Saturday, December 23, 2023

Hall Ways is Taking a Winter Break

Click to see the fifty books we featured this year!

While my business (ICYMI, Lone Star Literary Life) is taking a break, so am I! I'm getting rested and catching up (okay, I'll NEVER catch up) on my reading. Be back soon!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Porter & Midge: Paws and Playtime ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Blitz & Giveaway!

Jennie Chen and Giselle Nevada

Children's Picture Book / Pet Care / Dog Training
Series: Porter and Midge series
Publisher: Raise the Woof Press LLC
Page Count: 32 pages
Publication date: December 12, 2023

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Discover the enchanting world of Porter and Midge: Paws and Playtime - a rhyming children's book that follows the heartwarming bond between two furry friends, Mastiff Porter and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Midge, and their devoted companions, CJ and Lora.

On a sunny day, CJ's thoughtful idea sets the stage for a joyful exploration of new ways to make Porter and Midge's days even brighter.

Through rhythmic verses, follow their journey as they uncover imaginative games, canine enrichment activities, and thrilling dog sports, all while strengthening their unbreakable connection.

Giselle Nevada has owned several mastiffs, acquired both from reputable breeders and via rescue. Fostering rescued mastiffs and helping them work through their issues led to a keen interest in socialization as a means of preventing future issues. She loves working with her dogs and has dabbled in carting, conformation, agility, rally, trick dog, nose work, and many other canine sports. Her puppy Porter is a testament to early socialization - he has achieved many performance dog titles and has done commercial work. He also has a role in a movie called Match Me If You Can directed by Marian Yeager.

Jennie Chen is a homesick Austinite who founded Keep Austin Dog Friendly. Over the last 20 years, Jennie has owned Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Lowchen. She has earned numerous titles in conformation, competitive obedience, rally, herding, animal assisted therapy, and more. She is passionate about the relationship people build with their beloved canines, and she has been an advocate for people living with disabilities who need a service dog to live independently. She is active in various dog clubs and can be seen on AKC.TV from time to time.

Pawtographed hardcover copy of Porter and Midge: Paws for Safety
+ a series water bottle
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/21/2023)



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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Magic Machine Series ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Series Spotlight!

Preston Lewis
and Harriet Kocher Lewis

The intent of these books was to see how artificial intelligence (A.I.) dealt with the Bible and with humor. Since A.I. is generated by godless algorithms and computers, the authors sought to see if ChatGPT would treat faith issues with respect, especially in a world where Christianity is coming under increasing attacks and where the architects of A.I. seem to demean religion regularly. Additionally, the authors sought to see if A.I. had a sense of humor and if ChatGPT could generate rib-tickling jokes based on some standard comic memes and on topical and controversial issues in contemporary culture.

The results were surprising with A.I. generally being respectful of religious issues but failing to show a refined sense of humor. The books provide as much insight on artificial intelligence’s “thinking” as much as it does faith and comedy.

ABOUT DEVOTIONALS FROM A SOULLESS MACHINE: With the release of OpenAI making ChatGPT available to the public in 2022, the authors wondered how a soulless machine would interpret biblical verses.  Would the results from a godless computer be derogatory or supportive of their Christian beliefs?  Using some of the most beloved verses as well as several of the more disturbing passages from the Bible, Preston and Harriet Lewis began a faith journey through artificial intelligence that provided surprising results.

Devotionals from a Soulless Machine: A Journey of Faith through Artificial Intelligence takes the reader along as these two laypersons explore how A.I. interprets God’s message and the basic tenets of Christianity.  The co-authors prompted ChatGPT to develop a devotional of 500 words or less along with a related prayer on more than a hundred biblical verses, including some of the most-recognized verses as well as some of the most obscure or vile passages never covered in Sunday school lessons.

In the end the exercise provided the authors with some reassurances about how artificial intelligence can support religious growth as well as raising questions about the technology’s long-term implications for the religious experience.  Devotionals from a Soulless Machine: A Journey of Faith through Artificial Intelligence provides an eye-opening look into the majesty of Christian convictions, even in the age of algorithms and chatbots.

ABOUT JOKES FROM A HUMORLESS MACHINE: Jokes from a Humorless Machine: A Comedic Romp through Artificial Intelligence explores whether AI, specifically ChatGPT, has enough of a sense of humor to create jokes that will tickle the funny bone of contemporary Americans.  Through a series of prompts, the authors asked ChatGPT to develop jokes on classic themes as well as contemporary issues with surprising results, all demonstrating AI's sense of humor as shaped by its algorithmic woke sensibilities.

