Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two book give-aways this week!

From our friend, Linda Weaver Clarke:

Two Historical Fiction Book Giveaways this week!

1. Interview and Sweet Historical Romance Book Giveaway

Book Give-Away March 25 April 1: To win the award winning novel, Melinda and the Wild West, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. U.S. and Canada. To enter the contest, visit Authors Book Corner here.
In 1896 Melinda Gamblea very elegant, naļ¶„ young woman from Bostondecides to give up her life of monotonous comfort for the turbulent uncertainty of the still untamed Wild West. Driven by her intense desire to make a difference in the world, Melinda takes a job as a schoolteacher in the small town of Paris, Idaho, where she comes face-to-face with a notorious bank robber, a vicious grizzly bear, and a terrible blizzard that leaves her clinging to her life. But its a rugged rancher who challenges Melinda with the one thing for which she was least preparedlove. Awards: Finalist for Reviewers Choice Award 2007

2. Interview and Historical Fiction Book Giveaway

Book Give-Away March 28 April 4: To win Birkebeiner, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. International. To win a book, leave a comment at

Norway, 1203. A mothers compulsion to protect her children is timeless and primal. War is insidious and ageless. Birkebeiner is a story of both. Two years after her son Hakons birth, Inga, wife of the Birkebeiner leader, King Hakon, realizes that the Crozier army will overrun her home, the fortress of Lillehammer. Inga is certain the Croziers will kill her child because he is the prince who may ascend the throne and unite the country. To save little Hakon, King Hakon asks his two best warriors to flee with his son for the safety of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim). Its a long and dangerous journey on skis through two treacherous winter valleys and over a 7,000-foot snow-blown mountain. Willing to risk everything for her son, Inga insists on going with them. For eight harrowing, exhausting days, theyre pursued by a cadre of enemy soldiers bent on killing her child. Magnus, the Croziers military leader whom the church and the bishop call King -- and who has lost his own wife and two-year-old son -- must lead the chase.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Author Interview: Brian Libby

Today we'll learn a little about Brian Libby, author of Storm Approaching: Part One of Mercenaries. Be sure to read my review of the book!

Jennifer Walker: Tell us what to expect in the next two Mercenaries books. Where is Andiriel headed?

Brian Libby: I hope readers find that Andiriel is headed someplace interesting. The trilogy does not have a central plot: there is no Maguffin that needs recovering or destroying, no prophecy that must be fulfilled, no Lord (dark, pale, or mocha) who must be vanquished. Soldiers of fortune seek whatever profitable work they can find; the title of the second volume, Gold and Glory, pretty well sums up what Andiriel and her companions hope for. But a storm is approaching, one that will transcend any small wars or local conflicts, and this becomes clearer as time goes on.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about other writing projects you have... past present and future.

Brian Libby: Past: And Gladly Teach, which came out in 2001, is a satirical novel about life at a fictional boarding school; it seeks both to amuse and to make a few points about education. Miscellanea is a small (70-page) collection of humorous essays on various topics, including education, movies (Star Wars 1-3 and Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy), and prescription medicines. Several of these essays are on my blog. I typed up my doctoral dissertation and three seminar papers and published them on Lulu (The United States Constabulary, 1946-1952).

Present: There is The Free lands, a stand-alone novel set in the Mercenary world, which I am now editing.

Future: I do not at this time have any other projects. Marketing books is at present my main occupation: I hope to improve sales rather than to write faster than folks can read. I plan to post more essays on my blog (

Jennifer Walker: Do you like to read? How much and what genre(s)?

Brian Libby: Why, yes, I do like to read. My reading is divided fairly evenly between history—primarily European military and diplomatic history, which is my academic field—and classic fiction, especially humor. I read almost no contemporary fiction.

Jennifer Walker: Most writers have to suffer through a day job to support their craft. What is yours?

Brian Libby: I teach European history at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in southern Minnesota. I was full time from 1978 to 1999, and then went part time, partly so as to have a chance to write extensively. But since I am a historian I cannot call this a “day job;” rather, writing is a hobby that I hope will become more of a profession.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Brian Libby: Since my parents are deceased and I am an only child and a bachelor, there is no family. However, I am fortunate that, my friends and colleagues being teachers, I have always experienced interest in and support of my literary efforts.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any hobbies outside of reading and writing?

