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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Mark Stevens, the author's (Gary Reilly) friend and publisher, who writes about him.....

Pablo Picasso said “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

My pal Gary Reilly felt that truth, I believe, in his soul.

One big chunk of “daily life” that Gary had to wash away was The Vietnam War.

Gary invented Private Palmer as his artistic catharsis. Gary wrote The Private Palmer Trilogy—200,000 words of keen insight into what if feels like to go to war, fight in the war, and come home again.

In The Enlisted Men’s Club (2014), Private Palmer is doing his time at The Presidio in San Francisco and the war looms. Private Palmer doesn’t know if he’ll be shipped off or not. He spends his time trying to avoid superiors with dumb ideas and meaningless chores. Briefly, Private Palmer tries to curry favor. He makes a few friends on the base and off. Mostly, he drinks as much beer as possible. Until, that is, he is sent on a somber mission that changes his life.

The Detachment (2016), takes place in Vietnam. Private Palmer is an MP and the most of the action takes place around the Qui Nhon Army Airfield, where Gary was based. Now, the war is much closer. Now, there’s more beer and stronger substances that will help you forget where you are and what you’re doing. Private Palmer walks right up to the edge of the abyss and peers over. The Detachment is told in three parts of Private Palmer’s year “in country.” The first is arrival and orientation to the new surroundings, to the sounds and sights of war. The second part is survival, mid-year. The third part is Palmer seeing the finish line—and hoping nothing happens to ruin his chances of going home in one piece.

The Discharge comes out this month (June 23). Now, Palmer (no longer “Private”) is back home in Denver and he’s trying to find his way, trying to re-establish who he is and want he wants to do after all that he’s seen. In real life, Gary Reilly at one point was very close to being a paid writer with the stand-up comedian Louie Anderson and in The Discharge, in the moving middle section, Palmer goes to California to chase this hope. In the third section, Palmer is back in Denver still looking to find his place in the world, some meaning, when he settles on driving a taxi.

And, at the very end, starting to write fiction. Palmer had one short story published in a prominent journal and we know that becoming a novelist was always a secret dream, just as it was for Gary.

What do we ask of our soldiers? What do we know of their lives mid-war? How do we treat them when they come home?

And what was it like to have lived through it? I knew Gary for the last seven years of his life. He didn’t talk about Vietnam. He preferred to chat about the latest movie he’d seen or book he’d read.

He loved stories. He knew their power.

Gary Reilly, who passed away in 2011, took all that Vietnam dust and washed it away in three brilliant, sharply written novels. (The terrific novelist Ron Carlson called The Detachment “Catch 23 or 24.”)

The Private Palmer Series is complete. The Asphalt Warrior series, eight books (so far) of comedic “dust” based on Gary’s life as a taxi driver in Denver is nearing completion. And then there are another dozen or so novels to publish that Gary left behind.

Gary Reilly knew what to do with all his experiences, heavy-duty ones or every-day working week.

Turn them into art.
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Please welcome Cathy Clamp to Lily's Reviews. Please be sure to check out the giveaway details at the end of the guest post.

Hi, all! Lily asked me to stop by today to talk to you about my new book, ILLICIT, which comes out TODAY!! The best way to tell you about the book is to let you read some of it. Tor Books was kind enough to feature the first chapter of ILLICIT on

So, go read that first. Then come back here right away, because today, only here on Lily’s Reviews, will people get a chance to read the next chunk of the book! Here then, is (most of) chapter 2 of ILLICIT. It’s only “most of” because, well . . . I want you to go buy the book to find out what happens next!


Rachel pulled the orange-patterned kerchief from her head and used it to wipe her sweaty brow. The cloth came away dark with dirt—unsurprising, since she’d been clearing out closets and cleaning up for the move. She turned off the blaring Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” leaving a sudden quiet that was almost dizzying. “Well, I think that’s about it.”

`The pile of trash bags full of garbage towered over the small stack of boxes containing things she planned to keep. So many memories were tied up inside those black plastic bags . . . horrible memories that soon would fester and rot in a landfill somewhere, out of her life at last. Rachel kicked the closest sack hard enough to make the whole stack vibrate.

“Man, I’m really going to miss you.” She turned at the sound of the medium tenor voice behind her and saw her best friend, Scott Clayton, collapse onto the couch. He’d been helping her pack. “Do you have to leave right now? It’s barely light.”

Rachel snorted harshly. Inhaling, she was surprised to smell that Scott really was wistful. The thick, wet scent of his sorrow made her respond with less sarcasm than she might have otherwise. “I wish I could have left a week ago. I can’t believe you’re going to stay. I’ve only got a reprieve until Claire’s term as town Omega ends.” Just the thought of the Ascension made her stomach sick. Maybe it started out as a good idea—Sazi testing their skills in competition instead of fighting each other—but it had turned out to be just another way to keep the lesser shifters “in their place.” Under the boot heels of those at the top.

“Claire’s an alpha,” Rachel continued. “You know that if the next challenge is between me and you, you’ll win—you’re just flat out a better flyer than I am. So if I don’t leave town now, I’ll be the Omega again. I’ll never be free.

“This owl wants to spread her wings. Every corner I turn in town, every person I see, makes me . . . damn, I just want to beat their faces in with a shovel.” She couldn’t help that there was real vitriol in her speech.

Scott shook his head; his blond hair, with its one long streak of white, fell into his face. Even though he was sweating and had been working hard, his skin was so pale that it nearly matched the streak.

“I’m staying because I want to believe Mayor Monk was the one behind everything we had to deal with,” he said. “Hell, we were mind-controlled, Rach. Why can’t you believe other people were too? He’s dead now. People should get back to normal.”

Rachel shrugged. As far as she was concerned, there was no use trying to fix what was broken in Luna Lake. “After a decade, this is normal, Scott. People who have never actually been the Omega don’t know what goes on and wouldn’t believe us if we told them.

“Hell, our own family didn’t believe how bad the abuse was, and the rest of the townspeople will lie through their teeth, deny that there were any problems.” That was the worst part . . . the lying, the hiding, the pretending.

“I still think you should go with me and Dani to Spokane. Dani wouldn’t mind you sleeping on the floor until you could get your own place, and frankly, the expenses would be easier with three. No more free ride from the town; we’re going to have to hit the street to find jobs so we can pay tuition.”

Scott leaned back and sighed. “It’s not that easy for me. I know what I want to do with my life. I want to open an herb shop, and most of what I want to sell grows in the woods around here. If I don’t live in town, I doubt the Council will let me harvest herbs. I can’t take plants from state or federal land, and I sure as hell can’t afford to buy them, even at wholesale prices. Not yet, anyway. I’ll just tough it out for a year or so, while I get my business started.

“At least those two bastards are dead,” he said with a grin that was more like a show of bared teeth.

Rachel still couldn’t believe that Mayor Monk and Chief Gabriel were gone. After the years of abuse the two men had put her and Scott through, being free of them seemed like a dream, one she kept fearing she’d wake up from.

“Maybe sane people will take over. I wouldn’t mind if one of the Kragans became mayor. They’re cool.” A smile came unbidden as she thought about the old white Cajun woman who ruled their owl parliament. Hell, black, white, or even green, Rachel had never had a real pack leader before and was thrilled that Aunt Bitty was encouraging her to find her own way.

By habit, she reached up to run her fingers through her hair and flinched when the curls fell through her grasp in just an instant. She still wasn’t accustomed to the loss of her formerly long, luxurious, straight hair. Now her hair was barely shoulder length and completely unprocessed and without product.

As always, Scott noticed. “For what it’s worth, I like the new do. Sort of predisco ’70s. You look good with shorter hair. Shows off that long, dark neck of yours. You’ll drive the guys in Spokane crazy.”

She grimaced. “I hate it. But the store-bought straightener I was using ruined the ends. I never should have stopped making my gramma’s special conditioner. When my hair started tearing off in chunks in the shower, I knew it was a lost cause.” She shrugged. “Since I’m making a big change in my life, I might as well have a big change in my looks to go with it.”

Scott smiled. “College. So cool. What are you thinking of studying?”

Sitting in the chair across from the couch, she curled her legs up under her. “I don’t know. I like to do a lot of things . . . Dani suggested not declaring a major right away. Maybe I’ll just take basic classes and try a few electives my first year and see what grabs me.”

“You’re going to sign up for a full load?”

She didn’t even have to think about it. “Oh, yeah. I’m planning on at least fifteen credit hours, more if I can do it. I want to finish in four years or less. I’m already the same age as people who are graduating, and I’m just starting school. Competition for a job in the real world will be stiff. But even college and work combined won’t be as bad as being the Omega in this hellhole.”

