Friday, November 22, 2019

"Bread Bags and Bullies" by Steven Manchester

Bread Bags and Bullies:
Surviving the ’80s
by Steven Manchester

Bread Bags and Bullies: Surviving the ’80s by Steven Manchester

Bread Bags and Bullies by Steven Manchester is currently on tour with Providence Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For more books by this author, please check out my blog post on Ashes and my blog post on Three Shoeboxes.

It’s the winter of 1984. Twelve-year-old Herbie and his two brothers - Wally and Cockroach - are enjoying the mayhem of winter break when a late Nor’easter blows through New England, trapping their quirky family in the house. The power goes out and playing Space Invaders to AC DC’s Back in Black album is suddenly silenced - forcing them to use their twisted imaginations in beating back the boredom. At a time when the brothers must overcome one fear after the next, they learn that courage is the one character trait that guarantees all others. This hysterical coming-of-age tale is jam-packed with enough nostalgia to satisfy anyone who grew up in the ’80s or at least had the good fortune to travel through them.

Book Video

It was the afternoon of Friday 13th, the last day before February vacation. A whole week off from stupid middle school, I thought, excitedly.
From the moment I stepped onto the bus, the atmosphere felt electric, everyone happy for the much-needed winter break.
Many of the bus’s green fake leather bench seats were split and duct-taped. As I made my way down the narrow aisle in search of a seat, I heard the usual remarks offered to most eighth graders from the high school kids who’d already claimed their territory.
“You can’t sit here, dufus.”
“This seat’s taken.”
Even on such a joyous afternoon, I was quickly reminded that riding the bus was a hard kick in the teeth. It didn’t matter whether they were wearing black leather vests and chain wallets or Swatch watches and turned-up collars on their pastel IZOD Polo shirts, the high school kids were just plain mean.
As I made my way further down the line, the objections got even stronger.
“Oh, I don’t think so, dweeb.”
“If you even think about sitting, you dink, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”
Eat shit and die, I replied in my head, but never out loud.
I hated sitting with the nerds or the kids that smelled like spoiled lunchmeat, but after receiving enough rejections I began to wonder, Maybe the older kids see me the same way?
Although school had its social order, this mobile environment was even less forgiving. At a time in life when the mind is impressionable—constantly worrying about what others think of you, even about what you think of yourself—the bus’s sadistic hierarchy created scar tissue that would help to define many lives for years to come. It was a cruel testing ground for survival, where the tougher or more popular kids claimed the back of the bus. Those coveted seats were sacred territory that most of us spent years aspiring to. On the big, yellow school bus, physical threats were the least of our worries. This is psychological warfare, I realized early on.
Besides having to deal with the pecking order, there was incredible peer pressure to do things most of us would have never dreamed of doing—like distracting the elderly driver, Mr. Gifford. Given that the bus had no seat belts, this daily practice seemed pretty insane to me. I’d never actually seen Mr. Gifford’s eyes; the two narrow slits were usually squinting into the rear-view mirror. “Sit down!” he constantly yelled.
There was always the smell of smoke wafting from the back, though I was never really sure it was cigarette smoke. Usually, there were two kids making out—a boy and girl—and it wasn’t always the same couple. The bus had its own sub-culture, a microcosm of the twisted society we were growing up in.
It’s amazing Old Man Gifford can keep this giant bus on the road and not in one of the ditches we pass on our way home, I thought.
As I claimed my seat beside another outcast Junior High-Schooler, I spotted my brother, Wally, sitting toward the middle of the vessel. Wally had straight brown hair, serious brown eyes and the chunky Bloomfield nose. He looked like my father. Unfortunately, a terrible case of acne was in full bloom, taking away from his rugged handsome looks. Our eyes locked. I nodded toward him. Although he returned the gesture, he was much more subtle in his action. You’re such a butthead, I thought.
A cold breeze tapped me on the shoulder. It’s freezing in here, I realized, turning around to see that the windows were open in the back of the yellow torture chamber. As I turned, I caught a whiff of my bus mate. And thank God they’re open, I thought, trying to place the unusual smell. Fried Spam? I guessed, before noticing that the stinky kid was wearing a Smokey the Bear sweatshirt that read, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. I had to do a double-take. No way, I thought in disbelief, it looks like Mr. Potato Head, here, has a death wish…wearing a lame pullover like that. I’m surprised he doesn’t have a Just Say No campaign button pinned to the front of it. I chuckled aloud, drawing a look from my new best friend. I pity the fool, I thought, quoting Mr. T.—one of my favorite TV personalities—in my head.
I’d just popped my last Luden’s cherry cough drop into my mouth when I heard it. There was a commotion behind us, much louder than the usual raucous. What the hell? No sooner did I turn in my seat to investigate the ruckus when my heart plummeted past my stone-washed jeans straight into my worn Chuck Taylor high tops.
Owen Audet—the most feared enforcer on Bus 6—was standing toe-to-toe with Wally. He was more than a head taller than my poor brother. Oh no, I thought, Wally’s gotta be shittin’ bricks right now. I swallowed hard. I know I would be. Owen was big, dumb and mean—and heavy on the mean.
“I need to borrow another book,” the Missing Link barked, looming over my brother.
There were a few laughs from the bully’s brain-dead minions.
My mouth instantly went dry, while my heart began to race. Although my brother was on the “big-boned” side, built like a Sherman tank, he still looked so small next to Owen. That dude’s a Clydesdale, I thought, and Wally’s road pizza.
“Sor…sorry, but I can’t do it,” Wally refused, his voice three octaves higher than normal. Even though he sounded like a yipping dog, he somehow stood his ground.
Owen’s face turned beet red. He obviously didn’t appreciate being challenged in front of the crowd.
It’s Friday the 13th, I remembered, and Jason’s back.
Owen grabbed for Wally’s backpack, who pulled away violently.
“Ooooh,” the crowd groaned.
“You must be out of your damn mind, loser,” the aggressor hissed.
“I…I would be if…” Wally stuttered, looking like a terrified Kindergartner, “…if I let you take another book.”
I didn’t blame him. After the way Pop reacted the last time this same nightmare happened, I thought, Wally has no choice.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“If you loved the ever popular A Christmas Story, be prepared for another classic. Bread Bags & Bullies is a must read! Funny, poignant, and heartwarming - Steven Manchester is a master storyteller.” ~ Jamie Farr, Actor, M.A.S.H.
Bread Bags & Bullies is a detailed eye-opening experience of the Big Hair decade. Enjoyable whether you were there or not - or just can’t quite remember it.” ~ Barry Williams, Actor, The Brady Bunch
“Steven Manchester’s Bread Bags & Bullies captures a simpler time, just before technology began dominating America’s time and attention. This nostalgic story is hilarious, told by a family of characters you won’t soon forget. A must read!” ~ Ed Asner, Actor, Lou Grant
“Steve Manchester’s Bread Bags & Bullies is a fantastic blast from the past, evoking all the fun and nostalgia of the ‘80s - even my big hair!” – Audrey Landers, Actress, Dallas
“An extraordinary recall of 1980s pop cultural, Bread Bags & Bullies will make you laugh out loud as you revisit the pains and pleasures of growing up. The book made me want to pick up the phone, call my brother in Nebraska and reminisce about our own snow day adventures.” ~ Douglas Barr, Actor, The Fall Guy

