Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bill Mathis and The Rooming House Diaries

The Rooming House Diaries

About the Book
Polish immigrants meet, marry, start a family and build a rooming house in the 1880s. Over the years, a true cast of characters live there. This book of historical fiction consists of six diaries and other correspondence written by the DNA family, and some roomers who became non-DNA family. It is filled with the ebb and flow of American and Chicago history in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. It has family and diversity all through it. Immigration, Polish, Germans, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Gays, Chicago dialect, street cars, the depression, world wars, Viet Nam and the YMCA. Everyday people struggling and succeeding through the ups and downs of 135 years of life in one neighborhood. It’s rich, earthy, heart-warming, funny, sad and inspiring—just like life itself.

Where else will you meet a French love child from WWI who shows up and says you’re my dad? Or encounter a single, pregnant teen who has her baby in the rooming house owners bedroom and both mother and daughter end up living in the rooming house for 15 years? Then there’s the woman who really isn’t who she said she was, and the male street worker from Tijuana who ends up inheriting the place. All of them loved, welcomed and adopted into the family by the Polish immigrants and their generations of children.

Print $16.99
Ebook $.99

Buy on Amazon

Read a Review Excerpt
From Kirkus Review: …The way that he portrays family dynamics is insightful and raw; the characters’ flaws and virtues are complex and make the cast compellingly realistic. The prose also has a wry touch of humor that offsets the turbulent and often tragic events. It’s a lengthy story but well worth the time and effort. 

A story of secrecy, suffering, fortitude, and compassion that demonstrates an exceptional understanding of the human psyche.

A Brief Interview with the Author

Tell us your inspiration and motivation behind this book.
I ended up with a lot of back story left over from my first novel, Face Your Fears, much of it taking place in a rooming house. Author Jerry Peterson, the leader, and other fellow members of the Stateline Night Writers at Beloit Public Library suggested I center a second novel around the rooming house. Bingo. I was off and running. Being a preacher’s kid exposed me to many dynamics in family and human life. My careers working with people from diverse backgrounds intrigued me. All of that somehow plays into what I write.

What do you hope readers will tell others?
That people are people. Regardless of our skin color, abilities, disabilities, gender, who we love, and backgrounds, we all suffer, triumph, and muddle along through this great thing called life. How we live in the here and now is what counts.

Which of the characters was the most difficult to portray?
Possibly Arnaud, the French teen conceived the last night an American soldier and French woman spent together after World War I ended. Arnaud shows up in Chicago 14 years later and says, “Hi, I’m your son you didn’t know you had.” I had the concept for him, but wasn’t sure what to do with him or how to handle it. Lots of question to think through. I’m excited over how the character fit into the book and added another dimension to the story.

What's your next project?
My third novel, a stand-alone companion to The Rooming House Diaries, is under contract to be published by Rogue Phoenix Press in June 2020. Titled, The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dots, it deals with the couple who inherited the old rooming house, their decisions and efforts to turn it into a community art center amidst their own growth as a couple and their conflicts in deciding to begin a family. Their decision continues the tradition of the rooming house in building non-DNA families.

I am currently working on a different kind of book. Tentatively titled, Revenge is Necessary, it’s about a farm family and is a psychological mystery and crime story. Why did a stoic father and husband suddenly try to kill his wife and son? What would make him act so out of context? The answers lead to discovering the husband of 35 years and father of 6 has lead a double life and, up until now, only one living person knew of the second life. It’s my first attempt at writing crime and mystery. So far, it’s been fun, but I definitely have more research to do.

About the Author
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses, outdoor and closeupBill Mathis was raised in a large family in a Michigan farm village jammed full of other big families. He enjoyed growing up in a large family surrounded by kids mostly from other large families—in fact, he wondered what was wrong with couples who only had one or two kids; even three were suspect. His careers were spent in YMCA camping and foster care in the Chicago area. He began writing after retiring and moving to Beloit, Wisconsin. His books reflect families, children, diversity, and human nature, warts and all. He enjoys writing, reading, volunteering, and traveling with his partner.
Facebook: Bill Mathis Writer Etc
Twitter: @billmathiswrit1

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

new time travel and aliens from Max Wannow

Kill Tut audiobook cover art

Kill Tut
By Max Wannow

Audio version, read by Max Wannow

Time Travel
Near future dystopia
January 2019

99 cents eBook
$12.99 Print
$ Audible
Buy on Amazon 
Buy on Audible 

About the Book
Ancient Egyptians, aliens, Neanderthals. Kill Tut is a historical fiction sci-fi novel. For a secret government operation in the near future, a team of three is sent back in time to kidnap King Tutankhamun.

