Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Laura Frantz | Exclusive Excerpt: AN UNCOMMON WOMAN
Author Guest / January 8, 2020

The cloudless August day dawned with a sky so blue, the air so crisp, it bespoke the change of seasons. Tessa rose before first light, swinging the kettle on its crane over the ashes she’d banked carefully the night before. Breakfast was a blur of bowls and mugs and terse words as her brothers hurried to their tasks at field and ferry. Ma was never so missed as at peep of day. But she’d made peace with Ma’s going just as her brothers would make peace with her going in time. Six days had passed since she’d seen Clay. Would he ride in on the Sabbath like last week? Or would some fort matter keep him rooted? She filled a wash bucket with lye, scrubbed her brothers’ shirts clean, and set out her own Sabbath best. Draping the laundry across a near fence, she pondered what needed doing next. Taking the whetstone she’d gotten from the creek bed, she began sharpening knives, the sound rasping her nerves. Next she gathered the last of the greens from the garden, braiding the onions to hang from the rafters. For supper she’d make fried mush with maple sugar that Zadock had expressed a…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Gift of Self – Extraordinary Women
Author Guest / December 18, 2019

Christmas—the time for exchanging gifts with those we love.  But sometimes, the greatest gift we can give is to ourselves, sorting through the clutter of everyday life and conventional expectations to discover who we really are—and having the courage to pursue that.  In this month’s selections, we look at four women who manage just that. We begin chronologically with ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS by Jennifer Chiaverini.  Ada Byron Lovelace was the famed Romantic poet’s only legitimate child, who grew up estranged from the father her bitter mother thought deranged.  Because of her mother’s fears that she might inherit her father’s “insanity,” Ada was from childhood kept away from tales of fantasy and make-believe and led to pursue mathematical and scientific studies, subjects in which she excelled.  Though she debuts and makes the expected society marriage, she never gives up her intellectual pursuits, maintaining contacts with a number of leading scientists and philosophers. Through one of her former tutors, she meets inventor Charles Babbage and becomes fascinated by his “Difference Engine,” one of the earliest versions of a computer.  She will eventually write for Burbage’s machine an algorithm that some consider the first true computer program.  Before her tragic early death, she…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: A Thanksgiving Treat
Author Guest / November 20, 2019

For one of America’s favorite holidays, that gathering of families and friends to give thanks for blessings and to share meals, I’m offering a dessert selection of books guaranteed to be delicious.  Fashion, gossip, weddings, tales of artists and actors…what could be better? We begin with Jennifer Robson’s THE GOWN.  As recent royal weddings demonstrate, the fashion world’s most feverish speculation revolves around the material and styling of the gown chosen by a royal bride.  In 1947, in the midst of a harsh winter after a long, grim war of rationing and privation, anticipation at the upcoming royal wedding was one of the few topics to lift the spirits of war-weary Britons.  This was nowhere truer than with Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the prestigious fashion house Norman Hartnell, who are thrilled to be selected for the honor of embroidering the iconic gown to be worn by Princess Elizabeth at her wedding to Prince Phillip.  Seventy years later, Heather Mackenzie is mystified to receive a legacy from her grandmother Nan–a set of embroidered flowers that closely resemble the motifs used on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.  As Heather sets out to uncover the truth behind the embroidery, her story…

Steve Goble | Author-Reader Match: A BOTTLE OF RUM
Author Guest / November 13, 2019

Instead of trying to find your perfect match in a dating app, we bring you the “Author-ReaderMatch” where we introduce you to authors as a reader you may fall in love with. It’s our great pleasure to present STEVE GOBLE! Hello. My name is Steve Goble, and I love ocean breezes, fresh seafood and long walks on sandy beaches where corpses wash up. (I was told to write this sort of like a dating profile, so. . .) Writes: I write historical murder mysteries featuring Spider John Rush, who as a young ship’s carpenter was given a choice by attacking pirates — join us and use your valuable carpentry skills on our behalf, or drown. Spider joined, and has spent several years now trying to escape piracy and return to the woman he loves and a son he’s never really known. Along the way, he and his pirate friends get caught up in trying to solve murderous plots. The latest book in the series, A BOTTLE OF RUM, finds Spider investigating a series of deaths in an English madhouse, and confronting vengeful pirates along the way. About: I worked in community journalism in Ohio for more than 30 years, before leaving…

Sofia Grant | Exclusive Excerpt: LIES IN WHITE DRESSES
Author Guest / November 1, 2019

Francie May 1952 It couldn’t be Margie, because she would cry, and besides, she might bring the children, which would turn the whole thing into a circus. Jimmy hadn’t come out and said it, because he was trying to spare her feelings, but he was playing golf with his father today–the club had called to confirm their tee time. That left Alice. As usual. “Mother, do you want the blue with the feather or the tan?” Alice called from upstairs. She had skipped her painting class this morning to help Francie finish packing and to say goodbye to Vi. Vi’s two boys worked for their father’s publicity firm, and all three of them were currently in the middle of the Mojave Desert getting ready to launch a client’s nuclear tourism business. It was just like Harry to leave his wife to make her shameful departure from an empty house, even when he was the one who’d smashed their sacred vows into smithereens. “Oh, the blue, I suppose,” Francie called. “Though it hardly matters, does it?” “Don’t be glum.” Alice came down the stairs carrying the hat under one arm, leaving the other free to hold on to the handrail. “It’s…