Scott nodded with a snort. “No doubt. When you’re used to breaking your ass for eighteen hours a day, twelve will feel like a vacation.”

The phone rang as Rachel was nodding agreement. She jumped up to retrieve her cell from to the other side of the room.

“That must be Dani. She was looking for a truck big enough to hold my bed.” Seeing Scott’s puzzled expression, she explained. “Dani’s place has only one bed—hers. It’s easier—and cheaper—to take mine from here instead of buying one there.”

Dani Williams was what Rachel had always imagined a sister would be like, though they didn’t look all that much alike. Dani was curvy, with a dancer’s grace. Rachel felt like she was a twelve-year-old in comparison, all skin and bones, without enough butt to hold up a decent pair of jeans. But she and Dani had been close from the first, trading gossip, books, and tips on hair and makeup.

Even so, Dani wasn’t her sibling, not really. A pang of regret swept through Rachel as she thought about her brothers, wondering what had become of them in the decade since she’d last seen them, the day she’d been kidnapped. Sometimes she really missed her family. Scott and Dani were supportive, but it just wasn’t the same.

She was surprised to see that the phone’s screen wasn’t displaying Dani’s name but Alek Siska’s. Perplexed, she asked Scott, “Can Alek talk yet? This call’s from his number.”

Alek had been attacked and seriously injured by the former town leaders just a few weeks earlier. Saving him, Scott had been one of the heroes of that night. Rachel was so proud of him—to go from being an omega to protecting his brother from the toughest alpha in town, wow. It gave her hope that maybe something better was out there for her too.

“Yeah, for a few days now.” Scott smiled.

Rachel nodded and accepted the call. “Hey, Alek. How’s the newest Wolven agent?” New job, new love. Good things to good people.

“Hey, Rachel.” Alek’s voice was lower than it used to be, and hoarse, but being able to talk at all after having his throat nearly torn out was very awesome. “Better every day.”

“Scott and I just finished packing. Will I see you and Claire before Dani and I leave? I didn’t realize you were out of the hospital yet.” For Alek to find Claire, another awesome. Claire was Rachel’s sorority sister in captivity. Both had been attack victims of the snakes and both had come out of that dungeon, made it through. A lot of other kids hadn’t.

He paused long enough that she prompted, “Alek?”

“Yeah . . . about leaving.” His voice was hedging, making her nervous.

“Don’t mess with me, Alek. Dani and I are leaving today. I got approval from Wolven.”

“Which . . . just got overridden by the Council. I’m really sorry, Rachel, but something has come up.”

Her expression must have been thunderous. Scott got to his feet and came toward her, his face full of concern. No doubt he could hear what was being said. One of the good things about supernatural ears. Panic made her start to pace.

“Something came up? If Dani can’t leave, that’s fine. I’ll go anyway. I’ll do anything I have to, to get out of here. Seriously, I have to be gone by Saturday.”

Claire’s voice came on the line. “Rachel, I’m really sorry about this, but it’s only for a couple of weeks.”

“Claire, you can’t let them do this to me! I have a chance to escape. Please don’t let them screw me over. I’ll wind up the Omega again, back in the cave.”

“No, you won’t,” Claire said confidently. She lowered her voice. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s not just you. It’s everyone. All trips canceled, all competitions postponed. You can’t be the Omega if there’s no Ascension challenge. The whole town is getting locked down. For peace talks, if you can believe it.”

Rachel took the phone away from her ear and stared at it. Scott looked as confused as Rachel felt. Putting the phone back to her ear, she asked, “Peace between who and who?”

“Bears, from somewhere in Europe. Warring tribes.”

From a distance, Rachel heard Alek say, “Sloths. A group of shifter bears is a sloth.”

“Okay, sloths then. The Council’s been trying to broker a deal for a while; the last time, their location in Serbia was compromised and the mediator was killed.”

“And there’s nowhere closer to go than Luna Lake, Washington?” She knew she sounded incredulous, but her mind was spinning. “Is this a joke?”

“Nope.” Alek had taken the phone back. “Apparently they couldn’t find anyplace else where people weren’t already taking sides. The only bears in our town are American ones, and as far as the Council can tell, none of them are related to anyone in either sloth.

“I’m getting the impression that this is a really big political deal, not just for the Sazi but also in terms of human politics.”

In the background, Claire said, “Tell her that I’ll take the Omega slot for another month, until she can leave. I owe it to her.”

Eyebrows raised, Rachel asked Scott, “Could that work? Can someone volunteer for the post?”

Scott shrugged. “I have no idea. Nobody’s ever chosen to be the Omega before. I mean, really . . . who would? It sucks.”

“Thanks for the heads-up, Alek,” Rachel said into the phone. “I really mean it.” She forced a smile onto her face, which she hoped translated to her voice.

“I’m really glad you’re taking this so well, Rachel. I appreciate it.”

Hanging up, she looked at her boxes and sighed. “Okay, so that’s it, I guess.”

Scott’s voice sounded sad, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Sorry, Rach. I’ll help you start unpacking. Maybe just do the important stuff, like dishes and clothes.”

Rachel shrugged, picking up her purse and heading for the door. “Your choice. I won’t be here.”

He stopped moving, giving off a concerned scent that was edged with fear. “Why? Where are you going?”

“Spokane, of course.”

She opened the door and the fresh, clean air of the hallway blew away her doubts. This was the right choice. Scott put a hand on her shoulder, and she flinched.

“You’re not thinking this through,” he said. “This is a Council decision. Don’t mess with them, Rachel. It’s not worth it.”

The snort came out as bitter sounding as she felt. His hand started massaging her shoulder. She didn’t turn to look at him . . . couldn’t bear to see if his expression matched the scent of sorrow that filled her nose. “Of course it’s worth it, Scott. Freedom is always worth it. I’d forgotten that. But I never will again.”

The hand paused, then let go. Did she hear a snuffle from him? No, don’t look. Her eyes started to burn and her breath had developed a hitch.

“Good luck, girlfriend,” he said. “Fly free.”

A hint of his clove-tinged pride buoyed her as she walked out into the apartment building’s hallway. The door shut behind her with a soft click. Every step away she took from her apartment, the gilded cage of her Omega status, the better she felt. The rusty shit-brown Pontiac next to the building looked like the sleekest Porsche in the world to her at that moment. As she opened the door and slid behind the steering wheel, she heard the thup-thup of helicopters overhead. It wasn’t light enough to see them yet, but there wasn’t much time. The clock was ticking.

The moment she started the engine, she pressed Play on the CD player. The whirring while the disks shuffled lasted only a few seconds and then the all-knowing ’80s car picked one of her Patti LaBelle favorites—“New Attitude.” That was exactly right. She cranked up the volume and started to sing.

Nearing the edge of town, she felt the first brush of an aversion spell. A strong one. No surprise they would try to lock down the town, keep the locals in and make humans want to avoid the area, overcoming any natural curiosity about multiple helicopters landing.

“Okay, I can do this. Just gotta keep my foot on the gas.” She pressed down on the accelerator and felt the powerful old engine drive the car forward. She opened the window, hoping the fresh air would give her courage, but instead full-blown fear hit her, as if a tiger were charging right toward her. Fighting the paralyzing panic, Rachel jammed her foot down on the gas pedal. If she could just get through the spell’s area of influence . . .

Her skin began to crawl, the hairs standing on end and seeming to try to pull out of her skin. It felt like tiny, unseen ants were biting and stabbing her. She gasped for breath.

Bad, bad, bad. Something bad is coming. Fly! Fly home! Hide!

Her heart was beating so fast her head was throbbing and there were flashes in her vision. Rachel gripped the steering wheel for all she was worth, struggling to resist the urge to turn the car around, determined to ride it out. Surely the spell couldn’t cover more than a mile. Could it?

The road flew under her, but the panic didn’t ease. In fact, it got worse, until it was all she could do not to pass out. When the car started to slow, she was almost relieved, until a new fear hit her. Why was she slowing down? Her gaze dropped to the speedometer: the needle was dropping, from 70 to 60, 55, 45, 30 . . .

She checked the gas gauge. Plenty of gas. WTF?

The engine stopped. All the lights on the dash turned red.

The car rolled to a stop, the music silenced.

Shifting into Park, Rachel tried the key again and again. No response, not even a sound from the engine. The car was dead.

Her overwhelming fear faded to a level that was powerfully unnerving but not deadly. Rachel drew a deep breath, then nearly shrieked when a mass of feathers fluttered outside her window.

“Going somewhere?” The golden-feathered owl that had landed next to her car was the biggest she’d ever seen, and she wasn’t entirely positive which species it was. She could tell it was an alpha, though, for it spoke in a rich baritone and gave off such strong magic that she felt like she was standing next to a blast furnace—which she remembered doing once, years earlier, when her Girl Scout troop toured a foundry.

