Now Available – CHRISTMAS in ’45 (excerpt included)

I’m very happy to announce the arrival of my 12th novel and my first Christmas novel. It’s available now on Kindle ebook and in paperback.

One reviewer said “This is a wonderful story to read together as a family in the month of December.”

Another reviewer said: “This is an outstanding novel in many ways.”

Another reviewer said: “I found this book to be so emotional … this novel is absolutely a must read for anyone who enjoys an outstanding books.”

Below is chapter one. I hope you’ll check out the link above. This is also a great Christmas gift for the reader in your family. Thanks for the support.

EXCERPT – CHAPTER 1 – Christmas Eve ’44

Roberta soared through the house. Room to room. Kitchen. Dining room. Living room. Laughing as she squeezed a wooden spoon in her hand, cross ways, like she pushed the wing of an airplane into the stratosphere. Her mouth hummed a steady rumble of an engine in flight, and she kept one pace ahead of Trigger, the terrier, nipping and barking at her heels in playful delight.
“Hmmmmm. Whooosh!”
“Roberta!”
She sailed past her mother’s ear like a gale force wind, nearly causing her mother to spill a pot of raw eggnog she balanced in her hands.
“Roberta! Be careful!”
“Whooooo … Trigger. To the tree. Climb to the star of the tree. That’s what planes do. They soar to the stars.”
She jumped on top of a stool next to the Christmas tree and reached as high as she could until the make-believe, wooden spoon plane zigzagged past the star on top of the medium-sized cut pine.
“Mom! Can I have a string of popcorn?”
“No. Don’t touch the tree. The Dwyers are coming over tonight.”
“Can I have just a little?”
“Not one kernel.”
“Mom!”
“Roberta. I’m busy here.”
“So am I. I’m learning to fly like daddy. Do you think he’ll send me a real model airplane for Christmas?”
“We’ll see if he got word to Santa.”
“Mom, I don’t believe in Santa.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because airplanes fly for real, but reindeer can’t fly.”
“Christmas magic makes them fly. This is the season for miracles, Roberta.”
“Mom, only planes fly. And birds.”
“What about wooden spoons?”
“Mom! It’s the only thing I got. I don’t have a real model airplane. Remember how daddy used to fly our silverware around the table during dinner.”
Roberta made another flyover through the kitchen.
“I never appreciated that.”
“I did. It proves that anything can fly if you wish it.”
“So then reindeer can fly?”
“No, Mom. Don’t be silly.” She flew past the tree and plopped onto the sofa knee first, arms resting on the back of the cushion, and looked out the picture window into the snowy evening to watch flurries sparkling in the lights. “Can I please take a string of popcorn off the tree?”
“No!”
“Mom …”
“Roberta, stop whining.”
“Mom …”
“Roberta!”
“Mom. There’s someone coming to the door. They’re wearing uniforms.”
A loud sound echoed from the kitchen. A metal banging. Roberta twirled around but couldn’t see what happened. Her mother said nothing, and the air in the room seemed to pause for a second, like the marrow of the moment had been sucked dry, like life was stiff and brittle.
Knock. Three of them. Bare knuckled on the wood. Roberta ran to the door and flung it open. In front of her stood two men, who looked like daddy, three-buttoned brown jacket. Stripes on both arms which formed an A without the cross bar. Shiny small colored squares clung to the left breast of both of the airmen. And a bird, with wings spread right above the shiny squares. Roberta almost jumped into one of their arms thinking that … But the face didn’t match. She stared for a moment. Puzzled. She had never seen a uniform like this around there. Only the photos of daddy. The two men, standing shoulder to shoulder, removed their caps and placed them under their left arms. They wore no expressions, and Roberta thought they didn’t look friendly. Why would they be here on Christmas Eve? One spoke.
“Is your mother home?”
“Yes, she—”
Roberta felt her mother’s hand on her arm. There was a tug, a quick one, pulling Roberta backward. She glanced up and saw her mother holding a dish towel nearly covering her face. Her voice cracked.
“Roberta. Go upstairs.”
“Mom, what’s going on?”
“Go upstairs.” She pushed her backwards, and almost tripped over Trigger. Roberta scooped the dog into her arms and ran up the stairs like her mother said. But not the whole way. She stopped halfway at the landing, curious, lost in the eyes of the two men staring glumly at her mother, who leaned against the door frame.
