Thursday, January 30, 2020

Meet Anne Armistead, Storyologist. #Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 9:52:00 PM with 1 comment

Anne Armistead describes herself as a storyologist, a term I love. 
She currently has two books out - Dangerous Conjurings (Soul Mate Publishing) and With Kisses from  Cécile   (Storyology Design & Publishing, co-author Jan Agnello). Anne and Jan are working on the next book in their Second Chance historical romance series, tentatively titled A Message for Mirabelle. 
Anne is giving away one Kindle copy each of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE. and  DANGEROUS CONJURINGSThere's a Rafflecopter at the end of the post.
Anne, please tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Georgia and received my English literature degree from the University of Georgia and my MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. My background includes project management with AT&T and teaching English at the middle, high, and college levels. I met my “Jersey-boy” husband at a training class we both attended at AT&T.
We are a house divided, with me a UGA grad and John a Tech grad, but we suffer through it. We have two grown daughters, and we completely spoil our sweet rescue mutt Jackpot, so named because we hit the jackpot when we adopted him. I am a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the Southeastern Writers Association, and the Historical Novel Society.
. Aha! A fellow UGA grad. I graduated in 1964,

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when you decided to self-publish WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE?
Jan Agnello and I met ten years ago at an Atlanta Writers Club meeting, where we are both members. She was working on a draft of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE. I fell in love with Cécile, a young French woman who was a pen pal with Jan’s grandmother from 1919-1921. Jan has all the original letters Cécile wrote to Ruth and was working on developing a story around the events of both of their lives which intersected through their exchange of their letters. Jan, an antique dealer and jewelry designer whose company is called Storyology Design, asked if I might be interested in working on writing the story with her, and our collaboration began.

Life intervened during the past decade, resulting in us delaying and delaying the completion of this writing project. When we resuscitated our efforts in 2018, our lives were at a point where we could focus on its completion, finally!

During the past decade, Jan had become well-known for her antique coin purse necklaces and jewelry designing, as well as for her antique dealership. I had met with success in publishing DANGEROUS CONJURINGS, an historical romance, as well as writing historical fiction for Highlights Magazine (published under my legal name Sandra Havriluk).

We brainstormed extending her company Storyology Design into Storyology Design & Publication, and we defined who a “Storyologist” is: A seeker of hidden stories, past and present. We decided to self-publish a series of historical novels with each featuring a collection of jewelry and gifts to accompany the experience of reading the novels. We, of course, picked back up with CÉCILE to be our first self-publishing venture, which we released in September 2019, with the CÉCILE JEWELRY & GIFT COLLECTION accompanying it.

Jan’s presence at the two largest antique markets in the Southeast monthly (Scotts and Lakewood) provides us with these unique venues to sell our books directly to the public, and we have met with good book sales results via this marketing outlet, as well as online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and our website.

You can learn more about our “story” and the books, jewelry, and gifts by visiting our website

Did you hire an editor?

Once we had a completed version of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, we hired a wonderful editor, Mary Beth Bishop, who thoroughly edited for story continuity as well as grammar, etc. What we thought was a completed version became what truly is our completed version that we published. Paying for a professional editor added to the overall bottom line of cost considerably, but that money was very well-spent. I recommend any author who is going to self-publish to work this cost into the budget.

How did you choose the cover? 

The book’s cover is a photograph from Jan’s design of materials. She used a beautiful antique jewelry box whose interior fabric evokes the French blue feel we wanted for the cover. She arranged a collage of CÉCILE’s letters, as well as photos of Ruth and Cécile, and draped the signature Eiffel Tower pendant on the Victorian book chain necklace over it. The necklace is Jan’s design for the CÉCILE COLLECTION. The pendant reflects French icons from the 1919 era, and each engraved link of the book chain necklace is unique. Lovely.

Other than your own, who are your current favorite authors in your genre of historical fiction?
Oh, so many incredible authors and books, and so little time!....

Nina George’s Little Paris Bookshop is a masterpiece. I am totally in love with this book. Drop everything and read it NOW if you can! I enjoy the collaborative novels by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatrix Williams, and can’t wait to read their latest, All The Ways We Said Goodbye, a Novel of the Ritz Paris. I love Jennifer Robson, Somewhere in France being my favorite, and I enjoyed The Gown. Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours is un-put-downable. I am reading Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman. I absolutely love Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge series, starting with A Test of Wills. I also enjoy Anthony Horowitz’s books (drawn to him because of I loved his Foyle’s War series.)