New York, New York: 2041. The American-Egyptian War continues as more Egyptian battalions invade the USA. With the purpose of bringing the war to an end, Operation Golden Ankh is a top-secret Delta Force mission that consists of sending a team of three back in time. Captain Jackson Martindale, Staff Sergeant Laiklyn Ladore, and CIA Officer Dana Villa have seven days to complete the mission in the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. To successfully complete the mission, the three must coerce King Tutankhamun to travel with them to the future. Forcibly kidnapping the pharaoh would lead to a domino-like disruption in the architecture of time. The three are quick to discover the past deviates from what history books provide. The ancient people of Thebes, Egypt resort to panic when their city is invaded by Neanderthal warriors; but when humanoid aliens with skin made of a malleable gold arrive, the Ancient Egyptians welcome them with open arms.

My Review
The author approached me for this review of the audio version of his novel Kill Tut. While I like near future dystopian time travel, I was somewhat puzzled about what kidnapping a child pharaoh would accomplish…but we learn history textbooks are not exactly correct. Set twenty years in the future, the US is at war with Egypt. Three members of different military and intelligence organizations are teamed up to return to ancient Egypt dressed as a Hittite priests and priestesses. The goal is to use the most famous boy Pharaoh, Tut, as bait to make Egypt stop their attack over a US missile crisis that inadvertently destroyed the Valley of the Kings during a period in which the Earth is off its natural orbit and it’s impossible to program missiles to hit specific targets. The team members are able to absorb and translate the language through a neural implant. Egyptian society is loose and sensual. Alcohol, drugs, and sex are used liberally. Inexplicably, a nearby colony of Neanderthals attack and kidnap several Egyptians, along with Laiklyn.

The author narrates his work using slightly different intonations to create the voice of a young Jackson, the hero, as a child, and again as female members of the team, Laiklyn and Dana, and in a deeper authoritative tone to represent older men. Otherwise his narrative is somewhat mechanical but clearly enunciated. The story involves a fair amount of research and creative speculation of ancient societies, language, worship practices, and evolution. It’s a good thing there’s plenty of good ancient beer, wine, and magical mushrooms available to quench thirst and fill in spaces between action. There is a good deal of gruesome warfare and sacrifice, especially toward the end.

Separated into several viewpoints and twining through time, Kill Tut is a creatively imagined story taking place mostly in speculative ancient Egypt using heavily described setting and character. We’re also apparently derived from intelligent creatures from Jupiter. Passive language with present tense and lots of explanation tends to slow the pace. While I want to give the story more than 3 stars, it’s a bit short of 4. I’m sure readers who like transformational time traveling aliens, guts, and spiked beer in ancient Egypt will get a kick out of Wannow’s tale.

Max WannowAbout the Author
Max Wannow is an independent absurdist novelist, who describes his work to be thought-provoking and discomforting. Simply put, Max Wannow is not for everybody.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

New Scottish Romance from Jennifer Trethewey

Saving the Scot

Saving the Scot
Book 4 of the Highlanders of Balfourss historical romance series
Jennifer Trethewey

Entangled books
March, 2019

$3.99 ebook
$18.99 print
$14.99 Audio

Buy on Amazon 

About the Book:
Louisa Robertson’s father is furious when he finds her acting on stage. Now, she’s being shipped off to America to marry some stranger her father thinks will bring out the “lady” in her. Luckily, Louisa’s maid agrees to switch places with her! Her maid will marry the American and get the wealthy lifestyle she’s always wanted, and Louisa can do whatever she damn well pleases––for the first time in her life.

Highlander Ian Sinclair needs an army commission, and the only way he can get one is to safely deliver the general’s Daughter-from-Hell to her intended in America. Easy, right? It would be if the lady’s companion Louisa didn’t wear breeches and do everything the exact opposite of what he orders. It’ll be a miracle if the sparks flying between Ian and Louisa don’t set the bloody ship afire before they arrive in America.

But just when Louisa thinks her plan is going to give her the acting career she wants and a Highlander to boot...Ian discovers her secret.