Authors Preston Lewis and Harriet Kocher Lewis prompted ChatGPT to develop jokes on themes like knock-knock, yo mama, three fellows enter a bar and the reason the chicken crossed the road.  Then they moved on to more contemporary issues like politics, politicians and gender identify, challenging ChatGPT to find humor in modern culture.  Finally, the authors seek from ChatGPT observations on contemporary culture in the style of several American humorists and more recent comedians.

In the process, the authors not only touched on the history of classic comedic memes but also discover biases in the resulting AI output.  Are the jokes sensitive?  Absolutely!  Are they politically correct?  Without a doubt!  Are the jokes funny?  The reader will decide.

Preston Lewis is the award-winning author of more than 50 novels and nonfiction books as well as numerous articles, short stories and book reviews. He began his career working at four Texas newspapers before moving into higher education communications and marketing at Texas Tech University and Angelo State University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University plus master’s degrees from Ohio State University in journalism and Angelo State in history. Lewis’s honors include two Spur Awards for western novels and articles from Western Writers of America as well as nine Will Rogers Medallion Awards for western humor, novels, short stories and articles.

Harriet Kocher Lewis is a retired physical therapist and academician at Angelo State University, where she co-authored or edited numerous scientific articles or professional presentations. Her other writings include several published meditations for her church. As a member of an American Physical Therapy Association work group, she helped write the advanced level clinical education curriculum for therapists nationally. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology/PT at Baylor University as well as a PT certificate from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Lewis also has a master’s degree from Texas Tech University in health, physical education and recreation with an industrial engineering minor. She is the wife of Preston Lewis, the mother of two and the grandmother of five.


or visit the blogs directly:


Hall Ways Blog

Series Spotlight





Forgotten Winds

Review Jokes


Book Fidelity

Review Devotionals


The Real World According to Sam

Review Jokes


The Plain-Spoken Pen

Review Devotionals


Jennie Reads

Review Jokes


Librariel Book Adventures

Review Devotionals


It's Not All Gravy

Review Jokes


Rox Burkey Blog

Review Devotionals


The Page Unbound

Review Jokes

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Monday, December 11, 2023

Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Excerpt & Giveaway!


CG Fewston

Science Fiction / Dystopian / Steampunk
Date of Publication: October 17, 2023
Number of Pages: 381 pages 

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One of resilience and transformation, Conquergood’s life-changing discovery explores the depths of family, memory, love, and the mysteries that lie at the heart of the universe. 

In 2183, Jerome Conquergood is an outcast roaming the abandoned and crumbling skyscrapers of Old York City outside the Korporation’s seductive and dizzying headquarters, a post-apocalyptic security-city for the mega-rich. Despite his hatred for the techno-optimism and the Korporation, Conquergood is compelled to save his mysterious twin brother Vincent by joining the Korporation, a mega-corporate and governmental entity in a world oppressed to peace.

Excerpt from From Book Two, Chapter II, “Lesson XI”
Conquergood & the Center of
the Intelligible Mystery of Being

Note from the author: The below excerpt details how books will always be important to humanity and to the survival of civilization, even if that is on an invisible moral level with the inheritance of passing knowledge down to future generations.

The scene takes place in the basements of the Korporation’s mega-city-like headquarters. The Korporation has built its foundations upon the Korporate Library, which is located deep underground and was once the New York City Public Library. 

= = = 

“I remember,” Conquergood whispers into the limitless virtual holo-sky. “I do remember.”

He drops his gaze from off the digital ceiling and in a state of fervid alacrity Conquergood recasts the first library he had ever been in.

“Fifth Avenue,” he says to himself, spinning inward in the silent erudition of self-discovery.

In his mind’s eye, still hovering high above the compass imprinted upon the library floor, he witnesses the entrance to the Fifth Avenue Library: a staircase with a prostrate stone lion on one side and a stone vase on the other.

Mentally, Conquergood moves through four towering columns into the effulgent New York City Public Library. His vision catches sight of a similar sign which now hangs on the entrance to the Korporate Library. And it is the name — John Milton — which halts the memory.

“Yes, I do remember Paradise Lost and a great many others.” Conquergood struggles into the depths of his eternal soul. “But that can’t be. That’s impossible. That was so very long ago.” How long? He does not remember.