“Mrs. Ares?”
That’s all they said. She collapsed on the floor to her knees, the dish towel covering her entire face, but it couldn’t muffle the sounds of the weeping. Loud. Wailing. Each audible breath like a pin prick in Roberta’s ear, telling her of trouble, but not explaining it. Roberta’s chest constricted like she was suffocating, and she cried too, for her mother, for her acquaintance with grief which visited her for the first time in the form of two soldiers. She held Trigger in a full body hug and waited for answers.
The two men squatted. Each putting one of their hands on the grieving mother’s shoulders. The wind whipped through the open door. Whisks of snow blew into the living room and disappeared as droplets against the warm air. Roberta heard words. Whispers. They were like breaths of the winter wind, sailing from tree to tree, informing the forest of the incoming storm. Prepare. The attack awaits. Ready the wings. You’ll need them to fly to safety.
After a few moments, frozen in fear, courage rose and she spoke once.
“Mom?”
The grieving wife let out a sigh, and turned towards her daughter. She reached for her, motioning for her to come. Roberta released Trigger onto the steps, and she ran to her and felt a hug like no other. It had nothing to do with I love you or Goodnight; this was a hug of intensity. The tears mingled into her brown hair, and they held each other. Trigger whimpered in the middle of them.
“What’s wrong?”
Her mother stood and grabbed Roberta’s arm. She walked her into the living room. The two airmen closed the door and followed.
“Here, please sit.”
“No, ma’am. It’s alright.”
“Please. Have a seat. Could I get you some spiced cider?”
“No, ma’am. We could come back if it would be better. We’re so sorry to intrude on Christmas Eve.”
“No, please. Sit.”
She motioned to the sofa, and the two men sat in tandem. Mother sat across from them on a swivel, high-back chair with Roberta on her lap.
“Roberta.” Her mother had collected herself and spoke in a strong voice. “These men came with some bad news about your father. He has died, Roberta. In the war. I’m so sorry.”
Died. The word had meaning. Some. It meant he would never come back. He would never cross the lake back to her. That’s what he had called it. She remembered. The lake. But she had lived without him for two years already. He was always far away, and now too he was far away. It didn’t feel different. Or real. But she saw her mother’s tears. Those were real. She remembered them from the funeral of Grandpa Newsom last year, and he never visited them again. Though they had visited the cemetery a time or two. She recalled the large stone with the words carved into it. Would daddy have a stone like that? Is that where I will visit him, beside Grandpa Newsom? No, it can’t be. I don’t want to visit Daddy there. Daddy promised me he’d come back. He would bring me an airplane. Not a real one. A model one. That looked just like the one he flew. Her thoughts formed into a question, which she asked to the two men.
“Is Daddy still across the lake?”
They didn’t understand.
“Can you tell me what happened?” her mother asked.
“In front of the child?”
“Just tell us.”
“Very well, ma’am.”
There were many words she didn’t understand. Died kept ringing in her ears. She thought of her daddy taking her down to the lake, right across the street, and telling her what it would be like. Plane went down. She heard that. And she knew what happened when a plane crashed. She was far away from the conversation when she heard her name.
“Roberta, her name is Roberta.”
“Roberta,” spoke one of the officers, “your daddy is a hero. I have something for you.” He unpinned the wings from his jacket and reached across a coffee table to hand it to her. “Here. Take this. These wings will keep alive the memories of your father. Allow them to fly. Never hide them. Know that your father was a hero.”
“Did my daddy have wings, too?”
“That’s right, sweetheart. Wings of angels. Now you both have them.”
Her mother could barely speak. She mouthed a “thank you” under her breath.
“Is there anything we can do for you, ma’am?”
“No, thank you.”
“You won’t be alone here?”
“No, we have friends and family coming. Thank you.”
“Our sincere condolences to you and your daughter. From all accounts, your husband was an honorable and good man.”
“Yes, yes he was.”
The men left. The two sat dazed staring into the fire. Her mother told her to take a string of popcorn off the tree. Roberta did, and she munched on the kernels as she stared at the metal airplane pin in her hand.