About the Author
Steven Manchester
Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season, and Three Shoeboxes; and the multi-award-winning novels, Goodnight, Brian and The Thursday Night Club. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is a multi-produced playwright, as well as the winner of the 2017 Los Angeles Book Festival and the 2018 New York Book Festival. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two $15 Amazon gift cards or one of five ebook copies of Bread Bags and Bullies by Steven Manchester.


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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"Betrayal of Justice" by Mark M. Bello

Betrayal of Justice
(Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 2)
by Mark M. Bello

Betrayal of Justice (Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 2) by Mark M. Bello

Mark M. Bello stops by today to share a guest post and an excerpt from Betrayal of Justice, the second book in the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series, currently ON SALE for only $1.99 (save 40%). Also available: Betrayal of Faith (read my blog post), Betrayal in Blue (read my blog post), and Betrayal in Black (read my blog post).

Betrayal of Faith by Mark M. BelloBetrayal in Blue by Mark M. BelloBetrayal in Black by Mark M. Bello

Zachary Blake returns. And who stands between his client and justice? The President of the United States.
In this second heart-stopping installment of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series, Zack is fresh off his epic legal battle with the church’s clandestine evil forces in Betrayal of Faith. If you enjoyed the political angst of All the President’s Men or the realistic courtroom scenes of The Verdict, you will love this political-legal action thriller, where super trial lawyer Zack Blake takes on new, even more, powerful foes:
The New President - Hero of bigots and white supremacists everywhere - he promises to rid America of its “Muslim scourge” and “Make America Pure Again”.
The White Nationalist - Anti-Muslim, white supremacist bigot who plans an explosive event to honor his “exalted new leader”.
The Client - Arya Khan, a young Muslim-American woman falsely accused of murdering the evil bigot who firebombed her neighborhood mosque.
In a divided America, Arya becomes the centerpiece of the new president’s bigoted promise to his base. Can Blake defeat the power of the presidency and prove his young client’s innocence?
Grab this exciting, politically charged second installment of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series right now!