Brian Libby: I am tempted to say ‘arithmetic,’ but seriously... I am very fond of music (particularly baroque and classical choral music), I sometimes play computer games, and I enjoy watching movies.

Jennifer Walker: What is your writing process like? Do you outline and do character sketches, etc. or just write and hope for the best?

Brian Libby: The latter. Part of the fun is finding out what happens. When I began Storm Approaching I knew only two of the characters: Andiriel and Sandi. Everyone else just appeared as I went on. Some major characters—e.g. Baron Gurlarga and Dagget—started out as secondary characters, or necessary placeholders. I did have a very general idea as to what sorts of things would happen, and of course as I got further along it became more specific, but I rarely outline or do character sketches. To people who do not write novels this probably sounds odd, but when one is absorbed in an extensive piece of writing, one’s subconscious mind generates ideas. (I do first drafts with a pen, then type them up on the computer. I am not overly fond of computers.)

Jennifer Walker: Who are some of your favorite authors? Do they influence your writing?

Brian Libby: It is difficult to pick only a few. Of course I admire great historians, e.g. Edward Gibbon, George F. Kennan, Shelby Foote. Novelists include Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, Anthony Powell, J.K. Huysmans, Evelyn Waugh, Herman Wouk, and S.J. Perelman. Tolkien and Lord Dunsany figure high in fantasy. The main influence of these men is to set a standard of great writing that I can at least strive to emulate.

Jennifer Walker: How did the idea and story line for Mercenaries come to you?

Brian Libby: In the middle 70’s I wrote a “trunk novel,”—courteously rejected by Lester del Rey himself—dealing with the efforts of a dethroned young king to regain his crown. I think the wish to write something more extensive involving politics and war stayed with me. About fifteen years ago I wrote “She was running as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough” on a slip of paper, saying to myself that these words would be the opening lines of a novel. I don’t know why I wrote that, but I kept that slip of paper. (The opening line of Storm Approaching is different, though, after many edits.) I know I thought that a mercenary regiment would provide many opportunities for travel and various experiences in a novel.

Jennifer Walker: If you had to pick the last dessert you would ever eat, what would it be?

Brian Libby: Presumably a last dessert would not involve any concern for calories, so I think a nice big hot fudge sundae with lots of whipped cream would be just great; but I’d also like a “Royal Delight,” the delicacy described in some detail on p. 40 of Storm Approaching (a bonbon that is not a figment of my imagination: it’s a “Mozartkugel,” made by the Reber company in Germany. Like Andiriel and the Emperor Grellin IV, I am quite fond of chocolate.) (JW: I wondered if that's what it was!)

Thanks to Brian Libby for stoppy by A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: Storm Approaching: Part One of Mercenaries, by Brian Libby

Storm Approaching: Part One of Mercenaries, by Brian Libby

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: AuthorHouse (April 29, 2009)
ISBN-10: 143894778X
Rating (1 to 5 *): ****

Storm Approaching Book Review

Andiriel received a good home and education in the Empire-sponsored Institute for the Homeless, but when her time comes to leave, she longs for excitement. She makes friends with a knight of the illustrious Sovereign Order, which leads to a job with the Order's auxiliary services. Before she knows what's happening, she finds herself on a ship to the Isles, on a strange mission that seems to change daily. Things start out pretty well, including making friends with an adorable sand fox, but the mission goes south fast. Finally, she becomes fed up with the deceit and danger and tenders her resignation.

While trying to find a way to get home without getting robbed or worse, Andiriel meets a member of a band of mercenaries that is camped nearby. Within a few days, she manages to get elected as the colonel of the band, and she must quickly learn how to lead a band of rough men, keep order in camp, and run a battle.

Meanwhile, back at the Empire, the abuses of power and incompetence that led to Andiriel's strange mission are discovered, the Empire and a plan is set to defy all traditions of succession for the emperor. Since Storm Approaching is the first book of three in the Mercenaries, this is only the beginning of the story. It does not stand on its own, so there are no nice and tidy endings. No, the reader will have to read the whole series to get those (I hope!).

