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Beyond The Goodnight Trail

Roy V. Gaston brings us a Classic Western novel based on true historical events. This compelling story follows Pete, a former Texas Ranger, in an action-filled adventure. Pete rides with his friend, Charlie, with the goal of travelling across the state bringing cargo and other riders. All the while there is a dangerous threat looming over them. That is, they need to traverse through land owned by the Comanche; a Native American tribe who are tired of seeing other Natives being used, abused, and taken from their land.

Beyond the Goodnight Trail is based on historical figures and events, and author Roy V. Gaston effectively delivers an engrossing read that feels authentic. Not only did he choose a very intriguing time to write a novel about, but he was able to capture that time cleverly. The dialogue between characters captures the dialect and slang of that period especially well, this can get tiring depending on the reader, but it shows Gaston’s skill in depicting a certain time and place. The author puts even small facts in this novel, like calling Native Americans ‘Indians’ and describing fine details of riding in the West, which helped immersion immensely. Overall, this created a fully realized atmospheric setting that was easy to fall into, though this became easier after the first quarter.

I enjoyed this novel and felt that the pace was quick overall, but I did feel that the start was a bit slow as it was filled with long descriptions of characters. But characters in a novel are arguably the most important, especially for historical-based ones, so this time is beneficial in creating engrossing characters. Beyond the Goodnight Trail performs smoothly in this section as well with an antagonist you love to hate and charming protagonists and side characters. The small biography-like sections at the end of the book were a cherry-on-top as the reader gets to see what became of these historical figures afterward.

Beyond the Goodnight Trail is an exciting adventure novel filled with interesting characters and striking settings. Readers who enjoy a good western will truly appreciate this story, but anyone looking for an entertaining read will find plenty to enjoy.

Pages: 264 | ASIN: B08KSKYZ2P

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In Fiction, Context is Everything

Ed Protzel Author Interview
Ed Protzel Author Interview

Something in Madness concludes your DarkHorse trilogy. Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to do with this series?

I did accomplish all my major objectives for writing the trilogy. My themes came across clearly in each novel, though each had a slightly different emphasis. The struggles of the characters under historical slavery (The Lies That Bind, 1859-61 Mississippi), Civil War guerrilla brutality (Honor Among Outcasts, 1863 Missouri), and, finally, post-war oppression (Something in Madness, 1865 Mississippi), clearly make their points. Though the characters, living in a repressed society, must remain tightlipped, rarely giving speeches, I think the reader gets the idea that humanity can— and must learn to — get along.

In fiction, context is everything, and the main concept carries throughout the series. For example, in book 1, a drifter and a dozen escaped slaves form a partnership to build their own plantation, but pretend their enterprise is a traditional master-slave one to trick the town. At first, the hostility and suspicion between the partners, driven together by circumstances, is palpable. But as they seek common goals under enormous pressure (as they do throughout the series), the partnership’s internal conflict blends into familiarity, friendship, and finally trust. And isn’t that what we aim for ideally?

The plot of each novel ties up neatly and better than I’d hoped. Each involved complicated situations and seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the characters, requiring numerous twists and turns, and ingenuity in the part of the protagonists. I had a lot of fun devising them and hope readers can sense that excitement.

Further, I worked hard to make the major characters (below) complex, fully-formed individuals — Black, white, Native American, mixed-race, male and female  — each with admirable qualities and flaws,  unique personalities, and ways of thinking and speaking:

  • Durk: an imaginative, idealistic hustler, whose ambition brings real danger to himself and his cohorts.
  • Antoinette: a sophisticated, strong woman carrying heavy emotional burdens and secrets.
  • Big Josh: wise, intelligent, highly competent; the group’s real leader, bearing his own past tragedies.
  • Mrs. Marie Brussard French: a reclusive, powerful planter controlling the town and perhaps a bit mad.
  • Devereau French: the unhappy and embittered French family heir.
  • Wounded Wolf: Chickasaw chief whose arc is completed surprisingly in book 3.