Book Video

Chapter One
“My fellow Americans: I am very humbled yet emboldened by your vote to elect me as your president. I thank you for your support. I’ve earned your vote, and I will now embark on the task of securing your continued trust. I intend to do that by delivering on the promises I made during my very contentious campaign with Secretary Goodman. To accomplish these promises, we, the people, have to be vigilant and bold. We have to take this country in a new direction.
 “This new direction starts with securing our borders. Under our current immigration system, our borders are porous, wide open for drug dealers, rapists, murderers, and terrorists to enter our country unchecked, able to move about freely to do all kinds of terrible things to law-abiding citizens. Other countries are not sending the best and brightest to our country. They are dumping ‘human toxic waste,’ and it is my job to clean up the mess.
“Furthermore, my ineffective predecessor has enacted recent unconstitutional restrictions on our citizens’ right to bear arms through a series of illegal and unethical executive orders. These restrictions have left our citizens virtually defenseless against deadly, terrorist threats.
“My first order of business as your president will be to rescind these executive orders, restore full Second Amendment rights to our people, and encourage all of our law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons to defend against the scourge caused by our current, extremely ineffective, immigration system.
“My second order of business will be to secure our borders. No longer will drug dealers, pimps, pushers, rapists, murderers, or terrorists be able to freely enter our country through our southern border. I will build a second-to-none border defense system across our southern border, impenetrable border walls, and I will make Mexico and South America share the cost. I will do the same along our northern border. Canada will pay for our northern border defense system and help police it. If either or both refuse, we have ways of convincing them to ante up. These countries, indeed all countries in the free and not so free world, rely on trade with the United States. We are their largest customers and trade partners. Let’s see if they prefer tariffs on all goods entering the United States of America. We also provide serious aid and military support to many of these countries, and they will soon begin paying for that support or it will be terminated. There will be no free rides from the John administration.
“The third order of business will be to beef up law enforcement in this great country of ours. We will increase border security and immigration and naturalization enforcement. We will create a new federal police force within the Department of Homeland Security answerable only to its secretary and to me. This force will be the finest of its kind and will be tasked with protecting our citizens from foreign interests seeking to destroy our country and our citizens.
“We will make America beautiful again. We will modernize our airports. We have the worst airports. Third world countries have better airports than we do. We will make our country’s airports the biggest, brightest, most technologically advanced, and beautiful airports in the world. We will repair and replace our crumbling roads and bridges. Our crumbling infrastructure will be replaced using state-of-the-art equipment manufactured right here in the good ole USA.
“We will put America back to work again, as these tasks will be performed by American-born workers. Advanced technology systems will require workers with twenty-first-century advanced technological skills. In with the new, out with the old, I say. Our natural resources will once again take center stage in the global economy. No more political correctness in energy production. We will put people back to work in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and produce energy for our people at a fraction of current cost. How will we do this? By producing energy right here in America and curtailing our dependence upon foreign sources, especially those sources that sponsor terror. We will focus on price and American pride rather than the junk science and political correctness, which has driven up the cost of our energy and ignores resources we can mine for-profit and supply to all corners of the globe. It is high time for America to assume its rightful role as a global energy leader.
“Finally, we will round up and deport all of those who have entered into and remain in this great country illegally—round them up and toss them out. I have no use for criminals, and these illegal immigrants are a huge part of the criminal element that makes all of us law-abiding citizens less safe in this country.
“We will combat terrorism and the global terrorist threat by taking the war to the shores of the terrorists and by banning all current and future immigration from any country I deem to be a sponsor of terrorists and terrorist activity. And, we will create jobs by assembling and training the best and the brightest national immigration and deportation force in the world. We will beef up federal, state, and local law enforcement departments, which will create more law enforcement jobs, manpower necessary to tackle the problems of local, state, national, and international crime. It is time to prioritize safety in this country. We will be the law and order capital of the world.
“We will make America safe again. We will make America strong again. We will put America first again. We will make America secure again. We will make America prosperous again. We will make America pure again. With your help and God’s will, we will succeed in making America a shining city on a hill once again. Thank you . . .”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“A startling wake-up-call to those who would rather keep their head in the sand, Mark M. Bello's Betrayal of Justice packs a walloping punch. Disturbingly, the story is all too familiar to our current reality ...” ~ Taraon
“Another awesome legal thriller that I couldn't put down!” ~ Kimberly Castroon
“While Mark Bello's Betrayal of Justice is fiction, it appears to be based on the country's current political state. It is a very relevant mystery/political book that was quite interested to read. Bello is excellent at getting inside characters heads and expressing how they may feel from their different viewpoints. Because I have read Betrayal of Faith by the author, I knew what to expect as far as writing style, excitement, plot twists, and lust. Bello did not disappoint.” ~ Lisa
“What I loved about the book is that even though you can tell the author is an attorney through his command of criminal proceedings, the action doesn't slow down for legalese or an explanation of the criminal justice system. I also appreciated the ‘realness’ and humanity behind each of the characters.” ~ Brown the Reviewer
Betrayal of Justice is a very fast paced suspenseful political legal thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. It is well written, well plotted, and damn frightening due to how real it relates to what is happening in our society today. I won't ruin it by giving details, but get your copy, and then you will see how Bello is spot on!” ~ Claudia B.