What is the most exciting moment, so far, in your writing career?

I would have to say that opening up the box of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE with Jan is a high point in my writing career. This story was such a labor of absolute love, and to bring it to reality in such a beautifully published book brought tears of joy. Here we are, opening that box!
Another never-to-be-forgotten thrill was seeing my first short story beautifully illustrated and published in Highlights made my heart pound because I grew up reading this magazine as a child and dreamed of one day seeing my byline in it.

I also have a binder of many certificates from being a finalist and winner in multiple writing contests, which I look through when I feel writer’s doubt creeping in and the blank page staring at me! You are not alone. I used to think it was just me, but most of my favorite writers experience that all the time.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?

Obviously, I love reading. I am a fan of British series, and enjoy police procedurals such as Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and more (thank heaven for Acorn and Britbox!)
I enjoy my twice-weekly Pilates class, which I refer to as my torture hours, and I also enjoy traveling with friends and family. I just recently visited with my brother, who lives in Grand Cayman.

NOW: Maggie Ruth Mitchell’s failed reconciliation with her unfaithful husband leaves her heartbroken—and pregnant. She accepts her family’s invitation to Paris to pay homage to Cécile, whose pen pal letters from 1919 to Maggie’s great-grandmother Ruth are cherished family mementoes. Through reading Cécile’s letters and learning about Ruth’s tragic past, will Maggie find the strength to forgive and love again?

THEN: In the year 1919 following World War One, Ruth and Cécile begin corresponding through an American-French pen pal program. Cécile is fighting against consumption, a life-threatening illness. Ruth is hiding the truth about a tragic death that has torn her family apart. She draws strength to face what fate brings from her pen pal’s inspiring letters, each signed With Kisses from Cécile.


With the mysterious and handsome Civil War veteran Marcus Quinn at her side, Leah Sullivan chases after the evil conjurer who has kidnapped her brother. The couple’s passion heats up while sleeping under the stars only inches apart and surrounded by peril. However, through a cruel twist of fate, Leah discovers the devastating secret about Marcus’s past that breaks her heart and jeopardizes her brother’s rescue. Will Leah’s love for Marcus be powerful enough to overcome his betrayal? Or will dangerous conjurings doom their future together?

You have three more books planned for your Storyology Design & Publication “Second Chances” Series. What are they?
In addition to WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, our two other books in our Second Chance Series are tentatively titled A MESSAGE FOR MIRABELLE (time travel to the Paris Exhibition of 1900) and FAN FAIRE (a romance set against a young woman’s visit to Paris during her Grand Tour of Europe in 1890). In addition to the theme of second chances, you will note that Paris is the setting for these books! Also, the stories owe their genesis to antiques that Jan is an expert about (antique coin purse in MIRABELLE and antique fans in FAN FAIRE).

And finally, where can we find you?

Author Website

Storyology Design & Publication Website




Thank you for being here, Anne, I wish you many sales and many more books. Readers, here are excerpts from the books.  Enter to win a copy below. 
Happy Reading.



Copyright © 2019 by Jan Agnello and Anne Armistead

All rights reserved
With Kisses from Cécile



The mad rush to the airport distracted Maggie from Cole’s multiple texts, each pleading for them to meet. She reached the limit of her patience while waiting in the security line and blocked his number. She would not let him continue to intrude on this trip.

Once settled into their first-class seats, Maggie half-seriously wondered if having an estranged father intent on buying her affection was too awful. Obviously, he had spared no expense to make sure she and Grams would enjoy themselves.

Once in the air, Maggie’s tension melted a bit. They were on their way. She leaned back her window seat, grateful Grams preferred the aisle. The couple across from them, young and obviously in love, reminded Maggie of how she thought her first trip to Paris would be with Cole. She looked out the window to hide her welling tears from her grandmother. No matter how emphatically she told herself she was done crying about the end of her marriage, she obviously wasn’t. Damn.

“Maggie, dear. You’re deep in thought.”

Maggie forced control of her emotions before facing Grams. “Deep in thought about Paris. I can’t believe we’ll soon be there.”

Grams reached into the canvas travel bag stored under the seat in front of her. She’d insisted on carrying it on. She pulled out a decorative wooden box with words in French engraved on its lid.

“Now that we’re on our way, it’s time I introduce you to Cécile.” She patted the top of the box. “The first letter Cécile posted to Ruth was on June 28, 1919, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, ending the war.”

She handed the box to Maggie, adding softly, “The Great War, they called it. They believed it to be the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, many wars have followed, claiming too many lives.”