Released October 1 – Available now.

$300 Back to School Giveaway – Join in!

I’ve teamed up with TheKindleBookReview, and you can win yourself a $300 Amazon Gift Card and help promote my new novel at the same time!

There it is! See it on the right? Christmas in ’45. It’s set to release on October 1, and I’m already getting some great feedback from some of my advanced reader reviewers.

Check out my new one and other books you might enjoy while being in the running for a $300 gift card!

Thanks for the support, and remember, if you like the read, please leave a review. That will go a long way in helping others find the book too.

Reading the Christmas Proof

I’ve been reading the printed proof of my new novel.

It releases October 1. My first Christmas novel. A historical fiction account of a little girl trying to make sense of her father’s death in World War II.

A proof read for me is a post-edit final-type of read. (Though it may be correctly stated that authors never like to say final read because we are the nervous type that always want to do it once more.) Nevertheless, I have been really enjoying the read-through for a variety of reasons and it has indeed improved the manuscript in several ways.

A proof read will help find those persnickety little things that might have been missed. The missing question mark, for example. I think I’ve added three so far. There was one repeated word that needed to be deleted and a few very minor issues of italicizing and whatnot. It will just help clean up the final released version.

The sounds of a proof read may be the most important thing, however. By reading it out loud, I get to hear the language and this is where I catch things like a repeated word in two consecutive sentences, for example. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with that, but the sound is wrong. It feels lazy and there’s always a better word to use the second time to add more flavor to the text.

Mainly, I’ve just enjoyed re-following this young girl’s story. It’s been a couple months since my last read-through, and I’m always amazed at what I forget about the story – even though I wrote it. When writing, I’m so immersed in the universe of the story that I will remember every little detail, even if I don’t write them down. But after I let it sit awhile, the universe begins to fade and I get to rediscover little nuggets I had forgotten. It’s pretty cool when that happens.

If you like historical fiction, Christmas stories, and heartfelt tearjerkers, then this story is for you. The Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B6RWCN6B/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i6

Pre-release reviews of the book are starting to show-up on Goodreads. You can read them here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61410539-christmas-in-45

Release Day – THE LOST LINEUP – Novel #11 is Here!

Every new novel release day is a celebration of sorts. A celebration of an idea being brought from infancy to fruition. It’s hard for me to imagine that I ever would have gotten to this point – eleven novels out of my mind and into the world, but I’m grateful for the creative journey I’ve been on and will continue to be on.

The Lost Lineup is the follow-up to the story A Diamond for Her, my first baseball novel released last year. The idea for a sequel came fairly easily. I felt that the story of the gods of baseball needed to be explored a little more, and even if the protagonist Raymond Blythe was no longer around, it didn’t mean his story had to end. No, there’s much more here and who knows? Maybe a third book could be in the offering at some point.

But on this release day, I’d like to leave you with the first chapter of the book. It’s short and to the point. The gods of baseball, loitering around their field of dreams, waiting for the grand architect to show up and help them build the perfect game.

