When Lions Roar

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Karen Leigh Gruber and her women’s fiction novel, When Lions Roar

Author’s description

Two women from different lands, each struggling to survive; a child’s mysterious disappearance will alter both their lives forever…

 

Maggie has become unrecognizable to herself, succumbing to the predictability of being a mother and wife. Every day she reminds her daughter to brush her teeth, has the same conversation with her husband about what’s for dinner. Maggie struggles to cope with the disenchantment of the monotonous tedium that has become her life. Despite her boredom, when her husband David is called on assignment to South Africa, Maggie resents having to rearrange her life just because David has decided they all need to traipse halfway across the globe.

 

While on safari, Maggie awakens one morning to a mother’s worst nightmare; their daughter Hannah has gone missing. Just when things can’t get any worse, Maggie is confronted with the harsh truth of her emotionally abusive marriage and what she has allowed her life to become.

 

When Lions Roar is set against the backdrop of the exotic and intriguing landscape of South Africa, when the country is reeling from the aftershocks of apartheid. Will Maggie find the strength and courage to abandon the fragile ties of her marriage and confront her self-destruction in time to save the life of her daughter?

About the Author

Karen Gruber is an international #1 best-selling contributing author, inspirational speaker, and a Leadership Development Coach for women and moms. She specializes in inspiring moms to realize their potential as mothers, women, and leaders. Karen has had extensive specialized training in parenting, feminine spirituality, and leadership.  Over the past 15 years she has provided innovative leadership coaching for moms and has dramatically transformed her own life.

Sharing her life with her husband Jim and daughter Jaymie, presenting her message to other women, and traveling the world bring her the greatest joy.

She is the founder of The Inspired Mama, a company located in gorgeous Denver, Colorado that focuses on the inspiration, leadership, and wellbeing of women and moms.

When Lions Roar is Karen’s debut fictional work. She is freakish about Christmas lights and loves to play Baccarat.

Find the Author at

Website:         https://theinspiredmama.com/
Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/karen.kraussgruber
Instagram:      https://www.instagram.com/inspiredmama/

Buy the Book at

Book Pre-sale: https://theinspiredmama.com/product/when-lions-roar-pre-sale-copy/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Lions-Karen-Leigh-Gruber/dp/1734976004

Yes, there is a giveaway

The Author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

I moved from the hall into the kitchen. Without a moment’s hesitation, I reached for the cabinet door, the one that is closest to the refrigerator, the one that contained my relief. I reached for the bottle. It slid off the shelf with a satisfying sound, but I quickly realized it only had a sip or two left. Damn it, not nearly enough. I padded out to the garage where we keep all our spares. Just the way David likes it: spare toilet paper, spare baggies, backups of all our canned goods, and for me, of course, a generous backup supply of alcohol. I grabbed my favorite vodka and headed back inside. On the way in, I noticed a candy wrapper on the floor of the garage—a Dum Dum wrapper, to be exact—Mystery Flavor, if I was not mistaken.

I’ll pick that up later, I thought to myself. My hands were a bit full. And right then, I had more important things to tend to.

Back in the kitchen, I pulled myself a nice long pour, then to the fridge for some juice. Damn it, again. I was out of cranberry juice. It would have to be Diet 7-Up today. I topped off my glass with a splash of the soda, and I headed back to the front of the house. I passed the mirror yet again. For the third time that day, I looked into the mirror, but this time I raised my glass, and looking into my own deep blue eyes, I mocked, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

I regarded myself as I took a deep, long drink.

Sub-lebrity*

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Leon Acord and his memoir, Sub-lebrity*.

Author’s description

A droll, oddly inspirational memoir from the actor Breitbart once called “a gay leftist activist,” SUB-LEBRITY by Leon Acord (Old Dogs & New Tricks) is an honest, sometimes bitchy but always sincere story about growing up (very) gay in rural Indiana, achieving acting success outside the closet, and generating headlines with his very-public smackdown with Trump-loving Susan Olsen (Cindy, The Brady Bunch)

Do you wonder what a memoir writer doesn’t tell you?

