Guest Post: Steven Manchester, author of ASHES

It is always an honor when an author agrees to stop by for a visit, it is doubly so when it is a return visit. Today, The Book Diva’s Reads welcomes Steven Manchester, author of the recently released Ashes, Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, and more. Mr. Manchester will be answering some frequently asked questions about writing, his writing, and more. Thank you, Mr. Manchester, for taking time out of your busy schedule and giving us some insight into your thoughts on writing and your writing goals.




Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As far as we know, we only get one shot at this thing called life—so we each need to make it a great one. It’s important to stop wasting time drifting along and take complete responsibility for our lives; living each moment with real intention. 


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Stephen King—not in genre, but in discipline. Stephen King is a prolific writer who is a master of our craft. I have read everything I could get on him and have been inspired.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.


Can you share a little of your current work with us?

In Ashes, two brothers—estranged for fifteen years—are brought together under circumstances that neither can avoid. By trapping them in a car for several long days, I was able to play out some deep, dark emotions that quickly rise to the surface. The outcome proves to be biting and comical exchange that the reader can experience as if they’re sitting right there in the backseat with the box of ashes. Although there are several twists and turns along the way, the goal was to keep the journey real and relatable—proving that every family has its fair share of dysfunction, as well as unbreakable bonds.


Have you ever had writer’s block?  If so, what do you do about it?

Honestly, I don’t believe in writer’s blocks—though I understand that they’re quite real when perceived as such. True story: I have a friend—let’s call him Jack. Anyway, he phoned me one night complaining that he was agonizing over a terrible writer’s block. “How does your story end?” I asked him and he went on to explain the ending in detail. “Good,” I said, “so write the ending and then all you have to do is fill in the middle.” He did just that. The lesson is this: Most books aren’t written from point A to point Z. If you get stuck at a certain crossroad, begin to write a passage from a different point in the book. This maintains momentum and confidence (if lost, the two causes of a perceived block). Again, I write novels like creating complicated word puzzles—only to put it all together in the end in order to paint the grandest picture I can. Do whatever works for you, but keep moving. The last thing you want is for a story to go cold on you. You could risk losing the passion, if you wait too long to finish it.


How did you develop your plot and characters?

Plot: In my estimation, the first decision in the writing process is also the toughest decision of all. You have to honestly ask yourself: What idea is good enough, or worthy enough to cost you the next year of your life? If you can sincerely say that you have one, then get started right away. Some writers spend months working out a concept before they ever put pen to paper (so when someone asks you how long it took you to write a book, there is no true way to answer this. It happens in the mind long before it ever appears between two covers).

Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I’m completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters. 


What are your goals as a writer?

My most important goal is to teach my children and be able to share what’s in my heart and mind with them. The next goal is to be creative for the rest of my life, and if I can make a good living at it—then all the better. 

I maintain two lists: What I’ve done, and what I dream of doing.  The second list is always longer. Forgive the cliché, but perhaps as a reminder to myself, writing truly is a journey. If I ever get to where I think I’m supposed to end up, then that which I love will no longer be my reality; the process of writing and creating with words. 


What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

There are too many to list. I’ve been able to touch lives in a positive way and make some sort of difference (at least I hope so). I’ve shared my dreams with my children and proved that dreams do come true—with a whole lot of perseverance and hard work. And I’ve been able to give life to the creative thoughts that constantly fight for my attention. 






Ashes
by Steven Manchester 
on Tour February 19 – April 21, 2017


Ashes by Steven Manchester

Book Details


Genre: Fiction
Published by:     The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Purchase Links:  

Synopsis:



Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other’s company. It’s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he’s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.


At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.



Author Bio:


Steven Manchester

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.


Find Steven on his Website, on Twitter, & on Facebook!




Tour Host Participants:



Don’t miss your chance to learn more about Steven Manchester & his book, Ashes! Visit the tour stops for interviews, guest posts, and lots of reviews!





Don’t Miss Your Chance to WIN Ashes!



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Steven Manchester and The Story Plant. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of Ashes by Steven Manchester. The giveaway begins on February 18th and runs through April 23rd, 2017.


