“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Effie Jones) Have you made plans for success in your life? Sounds like a no brainer question; however, if you’re planning to pave the way for yourself down the road of success, you need a plan. 

Of course there are no absolutes in life—except for death and taxes. Some may then say, what’s the use in making plans if there are no absolutes…well, those who plan, do increase their chances of success. Don’t you want to be counted in those statistics? I know I do.

For an author, how can you plan for success? You first need to assess the current situation. What are your goals? What do you need in terms of marketing strategies? It doesn’t make sense to start planning your strategy if you don’t know exactly what you need in your own situation.

For example, I have three books published and am working on my fourth. What is my present need in terms of planning and goals? I need to continually market my brand (name) and increase my readership base so that my platform increases—compared to where I was at last year and where I’ll be in the next few months.

Are you a new author just starting out or a seasoned one with several books already published? You need to take your current situation into consideration before you make further plans. One point to interject here—if you don’t have a press kit, you should create one; having it available online is a good idea. I have mine available on my website. Especially with the advent of technology, interested parties (like reporters and agents and publishers etc.) want to have easy access to your pertinent information.

If you need exposure to new marketing opportunities, have you tried to schedule yourself for guest appearances on other blogs and online magazines? You should also have a blog that is active and not stagnant. It’s good for you to post interesting articles pertinent to your field and expertise; however, you should also spice things up a bit by having guest authors visit your blog. You always want new traffic coming to your blog, but getting regular traffic from people revisiting your blog is also important. If you have repeat traffic, you know you are doing well in your promotion.

If you want to seriously promote you and your work, you need to offer serious content on your blog as well. So, what are you doing to plan for success?

Staring at a mountain in your life can become pretty daunting.  If you are not careful, you’ll get discouraged and think you can never ever climb that mountain and then cross to the next valley.  That’s when; digging deep inside yourself to find the courage to continue to the valley of your dreams is the answer.  For me, faith is the first step to getting at the answer of how to traverse the mountain pass.  If I don’t have faith that God is watching out for me and has a plan, then I’m walking in my own strength.  

My mom used to always tell me that where there’s a will, there’s a way.  I truly believe she was right in drilling that into my mind and heart.  If I don’t have a desire to succeed and strive for success, how will I ever cross that mountain? 

However, willpower is not the only ingredient needed to trek through that mountain pass.  You need climbing gear and food and to basically be prepared for the unexpected.  In your writing life, you need the same thing.  Have you studied and learned your craft?  Are you keeping current on all the best marketing strategies?  What about your emotional needs for encouragement ~ have you linked up with other authors who can provide that encouragement to you? 

If you are prepared with your power pack and have the will power to succeed, your trek through the mountain won’t be easy, but you will make it to the valley of your dreams.  Even if you don't see results right away, keep going; because if you don't, you'll surely never see any results at all.

Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Thanks so much for stopping by. Today, author, A.M. Burns is here to chat and share with us about myths and magic. 
Four Leaf Clovers in Myth and Magic

by A.M. Burns

The legends of four leaf clovers being lucky and scared go back thousands of years. Regular three leaf clovers are magical, but the much rarer four leaf ones are even more special. Scientifically, the mutation for four leaf clovers affect about one in every ten thousand stems, so if you work hard you should be able to find a couple in most large clover patches. There are several plants with leaves similar to clover, and some of these normally have four leaves. One sure sign that what you are seeing is a real four leaf clover is that one leaf if normally smaller than the other three.

The ancient Celtic Druids held clover as sacred, seeing the divine triple goddess in each leaf, with one representing the maiden, the mother and the crone. In the four leaf clovers, they saw the balance of the four natural elements, earth, air, fire and water. This special balance made four leaf clovers extra special when used in magic. In ancient Rome, clover was associated with the God and planet Mercury. Mercury was the ancient God of thieves, merchants, prosperity and above all luck. This is most likely where the luck aspect of the superstations surrounding the plant come from. In English folklore, dreaming of clover foretells of a long and happy marriage.

In modern magical practices, clover has many uses from prosperity and fertility, to luck and protection. Many of these uses find their roots in ancient lore. Make a wash from clovers to see fairies and protect yourself from the evil eye. Cows grazing in fields of clover are said to be protected from the mischief of fairies, actually livestock feed on clover tend to grow well due to the health benefits in the high protein leaves. Carrying a four leaf clover in your shoe is suppose to attract love and wealth, not to mention, make your feet smell better.