I asked Leon Acord … and here is his response.

I’m a believer of the “vomit draft.” Meaning, when writing a first draft, you write down everything that comes to mind. Future drafts are about cutting, condensing and deciding on and strengthening your “thesis.”

So, after the first draft of SUB-LEBRITY, I realized my book was the mostly comic tale of an out-and-loud gay actor from Indiana now living and working in Los Angeles. If a story wasn’t about being gay, being an actor, or being a gay actor, out it came. There was no room for family dramas or medical traumas.

But as requested, here’s a chapter which I cut from my book, all about my scariest “medical emergency.”

A Twisted Vein

          I somehow arrived at middle-age without ever breaking a bone, having surgery, or even spending a night as a patient in a hospital.

Pretty good, huh?  Especially considering my childhood was filled with jumping off barns, riding horses and mini-motorbikes, and farm work!

But that’s not to say my life has been free of scary medical-show drama.

Around 2003, I began to notice, while reading, that text was becoming a little blurry.  I attributed it to my age (40 at the time), and mentally made a note to buy some reading glasses.

I also noticed colors on TV became muted when I closed my left eye.  Again, I assumed it was just a case of aging eyes.

Then one day, as I was walking to work in San Francisco’s Financial District, I looked up at a high-rise building.

Is that building bulging? I wondered.

I closed my left eye. The building did, indeed, appear to have a small bulge — one or two floors warping outwards.

How is that possible?

I quickly made an appointment with my regular eye doctor, a wonderful woman named Dr. Christine Brischer.

          As we sat down, I explained to her what I was experiencing.  She looked into my left eye, then my right, with her lighted pen.  Then, without a word to me, she spun around in her chair, picked up the phone, and called a leading ophthalmologist.

“Hi, its Christine.  I have a patient who needs to see you immediately.  Can he come this afternoon?  Good!”

She hung up, and spun around to face me.

“I hope you have good insurance,” she said cryptically.  “This is going to be expensive.”

I left her office in a daze, and immediately called Laurence.  He left work early and joined me at the ophthalmologist’s office.

After a thorough and grueling examination, the specialist explained to use what was going on.

A small artery behind the center of my right retina had sprung a leak.  The blood that was spilling out was pushing the retina forward, thus causing vision in that eye to appear warped.

The ophthalmologist conferred with his team.  They suggested urgency.  Considering the leak was located directly in the center of my eye, they recommended the “big guns” — a “hot” laser eye surgery.  It would leave me with a permanent blind spot in the middle of my right eye, but the heat from the laser might — just might — seal up the leaky vein.  We agreed.

My head was strapped into a chair.  I was warned against moving in the slightest for the 60 seconds the laser was shooting into my eye, as the laser would burn (and blind) anything it touched.

The terrifying procedure began, and the entire time, I wondered What if I have to sneeze? What if there’s an earthquake?  What if I fart?

I didn’t, there wasn’t, and I didn’t.

I was appearing in the play Worse Than Chocolate at the time, and assured director Jeffrey I’d recover sufficiently in time to return to the show following the mid-week break in performances.  And I did, despite incredibly distracting “halos” that stage lighting caused in my recovering eye. (I should’ve worn the eye patch I’d been sporting after the surgery on stage, but critics already felt my villain was a little too over-the-top!)

That weekend, during a performance, as I’m “firing” Jaeson Post and demanding the office key from him, he dropped it as he handed it to me.  I looked down.  With my impaired vision, the brass-colored metal key vanished against the similarly colored wooded floor.

I looked at Jaeson.  Rightfully remaining in character, he refused to pick it up.

I got on my hands and knees and felt for the keys with my hands, like a young, manic Patty Duke-as-Helen Keller.  The audience actually loved it, loved seeing the heavy of the show (me) reduced to crawling on his hands and knees after being such a prick, but it was a very scary moment which I think I played off.

We returned to the doctor for a follow-up a week later.  We were both disappointed when told the vein was still leaking.   So now, I had warped vision plus the blind spot right in the center of my eye.  I began to question the wisdom of using the “big guns” right away.