In fact, I think the arc of the series as a whole worked in tandem with the character arcs of each novel. As for the plots, the final novel not only ties up a number of tangled situations within the its storyline, using clever tricks and surprising gambits played out dramatically in court, but the novel also resolves a number of issues left unresolved from book 1 in an emotionally satisfying and meaningful way.

Was there anything in the story, that developed organically while writing, that surprised you?

Actually, my novels develop almost entirely organically. I never get bored because of the exciting surprises I encounter along the way: plot, dialogue, characters, everything. It’s a hard slog, but the constant need for invention keeps me, and the story, fresh.

Some of my most pleasant surprises came through the dialogue. I like to create characters with strong views and then listen to what they have to tell me. Some of the best lines merely pop into my head in the shower or taking a walk.

One good example of strong dialogue is from The Lies That Bind. The Mrs. French character detests being around townspeople. But I needed a way to get the recluse to town so that Durk, the protagonist, could expose her darkest secret to the citizenry. So I have her going to church, unwillingly, once a year:

“I don’t see why I have to go to church every Easter, just because that Man rose from the dead,” the bitter widow said.

I also gained terrific dialogue through my research. In Something in Madness, Colonel Rutherford, one of my few true villains, says some shocking things about race relations. Rutherford is an unregenerate Confederate who refuses to surrender nor to accept emancipation. In this scene, he opines on the concept of Black literacy:

“Negro schools have sprung up like mushrooms after a storm; hell, they’re starting them themselves. These so-called schools are a plague descending upon our civilization.”

Rutherford’s attitudes were taken directly from contemporary letters to newspapers and articles written by correspondents. I merely put them in the mouth of one man — who spoke them in a tense meeting with the story’s hero, Durk, a Southerner who’d fought for the Union. To Rutherford, Durk is a traitor. In other words, the two men don’t like each other, or the other’s politics. Frankly, the racial animus prevalent in 1865 was tough to read about, and I had to put my source materials aside at times.

As for my methodology. First, I came up with the central concept of the trilogy (the partnership), which established the context for everything that happens after, themes and conflicts. Second, I get a rough idea of the arc the plot will take, plus an arc the major characters will undergo, working on their strengths and weaknesses. Then I let the characters go at it to create the plot twists, always working more conflict into every situation and scene. Is the story tense enough? Does it move?

For example, Durk and his Black partners are equal; they have to trust each other. But with Durk acting as front man for their enterprise, what if his ego drives him to gamble on the cotton market? What if that venture endangers their whole scheme?

I have to figure my way through all the possibilities. That constant need for invention creates suspense for the reader — and a lot of fun for the writer.

What has been the most surprising reader reaction to your books in this series?

How I write the female characters, without a doubt the most commonly asked question. After the publication of The Lies That Bind, I was invited to speak to a book club with about a dozen women and a few men. I went there with the notion of discussing many of the book’s elements, but the major thing they wanted to discuss was how I could write the women so well! In retrospect, there were two reasons for that.

Most importantly, I set out to give the women’s stories, Mrs. French and Antoinette predominately, as much weight as the men’s in terms of plot and outcomes. Not doing so would, in my opinion, sabotage the notion of “equality” and realism, an omission committed by far too many male writers past and perhaps present.

And second, I asked for and received feedback from female writers, friends, and my most ardent fan and critic, my wife, who often pointed out: “A woman wouldn’t say that” or asked  “How would she feel about…” And she was always right.

What project are you working on next?

I’ve been considering a sequel to The Antiquities Dealer, my futuristic suspense thriller featuring the clever David Greenberg, released in 2018. The story involves the search by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian extremists to find the surviving nail from the Crucifixion, tied to an attempt by a secret society to clone Jesus Christ. Murders, puzzles, and romance drive the suspense toward a surprising conclusion. In the meantime, I’ve begun working on another sci-fi thriller, Remembering Planet Earth, where in the not-so-distant future, our world has become an offbeat tourist destination for advanced, wealthy aliens — they’re here to have fun and observe…what? In both sci-fi scenarios, I get to explore politically and socially relevant themes, and offer up possible consequences.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Appomattox ended the war with a penstroke…
but the struggle for freedom had only begun.

