

head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes,

but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war

began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have

continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have

managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel

existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this

visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already

were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp.

An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family

nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never

replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I

have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign.

His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with

pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the

same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s

encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe

she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past

and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new

world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on
track?

I usually take a break from writing for a few days or weeks. Then I read other
stories or books I’ve written and then I read the story I’m currently working on.
Usually by the time I’m done with the reread, I’m ready to write again.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you
wanted?

Read or write.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

Pride and Prejudice. Then I’d be a genius of subtle character building.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding
getting their books out there?

The publishing industry has changed and many of the barriers to publication
are gone. It is very tempting to self-publish, which has been a wonderful
experience for me and very, very successful so far. But I would caution writers
that while rejection from editors and agents is discouraging, there are usually
other agents to query. Rejection from the public, however, could be a once
and done affair. Make sure your book is ready and has been edited by a
professional before self-publishing.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Holly. We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me!

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Read-a-Chapter: Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the historical fiction, Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. Enjoy!

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

  • File Size: 321 KB
  • Print Length: 191 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: BookBaby; 1 edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009LMKGUW

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

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Chapter One

May 19, 1867

“Need some help, mister?”

“I’ll be fine, thank you,” Reed Jackson said.

The conductor approached through whirls of black smoke and repeated, “Do ya need some help?”

The whistle blew as Reed replied. “I’m a cripple, not deaf, you jackass. I said I’d be fine.”

The conductor squinted through ashed air and hefted himself onto the train’s step. “OK, son,” he shouted.

The train pulled away and Reed struggled to pull his bag on to his lap and wheel himself to the step of the station house. A sign, swinging in the locomotive’s draft, read ‘Fenton, Missouri – Population 6,502.’

“Is there a boy about who can get my trunks to the hotel?” Reed shouted into the dim building. The scrawny station manager shaded his eyes as he stepped into the dirt street.

“Where ya be headin’?” he asked.

“The Ames Hotel,” Reed replied.

Reed contemplated the man who was now rubbing his jaw and eyeing his wheelchair; the last, hopefully, in a long line of nosy, prying half-wits whom Reed had encountered on this tortuous journey. The man knelt down and touched the leather strapping of the wheels.

“Please don’t touch the chair, sir,” Reed said.

He stood, eyes still perusing Reed and his belongings. “In the war?”

“Is there someone able to bring my trunks to the Ames Hotel?” Reed repeated.

“From the sound of that drawl, I’d bet my Helen’s berry pie, you was wearing gray,” the stationmaster added.

The man’s self-righteous smile did nothing to lighten Reed’s mood. He was tired, his leg hurt, and he wanted nothing more than complete and utter silence, followed by a long soak in a tub. But this was to be his new hometown. His fresh start.This imbecile may need his services as an attorney if he killed his pie-making wife, Reed thought.

“I served in the confederacy, sir.”

“Damn. I was right. A Johnny Reb, huh?”

“I consider myself a U.S. citizen,” Reed replied.

“Well, yeah but . . .”

“Excuse me,” Reed said as reached his hands to the wheels of his chair. “I must get to the hotel. I’m expected.”

The stationmaster turned as a man and woman approached. “Reed?” the man called.

“Henry.” Reed recognized his cousin from the remarkable likeness the man had to Reed’s mother. Tall and dark with great smiles marked the Ames family.

Henry clasped Reed’s hand and shook, turning to a petite blond beside him. “Reed, this is my wife, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen, this is my cousin, Reed Jackson.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir. How was your trip?” she shouted over the clang, roar and bedlam of the station.

Mary Ellen Ames wore an expensive, up-to-date gown and filled it most attractively, Reed noticed. He smiled his best Southern charm and held her dainty, gloved hand in his. “Dirty, hot and long.”

She laughed and turned to her husband. “Our traveler is weary, Henry. Let’s get him out of the sun and the dust.”

Reed was thankful this woman, his hostess was gracious and mannerly. So unlike the passengers he’d been forced to sit beside and occasionally converse with. He was sick of boorish behavior and basked in the delightful smile Henry’s wife bestowed upon him. Henry must have married as well as he possible could have in this God-forsaken town. His mother had told him that her brother’s son had come west before the war, married and was a successful businessman. She apparently was right.

Reed looked at the stationmaster as he listened in on their conversation. “I was trying to hire someone to bring my trunks to the hotel when you came.”

“Oh, yes siree, sir. Right away, sir.”

“Thank you.” Reed wheeled himself along beside Henry and Mary Ellen as they walked away from the station. As the roar of travel sounds dimmed, Reed turned to his cousin. “So what is life like here in the wild West?”

Henry stopped, looked at Reed’s serious face and leaned back, laughing. “The wild West? Fenton is hardly wild, Reed.”

“Well, we are west of the Mississippi, Henry? I was raised to believe civilization begins in the heart of the South,” Reed said and smiled.

“You’re teasing, Mr. Jackson. Why we have churches, shops, theatres, and even a small hospital. The fine ladies of the Aid Society consider Fenton a bastion of civilization.”