Maggie realized Grams must be thinking of her own husband’s death. She’d never remarried, raising her daughter alone on a secretary’s salary and military death benefits. Maggie’s throat burned. Everything prompted her to cry now, even the death of the grandfather she’d never met.

She pulled down her seat tray and placed the box onto it. Tracing the engraved words with her fingers, she read them out loud in her halting high school French. “Il n’ya que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent pas.” Maggie looked questioningly at Grams.

“Cécile wrote that in one of her letters to my mother. Can you translate it?”

Maggie studied the words once more, translating slowly. “Something about mountains. It is only mountains that never meet?” She furrowed her brow in confusion.

“You translated it literally, but what it means is ‘There are none so distant that fate cannot bring them together.’ It’s an old French proverb.”

The saying opened for Maggie the wound of her failed marriage. Nothing could bridge the distance between her and Cole.

Grams added, “Our trip is in tribute to Ruth and Cécile. All the miles between them, along with what fate had in store for each, kept them from meeting. We are thwarting that fate by our trip, though. Their friendship lives on through me, through you. Through your children, Maggie.”

That sixth sense of yours, Grams, Maggie thought. She brushed her fingertips across the engraving again. She opened the box. “I can’t wait to begin reading the letters.”

The scent from the box’s interior reminded her of old books, combined with something tangier. Maggie held one of the envelopes to her nose. “It smells faintly of tobacco.”

“My mother kept the letters in an old cigar box of her father’s until she received this box, a wedding gift from my father — your great-grandfather Clinton. He knew she would enjoy its touch of secrecy.” She put her finger on an unnoticeable button on the inside of the box, and a bottom drawer came ajar.

“Oh, look at that!” Maggie pointed. “A secret compartment.”

“Yes. That’s where my mother kept this lovely necklace my father gave her.” Grams dangled the chain with a coin-like medallion hanging from it. Pressed into the medallion were the initials CC.

“It’s charming,” Maggie said.

“Yes. How coincidental that the two most special people in my mother’s life shared the same initials: Clinton Carlock and Cécile Cosquéric.” Grams returned the necklace to the drawer. “The story behind this gift will keep for now. It’s all part of a larger one I will share with you.”

“It’s one I can’t wait to hear, Grams.” Maggie studied the envelope she still held. The teacher in her admired the perfect cursive swirls. If only her students could write that legibly! Her mother had been right. Ideas whirled in Maggie’s mind about how to integrate Cécile’s letters into her World War One lesson plans. She couldn’t believe Grams had kept these treasures from her this long!

She read the envelope’s address out loud. “Colorado Springs? Hasn’t our family always lived in the Oakland area?”

“Not always. My mother’s family actually lived in Colorado Springs on a farm when she was a child. She moved to Oakland right after she and Cécile exchanged their first letters.” Grams rested her head against her seatback and stared past Maggie, into the darkening sky. “The move was difficult and for difficult reasons.”

Maggie’s eyes widened. “My curiosity is brimming after what Mom said last night. I’m guessing you’ve been hiding deep, dark family secrets from me?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.” Grams’s serious reply heightened Maggie’s curiosity.

“Oh, my,” Maggie said. “I had no idea.”

The idea of family secrets and skeletons in the closet was both intriguing and surprising. Yet she withheld her own secret. How much longer could she keep quiet about her news?

She carefully flipped through the bundle of letters, recognizing different handwriting on a couple of the envelopes. The last envelope, addressed in that different handwriting, showed the postmark of January 1921. What had happened to end the two girls’ correspondence?

Maggie angled her body into the corner of the spacious window seat, giving silent thanks once more for traveling first-class. “We have a long flight,” she said. “I’m your captive audience.”


Copyright © 2018 by Anne Armistead

All rights reserved
Dangerous Conjurings

On the first of September, a stranger came to call.

I was cutting and gathering into a basket the sunflowers Mama fussed over. "At least the Yankees didn’t stampede the flower garden," she always said. The jaunty flowers served as a small comfort, as far as I was concerned.

Curiosity over the caller set my pulse singing. A visitor was such an oddity. He must be lost and in need of directions.

The skinny reddish mare from which he dismounted appeared sore in need of tending, and so did he. The tell-tale signs he had been a soldier were apparent from his saddlebags, bed roll, canteen, lead and picket rope, tent half, and poncho, all War-issued. His faded trousers with the yellow stripe down their sides marked him as Cavalry. His sack coat bore the dust of many days’ travel. His haversack was slung from his shoulder and slouch hat was tugged over his brow.