EXCERPT: THE LOST LINEUP – Myth #1: He Appears from the Trees

The downpour lasted an hour. Petra never moved from the mound. He gazed into the forest, arms at his side, alone in the middle of the diamond like a granite monolith playing homage to the weathered past, which had strewn its destruction but left beauty in its wake. The giant rock god lifted his face toward the rain as it pelted him straight on and flowed in small branch streams down his canyon gullies. No eyes peered out from the dripping pines. Melodic notes from the rain pattered and popped through the trees like a cacophony of glottal stops and tempered beats, providing a soundtrack to the dismal afternoon. Petra growled at the dark pregnant belly of the sky.
“Ilios. Show yourself!”
The sun spurned his command, and perhaps for spite, coaxed a streak of lightning along the backside of Petra, knocking loose a gargantuan boulder. Petra whirled around and picked up the rock, whipping it parallel to the ground right over home plate and into the forest to its rear.
“Dasos! You never could have hit that one. Come on. I want to play!”
“Wait for the rain to pause,” a deep voice from the pines reverberated through the plip-plop of the dripping water.
“That’s all you ever say. Wait! Wait for it to stop raining. Wait for me to step into the batter’s box. Wait for Ilios to shine his tired face.” He paused and wiped the wetness from his brow. “Wait for him to come. Dasos, I’m tired of waiting. I’m—”
At that moment, determined footsteps sloshed through the matted pine needles in the trees behind first base. A hand pushed back a branch to reveal a clear view of the field. The giant rock god, alerted to the sound, turned his head.
“Dasos, he’s here.”
The forest god, an equally-sized authoritative monolith as Petra, peeked over the edge of the tree tops.
“So he is here. Finally, the wait is over.”
“Yes,” said the voice from the trees. “But it’s not just me. We will all be here. Soon enough.”
For one short moment, a synchronized smile slid across both of the gods’ faces. The time had come.

KINDLE – only $0.99 thru July 4 – Paperback $16.95

Excerpt: The Lost Lineup

In my novel releasing on Kindle July 1 – The Lost Lineup – Charles Henry is tracking down some forgotten ballplayers of history, who want just one more opportunity to play ball. In this scene, Charles and his adventurous companions witness a snippet of history – the 1870 assassination of black voting rights leader and ballplayer Octavius Catto, who only has one final wish.

_______________________________________________

“Octavius,” he called. “You have to come. The Irish are gathering down by the polling station. They’re intimidating everyone trying to vote, and the constable is doing nothing to stop them. And I saw Frank Kelly.”
“Kelly? He doesn’t scare me.”
“You gotta be careful, Octavius.”
“We’re right, aren’t we Jess? We have righteousness on our side. We have been granted the right to vote, and no one is going to stop us.” Octavius turned to the class, half of which had already returned to their seats while the other half milled around the three guests. “Class. Attention. Class dismissed for today. I will see you again tomorrow. Please go home and encourage your fathers and uncles and grandfathers and older brothers to vote. It’s the only way forward for us.” He turned to his bewildered guests. “I’m sorry, Winnie and Charles, but events are escalating. I have to go with Jess.”
Without another word, he turned and exited the building, Jess right behind him. The three followed them out onto the street. The busy Philadephia street had a glow about it. Cars whizzed but there was a veneer of light over the street, a filter which illuminated a mob on the far street corner, the place where Octavius headed. The mob chanted slurs. Angry slurs. Racial slurs. Some carried baseball bats, others raised fists that shook and mirrored their outward emotions. Some walked into the street, oblivious to traffic and the modern sights and sounds around them.
A man with a bushy mustache, wearing a derby hat and long overcoat, approached Octavius and Jess. He looked at Octavius closely, hand in his pocket, and walked past him. Then he turned around, pulled a pistol from his coat, pointed, and fired once into Octavius’ back. Octavius fell immediately to one knee and turned around to see his assailant. Frank Kelly walked up to him, pistol still pointed. Jess backed away, terror on his face. Octavius tried to move. He scooted a few feet away, still turned toward the tip of the gun. Kelly stood over top of him, and without a word, executed the teacher and ballplayer in cold blood, in broad daylight, in the middle of the street. Octavius fell to the pavement. Kelly placed the pistol in his pocket, glanced once at Jess groveling in the background, then walked past them both as if strolling for pleasure on a Sunday afternoon.
Charles and Winnie ran to Octavius’ side. Jess was gone, as was the angry mob on the corner. Other Philadelphians walked by in their 1980s garb. No one paused to look at the man bleeding and dying on the street.
Charles knelt over him.
“Can you help me, Doc Henry?”
“We need to stop the bleeding.”
“No, doc. I’m dead. It’s not the bleeding. It’s the baseball.”
“What?”
“Can’t you see? I want to play again. Just once more?”
“But how can I help?” Charles asked.
“Don’t leave it alone. Promise me. Promise me you’ll try.” Octavius pleaded and reached up with his left hand. “Just one more game, Charles. One more.”
Charles reached down for him, but he was gone. His arms searched for the man, but the pavement presented itself, and the sights and sounds of a late afternoon in Philadelphia took over. Charles sighed audibly. Winnie grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet. He felt a knot in his chest and Tommy clung to his side.
“What happened, Grandpa? Where did he go?”
“I think we just saw a snippet of history, Tommy.”

