Joan: Welcome Lisa! Pull up a seat, grab an appetizer from the buffet and select your cabana boy.
Lisa: Hey Joan!
Let’s see, Chair? Check. (Standard desk issue.) Appetizer? Check (ice cream – I believe you should start with the best first so you know you have room!) Cabana Boy? Darn! I knew I was missing something.
Joan LOL, Lisa! No worries. We provide all our guests with a cabana boy or gladiator of their choice. They are eager to serve ….just like those Schmoos from Little Abner who lived JUST to feed people. (Paelo! I saw that! Don’t you roll your eyes!)
So, FINDING BETH is a YA Mystery. What’s it about?
Lisa:In FINDING BETH, sixteen-year-old Ro hears a voice asking/begging/demanding she find Beth. If you’re the type who believes in ghosts, the archeological dig site at Jamestown, Virginia, the place of the first permanent English settlement in the US, would be an ideal place to expect to find one. However, Ro is not that type, at least, not until research proves everything she’s heard is true. Now all she has to do is: 1) convince a group of archeologists (of which her Mom is one) who have been digging around Jamestown for over 50 years that they have missed two gravesites outside the fort; 2) convince them to look without mentioning her ghost (Talking to ghosts is not the best way to convince the studly, genius-type Cade, the guy she’s crushing on, to take her seriously!); and 3) find Beth.
Re: Cabana boys/gladiators – do you have one that offers back massages?
Joan:Sure Lisa! Our boys are multi-talented 😉
Oooo…ghosts! Combined with archeology, history and mystery the book takes us on a lot of adventures. So how did this idea come about? How long have you been interested in history and adventures? (NOT including finding a Dunkin’ Donuts) 😀
Lisa:Tough questions, Joan! Finding Dunkin’ Donuts is often both an adventure and a mystery! As for FINDING BETH, the idea was hatched during the RWA National Conference in Washington D.C. I visited the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, their Bones exhibit. It was about how archeologists/scientists have identified remains of lesser known settlers at the Jamestown site. They used mineral deposits in the bones. Fascinating! The downside, they could make, at best, an educated guess about the identity. I started wondering what would happen if you had to know the exact identity, if a guess wasn’t enough. Thus, Beth was born.
As for my interest in history/adventures – well, some would say I’ve always been interested/instigating adventures. I say it’s all about perceptions. :0 Regarding history, I’ve never been particularly interested in dates and minutiae, but have instead been interested in the people, the individuals living through those great moments. How did they impact that moment? How did that moment impact them?
“And there it is, two feet away. My treasure. My rock. I dropped it when I lunged from that voice.
For no reason I can explain, I don’t want Cade coming any closer. I’m swamped by a need to protect. I angle my chin over my shoulder. “Yeah, Just a sec.”
As if they are disconnected from my body, I watch the fingers of my left hand inch toward, then close over my treasure.
Suddenly, I can see. Like a window or door in my brain has opened.
I could ask any seasoned archeologist or anthropologist what makes them suspect a fragment is bone, human bone, and get a twenty-minute lecture on striation, density, porosity, or endless identifying marks. They would comment on any or all of these, and throw in instinct and experience.
But for me, it’s the voice.
The voice makes me wonder. Is it possible? Have I found the remains of a body? A human body?
A body that hasn’t let go?”
Joan:Having accompanied you to both Jamestown and Dunkin’ Donuts, I can tell you this excerpt is touches on the very mystical vibe of the place. The story just gets more mysterious and the attraction Ro feels for Cade is the best of young love.
So now we know about your book, what about Lisa? Tell us 3 fun things about you:
1. Like a fine wine, I like my Easter Peeps aged. (A year isn’t too long!) 2. You can keep the shoes. You can keep the purses. I’m all about the earrings. 3. I tuck a little bit of money in my coat pockets in the Spring. It makes the start of winter a little happier. Now I’d like to ask your BB’s a few questions.
1) What is your favorite period in history?
2) If you could chose to have any psychic ability, what would it be?
A lucky commenter will win a copy of FINDING BETH print (US only) or ebook download and a $10 Amazon gift card.
My guest today is USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham. Her Alex Noziak urban fantasy series features five women drafted to combat preternatural beings in a quest for power. We have witches, like Alex, shifters, a sexy warlock, and people with other unusual gifts. Mary also co-writes the Red Moon young adult science fiction-fantasy series with Dianna Love.
Welcome, Mary! What inspired you to write the Alex Noziak urban fantasy series?
