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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book review: Trading Horse by Darrel Sparkman



Blurb:
Range detective Jim Murphy digs in his heels to keep from falling in love with beautiful Connie Pinder, a rancher's daughter who's involved in the case Jim is investigating, right up to her pretty little neck. Following the trail of a stolen horse, Jim discovers it's actually a trail of murder, as well as a ruse by a ruthless gunfighter with his sights set on kidnapping Connie. Jim knows he can't let that happen, so that's when the bullets fly! TRADING HORSE by Darrel Sparkman is an action packed adventure full of gun smoke, and unforgettable characters.

My review: 
Trading Horse is a fun story that made me feel like I had my grandpa sitting here regaling the story of how he met and fell in love with my grandma.

You kinda get a feeling there's more to Jim than what needs the eye, but as the story goes on, you become more convinced that appearances are truly deceiving and there's definitely more to the man - even a fancy suit can't hide. Connie is a great match for Jim. Her attitude, charm, and fight keeps him on his toes and keeps her from being boring to him.

It's cute watching them figure the other out and how the meddling of folks around them help to push them along. When you realize just what trading horse means and how it comes into  play, you'll find yourself chuckling and shaking your head.

This is a easy-to-read winsome little story to be lost in for an hour or so.

Purchase links:




Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Release — Trading Horse by Darrel Sparkman

Range detective Jim Murphy digs in his heels to keep from falling in love with beautiful Connie Pinder, a rancher's daughter who's involved in the case Jim is investigating, right up to her pretty little neck. Following the trail of a stolen horse, Jim discovers it's actually a trail of murder, as well as a ruse by a ruthless gunfighter with his sights set on kidnapping Connie. Jim knows he can't let that happen, so that's when the bullets fly! TRADING HORSE by Darrel Sparkman is an action packed adventure full of gun smoke, and unforgettable characters.

EXCERPT


     The gambler’s first mistake was trying a bottom deal. It was slick and when that card popped up, he looked at me. There were no words spoken. He knew I’d caught him and then he decided to shoot me before I could name him a card cheat. It was close. For a skilled man there is no faster draw than a sleeve gun.

     His last mistake was in thinking I hadn’t already drawn my pistol. Hidden under the table, it pointed right at him. When he raised his hand like pointing at the ceiling, I knew what was coming. The hand dropped, pointing right at me. When his derringer came into sight I shot him. Fair? Depends on your viewpoint.

     He wasn’t good at his chosen vocation. Normally, the town marshal would run men like that out of town with a stern warning accompanied with a few bruises and a dimple in his hat.

     I didn’t want to shoot him. Given a little time, and us being close together, I’d have tried for a shoulder wound. But he was quick with that derringer and gave me no time at all. The gambler was left with a belly wound. If he was lucky, he might be dead by now. A wound like that was a sure ticket to hell, and it takes days to make the passage. I’ve heard laudanum does no good against the pain.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Book review: Harper's Rescue by Sean K. Gabhann

Harper's Rescue is book 2 in the Shiloh Trilogy. Click here to see my review on book 1, Harper's Donelson. 


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Blurb:

Disgraced Federal officer James Harper must redeem his honor and face down his enemies if he intends to stay in the Union Army and avoid his scheduled court martial. Recruited by General Grant’s spymaster, Harper must prove that whore monger Franklin Bosley is a Confederate conspirator—a man who has no scruples, and will do anything it takes to see to his own “cause” above all else.

Harper realizes that Bosley and his men are a threat to the Union Army—but that’s not all. Maggie, the woman who has broken through Harper’s emotional walls, is also in immediate danger. Harper has to act fast or there will be more deaths on his conscience—and Maggie’s is one he couldn’t bear.

Meanwhile, indentured saloon girl Katie Malloy must find her own way to escape Bosley—or die. Finding solace in the arms of one of Harper’s men whom she has come to love, she realizes in one terrible moment that she cannot depend on him to rescue her—she must do that herself, even if it means murder.

Once at odds with Lieutenant Harper, Corporal Gustav Magnusson begins to understand that Harper will see this mission through or die trying. He’s going to need Magnusson’s help—but who can they trust? There may be just one way out alive—if they can both survive long enough to put their daring plan into action for HARPER’S RESCUE…

My review:

Picking up right where Harper's Donelson, book 1, left off, we find Harper and his men figuring out how to fill their time being stuck in Paducah KY while they wait to be able to get back to active duty. Gus starts to realize the burden of leading men, making decisions, and learning who he is to become. Katie, the saloon girl, is still trying to find her place while she struggles with protecting herself.

While there are still some rough and tough moments, and some spy-games at play, I think this 2nd part of the trilogy is my favorite (well, so far, seeing there's only book 1 and 2 out). Seeing how everyone's stories intertwine and everyone acts and reacts to events... you find yourself mixed up between cheering the characters on, and on edge wondering what's going to happen next and who might find a little reprieve from their trials.... and just how twisted evil can be.