Today it’s not nearly as hard as it was in the past to find four leaf clovers. A number of companies grow them for commercial use. They are sold as good luck charms in various forms, everything from small plastic key chains to magnets, lockets, and even laminated book marks, I know I like my literature to be lucky.

So from Saint Patrick carrying a clover to remind the early Irish of the holy trinity, to modern folk buying four leaf clovers encased in a variety of substances for luck, the four leaf clover has been a symbol for many, for thousands of years. You never know, it might be worth sitting down in a field somewhere and searching through ten thousand or so ordinary plants to find that one special one, and who knows you might even be lucky enough to find one with five or more leaves. Good luck. 

So, let's chat. Can you tell us the top five random facts about yourself?

1. I wrote my first book in high school. No it will never be published.

2. I spend my summers working the Renaissance Faire.

3. I was once bitten in the backside by a tiger, and no you can’t see the scar.

4. I can’t stand the smell of Oud.

5. Pizza rules, but it has to be all meat. 

I love the Renaissance Faire and have been to a local one several times. Why do you like being an author?

I’ve been weaving stories for a long time. Being a writer gives me a greater ability to share those stories, and even sometimes let the voices in my head get out. It also frees me up to be myself in ways working for the corporate workplace never could.

Who’s your favorite author of classic literature?

Jewels Vern, the man had a great imagination and could really open up new worlds to his readers. 

Can you share with us about your book, Blood Moon, Yellow Sky?

Tal O’Duirwood, dragon, enjoys his quiet life of solitude in the Colorado mountains. He never realized what was missing until his gets an assignment to travel to Yellow Sky, Texas and help a witch and her students there stop a vampire invasion. Once there, he finds that things were not as he was told. The witch is actually a werecoyote, and one of her students has eyes for Tal. Can Tal help stop the vampires in time to save his blossoming love? Will his heart, so long closed off from the world be able to open to the touch of the handsome young mage?

Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for Blood Moon, Yellow Sky

A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks.

Connect with A.M. Burns online:



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Thanks so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting and learning more about Irish myths and magic and about your book.

Hope you all can hang around to chat. Thanks again for visiting. 

*guest post by Michelle Massaro and April Gardner Last week, COTT posted a "Flash Clash" in which readers had just 2 days to cast their votes between two 100-word excerpts. It was a fast one! But not so fast that voters didn't have time for their say. To add to the tension, the winner took the clash by a margin of one vote. That’s right. ONE vote difference. Both excerpts were so good, readers were split almost exactly down the middle. I love clashes that are this close!
The winner of our Flash Clash First Hundred is…
Rebecca Carey Lyle’s Winds of Wyoming.
Winds of Wyoming clashed against Tom Blubaugh’s Night of the Cossack. It was a pleasure getting to know both authors during this fun, super-speedy clash. We wish many blessings on their writing paths!
Here's what readers had to say about both books:
*Great excerpts...both caught my interest immediately! *Wow - two really great flashes that sound like amazing stories! Love it! *Keep writing and don't give up! *Both excerpts were great, especially given the short time to convey what was happening in the story. Keep up the good work!
COTT is taking a spring break starting immediately. We will begin clashing again on April 2, 2012 when hostess Gail Pallotta brings us a brand new clash--Comparable Covers!
In the meantime, check out these other Splashdown Books…
Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Today, Ann Christine is here to visit and also share about her book, Safari Moon, which is being featured and there is a giveaway, so be sure to comment to enter to win. Let's meet Ann...

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Ever since I was a small child playing with dolls, I have loved to make up stories.  I guess you could say I was a storyteller, perhaps not a writer since I never put the words down on paper. I decided I wanted to write after I was introduced to romance novels. I read a few and thought maybe I could write a story, not understanding at the time how much knowledge, thought and skill goes into the creation of a work of fiction.

Writing as Ann Christine I penned my first contemporary Romance.

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction? 

