Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Stop in the Park
by Peggy Strack


Touching, romantic, and deeply provocative, A Stop in the Park, follows the story of a man and a woman who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream.

Length: 372 pages
Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform (July 31, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1475150997
ISBN-13: 978-1475150995


Synopsis: Michael Stolis, a DC attorney, is frustrated by twelve hour work days, tightly scheduled weekends and his family's chaotic habits. He explodes over minor irritations like being stuck in traffic, and his tantrums need to stop. His disillusioned wife, Jamie, is sick of his anger outbursts, and wants him out of her life. Michael longs to reignite the passionate love they once felt for each other. Jamie prefers to spend her time fostering illicit Internet relationships. Michael had simply followed his Greek father's instructions for a successful life, but something went terribly wrong. A lucrative career, a Georgetown brownstone and a BMW coupe didn't deliver happiness as promised.

When his family is about to implode, Michael finds hope through Rufus, an astute retired bus driver he meets over a game of blitz chess in Dupont Circle. Michael is intrigued by Rufus's prescription for fulfillment, but is it too late to change a life, chase a dream, revive a marriage? Michael must decide how much he is prepared to lose if he embarks on a quest so very different from the world he created. Touching, romantic, and deeply provocative, A Stop in the Park, follows the story of a man and a woman who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream.

In this scene a confused Jamie Stolis contemplates whether she should flee from her volatile yet secure marriage:

Jamie traipsed into the kitchen and poured coffee into a blue stoneware mug that she bought at a pottery shop when she and Michael went hiking in Wyoming. She circled the rim with her finger. They took that trip eight years ago. She couldn’t help but smile as she recalled how Michael imitated an agitated bison they had seen in Yellowstone Park. Thank God they were in the car, because the open mockery could have provoked the beast to charge if they were with it on the prairie. She furrowed her eyebrows. What had happened to her husband’s silly side?
            Jamie sipped her coffee and swayed. The air felt light. She picked up the salt shaker and sprinkled tiny white crystals onto the counter. No one screamed, “Why’d you do that?” She could leave the salt there for three days, and no one would care. Jamie smiled and spun around. This must be how a duck feels when a snapping turtle leaves the pond. She sat on a stool at the island and clasped the oversized mug. The warmth from the coffee seeped into her palms, and she focused on the calm.
            When her mini-meditation was over, she glanced at the kitchen doorway. A madman wouldn’t be bursting in blaming her for some felony, like the girls leaving their yogurt containers on the coffee table. She sat a while longer trying to figure out what she could do. Stumped, she roamed to the refrigerator and perused her list.
“First things first: that hornets’ nest has to go.” She peered out the kitchen window. At least twenty hornets buzzed around the nest attached to the outside casing. How should she handle this dangerous project? She glanced at the can of insect killer sitting on the counter. The safest thing to do was to open the window and screen, spray, and then close them quickly before the disturbed insects attacked.
            “Okay, my little pests, I hate to ruin your morning, but you are about to be history.” She held the can in one hand, raised the window then the screen, and blasted the poison at her target. There was a flurry of insect activity, and Jamie swiftly sealed her house back up for safety. When she looked up, she saw dozens of hornets emerging from the nest to join those already outside. She couldn’t figure out how they could all fit in their dwelling, which was the size of an apple. Some of the hornets sensed the venom and fled. Others circled around the nest as if considering their next move. They sensed the toxic substance but weren’t quite ready to leave home. Then there were those that darted back and forth in a straight line, knowing they should depart but unsure of where to go. A few of the circlers and darters flew away, determining that uncertainty was better than death. The hornets that remained were lifers, and that life was about to be terminated.
            “Go on, little hornets,” Jamie said. “You’ll find a new and better home. Just go.”
             But they stayed.
            “The poison will kill you. Go on.”
            The hornets did not respond to her warning. Jamie watched them fall to their death into the alley that separated her home from her neighbor’s.
            “What a show,” she whispered.
            She contemplated the creature feature she just witnessed. Why did some hornets flee the instant they suspected danger? Why did some cling until it was almost too late? Why did some hang on until annihilation was inevitable?
            “Hmm, if I behaved like a hornet and was aware that I lived in a house that had been sprayed with malice, cruelty, and arrogance, what would I do?”
            Jamie roamed around the kitchen with her arms folded. She stopped at the window and peered down at the cowardly hornets who had chosen death over adventure.
            “You are a darter, Jamie,” she murmured. “You were about to be poisoned, but you had the courage to fly away. The question is, will you return?”
            She thought about money. She thought about Megan and Emily having to travel between houses. She thought about working full time while trying to take care of a home and children. Then she thought about spending another forty or fifty years with Michael.
            “God, life is hell.”
            She put her face in her hands and tried to will away the confusion.
            Her stomach started to ache. She picked up the phone to call Matilda. They could have lunch and joke around. Matilda would be so jealous of Jamie’s possibly single status. She might even persuade Jamie to go away some Saturday night for a wild girl’s night out to celebrate. Jamie punched in three numbers then stopped. If she told Matilda, all of their friends would know before nightfall. In fact, everyone in DC would know. Kids might ask Meg and Emily about the split, and she couldn’t have that. This was a private matter.
            She rubbed her belly, hoping the pain would dissipate. It didn’t work. She traipsed to her computer and signed in to Facebook. There was a message from Steve. “What’s up?”
            That was it. She could tell him about her troubles. Steve didn’t know any of her friends. It was safe, and venting would make her feel better. Maybe he’d even offer some good advice. In fact, now that she was separated from Michael, she might just meet Steve for that cup of coffee on Friday. It would be nice to meet a new friend.