This is a great continuation of Harper's Donelson and I'm looking forward to an amazing (I have faith!!) conclusion with the last part of the trilogy.

Purchase links:




     

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

New Release — Leaving the Lariat Trail by John D. Nesbitt

A young cowhand, Charles Landon, wants to go straight and break free from a crooked gang, but it won’t be easy. When his former associates hatch a plan to rustle cattle, Charles decides to move on—and the old gang members don’t believe he can be trusted. 

As they begin to come after him one by one, he realizes he’s going to need to carry a gun—it’s the only way he can get out of LEAVING THE LARIAT TRAIL alive!

EXCERPT


“I’ve shot cows and left ‘em lay.”
Burke said, “What for?”
“Part of the job.”
• ● •


     Fred and Burke were quiet and heavy-lidded as they sat in the two chairs by the stove. The whiskey bottle was empty, and a cloud of tobacco smoke hung in the air. I found that the sewing went just as well at the table as it did in my lap, so I didn’t mind sitting by myself. Furthermore, I had things to mull over.
     Of the dozens of comments that had been tossed off during the visit, Ace Martin’s statement, not even a boast, that he had shot cows and left them was a remark that I kept coming back to. I had heard of killing a mama cow in order to make off with her unbranded calf, but I had never heard a man say he had done it, much less in such a matter-of-fact tone. I had already decided I didn’t want to take part in this new plan, and now I was even more certain. I did not want to work with Ace Martin.



Sunday, August 18, 2019

Everyday Heroes by Jodi Lea Stewart




A few years ago, a man named Scott came to repair the dishwasher in a house we were leasing. He was bowed in the shoulders and wore knee-high therapeutic socks.
He walked slightly lopsided and breathed heavily with effort as he bent to check out the appliance. His knees hurt. His hands were swollen with neuropathic pain. Over the course of the next half hour, Scott shared some of his life with me in a voice clear and strong.

It didn’t take long before I realized a bona fide hero was standing in my kitchen.

More about that later.

Scott told me he was worried that he was losing weight and that his 6’2” frame seemed to be shrinking. His strength wasn’t what it used to be either. Not long ago, he said, he could wrestle a fat, new refrigerator from the back of his truck and install it single-handed. Now he uses an assistant – Frank – to help with that kind of physical stuff.

Lately he had been experiencing a lot of tiredness after the three kidney dialyses he receives each week.

“Used to, I’d be down for a few hours, then get right up and start working again. Now I’m tired for hours afterward,” he said.

Scott happens to hold the record for the longest living male to receive kidney dialysis in the state of New Mexico. When I met him, he’d been doing it every week for 22 years.

The dialysis is the result of his taking bullets to the abdomen during the Vietnam war. Lying alone and bleeding in the jungle, he did something that saved his life.

“I stuffed my wounds with leaves,” he told me. “Now you’d think I’d get infected, but the leaves I used turned out to have a penicillin-like effect. How about that?”

How about that, indeed.

Beautiful like a hero

I’ve been thinking a lot about Scott since I met him that day. He inspired me. I have a feeling he inspires everyone he meets. He’s called a workaholic by his coworkers, and he’s a tad vain about his appearance. 

I told him he was looking good, and I meant it.