A New Favorite Review of A DIAMOND FOR HER

Bonnie @ Bonniereadsandwrites wrote a terrific review of my newly released novel. She states:

“Mark W. Sasse has created a book that is captivating, remarkable, and full of the American spirit.”

and …

“In the tradition of W.P. Kinsella, Mark W. Sasse brings the magic of baseball to life.”

Head on over to her terrific review site to read the entire review:

Remember, if you want a paperback copy, please ask for it at your local independent bookstore. They need your support!

New Novel Now Available: A DIAMOND FOR HER: MYTHS & TALES OF THE WINASOOK IRON HORSES

It’s available! Grab your copy now:

KINDLE eBook Version:

Paperback?

Best option: Head to local independent bookstore and ask for it. If they don’t have it, they can order it for you. Please ask them to stock a couple copies for you at release.

Library? If you don’t want to buy it, go to your local public library and ask them to purchase a copy. Easy available through library distributor Ingram.

Paperback Online?

The story:

He loved her enough to build her a baseball stadium.

With a tip of the cap to the works of W.P. Kinsella, A Diamond for Her is a historical and magical story of love between two people – Raymond & Rochelle – and two grand institutions – America & baseball.

In 1920, railroad man Raymond Blythe had a series of disturbing dreams-giant creatures with Greek names playing baseball. He was determined to find out what they meant. The dreams set him on a bizarre quest to find a connection between Iowa, Theodore Roosevelt, baseball, and his deceased father. While searching for answers at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, he met a young librarian named Rochelle Christy. This meeting sets him on another quest-to win her hand in marriage even if it means he has to establish his own baseball league in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.

Prologue: A Doctor’s Note – EXCERPT

The following is the prologue of A Diamond for Her, my new novel releasing March 23. This is written from the perspective of the story’s narrator, Dr. Charles “Shoeshine” Henry. The novel is available for preorder in Kindle format from Amazon and in paperback through any local or online bookstore including Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, Walmart, Amazon, Books-a-Million and many more. Or ask for it at your local independent bookstore! Enjoy and thanks.


Prologue: A Doctor’s Note

How’s a sane person to understand this game of baseball? The fantastical underpinnings of which are haphazardly stitched together with a dash of lore and a pinch of childish chutzpah. The game is ruled by mechanics, not time, and when the mechanism of the cosmic baseball world clicks into place, the preposterous becomes the stuff of legends, the improbable becomes the mundane, and the ridiculous becomes the inevitable. Oh, what a smidgen of faith will accomplish!

I hope to illustrate the phantasmal nature of the national pastime by recounting the stories of my all-time favorite baseball team—the Winasook Iron Horses, the stalwart franchise of the Allegheny Independent League from 1921 to 1954, when Jasper Eltrane fired the final Iron Horse pitch in Rochelle Stadium.

These stories are not meant to be clever or manipulative, only simple illustrations of the wonder of baseball and the awe of life. If, perhaps, they are more feeling than science—and I pray this will be the case—accept them as they are, for I have not encountered anything in this life that can stir the passions of unsubstantiated, illegitimate logic more than baseball.