The doctor suggested we try the hot laser again.  But one blind spot is enough, thank you very much.  So, we opted for the less-powerful option:  inject me full of photo-topical chemicals, and shoot a “cold” laser into my eye, through the retina, at the leak.  Then hide from direct sunlight for the next three days (not so easy to do in Los Angeles), as the chemicals would leave me susceptible to serious sunburn within minutes.

That didn’t stop the leak either. So, we tried it again. Then again.

After seven more expensive cold laser surgeries over 18 months, the leak was finally catheterized.

What caused the vein to pop a leak in the first place?

That question left the various eye professionals stymied.  Until over a year later, when we consulted with a vision specialist on the campus of UCSF.

“Did you grow up on a farm?” he asked within moments.

“Why, yes, I did, why?”

“Histoplasmosis,” he answered, explaining the infection – caused by inhaling dried bird droppings – is common in people who live(d) on midwestern farms.  Most people carry it without ever developing symptoms.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did spend a few months as a kid raising chickens and selling the eggs to neighbors and family members.  And I remembered, Mom had battled the same thing when I was a young kid — in her case, it attacked the veins in her legs, putting her in a wheelchair for a week or two.

Then again, it may be the kicked-up piles of dried pigeon shit I inhaled while shooting OUT’s climatic mugging scene in that disgusting San Francisco Tenderloin back alley.

  Over the years, my blind spot from that hot laser has continued to expand, basically leaving me effectively blind in the center of my right eye.  If I live long enough, the slowly expanding blind spot will eventually leave me legally blind in that eye.

I’ve gotten used to it.  The human eye is an amazing thing, and fills in blind spots with the colors surrounding it.  I only really feel impaired when taking a conventional vision test, while watching a 3D movie, or if I’m driving in an unfamiliar part of town after dark.

The plus side?  I have to subject myself to rigorous eye tests every six months to ensure the leak doesn’t reopen.  Since most of the patients of my ophthalmologist are elderly men and women battling macular degeneration, every time I show up for an appointment, I enjoy the very rare sensation of being the young person in the room — a feat I rarely accomplish in LA!

Or anywhere else these days, now that I think about it…

About the Author

Leon Acord is an award-winning actor and writer who has appeared in over 35 films you’ve never seen and 30 plays you’ve never heard of. Possible exceptions include the digital TV series Old Dogs & New Tricks on Amazon Prime Video (which he created, wrote & co-produced), and the stage hit Carved in Stone (in which he played Quentin Crisp in both SF and LA productions). His memoir, SUB-LEBRITY: The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote, is now available in paperback & e-book on Amazon. He wrote his one-man show Last Sunday in June (1996) and co-authored the 2014 play Setting the Record Gay. He was a “Take Five” columnist for Back Stage West throughout 2009 and a former contributor to Huffington Post. He has also written for San Francisco Examiner and the journal Human Prospect. He currently lives in West LA with husband Laurence Whiting & their cat Toby.  Learn more at www.LeonAcord.com

Find Leon Acord at:
www.facebook.com/LeonAcordActor
www.instagram.com/leonacord
www.twitter.com/Sub_lebrityLeon
Blog: www.LeonAcord.com/blog
Amazon: www.bit.ly/SUBpaperback
Old Dogs & New Tricks website: www.odnt.tv

Buy Sub-lebrity* on Amazon.

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

Leon Acord will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

One of my nemeses from the jock clique, Rick Sisson, was slumming, playing the bit part of an “Old Man” about to be poisoned by two murderous old ladies in Arsenic & Old Lace.

As Mortimer, I was to rush on stage, see the Old Man about to drink a glass of poisoned elderberry wine, grab him by the jacket, and shove him out of my crazy aunts’ house.

That was how we’d been playing it.

For closing night, he and his jock buddies thought of a hilarious prank.  Instead of setting his glass of fake wine on the table before I grabbed him, he’d throw the full glass of Hawaiian Punch into my face!  It was closing night, why not?  Smear the queer!

The sizable high-school auditorium was packed with a rowdy closing-night crowd of parents, faculty and friends, unaware they were about to witness my humiliation.