Reed regarded her sincere countenance. “Why, of course, Mrs. Ames. Forgive me.”

“Please call me Mary Ellen. We are related, and I want you to feel comfortable in your new home.”

“I would be honored if you would call me Reed or Jackson, in kind,” he replied.

The streets of Fenton were busy with wagons, horses and people. He watched as he wheeled and found some staring strangely at him, many on their own way, paying him no mind. He dodged horses’ hooves, children running and the hems of calico dresses.

“The sidewalk here in the main part of town runs right in front of the hotel. Let me get you up the first step,” Henry said, taking the handles behind Reed’s chair and turning him around.

It was humiliating to depend so entirely on others. Strangers, Reed didn’t mind, but the thought of a relative helping him merely negotiate the street riled him.

“I’m fine, now. Which way are we headed?” Reed said and caught an embarrassed glance from husband to wife.

Mary Ellen Ames motioned forward.

Reed pardoned himself many times on the narrow sidewalk. He passed the Fenton National Bank and a dreary theatre beside it and waited for Henry to move a pickle barrel a few inches back in front of the general store.

Mary Ellen turned onto a wooden sidewalk lined with flowers.  “Here we are.”

The Ames Hotel was indeed grand, yet to Reed’s thoughts, homey. A wide porch held wicker furniture and guests reclined and chatted there. Reed looked up at the large brick building, seeing three floors, curtains blowing softly out of tall windows. White gingerbread trim edged the porch pillars and roof. His gaze fell to six wide wooden steps, their backs white, the footfalls, forest green.

“You’ve done well for yourself, cousin. A very inviting hotel and busy from the looks of things,” Reed said.

Henry put his arm around his wife and looked up to the building. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The couple’s eyes met, and Reed felt the intensity from feet away. They stared at each other, glowing, and Mary Ellen’s hand raised to her husband’s chest. This must be quite an accomplishment out here in the prairie; they rightly deserved to be proud, Reed thought.

Henry motioned Reed to follow him around the side of the hotel. A swing under two shade trees held a mother reading to a child. Pots of flowers lined the walk until Henry came to a gate. “We use this entrance, Reed. Rarely use the front. I’ve lowered the latch so you can come and go as you please.”

Reed followed his cousin and his wife through the gate. The back of the hotel was a sea of activity. Sheets hung in the breeze near a huge pot. Two women, their hair held back with red kerchiefs, straightening from their stirring, turned and stared. A round man in white carrying dead chickens,emerged from a shed and stopped abruptly. An old man painting a fence halted his brush, mid-stroke. He sat his bucket down, pulled a paint-stained rag from his pocket to wipe his hands and hobbled in Reed’s direction.

“Mr. Ames, Mrs. Ames, I sees your company’s here,” the wizened man said.

“Arlo, this is my cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Henry said.

“Pleased to be meetin’ ya,” the rough, wrinkled man said and held his hand out to shake.

Reed lifted his hand. “Likewise, I’m sure.”

“Looks like yer chair will fit after all.” The man circled Reed, nodding. “I done worried for no use.”

Reed looked at the man quizzically until Henry motioned to a back porch. The wide steps were partially blocked by a series of elevating ramps. Reed stared. He looked up to his cousin with questions. Reed knew that all in the yard listened intently, but it did not stop his comments.

“Your father’s letters implied that I’d have no trouble getting into the hotel. That a back entrance was level.” He struggled to maintain a polite tone but could not.

Henry rushed forward. “You won’t have any trouble, Reed. Arlo and I built this ramp.”

Reed watched his cousin’s nervous face and hurried gestures. He wheeled himself to the base of the ramp while his audience waited.

“Let’s all get back to work, now,” Mary Ellen said to her employees. “We have a full house.”

Reed wheeled himself up the first ramp, stopped and turned on the landing. The next level appeared steeper and Reed pulled the wheel hard to get some momentum. Near the top, he began to roll backwards. Reed caught himself and concentrated on the last ramp. From the corner of his eye, he saw the laundresses and cook slyly watching his progress.

Arlo however could not restrain himself. “I toldsya, Mr. Ames. We needed another foot to make that second piece not so steep.”

Henry spoke softly. “We couldn’t lengthen the ramp anymore without covering the coal cellar. It’s fine.”

Reed pushed himself up the last ramp and onto the porch.

“Yeeha,” Arlo shouted and threw his hat in the air. “I done told ya it’d work.”

Reed heard Mary Ellen hush the old man and smile approvingly to her husband. She climbed the steps and faced him. “That went well, don’t you think?”

Reed Jackson took a deep breath and nodded cautiously. He had yet to decide if he was insulted or thankful. Reed’s eyes were drawn to a tall Negro woman in the doorway. She wore a black dress with a white scarf at her neck and carried a large, wooden bowl of beans. Their eyes met, and he felt a flash of anger in her stare. The woman looked out over the work in the yard, and Reed noticed a quicker pace from all.

“Beulah, this is my husband’s cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Mary Ellen said.

The woman’s head nodded once, and Reed was surprised when she spoke. A rich cultured baritone met his ears. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jackson.”