She tried to keep her voice calm, but it was hard to get words out. “Spo . . . Spokane. Just . . . heading . . . home. But the car died.”

The golden eyes blinked and the owl shook his head. “Not today, you’re not. No unnecessary travel. That’s why I killed the spark. Don’t tell me you didn’t get the message, because we had confirmation that everyone was called.”

She tried to respond. She honestly did. But his power, combined with the aversion spell, was simply too much. It was all she could do to breathe.

He noticed. “Oh. Yeah, shielding would probably help. My bad.” The owl shifted forms, turning into a tall, handsome dark-skinned man whose close-cropped hair looked as soft as down. To Rachel’s surprise, he looked like he was wearing clothes—blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Only the most powerful Sazi could create such illusions. Rachel had never known anyone other than Asylin Williams, her guardian, who had that ability. In the same instant, his magic was sucked back inside him and the immense weight on her chest lessened. “Is that better?”

She nodded. “Much. Who are you?”

“I’m with Wolven. That’s all you need to know.” He opened the driver’s door. “Scoot over. We’re heading back to town.”

Her fingers tightened on the steering wheel and she didn’t budge. “Maybe you are. I’m going to Spokane.”

He glared down at her, his scent not angry but stern. “Look, we’re not here to tromp on your rights, but you know I can freeze or discipline you, right? You don’t get to say no to a Wolven agent.”

Rachel’s mouth set in a tight line, and she glared what she hoped were daggers at him. She knew she would regret what she was about to say, but she couldn’t stop herself. Tensing her muscles, preparing for the pain that was sure to come, she said, “No.”

There was no agony. She wiggled her pinkie. Not frozen either. She risked a sniff of the air, and the scent made her look at his face, where she saw bemusement mixed with frustration. He crossed his arms over his chest and raised his brows. Something seemed familiar about his expression, but she couldn’t place it.

“You’re going to be a pain in my butt the whole time we’re in town, aren’t you?”

“Probably.” It was the truth. “I need to leave this place, and unless you kill me, I’m going to keep trying.”

He shook his head and sighed. “Go,” he said, waving a hand in dismissal. “I’ll lose a strip of hide for letting you leave, but better another one now than the dozen you’re likely to cause me later.” He turned and started to walk back toward town.

Before he could change his mind, Rachel turned the key and . . . miracle! The car started right up. Had the Wolven agent really killed the engine from a distance? She had never heard of anyone doing that. But that was a question for another day. Shifting into Drive, she hit the gas, hearing the tires spin for purchase as the music started to blare again. Free! Her heart soared.

Seconds later, she braked hard and pressed the Off button on the CD player. “Do they really take an actual strip of hide?” She’d heard the phrase so many times: Ooo! Better be careful. You’ll lose a strip of hide for that. The rat bastards that ran the town had never actually done it, but something in the owl shifter’s voice told her it was no mere figure of speech.

The Wolven agent stopped walking and turned to stare at her. He took a deep breath and approached the car. As he neared the back bumper, the illusion of his shirt disappeared. Like most birds she knew, his chest was wide and muscular. He lifted his right arm and she winced at the sight of a wound, raw and red, under his arm, along his rib cage. The shape and size of a playing card, the injury was just starting to heal. If that was illusion too, it was a good one.

“Yes. They do. It’ll take until the next moon to heal, and it hurts like hell to fly. It’s usually done with a silver knife, but this was made with silver-tipped claws. Go. Better me than you. I can tell you’re not alphic, and a wound like this could really mess you up, especially if it got infected.”

“Crap! What did you do to get that?” Unable to help herself, she reached out to touch it. He stepped back, out of reach.

He shrugged, smelling hot and bitter, like he was ashamed of whatever he’d done. “Something stupid. I deserved it. Sort of like now. Last chance . . . go. Before—”

The engine died again. Damn it! A new voice, a deep, growling baritone, filled the car. “Before what, agent? Before I show up?” Something heavy thumped onto the roof, and Rachel ducked instinctively.

The light in the car changed. Rachel turned toward the passenger window to find it covered with thick, coarse black fur.

The man on her left spoke to what she presumed was a bear shifter, if the hideous, rancid musk smell was any indication, over the top of her car. It had to be a damned big bear, judging by the fact that she couldn’t see its head. “No . . . sir. Before the delegates arrive. This woman is an omega, and an owl. She’s no threat to anyone. If she leaves before anyone arrives, there’s no reason to think the peace talks would be in any danger.”

There was a pause, then a sarcastic response with a thick accent from the carpet of fur to her right. “Oh, then I suppose you’ve run a comprehensive background check in the few minutes since we landed? You know for positive this woman has no bear family members and hasn’t been bribed or coerced into spying or setting a bomb before getting away from the fallout? Omegas are known to do that.”

What? Rachel’s mouth dropped open. “Hello? Rude much?” she said, turning toward the mass of fur. “I’m right here. I’m not some sort of whack-job terrorist. And, by the way, who the hell are you to question my background or ethics?”

The fur moved. As it did, the driver’s door was yanked open and the owl shifter pulled her out of the car. The very real fear that was bleeding from the owl’s every pore and the fury coming off the bear shifter in waves were nearly overwhelming.

Getting her feet under her, Rachel looked at the Wolven agent currently leaning on her car. She’d never seen the high school principal—the only bear in Luna Lake—in his animal form and had never been this close to a natural bear. Still, she was sure that this bear was far too large to be normal.

Snarling, it towered over her car. Paws the size of hubcaps flexed, driving claws the size of carving knives through the steel roof of the Pontiac, which bent and protested with a screeching sound before giving way. The bear had put its claws through her car without even breaking a sweat, if bears sweated! Holy baby Jesus!

The owl shoved Rachel behind his back and she stayed there, frozen in terror, heart pounding as tension flooded the air, the scent strong enough to make her sneeze.

“Tamir, don’t,” her protector said. “This is between us. It has nothing to do with her.”

“This has everything to do with her, because it has to do with your judgment. You’re supposed to be protecting the delegates. You know I would never have picked you for this assignment. People have died where you were assigned.”

“I’m pretty sure you were on that same assignment. In fact, I think your body count is higher than mine. Maybe we need to ask the delegates who are still alive which one is the better protector.”

Whoa. Peeking around the owl agent, Rachel said, “For what it’s worth, I feel a lot safer around the one who pulled me out of my car rather than the one who just destroyed it.”

The owl shifter turned his head sharply. “Quiet. Be grateful it’s just your car.”

Though she could see his shirt, only skin brushed her hand when he moved. With a jolt, she recalled that despite what her eyes saw, she was pressed up against a stranger’s very naked backside. She took a step back, nearly blushing.

The bear—Tamir—reared back and pulled his claws out of her roof. “Return her to town. The councilman will decide who should be punished . . . and how.” With that, the bear turned and loped off into the trees, shrinking before her eyes until he was the size of the wild bears she’d sometimes spotted from a distance in the forest, near the lake.

The owl was just short of livid, and Rachel didn’t know if he was angrier with her or the bear. He opened the driver’s side door.

“You should have gone when you had the chance,” he said flatly. “Get in.”

Rachel wanted to stand firm, wanted to appear as tough as the two Wolven agents, but knew she wasn’t. She was all bluff and bluster, as her gramma used to say. Plus, this man had risked his neck for her. She got in the car and slid over into the passenger seat, ducking to avoid the sharp slivers of metal hanging down around the puncture holes in the roof.

Without another word, he seated himself behind the wheel. When he slammed the door, the whole car shook. He started the engine, threw the car into gear, and soon had them turned around and heading for Luna Lake. After a long silence, broken only by the sound of his fingers thrumming on the steering wheel, Rachel sighed and said, “Sorry.”

He grunted in acknowledgment but didn’t respond, which annoyed her, and the smell of his anger continued unabated. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the side window. Jerk.

She reached over and turned the music back on. She didn’t sing, though—with a pissed-off Wolven agent in the car, that seemed somehow . . . inappropriate. But she kept the mantra in her head. New Attitude. I am in control. She noticed that his fingers began to tap in time with the beat of the music.

As they drove into town, Rachel spotted a half dozen or more strangers wandering along the street next to the police station. The Wolven agent parked near the station and took her keys, then hopped out of the car. Rachel was reaching for the passenger door handle when he opened it from outside. She wasn’t sure whether he acted out of courtesy or suspicion that she might bolt, but she thanked him as she got out and stood up.

The area was full of animal smells she didn’t recognize—exotic cats and birds and even a snake. That made her head turn, searching—she knew the scent of snakes all too well. The odor pulled an old fear from deep inside her, something she thought she’d overcome. She eyed the newcomers with suspicion but couldn’t figure out who smelled of reptile.