The moment arrived.  I entered, rushed to the Old Man with the glass near his lips, and SPLASH!

I was stunned.  Rick rushed through the door and off stage before I could do a thing.

The audience erupted with laughter.  Erupted!  And didn’t stop!

I’d seen it on sitcoms all my short life.  Actors forced to hold for a laugh.  I lived for the moments on the Carol Burnett Show when something went wrong or when the actors tried not to laugh.  And now, I was experiencing that myself.  It felt wonderful!

Rick wanted me to feel like Carrie White.  Instead, I felt like Cary Grant.

The two teenaged actresses playing my aunts just watched, trying not to laugh themselves.

I felt myself about to smile.  I turned my back to the audience and fumbled through a desk on stage, pretending to blindly look for a handkerchief – a cover until I could wipe the now-gigantic smile off my face.  The audience found this hilarious and continued howling.

Back in character, I gave up at the desk and turned to face the audience just as the laugh was softening.  I instinctively yanked off my clip-on tie and began dabbing my wet face with it.

The audience screamed with laughter again – this time, the laughter morphed into applause.

The song from the Broadway musical Applause is right – it’s better than pot, it’s better than booze.  Waiting out a long laugh break, instinctively finding ways to prolong it, riding it like a surfer on a wave, then crashing against the shore in a loud burst of applause, is the best feeling in the world.

I had flirted with the idea of being an actor, among other creative pursuits, all though childhood.

But in this moment, I knew. I’d spend the rest of my life chasing that feeling.

False Light: An Art History Mystery

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Claudia Riess and her mystery novel, False Light: An Art History Mystery.

Author’s description

Academic sleuths Erika Shawn, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, a more seasoned art history professor, set out to tackle a brain teaser.  This time the couple—married since their encounter in Stolen Light, first in the series—attempt to crack the long un-deciphered code of art forger Eric Hebborn (1934-1996), which promises to reveal the whereabouts of a number of his brilliant Old Master counterfeits.  (Hebborn, in real life, was a mischievous sort, who had a fascination with letters and a love-hate relationship with art authenticators.  I felt compelled to devise a puzzler on his behalf!)

After publication of his memoir, Drawn to Trouble, published in 1991, he encrypts two copies with clues to the treasure hunt.  On each of the title pages, he pens a tantalizing explanatory letter.  One copy he sends to an art expert; the second, he releases into general circulation.  The catch: both books are needed to decipher the code.

When the books are at last united 25 years later, Erik and Harrison are enlisted to help unearth their hidden messages.  But when several research aides are brutally murdered, the academic challenge leads to far darker mysteries in the clandestine world of art crime.  As the couple navigate this sinister world, both their courage under fire and the stability of their relationship are tested.

My Review

False Light is a fun read, enhanced with a dose of real-life art history and made more interesting by the endearing romance of its two main characters.

The plot contains the requisite amount of clues, twists, and suspense, along with the genre-required action-filled climax, so I suspect most lovers of crime novels will enjoy it. However, I found its real charm to lie in three unexpected joys.

The first comes from Riess’s background. I have, at best, a passing acquaintance and mild interest in art, but I am captivated when an author brings expertise to a story like this. Claudia Riess helps her readers learn about masterpieces, forgeries, and auctions, without ever dumping information. (She got me looking into real-life art forger Eric Hebborn, and I’m always delighted to be introduced to a too-strange-to-be-fiction character.)

Another surprise is the relationship between the two lovers at the heart of this tale. They’ve gotten past the first hurdle of commitment (apparently in the previous novel) and now struggle to figure out how to live with their promises. I found their relationship compelling, and suspenseful in its own right. I appreciate an author who acknowledges falling in love is easy compared to making love work.

What didn’t I like? While the writing is generally okay, the pacing lags on occasion, particularly early on. Some parts required a little too much attention and rereading to follow multiple characters and complicated plot lines. Yet, none of this was enough of a problem to keep me from enjoying the story.