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Book Showcase: THE CHANGING SEASON by Steven Manchester

The Changing Season by Steven Manchester 
ISBN: 9781611882261 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781936558698 (ebook)
ASIN: B018EHAV3G (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: The Story Plant 


This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy: one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He’d fill the hours playing with Jimmy—his canine best buddy—going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they’d do before Billy left. But that was before the accident that shook the entire town. It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck. And it was before Vicki. This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn’t truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple. 

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, The Changing Season is an experience to savor—with special appeal to dog lovers. 


Read an excerpt:

The beach was nearly deserted. After erecting their tent and establishing a cozy campsite, Jimmy trotted to the water. As Billy looked on, the silver-faced mutt walked in slowly—like an old man easing himself into a warm bath—the reckless abandon he’d once been known for completely gone.

Jimmy swam for a bit before sitting in the shallows with the water line at his chest.

Billy waded in and took a seat beside him where they sat for a long while, looking out onto the horizon. While the tide gently lapped at their chests, Billy wrapped his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder. “This is the life,” he whispered.

A seagull landed on the sand a few feet from them. Jimmy just sat there, watching the squawking bird with mild interest. “You must be tired, Jimmy. Back in the day, you would have chased that vulture until you collapsed.”

Jimmy stood and took chase, but it was a haphazard effort.

“Half-stepper,” Billy teased the dog and stood to go for a walk and dry off.

As they strolled along the coastline, Jimmy shook the salt water from his coat. He also took breaks, long breaks, acting like he was exploring.

“I know you’re stalling,” Billy told him, “and it’s okay.” At least your spirit’s still willing, Billy thought, getting choked up.

When Jimmy slowed even more, Billy headed for the campsite. The sea grasses had lost their summer hue and were now brittle, snapping in half as Billy and Jimmy walked through the abandoned dunes.

They reached camp and sat together again where Billy discovered that the pads on Jimmy’s paws were dry and cracked. One was even bleeding, which Jimmy licked for some time. Billy pulled the big moose into his lap. “Too many miles on those old tires, huh?” he whispered, before noticing the patch of missing fur on the mutt’s hind quarter—a souvenir from a vicious fight he’d won in his glory days. A mean stray had swaggered into the backyard looking for trouble. Unwilling to let it go, Jimmy gave the growling stranger all the trouble he could handle. That one battle scar had been rubbed and patted thousands of times throughout the years, the family being forever grateful for Jimmy’s sacrificial love and fearless devotion. As they sat side-by-side, Billy rubbed it again.

Resting his head in Billy’s lap, Jimmy’s eyes squinted while he enjoyed the heavy scratching.

Billy worked his hand up the old dog’s body, stroking Jimmy’s head and kneading the scruff of his neck. “I love you, buddy,” he said. “You know that, right?”

Jimmy licked Billy’s hand.

“And I need to go away pretty soon…to college.”

Jimmy licked him again.

“The last thing in the world I want is to leave you, but I…” Billy stopped from going any further. A wave of tears was waiting to break on the shore just behind his eyes.

As though Jimmy understood, he nestled deeper into Billy’s lap and began giving Billy’s hand a thorough bath.

With his free hand, Billy rubbed Jimmy’s chest up and down—fast and hard—exactly the way the old mutt liked it. As he did, he looked up and noticed a bank of even darker clouds had gathered above. “Looks like rain,” he told Jimmy. “Hopefully, there’s no thunder.”

They napped in the tent, Jimmy appearing much less worried about his nails on the air mattress than Billy. They curled up together, the rain pitter-pattering on the light canvas above. “It’s just a shower,” Billy told him. As good a guess as any meteorologist would make, Billy thought, though it doesn’t matter either way. As they began to nod off in each other’s arms, Jimmy snored peacefully. Billy stared at his best friend’s face, studying every nook and cranny—memorizing every crease and line. But it was silly. He knew Jimmy’s face better than his own. And I’m going to miss it something awful, he thought, swallowing back the lump in his throat. While the rain picked up and began thumping on the tent’s roof, Billy closed his eyes.

When they awoke from their afternoon siesta, Jimmy stood on the wobbly air mattress and yipped in pain. Once the sound of playful banter, Billy knew it was from pain now. “You okay?” he asked, massaging the dog’s haunches and working out the knots as he’d watched Arlene do many times. “Feel better now?” he asked, stopping.