But Reed knew she was anything but pleased. Truthfully, Reed was shocked into silence. He had never imagined his cousin keeping a darkie. His father referred to the Ameses as nigger-loving liberals, Northerners with no sense as to how the southern economy and ways, worked. “Beulah,” Reed said.

“Henry, dear, I saw the guests from San Francisco on the porch. I want to fuss over them a bit,” Mary Ellen said to her husband and turned to Reed. “Do excuse me. Henry will show you your rooms, and I’m sure you two have much to talk about.”

Reed inclined his head. Beulah moved past him, down the steps and into the yard. He heard a laundress reply to her low words. “Yes, Miss Beulah.”

Reed’s eyes and brows rose to his cousin. “Miss Beulah?”

Henry smiled tight-lipped and gestured Reed to follow him into the hotel. He unlocked a door and handed Reed a key. Reed looked around the rooms that were to be his home. The rug was flowered, the walls covered in pale blue paint with two large windows overlooking the side yard that held the porch swing. Reed wheeled himself into the bedroom and the attached bathing room. In the main room a large desk sat between the two windows. Amazingly, someone had remembered to remove the chair. An overstuffed settee faced a small fireplace with flowers gracing the mantle.

“Very nice, Henry,” Reed said as he looked around the room.

“Arlo’s painting book shelves for the corner. I thought you may want to work from here for a while.”

“It seems you’ve thought of everything,” Reed replied. “I thank you.”

Reed watched as his cousin turned away uncomfortably and sat down in the upholstered chair.

“There are some things we need to discuss, Reed.”

“Of course,” Reed said and wheeled closer.

Henry shifted in his seat and leaned his elbows on his knees.

“I fully expect to pay my way, Henry. I wrote your father as much,” Reed said. Perhaps the hotel was not as profitable as his mother claimed. Reed knew that appearances could well be deceiving.

Henry’s hands flew forward, and he grimaced. “The money’s nothing. We’ll come to an agreement.”

Reed waited for the man to continue and wondered what was causing his cousin such distress. Henry and Mary Ellen had offered him a home. If not the money . . .

“It’s about Beulah.”

Reed shrugged, relieved. “Rest assured. I’d never let on to your family that you keep a darkie.”

Henry turned, his eyes glittering. “I don’t keep a ‘darkie,’ Reed. She is an employee.”

Reed sat back in his chair and tilted his head with a smile. “Whatever you want to call it is fine. I understand your reluctance.”

“No, Reed, I don’t think you do. Beulah manages this hotel with Mary Ellen and me. We couldn’t do without her. And she gets paid at the end of each week like the white employees, except more. I know many Southerners came west with their slaves. There are some here in town. Neither seems able to change. Not the white master, nor the Negro slave. And they’ve continued on as before the war, here some two years after. Beulah however is a free woman.”

Reed nodded and lowered his eyes. “I see.”

“Will you, ah . . .will you be comfortable with this?”

Reed wondered whom the man would choose if Reed was, in fact, uncomfortable. The Negress or his own flesh and blood? “It’s a new world, Henry. The choices weren’t mine.”

Henry nodded and sighed. “Damn complicated subject, Reed.”

They sat quietly until Henry stood. “I imagine you’ll want to get settled. I see your trunks being brought around. We eat together at four and feed the guests at five-thirty. Turn left out your door, and you’ll run into our kitchen.”

“Thank you, Henry. And be assured, I don’t plan on being a burden.”

Henry opened the door when someone knocked and motioned the men forward hauling Reed’s luggage. “Yes, bring it right in here.” He turned to Reed with a smile as he stepped through the door. “I can’t imagine you being a burden, Reed. This is your home for as long as you like.”

Reed directed the men carrying his trunks where he wanted them, tipped them and went to the bedroom. Close up to the bed, Reed pulled himself onto the top coverlet. His mangled right leg ached from travel, hoisting himself on and off train cars and in and out of hotel beds. Reed pulled and shifted his leg till it was comfortable. The stub below his left knee followed. His eyes closed, and he listened briefly to the fairy tale the woman read to her child as they sat in the swing near his window. He soon slept.

* * *

Reed’s eyes opened, gritty from sleep and exhaustion. He pulled his gold timepiece from his pocket. Hell’s fire. After four. Reed pulled himself into his chair and went straight to the sink in the bathing room. He washed his hands and face, combed his blond hair and dug through a trunk for a clean shirt. Reed muttered, knowing he was late and cursing these heathens for eating the evening meal in the middle of the day.

Reed struggled to button his jacket and wheeled himself to the kitchen. The sight he beheld stopped him. A large, clean spacious kitchen, humming with aromas from bubbling pots with spices and herbs above, hung to dry on racks. A huge table down the center of the room was covered with a gingham-checked cloth, and every person Reed had seen so far sat around it. Others, he didn’t recognize. Henry sat at one end, Mary Ellen on his right and Beulah at the other end with her back to Reed.

“Apologies for my late arrival,” Reed murmured.

Mary Ellen rose and came to him. “I told Henry I’d bring you a plate tonight. You must be exhausted.”