Uncomprehending, he struggles with the memory as his frantic mind races with meta-calculations. In his memory, he continues seeing rows of long wooden tables with entrenched readers intent on unlocking secrets away from the pages before them, before the time of the World Wide Web and the virtual environments, separating humanity from the natural world of touch and taste and smell. Chandeliers of such exorbitant sunshine reflecting its clean light upon a white floor and its brown walkway in between rows of tables. Buttresses lining the walls, windows giving ease to the artificial glow from above. And Conquergood is seeing it all — as clear as any memory from five minutes ago. 

Conquergood remains embodied in both libraries, being two places at once, propagating between both worlds, the real and the recollection. He welcomes the exotic sensations the journey carries, admiring his own awe of what libraries had been, before the Era of Digitization conquered them; the rules of being forbidden to speak above a whisper cascade back onto his memories, as well as the mustiness of age and wisdom being on free display, and he remembers how these holy sites often went un-used and became under-valued over the generations.

Conquergood can now recall how he had behaved on his first visit to the library. As a small boy he had been nervous with polite reverence, uncertain of which way to turn, of which aisle to discover, and which row to select from, of which bookshelf to choose from, of which book he should pull from its everlasting hearth, of which pages he should read from in order to breathe in its fiery passions to fill a dulled boy’s heart, igniting a mind to inspire upon ‘a life beyond life.’ The books had held lives of their own back then. But now he also knows that these books had made up a whole body, as though each book was a cell in a living organism in a state of repetitive meditation and waiting for the hand to pluck them from the tree which bears endless fruit. Feeling overwhelmed, Conquergood reluctantly leaves his memory-vision.

After selecting several more books, Conquergood glides down on the hover-slide and locates one of two old-fashioned Georgian style leather armchairs next to a small table and banker’s lamp with bronze base and an amber mica shade. Above the two chairs is an oil painting, “Still-Life of Books, 1628” by Jan Davidsz, and Conquergood sees in the painting a violin placed on a wooden desk among scattered manuscripts.

Starting from the beginning of the first book he chose, and savoring each morsel of each word on his lips — as a dehydrated man does in a desert when an oasis can be found just in time to save his life — Conquergood finishes the book in under three hours.

Each phoneme grasps and wets his tongue in unexpected new language and cognizance. He finishes the book, places it down on the side stand, and in a fit of bedlam and clarity, juxtaposed with his soul, says aloud,

“I’m the ghost that’s always around, but nowhere to be found. Why is that?”

Out of the decades of change and virtual globalization, Conquergood can hear the author’s voice echoing concrete certitude from the page:

“Without the library, you have no civilization.”

Photo credit: Thor
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s been a member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.

Fewston is the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son, The New America: Collection, The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts, Vanity of Vanities, A Time to Love in Tehran, Little Hometown, America, A Time to Forget in East Berlin, and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being.


1st: $100 Amazon card + eBook or paperback of Conquergood
2nd: $50 Amazon card + eBook or paperback
3rd: $25 Amazon card + eBook or paperback
4th: Book Lover's gift bundle + eBook or paperback
5th: Book Lover's blanket + eBook or paperback
6th: Book Lover's tote bag + eBook or paperback
(US Only; ends 12/21/23)

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Second Chances: Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles 17 ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!


Seasons 1 & 2
The Underground Authors

Scroll down for a giveaway!

Each stand-alone book in this multi-author crime novel series is set in the fictitious, beautiful little Texas Hill Country town of Magnolia Bluff. Each author writes in their preferred sub-genre to allow readers to experience humor, dark dilemmas, suspense, romance, thrills, and spills — told through good storytelling that will keep readers awake past their bedtime, trying to find out whodunit.

Season three of The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles begins in January 2024. Stay tuned.

Second Chances by Joe Congel
Small Town & Rural Fiction / Murder / Mystery
Publication Date: September 18, 2023
Page Count: 262 pages

Retired New York Police Detective, Brandon Turner wanted to move as far away from the Big Apple as possible. Pointing a finger at a map, he ends up in Magnolia Bluff, a small town in the Texas Hill Country.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to retire here as he’d hoped. While exploring a park with his dog and the real-estate agent showing him the property, they discover a body. They report the death and, as far as Turner is concerned, that’s where it ends. But it’s not that simple.

This body was not the first. There were others and all the evidence points to drugs. The local police are not savvy enough to solve these crimes on their own and ask Turner for help. But the former detective has other ideas. He intends to leave his past life where it belongs…in the past. But he soon realizes that he just can’t stay away from the case. Vowing not to work with the local detective, Turner begins his own investigation, putting himself, his dog, and the woman he just met in danger.