Come to think of it, Scott looks just like a hero to me, and that’s a beautiful thing to behold.

~~~~~~~~

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hero as a person (or animal) who is admired for great or brave acts. 

I think heroes are something more. I believe they are icons on which we project our greater selves. Deep in our psyches – maybe in our DNA – we want to believe that if pressed, we will rise to heights of courage and greatness. Heroes make us aspire to flee mediocrity and pursue the impossible. 

 Some of my heroes:




Gerard Butler!! How did he get in there? Gracious! You just never know where Gerard will show up, do you? 

Who are some of your heroes? We'd love to hear about them.








Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one hot Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a Black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair, and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.



 The Accidental Road, Sundown Press, debuts September 2019.
A teen and her mom escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it’s the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. 

She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation and featuring a Navajo protagonist, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She is hard at work on her sixth novel set in New Orleans and St. Louis. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.



Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why Using Metaphors is Both Awesome and Terrible by Jodi Lea Stewart




One dreadful  inspiring morning at a writing seminar long ago, I emerged from a face-to-face editor session feeling as if I were stepping from inside that room onto a parade float. For a few minutes, I could have sworn I was wearing stilettos, a flowered crown, and a ribbon sash proclaiming I was Miss Metaphor, and not in a good way.

Said editor had reviewed the first pages of my first novel and had practically stamped the lofty title of *Miss Metaphor* on my chest. I remember walking back into the area with a weak little Miss America wave at the other terrified aspiring writers waiting their turns at the chopping block.

That experience caused me to:
  • Greatly revise my first manuscript, and
  • Consider why metaphors are both awesome and terrible
With a little research, I found a true Metaphor Devotee – Italian semiotician, literary critic, and novelist, the late Umberto Eco who said, “ . . . metaphor gives birth to pleasure. . .”

He claimed that knowing how to conceive brilliant metaphors is an art.

I agree.

Metaphors, and their cousins – simile, hyperbole, allegory – add punch to pallid writing. They enlighten and freshen dull manuscripts.

Too Many Metaphors
Some writers (Jodi Lea Stewart in the past, for example) are addicted to figurative language. Consider the following paragraph, and yes, I wrote it for this blog, and furthermore, it was easy because I could almost live inside a metaphor, but that’s another story, n'est-ce pas?

The female fire hazard blazed her way into the board meeting, bull-nostrils flaring, poblano-pepper eyes glowing and roared at the Sovereign Power himself, “Give me back my job or I’ll torch your underwear from the inside out!”

Thirty-nine words, twenty-one of which indicate some kind of metaphor.

That’s overkill.

Writers who use metaphors to that extent might want to hook up with a 12-step Metaphors Anonymous program sooner versus later. Over metaphorizing *I made that word up to add interest* dulls out the reader almost as much as the writer who doesn't understand how to use figurative language in his or her writing.

Too Few Metaphors
If The Elements of Style by Strunk & White makes you salivate,



If you love stringent grammar rules and feel it is a crime to alter them,
If you use symbolic language ultra-sparingly, or not at all,
If you wallow in strict English correctness,

Stop reading this blog.

Grab your Elements of Style and repertoire of grammar books and take a nap with them because you’re boring all of us to death with your writing. 

Sleep. Just sleep.

However, if you are boring even yourself, and you are often told by readers, agents, or editors that your writing lacks color, excitement, or imagination, then I have a suggestion for you.

Run, don’t walk, to buy Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite. Read it under the covers with a flashlight if you must, but read it without delay. 




Plotnik, a self-defined, writing-rule-rebel said, “Both Strunk and White knew well that bending the rules . . . can give writing its distinction, its edge, its very style. Bending the rules can spring writers from ruts – get them out of themselves, out of the ordinary, and into prose that comes alive, gets noticed, and gets published.”

Strike the Balance


A sassy blend of metaphor mixed with essential writing rules will let you stand proud on that Miss (or Mr.) Metaphor float, or anywhere else. Just as a superb pageant contestant is attractive, well-rounded, and interesting, so is the kind of writing that stands out from the crowd.


Another quote from that metaphor-loving genius, Umberto Eco: “Metaphor is the supreme figure of all . . . connecting notions and finding similitude in things dissimilar.”

That’s kind of a gorgeous way to put it, wouldn’t you agree?

What about you? Have you been guilty of too much flowery writing? Did anybody ever tell you to stop? Maybe you abhor metaphors, simile, hyperbole and the like. Tell us about it. 
As usual, I love to hear from you!






Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one hot Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a Black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair, and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.





 The Accidental Road, Sundown Press, debuts September 2019.
A teen and her mom escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it’s the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.
   
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. 
She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation and featuring a Navajo protagonist, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.








Saturday, June 15, 2019

Can Ants be Trusted with the Crown Jewels? by Jodi Lea Stewart




If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch. If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds and didn’t wiggle very much, the ants considered me scenery, which was okay by me. 

Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

The ants carried bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects or their wings *especially beetles and wasps* and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint. Invariably, they took their gleaned goodies straight into the mysterious hole leading into the central parts of their colony. 

Can’t you just see a couple of sweating ants lugging a crystalized wasp wing into the throne room? I can!

I never actually witnessed the ants placing items on the outside of their pebbly hills, and I’m sure they had to obtain Queenie’s orders before they did any outside decorating. 

Unless they were rebels.

I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?





My favorite anthill pickings to take home with me back then were the tiny hollow-bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery, fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries earlier for hunting small animals and birds. 

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.


Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family. Arizona pyrope garnets were used to make bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Rumor has it the Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two- and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and in ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times its own weight and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.



Because I had heard garnet dust is used for cutting metals, I consulted with Michael Castaeda, a water-jet professional who daily works with garnet dust in his line of work. 

  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10 on that scale. 
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on the equipment used, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone when using water-jet cutters. 
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80-, and 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. 
  • Two hundred hours of use is possible from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit versus only thirty minutes from a mixture of aluminum oxide.

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about their work ethic. 

Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like ants, but that “we should also know what we are busy about.”



I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little red jewels from the earth is both resourceful and intriguing. Just think, they do all that work with no pickaxes, pullies, or hard hats!  

As usual, I love to hear from you! Have you ever found any treasures on an anthill? 







Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one hot Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a Black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair, and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.





 The Accidental Road, Sundown Press, debuts September 2019.
A teen and her mom escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it’s the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.
   
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional Western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. 
She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation and featuring a Navajo protagonist, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.











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