Monday, June 24, 2024

A Chocolate is Announced: Guest Post and Giveaway



Bean to Bar Mystery, #7

By Amber Royer

Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths

Publisher: Golden Tip Press

Pages: 277

Publication Date: June 25, 2024

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Felicity Koerber is finally getting her life together.  She has a fiancé, her bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand has become a gathering spot for the community, and she is ready to embrace whatever the future holds.  She’s ready for another launch party – despite the disaster at her grand opening, when she’d first gotten involved with solving a murder.  And this time she’s embracing her status as a sleuth.  She’s hosting a murder mystery weekend to celebrate the new Mystery Flavor line of craft chocolate bars.  She’s held a contest to choose the attendees, who will all stay at her aunt’s flip hotel and enjoy the island.  It’s all supposed to be perfectly random – only, Felicity starts to uncover connections between her guests.  When one of them winds up murdered, Felicity has to keep her aunt from becoming the main suspect.

The killer is very clearly calling Felicity out, leaving clues that mean little to anyone other than her.  But that doesn’t narrow down the suspect pool.  Her guests are there because they love the true crime podcast she’s been featured on.  And she can’t decide whether the killer wants her to catch them – or just wants to taunt her.

Meanwhile, Felicity is also playing host to her future in-laws and discovers that her fiancé’s sister, who is also a cop, is very competitive.  Can Felicity hold her own and make a good impression, while keeping her business together and her aunt out of jail?  And can Felicity solve it in time to protect the people she cares about from becoming additional victims?   

Satchmo the retired police dog turned therapy dog returns to help her sniff out a few clues, and one of the guests brings along a ferret named Cheeseburger, who keeps showing up in the most unexpected places.


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“Mary Shelley and the Birth of a Genre” by Amber Royer

In each of my Bean to Bar Mysteries, a classing book shows up in my protagonist’s life, and somehow ties into the events in the plot.  This newest release, A Chocolate is Announced, is the seventh book in the series.  So that’s a lot of books.  Felicity is a bit gun shy about literature, and by now everyone knows it – especially since one of the other characters is doing a true-crime podcast about her involvement in the previous cases.

So when a copy of Frankenstein shows up unexpectedly in Felicity’s room, she knows it is an intentional clue provided as a warning that another crime is about to happen. It’s confusing, though, since she’s in the middle of hosting a murder mystery weekend at the hotel her aunt is in the process of flipping.  The theme for the event is A Chocolate is Announced, because she is celebrating her business partner/fiancé’s first solo line of chocolate bars.  It’s so obvious what book should be tied to this case – and it isn’t Frankenstein.  Her whole guest list is made up of mystery aficionados, so the introduction of Frankenstein has to be an overt clue – if she can figure out what to make of it.  There are heavy themes, about what it feels like to be an outsider, and which types of actions are the most monstrous, and what revenge can do to someone.

It still amazes me that Mary Shelley wrote a piece with that much depth when she was only 18.  (The first edition of the book was published January 1, 1818, when she was twenty.)  Looking back at my own work at that age, I don’t find nearly such a deep understanding of human nature.  Admittedly, Shelley had been through a lot by then, and she traveled in literary circles with poet Percy Shelley (who she would eventually marry under less-than-ideal circumstances).  The pair had an intense reading program and kept a joint journal, in addition to each working on their own writing.  Estranged from her family in London, Mary wound up in Geneva in 1816, staying with, among others, Lord Byron (another poet).  Byron suggested that over the summer they each write a scary story.  Her story was in part inspired by discussions the group had about the nature of the principle of life.  Shelley later described the way her idea for Frankenstein originated as a, “waking dream.”

As a writer, it makes perfect sense to me how that kind of inspiration could come about during what basically amounted to a writer’s retreat.  (Prompted in part by the fact that the summer in question was wet and miserable, often confining Mary and the others to the villa.)  Sometimes the best ideas come from conversations, either with other writers or in daily life, about psychology or human nature, or other “big picture” questions.   You pair that with the intense reading and writing practice Mary and Percy had made a habit of, and it’s pretty much a everything recommended in DIY MFA.

The introduction to one version of Frankenstein quotes Mary describing her “waking dream” thus: “I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”

What Mary Shelly probably didn’t realize at the time is that her story – originally published anonymously – would kick-start an entire genre.  The key here was the engine she describes – the application of science to do something not realistically achievable by science of the day (or even our day – despite hopeful reaching towards cryogenics).  In a stroke, science fiction was born.

(Photo from wikicommons)


Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. 

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. 