Her foster father, John Williams, separated from the crowd and half ran toward the car. He pulled her into an abrupt, powerful hug. It surprised her, since he wasn’t much of a hugger. His thick green cable sweater was warm against her face. “For God’s sake, Rachel! You could have been killed. What were you thinking?”

What could she say? He put a dark, cool hand on the side of her head, pressing her cheek against his fluffy sweater. His smell, warm feathers and cologne, made her feel safe. She whispered, “There’s a snake in town, Dad.”

He hugged her even closer as warm concern flooded her nose. “Is that why you ran? He’s a councilman, just here to check security. He’s leaving. A cat will be taking his place for the meetings.”

She decided to let John believe the snake was why she’d tried to escape. “As long as he’s leaving.”

She felt his head turn as he addressed the owl shifter who had captured her. “Thank you for bringing her back. She still has PTSD from her time with the snakes. But she’s not a spy or a threat. Please don’t let them hurt her, Agent Adway.”

Adway. Wow. That was a surname she hadn’t heard in a long time . . . in a lifetime. The owl agent let out a long sigh. “It’s not up to me. I’m not in charge of this operation. But I’ll try to get them to understand. What’s her name, so I can pull her file?”

Sliding out of John’s hug, she faced the other man, holding out her arms in frustration. “Again . . . right here in front of you. What is it with you guys?” Not really expecting an answer, she continued, “I’m Rachel Washington.”

The owl’s jaw dropped and his eyes narrowed. He stared at her for a long moment, pointing at her with one finger. All that came out of his mouth was, “You—” Abruptly he spun on his heels and sprinted toward a black SUV a dozen feet away.

Her dad put his hands on his hips, raising his shoulders and lowering his head just a bit, like he would in owl form when annoyed. “Well, that was rude. What’s his problem?”

She shook her head, staring after the agent and feeling a weird mixture of gratitude and frustration. “Pfft. They were both like that.”


How to explain? “Another Wolven agent, I’m guessing this guy’s boss, stopped us on the road. He’s a big black bear and he was a total jerk. Look what he did to the top of my car!”

John blinked at the sight of the roof, where four messy punctures cut through to the headliner inside. “Okay, that is not acceptable. Someone needs to fix this.” He glanced around, then nodded and touched her shoulder. “Wait here.”

Rachel had no intention of waiting. She wanted to hear more about what was happening in town, so she followed her dad over to the trio of vehicles parked near the diner. He called, “Excuse me, Mrs. Monier?”

A short, slender woman with reddish-blond hair, dressed in a fluffy tan jacket with a fur ruff that matched the trim on her boots, turned away from a small group of strangers. Amber Monier had been hanging around town since Monk and Gabriel had died, and Rachel assumed the bobcat shifter was part of Wolven. The woman had never taken the time to introduce herself around, which Rachel thought was bad manners. Bitty seemed to know her quite well, based on things the older woman had said.

“Actually, it’s Wingate. Monier was my maiden name, but old friends like our esteemed snake councilman tend to still call me that.”

A few steps behind her father, Rachel crossed into scent range just as the woman said “snake.” The reptile’s scent made the young owl stumble to a stop and gasp for breath. Her father must have been trying to protect her from this when he told her to stay away.

She saw the snake now, right in front of her. He was tall and Middle Eastern in appearance, with a clean-shaven, narrow face . . . a viper’s face. He wore a headdress similar to the keffiyehs she’d seen back home when she was growing up, but the cloth flowed like silk and was embroidered with golden thread that glowed in the rising sun. From the side, he looked just like the man her captors had spoken about in hushed voices, the man she’d seen only once: Sargon, who had inspired emotions far beyond terror.

Like Sargon, this man absolutely reeked of power, which was cast out around him in a halo of pain. Maybe it wasn’t the sun that made his headdress glow. Her skin burned, her hair felt ready to ignite into flame. She couldn’t go any closer. He was just standing there, with people fawning over him. Even her dad had slowed and bowed his head.

Owls do not bow to snakes! She had to master her fears.

"How dare you show your face among owls! How dare you!" She spat the words, shouting across the distance that her body couldn't tread.

All conversation stopped, all faces turned toward Rachel. The snake’s gaze met hers. He narrowed his eyes and started to walk toward her. Though Rachel’s instincts screamed fly! her feet were frozen, as though set in cement. Her dad tried to step between them, but the snake’s hand made a slight movement, tossing John aside as easily as if he were brushing off a mosquito.

The owl agent walked up to the snake without hesitation and put a hand on the taller man’s shoulder. The snake again tossed his hand lightly and seemed surprised when the owl was able to grab him, momentarily arresting his motion. His brows raised in an almost elegant way, but his scent was thick and oily, as angry as a pan burning on the stove. The agent dipped his head, staring at the snake’s neck, but his voice was calm and steady when he said, “Your eminence, please. She was one of those rescued from the cave.”

The snake looked at Rachel again. He nodded once. The woman who smelled of cat touched his other arm. Power burned between them, hot enough to scorch as the cat tried to hold back the snake. Rather than fight her, he turned his head slightly and said quietly, “Release me, Amber. You know this must happen.”

Something unspoken passed between them, Rachel could tell. When the cat dipped her head and stepped back, so did the owl.

They were going to let him kill her!

WOW! You know you need to find out what happens next, right? Well, go forth! It’s available today. Rachel rocks and Dalvin being stunned by her name is a key moment in the story. Thanks for dropping by! Enjoy!

Thank you Ms. Clamp for stopping by Lily's Reviews!

Giveaway: One commenter will receive a print copy of Illicit by Cathy Clamp. Giveaway will end on November 7 at 11:00 P.M. with a name drawn at that time. Please leave a valid e-mail address along with your first name in the comment section.

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Today, Lily’s Reviews would like to welcome Andrew Q. Gordon to the blog in anticipation of Lords of Lore and Legend, book 3 in Champion of the Gods being published this month.

Thank you, Lily for allowing me stop by today.

Square pegs don’t fit in round holes, right? I can think of a few ways they could. A sledgehammer comes to mind—a really big, heavy one—as one way to make it fit. Or you could use a really small square peg and drop it in a much bigger round hole. Usually there is an exception. Whenever I’m told something can’t be done or has to be one way, I’m reminded of that line at the end of Star Wars Episode III when Obi Wan tells Anakin that only the Sith deal in absolutes. Didn’t he just create an absolute? Only the Sith deal … Thus even the saying, nothing is absolute is false, because that suggests an absolute rule.


Right, confused? Baffled? Ready to click the “x” and yell at Lily for letting this loon onto her site? Sorry. There is a point. In writing there are conventional wisdoms that are sometimes treated as absolutes. There are formulas for success. Things that sell. Things you should never do. Stories are supposed to fit neatly into a genre, with a sub-genre to help clarify things. But have you ever tried to pigeon hole yourself? Are you an extrovert? Introvert? Outgoing? Shy? Yes, I am. At various times I can be any of the above, depending on the situation. The same with the Champion of the Gods series.


Take away Farrell and Miceral’s relationship and it would be a straight (no pun) up high fantasy series. Take out the fantasy element and…well there would be a pretty simple love story and I’m not sure what the two would do all day. (Okay, I’m sure there would be a story there, but I’ve not heard that one yet.) The market for MM fantasy is small, but in reality, the market is as big as the general fantasy market. Why? Because at its heart, Champions is a fantasy with an mm element, not an MM romance or even an MM Fantasy.


My goal is to find fantasy readers and not drill down further. I don’t care if you like MM fantasy, MF fantasy or something without any MM/MF element. My question is: Do you like high fantasy? Yes? Then try book one of the series. It’s free. Yes, that’s a real offer. DSP Publication is giving anyone who asks a copy of the The Last Grand Master for free. And we’re making the offer all across fantasyland. (I know that was bad, but my inner geek has always wanted to find a really good reference for that word.)


High fantasy might not be your cuppa tea and if that’s true, this probably isn’t for you. The romance isn’t strong enough to carry the story as a romance. And since we’re into book three now, the two of them have settled into a committed pairing. That alone is the death knell for romance books. But with each book, the tension builds, the fight scenes grow and the ultimate show down becomes clearer.

Book Three, Kings of Lore and Legend, shows more of the world, gives more history and background and we learn more about the main characters and who they really are. I’ve written the rest of the series and I can tell you there are several more revelations to come. But since every story has a beginning, get your copy of Book One for free and get started.