Jimmy reached up with his right paw and scratched Billy’s hand, gesturing that he continue.

After a few more minutes, Billy stopped again. “Better?” he asked.
Jimmy licked Billy’s face once before slowly stepping off the jelly-like mattress.

Billy hurried to throw two baby aspirin into a glob of peanut butter and fed it to the mutt.

When they came out of hibernation, the air was cool and fresh. The trees glistened from the rain. Billy looked up. The clouds had dispersed, leaving behind the last of the day’s light.

The sunset was a palate of coral pinks and greens, with swirls of purple brushed in. The light softened—like the ambiance of an expensive romantic dinner, before fading into the distance and becoming twilight. There was a giant pause, as if the world collectively exhaled after filing another day into the history books. Billy and Jimmy sat together on a sturdy fold-out chair, silently sharing the magic. Billy took a deep breath and sighed.

Jimmy did the same.

Billy laughed. “Copycat,” he whispered.

The beach had always been the place where Jimmy was free to romp and roam—to explore. And each year he did just that. But not this year. Jimmy nuzzled into Billy’s lap again, where he awaited the attention Billy had always showered on him.

“You’re a good boy,” Billy whispered, as he scratched the gentle canine under his chin. He shook his head. “Although you haven’t been a boy for a long time.”

In what seemed like minutes, a million flickering stars covered the dark sky. Billy and Jimmy got up to take another stroll. They walked a few feet when they happened upon a giant puddle. Moonlight was trapped in the puddle, along with Billy and Jimmy’s reflections—the two of them standing knee to shoulder. While Billy smiled, Jimmy bent at the water’s edge and began to drink, sending ripples through the portrait. “Don’t drink that, Jimmy,” Billy scolded him. “You have fresh water back in the tent.”

Jimmy paid him no mind and kept lapping loudly, slobbering all over himself and depositing an equal amount of back wash.

Billy shook his head. “Whatever, it’s your stomach.”

They made it down to the water’s edge again and stood together in the silence for a long, long while. It was as though neither of them wanted the night to end, as though both of them needed more time together. Billy closed his eyes and listened to the tide. The ebb and flow was constant but random, like surround sound lapping the shore on the left, right and center.

The night grew cold, real cold for the time of year. Billy was surprised he and Jimmy couldn’t see their breath. The drop in temperature was significant, reminding Billy once again that summer was quickly coming to an end. It was a cold slap to the face—literally. I’m moving away in just a week, he thought. One week! He looked down at Jimmy, glad that his furry friend had no concept or fear of time.

Billy built a campfire, which wasn’t easy considering that everything was still damp from the rain shower. But sitting by a campfire had always been his and Jimmy’s thing, the perfect atmosphere to spend quality time together, so he worked hard to get the fire going.

They sat together in silence for a long time, hypnotized by the swaying flames and the rhythm of the rolling tide. When it was time to turn in for the night, Jimmy licked his paw, running it across his face for the day’s final bath. They both stood and stretched, leaving behind a handful of glowing embers and heading for the tent.

Kneeling beside the air mattress, Billy said his prayers. As he crawled in beside Jimmy, he left on the battery-operated lantern for his timid, four-legged friend, knowing that two D cell batteries would be killed in the process.

While Jimmy snored, Billy watched as their silhouettes moved randomly on the ceiling of the tent. He locked onto them, hypnotized by the shadows dancing above. His eyes grew heavy and he yawned. Within seconds, the shadows grew smaller until they disappeared.