My Review:
Saving the Scot is a hijinks tale of mistaken identity, secrets, and outright lies that make the reader wonder which Scot needs to be saved most. Louisa is the spoiled motherless little sister who terrorizes her father with her refusal to do anything conventional. Since he spends so much time away either on the battlefield or in military training, she’s been left to her own devices, which has led her to the debauched life of play-acting. On the public stage. Ian’s battle scars are more than skin deep, and after five years of attempting to heal as captain of a family merchant ship, he’s ready to leap back into the regimentation of military life. A major hitch in his plans arrives with the news of his fatherhood, a young lad being cared for by an ailing grandmother.

Framed by the false identities of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Trethewey, who’s an actress turned author, finally pens a story of what she knows best. Louisa lives as though she’s preparing for a role and uses the behavior as an excuse to cover her deepest fears of abandonment and closed-in spaces. When her father sends her away to marry her brother’s acquaintance in America, Ian is tasked with seeing her safely there. But Louisa has other plans and gets her maid to exchange identities. Feeling free to act on his attraction to the supposed lady’s maid, the two allow themselves to get carried away. Through various events involving pirates, thieves, sex traffickers, and another acquaintance with a false identity, the two sort out their future goals and wishes.

Although this story is part of a series of familial characters, it can be read on its own. Other characters are mentioned, and the allusion to the portent dream concluding the previous story, that of Ian marrying a woman in trousers, are the only ties to the other books. Told in opposing points of view from Louis and Ian, readers of romantic fiction will appreciate the research and attention to detail, along with the lusty relationship sparking the adventure.

About the Author:
Jennifer Trethewey
Jennifer Trethewey is an actor-turned-writer who has moved her performances from the stage to the page. In 2013 she traveled to Scotland for the first time, where she instantly fell for the language, humor, intense sense of pride, and breathtaking landscape. Her love for Scotland was translated into her first series of historical romance novels, the Highlanders of Balforss.

Trethewey’s primary experience in bringing the imaginary to life was working for one of the oldest women’s theaters in the nation, where she was the co-founder and co-artistic director. Today she continues to act, but writes contemporary and historical fiction full-time. Her other loves include dogs, movies, music and good wine. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Psychopomps from Ilango VIlloth

Psychopomps by Ilango Villoth


January 2019
108 pp
$2.99 ebook
$5.99 print
Buy on Amazon 

About the Book
Death comes to all eventually. Sometimes sudden, sometimes prolonged. Seldom welcome. And yet it remains as one of the few things we share with all other living creatures, regardless of race, color, creed or even wealth. With this in mind, Psychopomps is a collection of poetry and short stories that delve into and explore the theme of death, in all its many forms. Brutal in places, serene in others, it is a work that is as stylistically diverse as death itself, with a unique voice reaching out at the reader from experimental prose and traditional meter, to form a whole that links each to the other. Whether you read large portions of it at one sitting or simply leaf through it in a spare moment during a busy day, the effects of each piece will remain with you long after the pages have been closed.

My Review
After realizing that I had to look up the meaning of the title of Viloth’s latest publishing endeavor, I was in a slightly better place—but only slightly. Psychopomps is from the Greek for guides of the soul, creatures who take the freshly dead to an appropriate afterlife. The mix of cultures and faiths throughout the author’s lyrical offerings alludes to the many aspects of death.

I like poetry and I adore cleverness, but Viloth’s work leaves me in the dust. He takes the reader on a journey that is as small as the space of one kneeling in heartache to the maw of a whale to the world’s end and a stumble into the “no more” of piece #20.

The grouping of personal observation, of absurdity, of dark joy, the cadence of pieces like “Children’s Fable” with the refrain “I wish I had a name! I’m so Happy…” flows like a braided stream, bubbly in some places, whistling in the dark shadows under rockfall, to the “curious phenomenon” of a family-swallowing stream in the longest piece, “The Ambiguous Guest.”

The heart of the work, to me, is found in the title piece, in a Ulyssian-style refrain lamenting our own inability to seize the moment.
the cruelest privilege of the world is this: that we go about our
days while believing that we are not yet living, that our stories
have not yet begun. that someday we will leap up into action,
exclaiming “I have awoken; finally, my true self has arrived,”
and in thinking thusly become sedated through all our chapters…

Psychompomps is recommended for those who appreciate tiptoeing through mortality in song and tale, sipping a toast of Bacchanalian treasure while feasting on wit.

About the Author
I'm currently employed as a sports writer. Recently, I assisted in welcoming the Dalai Lama to the Overture Center, managed and programmed the Isthmus Jazz Festival, and co-taught UW-Madison's 400-level Shakespeare course. I currently work as a sports writer (American football) for Rotowire.

