Kindle 99-cent sale today on four books

On Sale January 20th from Thomas-Jacob Publishing


Few of the eccentric inhabitants of her father’s Main Line, Philadelphia estate have much time for Fleur Robins, an awkward child with a devotion to her ailing grandfather, a penchant for flapping and whirling, and a preoccupation with God and the void. While her mother spends much of her time with her hand curled around a wine glass and her abusive father congratulates himself for rescuing babies from “the devil abortionists,” Fleur mourns the fallen petals of a rose and savors the patterns of light rippling across the pool. When she fails to save a baby bird abandoned in her garden, a series of events unfold that change everything.


Billy May Platte is a half Irish, half Cherokee Appalachian woman who learned the hard way that 1940s West Virginia was no place to be different. As Billy May explains, “We was sheltered in them hills. We didn’t know much of nothin’ about life outside of them mountains. I did not know the word lesbian; to us, gay meant havin’ fun and queer meant somethin’ strange.”



Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.




In 1955, at the height of alarm over the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi and after the Supreme Court ruling against school segregation, Associated Press reporter Rachel Feigen travels from Baltimore to Tennessee to report on a missing person case. Guy Saillot’s last contact with his family was a postcard from the Tennessee Bend Motel, a seedy establishment situated on beautiful Cherokee Lake. But they have no record he was ever a guest.




The Writer’s Comfort Zone

Robert Hays

Today’s guest post is by Robert Hays, author of four novels, including Blood on the Roses (Vanilla Heart, July 2011) and The Life and Death of Lizzie Morris (Vanilla Heart, January 2009). He has worked as a newspaper reporter, public relations writer, magazine editor, and university professor and administrator.

The Writer’s Comfort Zone

Most writers seem to do their best work when they stay within their own comfort zone. This may be through genre—once you’ve written a couple or romance novels, for example, or a murder mystery or two, you’re likely to begin a new work of that kind with a better idea of where you’re going with your story and have a good sense of its possibilities and  limitations. I don’t consider myself a genre writer, but after being a journalist for most of my adult life I’m definitely a realist. This means my comfort zone is in settings that will seem familiar to readers and characters that are like people I know. Further, my story line is likely to be based on actual experiences, either my own or those I’ve read about or heard about and can research for realistic detail.

I love Malcolm Campbell’s exotic fantasy novels, particularly since he uses my home region—central Illinois—as a setting. But I could never write what he writes. Or if I did no one would want to read it. I’m glad there are writers, like Malcolm, who are more creative than I.

Being a realist has its advantages. When I decide that I want to tell a story based on some past experience, I’m half way home. This was especially true in the case of my newest work, Blood on the Roses. During my last few years of teaching at the University of Illinois, I learned that students today—our best and brightest twenty-year-olds—have little knowledge of the history of racism in America. Perhaps they’ve heard about it in school, but they don’t really understand it or comprehend how bad it was. They have never experienced anything like it.

Understanding Our Past

I believe we need to know and understand our past. The bitter as well as the sweet, the ugly along with the beautiful. We need to know the wrongs if we are to make sure they don’t happen again.

Blood on the Roses is about racism and other prejudices. It is set in east Tennessee in 1955, which just happens to be the year before I was sent to the South by the U.S. Army and witnessed racial segregation as state policy for the first time. It also is the time of the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi and just months after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation. I remember very well the “Impeach Earl Warren” billboards along major highways in  the South. This all became fodder for my mill, and the reader will understand that this is an authentic story of life at that time.

I love the South. I love Southern people. I’ve been married to one for decades, as a matter of fact. Blood on the Roses is not an indictment of Southern people or the Southern way of life. It is an indictment of racism as it existed then, and as it must never be allowed to exist again. And it is solidly grounded on my realistic journalist’s view of the world as I saw it.

Visit Robert Hays’ blog site at or his personal web site at You may also like his review of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel “The Help.”