Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Nook Review: "TROUBLE AT THE RED PUEBLO," by Liz Adair


By Liz Adair

(A Continuation of her highly acclaimed Spider Latham series.)

Liz Adair is a bankable, award-winning author known for delivering must-turn-the-next-page–novels, and creating endearing, compelling characters. Trouble at the Red Pueblo continues that tradition.

Spider Latham is an old “friend” of Adair’s creation, whose previous adventures are played out in three earlier novels, The Lodger, After Goliath, and Snakewater Affair. After writing several award-winning novels set in other locales, Adair returned to writing books set in her beloved southwest, spinning a new adventure for her desert cowboy, Spider Latham—a Matt Dillon, or a Walter Longmire-type. Spider is honest to a fault, faithful as a Labrador, tough as nails, and ready to put his own neck on the line for what he believes. 

The novel begins with a simple private detective assignment for cowboy/lawman Spider Latham and his sidekick/wife Laurie. But the simple task of unearthing the reason behind lawsuits crippling a small privately-owned Anasazi museum soon escalates into a mystery with a dozen motives and high-powered suspects. When the twists and turns lead to murder, some fingers point too close to home, threatening people the Lathams love, causing a rift between Spider and his only love—Laurie.

In Trouble at the Red Pueblo, Spider believes there is a connection between the arrival of two wealthy, attractive museum visitors and the events threatening to destroy the museum director, his family, and his life’s work. The more Spider digs, the more uncomfortable his findings become, and as sure as his gut instincts are, he is out of his jurisdiction, and somewhat hogtied to help.

But as in every good western, the cavalry is nearby. In this case, that heroic help arrives in the form of some most unlikely international acquaintances—Karam Monsour, a Palestinian professor of American history collecting American idioms, whose auto breakdown lands him in Kanab, Utah during Spider’s investigation. This storyline adds terrific comic relief and makes a great read all by itself, but throw in some cowboy-loving Chinese tourists, a three-legged dog, and some pulse-raising romantic scenes, and it becomes clear that Adair has packed this delicious mystery to appeal to a wide swath of readers.

Trouble at the Red Pueblo is a refreshing pleasure. At 352 pages, it breezes along with clever twists and one-liners that sneak up and grab you in, well, in the the saddle region, while the suspense keeps you flipping pages. Spider Latham and Laurie have chemistry that knots your heart up and gets you invested at page one.  Whether you love modern westerns, stories about loyalty, or a cozy mystery, Trouble at the Red Pueblo delivers a read that satisfies. As soon as you turn the last page, you’ll want to read the others. It’s that good.

Trouble at the Red Pueblo is available in softcover and in a variety of e-reader formats. Visit Liz' Adair's web site to view all her books. You'll find purchase links there for her entire collection of outstanding reads.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


This week marks the 200th anniversary of the events that led to the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the 200th anniversary of America's love affair with our flag.

200 years ago today, September 13th, the British Naval behemoth moved up the Patapsco River mouth to begin the fiery assault on Baltimore. Having already burned Havre de Grace, having torched many of the towns and farms along the Chespeake and Patuxent Rivers, and having laid the torch to Washington and Alexandria, including burning the President's House and the Capitol, Maryland's Baltimore port city and her Clipper ships were the next critical prizes.

A 2-pronged assault had been planned. The attack on Fort McHenry was actually designed to be a feint, intended to draw troops to the penninsula, easing the way for British ground forces to assault the city. The previous day, the British ground commander, General Ross, had been killed by 18-year-old-snipers while placing his troops, prior to beginning their drive towards the city from North Point.

The secret plans for Baltimore's fate now had to be revealed to Ross's out-the-the-loop second in command. In a letter to a nervous, unprepared Major Brooke, Admiral Cochrane revealed that the plan was to sack the city, inflicting "severe retribution" on Baltimore in retalliation for the American sacking of York. His instructions? "You will best be able to judge what can be attempted."