Guest Post by the Author
Symbols of the Mockingbird
But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal. Our courts have their faults as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal” ~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
I’ve read the novel countless times. I plan to see the play when I next visit New York. Set in the Deep South during the 1930s, To Kill a Mockingbird is a searing portrayal of race, bigotry, and prejudice in America. Many Americans believe we have become a post-racial society, yet, here we are in 2019, and ‘Mockingbird-type’ injustice still permeates the fabric of our society.
Two characters are symbolic of the mockingbird – Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white girl, and Boo Radley, a mentally disturbed recluse. Both are judged in a backdrop of bigotry, prejudice, and hearsay. Still, both are innocent. Boo is representative of many people, misunderstood by society and discriminated against because he is different from the norm. Tom is representative of injustice directly related to racism. Atticus Finch, Tom’s attorney, presents an impassioned case, a strong evidentiary case, and still loses. Why? It is because racial bias wins the day - the jury is comprised of white men, like-kind bigots, who turn a blind eye to compelling evidence of innocence, and, instead, focus on the color of Robinson’s skin.
By bringing these issues to light, Harper Lee played a significant role in shaping the 20th Century narrative of racism in America. The country took a great leap forward from 1868-1870 and made significant strides in 1964, but the long-term results have been underwhelming. Despite modest superficial gains, racism, bigotry, and other forms of discrimination still rear their ugly heads in the land of the free. Sadly, the themes and issues of To Kill a Mockingbird are still relevant in our society.
As readers, were we surprised when Tom is found guilty? We want to believe in the justice system, that it will do the right thing, and that protagonists can win. However, when Tom is found guilty, it is less of a shock and more of a disappointment.
In my opinion, Lee wrote from historical context - realism required Atticus Finch to fail. In 21st Century America, are we surprised when minorities have their day in court and injustice results? Unfortunately, we are not at all surprised, and worse, in our current political climate, we have become numb to injustice. When a white police officer shoots an unarmed black man, or a white nationalist a mosque or a synagogue, are we surprised? Not especially. These acts are ignored by our leaders and happen way too often.
In America today, citizens of color and religious minorities continue to be victimized by hate crimes – criminal expressions of bigotry that terrorize entire communities and fray the social fabric of our country. People are still judged by the color of their skin, the religion they practice, their sexual preferences, or their political ideology. They are too frequently robbed of the rights men and women and duty-bound to protect.
In recent years, deadly police shootings of unarmed citizens have sparked fervent national sentiment but failed to shock our country. The vast majority of these cases have involved young African American men. Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, and Antwon Rose were all unarmed black men shot to death by police officers. Each of their killers was acquitted, despite solid evidence of guilt, in stark contrast to Tom Robinson, who was found guilty, despite substantial evidence of his innocence.
Other minorities face discrimination and mistreatment. Immigrants seeking a better life are detained at the border. Young children are separated from their parents and locked in cages. Even those who have lived and worked in this country for decades, remained law-abiding, with no criminal record, face deportation. The LBTQ+ community is continuously confronted with discrimination and mistreatment - stripped of rights afforded others. Like Boo Radley, they are discriminated against because they are different than the norm.
True justice is blind, not biased. So, why then is discrimination still prevalent today? Human beings are biased and our laws are sometimes imperfect. Imperfection is why America has required twenty-six amendments to our Constitution, particularly, the Fourteenth Amendment. The beauty of the Constitution is that it allows for adjustments. The greater challenge is to find legislators brave enough to support sensible change.
Harper Lee did not sugar-coat the trial results in To Kill a Mockingbird. America should not expect a happy ending to our current injustice issues. The poor and innocent will continue to be treated worse than the wealthy and guilty, a major reason for our disproportionate prison population. To Kill a Mockingbird addressed these problems head-on and so must we, no matter how difficult the task may seem. Atticus Finch’s daughter, Scout, a 1930’s child, was able to recognize and question the scourge of hate and prejudice. When will America be able to view these pressing societal issues through the eyes of a child?