He looped his reins around the hitching post by the front porch steps and was making his way to the door. His gait favored his left leg, a war injury I assumed.

Preparing to greet him, I straightened my work dress and checked the ties of my work apron, thankful I was not attired in William’s work trousers I had taken so often to wearing. I patted my hair which I had gathered into one of Mama’s yarn snoods to keep off my neck.

Walking toward the porch with basket in one hand and scissors in the other, I reminded myself it was not this survivor’s fault that William and Fitz were gone. No matter how hard I tried not to blame those who had survived the War, I couldn’t help it. I lay awake nights wrestling with the unanswerable question of why Fitz and William were taken and others spared.

I forced warmth into my voice. "Welcome, sir."

His quick turn showed I startled him. He tugged his hat’s brim. "Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you."

He held his hand out to assist me up the stairs, his touch firm yet gentle. His broad-shouldered body cast a shadow over me, blocking the slant of the late afternoon sun. Withdrawing my hand from his, my introduction tumbled out. "I’m Leah Sullivan. And you are?"

He hesitated to answer. Had I been improper in introducing myself first? Should I have curtsied? Waited for him to have spoken first? I hadn’t a clue. It had been so long since I had been in the company of others. Hotness crept across my cheeks.

He removed his hat, revealing handsome features, set off by cornflower blue eyes flecked with black. They held the same expression as Daddy’s, one of aged tiredness that told of the horrors of battle. He, as had all soldiers, had endured such suffering. Sympathy overtook my initial resentment.

"My name is Marcus Quinn, ma’am." His voice held a quiet fatigue.

I slightly bowed my head to avert my gaze. "Pleased to make your acquaintance." An awkwardness settled between us until my curiosity over his visit overcame it. "What brings you here, Mr. Quinn?"

His posture stiffened, as if my question had been too forward. His reserved mask cracked, exposing the raw sorrow I’d seen so often on Daddy’s face. His one-word answer was an unexpected one. "William."

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

January Wonderfulness.Part Two #giveaway Paperback Irish Magic

Posted by Susan B James on 8:00:00 PM with 4 comments
Happy January 21 etc.
More to tell
I have a role in Joel Coen's production of Macbeth. It stars Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington. I play Lady Macbeth's lady in waiting. At the first script reading, they let me read all three witches. I can't even begin to describe how I felt. But floating on air in a Shakespearean haze of wonderfulness is a start.

They are moving things around during the readings. Tuesday I get to play my part and an old man.
Last Thursday I sid a role in a TV series called Schooled. Friday I will be working on a TV series called AP Bio. I had to turn down an audition today.
My sister and my friend Don repainted my hall and made it beautiful.
Walter is helping with his brother Eugene. My sister is still here. Life is currently magical. I am giving away a second copy of Irish Magic.
Older news:
Irish Magic:
The print copy is up for preorder. And I got my copies last week. It feels so good to hold the book in my hand,

And the audiobook is now available on Scribed, Google Play, Apple Books for 8.95 and its on sale at Nook for 6.95. I used Findaway Books to distribute it, so I was able to set my own price.
Later this month it will be available on Audible and Amazon. It is also available at some libraries but I haven't yet found out which.

I have a new grandson. Eugene Keaton Howard-Corbin was born under the full moon, January 10 at 8:19PM weight 8 pounds and measuring 19".

I am giving away another paperback copy of Irish Magic which is available for pre-order for 14.99. Please leave me a comment with your email address to win it.
Happy reading all.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Robyn Carr Release The Country Guesthouse #giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with No comments
Happy New Year, all.
I got a note from Little Bird Publicity asking if I had gotten my copy of The Country Guesthouse. I got it last week, It came in hardcover. I haven't read it yet as I didn't know it was coming out January 7th as a hardcover, audiobook and eCopy. 
Somehow our wires got crossed.  
has a 4.5 rating on Goodreads and I will give away my copy after I read it. If you are interested, enter below.

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers an emotional and triumphant novel about the fierce power of a mother’s love.
Here is the Goodreads link:
Sounds like a wonderful read. I was saving it as a treat. But now I'll get started.

7 is my lucky number. I didn't have a blog in mind and Robyn's book gave me one. Tomorrow I have a producer audition for a wonderful movie starring a fabulous actress.  I want to book this one. 6 is lucky this week too. My advance copies of the paperback of Irish Magic came. (That's next week's blog.)
Happy reading.

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