I found some dichotomies in my reaction Storm Approaching. I thought it was well written, but in need of editing from someone experienced in publishing (sorry, I know I'm picky--what bothers me might not bother many readers at all). I thought the story well crafted, exciting, and interesting, but Andiriel takes some actions without much thought that I thought she should have struggled with. I won't name them, because I don't want to give away too much. Despite these, I really enjoyed the book and hope I get the chance to read the next two. The characters are enjoyable, with fun interactions, and there is just enough adventure and suspense. A fun read!

Tune in next week, when I'll post an interview with Brian Libby!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: Elements of the Soul

Elements of the Soul

Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Twin Trinity Media; First edition (August 24, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0984209506

I will start this book review by stating that I have two stories in this book. It would be silly (and of questionable ethics) to review my own work, so my opinions here are based on the other stories that are not mine.

Overall, I found the quality of the stories, editing and formatting in this anthology to be excellent. I don't usually pick up short story anthologies unless someone gives one to me as a gift, but I enjoyed being able to read a complete story in one sitting (i.e., a nice hot soak in the tub or a little light reading before bed). Although the stories were the winning entries in short story contests that were based on themes, the use of those themes varies quite a bit so it's a very eclectic collection.

Here is a run-down of the stories in the book:

"Jasper," by Lucinda Gunnin: Carrie and her ex-police dog Jasper witness a possible crime--or the cover-up of one--and soon find themselves in hot water. Realistic, stressful in the right places, and good characters that I enjoyed.

"Cicada Song," by Randy Barefoot: This is actually a poem, of which there are several in the book. I'm not big on poetry, so I'm not going to comment on them, except this one. That is a huge compliment! I LOVE this poem. It's everything a poem should be: artful language and imagery that transport you...without trying too hard.

"The Fire," by Jennifer Walker: My story of Heather's desperate flight from a forest fire with her friend's horses in tow.

"Last Caress," by Steven Thor Gunnin: The story of a group of the few remaining humans holed up in a dormitory while horrors roam the street. Horrifying in a very intellectual way (no gore), literary, touching. I loved it.

"Love & Loss," by Lindsay Maddox: Sara is pregnant with a baby she doesn't want. Lauren and Rick want a baby more than anything, but have little luck in bringing one into the world. Nature may not agree with their plans, but will they find a way to get what they want? This story is heartbreakingly poignant. Maddox knows how to get right to the heart of a parent.

"Healing Scars," by Jo Brielyn: Cassie is a widow and struggling to provide for her 10-year-old son, Mattie. When they meet a new friend in the park, Cassie learns a little something new about the scars Mattie wears. Sweet, touching, sad, and well-told.

"Troy Spencer," by George Kramer: When Troy's mother dies, all he has left is his sister, who has been mean to him his whole life. All their mother wanted before she died was for them to reconcile, but Troy isn't sure he can do that. Anyone who has ever had difficulty getting along with their family will surely see how true this story rings.

"Flood of Tears," by M. Lori Motley: Young Ethan faces trouble at school in the aftermath of a crime his father committed. While the sin was not his, Ethan suffers for it, and his mother must find a way to make life bearable for them. This story is heartbreakingly tragic, but the ending fell flat for me.

"Purgatory," by Steven Thor Gunnin: Blackie has a fantastic story to tell the three youths in the bar, but the most surprising part about it is that he is dead. While he regales his little audience with the stories of the departing souls he's met in the morgue, he has them hanging on his every word, right up to the ending they never expect. Brilliantly told, I found this story very intriguing.

"Summer Heat," by M. Lori Motley: Wayne and Frank have a good thing going, selling stolen car parts for a tidy sum. However, when Frank takes a car he never should have touched, they are in a world of trouble. The imagery in this story is vivid and the suspension is real.

"Love Burns," by Lucinda Gunnin: This is an old fashioned tale: preacher's daughter falls madly in love with a boy and soon finds herself pregnant. She marries her sweetheart, but as is typical in such stories, life does not turn out to be like she hopes it will. This is a well-told story that left me aching for the heroine.

"The Darkest Night," by Susan Sosbe: Alyse knows that the time for her to join her beloved Garrett in the afterlife draws near. As she recalls the tragedy that led to their separation, she is tortured by her memories. A very touching story.

"The Assignment," by Jennifer Walker: My second entry in the anthology is a humorous essay depicting the main character's struggle with writing a story.