To get a free eCopy of The Last Grand Master, you can sign up for my monthly updates:


Or you can download it directly from DSP Publications:



AQGLogo Full SizeAndrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty years, their young daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. 'insiders', Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

Follow Andrew:
On his website:
On Facebook:
On Twitter: @andrewqgordon
Or just email him:

From Wayward Ink Publishing:
A Closed Door
From DSP Publications:
The Last Grand Master (Champion of the Gods – Book 1)
The Eye and the Arm (Champion of the Gods - Book 2)
Kings of Lore and Legend (Champion of the Gods - Book 3)

From Dreamspinner Press:
Self published:
Ashes of Life

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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes author Cathy Clamp offering a sneak peak into how Forbidden was created.

Welcome Ms. Clamp!

One of the things I’ve always loved best about the creation process is how a story can change during the writing. A lot of times when I’m writing, I’ll cut out text that I’ve written . . . not because it’s bad text, but I changed my mind about a direction to go. In FORBIDDEN, I completely changed the first three chapters after writing about half of the book. It just sort of wandered, instead of getting right to the action. So I thought I’d give readers a little bit of what wound up on the cutting room floor. When you read the book (and I hope you’ll follow along), this scene is set in the nurse’s office, and originally happened BEFORE Alek and Claire meet the Sheriff and Mayor, just before Alek races to the post office. Enjoy!


Alek was moving with quiet efficiency around the room, grabbing gauze, new cotton swabs, sterile stitch thread and scissors. When he was done, everything was lined up in an exact line on the rolling tray, in the order they’d be needed. It seemed in keeping with the personality she’d already noticed. His mind was quick and organized. It was the sign of a good cop . . . or a proficient serial killer. She’d met both, and had learned that the difference between the two was very small.

The woman Alek had identified as Marilyn returned to the room. Her long dark hair had been pulled back into a ponytail, showing a face with strong angular lines. Her high cheek bones and dusky skin told her she was Native American, so it was likely the feathers she smelled under the skin was a golden eagle. Maybe even a bald eagle. She didn’t know enough eagles to smell the difference between the two. “Golden or bald?” Sometimes it was just easier to ask.

She smiled, showing white, even teeth. “Golden. Not many balds in the world. I think one of the few is down in your neck of the woods.” She pulled a padded stool close to the table and patted it. “How about you sit here? I need to see the top of your head.”

Oh. Yeah, that made sense. Claire nodded as she hopped down off the table and sat on the stool. “Will Kerchee is part of our pack. He’s a good man.”

Marilyn chuckled. “Well, hardly part of your pack. You’re a wolf. But I have heard good things about him.”

Claire felt her smile tighten. It wasn’t really worth arguing. She knew that most people didn’t understand how the Tedford pack worked. But Will, Wolven agent, Texas Ranger, and celebrated seer, was most definitely part of their pack. There were wolves, birds and a few cats in the pack—all mentally connected into one stronger whole. It wasn’t normal, but then they didn’t have a normal alpha female. She was all about family, familia she called it. Nothing was more important, so when she’d heard about children disappearing up here, she had to act. “Definitely.” She’d let the other woman guess which comment she was responding to.


Interested? Go pick up the book and find out more about the characters. You’ll enjoy it. I promise!

LR: Thank you for stopping by and for the insight!
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Rhys Ford to the blog....


So a funny thing happened on the way to a tweet, Greg Tremblay, the fantastic narrator of my Dirty series, texted me and said… hey, you should giveaway a custom ringtone. Or something to that effect. There was some discussion. A few emails and then well, long story short—there may have been some pixilated shots of whiskey and banter but a plan was formed. A plan so cunning I could have stuck a tail on it and called it a weasel.

Mostly, it involved Greg. And your phone. But it was still a plan!

After a furious, intense process of queries, eliminations, debating on who said what, we came up with a set of phrases from Cole, Bobby, Jae, Claudia, Scarlet and one from Maddy then Greg went to work. And returned to me with a brilliant sound bites forged by a narrative master—in the style of the characters’ voices.

So dear reader, as a thank you for everything you’ve done for Greg and me, I’d like to present the entire set of ringtones—twenty one in total—FREE, as a gift to you.

Available in Android (MP3) and iPhone (formats for Android and Apple phones, Greg has also graciously included the WAV files if that’s your thing. Download links to the zipped files are provided below.*

A great humongous thank you to all of the blogs who helped me with this guerilla gifting. This swirled up on Tuesday and Greg just MADE it happen. He is the voice of the series and I am forever grateful for his talent.

Love you all, and really, Thank You.

Rhys Ford

Dirty Rings Android MP3

Dirty Rings Apple M4a

Dirty Rings Apple M4r

Dirty Rings Wav

If you’ve not tried out Greg Tremblay’s narrations, please do so. He makes audiobooks fun and damn, he brings Cole and the others to life.

Greg Tremblay’s body of work can be found here—and yes, the Dirty series is there but so are many other lovely audio books. I highly recommend one of Greg’s audiobooks, a comfy chair, a pair of headphones and a nice hot cup of coffee… or tea… with or without whisky.

* These are copyrighted and available free for individual use. The files included in the zip cannot be sold by third parties nor can they be altered in anyway as to destroy the integrity of the original work. Animals were test subjects for these sound files and while the cat could not have given less of a shit, the dog seemed mighty interested. Please note, neither own nor use a phone or a computer so results may vary.
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Brandy L. Rivers with a guest post.


Devlin O’Shea is a Dreamwalker. It’s a rare gift. There aren’t many left.

He can find people in their dreams. Sometimes it’s random, but usually he needs a connection to them. In Jamie’s case, it was fate. He stumbled into her dream and has a hard time resisting her.

Imagine the kind of power you would have if you could really alter other people’s dreams, or visit them there. Most people wouldn’t believe it. They would think it’s a dream, or a nightmare even. How much trouble could you cause in someone else’s head? This is why I think the majority of Dreamwalkers wind up bad, or at least corrupted.

Of course there are exceptions, like Devlin. He’s a healer by nature. Harming someone, even those who deserve it, is the last thing on his mind.

I have always loved the idea of shared dreams. I’m a lucid dreamer and can manipulate my own dreams, but I always thought it would be cool to visit someone else, so I played with that idea in this book. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of this ability later on down the line.
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In celebration of the release for To Dance With the Devil, Lily's Reviews has the pleasure of hosting C.T. Adams with the following guest post:

The number of readers is down. People are buying fewer books. Me included. Now I LOVE to read. So, what’s up? I mean, what IS the problem? It comes down to logistics.


Years back I would get off of work, eat dinner, and settle down with a good book. I’ve never been a big one for television. I preferred reading.

Then came cell phones. And the Internet.

People are ON all the time. Available and in touch. You sit down next to that computer screen and hours absolutely vanish. POOF, it’s magic. And you look up and “HOLY CRAP I’ve gotta get to bed! I’ve got to work tomorrow.” And you haven’t read.

And then there’s the lack of bookstores. If I want to go get a book, and I don’t know what I want, I can’t just go to a local bookstore and browse. Nope. I have to drive for about an hour or more to find one. There is a local used bookstore, but it’s open hours for the unemployed. So, I figure, hey, just pop onto the internet, go to Amazon or B&N. No biggie . . . but then it’s but before I do, I’d better check my e-mails . . .

And that is a damned shame.

Because reading is fun. It’s exercise for the mind. It’s a work out for the imagination. Reading lets you experience other people’s points of view, see new places and new worlds from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy® recliner. And reading, my friends, reduces stress.

You open a book of genre fiction and you learn things. But also you get packaged hope.

“HUNH?” You say. “Run that by me again Cie. You lost me.”

PACKAGED HOPE. Seriously. Authors put their characters through hell. But somehow, in genre fiction (and in Star Trek and Star Wars, which is just one reason they’re so popular). It WORKS OUT. It’s hard, and there are losses (sometimes there’s terrible cost). But the characters persevere, and they eventually end up in a better spot. And you step away from the book at the end satisfied, and with the subconscious feeling that “Hey, my life’s not so unmanageable.” And because your imagination has had a workout and is a little more limber, it works with you to try to figure out a way through whatever it is you ARE dealing with.

In mystery – the riddle is solved.
In epic fantasy – the quest is completed.
In romance – the couple overcomes the obstacles to achieve their happily ever after.

Now I’m not saying you need to get rid of your computer. I certainly won’t! For one thing it’s what lets me actually WRITE the books I want you to be reading. It’s a hugely useful tool. But it’s also just a wee bit addicting. And if you’re finding yourself stressed, frustrated, and angry at the idiots posting idiocy on the freaking web; your day job sucks scum covered pond rocks, and life has thrown you better curve balls than a major league pitcher, might I suggest a good book?

Perhaps one of mine?