“I admit I napped. Something smells delicious.”

A young girl, seated beside Beulah, stood. “Mrs. Ames, I got to get home now anyway. Your company can have my seat.”

“Thank you, Constance. Tell your mother I hope she feels better,” Mary Ellen said as she pulled the girl’s chair away. Clean china and a fresh napkin appeared at the now vacant spot.

Reed wheeled himself in and looked around at the curious stares. They employ Negroes, eat in the middle of the day and do so with their employees. He noticed the only person at the table not smiling or eyeing him was the woman to his left. Beulah continued to eat as if he had never entered. Arlo sat on his right and handed Reed a constant flurry of bowls and platters.

“Pickles, Mr. Jackson? Miss Beulah, hand Mr. Jackson the pickles,” the old man said.

She turned to Reed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear Mr. Jackson ask for the pickles.”

“They do look tempting,” Reed said.

Beulah did not move her gaze from her plate. She gently dabbed her mouth as the other diners began to talk again amongst themselves.

Reed looked at her and the plate of dill spears just out of his reach. She nodded regally in conversation to her left.

“Would you pass the pickles?” Reed asked.

“Pardon, Mr. Jackson,” the woman said with a tight smile.

Obviously she had heard. She was less than a foot away from him. Reed smiled and looked down at his plate. He turned to her and spoke clearly, “Miss Beulah, would you please pass the pickles?”

The woman nodded and picked up the plate. “Certainly Mr. Jackson. Do be careful of this dish. It’s one of the good set.”

Reed could not stop a slow smile. Beulah made clear her boundaries over a plate of pickled cucumbers. This adversary may prove a challenge, he thought. “I will be careful, Miss Beulah. My momma says I can be clumsy.” The woman turned back to the laundress on her left.

Reed watched the diners as they stood to leave, one at a time, and carried their dishes and glasses to the wash sink. He laid his napkin down and pushed back from the table, satisfied. His cousin knew how to choose a cook. Reed watched the round man, now fluttering from pot to pan, stirring and shaking.

Arlo stood. “Lets me git that dish for ya, sir.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied, feeling better with a stomach full of food.

It was then he observed his cousin and wife carry their own dirty dishes away. Mary Ellen giggled at something Henry said and Reed saw them smile flirtatiously at each other.

“I’ve got some bookkeeping and such to get done. I’ll bring a brandy by later,” Henry called to him.

“That would be grand,” he replied.

Reed spent the evening filling the chest of drawers and unpacking his things. He placed a picture of his mother and father on the table. Reed stacked books on the huge desk and on the floor beside it. He wrote a short letter to his parents and brother Winston, assuring them he had arrived safely.

Much had been made of his traveling alone, especially as great stretches of the southern tracks were still being repaired. His trip to Missouri had been a tortuous trek with multiple stops and some day or more layovers. His mother was convinced a companion should accompany him, but Winston could not take the time and the plantation’s finances needed no further stretching. He was crippled and he knew he must learn to negotiate his own way without staff or servants. His mother had compromised by making arduous arrangements with hotels and station masters by letter over the course of six months.

“Come in,” he replied to a knock at his door.

“As promised,” Henry said as he came in, bottle and glasses in hand.

“I was hoping you remembered,” Reed said and moved to the small table where Henry was seated and accepted a glass.

“So,” Henry said between sips, “tell me about your family.”

Reed rolled the brandy over his tongue. “What do you want to know?”

“Father said you’d be tight-lipped. Wasn’t trying to be nosy. Just hoping they were in good health and all.”  Henry crossed his legs and looked away.

“Forgive me, cousin. Mother and Father are fine. Winston is well and set to marry in the fall.”

“Sounds like things are getting back to normal. The girl Winston will marry, do you know her?”

Reed smiled and raised his brows. “Quite well.”

“Will they be living at the plantation? Father said your family managed to hang onto it.”

Reed wondered how much his cousin knew. “Father made enough in gold running blockades to pay the taxes and begin again. Winston brought his first crop of cotton in without slave labor.”

“I’m glad your family business survived. I am sorry about you brother Franklin. Terrible loss, a sibling.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied.

The two men sat in companionable silence, listening to the hushed chatter of guests as the hotel quieted for the night.

Henry leaned forward and stared at Reed. “I know I shouldn’t ask. Can’t seem to help myself. But if the plantation survived, why didn’t you take it over rather than a younger brother.” Henry looked at Reed’s stern face and hurried to continue. “None of my business,” Henry said, smiling at Reed, “Anyway, why would a successful lawyer want to plow and sow?”

“How is your family, Henry? Your father’s letters to Mother were always interesting. I would like to meet them.”

Henry chuckled. “Quite an assortment there. Mother and Father are fine. My younger sisters drive my father crazy with a varied group of suitors.” Henry poured another brandy from the crystal decanter and sat back. “Funny we never met. Our families I mean. Your mother and my father corresponded regularly. Father loved getting letters from Aunt Lily.Said she was the pride of the South.”

“Pride of the South,” Reed whispered and sipped.