Andrea Simon | Longing for a 1950s Camelot
Author Guest / October 23, 2019

When I announced to my friends, family, and writing colleagues that I finally secured a contract to publish a novel-in-stories, Floating in the Neversink, about growing up in Brooklyn and the Catskill Mountains from 1955-1961, I received unexpected enthusiasm. Certainly, my older family members anticipated memories of gossiping on city brownstone stoops and grabbing a Chinese lunch on Flatbush Avenue, and my growing-up friends hoped to recapture memories of make-out parties in the Catskill day camp meeting house during humid summer nights. But I was surprised by the interest of the younger relatives and friends, my daughter’s Generation X and the Millennials. Some were movie buffs and loved cult favorites like Dirty Dancing, Sweet Lorraine, and A Walk on the Moon, romanticizing the summers of that era, or more recent movies like immigrant life in Brooklyn. Many had heard their parents’ and grandparents’ stories; others were obsessed by Amazon’s 1950s-set comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But I suspected this interest was more layered: young and old were attracted to a time when life was seemingly more humanly connected. I looked for verification of my theory, and I lazily began on social media. I searched Facebook for groups relating to the…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Druids, Gods, and Prophecies
Author Guest / October 16, 2019

For historical fiction this month, we travel back into the mystic past to explore the land of Druids, Danes, and followers of the Norse gods of Valhalla. What better way to honor Halloween than to delve into an era rich in mythic and supernatural traditions? We begin in the Nordic lands of the ninth century with Johanne Hildebrandt’s two-book series that chronicles the fascinating, violent period when the Scandinavian lands were fought over by adherents of the old gods and those converted to the new religion of Christianity. In THE UNBROKEN LINE OF THE MOON (VALHALLA BOOK 1,) as war rages between Vikings and Christians, rich and beautiful Sigrid holds to the old Norse gods, particularly the goddess Freya, who comes to her in dreams and reveals to her the future. Though her father wants her to marry Erik, a local king, to secure peace between Goths and Swedes, she finds herself drawn to Sweyn, a warrior seeking to overthrow Danish ruler Harald Bluetooth. Will she become Erik’s Queen, or risk all to follow her heart? In ESTRID (VALHALLA BOOK 2), Sigrid’s story merges with those of her twin offspring, Olaf, heir to the kingdom of Svealand, and his sister…

Kimberly Collins | Duality and Duplicity: Ellie’s Survival Kit
Author Guest / October 9, 2019

We all have different pieces of our personality we share with different people. We are one person at work, another at home, and yet another when we are alone. I’m basically an introvert. But when I’m with the people I love and feel comfortable and safe with, I’m a gregarious extrovert. It’s the duality of human nature. Ellie, the main character in my latest novel, Blood Creek, takes this duality to another level. Actually, she brazenly struts into the realm of duplicity. Ellie is a master manipulator, and she uses every relationship, every event, every circumstance for her own benefit. She’s a woman we love to hate and hate to love. When we first enter Ellie’s world, we assume many things about her, and rightfully so. But all is not as it appears. Ellie struggles with the restraints placed on her by society and the culture of the early 1900s. What woman wouldn’t? How many of them just went along to get along? Afraid to break out of the societal confines placed on them. In 1912, women were limited in their movement, their livelihood, pretty much every aspect of their lives. They couldn’t vote or even own property outright in…

Diana Biller | Exclusive Interview: THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE
Author Guest / October 9, 2019

Welcome to Fresh Fiction! Can you tell us a little bit about your new historical mystery, THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE? Someone recently described THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE as a gothic rom-com and I think that’s absolutely perfect. It’s about a scandalous widow, Alva Webster, who badly needs a fresh start. After her (terrible) husband is murdered in Europe, she returns to New York, buys a decrepit mansion, and decides to use its renovation as the basis for a home decorating book. Unfortunately, it may be haunted. Enter Professor Samuel Moore, scientist and inventor extraordinaire, who is fascinated both by the possible ghosts and by Alva herself. It’s a love story, a ghost story, and a story about learning to laugh again. Alva Webster is a determined woman with a scandalous past that both hinders her and works to her advantage. She buys the supposedly haunted Liefdehuis mansion and brokers a publishing deal to write a book about restoring it and giving interior design tips. But New York society – including her own parents – won’t speak to her or invite her back into polite company. So, on the one hand, Alva wants to be welcomed home, but she also…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Into the Sunset with Westerns
Author Guest / September 18, 2019

With summer already headed into the sunset in most locales, we’ll take a look at fiction set in the most famous of “into the sunset” areas–American-set and Western novels.  After decades of tremendous popularity, with the exception of a few movies and books–the “Lonesome Dove” series and remakes of “True Grit”–the genre has been out of favor recently.  But a few new and notable novels would like to reverse that trend. Proceeding chronologically, we begin with 355: THE WOMEN OF WASHINGTON’S SPY RING by Kit Sergeant.  Following the lead of the popular AMC TV show “Turn,” Sergeant presents the intertwining stories of three women who might have belonged to the secret spy ring referred to in Washington’s notebooks.  Meg Moncrieffe returned from boarding school in Ireland to find a colony in revolt.  Though her sympathies were initially with the British, her love for Aaron Burr persuaded her to look at another solution.  Elizabeth Burgin’s loyalties lay strongly with the colonists’ side after her husband died aboard one of the notorious British prison ships.  When a Culper Ring member approaches her, she’s ready to put herself–and her family–at risk to bring down the men who caused her husband’s death.  Initially furious…