Places where Ms. Adams may be found online:
Facebook - a release party to be held there from 7-9 pm CST today, so be sure to check it out.
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Lily's Reviews would like to welcome Allie Jean, author of the Dreamer Series, on this stop on her blog tour.

Taking That Step
By Allie Jean


This year at the Blogger Book Fair, we focus on traveling to faraway places. I’ve had the pleasure of making a special journey yet in an abstract way.
When I was little, I had a hobby. I created elaborate stories. I even had my sisters act them out for friends and neighbors in small plays in our front yard. They’d all call me bossy (still do sometimes) but when it came to my characters, everything had to be as I saw it in my mind.
Later in life, my story telling took on a little different avenue. Instead of writing my own tales, my mind would continue the stories of some of my favorite books. Let’s face it; no one likes it when a cherished series comes to an end.

My family and I lost a son in 2009. In the aftermath, I felt myself falling into a depression. The what-ifs and self-doubt dug a huge hole that I didn’t know if I could climb out of. Writing became my saving grace.

Instead of internalizing all of the emotions circling through my heart, I focused them into my characters, starting the first chapters of my Dreamer series. It had been an idea I’d been sitting on for a while, and the tragedy of loss propelled me into it.

Through my hobby of writing, I’d met a group of girlfriends who became my support. They challenged me and were my biggest fans. One of them heard of a writing contest offered through The Writer’s Coffee Shop called the Original Romance Contest. The winner would be offered a publishing contract through the house, and my friends encouraged me to enter.

The moments leading up to the announcement were some of the most excruciating I could remember. First of all, my family had no clue that I wrote at all, let alone that I had entered a contest. I seem to recall my husband thinking I’d finally jumped off the deep end when I told him about it. Yet I’d taken that step, that leap, and finally put myself out there for the judgment of others. Nail biting my way through two manicures, I awaited the results.

Now, part of me knew that there was probably a very slim chance that I’d done anything but reveal myself as a secret writer to my family, having failed at obtaining that coveted contract. But when the email came in that they wanted my manuscript I was elated. Over the moon!

My road to publication may be a bit unconventional, but I think there is a moral to my story. To all of those writers out there, secret and screaming in the streets: Don’t Stop Writing!!!! Keep your characters alive, even if it’s just for a small audience. Don’t give up and put yourself out there. I love to write and getting the opportunity to put my stories out there has been a blessing.

Plus, my kids think it’s really cool.


AJ5 Allie Jean was born with an overactive imagination. She spent her childhood inventing stories and telling tales. Her mind never shut down, even while she slept. Vivid dreams containing extensive, elaborate plot lines of good overcoming evil villains captured her nightly visions, lingering into her waking hours and filling the pages of her well-loved bounded diaries. She was encouraged by her parents, even at a young age, to write down her tales, and it has remained a somewhat secret hobby. As a busy wife, mother and critical care nurse, Allie’s love of storytelling has been reborn through the adventures of her unforgettable characters.
Connect with Allie Jean:

The Dreamer Series:

Legacy of a Dreamer (Dreamer #1)

Chantal Breelan’s past is a mystery, and her future is even more uncertain. She can’t recall why she had been taken from her parents, leaving an empty hole where her childhood should have been. When she awakens from her nightmares, she’s left with terrible, violent images and believes something may have happened to her that her mind tries to forget. One night at a subway station, Chantal meets a young boy who flees to a dark subway tunnel, and she’s compelled to follow him. But this Rabbit Hole reveals a world where reality is everything her nightmares have been forewarning. Mathias is a descendant of an ancient being and beholden to wage an unfathomable war against an primordial evil, spawned by greed and spite. A powerful fighter, he and his brethren of Warriors vow guard the most precious, piercing light against the darkness – the females of their kind. The Warriors' pledge is to find and protect their sisters and kin. Long have they fought, shedding sweat and blood, hoping that their struggles are not in vain. Yet in his sacrifice and service he may find life’s ultimate reward – a love to surpass all time. GoodReads TWCS

Dreams of the Cursed (Dreamer #2)

A violent war has waged in secret underneath the notice of humanity since the beginning of time. Evil has pledged the destruction of humanity in spite of a power those that covet it could not possibly contain. Now, The Warriors have inherited this fight and are honor bound to rid the world of this ancient malevolence. By guarding the most precious, piercing light they possess – their female kin known as the Oracles – the Warriors have a chance against the darkness. Chantal Breelan has suffered from horrific nightmares for most of her life, believing something to be wrong with her to have such visions of destruction. But when creatures of terror came crawling out of the shadows to hunt her down shortly after her eighteenth birthday, she discovered the truth. Her dreams became reality, throwing her head first into a battle wrought by cursed monsters, where death and torture lie at every turn. Mathias is a descendant of a Fallen Angel and a powerful Warrior. He vows his life in service to pay recompense for the sins of their fathers by guarding Chantal from within the shadows. With Chantal’s life in danger, he’d been forced to reveal himself, yet she had managed to surprise him with her fierce tenacity and strength. Now, Chantal has picked up the reigns of her birthright and stands by her Warrior kin, by Mathias. She’s on a mission to rescue others like herself. Yet in this challenge a battle of wits is exposed. New players are discovered, throwing strategies into question. When the truth comes to light, can Chantal hold her band of brothers together, or will they crumble under the weight of betrayal?

Coming: Fall 2013
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Making Smart Money Choices Using a Three Jar System

“I don’t know how to say no to him,” a good friend of mine confided in me at a party.  This friend was of particularly good means and though it was true that he could afford to get virtually anything his son might request, I suggested that he ought to make a change.  Financial literacy is about making choices, and he was faced with an important choice for his son.  He needed to consider a different approach.  Rather than saying they couldn’t afford something, I suggested that he say the family hadn’t budgeted for the item.  He could then use this as a teaching moment and begin an allowance system for his son to teach him about smart money choices.  Without setting up this framework, the son’s perceived world could become one of limitless stuff.  Very problematic.

A three jar system, in which your child sets aside money for sharing, saving and spending smart, creates a terrific framework for you to teach your child to make choices with his or her money.  Important choices.  The traditional piggy bank was okay, but the three jar system is much better.  Rather than taking money and plopping it into an opaque bank that is difficult to access, your child is compelled to examine and touch money each week (or whenever they receive it) and to choose into which jars, or “buckets,” they need to place the money. The piggy bank paradigm worked in a world in which money remained a taboo subject. The new paradigm is one in which we want to raise kids to be “money-comfortable.” We want kids to be able to easily access their money and feel confident making money decisions so that when the time comes for them to make more consequential ones, they’ll be prepared.

Choice makes our lives rich and enhances our ability to learn.  Imagine a college with only one set of courses available.  Imagine not being able to choose your friends, choose your get the point.  Receiving an allowance is really only part of the process.  Choosing to allocate that allowance and setting up the terms of how the allowance is distributed is extremely important.  For example, will you mandate that your child save 10% of his/her allowance each week in the “Share” jar?  25%? 50%?  How about the “Save” jar.  Will you “match” the money they put in their “Save” jar?  In case you’re wondering, we do a quarter for every dollar with our own kids.

You, too, have choices in setting up your system, but remember that exaggerating those options when they are young is something to strongly consider.  We are told that saving 10% of our income is a noble goal, and it is. But in order to achieve that goal, it’s not a bad idea to have your kids place 25% of the money they receive into the “Save” jar and 25% into the “Share” jar.  This exaggeration can help solidify positive habits.  That’s along the lines of what we do.  Our seven-year-old receives seven dollars every week. We require that two dollars go into the Save jar and one into the Share jar. She has discretion to put each of the four dollars left into her “Spend Smart,” “Share” or “Save” jars. Incidentally, giving one dollar per week per age of the child as we do is an easy maxim you can use to setup your allowance.  As time goes on, you’ll want to give them more and more decision-making power over their money. In the beginning, though, you want to establish good behavior by mandating certain choices.  Exaggeration works.  David Owen, in his book First National Bank of Dad, used the concept of exaggerated interest to get across the power of saving.  As the book’s name suggests, Mr. Owen was the family banker.  He knew the small percent of interest that traditional institutions pay on the relatively small amounts the kids were savings would have minimal, if any, impact on his children.  Instead, he provided a much higher rate of interest to emphasize the importance of saving.

So go ahead and setup a three jar system. Don’t forget to have your child set goals using pictures pasted on the jars so that they can visualize their goals as well. In addition, the “Share” jar doesn’t get lost in the process.  There are various ways to accomplish this. Talk to your child about what’s important to them and find a charity that might support that interest. Just as we suggest you do with the “Save” jar, print out and paste a relevant picture (e.g. a pet for adoption or food for a food bank) on the jar to remind your child why he is depositing money into that jar at allowance time. Help him set a goal to save a certain amount and then help them make sure the money gets to that charity.