Henry turned the framed daguerreotype around. “Father said my sister Susan was the spitting image of her. He’s right.”

“How is your father’s business?” Reed asked.

“Doing well. Always be a market for coffee, I imagine.”

“Begs the question, why would a coffee wholesaler’s son, move west and leave a prosperous business behind?” Reed asked over the cut edge of his glass.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at Father’s business for a while.  Didn’t care for it much.Had a dream of moving west.Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes, but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp. An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign. His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

Reed watched Henry turn the brass door handle. “My brother’s fiancée was to marry me. Her family’s plantation adjoined ours,” Reed said.

Henry turned back with a confused look. “I’m sorry, Reed.” He stood unmoving and smiled wistfully. “Maybe it was for the best. If she loved your brother, you two wouldn’t have been happy.”

“Had nothing to do with love, Henry,” Reed said. “After Franklin was killed and I returned from the war like this,” Reed said with a sweep of hands to his chair, “Father decided that Winston should inherit. That I was not up to the task. Belinda was part and parcel of the deal.”

Henry’s eyes widened. His mouth opened and closed. “Oh.”

Reed watched the man absorb and tackle that bit of Jackson family chicanery. This was the first time Reed had spoken aloud this tale, and it sounded sordid and cold to his own ears. What must this straight-laced Bostonian think, Reed wondered.

“What shit,” Henry said in awe, finally.

Reed laughed. “Well put, cousin. What I think exactly.”

Henry shook his head again and left Reed in his thoughts.

Reed wheeled himself to the window and listened as human sounds faded and a night orchestra began. Crickets chirped and an owl screeched in the distance over the low hum of a faraway piano. Reed smelled rain in the heavy air. He remembered the shocked look on Henry’s face and relived its source. Betrayal, anger and bitter disappointment filled Reed’s head. But he could not hate his father even though he wanted to. Reed knew that forging a new life in the devastated South would require a man fit in all ways. His father bound and determined to resurrect a lost cause with new rules to follow.

His cousin had proven, against all odds in Reed’s mind, to be a man he could like. There was no doubt of the sincere outrage in his eyes. And the straight talk had freed some of Reed’s anger and cleared a space in his mind to look forward and not back.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

Reprinted with permission from Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. © 2012 by Book Baby

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Character Profile Sheet for Reed Jackson from Holly Bush’s ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Years ago (and still applies today), the experts were telling fiction writers that in order to really know their main character, they must come up with a character profile sheet for them and definitely applies to all your characters as well.  This is a good practice because once you know all the ins and outs of all your characters, the book flows better and allows the author to get inside the head of each of their characters.

We decided to ask authors if they would like to come up with a character sketch of their main character, throwing in a few unique questions to make it really fun!

Today we have Holly Bush stopping by on her blog tour with a character sketch of her main character, Reed Jackson.  Tomorrow we’ll be hosting Holly with her first chapter and on Thursday, an exclusive interview!  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Reed Jackson!

Reed JacksonName of Character: Reed Jackson

Age: 28

Eye Color: Blue

Hair Color: Brown to blonde

Birthplace: Georgia

Marital Status: Married

Children: None

Place of Residence: Fenton, Missouri

Description of Home: Four room house with a picket fence

Dominant Character Trait: Distrustful

Best Friend: Henry Ames

Enemies and Why: Jed Richards. Jed is Reed’s wife Belle’s brother. Reed marries Belle before Jed can marry her off to a neighbor man and get a horse in return.

Temperament: Brooding

Ambition: To find happiness.

Educational Background: Apprenticed by reading the law.

Philosophy of Life: Kill or be killed.

Bad Habits:Holding a grudge.

Talents: He’s a convincing orator.

Hobby or Hobbies: His dog

Why is Character Likeable? Because he changes and grows.

Favorite Pig Out Food: Whatever his wife makes.

Character Mini-Interview:

Every New Year’s I resolve to: Tell my wife I love her every day.

Nobody knows I am: A war hero.

I wish I could stop:

The worse part of my life is: Being crippled.

I want to teach my children that: They must be true to themselves.

A good time for me is: An evening out with our friends and a trip to the theatre.

The worse advice my father gave me is: The war will be over quickly.

When I feel sorry for myself I: Work with other crippled veterans.

My friends like me because: I’m honest.

My major accomplishment is: Becoming a Judge.

My most humbling experience was: When my wife Belle helped me learn to walk with a wooden leg.

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Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Reconstructing Jackson 2Restructuring Jackson Summary:

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

Purchase the book at:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

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A Conversation with Nick West, Author of The Long Road Home

A native of Gainesville, Florida, author Nick West attended the University of Florida where he became interested in writing. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, and together with his family, have owned and operated a landscape business in the area for over twenty years. He and his wife Kay andtheir children, Tammy, John and Christy, along with their families all live on the farm where he grew up near Archer. He is the author of The Great Southern Circus and The Long Road Home.

The Great Southern Circus, his first book, is a collection of circus stories told to him by his grandmother as they were told to her by her grandmother, Miranda Madderra, who performed with this horse drawn caravan just prior to the Civil War. His second book, The Long Road Home, follows the main characters from The Great Southern Circus as they traverse the difficult and painful years of the American Civil War.