1865. After the Civil War, Durksen Hurst and three black friends return home to a devastated Mississippi, the sole survivors of a Union colored cavalry regiment. But instead of peace, they find unregenerate Confederates who reject emancipation still in charge.

Undeterred, Durk opens a law practice to help disenfranchised freedmen — only to be threatened by powerful planters and nightriders. A black school is burned; a petition march to Jackson is terrorized. And when one of his friends goes missing, Durk is horrified to discover Black Codes being used to force freedmen into brutal servitude. Clever Durk schemes to liberate them but must contend with armed ruffians — and a rigged court system. Will fire and bullets prevail?

In this concluding chapter of Ed Protzel’s DarkHorse Trilogy, Something in Madness illuminates Reconstruction, the least understood epoch in American history, exposing the origin of America’s ongoing racial divide.


WHAT LED TO THIS UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP?

Read The Lies That Bind, book 1, and Honor Among Outcasts, book 2.

Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse: A History of Jazz and Disney

If you are a fan of Disney and want to learn about Jazz music history then Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse is the book for you. Matthew Hodge sprinkles his story with all manner of delectable tidbits that people don’t know about Disney and Jazz. You can also learn about Tokyo Disney and the resorts worldwide, giving you a peek at some of the secrets and facts about the Disney organization that goes beyond just your home. In addition to that, you will learn the history behind your favorite movies as well! Are you in love with The Princess and the Frog Disney movie? In Matthew Hodge’s book you’ll learn about the creative directions that brought a new era to Disney movies and music!

I loved Disney when I was younger, so I was excited to read this book because I wanted to know the secrets behind the movies. It was also a way for me to realize that there were projects I had never heard of, which was impressive. I had never heard of the Happiest Millionaire, but I enjoyed learning about it and what it was inspired by. Earlier in my life, my favorite movie was the Emperor’s New Groove because it’s a redemption story, and honestly, Eartha Kitt was hilarious. I wanted to cry reading about her past and am glad that she could move past it.

People often reference ‘Disney magic’, well I think there is also such as thing as the magic of Jazz. Matthew Hodges is able to capture the magic in both of these things and bring them together in one sensational book that delivers intriguing facts with surprising bits of insider knowledge. I never realized these two, seemingly different, forms of entertainment shared so much history. With so many references to both Disney and Jazz there is literally something in here for everyone. Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse was one of the most surprising books I’ve read this year. I did not expect to be so fully entertained.

Pages: 190 | ISBN: 1683902688

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The Secret Journal

The Secret Journal (God Stones Book 1) by [Otto Schafer]

The Secret Journal by Otto Schafer is an intriguing story of two intertwined lives of Garrett Turek and Breanne Moore. The story is an archaeological narrative with a touch of family, friendship, magic, and loyalty. Breanne Moore, a young lady being brought up by a single father, stumbles upon a mysterious artifact that holds secrets like Pandora’s box. Garret on the other hand is a young normal boy living his life under the pressure of his father. Garret and his friends find a journal in the basement of an old Victorian house and the secrets buried under their town come to life. When Garrett and Breanne’s paths cross, they realize that so much is at stake and they have to act fast before everything falls to shambles.

Otto Schafer has created a uniquely captivating story. The author connects the history of Ancient Egypt and the modern world in a meticulous yet engaging manner. The Secret Journal sets places the bar high for the rest of the series. The plot development of the novel is impressive and every small detail is captured to ensure that the readers are not lost

Every character is crafted carefully, and I enjoyed the slow evolution of their characters that unfolded throughout the entirety of the novel. Otto is such a diverse writer that he was able to differentiate each character in the book. Characters you empathize with are crucial to telling a good thriller and Otto Schafer has succeeded. Practically every chapter ends on a cliffhanger which made it difficult for me to find a spot to put the book down. The mystery at the heart of this story is beguiling but never bewildering, I understood what was happening, and why, even as the twists came.