About the Author
Mark M. Bello
Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of realistic fiction and political legal thrillers.
Retired from handling high profile legal cases, Mark now gives the public a front-row seat watching victims fight for justice in our civil and criminal justice systems. Mark's award-winning Zachary Blake Legal Thrillers mirror our times and the events that shape our country.
In addition to writing captivating legal thriller novels, Mark writes a civil justice blog and co-hosts a weekly podcast, Journey into Justice. He has written articles for numerous publications and made guest appearances on radio and talk shows.
In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. He and his wife Tobye have four children and eight grandchildren.


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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Vengeance in the Wind" by Judy Bruce

Vengeance in the Wind
(Wind Series Book 6)
by Judy Bruce

Vengeance in the Wind (Wind Series Book 6) by Judy Bruce

Author Judy Bruce stops by today to share an excerpt from Vengeance in the Wind, the sixth standalone book in the Wind Series. Also available: Voices in the Wind (read my blog post), Alone in the Wind (read my blog post), Cries in the Wind (read my blog post), Fire in the Wind (read my blog post), and Lies in the Wind (read my blog post).

Wind Series by Judy Bruce

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Death Steppe: A World War II Novel.

Following a trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Megan Docket, a young attorney, helps her friends plan and execute a haunted house. When a murder occurs there, she must expose the killer to protect the people who are falsely accused. When her mother and her law firm staff are held hostage by the killers, she uses her wits and moxie to stage a rescue.

Excerpt from Chapter 1
I stood atop a grassy knoll, lashed by the wind, pretending to admire the September horizon, streaked in yellow and orange. In truth, my insides swirled in an acidic maelstrom of portent. What now? I shut my eyes, trying to focus, but the warning remained hazy. When gray clouds swallowed the western sun, I felt obligated to rejoin the group—members of the Lakota reservation preparing a cookout. They’d been so friendly to me and my husband Jay, but my legs turned to lead so I stood anchored to the ground.
Jackson Draper, our host and an elder on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota, silently, suddenly stepped next to me. “Will it storm?”
I smiled. “I don’t really know how to read the clouds, but those dark ones to the south look ominous. Maybe we’re getting some rain back home.”
Wakinyan, thunderclouds,” he said. “Let us hope.” 
The small, wiry man with deep set wrinkles and wispy silver hair had given me the name, “The Woman Who Feels.” So his question didn’t surprise me.
“Do you feel something?”
“Yes, but it’s so vague…I can’t get a bead on it. How could you tell?”
“It’s hard to describe…but you looked so intense. Another elder, Alex, came to me. He was watching you, too.”

Praise for the Book
Vengeance in the Wind is a work of tense murder mystery and atmospheric fiction, penned by author Judy Bruce. Written as book six in the Wind Series, this short but satisfying novel is sure to grip readers with its tense narrative and intriguing mystery in a haunted house. […] Despite not having read any of the previous mysteries in the series, it was really easy for me to get into the groove of author Judy Bruce’s Wind Series. Megan is an instantly relatable central heroine, strong but vulnerable, and clearly affected by the traumas which haunted her recent past, but also skillful and aware because of them. […] an excellent addition to what is sure to be an enthralling mystery series.” ~ K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
“If you’re a fan of small-town mysteries you can’t put down, pick up Vengeance in the Wind. Even though it is part of a series, it is a standalone. Judy Bruce fills in the gaps on previous events so you can follow the story. Highly recommend!” ~ N. N. Light
Vengeance in the Wind (Wind Series Book 6) is an action-packed, mystery adventure with a strong female lead, in Megan Docket. Author Judy Bruce has done a fine job of painting a picture of this diminutive, yet feisty and determined young lawyer who takes no bull from anyone and is certain of one thing – when her and her friends are threatened, she will back down to no one.” ~ Grant Leishman

About the Author
Judy Bruce is a novelist and screenwriter. In addition of her acclaimed novel, Death Steppe: A World War II Novel, several stories have been published from her Wind Series: Voices in the Wind, Alone in the Wind, Cries in the Wind, Fire in the Wind, Lies in the Wind, and Vengeance in the Wind. Judy maintains a website and a blog. She is a wife, mother, and sister residing in Omaha, Nebraska, and a Creighton University law school graduate. Her autistic son keeps her in touch with her quirky side.


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