While American land forces repelled Brooke's ground forces, Britain's naval assault would pound Fort McHenry using bombs and rockets that literally rained fire from the skies at distances too far for the fort's guns to mount a defense. For 25 hours the mettle of the fort and her defenders was tested. All the while, attorney Francis Scott Key sat in a packet ship moored near the British armada along with Dr. William Beanes, a friend and British prisoner, and prisoner exchange agent John Skinner. Key and Skinner had come under a flag of truce to request the release of Dr. Beanes. Instead, they were detained and fed fine food along with the horrific plans to sack the city where Key had family.
It was on this day and night that everything hinged. Could America survive any more? The President was struggling to gather his government back together. His grand, white President's House had been burned, as well as all governmental buildings, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress. Had the Constitution itself or the Declaration of Independence survived? Most Americans were unsure. All they knew was that a flag for which they held little care or allegiance days earlier, now flew over an embattled fort called McHenry. In that instant, the red, white, and blue was the last hope of democracy. These are the feelings that stirred in Key's breast for the next 25 hours.

This is the 200th anniversary of that day. God bless America!

(Read more in my "Free Men and Dreamers" series shown above.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

RACHEL ANN NUNES: Taking a Stand Against Plagiarism

Beloved author, Rachel Ann Nunes, is a prolific writer, authoring over 40 books, in a variety of genres. More than that, she has mentored dozens and dozens of other authors, both personally, and through the writers' guild, LDStorymakers, she helped found. LDStorymakers now hosts annual writers' conferences to improve the talents of hundreds of writers each year, and so it can easily be said that Rachel has been paying it forward for years, and that her influence in the writing community can not fully be measured.

Recently, one of her older titles, "A Bid For Love,"  was pirated and eroticized by someone, (I won't honor her with the title of author) using a pen name. Additionally,  this plagiarist's allies have launched an attack against Rachel and her body of work. They are writing abusive reviews of stellar titles, and posting libelous comments on social media.

Rachel is fighting back, for herself, and once again, for the rest of us who could be affected by the malicious piracy of our work. Click this link to read Rachel's story in her own words, and/or visit Rachel's Amazon and Goodreads pages to post a positive comment of her books. In this way you can help counteract the damage, and do something positive. Thanks so much.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Some days, like today, I hunger to get back to writing historical novels. I love all history, but I expecially love American history. Here's a small segment from a Fourth of July address I gave some years ago. It's based on a magnificent talk by David McCullough. I hope it adds an extra spark to your Independence Day festivities.

Washington's army must have known that just because it was right didn’t mean it would be easy. They had endured devastating losses on the battlefield, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, and epidemic dysentery. Men defected, men deserted. They were starving, and filthy, without any winter clothes and their numbers dwindled as the battles increased. More men died in prisons ands from disease than from war wounds. They crossed rivers during freezing winter storms and marched through a noreaster that caused the temperatures to plummet so badly that “two men froze to death on the march.” Though their numbers and circumstances worsened, Patrick Henry understood what carried them on. He declared:
 "there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us."

Friends and angels perhaps. They never should never have won the Revolutionary War. Sherrie Dew, a corporate president and member of several international boards, puts it this way: “They were outmanned, outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and outgunned again and again by a superior British army, yet they prevailed. The only explanation is the intervention of God.”
On Dec. 31, 1776, all the enlistments for the entire army had expired leaving every soldier free to go home. Washington called the troops into formation and urged them to reenlist, promising them a large bonus if they did. As the drums rolled, he asked those willing to re-up to step forward, but nobody did. Many of their farms were neglected, their fields had lain barren and their families were starving. Despite their desperate poverty they were ready to reject the money. They just wanted to go home. Washington turned and rode away from them. Then he stopped, turned back and rode up to them again. Listen carefully to what he said:

 “My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.”
“. . .your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. . .”  Consider another general named Moroni who, like Washington, was attempting to rally his own troops by writing the necessity of the cause upon their hearts. The words he used are known as The Title of Liberty and they read:

"In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children,”
Words that touch upon the noblest of men’s sensibilities. Moroni’s words brought loyal men forward to defend their families and homes, and likewise, when Washington’s drummers began to roll the drums, the men began stepping forward. “God Almighty,” wrote Nathanael Greene, “inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.”