Visit the author and learn more about his work at http://thelongroadsouth.com.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

I believe that all writers are avid readers. As such I have tremendous respect for those who are talented enough to draw their readers into a caring relationship with the characters in their books. I have found that after reading a good book, I often recall the experiences of the characters as I would good friends or family members. That is my goal as a writer. I have attempted to relate these stories in a way that future generations of my own family could relate to them as the real people that they were. My effort is to bring these wonderful people to life in my books so that even readers outside of my own family would feel as connected to them as I do.

What was your inspiration for The Long Road Home?

When The Great Southern Circusbecame available nationally on Amazon, I was contacted by a large number of readers who had become invested in the characters of that book. As that book ended, half the characters rushed to join the Union Army and the other half joined the Southern cause. Readers wanted to know what had become of these folks during the Civil War. This book answers those questions.

So the novel is part biographical, part fictional?

Biographical in the sense that these were real people who actually lived the events about which I have written, and fictional in the sense that I can only imagine most of their actual conversations based upon recollections as handed down through oral history for several generations.

For those readers who haven’t read your first book yet, is there something about the plot or characters they need to know in advance before readingThe Long Road Home or is it a stand alone novel?

I have had readers who read The Long Road Home first, but invariably went back to read the Great Southern Circus to better understand the relationships. I would encourage folks to read the books in the order they were written to become more involved with all of these wonderful people.

How long did it take you to write the book and did you plot in advance?

The Great Southern Circus was a work in progress for years. I remembered the stories as they were told by my Grandmother and was determined to put them down in written form for future generations of my own family. The advent of the internet made it possible to not only verify that the events chronicled in the book actually took place, but also to connect me with other descendants of the same tour to compare notes and flesh out the other characters. This book took about a year to actually write and told the story of a two year circus tour that ended when the Civil War broke out. The Long Road Home picked up the adventures of the same characters as they struggled to survive the terrible years of the war. This book also took about one year to research and write.

I understand you did a lot of research for this novel. What was the process like and what surprised you most about this dark time of American history?

The American Civil War is probably the most researched period of American History. No matter how small a skirmish or political event, someone has researched and written about it. I read countless articles, books and research papers as they related to the experiences of my ancestors during this dark period. I found many surprises (at least to me) along the way. For instance, at the beginning of the War, Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union than he was about slavery which I was always taught was the major reason for the conflict. I also learned that racial prejudice in the North did not allow black men to even join the Union Army until late in the war. I had forgotten that our Nation was less than one hundred years old at the time and that many of the States believed that the Union was voluntary and that they could simply “opt out” if they believed that the Federal government was causing them more problems than it was helping their individual cause. I also learned to respect even more the character displayed by, and heartaches endured by President Lincoln during this time.

What themes do you explore in your novel?

Romance, friendship, adventure, hardships in a historical context. This is an attempt to put into perspective the individual stories of each of these men and women as they were swept along by events beyond their control. These characters first met each other and became close friends during the hardships of a circus tour that lasted two years before the outbreak of the War. One man was the northern son of the circus owner and performer, one young black man who joined to circus to search for his sister who was still held as a slave somewhere in the South, one young Alabama girl (my 3x Great Grandmother) who was a bare back rider and a young man from Alabama who joined the circus just to be near her. This is primarily their story.

What has been the reaction from your friends and family so far?

Friends and family loved both books and I have been blessed by the fact that total strangers have discovered my books. From the reviews on Amazon and other sites they seemed to have enjoyed them as well.

Are you planning any local book signings or other promotional events you’d like to announce?

I have periodic signing events that I advertise locally and through social networking. I am also happy to personalize and sign books that my office will mail to anyone who phones in a request to 1 (352)495-9858.

What’s on the horizon for you? Is there a third novel in the works?

I am now working on my third novel.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

I am always happy to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. They can find me on Facebook or E-Mail me at CountryGator@AOL.COM

Thanks again for the interview and best of luck with your books!

My interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine

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Interview with Mark Connelly, author of THE IRA ON FILM AND TELEVISION

Mark Connelly 2Born in Philadelphia, Mark Connelly completed a masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received a Ph.D in English. His books include The Diminished Self: Orwell and the Loss of Freedom, Orwell and Gissing, Deadly Closets: The Fiction of Charles Jackson, and several college textbooks. He currently teaches literature and film in Milwaukee, where he is the Vice-President of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center of Wisconsin.

His latest book is The IRA on Film and Television.

You can visit his website at www.theiraonfilmandtelevision.com.

To get your paperback copy of THE IRA ON FILM AND TELEVISION by Mark Connelly, visit Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-IRA-Film-Television-History/dp/0786447362/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340018217&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ira+on+film+and+television.

To get your ebook copy of THE IRA ON FILM AND TELEVISION by Mark Connelly, visit Amazon Kindle Store at

http://www.amazon.com/The-IRA-Film-Television-ebook/dp/B0084FA030/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1340018217&sr=8-3&keywords=the+ira+on+film+and+television.