Years back, during a difficult time, I devoured J.D. Robb’s novels about a futuristic detective and her billionaire husband, and I realized there is this wonderful escapism involved in reading about the very wealthy solving crimes. (At least as long as they are nice people, which these characters are.) That brings me to the third pleasant surprise of this novel. Though Riess’s characters are unique to her story, their life of sumptuousness provided me with that same gentle nepenthe while their adventures held my interest.

As this virus has wreaked havoc with life, I’ve found myself eating rum raisin ice cream. That sweet treat is getting me through a lot these days. Why do I mention it here? Because when I finished this book I thought I’m glad I read this. In a world filled with too much frozen broccoli and canned soup — this is a rum raisin ice cream kind of a book. I plan to check out the author’s other flavors.

About the Author

Claudia Riess, a Vassar graduate, has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart, and Winston and has edited several art history monographs.

Find Claudia Riess at
https://www.amazon.com/Claudia-Riess/e/B001KHYQK2
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3052782.Claudia_Riess
https://twitter.com/ClaudiaRiesshttps://claudiariessbooks.com/
http://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaRiessBooks
https://www.instagram.com/claudiariessbooks/

Buy False Light: An Art History Mystery on Amazon. The book is on sale for only $0.99 during this tour.

Yes, there is a giveaway

Claudia Riess will be awarding a $50 Amazon or BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

GF

My Favorite Excerpt

Owen Grant was ebullient—“ripped with joy,” his beloved wife might have said. He smiled, remembering the flutter of her eyelids that accompanied her minted phrases. Now that she had died and his arthritis no longer permitted him to jog up a sweat, he satisfied his lust for life—which remained, five years after retirement, as vigorous as it had been in his teens—with voracious reading and clay sculpting. Today, however, he satisfied it with the Art and Antiques article that had set his heart racing when he’d come across it this morning while sifting through his mail. He stole another glance at the newsletter on the kitchen table. In the article, a used and rare book shop owner spoke about having acquired a copy of a memoir by Eric Hebborn, the infamous art forger. “It was in a carton I picked up at an estate sale,” the owner had said. “The author’s handwritten note on the title page literally blew my mind!”

Hebborn’s note was displayed in a photograph. Owen had recognized the handwriting at once. Imagine, after decades of searching for this copy of the book—placing ads in all the art magazines, later in their online versions, finally giving up—proof of it had fallen into his life as he was about to venture another sip of his scalding morning coffee.

Now it was 8:30 p.m., and there was nothing more to prepare for. Owen had contacted the shop owner—how young and breathless she had sounded!—and they had made plans to meet. He had invited his longtime friend and colleague, Randall Gray, to collaborate with him. Randall, twenty years his junior and still in the game, was more current in his knowledge of the world of art crime and eager to have a look at the book as well. Owen was on a skittering high, unable to concentrate on his usual avocations. Rather than wear a hole in the carpet pacing in circles, he opted for a walk in Central Park.

He headed for the nearest pedestrian entrance at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, two blocks from his luxury apartment building on 74th. There, he chose the rambling path leading to the Lake and Loeb Boathouse. It was a balmy night, on the warm side for mid-April. He might have stepped out in his shirtsleeves, but his conditioned urbanity, always at odds with his truer self, had held sway, and he had worn his suit jacket.

Aside from the couple strolling up ahead and the sound of laughter coming from somewhere south, Owen was alone. There had been an uptick of muggings lately, but his frisson of fear only piqued his excitement for the adventure shimmering on the horizon. As he walked, he silently chatted with his wife, Dotty, as he often did, so that their separation would not be absolute. He commented on the moonless night and looked up, for both of them, at the rarely visible canopy of stars. For a few seconds he was lost with her, until, without warning, he felt a hard object pressed against the back of his skull—the skull that held all memories, like Dotty’s fluttering eyelids and the smell of new clay. He knew what the object was without ever having touched one. He was a man of reason, not a fighter. He flung up his hands. “I have money. Let me get to it.”

There was no response. He reached into his pocket for his wallet—how warm the leather was against his thigh—and his keys jangled of homecomings, and the child in him whimpered please no, before the explosive pop of a champagne cork ended him and Dotty and all the rest of it.