As beloved as he was, Washington could have set himself up as a king, but understanding that another form of government was desired for this land, he announced that he would not seek another term and that he would instead relinquish the Presidency. Imagine the thoughts of conquered King George III when he heard that Washington might do this . .  that the men who had led a rag tag army against the greatest army in the world and had beaten them . . . the man who was revered enough by his people to be catapulted into the highest office in the land . . . that this man would then turn and walk away from that position of his own accord against the cries for his people to remain there . . . When King George heard this he remarked,
“if he does he will be the greatest man in the world.”

 Character, integrity, honesty and a vision of the greater cause, “the glorious cause of America” is what made these people great. And it is what can and must make our generations great as well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Surviving the Synopsis

More and more writer friends are reporting that a synopsis or outline is now required by their agents and/or publishers. It sounds easy enough, right? You wrote the book, so how hard can it be to distill 1-2 pages of the manuscript's most critical plot points, characterizations, and its unique essence, and do it in a style that models your writing voice?

It can be harder than you think.

After asking agented friends for their best synopsis-writing advice, I jumped in and suffered through the paring-down process much the same way I did when abridging a book for audio production. The key is "selectively neglect."

First, prepare your query letter. Read, reread, cut, change, and tweak until you're sure it illustrates the uniqueness of your book. Now use those query points as the scaffolding for your synopsis.

Outline or list the MC goal, primary opposition, and the resolution.

Now insert key plot points that support the story, and the twists and obstacles upon which the action turns.

Pare the list down to the absolute most critical points, and expect to suffer a little as you selectively neglect some seemingly delicious moments in favor of more critical ones.

Write what you've selected in a story format that reflects your writer's voice, and walk away.

Return, reread, edit, and walk away again. If you're within the agent's length parameters, (usually 1-2 pages,) repeat the edit, read, walk away advice a few more times asking yourself if what you've written succinctly summarizes what's special about your book. If it does, great! If not, cut some more and then reread, edit . . . You get the picture.

Get some fresh eyes on this baby. Beta readers are a writer's heroes!

Good luck.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Available Now: "SLEEPING BEAUTY and the BEAST," by Melissa Lemon;jsessionid=0F926E53FCBDB12E799A06404B20C936
Sleeping Beauty and the Beast

I'm blessed to be in a critique group with an incredibly talented group of women authors, several of whom are releasing books over the next few months.

I've watched these books grow and evolve over the past months, and I am nearly as excited for their release as the actual authors are. So it is with great excitement that I announce that Melissa Lemon's newest fairytale fantasy, "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast," is now available in hardback, with paperback and ebooks version coming soon.

I haven't gotten my hands on a finished copy yet, but I can tell you that Melissa Lemon is a Frankensteining genius at dismembering beloved stories and putting them together in unique new ways that create fantastical adventures with the power to lull us away anew.

Get this book for your family bookshelf!

Trapped in a cursed sleep, the only experiences Princess Eglantine has are the ones in her dreams. There she meets Prince Henry of Fallund, a neighboring kingdom on the brink of war. Meanwhile, Prince Henry's brother Duncan discovers a vicious beast imprisoned for murder.

Captivated by her, he works to free her from both the prison bars she's locked behind and the ones surrounding her heart and mind. Sleeping Beauty and the Beast reinvents and seamlessly intertwines the classic fairy tales Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.

I'll be reviewing it in full in a few weeks, but trust me. You'll want this one.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flag Day is here, June 14, and in a day when some people treat saying the Pledge of the Allegiance  as a grave controversy, I’d like to raise a voice of celebration for the red, white and blue, and for the day set aside to honor it.

America will mark the bicentennial of our National Anthem and the flag that inspired it in September. Sadly, unless you live in a War of 1812 historic zone, you may have heard little hoopla over this anniversary, a sobering thing considering that most historians agree that this was the moment America became united—the United States of America.

 Upon visiting the birthplace of the flag, Fort McHenry, a British man commented that no other country reveres her flag quiet the way America does.
I live in Maryland, surrounded by War of 1812 history—-the Chesapeake Campaign and Commodore Joshua Barney’s audacious Chesapeake Flotilla; the dark days surrounding burning of Washington; the destruction of the President's House, the Capitol and much of historic D.C.; the critical Battle of Baltimore; its star-shaped guardian--Fort McHenry; and the most famous and beloved of all flags, the Star-Spangled Banner. The Smithsonian has gone to extensive efforts to preserve and study this American icon. The exhibit is beautiful and a must-see for anyone coming to Washington D.C.