Safari Moon was inspired by my parents and their love to travel. They always told me they really saw more of the country, experienced the people, and enjoyed the vacation in an entirely different way when they toured on their bicycles. In Safari Moon, Nyssa Harrington resigns from her Wall Street job, and settles in Bend, Oregon. She owns a bicycle shop and books bicycle tours around the world. Solo St. John is a wildlife photographer who is about to embark on an adventurous photo shoot in the Alaskan wilderness. In this case, Solo's career and destination were inspired by my love of photography, my love of wolves as well as my parents trip to Alaska.

Sounds like great inspiration for a story. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are created from my imagination. I have wondered what my friends might say if they read one of my books and discovered they were a character in said book. It could possibly be a real shock to discover oneself portrayed in a work of fiction. Would they like the character? I think I would rather keep my friends.

What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?

My Lakota/Pinkerton series, beginning with Dakota's Bride, was the most interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the Lakota Sioux, the areas where they lived, their culture and even their language. I think I would like to go back and revisit this series of five books.

Where do you go to do your research? 

If I am unable to travel for my research, most of it is done on my computer. However, for My Angel, part of the Lakota/Pinkerton series, I did a lot of research through National Geographic magazine. I needed pictures of the Crimea and a better understanding of the terrain. In the nineties when I first began my writing career, the majority of my research was done at the public library.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book? 

I always start with the characters. I give them names, jot down important events in their life story then move on to profile them. A lot of times I will have the setting in mind as well as the main plot. After the profiles are finished, I work on the plot, including turning points and the black moment. Then I move on to the conflicts: internal, external and emotional.

Are you currently working on any new book projects?

Rebel Heart a futuristic is my next release. I am currently working on edits for this book. It will be released in June. But at the moment my major interest is in Safari Moon, my first contemporary romance. With contemporaries I am writing as Ann Christine instead of Christine Young. I am also working on a novella to be published in an anthology for next May.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

I really have no writing schedule. When I can I will write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. I still substitute teach so on days I have to work I will try and sit down in the evening. If not otherwise engaged, I work every day.

How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

My first publisher and editor was Kate Duffy at Kensington. I love my villains, although Safari Moon doesn't have an antagonist per se. An author I liked to read had great villains and Kate was her editor. I sent my manuscript to her and was pleasantly surprised, no excited, to receive a phone call from her asking me if she could buy my manuscript. Kensington offered me a two-book contract. After that I went on to publish with Awe-struck then Rogue Phoenix Press.

I wrote for about six years before I published my first book, Dakota's Bride and my second book My Angel. After that I wrote the rest of the Lakota/Pinkerton series. Then I embarked on my Highland journey writing three books in that series. A couple of years ago I began a regency romance series which will eventually be a twelve book series. At the moment I have written and published two of these books, Allura and The Wager.

Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies? 

I think I have mentioned most of these in other interviews. When I'm at a stand-still I often lift weights or play computer games. This seems to free my mind and I can explore uncharted territories.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and chat today.

Born in Medford, Oregon, novelist Christine Young has lived in Oregon all of her life. After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in science, she spent another year at Southern Oregon State University working on her teaching certificate, and a few years later received her Master's degree in secondary education and counseling. Now the long, hot days of summer provide the perfect setting for creating romance. She sold her first book, Dakota's Bride, the summer of 1998 and her second book, My Angel to Kensington. Her teaching and writing careers have intertwined with raising three children.  Christine's newest venture is the creation of Rogue Phoenix Press. Christine is the founder, editor and co-owner with her husband. They live in Salem, Oregon.

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Safari Moon by Ann Christine, is a contemporary romance available now from Rogue Phoenix Press.

Solo St. John, a wildlife photographer, is preparing for a trip to Alaska. Suddenly, Solo finds women of all sorts invading his privacy, his home and his office, all cooing nonsense words and blatantly throwing themselves at him. Solo doesn't know why, and he has no idea how to rid himself of the persistent women. He finally decides to beg a favor of his best buddy Nyssa Harrington.

In love with Solo for the past ten years and knowing he doesn't return her feelings Nyssa doesn't want to talk to Solo. She knows if she accepts his phone call, she will not be able to resist the temptation to hope again.

Purchase Link for Safari Moon  

Here's an excerpt from Safari Moon

Solo St. John you are a coward.

When he peeked into the room, she was asleep. Hallelujah, his prayers had been answered. Yet instead of turning and walking away he did the exact opposite.

He strode to the bed.