The use of vivid imagery helped to immerse me in a world that is fully realized and painstakingly created. One minute you are in Egypt and the other you are in a basement somewhere in Illinois without getting lost for even a second. The Secret Journal is a thrilling young adult adventure story that is relentlessly entertaining.

Pages: 452 | ASIN: B081ZFMNB3

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Literary Titan Book Awards November 2020

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Gold Award Winners

   

The Enigma Threat by Roxanne Burkey and Charles Breakfield

Silver Award Winners

The Touring Pro: A Person of Interest by Frederick L Malphurs

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

Something in Madness

Something in Madness (Darkhorse Trilogy Book 3) by [Ed Protzel]

Something in Madness by Ed Protzel is a tense and gripping venture into the post-civil war South. Durk Hurst and his companions return to their town in Mississippi, Turkle, after the war, having fought on the side of the Union. They are greeted with horrors beyond belief. The fallen South does not plan on going quietly into a new era and is trying to maintain its racist system through terrifying arrests, lynchings, and court cases. Durk and his companions must navigate this fraught atmosphere even while trying to rebuild from the war. It is not going well to start, but things worsen when one of Durk’s former business partners gets auctioned off to the cruel leader of Turkle. Meanwhile Devreau, convicted of murder, attempts to escape prison in order to restore her family property.

Something in Madness has a wonderfully unique voice and chromatic characterization for all of its characters which really brings the story off the page. Protzel uses a wide variety of syntaxes and dialects to portray Durk’s motley group and the variety of people that, historically, did try to rebuild their life after the Civil War. In that vein, Something in Madness does an excellent job of portraying the varying walks of life and attitudes about the South, freed black Americans, Reconstruction, etc. The author writes, with vivid accuracy the indifference of many, the vitriolic hatred of most, and the futile effort of people in the South. The book also demonstrates the often-overlooked fact that for many Black Americans, Reconstruction was almost as bad as slavery itself. Thousands were forced into slavery under criminal charges that were allowed by the 13th Amendment and thousands more were lynched for transgressions against a cabbalistic code that mandated Black inferiority. Despite this, Black Americans did not lose their agency and they fought back when they could. Protzel manages to show the reader these facts of historical interest without losing the allure of his narrative. It leaves a deep impression on the reader’s mind. There is little more to be desired in Ed Protzel’s Something in Madness. The plot and characters are well-developed, the setting and voice unique, and the historical reference is accurate. To claim that occasionally the antecedents of pronouns get lost through the verboseness of the author would be true, but it would be a needlessly stringent complaint. This is not a common occurrence and it pales in comparison to the gripping narrative and electric action. I highly recommend Something in Madness for any lover of history or adventure.

Pages: 261 | ASIN: B08DL84KLF

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The Bootlegger’s Mistress

The Bootlegger’s Mistress follows Carrie Lacey, a young black woman living in the South in the 1940s. She works in the office of Mr. Butler, a white man who is a liquor bootlegger and owns a gambling club. Faced with unfair prejudice and discrimination, Carrie’s father clashes with Mr. Butler over the Laceys’ legal claim to the family land. Her father fears for Carrie’s safety and she is forced to flee South Carolina. She changes her name to Dicie Caughman and eventually moves to Newark, New Jersey. Nearly eighty years later, authorities in South Carolina want to question Dicie in connection to the murder of Tommy Joe Butler in 1943. What really happened the night Carrie Lacey left South Carolina?