Moby-Dick is my passion.

I recently completed and published my first full-length novel, The Inconsistencies: A Comical Tragedy In Two Parts. My new novella, Psychopomps, will be released Q1 2019.
I am in the process of discovering life after university. The world is open.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Brian Freeman headlining writers conference Sept 28

Save the Date!

St. Croix Writers and Wisconsin Writers Association are pleased to announce their Northland Fall Writers Conference, September 28, 2019.  Registration begins at 8:30 am, Solon Springs Community Center, 11523 S. Business Highway 53,  Solon Springs, WI.  Conference fee of $49 includes your catered lunch and snacks. 

Brian Freeman, international best-selling psychological thriller author, will present  "Thrill Seeker: A Writer's Life in the Northland."  Freeman, keynote presenter, is well known for his strong, complex characters Jonathan Stride, Frost Easton and Cab Bolton, with the Stride detective series set in Duluth, MN. Brian's books are sold in 46 countries and translated into 20 languages. He lives and writes in St. Paul, MN. 
During his fifteen years as a Midwestern writer, Brian Freeman has seen the publishing world turn upside down and reinvent itself. But one thing hasn’t changed: the love that readers have for a great story. 

Brian will take you through the evolution of his career, from writing award-winning Northland thrillers to recently taking on Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne franchise, with next book in the series,   The Bourne Conspiracy,   planned for 2020 release. 

Brian will also speak about how he develops characters and stories for different settings, platforms, and audiences. He will answer your questions about thriving in today’s publishing industry. 

Please find additional info at Brian's website:

This exciting conference, for all writers and book lovers, is open to everyone. Additional guest presenters during the day will include Karla Huston, WI Poet Laureate 2017-2018;  Abby Frucht, novelist;  and Barry Wightman, author, editor and president of WWA.  

Regional authors featured will include Naomi Musch, Gary Banker, Janet Kay, and Thomas Wayne King, among others.  

Book tables and sales by authors and vendors will be available all day until 4 pm. 

Your cost to attend will be $49, including program, catered lunch, snacks, and artisanal coffees. Authors wanting to sell their books can reserve a vendor table for an additional $15.00. 

Further information and details will be available soon at 

Save the date!  Plan to attend!  Saturday. September 28, 2019.  Solon Springs, WI. 

If you love to read and write, this day is for you.  Don't miss it! 

Karen Franco advocate for special needs

Meet Karen Franco, children’s book author and advocate for children with special needs.

Karen Franco was born and raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, started as a Feature Writer for a weekly newspaper, the Zion Benton News. Life took her to California and that’s where her son, Jacob, was born. Little did she know that Jacob would change her life forever, and begin the journey in the world of special needs.

Karen's son Jacob is the inspiration for her book series… Just Hold My Hand,” “Jacob’s Hoop,”  “What Makes Bella Special?” and now “Where Did the Sun Go?”

Karen and Jacob

Karen says, My publisher is amazing...Layne Case of AMITY Publications. I met her on LinkedIn. We both belong to the same writers groups and one day I reached out to her about publishing my books. Now four books later, we're still together. Right now, I haven't started another book. I'm still focusing on Where Did the Sun Go? which is my book that was published in December 2018. All my books are inspired by Jacob and living in his world for 24 years. He is the best subject to write about...research is just going back in time and dive into my memories of different things that have happened to us over the years. My books focus on a different aspects of Jacob's development. I wrote about sensory issues, physical limitations, his relationship with our dog Bella and behavioral changes to due weather. I always have a positive outcome within these struggles...showing what I have done to help Jacob get through these challenges.

Each book tells a different story with a positive outcome of how Jacob has to cope with his day to day struggles.  In addition to being an author, and Jacob’s mom, Franco is also a speaker, bringing the message of patience, understanding and acceptance of children who are “differently” abled.

Each 8.5 by 8.5 inch paperback between 28 and 42 pages is $12.00
Buy on Amazon
From the author (Signed)

Just Hold My Hand 
My son, Jacob sees, feels, hears and interprets the world around him differently than anyone else. One day at the county fair he experiences all these senses in a way that only he can relate to, but by holding mom’s hand, he can cope with what scares him such as loud noises, what frustrates him like not getting what he wants, and what excites him. Most of us take those feelings for granted or they wouldn’t be expected at a fun place like the fair, but for our “differently” abled children, they need ways to cope with the world around them. Nothing is more comforting than holding mom’s hand.