For several seconds, Solo stood over her. Her hair was spread out on the pillow, her hand tucked beneath her chin. Without his help, she’d taken her dress off and now she was clad in very little. Damn little.

Solo smiled to himself. He couldn’t decide if she looked prettier now or when he’d first seen her walk down the aisle in her wedding dress, his grandmother’s gown. The significance of his thoughts stunned him. His grandmother would not accept an annulment well. Hell.

The room was warm and she’d pushed the covers off. He could see the tops of her white silk stockings and the tiny pink roses that formed a perfect border. One strap of her chemise had fallen off her shoulder and he could watch her breasts rise and fall. She had a sexy shoulder. He wanted to touch her so damn bad he could barely restrain himself.

She purred, a soft sound, seductive and with that he smoothed a lock of her beautiful hair from her face. He was so close, so tempted, so needy. This was his wedding night.

A wedding night he had no claim over. Seemingly on their own volition, his fingers traced the contour of her jaw, down the slope of her neck across the creamy swell of a perfect breast.

She purred again and Solo smiled once more. At least in her sleep she was not indifferent to his touch, to the man she married. No, if he thought back on the last few days, Nyssa had been anything but indifferent.

He pulled his hand back and rested it on her hip. She rolled onto her back. With the movement, his hand slid across her hip until his fingers lay on her stomach. Her eyes still closed, she made a sleepy sound, her hand coming to settle on his own.

“Solo?” she asked in a soft sexy voice. “Wouldn’t you like to come to bed?

Loved the excerpt. Thank you for sharing that with us. I'm definitely adding your book to my TBR list!

If you would like to enter to win in Ann's giveaway, please feel free to comment on this blog feature post. The following are prizes to be awarded:

* A Safari Moon bookmark to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop.
* ebook copy of The Gift (part of A Valentine Anthology) and Star Crossed (part of St. Patricks Day anthology) to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
* One commenter during the tour will win the right to have a character named for them in her next release--either Ghost Dance (a western historical romance) or Rebel Heart (science-fiction romance)
* Two randomly drawn commenters during the tour will each win a $25.00 GC to Starbucks

Have you ever been in love—you know, the infuriating kind—where you want to be around this person all the time and yet at other times, this person drives you nuts! Yes, you know what I mean. 

Well that’s where Detective Marc Abrams finds himself. He is insanely attracted to U.S. Marshall Sam Collins, but she doesn’t seem too interested in him. So what’s a guy to do? Solve a murder for one thing! And maybe even hook up with the sexy and spirited marshall. 

Who knows what will happen when these two collide and join forces! You can meet these exciting characters in my newest romantic suspense novel, Bella Lucia.

Purchase Link for Bella Lucia at Astraea Press

Excerpt from Bella Lucia...

Reaching into his pocket, he frantically searched for change to finish paying for his coffee. Lint and candy wrappers mixed with the quarters he found. He must not let this woman get away. Ever since he’d met her, she’d ruled his thoughts. He rushed past the line of customers and caught up with Sam. “I thought you’d left me.”

“You’re like a fungus—easy to get and hard to get rid of.”

He followed her as she headed down the sidewalk. “Wow, if your words weren’t so insulting, I’d be impressed.”

“So, was there some actual reason you needed to speak to me, or do you always get your morning coffee here?”

“No, I simply wanted to see you.”

“Couldn’t you at least pretend you needed to discuss the case or something?”

Her words surprised him. “What? I thought women wanted straight talk from men, unless I’ve been reading the wrong playbook.”

She laughed. The musical sound of it made him smile. “We do, but if you’re after a colleague, straight talk isn’t going to cut it, at least not yet. We don’t know each other well enough.”

Sam picked up speed and crossed the street at the corner. Man, she walks fast. Or maybe she truly is trying to get away from me. Either way, Marc didn’t care. He wanted to spend as much time with her as he could. He wondered whether she spoke truthfully or not—perhaps women did play by different rules when amongst colleagues. He opted to follow her lead. “I met with the couple who witnessed the body dump.” She stopped mid‑stride. Now he had her attention. This is a good method, if it’ll get her to look at me.

“I didn’t know there were witnesses.”

“Well, they didn’t see the murder, just the body dump. And now they’re adopting Mrs. Reysen’s baby.”


He jumped at the chance. “Do you want to grab lunch later, and I’ll tell you about it?”