The concept of invisibility, by choice or by living in an environment where a woman’s innate gifts have been undervalued is fascinating to me. Many women can relate to the protagonist of my series, Alex, not because of her abilities as a witch or a shaman but in her struggle to come to terms with who she is and what she can do. It’s not an easy path, filled with lots of what-if second-guessing and OMG moments, but she’s willing to try, which makes her a person readers root for and a woman, I think that many readers can understand.
I never envisioned that the series would take off as well as it has or that it would earn me a USA Today bestselling author ranking. Tickled pink by the response to Alex, and her team.
Please tell us about Alex and her comrades.
Alex, who is part-witch/ part-shaman and all attitude, and the other four women of the IR (I for Invisible, R for Recruit) Agency have been coerced into a covert organization because of their additional paranormal or other abilities (psychic, ability to turn invisible, etc.) to counter threats from the world’s preternatural individuals. Most of the world is unaware that preternaturals even exist, but a few are aware and see growing conflict between them and humans. The Agency is a small start, but it is a start, and now women who have hidden their gifts must not only embrace them, but pull together as a team.
They are up against very powerful forces and if they fail, they risk death or worse. If they survive one year, they are free to walk away from the Agency. But that’s a big IF.
Who is Bran, and can you say whether you have long-range plans for him?
Bran is an uber-sexy warlock, an enemy to witches and, in the first full-length novel, INVISIBLE MAGIC, the person Alex must work against to determine if he’s good and caught up in something very bad, or bad, and needing to be removed. Against every instinct Alex possesses, except one, they become lovers. Their relationship starts with major trust issues and gets worse. So yes, Bran is a reoccurring character and we’ll see more of him as the series progresses.
Would you like to include an excerpt?
Delighted you ask. Have attached an excerpt from INVISIBLE POWER, the second novel in the series.
I’m Alex Noziak, a witch/shaman in the temporary employment of the IR Agency. I for invisible, R for recruit, and calling any of my five-member team employed was a load of crock. I was here as an alternative to prison. Long story boiled down to a year’s agreement to be a member of a small, highly secret organization meant to combat a rising tide of preternatural agitation against humans. Fancy words for saying five of us stood against who knew how many species that, until lately, were mostly content to stay hidden from human eyes.
So here I was, in the exotic city of Paris, lounging on a street corner, a baby buggy in front of me, dressed like a down-on-her-luck Parisian mother. I had my waist-length braid of hair tucked up under a cheap hat that was itching like crazy and enough makeup on my face to disguise my Native American skin tones. I’d considered using an appearance spell then discarded it. Not that I liked looking like I’d bought every kind of cosmetic Walmart had to offer and used all of it at once, but magic was something I used with extreme caution.
Why? Because it always exacted a price and I was still smarting from my last bout with spell casting. That and a run-in with a demonic African witch doctor.
About two months ago it became apparent that someone, or something, was no longer happy with the status quo of humans being blithely unaware that there were more than themselves populating the planet. Preternaturals had their reasons for flying under the radar, for many of them survival being the biggest reason. Humans tended to kill first and ask questions later when they dealt with anything they perceived as a threat. If you don’t believe me consider the poor cockroach. As if a bug that small was really going to do something to them. Non-humans, like most squishy, squirmy bugs, fell squarely under the category of dead must be better.
But someone wanted to change all that and my job, along with my five teammates, was to stop it from happening.
Team leader Vaughn, who was sitting at a nearby café table, sipping espresso and looking more French than the locals, was I assumed fully human. She also was a socialite, pampered money, and stunning looks; more than that though, she was willing to put her life on the line for a cause, protecting those who didn’t know they needed protection.
Then there was Kelly, a former kindergarten teacher who was so nice I kept waiting for the catch. Her gift was the ability to turn invisible for short bursts of time. Drawback was, she was still learning how to get a handle on not popping away when stressed or scared. Right now she was playing tourist, complete with a crumpled map, a camera, and a vacuous expression on her face as she looked around the seedy neighborhood. She fit the role so well even I believed she was lost.
She was waiting for my signal to do her thing, become invisible and reconnoiter our target and mission accomplished. A quick get-in-and-get-out-in-one-piece job. Piece of cake.
Jaylene Smart and Mandy Reyes were the two other team members, lounging against a far wall, looking, except for the cast on Mandy’s arm like hookers trolling for johns among a few other women doing the same thing. Jaylene, tall, gorgeous, and African American was a psychic, which meant she saw the future. Not always in technicolor or clearly, but that was the challenge with gifts, you had to take the bad with the good.