If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing techniques and all things chocolate at





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Friday, May 24, 2024

The Ghost of Whispering Willow: Book Blitz and Giveaway



Second Edition by AMANDA M. THRASHER

Children’s Horror / Fantasy / Magic / Chapter Book

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Page Count: 246

Publication Date: January 9, 2024


Stewart sees a ghostly figure out of the corner of his eye. He and his friend, Andy, begin a ghost investigation that leads to an adventure of a lifetime.  Coming face-to-face with a ghost, the boys make a decision to join forces with a group of girls, who have encountered a ghost of their own. The kids soon find that the ghosts that they've encountered are in imminent danger and need their help. Can the kids devise a plan to help the ghost in time? Will they be able to reunite a ghost with his lost family? Complete with a ghost village and a feud, this story takes on a life of its own.



Award-winning author Amanda M. Thrasher was born in England and moved to Texas, where she lives with her family. She writes YA, general fiction, middle-grade, early reader chapter, and picture books. She is the founder and CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.






US only; ends midnight, May 30, 2024



Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Second Lives: Book Blitz and Giveaway

The Journey of Brain-Injury Survivors
and Their Healers
By Ralph B. Lilly, MD & Diane F. Kramer with Joyce Stamp Lilly
Narrated by Loren C. Steffy & Joyce Stamp Lilly

Audiobook / Biography / Medical Professionals / Neuroscience
Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing
Listening Length: 6 hours and 21 minutes
Publication Date: February 28, 2024


Click to purchase on Audible!


“Discharged from a hospital just means you’re not dead.” These words of Ralph B. Lilly, M.D., describe his early struggle to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Lilly was a forty-four-year-old practicing neurologist sitting on his motorcycle at a red light when a drunk driver rear-ended him in 1980. In the ICU, after regaining consciousness and being told what happened, he asked, “What’s a hospital? What’s a motorcycle?” This tragic experience transformed his life and his approach to his neurology practice: doctors treat those with brain injury; but loved ones heal them.

Second Lives: The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers is written by Dr. Lilly and Diane F. Kramer. After his death in 2021, Kramer completed the book with the assistance of Lilly’s wife Joyce Stamp Lilly. This memoir weaves together Ralph Lilly’s experience with a collage of stories about his patients and their healers. After his recovery, Lilly retrained in the emerging field of behavioral neurology, which focuses on behavior, memory, cognition, and emotion after brain injury.

His clinical skills and expert witness testimony were sought by physicians, survivors, families, and attorneys to secure the best “second life” for survivors. His many patients marveled at his uniquely compassionate approach: “What doctor gives you his cell number and says call any time?” Lilly’s pioneering career spanned forty years from Brown University’s Butler Psychiatric Hospital in Rhode Island to Nexus Health System and private practice in Houston, Texas. He treated ER and hospital inpatients whose loved ones were in acute quandary, as well as outpatients who’d long given up finding a doctor who knew how to help. Lilly’s memoir is full of heart, not science, and will provide insight to general readers, family, and friends of patients with brain injury, as well as those who treat them.

His narration is unintentionally poignant, often punctuated by wry humor. He generously incorporates the words of his patients and their families in telling their stories. Their gratitude for his care is profound. As one former patient said, “Without Dr. Lilly, I’d be dead or in jail.



A neurologist for over half a century, Ralph B. Lilly, MD had a passion for learning and teaching. A traumatic brain injury in 1980 shifted his focus from general neurology to behavioral neurology, the study of how brain injury affects behavior. After completing a fellowship in neurobehavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, he served as a clinical assistant professor with the Brown University Program in Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, consulting with psychiatrists looking for possible neurological causes for their patients’ psychiatric symptoms. In Texas, he worked joined what is now Nexus Health Systems and became a clinical assistant professor at The University of Texas in Houston. Lilly focused his life’s work on treating brain-injury survivors and counseling their families, who were victims in their own right. He saw these “healers” as instrumental in guiding the injured loved one to a “new life.” He practiced in Arizona, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, and wherever he was called to help. Before his death in 2021, Lilly lived in Washington, Texas, with his wife, Joyce, three dogs, six cats, and two horses.

Diane F. Kramer retired from the counseling and psychology departments of Austin Community College in 2008 and began writing personal essays, family histories, and fiction. As a volunteer with the Brenham Animal Shelter, she wrote a weekly column on animal welfare for The Brenham Banner Press. Her writing has also appeared in Alamo Bay Press anthologies and blogs Peace through Pie and Drash Pit. She currently writes website copy and press releases for Brenham Lifetime Learning and the Read of Washington County. She lives with her husband and their rescue dog and cat in rural Texas.