She waited, obviously taking time to decide. “Fine, but let’s make it an early lunch. I couldn’t sleep this morning, and I need to get some rest this afternoon before I relieve Eric at the safe house.”

Marc gawked at her, stunned that she’d actually accepted his invitation. Gathering his wits, he mumbled, “Great. Okay, great. Um, I’ll see you later then.”

She called after him as he walked away. “Where are we meeting?”

“Oh, I guess that would help.” Racking his brain for the best pizza place around, he settled on his favorite. “I know a great pizzeria on the corner of Fourth and Exton Street. How does that sound?”

“Fine with me.”

They parted ways, and Marc glanced back a few times to watch her walk away. The words of the waitress from the other day echoed in his mind: Honey, you ain’t fine. You look like a lovesick puppy.

Today my new romantic suspense novel, Bella Lucia, releases and I wanted to share with you about this story. Thanks for stopping by The Mustard Seed today! 

Here's what my book is about...

After being married for six years, Gwen and Lucas DeStefano are dealing with the pain of a childless marriage and trying to trust God for their future.  On a weekend getaway to the Poconos, they attempt to relax and renew their marriage, but witness an event that turns their lives upside down.  They see a body dump in the woods while they are on a hike and their lives become entangled in a web of suspense and God’s ultimate blessing in the form of a little baby girl, named Bella Lucia. Will Gwen learn to trust God with childlike faith and wholeheartedly accept His plan?

Det. Marc Abrams is assigned to the murder investigation of Sabrina Reysen and he will do whatever it takes to find her killer. He has his suspicions and is pleasantly surprised when he meets Samantha “Sam” Collins, the attractive US Marshall assigned to protect one of the witnesses in this case. Will Det. Abrams find the killer before it’s too late and is the attraction between him and Sam strong enough to survive? 

Purchase Link for Bella Lucia at Astraea Press

Just wanted to share an excerpt...

“Bella Lucia.” She whispered the words, and a tear slid down her cheek as she thought about her hopes of becoming a mother and fears of never realizing that dream. Her heart ached with the pain of barrenness.

She heard her husband call for her from inside the bedroom. “Honey, where are you?”

“I’m out on the balcony. I couldn’t sleep.”

He came outside. She felt his breath on her neck. “What’s wrong?”

“Do you have to ask?” Immediately, she regretted her tone. She sniffled, trying to hold back tears as she faced him. “It’s hard, you know, hearing Kari’s news.”

Lucas’s features softened and he reached out to embrace her. “It’s gonna happen, Gwen. You’re going to have a baby. Bella Lucia, remember.”

She pulled back and tried hard to smile. “I know, our beautiful light. Six years is a long time to wait.”

Lucas kissed her lightly on the lips. Tingling warmth flooded her body at his touch. Yes, six years is a long time, but our love keeps growing stronger. She pulled aside, needing answers. “Am I a bad person for feeling jealous about Kari being pregnant?”

He brushed back her hair. “Of course not. It’s normal to feel this way, Gwen. We’re all human. As long as you don’t let it affect your behavior, you’ll be fine.”

She chuckled through her tears. “Hmm, maybe that’s why God brought us together—I have my own live‑in psychologist.”

“If we have too many sessions like this, I may have to start charging you.”

Gwen dodged his attempts to tickle her, and she raced back into the bedroom. Lucas grabbed her playfully, running his hand along her shoulders. “Let’s make a baby now.”

She backed away, smiling. “It’s not the right time of the month.”

He kissed her. “Well, we can practice anyway.”

She succumbed to his kisses, and for the moment, thoughts of Bella Lucia fled to the back of her mind.

The inspiration for this story...

Bella Lucia is a romantic suspense novel. It’s a very personal story for me, partly derived from my experience—and the rest fiction-based—and I wanted to share how when you invite God into the midst of your circumstances, he always turns everything out for your good…even during the hard times.

In digging deeper, I'd love to answer any questions you have for me about this new book or anything else you'd like to chat about. Thanks so much for everyone's support! :)

When God delays in answering your prayers or He does not answer them at all, how do you handle that? You can get bitter or you can believe that God has a better purpose and will answer as He knows best. 

Of course, this isn’t always easy and in all the years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve struggled with this issue many times. However, I’ve finally come to realize that delayed answers to prayer are a gift—once the answer comes—God gets the glory and it will be worth the wait.