Hispanic Mandy was a soulless spirit walker; someone who like me, could pass over to the spirit world. Difference was I remained a shaman when I traveled between realms. She might as well have worn a neon sign that flashed corporal-body-ready-to-be-inhabited to any spirit with enough chutzpah to try.
I figured the reason some spirit hadn’t succeeded yet was only because they were wary of Mandy’s abrasive personality. Smart spirits.
M.T. Stone was our team instructor, and as we had yet to finish our training, was here with us for support. Since he’d nearly died on our last mission, one that was supposed to be easy, I took it as a good sign. He’d barely left a German hospital so his presence was meant for tactical support. He was dressed as a Parisian workman in a one-piece paint-splattered coverall, poking at a chip in a stucco wall. He should have looked harmless but there was nothing harmless about him. One close look and most people’s first reaction was to step back, those who hadn’t already taken off running.
“Team, report,” I repeated, getting antsy, as operational leader. I had the most at stake on this mission. Our primary goal was catching a man named Vaverek and all we had was a faint description: broad shouldered, stocky, dark-haired, who was supposed to be living in the second floor, front right flat in the building across the street, a building so old that if Stone kept picking at it might crumble.
We were to verify the intel that this was his hidey-hole and withdraw, period. no matter how much I wanted us to go in, blast his door open and take him out, after he told me what I wanted to hear. With two of the six of us on the recuperation list we weren’t up to doing anything more, even with at least two snipers on nearby rooftops to help us if we needed backup.
Vaverek was the man behind a dangerous synthetic drug used against humans so far that could force them to commit crimes without their knowledge. Two weeks ago we’d stopped two of the women involved in testing the drug on unsuspecting victims. We also managed to seize a sizeable amount of the drug, which should have been a high-five moment for the team, and for me as point on that operation.
The moment lasted a lot less than sixty seconds when a containment spell I’d cast backfired and killed our two chief suspects before they could give us any leads to their power brokers, the individuals who financially backed the scheme, and who might still have enough of the drug, or worse, the formula, to pose a threat.
But there was more. Vaverek was also our only link to the increasingly dangerous agitation among the world’s non-human population. We needed to know who Vaverek was working for, as well as free the man Vaverek held hostage.
And we’re off and running! Can you give us a brief overview of the series so far?
So far Alex and the Invisible Recruit Agency are in the early stages of being a covert team that’s unknown to the other US and International law enforcement agencies as they come up against preternaturals. After generations of hiding themselves some groups of the preternaturals are wanting to assert their presence in a world they once dominated, but since they used humans as food and chattel, allowing the preternaturals free-rein is not a good idea.
And then there’s another threat, called the Seekers, moving in the shadows, who are agitating the more violent of the preternaturals and will be bringing whole new level of bad to the world, and the IR team. The concept of the story arc seems to be working well as one reviewer had this to say about the series, “Not since Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson have I fallen in love with a female character like I have with Alex Noziak.” ~~ Quiana at Urban Girl Reader
Let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about your nonfiction books on writing. I notice each one covers a specific topic. Why did you take this approach?
Currently I’ve released two of the WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series (the third one will come out this month) as a means to introduce elements of Setting in smaller, more manageable concepts, instead of one large book of several hundred pages. So far each of the e-books explores roughly 3 ways to use Setting description on the page in a stronger way in our writing, no matter what we write. They’ve been written with plenty of examples and assignments to get a writer excited to try the concepts and that has proven to be a very successful approach based on the feedback given on the first two books.
Keeping the initial releases tight and focused I’ve also been able to keep the price very affordable. So for less than the cost of a latte a writer can pick up one copy and see if the approach works for them and if their own writing improves. Early next year I’ll bring out a combined print version of the book for those who like to highlight, underline, and savor reading craft books that way.
What’s next for you?
This year there will be a third Alex Noziak novel out later this Fall, the third WRITING ACTIVE series book out in September, and the 2nd book in the YA Time Trap series I co-author with NYT bestselling author Dianna Love coming in early December. Next year will see the release of three more full-length Alex Noziak novels, at least 2 novellas in that series, an expanded print version of the WRITING ACTIVE Setting book and a third book in the YA series written under the pen name Micah Caida. I also plan to release at least one book in a new Urban Fantasy series based on a young woman who becomes the shaman of Seattle, and that’s just the start.
For more information about Mary and her books, visit her website. You can also connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.