Billy watched Jimmy—as a puppy—crying because the bedspread was covering his eyes. Jimmy’s claustrophobic, he realized. “It’s play time,” he told the dog, tricking Jimmy into thinking they were going to horse around. The garden hose and bottle of dog shampoo, however, made the smart dog whimper. Billy laughed. When he looked back, Jimmy was stretched out flat on his belly, all four legs pin straight like he’d been strapped to the torturer’s rack. Billy did a double-take and Jimmy was wearing the cone of shame so he didn’t bite at his stitches after being neutered. Poor guy, Billy thought, and then yelled at the dog after he’d torn a pillow to shreds. In the next scene, an older Jimmy chomped on ice cubes, spraying them everywhere like a broken snow cone machine. And then they were fishing, both of them young again. Jimmy whined as he watched the small perch swim in circles in the bucket. He placed his paw on the lip of the pail, pulling it to him and dumping the flopping fish into the grass—in some sad attempt at freeing the prisoners. Billy laughed again and a moment later, he was watching on in horror as Sophie dressed the poor dog in some ridiculous outfit for one of her lively tea parties. Sophie played with Jimmy’s ears, his paws, his tail; the mutt just lay there, as if he understood it was the price he had to pay for free meals. Jimmy’s the ultimate pilot fish. Billy shook his head, while a water sprinkler soaked the summer grass and Jimmy exhibited another example of his terrible drinking habits. Billy could see himself falling out the tree in the backyard and grabbing his arm; the pain was mind numbing. While he healed, Jimmy never left his side. Billy then looked down to find that his cast was gone. He looked up again and Jimmy was smiling at him, his teeth covered in tartar build-up. “Have you been kissing a skunk?” he teased the dog. “You have a bad case of gingivitis, buddy…or is it halitosis?” Billy passed the groomer’s window and noticed that he’d grown tall. Jimmy was beyond ecstatic to see him; his nails had been clipped, his fur trimmed but his eyes were as wide as two chocolate pies. “What did she do to you, boy?” Billy teased the frightened dog.

Billy awoke, panting like a dog himself. He looked over at his tent mate, who was still snoring peacefully on the air mattress. “Oh Jimmy,” he muttered and wrapped his arm around the drooling heap.

Billy shook the cobwebs from his head and tried to make sense of it all. It was just a dream, he realized. Fragmented and confused in time and context, he’d dreamed about Jimmy. There were glimpses of the past and present merged together, as though Jimmy’s life had been thrown into a blender and Billy was enjoying each experience with him a second time. He pushed himself closer to Jimmy until he could feel the rise and fall of the dog’s breathing. “I love you so much, buddy,” he whispered, before falling back to sleep.




Meet the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novella), Just in Time (novella), The Thursday Night Club (novella, released November 2014), and Gooseberry Island (novel, released January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.

Connect with the author:  

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Tumblr 



Excerpt provided by the author.


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The Changing Season

The Changing Season


The Changing Season

Excerpt: GOOSEBERRY ISLAND by Steven Manchester

Gooseberry Island by Steven Manchester
ISBN: 9781611881806 (paperback)  
ISBN: 9781322551869 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OPAFIDK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Release Date:  January 6, 2015


They met at the worst possible moment…or maybe it was just in time. David McClain was about to go to war and Lindsey Wood was there at his going-away party, capturing his heart when falling for a woman was the last thing on his mind. While David was serving his country, he stayed in close contact with Lindsey. But war changes a person, and when he came home very little had the same meaning that it had before – including the romance that had sustained him. Was love truly unconquerable, or would it prove to be just another battlefield casualty?

Gooseberry Island is the most nuanced, dramatic, and romantic novel yet from a writer whose ability to plumb the depths of human emotion knows few peers.




Read an excerpt:


David had been home for six weeks when he pulled into the market, preparing to locate everything on his mother’s grocery list. As he approached the store, he spotted a young teenage boy walking out; he was holding a brown bag. An older man approached the boy and reached out his hand. David gasped and his dizzy mind immediately raced back to Afghanistan and the horrific beating of the young Afghani boy:

There was movement three hundred yards out on the street below. Unusual, David thought. It was a teenage boy, maybe fourteen, carrying a burlap bag and hurrying home before dark. Never seen him before, David thought.

In a flash, a man—a Taliban fighter—jumped out of the shadows and grabbed the boy’s arm, pulling him to the street and spilling the contents of his sack. As the teenager yelled for help, another Taliban soldier emerged from the darkness. The boy screamed louder, but not a single soul came to his aid…



It only took a few seconds, but the whole scene played out in sequence in his mind—both men yelling and slapping the boy as he screamed for help; the slaps turning to a vicious beating until finally the boy was dead. He could almost hear Command say “Negative” again after he asked if he could intervene. He felt the anguish in his soul threatening to overwhelm him, but it 
was quickly replaced by a burning rage.