In my new romantic suspense novel, Bella Lucia, the main characters, Lucas and Gwen DeStafano are struggling in their faith as they wait on God for his answer to their prayers—for Him to bless them with a child of their own. I won’t give away any secrets to the ending of the novel, but will tell you this: God is good; He’s not early, never late and always on time. 

Purchase Link for Bella Lucia at Astraea Press

Here's an excerpt from Bella Lucia...

A moment later, he came into the kitchen and got to work on the salad. “So how was your day?”

“It was good. I had lunch with Kari. I’ve almost completed the edits on my manuscript and did more online marketing for Blind Date.”

He cut the lettuce and put it in the salad spinner. “So how was lunch?”

She listened to the noise of the spinning and tried to decide how to answer. “It was nice,” she said finally.

“Are you sure?”

“Kari’s my best friend. She knows me well and figured me out without me saying a word.”

Lucas laughed. “Maybe she should work for me.”

“I’m sure she’d love that. You’d probably psychoanalyze her all the time.” She took the salad bowl from his hands and dressed the lettuce with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and seasonings. He shut the burner off and drained the pasta. After they sat down and he prayed a blessing for the meal, Gwen offered up Kari’s suggestion. “She thinks I need to get involved in something to distract my mind right now.”

Lucas leaned closer. “I can distract you, if you’d like.”

“Watch your shirt, honey. You’re going to get sauce on it.”

“Oh, what’s a little sauce gonna hurt?”

She rolled her eyes. “I care because I have to do the laundry.”

He finally moved away from his plate. “Let’s get back to the distraction topic. I have some ideas.”

“We’ve been married too long, because that’s exactly what I told Kari you’d say…how you could distract me.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be all bad, right?”

“I’ll take you up on those ideas,” she replied in between bites. “But maybe there’s something to Kari’s suggestion.”

Lucas took a sip of red wine. “And what does she propose you do?”

“She thinks maybe I should get involved in a children’s ministry.”

Watching him, she imagined smoke coming from his ears as the wheels seemed to turn in his mind. “What a great idea.”

“You don’t think it would be too hard? I mean being around little kids.”

“It might help. At least think about doing it. We’ll pray about it tonight.”

“Okay, doctor’s orders. I’ll think about it.”

“This could be good for you.”

They finished eating, and Gwen anticipated curling up on the sofa with Lucas. They picked a few shows from their DVR to watch before heading to bed. She enjoyed spending time with her husband, and she loved how he liked being a homebody with her. They made such a great pair. The love in their home was strong, and she knew deep in her soul that God called her to motherhood. Her heart was filled with love to shower on a baby. She longed to hear giggles and the pitter‑patter of little feet traipsing around their home.

What would it feel like to trip over building blocks strewn across the floor? Theirs was a grown‑up home just waiting to be filled with toys and baby stuff. She needed to trust. One day at a time, they’d get through this.  

Guest blogger: Jennifer Slattery
Sometimes Clash of the Titles highlights great talent. Other times we get to "discover it." This is exactly what happened with our speculative fiction unpub'bed clash. Join me in welcoming Chawna Schroeder to the COTT family! There's nothing like discovering great talent before it goes to print! And I have a feeling we're going to see our latest COTT champion's books on bookshelves very soon. When we do, we can all say, "We saw her on COTT first!" And this clash--a battle for best speculative fiction unpub'bed--was even more exciting because the winner has been invited to submit a full proposal to Asraea Press for immediate review! Her winning excerpt was pulled from the pages of Metamorphosis, a gripping tale of a Beast and her master: Once upon a time there lived a Beast… Not in a shining castle, but among a pack of dogs. For as long as Beast can remember she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold, she dreams of one day becoming Master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. Then strangers attack. Her pack scatters. Fire eats the village. And Beast knows: Master is no more. Alone and unprotected, Beast tries to defend herself against slavers scavenging for any leftovers. But she is only one, and they are strong. Tracked by men, sold as a monster, is Beast only prey to be hunted… …or something more? A few comments from readers: "I enjoyed both excerpts! I am curious about the world created in A, but B really got me in the gut." "Great job! Keep writing!" "God has given you a gift. Your TRUE fans will always be there for you!! Never give up and follow your dreams!!! I am sending up a prayer for you and your family!!!" Join us March 19-23 for a fun Flash Clash!
Happy Friday everyone! J.R. Lindermuth is a guest at The Mustard Seed today and he's giving us a history lesson. Hope you all can stay and chat.