I enjoyed reading Marc Curtis Little’s book riveting historical fiction novel. It was immensely interesting learning about Dicie’s troubled past and fascinating family history. I truly enjoyed the ending of this delightful novel as things get wrapped up well although it is a bit bittersweet. Although it was a fiction novel about a fictional character, it gives the reader a stark look at the history of Southern Blacks and the many injustices they faced prior to the Civil Rights Movement. The story spans more than eight decades and shows that, while significant change has been achieved during that time, there is still a lot more that needs to be done before the United States reaches true equality for all people. I enjoyed the extra insight about the story that was given in the question and answer section with the author at the end of the book.

While I enjoyed the novel, I felt that the chapters in the book were a bit choppy, and jumped around in time a lot, often without an immediate frame of reference for the reader as to what point in the past the events took place, and the first few chapters felt disjointed at the beginning when it was not immediately clear that Carrie and Dicie were the same person. But once this is cleared up, it’s like the clouds part on a dreary day and the sun shines on a truly compelling story. The Bootlegger’s Mistress is a striking historical fiction novel that explores deep societal issues along one woman’s enthralling journey through life.

Pages: 252| ISBN: 0578625059

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To Make a Religious War

D. Grant Fitter
D. Grant Fitter Author Interview

The Vatican Must Go is a fictionalized account that explores what might have brought all out war against a government attempt to stamp out Catholic Church control over the soul of Mexico. What inspired you to write this novel?

First, let me tell you that from the first time I set foot in Mexico, I found it an absolutely fascinating place. It is a country full of contradictions. It is an unlikely mixture of instruments that somehow plays a harmonious tune. So, being a person who wants to know how a clock works as much as wanting to know what time it is, found it challenging, not so much to adapt to, as to understand how it ticks.

So, in that pursuit, there is a trove of interesting stories to be told, and City of Promises my first novel challenge, covered eight years in the 1940s, a decade acknowledged as “Mexico’s Golden Age”. Many of the cultural accomplishments of the Golden Age are now cultural traditions held tightly by all Mexicans. That work also led to traces of mysterious talk of a hidden piece of history referred to as the “Cristiada” and sometimes called the “Cristero War”.

Going back to when I first arrived in Mexico, I knew of it as a staunchly Catholic country but was puzzled by the absence of priests and nuns in public. I later learned that by law, the Catholic religious habit was only allowed to be worn in the privacy of church property. This, in the late 1960s, of all things, but it was a thought filed away somewhere in my mind.

There are all kinds of interesting subjects an historical fiction author can uncover in Mexico, where inspiration abounds. However. for me, the tricky part is envisioning a sound approach angle to take in building those subjects into a story.

Over time, accumulations of scarcely spoken religious persecution stories led me to research information on the matter. Because the Mexican government and the official history curriculum does not recognize the conflict took place, there is not much in the way of readily available material. Eventually, while searching Vatican papers, I landed on one French born, Vatican scholar who had recently written and filed a paper on the Mexican Catholic rebellion, in which he speculated upon US based Masonic Order complicity.

I had found the story building morsel I needed to make a religious war in Mexico palatable to a broader audience.

Add to the morsel that during my college days in southern Colorado I had come to appreciate the derelict Ludlow massacre monument site, the abandoned mining camps, and knew people who lived through the coal field strike breaking terror referenced in the early going of the book. Gathering the ideal characters from Colorado to form the mercenary force was easy. You never know when listening to old timer conversations might come in handy.

So, directly to your question, when it comes to writing a tale of Mexico, inspiration comes built in.

I enjoyed the ease with which you blended political, religious and historical elements. What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?

I’m pleased to hear that and thankful you are asking this question, because it gives cause for me to reflect on the result of my work in order to come up with an adequate response. Hmm. Perhaps, I am near sighted and if so, it may have been best if you had included social class in your list of elements. That is because class distinctions are an underlying element of almost everything running through my mind in every analysis and interpretation of those things which influence Mexican life. If I am right about that, it holds up to reason that social class is the thread running through the three elements you mention, to seamlessly stitch them together.