I myself am not a baseball player. I’m a semi-retired medical doctor, a lover of stories, and a fan of the greatest game ever invented. I’ve heard it said (or maybe I said it) that if the Greek gods played a modern sport, it most definitely would have been baseball. A team sport that emphasizes individual achievement. A round ball and a round bat played on a diamond with a starting point and ending point of home. Bases used to demonstrate increments of achievement for both players and wannabe young boys exploring the virtues of the opposite sex. A pace of play that encourages conversation, poetry, grand schemes, miracles, and mythology. A history interwoven around a people and their triumphs and failures.

There is much that could be said about the grand scale of baseball, from the towering steel stadiums which changed the landscapes of a hundred American cities, to the scandals that rocked people’s faith in the franchise, to a young determined man named Jackie Robinson, who defied the wrong side of history with the courage to force others to acknowledge his humanity; to the beloved Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente, who gave his life to the humanitarian cause. There’s much that could be spoken about baseball from the macro view of the major leagues, but my purpose is different.
I want to simply tell the stories, remarkable in their own right, of one independent franchise that epitomized what it means to be American — and human. Some of the stories I witnessed myself, from my many appearances at Rochelle Stadium over the years. Others were told to me. The most intimate details of the Iron Horses’ entire historical record came from an extraordinary interview with owner Raymond Blythe as he was on his death bed in October of 1971.

I had told Raymond Blythe many times over the years that I had wanted to document the history of the Iron Horses. I had always put it off for a variety of reasons, chiefly my medical practice. But that all changed one day when I was summoned to the hospital during his waning hours. He wanted to tell me his stories, most of which I did not know. While I can attest to the veracity of everything in this book, he told me some things I hesitated to believe. But his insistence and his mortality forced me to include them here as well—the mythology—the insane ramblings of a man who could sell his mother her own apple pie recipe. And yet, in the years that have passed since the bedside encounter, I have given more credence to his stories, and even in some regards consider them part of the historical record. And why not? Baseball didn’t merely form from a boyish imagination or, God forbid, that ghastly rounders game hailed by the British. The poetic lore of Mighty Casey, the prodigious swing of the Sultan of Swat, or the stocky soft hands of the Flying Dutchman cannot be explained by the acknowledged arrangement between two teams to follow a set of rules regarding a ball and bat. Such mundane explanations could never adequately describe what I witnessed that day in 1949 when Archibald Showalter fouled off ninety-five pitches. Nor does it explain what Raymond Blythe found in Iowa on a trip in 1954.

There is a beauty and a poetry and, yes, a mythology which goes much deeper into the universe which necessitates this game. While today’s millionaire players may alienate a generation of fans by their grandiose egos and self-promotion, they cannot degrade a game which has defined our nation. We have become a better people for what we have learned between the lines of the diamond: reward for hard work, compassionate cooperation, fierce independence, and faith in the mystical realms of the unseen.

Finally, a brief note about the storytelling itself. I sometimes recount these stories from my own point of view, but do indulge me from time to time as I try to develop my own literary skills by distancing myself from my foreknowledge of an event in order to tell a proper story in third-person narration. I feel rather sneaky attempting this, but baseball is rife with such messiness—the ghastly DH experiment its greatest example—so perhaps it will work.

All the best,

Charles “Shoeshine” Henry, M.D.
Winasook, Pennsylvania
June 1985

Giveaway: 100 Copies of My Historical Fiction Baseball Novel

I’ve teamed up with GOODREADS to give away 100 Kindle versions of my soon to be released 10th novel: A Diamond for Her: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses

You’ll be one of the chosen FEW to receive it before its release date. Giveaway ends March 16 – one week before it releases on March 23 – just in time for the new baseball season!

If you like history or baseball, I think you’ll enjoy it. You’ll notice I said OR. You don’t need to like both in order to like this novel. My editor confirmed this! So click on the link below and get into the running. Good luck! It’s 100 copies so the odds are in your favor!