At the end of the day, setting up this three jar system can help you as a parent change the conversation from “we can’t afford this” to “have you saved the money for this.”

John Lanza is the Chief Mammal at Snigglezoo Entertainment, Creator of the Dr. Toy award-winning Money Mammals DVD & book, Joe the Monkey Saves for a Goal that helps kids learn to “Share & Save & Spend Smart Too.”  His newest book, Joe the Monkey Learns to Share, was just published. John also runs The Money Mammals Saving Money Is Fun Kids Club for credit unions nationwide and blogs, tweets and writes often about youth financial literacy.  Find out more at

In conjunction with America Saves Week (February 25 through March 2), two commenters will be picked at the end of the week to receive a print copy of Joe the Monkey Learns to Share.  Please leave your first name and the first letter of your last name as well as a contact e-mail.  Contest closes at Midnight EST, March 2 at which time 2 winners will be chosen.

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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Traci L Slatton, author of The Love of My (Other) Life.  Welcome!

(At the end of the post, be sure to check out the contest.)
In The Love of My (Other) Life, physics professor Brian Tennyson builds a device that allows him to travel to parallel worlds. He calls it a 'decoherence device.' He comes to our universe and meets down-on-her-luck artist Tessa Barnum--which is when the fun starts.
The many worlds theory states (loosely speaking) that for every choice, a new universe is born. So every time you faced a fork in the road and took the right hand path, there is a universe where you took the left hand road. There's also a universe in which you turned around and went back the way you came. Which leads me to wonder: if I could hijack Professor Tennyson's device, where would I go, and what would I find?
If I had prevented myself from leaping into some of the gazillion mistakes that I made, would my life still have led me to the victories I've enjoyed since making those original mistakes? Because my life has followed a meandering route to get me from there to here. Some of it was unfortunate, but some of it has been precious, exquisite.
For example, marrying my first husband was a mistake. Big, huge, brain-fart mistake. What was I thinking? Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking. I was young and I was in love and I was going to make it work, despite the significant challenges in our relationship from the outset.
But if I had spared myself the agony of that freakishly awful and oppressive marriage, would I have met my second husband and started writing novels? This second marriage of mine is in no way a perfect union of constant and unending bliss. There have been many times I wanted to leave. In the end, I stay because it's workable. On most matters, this second husband of mine is willing to undertake growth and change and to become the man I need and want.
Best of all, because he's an artist--a classical figurative sculptor (like Michelangelo)--he appreciates the artistic spirit. He gets it about the burning of the creative impulse, how that drives me relentlessly. He accepted me from the beginning as an author. He wasn't surprised when I became one, because, in his mind, I already was a novelist. His vision of me reinforced the vision I had for myself. That vision of myself as a novelist was, and is, my mission in this life. I believe that to be true for every universe.
So if I borrowed Professor Tennyson's decoherence device and travelled to an alternate universe where I hadn't married my regrettable first husband, would I find that I had become something else, and not a novelist? Would my life have brought me around somehow to meet my sculptor, and would I have found the same meaningfulness in it?
I wonder....
Traci L. Slatton

Thank you for stopping by and for the thoughtful post.

Contest: To celebrate the release of The Love of My (Other) Life, there is an E-book giveaway for one lucky commenter on this post.  Please leave your first name and the letter of your last initial and an e-mail you can be reached at.  A Xanga account is not necessary (alternate ways to leave comments are above the comment box).  Contest closes tomorrow, February 19, at Midnight.

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Today, Lily's Reviews is hosting S.L. Scott on a stop here as part of her blog tour for Naturally, Charlie.

I once had this dream where Jeff Probst released a lion with no teeth from its cage. It ran straight for me. I turned and ran towards this really hot…

Oh wait, you meant for me to talk about my dreams as in accomplishing lifelong dreams. Oops.  Sorry about that. I’ll save that other little story for Facebook since that dream gets a little steamy.

Naturally, Charlie being published is absolutely a lifelong dream come true. Too dramatic? I don’t mean it to be, but it’s the truth. When I was little, I would write little stories and color the pictures inside, fold the papers in half, add a construction paper cover to it and staple the seam to hold it all together. I have a book of Christmas carols with that kid-centric cover on it from when I was twelve, but we can’t seem to find any of the little stories I wrote.

Really though, my point is, I’ve always wanted to be an author. I was in my own head, but finally having a real book out is like winning the jackpot. Even though I don’t really know what that feels like, I can imagine it’s like publishing your first book. And that feels amazing.

I feel so fortunate that my first book is a story with characters I love. I really do miss spending time with them and sharing their experiences. I miss being inside their heads and their hearts and them being inside of mine. But the reward I get from holding a copy of their story—my story—,in my hands is like a proud parent. *Whispers* I’ve actually snuggled the book to my chest.

It’s good to have goals. It’s great to achieve them and mark them off of your bucket list. It’s even better if that dream is your passion. I’m a writer. I write all of the time. Some of what I write I keep and some I don’t, but I can’t not write. It makes my hand itchy and I become impatient. My characters force me to release them beyond the confines of my mind. It feels magical to have an idea that evolves into something that you treasure and want to spend time doing. Writing is not an escape but a way of life for me.

Writing is my calling. I write because I love to and now to see that begin a new career for me is rewarding on a much bigger level. From penning stories in crayon as a child to being a published author, this opportunity means the world to me and even more that I get to share that passion with others.

I hope when reading this story the readers will feel the emotion I poured into the book and enjoy the journey as much as I did creating it. By pursuing my dreams (and not the Probst one), I find myself very much like the two Charlies in this story. This is my new beginning and I’m creating my own destiny and happy ending.

Thank you for hosting me today.

Naturally, Charlie is released on November 1st.

About Naturally, Charlie:  Twenty-five year old Charlotte “Charlie” Barrow is caught between her old life and the one she is beginning to build when she crosses paths with a handsome stranger on the subway. Not looking for romance, she closes her heart off to the possibilities of love. With a knack for mishaps, Charlie maintains her sense of humor while befriending the kind stranger who seems to be there at all the right times.

New York freelance writer, Charlie Adams, is forging his own path beyond the expectations of the society circles of his childhood. Rejecting family money, and fast-lane friends, he is snubbed by his family as he follows his own compass to a life more extraordinary.

Through a coincidence of events, they come to rely on each other for comfort. This is the tale of two Charlies learning to trust again while fighting their fates to create their own destiny.

About S.L. Scott: S.L. Scott is a former high-tech account manager with a journalism degree pursuing her passion for telling stories. She spends her days escaping into her characters and letting them lead her on their adventures.

Live music shows, harvesting jalapenos and eating homemade guacamole are her obsessions she calls hobbies.

Scott lives in the beautiful Texas hill country of Austin with her husband, two young sons, two Papillons and a bowl full of Sea Monkeys.

Naturally, Charlie is Scott's debut novel.

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As part of a virtual blog tour, Lily's Reviews welcomes David Ebenbach with a guest post.

David Ebenbach

My new book, Into the Wilderness, was born out of a failure. In 2006, a new father, I started writing a novel about a new single mother. I was interested in exploring the really massive experience of parenthood, which was bigger than I ever could have imagined. Well, after a couple of years I finished the book, and started sending it around to agents. The responses started to come in pretty quickly; unfortunately, they were all rejections.

One agent was nice enough, however, to include a personal note, and what she said really clarified things for me. The agent wasn’t able to sympathize with the narrator at all, because the character’s reaction to parenthood was so extreme. Well, that was true. Because it was a novel, I’d felt the need to add lots of drama to keep the reader interested. This mother was so overwhelmed that she was going out, night after night, leaving the baby entirely alone in the apartment. Now, I’ve known some parents who have had guilty thoughts about doing that kind of thing, but I don’t know anyone who’s actually done it. So I had taken something real and blown it out of proportion, distorted it completely, in order to turn it into a novel.

At that point I backed away from the novel and spent some time writing short stories, my first love in fiction. After a while I found I had accumulated a good handful of new stories, and all of them were about parenthood. Interesting. I also took another look at the novel and saw that there were sections without all that extra melodrama, sections that might be able to stand alone as stories. I pulled those parts out and messed with them until I felt they worked. And suddenly there it was: enough material for a book. I still had to arrange the stories, but I was undoubtedly on my way to writing a book of fiction about parenthood. Not a novel, but something else—something truer to who I am as a writer.

I didn’t need melodrama. I just needed to show—like a good short story always shows—that little things are actually a big deal. You can talk about parenthood, for example, the way it really unfolds—the mundane sleep deprivation, all the regular and miraculous development and growth of the baby, the unexpected changes in friendships and marital relationships—and show people how much quiet drama there is to be found there. That’s plenty. My novel—my failed novel—taught me that. And here’s the other thing I learned: writers shouldn’t be afraid of failure. When I hold my new book, Into the Wilderness, in my hands, it’s all very clear to me that failure is just an early part of success.