Mary’s giving two commenter today a choice of Invisible Magic or Invisible Power (hard copy in the US, choice of Kindle or Nook download elsewhere). So tell us–Who’s your favorite hero or heroine who was grudgingly drafted into something, and why did you choose this person? Please also tell us a bit about the book, movie or TV show in which the character appears.
This month marks the end of a series I’ve enjoyed very much, Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers. The first book, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter, won the 2012 Young Adult Maggie Award of Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jana will talk with us today about winding up this series. Welcome, Jana!
So let’s say you’re an author and the last book in your young adult series is finally in the wild. How do you cope?
A) Turn cartwheels of joy shouting “It’s done! OMG it’s done!”
B) Don sack cloth and ashes
C) Find yourself a bit emotional and reach for an adult beverage (or three)
At present I’m veering back and forth between A & C (because sack cloth and ashes really isn’t my thing). I’m thrilled, but I’m sad at the same time, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve invested *four* years in the Demon Trappers Series, seen it go from a twinkle in my imagination to being published in nine foreign countries. It’s won awards, both here and abroad. It’s in my blood.
Over those years I’ve watched my fave characters go through Hell (literally) and find their destiny in FORETOLD, the final book. Riley Blackthorne, the 17 y/o heroine has gone from being a self-centered teen to a strong young woman. Denver Beck, the hunky Southern guy trapper with so many secrets, has learned that he’s worthy of love. And Ori, the wild card in the series, took the series in surprising directions.
At the very core was the story of a teen stuck in the middle of the “Grand Game” between Heaven and Hell, supposedly another “pawn”. It was vitally important that Riley’s “story arc” made sense. It wasn’t easy. My readers might be surprised to hear it took me longer to “get” Riley than it did Beck. It’s been a long time since I was seventeen and I had to tap my memories for what I was like at that age. The raging insecurities, the feeling that everything was immediate and raw-edged. As we age we realize a lot of stuff will just take care of itself on its own, but when you’re a teen everything is High Priority, life or death.
So it was with Riley and probably more life and death than most. It was agonizing to watch as she and Beck made some serious mistakes, flawed decisions that could cost them their lives and/or their souls. Still, they bounced back tougher and wiser. That process, writ large, is how we mature. We make mistakes, we acknowledge them, and we move on. Unlike Riley, fortunately our boo-boos rarely gain the attention of the angels and the Prince of Hell.
Now that it’s all over I’m like someone who has packed up their bags and is moving to a new city, leaving behind my very best friends. I promise to keep in touch. I have to — I know them better than I know myself.
Now it’ll be a new story, new characters to put through their paces, a fresh start. It’s what an author does. Nevertheless I will also look back fondly at the Demon Trappers Series, for it changed me in ways too numerous to count. That’s the power of the written word – it changes not only the reader, but the one who penned the tale.
Jana’s giving one commenter today the winner’s choice of one book in the series (The Demon Trapper’s Daughter, Soul Thief, Forgiven, or Foretold) and a Demon Trappers tee shirt. So tell us, what book, television, or movie series have enjoyed that’s over now, as well as what you liked about it and what you miss about it.
Be sure to come back to the Lair on December 13 when we kick off the annual 12 BANDITA DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! Prizes and recipes every day!! Roosters. Starbucks goodies. Books. Dragons. Books. Cookies. Godiva. Books!! (By Banditas and friends like Sabrina Jeffries, Liz Carlyle, JD Tyler, Deb Marlowe, Addison Fox and many more!) You know you want the cookies, for sure, so come home to the Lair for the Holidays! Who knows, you might win something, and you’ll be guaranteed to have fun!!
I’m thrilled to welcome my friend, author Sophie Littlefield, to the Lair today! Sophie is a living doll who writes awesome stories that will have you gasping and that will turn your knuckles white from gripping the book so hard.
Sophie and I have something in common – we’re both statuesque blondes capable of killing a man with a shoehorn and a—whoa! What I meant to say was that we both love to write books that appear in different sections of the bookstore. You all know that I write both romance for Harlequin Desire, as well as the Bibliophile Mystery series for Signet. (ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE: A Bibliophile Mystery, will be out on February 8, and the ebook novella PAGES OF SIN is available now!)
Well, Sophie’s books are in *three* sections of the bookstore! She writes dystopian fiction (such as HORIZON, which is a hot new release this week, don’t miss it!), crime fiction (the fabulous BAD DAY mystery series), and young adult fiction.