"Kleio," by Laurie Darroch-Meekis: Marney loves to shop at the flea market, and one day she finds a truly unexpected treasure in the form of an elaborately jeweled child's toy. She seeks her friend's help in solving the mystery of the toy's origin, and it turns out to be far more than they ever expected. A cute story.

"Fly," by Rissa Watkins: Tom's mother is aging and fading. After the surgery to repair her broken hip, she is confused and frightened, and Tom is starkly aware of the shift from being her charge to being her caretaker. This is possibly my favorite story in the whole book. The emotions and struggles are so real and poignant...I actually cried at the end.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book hits the airwaves (the virtual ones, that is)

I'm hosting a weekly BlogTalkRadio show to supplement this site and Walker Author Tours! My first guest is Michelle Devon, on March 23rd at 3:30 PT. If you have a published book and would like to be a guest, send me an email.

Monday, March 14, 2011

This week's book give-away!

From our friend, Linda Weaver Clarke:

Book Give-Away March 14 - 21: We have two books to give away this week. Be The Lead Dog is a self-help book and Crimp! On-By!! is a childrens book.

The full title of Crimp's book is Crimp! On-By!! The True Story of a Most Unlikely Iditarod Lead Dog. Crimp is an incredible soul who is named for the crimp in his nose, resulting from a horrific injury when he was only 4 weeks old. When I first met him about 3 weeks later, it was a miracle he was still alive, but clearly so disfigured that he couldn't be a sled dog. Except we all forgot to tell him that. So the book chronicles his life, adventures and coming of age and achieving his destiny to be a lead dog in Iditarod.

"Be The Lead Dog Seven Life-Changing Lessons Taught By Sled Dogs teaches Trust, Drive, Focus, Patience, Transparency, Self-Assurance, and Perseverance. Read Be the Lead Dog and take it to heart! Everything is here that you need to accomplish the impossible in your life. Then go hug your own dog if you are lucky enough to have one and tell them thanks, you now get it." --Brian Tracy

To win a book, leave a comment at

Monday, March 7, 2011

This week's book give-away!

From our friend, Linda Weaver Clarke

Book Give-Away March 7 - 14: To win The Guardian of Kelmar, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. U.S. and Canada.

The Guardian of Kelmar is a fantasy novel that follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old orphan, Carmen Fox, as she journeys through a magical world called Kelmar. Carmen learns to master her powers as a young sorceress as she battles a dark sorcerer named Desorkhan, and his army of followers, who are fighting to take control of Kelmar. The story is fast-paced and action-packed. To win this book, leave a comment at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Be Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, by Angela Burr-Madsen

Book Review: Be Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, by Angela Burr-Madsen

Everyone has the ability and natural right to be happy, healthy, and prosperous, at least according to Angela Burr-Madsen and others who proclaim the benefits of prosperity consciousness. This is not an area I've studied extensively, although I've tried to start incorporating some of the concepts into my life. In this book, Madsen also introduces her line of flower essences from The Burren, one of the Earth's energy vortexes.

Be Happy, Healthy, Prosperous is sort of a mish-mash of secrets to better living through spirituality and naturopathy, a primer on some of the basic concepts of Eastern medicine (chakras, etc), and instructions on how to use the various flower essences that come from The Burren. Madsen includes case studies from patients in her practice who were experiencing various life problems that she solved through her methods. At the end, she gives a quick course on kinesiology and how to use it to diagnose which chakras are troubled so you know which flower essences you need. I have to say that I had difficulty following this part, and I don't know that I could really do it after reading the instructions.

This book was the first I've heard of The Burren and of anyone using flower essences in healing, but I am a child of Western medicine. I found it very interesting, and although I don't know that I'm sold on flower essences just from reading it, it was intriguing enough that I'd be willing to give them a try. Some of the concepts she talks about as far as being happy through forgiveness and love are definitely keepers. For example, she discusses the fact that forgiveness is an important part of the healing process. You don't forgive someone for their transgressions just for their sake, but for yours, so it doesn't eat away at you anymore. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you've condoned the behavior that offended you, it just means that you've made your peace with it. It's a pretty powerful concept.

The book is nicely written and beautifully designed, with many stunning pictures throughout of flowers from The Burren, taken by photographer Leueen Jennifer Jenkins-Hill. It is laid out in such a way that it is easy to use as a reference when you need to look up the appropriate essences for your problem.