IntotheWilderness_bookcoverInto the Wilderness: “For the very real people in David Ebenbach’s vivid and emotional stories,” says author Jesse Lee Kercheval, “becoming a parent—as Judith, the single mother in four of the stories, says—is going ‘into the wilderness.’” The collection Into the Wilderness explores the theme of parenthood from many angles: an eager-to-connect divorced father takes his kids to a Jewish-themed baseball game; a lesbian couple tries to decide whether their toddler son needs a man in his life; one young couple debates the idea of parenthood while another struggles with infertility; a reserved father uses an all-you-can-eat buffet to comfort his heartbroken son. But the backbone of the collection is Judith, who we follow through her challenging first weeks of motherhood, culminating in an intense and redemptive baby-naming ceremony. Says author Joan Leegant, “Ebenbach takes us deep into the heart of the messy confusion and terror and unfathomable love that make up that shaky state we call parenthood. These stories are fearless, honest and true.”


David Ebenbach was born and raised in the great city of Philadelphia, home of America’s first library, first art museum, first public school, and first zoo, along with his very first stories and poems – though those early efforts went on to become (deservedly) less famous than, for example, the zoo.

Since then David has lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Philadelphia again, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and Ohio again, picking up some education (formal and otherwise) and more than a few stories along the way. He has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In addition to his short-story collection Into the Wilderness (October 2012, Washington Writers’ Publishing House), David is the author of another book of short stories entitled Between Camelots (October 2005, University of Pittsburgh Press), and a non-fiction guide to creativity called The Artist’s Torah (forthcoming, Cascade Books). His poetry has appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Subtropics, and the Hayden's Ferry Review, among other places.

He has been awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center; and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

David currently teaches at Georgetown University and very happily lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and son, both of whom are a marvel and an inspiration.

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Please welcome Sara Lunsford to Lily's Reviews on this stop in her blog tour:

Marriage and the Job


And I know what that’s like because I was one too. We worked at the same prison.

I speak a lot about my husband and what life was like then in my memoir Sweet Hell on Fire, but I haven’t spoken about what it’s like to be married to him now—since he still does the Job and I don’t. It was a special kind of hell to be at a post where I couldn’t respond to an emergency alarm in the cell house my husband was working, but at least there I felt like I had some control. Being at home and out of the loop is another flavor of fear altogether.

Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. Since I’m a writer, my fevered imagination can come up with more horrible scenarios than what’s actually possible in any given situation. Except this one. The things that happen behind the walls could rival any horror story with the sheer depravity of what human beings are capable of inflicting on each other.

Even though this knowledge sometimes feels like a burden, it’s worth it because it helps me to be a better wife. I can truly be his haven and his best friend because I understand what he’s dealing with and the pressure he’s under.

In the book, one of the first things I discuss is how they teach us that we have to be two different people. The person we are behind the walls and the person we show to the rest of the world, shrugging the other off like a cloak as we walk through the gates. But it’s not that simple.

How strong can a relationship be if there are some things that you just can’t share with each other? I think that’s a big reason why there’s such a high rate of substance abuse and divorce among law enforcement. The Job creeps into that separate life, spilling like an ink stain over everything we touch. Instead of trying to hold back the tide, my husband and I have chosen to embrace it, to work with the flow instead of against it. He can tell me anything.

Before he goes to work, I make sure I kiss him and tell him how much I love him because there’s always the chance that he might not come back out through those gates. Yet, still I say I got my Happily Ever After because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone no matter what career path they’ve chosen.

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Lily's Reviews welcomes Martha H. Fitzgerald on a stop during her blog tour for The Courtship of Two Doctors.  The contest portion of this blog tour can be found by clicking here.

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Daughter pours her heart into “Courtship”

By Martha H. Fitzgerald

Compiling “Courtship of Two Doctors,” a medical romance and history told in letters, wasn’t a matter of simply sifting through nearly two years of correspondence. It required, first of all, a resourceful transcriptionist to decipher the handwriting of two physicians-in-training, then months of research to verify names and dates, song and movie titles, medications and treatments. I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, and Rochester, Minnesota, to peruse newspapers, medical archives, and other resources in person.

Other steps included a published research article on medical training of the late 1930s and a yearlong process of editing—that is, selecting excerpts from roughly 300 letters to tell the story, then polishing them for clarity and consistency. I edited with a light hand, to preserve the character of the writers and the vernacular of the times: Gee, everyone wishing me luck and
all—it’s a grand feeling.

What drove me was not just the training of a historian and the skill of a journalist, but the heart of a daughter. The subjects, Alice Baker of New Orleans and Joe Holoubek of Omaha, were my parents, who died in 2005 and 2007. My father, before his death, entrusted to me his private papers, including their courtship letters. We started on the book together, in the last months of his life, and he wrote the first draft of the prologue, describing how they met during a summer fellowship program in pathology at Mayo Clinic.

Quite honestly, I put the project aside for a couple of years, not certain how or if I should proceed. I recognized the immense historical and social value of the letters, recreating the medical era before antibiotics and illustrating the 1930s social barriers challenging women in professions. Eventually I realized this book could pay tribute not only to my parents, but to all members of healing professions. And I could benefit causes we shared: the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, Louisiana, which my father co-founded, and a local marriage ministry.

In editing and researching these letters, I’ve had a rare privilege—getting to know my parents before they were parents, before they were even a couple. I like who they were as young people.

It was a great delight recognizing in the young Alice and Joe some of the character and personality traits I knew in my parents, Dr. Alice and Dr. Joe. Even as a young woman, my mother excelled in a man’s world with a surprising ease and self-confidence. She did not take offense easily at slights against women. My father was a young man less sure of himself, but
with high ideals and a gentle wit.

Why, even then, he named his cars. In 1938 he was driving a 1928 Studebaker. He called her Nancy. She was a great pal, but no longer young and beginning to suffer aches and pains. “Nancy is running, on occasion,” he wrote one night. “Very interesting case, her illness. Diagnosis—malfunction of the gears. Etiology—old age. Pathology—a few teeth broken out of
the flywheel.”


Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald, an award-winning journalist of 27 years, served the Shreveport Times as columnist and associate editorial page editor. Now an independent editor, writer and publisher, the Louisiana native earned a B.A. in history and American studies from Loyola University-New Orleans and a master’s in history from Louisiana Tech University.

She’s the youngest child of the late Drs. Alice and Joe Holoubek, who met as senior medical students from New Orleans and Omaha and corresponded for two years before their marriage.  Fitzgerald drew on this collection of nearly 800 letters to create The Courtship of Two Doctors: A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing (Aug. 15, 2012). Proceeds from book sales benefit Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport, which her father co-founded, a local marriage ministry, and other causes she shares with her parents.

Fitzgerald owns Martha Fitzgerald Consulting ( and Little Dove Press ( She edited and published her father’s 2004 novel Letters to Luke (, which won the Writers Digest Award for inspirational literature and the Independent Publisher Award for religious fiction.

Fitzgerald also writes a blog, “Catholics & Bible Study: Sharing Our Journey Through The Wilderness.” She serves on the board of Shreveport’s LSU Health Sciences Center Foundation.

She and her husband enjoy living on a quiet country road in a bend of the Red River in Louisiana. Like her parents, she has an adventuresome spirit and relishes far-flung travel.

Ms. Fitzgerald may be found at: and @MarthaHFitz (twitter)

TheCourtshipofTwoDoctors_bookcoverBOOK DETAILS


Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-9753766-3-8
Trade paper, $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-9753766-4-5
EBook, $9.95
ISBN: 978-0-9753766-5-2
Biography/Medical, 400 pages
Little Dove Press, Aug. 15, 2012

The Courtship of Two Doctors: A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing

Edited by Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald
Adapted from The Holoubek-Baker Letters, 1937-1939: An Annotated Collection

From a private collection of nearly 800 courtship letters, the daughter of two remarkable physicians has crafted a timeless valentine to long-lasting love and the healing profession.

Senior medical students from New Orleans and Omaha meet in 1937 and begin a two-year correspondence across 1,100 miles. They set their sights on a return to Mayo Clinic, the medical mecca where they found each other and danced to the haunting “Harbor Lights.” Grave illness and career setbacks shake their confidence, but the two decide to face an uncertain future together, trusting in each other and the relationship they built letter by letter.

The Courtship of Two Doctors recreates the medical era before antibiotics, when health workers were at risk of serious infection, and vividly illustrates the 1930s social barriers challenging two-career marriages.


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