Can Turner and the local police set aside their differences long enough to stop a potential drug ring from destroying more lives? The town’s residents are counting on it. As for Turner, he just wants to solve this case as soon as possible so he can start enjoying his retirement.

Popping in on my blog today is Jill Anderson, my right hand gal and oh-so-bookish member of the Lone Star Literary Life corporate team. When we had an unexpected last minute change to our tour schedule, Jill jumped right in and volunteered to read Joe Congel's book. And now I really want to read it too (and so will you). Jill doesn't have a blog (yet?), so I volunteered my own. Enjoy! --Kristine

JILL'S GUEST REVIEW: Second Chances by Joe Congel is book 17 in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles series. Author Joe Congel weaves together a compelling mystery that will keep you in your seat until the last page, and leave you wishing for more.

Brandon Turner decides to leave New York City and his career as a narcotics officer for a simpler life. Pointing randomly at a map leads him to Magnolia Bluff, Texas, a small town near Austin where life appears slower—but looks can be deceiving. While with his real estate agent, Joyce, they stumble across a dead body, and Brandon finds himself pulled into the investigation. Will Brandon be able to find the peaceful life he’s searching for, or will this murder be the death of his dreams?

Joe Congel brings Magnolia Bluff, Texas, to life in this tightly-crafted whodunit. Fantastic action and snappy dialogue pull the reader in and don’t let go. It would be easy to lose track in this large cast of characters, but the author keeps a tight focus on the clues while also portraying a slice of life in a small town where everyone knows your business and secrets are hard to keep. Brandon’s tension with Detective Sovern adds the perfect amount of seasoning to this stew of murder and mayhem, keeping the intensity level high at just the right moments.

Brandon is a guy you can easily root for, the kind of guy you hope all cops would be. His budding feelings for Joyce and the portrayal of her as a mom caring for her teenaged son provides a nice counterpoint to the body count piling up in the seedy underbelly of the town. I give this well-crafted mystery a 5 for its effective storytelling and firm grip on the reader. I gulped it down in a day! Although it easily stands alone, I think you’ll find yourself quickly wanting another trip to Magnolia Bluff to see how some of the other characters manage their own mysteries.

Joe Congel grew up in Central New York. After thirty-five years of braving long winters enhanced by lake effect snow, and ridiculously brief summers, he made his way below the Mason-Dixon Line to beautiful Charlotte, NC.

He spent twenty-five plus years helping to raise two wonderful kids into adulthood and now spends his time enjoying his grandson, two granddaughters, baseball, playing guitar, reading, and, of course, writing stories he hopes people will want to read.

1st: $25 Amazon gift card
2nd & 3rd: eBook bundles of first 18 books in the series
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/8/23)


Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Edge of Too Late ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Excerpt, Book Trailer, & Giveaway!

Harbor Pointe Series, #5
Jan Sikes

Ghost Suspense / Contemporary Short Stories / Action & Adventure Romance
Publisher: RiJan Publishing
Date of Publication: November 28, 2023
Number of Pages: 126 pages 

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Brandon Miller has his dream job, financial security, and he's madly in love. Only one thing is missing—a commitment.

Angela Cooper's ex-husband left her with deep scars, souring her on the concept of marriage. She's not interested in a do-over. Not with Brandon or anyone. Her heart is locked securely away behind a thick wall.

With a ring in his pocket and hope in his heart, Brandon arranges a romantic getaway to the historic Harbor Pointe Inn, where he plans to pop the question.

Before they reach the inn, Angela's got her camera in hand and ghosts on her mind. But they arrive to find a much more tangible horror.

Accident or foul play?

Someone is up to no good, and Angela is the next target. When suspects can be worldly or otherworldly, danger and secrets lurk everywhere.

Poised at the perilous edge of too late, Angela and Brandon face the fight of their lives.

Excerpt from The Edge of Too Late

by Jan Sikes


As they neared the docking area, the towering lighthouse came into view.

She pointed. “I love that they have it illuminated at night, even though it’s not really necessary anymore.”

“It’s visible from a long way off. I can only imagine how beneficial it was for ships back in its day to keep them from running aground on the rocks.” He removed his arm from her shoulders. 

“True.” She laced her fingers through his. “When I read up on the history of this area, I came across a story about a ship called the Zenobia that broke apart in 1876 during a rare hurricane and almost sank. It was miraculously recovered. Somehow, I have to think the lighthouse may have played a part in that disaster being averted.”