Jacob’s Hoop  
Jacob wants to play basketball. He tries really hard but his “different” abilities make it difficult for him to play like everyone else. One day, at his child care center Every Child’s Place, he gets a wonderful surprise. There in the playground was a basketball hoop just his size. On the backboard were the words “Jacob’s Hoop” in big green letters. This book is a simple story with a big meaning that teaches understanding, patience and most of all acceptance of someone who is different from other children. In my story, I introduce Every Child’s Place, a special child care center, who embraces children of all abilities. I am so fortunate I have been a part of their mission for over fourteen years. Jacob was welcomed with open arms, and that’s where other kids began accepting him for who he is. 

What Makes Bella Special? 
  • Is it her curly Q tail that’s always wagging?
  • Her fuzzy fur and floppy ears?
  • Her funny way that she grunts when she wants attention?
  • Her calm and friendly personality?

All those things make Bella a special part of the family but Jacob answered the question best…

Where Did the Sun Go?
When weather changes, so can behaviors. “Where Did The Sun Go?” touches on how a stormy day affects Jacob. But with positive reassurance, constant interaction, as well as fun distractions, Jacob learns how to cope with the storm. Knowing the sun will be back soon helps to keep him calm and puts a smile back on his face.

Sharing her stories about living in Jacob’s world is a wonderful way to connect with others who may be experiencing similar challenges with their children. "Knowing that you aren’t alone helps to face these struggles with hope, love and strength," Franco says.

Franco is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of Every Child’s Place, an all-inclusive, not-for-profit child care center that cares for children of all abilities. She has served on the board for 20 years. Today, Franco lives in Union Grove, Wisconsin with her husband Chris, their Labradoodle Bella and of course, Jacob.

Connect with Karen through her website, Facebook, and LinkedIn. She is also available for speaking engagements. "I like to share our story with others and where our journey in Jacob's World has lead us to where we are today. I always say that it's so helpful to other families to let them know that they are not alone in this special needs world. Trust me, it can be a very lonely place when you think you are the only one who is facing these kinds of struggles. I talk about our life, Jacob's diagnosis, the doctors, therapies and how I decided to write my books. This is usually my approach to my talks."

Monday, June 10, 2019

Tim Fox and Ice Age Journeys 2

Journeys 2; An Ice Age Rescue

Ice Age Journeys 2, Ice Age Rescue
by Tim Fox
YA historic fiction

$3.99 ebook
April 1, 2019
Journeys Publications
Buy on Amazon

About the Book:
A kidnapping...
The attack of an Ice Age cat...
One seriously large Paleo Indian man...
An immigrant boy abused by two bullies...
A series of dreams...

All of these and more come together when Mark and Barry Jamison return to Ice Age Wisconsin.
This time they are on a journey with friends to help friends.
And this time, it’s more than an adventure, it’s an Ice Age rescue!

My Review:
Fox picks up his Ice Age time travel adventure for young people with a dual story that takes place in present times and thousands of years ago in the same location with an imagined ideal of life during the glacial period. This story is Barry’s, a sixth grader with a ton of energy. When a new kid from Honduras, Javier, comes to school, Barry rescues him from older bullies. In the past, a young boy with his family is attacked and a sister kidnapped while the brother watches helplessly.

Barry and his buddies learn about the plight of South and Central Americans who are bullied so badly they are no longer safe in their birth country. Although Javier is bullied in Wisconsin, he has friends to stick up for him.

When Javier and Kylie, another of Barry’s friends at school, as well as Barry all have worrisome dreams accompanied by strange blue light on the same night, Barry and Mark realize it’s time to share the secret of their time-traveling. Something is wrong back in the time of the Ice Age, and it’s up to the kids to put the clues together and figure out how to make things right.

Told in multiple viewpoints from humans and creatures in both past and present episodes, Ice Age Journey 2 is a well-reasoned look at potential lifestyle choices, blended families, and our environment. Fox cleverly shows how friends can help each other across culture and time as a portal through time opens once again on time long past. I enjoyed the author’s use of the natural geological formations in south central Wisconsin at parks I like to visit as well.

Recommended for middle graders who read well and enjoy a fun adventure with spears, giants, thinking mastodons and saber tooth tigers, family time, and good friends.

About the Author:
Tim Fox is a Wisconsin writer who loves hiking in Wisconsin’s state parks and natural areas.
He has been a teacher and coach and now does personal fitness training.
His author website is