About Peggy Strack

Peggy Strack writes popular fiction about challenges people face in the fast-paced and daunting contemporary world. She is excited to launch her debut novel, A Stop in the Park, the story of Michael and Jaime Stolis, a disillusioned married couple who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream. Peggy hosts the award winning blog, "Kick Back Moments," for the Saratogian Newspaper. She studied fiction at Skidmore College, The New York State Writers Institute and East Line Books and Literary Center. She is a speech-language pathologist living in Saratoga Springs, NY with her husband, Keith. Peggy has two adults sons enjoys an active lifestyle that includes hiking, kayaking, and skiing.
To learn more about Peggy Struck, visit her website, read her blog, or you can contact her via email.

You can purchase A Stop in the Park on Amazon in paperback for $13.28.
Through October 20th, you can purchase the e-book edition for Kindle for only 99¢ (normally $2.99).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: Mahogany Slade

Mahogany Slade 
by Stephen Robinson

Length: 262 pages
Publisher: Black Saint Records (September 19, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0615680216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615680217

Synopsis: Beautiful, sophisticated, and unpredictable, Janet Tomalin represents every fantasy Brad Carlton grew up having -- and more than a few he never realized.

When they meet on their first day of college in Athens, Georgia, the stylish New Yorker completely upends the staid Southerner's ordered universe.  They fall for each other intensely and completely. It's the all-consuming passion of a natural performer and her adoring audience.

There's just one problem: Mahogany Slade, the woman from Janet's not-so-distant past... and inescapable future. Janet knows once Brad meets the dangerous Miss Slade and learns the truth, their once-in-a-lifetime love is doomed.

Mahogany Slade is the romantic yet acerbic story of young people escaping themselves in a town where your identity is everything. It's as sweet as Janet finds Brad and as irresistible as he finds her.

My Review: This book is about first loves, first experiences, and first heartbreaks. The characters in it are a wonderful mixture of everyone you might expect to meet in your first year away at college. There are so many different personalities, and I enjoyed getting to know them throughout the book. The fact that the story took place in Athens, GA--a place I’ve visited many times in the last few years--was intriguing to me. I got to picture how the town looked in the early ’90s. 

Brad Carlton was a studious young man who opted for books over playgrounds when he was a child. Going to the University of Georgia for college was the first time he’d really be away from home. He meets a cast of colorful characters, including Heather Aulds, Andy Razinski, and Janet Tomalin. Heather and Andy would be his friends, the ones he can rely on, even if they had their ups and downs. 

Janet was Mahogany Slade. Throughout the book, her personality reminded me of Holly Golightly. I think the book may have referenced the Audrey Hepburn character at some point as well. She is almost whimsical in her ways. She sees everything through a different lens than everyone else. I found myself frustrated with her at times, but ultimately came to understand her better as Mahogany Slade. 

About the Author: Stephen Robinson graduated from the University of Georgia in 1996. He has lived in many places but feels at home somewhere else. He’s written for newspapers and magazines. Mahogany Slade is his first work of fiction.

You can find Mahogany Slade on Amazon for $14.95.

Author’s website:

Giveaway Info:
"Mahogany Slade," by Stephen Robinson, is about first love, that moment when your favorite songs suddenly make sense because they're now about someone else. 

Post a note on the wall of the "Mahogany Slade" Facebook page telling us what song or movie will always remind you of your own Mahogany Slade... even if it's been years since you met.

The author will give a copy of "Mahogany Slade" to his 10 favorite posts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Wired Welcome

I’ve been doing some crafty little DIY’s lately, but I lost my digital camera charger, so I have been taking pictures with my cell phone. (BOOOO!!!!!)