“I’m sure it did.” He stood and pulled her to her feet. “Let’s move to the bow for the approach.” He put a hand on the small of her back to steady her as the waves rocked the schooner. They joined two other couples already at the vantage point. He widened his stance and wrapped his arms around her. The light floral scent from her shampoo tickled his nostrils. God, how he loved this woman.

If she turned him down tomorrow…

His stomach clenched. He wouldn’t think about it.

When she stiffened against him, he followed her gaze to the top of the lighthouse. “What is it, Angi?”

“Did you see that?” she whispered.

“See what?”

“It’s that same woman I saw when we first arrived. She’s out on the widow’s walk.”

Brandon peered through the increasing darkness, not seeing any figure.

“Perhaps it’s only a shadow.”

“I don’t think so. There were no shadows in the daytime when I first saw her.” She rubbed her arms. “Look, I’ve got goosebumps. I think it’s a restless spirit.”

While he wanted to believe her, as hard as he stared, he saw nothing but soft illumination from the light piercing through the inky darkness.

She let out a soft gasp followed by a shriek. “Oh, my God! She jumped.”

Brandon’s skin prickled, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end.


Angi shuddered as the figure plummeted toward the ocean. Why could no one else see it? The couples around them stared, then looked away as if embarrassed for her.

Brandon tightened his grip.

It stung that he didn’t believe her. For a brief instant, she thought about the woman in the dining room. Her husband didn’t believe her either. Did Bran think she was hallucinating? Was she?

Captain Duke poked his head out of the wheelhouse. “Everything okay out here?”

Angi pointed. “Sir, I just saw a woman jump from the lighthouse into the ocean.” She fought to stop trembling.

“Oh, matey. You’ve seen Viv.”

“Viv?” Angi turned out of Brandon’s arms to face the captain. “She’s real?”

“Well, she was a hundred years ago. Some say Vivian O’Shea committed suicide, but other accounts state she was swept off the widow’s walk by a ferocious gale while watching for the return of her lover’s ship during a massive storm.”

Angi gripped Brandon’s arm, so hard her nails dug into his flesh. But she couldn’t let go. “That’s one of the ghosts I read about. But I swear I saw her.”

“You and lots of others,” Captain Duke rubbed a hand across his forehead. 

“So, you don’t think I’m crazy?”

He laughed. “Not crazy at all.” He swept a dramatic arm around the group. “Anyone else see Viv?”

No one replied, but there were hushed whispers.

“Well, I’ve seen her lots of times, always around this same spot and especially close to a full moon.” He nodded toward Angi. “So, you’re not crazy at all. Maybe gifted, but not crazy.” He ducked back into the wheelhouse to navigate the boat toward the dock.

Brandon hugged her tight. “See. You’re not imagining things. The ghost is real. I wish I could see it.” He rubbed small circles on her back. “Like Captain Duke said, you have a gift.”

“Or curse,” she mumbled into his shirt. 

I really enjoyed having a peek into our main characters' relationship and the turning point in it. Author Jan Sikes quickly gave us a clear impression of both Brandon and Angi, and it made me want to know more! THE EDGE OF TOO LATE felt very much like it could have been pulled right out of the center of a full length novel. Readers get plenty to savor with romance, mystery, action, and a bit of the ghostly element.

I rarely listen to audiobooks at regular speed, but narrator Jessine Van Lopik's pacing was perfect, and from a technical standpoint, the recording was flawless. Van Lopik's voicing of Angi is distinct and fits, as was her voicing of the male characters. (I did giggle every time I hear the pet name Brandon used for Angi channeled a most awesome '70s song by the same name that Helen Reddy nailed. I also couldn't help but hear a voice from the Goonies with Angi's pet name for Brandon.) Unfortunately, there were several other characters and situations where the voicing was distracting and took me way out of the story. So audio gets 3 STARS from me. (The good news is that I listened to an early copy and am told they are working on re-doing some of those parts.)

For now, I'd definitely recommend reading with your eyes, but if you're like me and can't find the time for that, reading with your ears is still time well-spent. At just over 2 hours of listening, it's great quick hit entertainment.


Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale encompassing four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

And now, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published numerous award-winning short stories and novels.

Jan is an active blogger, an avid fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas. 

1st: $20 Amazon gift card
2nd & 3rd: audiobooks of The Edge of Too Late
4th & 5th: eBooks of Flowers and Stone
(US Only; ends midnight, CST 12/15/23)

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