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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Just A Hat: Book Blitz and Giveaway

Young Adult / Coming of Age / Jewish Fiction / Small-Town Texas / 1970s
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Page Count: 254
Publication Date: July 18, 2023
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Action-packed, humorous, and bittersweet, this 1970s-era coming-of-age novel is more relevant than ever--exploring how a second-generation immigrant kid in a new hometown must navigate bullying, unexpected friendships, and the struggle of keeping both feet firmly planted in two very different cultures.
It's 1979, and thirteen-year-old Joseph Nissan can't help but notice that small-town Texas has something in common with Revolution-era Iran: an absence of fellow Jews. And in such a small town it seems obvious that a brown kid like him was bound to make friends with Latinos--which is a plus, since his new buds, the Ybarra twins, have his back. But when the Iran hostage crisis, two neighborhood bullies, and the local reverend's beautiful daughter put him in all sorts of danger, Joseph must find new ways to cope at home and at school.
As he struggles to trust others and stay true to himself, a fiercely guarded family secret keeps his father at a distance, and even his piano teacher, Miss Eleanor--who is like a grandmother to him--can't always protect him. But Joseph is not alone, and with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to confront his fears and discovers he can inspire others to find their courage, too.
Just a Hat is an authentically one-of-a-kind YA debut that fuses the humor of Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi with the poignancy of Daniel Nayeri's Everything Sad Is Untrue.


Shanah Khubiar is a retired law enforcement officer, and she is now self-employed as a subject matter specialist. She holds a BS and MEd in education from East Texas State University and a PhD in philosophy. A student of her Persian ancestry, she incorporates (Mizrachi) Middle Eastern Jewry into her fiction, examining the historical challenges and triumphs of a different culture and narrative than what usually appears in literature. Khubiar is a sometime resident and always fan of most things Texas.
Signed hardback copy of JUST A HAT
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/9/24)

Friday, April 26, 2024

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table: Book Blitz and Giveaway


Magical Elements of the Periodic Table, Book 2
By Sybrina Durant

Children’s Picture Book / STEM / Chemistry
Publisher: Sybrina Publishing
Page Count: 44
Publication Date: March 9, 2024

Scroll down for a giveaway!

In this unique alphabet book, members of the Elemental Dragon Clan present 26 Magical Elements of the Periodic Table in alphabetical order. Each member of the clan has an element tipped tail. They also have magical powers based on the properties of their metals. There are no more perfect groups than unicorns and dragons to familiarize yourself with elements from the Periodic Table. Their theme is: "No Metal -- No Magic. . .and No Technology."

In this book, Antz starts out the book by introducing the very necessary metal, Antimony on his element page. Zora rounds out the alphabet by presenting scientific facts and other fun information about the metal, Zirconium, on her elemental page. In all, readers will get some great insight into the properties of 26 elements from the periodic table. Each page is full of amazing facts and tons of FUN. There's a Magical Elemental themed periodic table, too!

This unique book will help tweens, teens and anyone else quickly absorb the elements of the Periodic Table.
No Metal,
No Magic…
And No Technology.
It's Techno-Magical!


Sybrina Durant is a unicorn author and entrepreneur. In addition to books, she offers unicorn-themed activities, t-shirts, and more. Plus, she has pulled together a collection of nearly all the unicorn books available today from hundreds of authors. They are categorized on her website by Little Kid, Middle Kid, and Teen Unicorn Books

Signed paperback of Magical Elements of The Periodic Table, Book 2
and 24 x 36 poster of the Periodic Table
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/2/24)

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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Shahrazad’s Gift: Interview and Giveaway

Gretchen McCullough

Contemporary Fiction / Linked Short Stories / Humor
Publisher: Cune Press
Date of Publication: February 20, 2024
Number of Pages: 198 pages 

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Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo—magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Interview with Gretchen McCullough


You’re a Texan: how has being a Texan (or Texas) influenced your writing? 

I don’t necessarily think this book is influenced by Texas. But of course, living abroad makes you think about where you came from. It has taken me some time to work my way back to writing about Texas. The new novel that I just finished is set in West Texas during the nineteen-thirties during the Depression. It is focused on one of the CCC projects, an enormous spring-fed swimming pool called Balmorhea.  

The late Allen Wier was my mentor at the University of Alabama. He was from Texas and he encouraged me. 


How long have you been writing?

I started writing seriously when I was in college. After I finished at Brown, I was eager to have experiences and spent six years teaching abroad: Egypt, Turkey and Japan. It was very hard to write while I was teaching school. It was also very lonely. That’s when I decided to return to graduate school and get an M.F.A. This was a wonderful decision. At that point I was thirty and was very focused. Having time was a real gift. 


What kinds of writing do you do? 

I write essays, short stories, reviews, and novels! I feel so comfortable in the novel form because I want to create a world with many characters. Writing short stories is actually harder because you have to shave away so much. You have to compress a great deal; my natural instinct is to expand and digress! 


Where do you write?

I have a desk that looks out a window in front of huge trees, even though I live in a densely populated part of Cairo. I usually block off the mornings to write, especially if I am not teaching. 


What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I think my writing became less realistic after I moved to Cairo in 2000. So much was inexplicable. My writing could be characterized as wacky and humorous. I exaggerate wildly. 

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.


Two winners receive paperbacks.
One winner receives the eBook of Shahrazad’s Gift.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/12/24)