His eyes filled with tears, David returned to the present and started for the man in a mad rush. He was three steps from the shocked stranger when reality clicked in. It’s the boy’s father, he realized. He’s…he’s okay.

David’s body convulsed. He’d forgotten he was home, and the reality of it slapped him hard in the face.

The man pulled the teenage boy close to him; both of them were frightened by David’s sudden charge toward them.

“Sorry,” David said, though it sounded more like “Sigh.” Trying unsuccessfully to smile at them, he turned on his heels and hurried back to the Mustang.

For the next hour, David sat alone in his car, trying to calm the physical effects of his anxiety. Once he’d reined that in, he spent another two hours beating back the depression that always followed in anxiety’s wake.

He wasn’t sure whether the abyss existed within his heart or mind, but he knew that he was now filled with a great void—nothingness. There was no light there, only darkness. There was no hope, only despair. In time, he’d earned to embrace the silence, as the screams and whimpers of faceless victims became echoes that returned again and again, pushing the line of madness. Yet, the solitude was relentless, enveloping, merciless. It would have been better had I never existed, he thought, fearing another moment more than cashing in and leaving it all behind. No love, he thought, no peace. His memories were slanted in such thick negativity that his entire past would have been better off erased. And no one knows I’m dying inside, he thought, inviting another wave of panic attacks to crash onto the shore of his weary mind.

He closed his eyes tightly and tried to calm the short labored gasps. Just ride the wave, he told himself. Just ride the wave.

But in another room in his mind, he knew that even if he rode that wave—and didn’t crack his skull on all the rocks beneath him—he’d have to take the ride again and again. It didn’t take long before the jagged rocks seemed like the more merciful option.

~~~


Enough time had passed for Lindsey to realize David was not coming after her. He’s obviously in a lot of pain, she thought, and doesn’t want to burden anyone with it. She shook her head. But I care way too much about him to let him go through this alone.

With Craig’s permission, she slammed David’s front door behind her and marched through the living room into the kitchen. “Don’t you dare play the coward with me, David McClain,” she shouted before even reaching the room.

As she expected, David had been staring out the kitchen window into nothingness. With tear-filled eyes, his head snapped up. “Don’t you ever call me that word…ever!”

She stared at him for a few long moments before her heart softened. “Then go ahead, tell me that you don’t want to see me anymore and I’ll leave you alone forever.”

He looked at her with tormented eyes but didn’t say a word.

“But you can’t, can you?” she said, her entire insides starting to tremble.

“It’s not you,” he vowed. “It’s me. I’m just not…”

“Don’t you dare feed me that tired line! I spent a year praying for you…writing letters and wishing for us to…” She stopped, trying in vain to contain her emotions.

His face looked panicked, as his mind obviously spiraled out of control to gather the right 
words. “I don’t have the words,” he said in less than a whisper.

“After the first time I came here, I thought for sure you’d chase after me,” she said. “I’m not stupid, David. I realize something happened over there that has you all twisted up. But I also thought that once you saw my face, you’d…” She stopped again and began to cry.

David placed his hand on hers. She started to pull away, but he stopped her, intertwining their fingers. “Lindsey, please…please don’t say anything until I finish. Just hear me out. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, her tears threatening to flood her face.

He took a few deep breaths. “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I want you to know that I’ve never lied to you…and I don’t plan to now.” He shook his head. “I’m so messed up right now, Lindsey, I can’t even explain it.” He could barely hold eye contact with her. “I really hope we can be together someday…more than you can ever imagine. But I’m just not ready yet. I…I need to heal,” he stuttered.

She took a deep breath and held it.

“Torn isn’t even the word for what I’m feeling over this,” he babbled on. “The last thing I want to do is hurt either of us.”

“I don’t think we have to say goodbye, though,” she said, feeling the panic of desperation creep into her soul. “Don’t you remember the night we shared on that bench?”

His eyes grew even more distant. “I really wish things were different,” he said, “that life didn’t have to be so difficult.” He shrugged. “Time will tell, I guess.”

“You guess?” She returned his shrug to him, perturbed.

“Lindsey, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I don’t want to destroy any chance we might have at it …just because I might not be ready for it yet.” He grimaced. “I need time to find myself, okay?”

Lindsey, the child of a PTSD victim, shook her head. “You don’t have to find yourself, David. You just have to remember who you are…who you’ve always been.”

He nodded, tears streaming down his face.

Lindsey took a deep breath and surrendered. “David, I’ve told you the way that I feel for you and what I want for us. That’s all I can do. The rest is in your hands.” She peered into his dull eyes. “I can only hope that you’ll think of me every day, as I will you. I hope a lot of things, David.” She paused to collect herself. “Most of all, I hope the day will come when Afghanistan is behind you and we can fall in love all over again and catch up on all the things we’ve missed.” Mimicking him, she shrugged. “Maybe you’re right. I guess time will tell.” She pulled her hand away from his and felt her heart rip clean out of her chest. “Until then, you’ll be in my thoughts,” she whispered.

“I’m so sorry, Lindsey,” he sobbed, his shoulders rocking.

“I love you, David,” she said and, with one final attempt, grabbed his chin and forced eye contact between them. “Now tell me you don’t want to see me and I’ll leave you alone,” she whispered.

As he looked at her, Lindsey could clearly see the anguish in his eyes.

“You can’t, can you?” she said, hopefully.

His tears continued to leak down his cheeks. “I don’t want to see you…for now,” he said, and turned his eyes away from hers.

It felt as though someone had just slugged her in the gut. “Okay,” she gasped and ran out of the house crying harder than she’d ever cried before.


Long after Lindsey had run out of the kitchen, David remained catatonic—until he grabbed a drinking glass off the counter and threw it onto the floor where it broke into a hundred pieces. Enraged, he began smashing everything he could get his hands on in the kitchen. At the end of the violent outburst, he collapsed to the floor and began to weep. With his head in both hands, he screamed, “I love you, too, Lindsey.”

Day turned into dusk and, like most nights, just beyond the sobs and sniffles the world turned quiet and black.