I thought it would be fun to chat with Sophie about how we find ways to connect with different audiences, and whether our inability to pick a genre and stick with it is a sign of sheer brilliance or emotional instability.
Kate: When you found yourself with different stories to tell in three distinct genres of fiction, did you ever consider publishing them under different pseudonyms? Why or why not?
Sophie: Like you, Kate, I think I’ve always had more ideas than I could possible commit to the page. It always mattered far more to me to have a chance to write than what name eventually appeared on the cover, so when one of my publishers brought up the possibility of a pen name, I wasn’t especially bothered. Later, though, the publisher reconsidered, and stuck with my real name. In retrospect, I’m really happy about that. For one thing, I’m not a very organized person, and the idea of having to maintain two separate identities – not to mention two sets of social media! – is overwhelming.
I certainly understand that not every reader will enjoy all my books. So I understand that readers may not follow me from one genre to another. But I do think that these days, readers are savvy enough to make those distinctions and decisions for themselves. A number of very established authors have been trying new things under their own names – whether they are writing for a different age group or trying a new genre or voice – and I, for one, always admire them for pushing themselves to try new things.
Kate: One thing I’ve found is that though the genre changes, my voice doesn’t. In other words, whether a reader picks up one of my Desires or one of the Bibliophile Mystery books, she’s going to get a fast-paced story with lots of humor. Do you find the same is true of your books? Is your voice consistent? If so, how would you describe the similarities that readers will discover in your books? If your voice changes, how would you describe that?
Sophie: I’m a bit schizophrenic in that regard. My first series – the Stella Hardesty “BAD DAY” series – is sassy, snarky, and humorous. None of my other work is those things: my young adult novels aspire to reflect the inner landscape of girls on the brink of womanhood, and my dystopian fiction is highly introspective and emotionally raw.
I am addicted to the challenge of trying to bring vastly different characters to life. But I would say some aspects of my voice remain consistent: I love language and experimenting with construction; I give motivation a great deal of thought, so each character’s journey rings true; and I aim to deliver a vigorous read, with a few unexpected twists.
Kate: In HORIZON, heroine Cass Dollar faces evil from humans struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world… and yet, romance is a part of her life, as well, with not one but two love interests vying for her attention. Does romance play a role in each of your different series?
Sophie: Kate, I think you know my little secret – that I got my start writing romance fiction. I have five unpublished romance novels in the drawer, and I learned all my early lessons in the company of other romance writers, who are still among my closest friends and mentors. It’s hard for me to imagine being satisfied with a book unless I’ve put a romantic relationship close to the core.
That said, I’ve wandered a bit off the path from the traditional romance arc. Human attraction is more mysterious to me all the time; I find that as I get older, I know less than I ever did about why people are drawn to each other, or what rules are or should be in place. For me, it’s far more interesting to write a nontraditional or fraught or doomed love affair, letting it unspool along with the rest of the story, than one whose ending I think I know at the outset.
I will admit to occasionally falling for my fictional heroes. It’s an occupational hazard for those of us with zesty imaginations, don’t you think, Kate?
Kate: I definitely do! I have Derek Stone, Brooklyn’s love interest from the Bibliophile Mystery books, on speed dial.
Thank you again, Sophie, for stopping by the Lair! Everyone, be sure to check out Sophie’s website, www.sophielittlefield.com, and comment today for a chance to win a copy of Sophie’s latest, the fabulous HORIZON!
How do you discover new writers? When you go into a bookstore, do you automatically head to one particular section, or do you browse a bit? Have you ever tried a new genre because a book was written by one of your favorite authors?
Today’s guest is a debut author and one of my buddies from Georgia Romance Writers, a past president who has sometimes been mistaken for my twin (and vice-versa). This only happens at National, not in Atlanta, where we’re both known much better, so be warned if you think you see either of us in Orlando.
Although Maureen Hardegree concedes to having all the usual baggage of a middle child, she is NOT a ghost handler. She does, however, believe in connecting with her inner teenager and in feeding her active imagination—it likes Italian food and chocolate. When she’s not writing, she’s working on costumes for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet . . . or doing the bidding of her husband, daughter, and cats Pixie and Turnip Ann. Welcome, Maureen!
We love call stories in the Lair. Will you share yours?