Pick up your copy of THE IRA ON FILM AND TELEVISION by Mark Connelly at Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ira-on-film-and-television-mark-connelly/1110783855?ean=9780786447367

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Mark! Can you tell us where you are from?

I was born in Philadelphia, grew up in New Jersey, and now live in Milwaukee, where I teach literature and film.

Q: How did you come up with your title?

The title: The IRA on Film and Television was selected by the publisher McFarland to be descriptive.

The IRA on Film and TelevisionQ: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?

The cover, designed by McFarland, shows a still from Ken Loach’s 2006 film The Wind That Shakes the Barley which follows the creation of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence and its role in the Civil War that followed. The film was praised in the United States but led British critics to ask why Loach hated his own country.

Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?

Anyone who is Irish or anyone who is fascinated by the interplay of film and politics would find this book interesting. The Irish Republican Army has been a feature of Irish life for over a century. Although a small underground organization with no global agenda, it has captured the attention of filmmakers in three countries. Over eighty motion pictures and major television shows (Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, Law and Order, Boardwalk Empire) have included IRA plots and characters. Acclaimed filmmakers such as Neil Jordan, John Ford, Carol Reed, John Frankenheimer, and David Lean have directed movies about the IRA. A vast array of major stars — James Mason, Brad Pitt, John Mills, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Gere, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney and Dirk Bogarde — have portrayed IRA figures. The films include documentaries, psychological dramas, action movies, Nazi propaganda, even a spaghetti Western.

Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?

I think a quote by Joan Dean best sums up not only this book but much about our age:

History is no longer written by the victors. History is written by the filmmakers.

Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?

I really had two favorite chapters: “American Angles” examines the role Americans played in both creating the IRA and shaping its cinematic image. Few Americans have heard of the Fenians, the Irish American Union and Confederate veterans who invaded Canada in 1867 to prompt the British to withdraw from Ireland.

“The Shamrock and the Swastika” analyzes the way filmmakers exploited the IRA’s tenuous relationship with the Nazis during World War II. Although the IRA had limited contact with the Germans, films have exaggerated the connection for both dramatic and political purposes.

Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?

I was first interested in the IRA when I was eleven or twelve and saw The Night Fighters with Robert Mitchum. I had never heard of the Irish Republican Army or understood why the Irish were fighting the English in WWII. After studying history and political science in college and graduate school, I became intrigued by the role motion pictures play in shaping public opinion. Once I began collecting IRA films, I was amazed by the sheer number of motion pictures about a political movement in one of Europe’s smallest nations. I felt compelled to explore the way film has shaped the world’s impression of a conflict many have heard of but few understand.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Would love to find the site of my family’s village in County Monaghan, an area depopulated by the Famine.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?

I start writing at five am fueled by hot coffee and cold Diet Coke.

Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?

Erasing a $16 trillion national debt would be a wish that would benefit us all.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?

Motion pictures by their nature have difficulty exploring complex political issues. If filmmakers have failed to capture the true nature of the Irish conflict, they have created an archetypal figure. Like the American outlaw, the Irish rebel can be cast as hero, victim, or villain.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the book should visit the website:

www.theiraonfilmandtelevision.com

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Protostar author Braxton A. Cosby talks books, crop circles and inspiration

Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer with a vision of continuously evolving and maximizing the untapped potential of the human spirit. Braxton received a lot of his inspiration from watching the accomplishments and exploits of his famous uncle, comedic legend Bill Cosby. A physical therapist by background, Braxton received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate from the University of Miami. Braxton’s fascination of science grew into an obsession of Sci-fi and on one unassuming Sunday, this self-proclaimed romantic decided to pursue a “calling” to create a new genre of writing; Sci-Fance-mixing science fiction and romance. Braxton lives in Georgia with his wife and two children. He believes that everyone should pursue joy that surpasses understanding and live each day as if it were the last.

His latest book is the young adult science fiction novel, The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar.

You can visit his website at www.braxtonacosbygodson.com or connect with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cosbykid84 or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000215860223.

About The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar

It Starts With Choice! What would you choose: love or irrefutable duty?

On the brink of Civil War, the Torrian Alliance continues with its mission to obliterate Star-children across the universe in order to suppress an intergalactic evil. Following the recommendations of his Council, King Gregorio Derry has agreed to send his only son on a mission to restore honor to his family. Bounty Hunter Prince William Derry has crossed thousands of light-years to planet Earth, in order to fulfill this age old prophetic practice. The quiet days of Madisonburg, Tennessee are officially over as Sydney Elaine now knows the full meaning of the phrase Be careful what you wish for when she is confronted by this strange visitor. As an unforeseeable event delays his assassination, William decides to study his target more closely and begins to form a connection with Sydney that challenges his inner being. But this conflict is the least of his problems, as a conspiracy back on his home planet Fabricius threatens the lives of those he loves and his father s royal legacy. Along with that, he must unravel a hidden menace here on Earth that seeks to secure a vested interest that threatens both his and Sydney s safety. Will William be able to complete his mission or will he choose love, sacrificing everything he stands for?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Braxton. Can you tell us what your latest book The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar is all about?