~~~



After four or five weeks of self-imposed solitary confinement—a punishment filled with death-defying panic attacks and long, treacherous tunnels of depression—David decided to reach out to the men he had served with. They’re the only ones who can relate, he thought. And I wonder how they’re doing…really doing?



Meet the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novelette), Just in Time (novelette), The Thursday Night Club (novella) and Gooseberry Island. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 

Connect with the author:          Website      |     Facebook 


Buy the book:

Available from:               BookDepository     |     Alibris
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Book Showcase: PRESSED PENNIES

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester
ISBN: 9781611881356 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781611881370 (ebook)
ASIN: B00J1K3TJO (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: The Story Plant


Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige’s father nearly destroyed Abby’s spirit. 

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they’re hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She’s very protective of the life she’s made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn’t know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you’ve dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love in its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart. 



Read an excerpt:

The night was beautiful, unusually mild for the season. “How about a walk along the river?” he asked. “The water fire is tonight.”

“What a coincidence,” she teased, and didn’t think twice about grabbing his hand when he extended it.

Hand in hand, Rick and Abby strolled along the river. Hidden speakers offered the eclectic sounds of primitive chants and tribal drums. Alluring smells of vendor delicacies wafted on unseasonably warm breezes. Side streets were cordoned off and police officers rerouted traffic. Amongst thousands of pedestrians, the walk along the river moved like a stream of warm pudding.

They felt comfortably alone in each other”s company, occasionally stopping to point out something they had spotted and wanted to share. 

Although Abby only had two glasses of wine, she felt lightheaded—almost drunk.

As if lovers were sworn to secrecy, other couples offered subtle nods in greeting—with Rick and Abby returning each gesture.

Steel fire pits sat several feet out of the water, lining the middle of the river every thousand yards. Old, wooden boats filled with thespians dressed in black threw fresh-split cordwood onto each. Like swarms of angry fireflies, a million sparks scurried into the air. Bright orange and red flames licked at the black sky, as strong smells of burnt oak and cedar reminded folks of cozy summer campfires and the love that could be shared beneath a starry sky.

At the end of the path, Rick summoned one of the many hawkers to buy Abby a single red rose.

She accepted the gift with a smile. “Good thing this isn’t a date,” she joked again.

“Good thing,” he repeated.

After hugging him, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you for this wonderful experience, Richard,” she said. “I mean it. This night has been absolutely amazing.”