I think of my themes of greed and humility. Politics is an economic social class. Its members even have a name; the politicos and they are governed by greed.

It could also be argued that the Catholic church is also guilty of that nasty theme of greed, because it turns out it was the beneficiary of the spoils of war. Come to think of it, they would have also been the beneficiary of continued peace. So, there we have another important theme. Power.

The poor Mexican campesino is the most-humble social class represented in this story. I wanted for them to display their dignity and dedication, so that is another important theme. At the close of the story, it is the campesino who carried on the war against government religious persecution. They wanted nothing more than to fight for the right to choose religious freedom. The church only supported them spiritually but never financially. The campesino did it alone.

Right and wrong are another set of themes. I wanted to show that a person does not necessarily have to favor a political side or a religious side in order to commit to a just cause that is right for humanity.

Abe is probably the least likely candidate, but in the end, he is the one who committed most completely to a life changing event.

Rosa’s character was intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

This is a wonderful question falling as it does on the heels of your previous query. I wanted Rosa to be representative of an unfairly treated segment of the Mexican social strata. For myriad reasons these are women who have little choice but to parlay their assets into a source of income, hustling drinks as a cocktail waitress. Personally, I feel for the many women like Rosa who are summarily written off by so many in the mainstream society. Rosa finds herself with little choice of accomplishing her personal goal of improving the lives of polio children unless she can bring in adequate income to afford her contribution to society. She is an amiable character. Given the opportunity in The Vatican Must Go, she easily proved herself a genuine benevolent heart.

Rosa had to be a good judge of character. She had dealt with aggressive men every day and mastered how to tactfully deal with them. When she did fall for Matt, she knew in an instant her instincts were right, and she never doubted herself. She gave her everything to the relationship. The same goes for Rosa’s all-in involvement in her Catholic friends’ movement. I wanted there to be no mistake about Rosa’s rock-solid character.

In my previous novel it was Ana, a dancehall fichera or paid dance partner who rose to the great heights of a strong female character with enviable principles.

I try hard to always bring the ideals required to develop a strong female character and I thank you for recognizing that in your line of questioning.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Next up is a novella tentatively titled Silvia’s Story. It is the story of a young lady who appeared in my first novel, “City of Promises” and did not get the full character development she deserved. She was much too interesting and flawed to not let her have her own prequel explaining how it is she was motivated to migrate to Mexico City and rose so fast to her own brief brush with fame.

With fingers crossed, I can tell you Silvia’s Story is tentatively scheduled for 2020 year end release.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

It’s the 1920s and in firmly Protestant United States, there is deep concern about the growing spread of Catholicism and fear of the church /state roots of its history.
South of the border, Pancho Villa is gone and Mexico is just settling into a new, post revolution form of democratic government. Vatican influence over the psyche of the country remains the sole enemy of the revolution and so, power brokering generals have written a new constitution to include articles restricting the power of the church over the citizenry, reclamation of vast, rich Church land holdings, and to detach it from Vatican control.
Back in United States, Mexico’s turmoil is a welcome sight to certain groups of powerful people who believe evangelism is powerfully representative of the American Way. If only a Mercenary Force could be dispatched to represent those American interests and assure the menace of Catholicism throughout North America is kept in check.
Enter Coloradan, Charlie Coates, who stealthily mananaged the bloody John D. Rockefeller strikebreaking campaign during the infamous Colorado Coalmining Wars.
To this day, the government of Mexico chooses to ignore the atrocities and battles of the early 20th century Cristero War which claimed over 120,000 lives. It was a long and dirty war selectively forgotten by the official history curriculum.
The Vatican Must Go is one historical fiction account of what might have brought about all out warfare against government attempts to stamp out Catholic Church control over the soul of Mexico.
This historical fiction novel, The Vatican Must Go, by D. Grant Fitter is his second solid contribution to the Tales of Mexico sub genre series, written in the great tradition of Graham Greene, Gary Jennings and Clifford Irving.
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