More than a million Irish refugees flocked to the United State between 1846-1855. They worked whatever jobs they could find and were routinely exploited. Many found their way to Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region where they encountered some of the worst exploitation and hatred. Most of the management and skilled labor positions were held by the English and Welsh—old enemies.

In the 1870s, an expanding economic depression pitted mine owners and their laborers, particularly the Irish, in conflict over wages and working conditions. The situation spawned a wave of violence. The Irish and the Molly Maguires, a secret organization linked to them, soon became a scapegoat for those in authority.

Private police forces were commissioned by the state but paid by the coal companies, sworn to protect property of the mine owners. The miners believed their real purpose was to spy upon targeted agitators and intimidate and break up strikers.

The subject of the Molly Maguires remains controversial today with many refusing to believe the organization existed or that its members were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused. Others believe they operated secretly and used the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a legitimate benevolent organization, as a front. Probably more atrocities were attributed to the Mollies than occurred. But the organization’s existence is documented and people do have a tendency to strike back at oppression.

The largest owner of coal lands was the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, headed by Franklin B. Gowen. The P&R was a monopoly controlling the rail lines and the coal fields and it was Gowen’s goal to control the workforce as well. The miners formed a union, the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, and Gowen was determined to wipe it out.

Gowen’s opportunity came when a strike led to sabotage and then the murder of 10 mine bosses. Gowen accused the WBA of harboring terrorists—the Molly Maguires. He manipulated the press to convince the public most of the Irish were Mollies and responsible for the murders and sabotage.

The end result was a series of trials which resulted in the conviction of 41 people and the hanging of 20 miners. The WBA was crushed and it was a long time before another union improved mine working conditions. At this late date it’s difficult to separate legitimate from false accusations.

I grew up hearing stories about those days from my grandfather and other older residents who had the stories passed down to them. Of the 20 men hanged, four were from my home area. My historical novel Watch The Hour focuses on this conflict between mine owners and their Irish employees in the 1870s in the coal region.

Into this milieu I introduced a young coal company police officer, a decent fellow who does his best to follow orders while trying to be fair to the workers whose lot he sees as little different from his own. Despite his efforts at fairness, his job makes him the enemy of the Irish. I complicated matters by having him fall in love with an Irish lass. Like a certain young couple from Verona, these lovers had to vie not just with family differences, but also with the society in which they dwelt. And Ben faces the additional problem of being pressured by the mine owner to marry his granddaughter who is also in love with the youth.

For their love, Ben and Jennie must risk the enmity of family and friends, their religion, their jobs and their very lives.

Coal mining remains a tough and dangerous occupation. Today, for the most part, the Irish are accepted and valued members of society. But the prejudice they endured still exists and can be seen in the plight of other strangers in the land. Maybe one day man will change.

Let's find out more about J.R.

A retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in central Pennsylvania. Since his retirement he has served as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with research and genealogy. He is the author of 10 novels and publishes regularly in a variety of magazines, both print and on line.

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I love your Cover art! Can you tell us about your book, The Limping Dog?

Gavin Cutter, an artist living in an isolated village on the New England coast, witnesses the crash of a sailing ship onto a reef. The first aboard the wreck, he rescues a dog, the only living creature on the vessel. Ron Myers, wealthy owner of a growing computer firm, and the ship’s crew have disappeared without a trace.

When insurance investigator TJ Flood questions Cutter and others, he learns a sheriff’s deputy denies knowledge of a woman who also witnessed the incident. Myers is alleged to have developed a radical new microprocessor system. Some assert the system was lost with its creator, others believe it exists and have devious plans to profit from the invention.
Flood is attracted to Cutter’s daughter, Dee. Together they investigate the ship incident and strange coincidences surrounding it. The result is threats, danger—and several murders.

Very intriguing story line! Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for The Limping Dog

J.R., thank you so much for guesting today and giving us a glimpse into history and for sharing about your newest release. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win one of J.R.'s books (Watch The Hour or The Limping Dog, winner’s choice), please be sure to comment on this blog post. Hope you can join the chat!

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