At the core of Protostar, is a love story and a journey of two young people as they venture into the beginnings of adulthood. The weight of the decisions that they make will produce ripple effects that will not only impact their lives, but those of the ones they love. Inevitably, as we all grow and mature over time, we are given the opportunity to make choices. We must be accountable to those choices; understanding that we must accept their outcomes, whether good or bad. I hope that readers take are able to pull this out of the story and I especially encourage young people to reflect on the importance of being true to you and following the “straight road” and listen to their heart over the pressures of the world.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Braxton!  Your book,   The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar, sounds absolutely fascinating!  YA is hot, hot, hot right now and I’m curious to find out more about the main and supporting characters.  Can you tell us a little bout them?

Two main characters: William and Sydney.

William Derry is the main character that must make the decision between love and duty. He is the Prince of the Torrian Alliance and also a bounty hunter. He’s a complicated character to write because he has lived this very structured, pristine life with everything he wants at his fingertips. Yet, he decides to venture out on this crusade to salvage his family name. The strength of his character is that he has strong convictions and he is very accountable to his actions. His morale ethics are a big part of the dilemma he must face when ultimately making his decision.

Sydney Elaine is the female of interest. She is a typical, small town teenage girl that dreams of big adventure and love. She is finally given both and she must now learn to understand how to cherish receiving that which she longed for. Her character will develop a lot more over the length of the trilogy, with typical challenges of going to school, peer pressure from friends and understanding the voice in her heart that draws her towards a wayward stranger.

The supporting characters of the book are Sheriff Henry Gladston, Jasmine Carruthers, Sienna and Zelwyn. All of them play a key role in the evolution of Sydney and William’s relationship, with each one of them possessing a valuable element that is key to the outcome of the storyline.      

Q: I know some writers tend to base characters on people around them and yet some rely strictly on imagination.  Which route did you take?

It’s a mix. I like to write out of personal experiences and thus, some of the personalities, if not all, come from people who I know or have come in contact with. I like the authenticity or lack thereof, of people when you meet them for the first time. Some are genuine and some, not so much. Either way, most times you will end up getting a character that you can write from in your story.

Q: When you start writing a book, are you aware of how the plot is going to go or do you discover it as your write?

No. God gives me the storyline up front through inspiration, then I begin to tinker with it and develop it over time (with God’s help). Once the stories come to life all that is left for me to do is to produce the outline so that I can write from it.

Q: I would like to talk about the setting.  Your book is set in Madisonburg, Tennessee.  Tennessee is one of my most favorite places to visit!  Why, in your case, did you choose Madisonburg in particular?

Two words: Crop Circles. Madisonville, Tennessee has one of the highest numbers of Crop Circles sightings in the entire world. I decided to change it to Madisonburg, so that I could have a little more flexibility with writing the geographic and demographic details of the city.

Q: Wow.  In all the times I have been to Tennessee, never did I know that.  I’ll have to check those out the next time I visit.  I would love to see them!  Now, the setting.  Did the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, mainly because of the Crop Circles and because I wanted to pick a setting that reflects the simple laid back personality of Sydney. Big city is way too busy. The action that will take place may have been consumed by it had I picked a place like New York or Los Angeles.

Q: I want to get an inside peek.  Can you open the book to page 69 and tell us what is happening?

William just crash landed on Earth and he is making plans to disembark from his ship the Daedalus. He is speaking with the ship’s artificial intelligence and then the scene flashes to Sydney. She is sitting in her room daydreaming of a day that adventure would come into her “boring” life.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Yes, here it is. This is a scene that takes place on top of Sydney’s grandmother’s house, where she and William are starting to get closer.

William reached down to the quilt and grabbed his glass of tea and finished it off. Then he took Sydney by the hand and placed a small subtle kiss on it.

“It’s been a pleasure once again, but I really must be getting some much needed rest. See you in the morning?”

“Yes,” Sydney answered, “see you in the morning then.”

William decided a dramatic exit was the only appropriate way to end the evening. He gave a few short hops towards the end of the rooftop, planted his feet along the edge and vaulted upward, floating away from the edge of the house and landing perfectly on the back lawn.

***

Sydney raced towards the edge, making sure William was safe. She shook her head in wonderment as he disappeared behind the barn doors. Then dropped to her knees, staring at the hand William kissed and thinking, “Could this guy really be my Prince Charming?

As the sounds of crickets played in the background of the country night, a cool breeze tumbled in from the West blowing her hair into her face. She brushed it away and glanced upward to the Moon one last time. The sight of the mammoth white circle gave her a promise of hope. She knew that if the Moon could hang effortlessly in the sky without a single hint of losing its composure, surely something as simple as love could befall upon a country girl like her. She walked over and picked up her quilt, making her way back to her bedroom window. Looking back at the ghostly object one last time, she quotes an old nursery rhyme, “I see the Moon, the Moon sees me. Let’s hope God blesses the both of us.”

Thank you so much for this interview, Braxton.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

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