There are fables and myths that abound over America’s banner. Though Flag Day celebrants visiting Philadelphia will still see Betsy Ross’s house front bearing a plaque commemorating her as the creator of the first flag, historians no longer ascribe that honor to her.  That news breaks the hearts of a generation raised on that sweet tale, but while researching material for FREE MEN and DREAMERS, highly respected historians explained that though Betsy Ross was a flag maker, and was acquainted with Robert Morris, and possibly George Washington, no document, no writing of Ross's, and no entry of any of the principles, confirms any part of the tale. In truth, Ross's grandson was in danger of losing the family home around the time of the centennial, and he began spinning that tale just in time to bring guests to his home to see where the flag was made. It saved the home, and tainted history.

Other historical truths may upset history lovers who were taught the same beloved, but inaccurate stories I heard growing up, but we needn't fear true accounts, no matter that they are different. I attest that the real story surrounding the events and patriots who made this history are even more compelling.

The Star-Spangled Banner did not fly continuously during the Battle of Baltimore.
A terrible storm began the night the British bombarded Fort McHenry, and Major George Armistead feared the combination of wind, and the rain which had soaked the large, woolen banner, would over tax the pole, possibly causing it to snap. Since the fall of the flag would signal the defeat of the fort, the Major ordered the large garrison flag lowered during the height of the storm. It was the smaller storm flag which flew through the night. The large garrison flag was raised before dawn so the British and the Americans would see that the fort had withstood the 23-hour bombardment. This change was hidden to Francis Scott Key during the night's fog, but it was the large banner that greeted him the next morning, inspiring him to take up pencil and the back of a letter to write the famed poem that became our anthem.
The flag in 1914

Bombs bursting in air did not tatter the flag.
I too was told those tears were sacred battle scars. As a child I had been taken to the Smithsonian to reverently stand and gaze upon the scarred fabric, and I was awed, but historical accounts from the Armistead family, and scientific analysis prove, that the tattered edges of the flag were made by the fort's commander, Major Armistead, who cut pieces off the end of the adored flag later that year, which he mailed to friends and patriots requesting a memento from the valiant banner.  The true story is less dramatic, but carries its own patriotic charm, about a beleaguered people who rallied around this rectangle of fabric until it became precious--a thing to be treasured. That's no small matter, is it?

There are so many wonderful stories, many of which have already slipped from textbooks, and will be lost to the next generation. Stories about the Chesapeake Flotilla, and the real truth about the saving of the Constitution from the fires of Washington.
Restored at the Smithsonian in 2014

History evolves as documents are uncovered, archaeologists make new finds, and scientific testing improves. Truth should be what we seek. In the end, the real story will be as compelling as a fable, because it tells the true response of a people in their own day. Holding the line on truth in recording history will become more critical. Parents need to take the lead on this and expose their children to America's past. Don't count on flawed textbooks and teachers to do it all.

That's why I gathered some friends to help me sponsor "The Star-Spangled Summer Adventure," to encourage families to hit the road and explore America and her history this summer. And to sweeten the deal, we've assembled a treasure chest of family prizes to be awarded to one family at the end of the celenration, on September 13th, 2014.

Click the badge to the right to learn how to get involved and be entered in the drawing. But whether or not you participate officially, I hope you will take advantage of the amazing history and compelling stories about America and her people in your own backyard.

I'm honored the reviewers of my Free Men and Dreamers books attest to how much they have learned about America from reading my carefully researched books. Yes, they are historical fiction, so they read like sweeping novels, but the history was meticulously researched. I'm very proud of that.

So whether you read my books, visit the Smithsonian, stop by Baltimore's plethora of flag sites, join us on the Star-Spangled Celebration, or seek out other sites in your own community, there are lots of patriotic things for families to enjoy while teaching critical American history and instilling the crucial values of honor, gratitude, and patriotism.


Laurie L. C. Lewis