“I only supplied half of it,” he replied, and hugged her again. “Thank you for the other half.”

Walking slowly, they started back toward their cars.

* * *

Once they reached the parking lot behind the Blue Grotto, Rick turned to Abby and cleared his throat. “Let me take you out again this weekend.” It was more of a statement than a request.

Abby shook her head and kissed his cheek. “I’d love to, Richard. Believe me, I would. But it’s not just about what I want. I still need to get Paige settled in. She’s not used to…”

He placed his finger to her lips. “Okay,” he said, “then when?”

She thought about it and shook her head. “I honestly don’t know.” She shrugged. “But what I do know is that our timing couldn’t be any worse right now.” She searched his eyes. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Richard. I wish…”

He looked surprised and devastated, all at the same time. “Not even as friends?” he asked.

She looked deeper into his eyes. “I’d love that, but do you really think that you and I could just be friends?”

He smirked, and then shrugged. “I don’t know.” He thought for a moment. “A different place, a different time, I think you and I…”

“Who knows what the future holds,” she said, stopping him from saying any more.

“Friends then,” he said, and kissed her cheek. “I understand.”

“Thank you,” she said, but she could tell by his tone that he didn’t understand at all. “I’ll be seein’ ya,” she said, and hurried off to her car while she still had the strength.

“Yeah,” he said. “See you around.”

* * *

With his head spinning, Rick got into his car and began replaying every second of their time together. As he drove away, he could still smell Abby on his clothes and hoped the scent would last. It had been an eternity since he’d felt this way about anyone.

* * *

When her mom returned home from her “dinner with an old friend,” Paige was sprawled out on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Abby took a seat beside her. Even with her heart pounding in her ears, Paige dared not stir. Abby pulled the blanket over her and kissed her forehead. “Night, babe,” she whispered, and quietly stepped out of the room.

Paige slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just the two of us, huh?” she whispered, and fought back the tears.



About the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (due out May 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 


Connect with the author:      Website      |     Facebook 


This showcase is brought to you courtesy of The Story Plant.




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Also available at:  BookDepository.com



Guest post: Author Steven Manchester



The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to provide you with a guest post by Steven Manchester, author of Goodnight, Brian.




My Writing Process
by Steven Manchester

I suppose I discovered the writing world by accident – or perhaps it discovered me.

I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?”

Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
I’d written a lot at my job (report writing), but it all started with my college professor’s challenge. Perhaps because of my age and experience, I understood right away that writing is a craft that takes time to evolve; to mature, so I spent the next several years PRACTICING my chosen craft. Under the pen name, Steven Herberts, I wrote in every venue of print I could get my name in: newspaper, magazine, etc. I also penned two collections of poetry, and wrote drafts for two more books. After five solid years of writing, I finally believed that I’d found my voice; MY STYLE – and was ready to contact an agent.
The greatest challenge for me has been time. First and foremost, I am a dad and my children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that need my attention. Yet, my passion to write has constantly gnawed at my soul. To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping. Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day – chasing my dreams on paper.
It has taken thousands of words, hundreds of pages, before I finally identified with a particular genre. I decided that my voice was a more sensitive one: a male perspective to a female audience. My novels, Twelve Months and Goodnight, Brian are evidence of that.


Goodnight, Brian synopsis:

Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn’t count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.

An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, Goodnight, Brian is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option.



Early Reviews include:

“Steven Manchester has a gift for expressing through his writing the complicated and transcendent beauty of the human experience with poignant clarity.” – Yolanda King, eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King


“Steven Manchester’s Goodnight, Brian is a poignant, inspiring story about resilience and faith and one family’s enduring love that should be a model for us all.” – James S. Hirsch, bestselling author, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend


“Steven has once again proven his deep insight into human emotions and relations and his ability to craft a well written and entertaining story that also has the power to inspire courage and hope. Goodnight, Brian is a fine read.” – Bob Price, WPZZ Radio Personality



Now that I have nearly two decades of writing and getting published under my belt, I enjoy trying to help new writers break in. My advice is always the same:


  • Be true to yourself, always.
  • Write constantly.
  • Keep the faith!!!
  • And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
  • Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness. 


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