I’ve been working on decorating our entryway. Here is the shelf I recently added:

The shelf is a Goodwill find, I painted the canvas, and also made the welcome sign.
I’ll share details about the shelf and canvas later. 

Today, I’m going to share with you how I made the Welcome sign.

I wanted something simple to put on the shelf in my foyer since it isn’t a large space. 
It was pretty easy. The worst part was how sore my hands were after working with wire for a few hours. 

Here’s what you need:

You don’t really need two different gauges of wire, but I used both. It was easier to wrap the thinner wire around the spots where I had to join the hangers together to better secure the link, and then cover it with the thicker wire.

Untwist your hangers and use the pliers to help you form the word you want to use.

It’s ok if it isn’t perfect. When you wrap the wire around it, you can better shape or smooth your letters.

Start wrapping the wire around your hanger word. 
Continue wrapping it around, covering the hanger as completely as possible.

Continue wrapping the wire around until you’ve completely covered your word. 

I know it’s not as perfect as something I could buy at the store, but I like that about my DIY’s. It gives them character. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Catch the Sun Book Review and Giveaway!

Marilyn Monroe begins appearing on Amanda Grace’s patio dancing, laughing at the moon and gazing at Amanda through the glass doors. Is it possible that Marilyn, against all reason, has somehow transported herself through time and space to contemporary Los Angeles? And why does she haunt Amanda, a model whose beauty is undeniable, but whose talent is questionable?

The visitations begin when Amanda’s mother, Edith, commits suicide, an event that shakes Amanda to her foundation. For, while she has been a successful model, she has always measured herself against her mother, a well-known artist who has overcome severe obstacles. But unlike Edith and her accomplished sister, Joanne, Amanda Grace has not distinguished herself intellectually or artistically, nor even managed to marry and have children. In her eyes, she has failed to live up to her mother’s expectations. Now, with Edith’s death, she has forever lost her chance to prove herself. In her grief, she forgets to eat, sleep, or carry on with life’s simplest tasks. The final blow comes when Amanda accidentally learns she was adopted. With the loss of her family as a touchstone, her foundation crumbles, and her fragile sense of self dissolves completely.

CATCH THE SUN is a story about how an obsession with a celebrity can impact the life of an ordinary woman. It explores our endless fascination with Marilyn Monroe’s fragility, beauty and dazzling rise and fall.


I really enjoyed how the characters were entertwined in this story. I love the glimpses into Marilyn Monroe’s life in the 1960’s. Amanda Grace’s mother had briefly known the Hollywood starlet when Amanda was small. Amanda had even sat on her lap as a child. She only vaguely remembered those moments, but they had happened. As Amanda’s character is introduce and the story develops, we see striking similarities between Amanda Grace and Marilyn Monroe. They both had a public persona to present to the world, but were really hiding behind the mask their personas created. Both struggled with addictions and depression. Their lives were spiraling out of control with no end in sight. 

Amanda Grace was a beautiful young model with hopes of becoming an actress. When her mother, Edith Lindsay, a famous artist, commits suicide, she and her sister are left to pick up the pieces and take care of her estate. During the process of cleaning out their mother’s house, Amanda’s younger sister Joanne finds a paper that reveals that Amanda had been adopted. Upon realizing this, Amanda goes into a deeper depression than before. Not knowing who she is or where she came from pushes her farther away from those who love her. She goes to her father for answers, and during the visit he gives her a script for a movie about Marilyn Monroe. Amanda had been having visions of Marilyn Monroe outside her apartment since her mother passed away, and this only encouraged her even more to find out everything she could about her. 

Amanda Grace has to find someone to produce the movie her father had provided her. She needed to sell the idea of another movie about Marilyn Monroe. She studied everything she could about the blonde bombshell. She watched her movies, mimicked her motions, began talking like her, dyed her hair, and read every book and article she could get her hands on. During this time, she convinced herself she was the only one fit to play Marilyn. No one else could do it like her. She was born for this role. Unfortunately, the producers she contacted didn’t agree. Her movie and her Marilyn persona were both rejected, leaving her heartbroken and dejected. 

About the Author

Lee Zamloch lives on the Central Coast of California where she writes fiction. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals and she has won several honors for her writing including the Booklegger Award for best submission of the year from Toyon and honorable mentions from the Nelson Algren Award, and Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. She has published two novels which are available from in both print and kindle editions. She is currently at work on her next novel.

Lee has been a teacher, a consultant, a college professor and a program designer. She enjoys hiking, reading, traveling and romping with her two Siberian huskies, Sunny and Storm.

You can win an e-book copy of Catch the Sun by entering the rafflecopter giveaway below!

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