My offer took place via e-mail! I’ve been published with BelleBooks since 2005 in their Southern Stories Collections and Mossy Creek Hometown Series, but hadn’t yet made the leap to a sale in novel-length fiction. When Bellebooks expanded to the Bell Bridge Books imprint, I noted that they were looking for YA. I believedHaint Misbehavin’, which won the Children’s/YA category of the Sandy Writing Contest as A Ghoul Just Wants to Have Fun in 2007, would be a good fit for their YA line. I changed the title because I wanted something that reflected the story better, and I knew Deb Smith liked a good pun. Besides my ghost is truly a haint (Southern for ghost), not a ghoul. I also revised it extensively, cutting it down and giving the sister relationships more subplot thanks to some suggestions from contest judges and editors.
I also felt comfortable querying editor Deb Smith about my middle grade YA in the fall of 2008 because we’d worked well together in the past. She liked the partial enough to pass it onto Deb Dixon, who asked for the full in January of 2009. I saw Deb Dixon at a Georgia Romance Writers meeting in the spring of 2009, and she told me my manuscript was toward the top of her YA to-be-read pile.
In the meantime, I’d started a different book, which I’d hoped to sell to Harlequin American. In June of 2009, I had an e-mail from Deb Smith in my inbox about Haint Misbehavin’. My heart pounded as I opened it, expecting a rejection. Having almost sold several times to other publishers with several other books, I keep my expectations low. ☺ I think my daughter can attest to the squeal of joy that forced her from her bed that morning. It was similar to a recent squeal I let out when Deb let me know also via e-mail that Bonnie Bell’s Lipsmacker Lounge was going to offer a review of Haint.
Tell us about Heather, your heroine, and her friends.
Heather, who will be a high school freshman in the fall, wants nothing more than to be perceived as normal. Since pre-school, she’s been plagued with the nickname Princess and the Pea because she’s hypersensitive and often breaks out in hives. Actually, she has two additional goals for the summer: one is to have her popular older sister like her and the other is to gain the positive attention of the hottest lifeguard on the planet—Drew Blanton. She gets along with her younger sister Claire, who’s a bit of a ditz. Her older sister Audrey finds Heather an embarrassment and doesn’t stop her popular friends from making Heather their favorite object of ridicule. Heather’s best friend is Tina Wilson, who can’t keep a secret and is a boy magnet. Tina’s popularity hasn’t rubbed off on Heather, unfortunately. During the course of this story, Heather reluctantly befriends geeky altar boy Xavier Monroe.
How does life change when you can interact with ghosts?
For Heather it means constantly having to hide her ability so that no one else knows. When ghosts are around, she’s on edge. She doesn’t want her weirdo status to expand exponentially. It means seeing or feeling entities as she goes about her regular life, which can make shopping at the mall or sunning at the neighborhood pool complicated. It also means having to put someone else’s needs before her own.
What’s keeping Heather and Drew apart?
At the beginning of the book, Drew doesn’t even know who Heather is. As the story develops, what keeps them apart is her reluctance to stand up for herself and that he sees her as the funny girl sidekick, not as girlfriend material. During the course of the series, I’ve set up a love triangle. Will Heather ultimately get together with Drew or with geeky altar boy Xavier?
Here’s a video peek:
Wow, how cool! Would you like to share an excerpt?
Sure! Here’s a sample:
“We’re playing. Now.” Amy sounded as miffed as Audrey does when someone leaves two Pringles at the bottom of the canister. I swear I don’t do it on purpose . . . most of the time.
The little girl balled up her fists like she wanted to hit me, and then, I swear to God, she levitated off the ground. My heart drummed in my chest.
There had to be a logical explanation for it. I must be having a sunstroke for real. I felt my forehead. My skin was sweaty, but normal, except for that tingle I feel just before I erupt in hives. I backed up to gain a little perspective. Amy followed. I don’t think heatstroke manifestations can do that.
That left me with three options. I was insane, I was still in bed sleeping, or this Amy girl was playing some kind of cruel trick on me.
She looked real; she wasn’t all filmy, so she had to be real, right?
I steeled myself and focused on her arm. Slowly, I extended my pointing finger. My skin cooled, then crawled as my fingertip touched her sleeve, which suddenly lost its substance, yet remained three-dimensional. I poked right through her like she was some hologram, but no hologram was dimensional.
Oh, my, God. I was crazy. My pulse sped so fast I could barely hear anything else. I stumbled back away from her, dropping the jar of dead beetles.
If I wasn’t insane? Then this kid who could levitate and turn translucent was magic, or she was dead.
My legs no longer worked. I was stuck, planted just like the vines that surrounded me. I tried to swallow, tried to remember how to breathe. “What are you?” I managed to croak.
“I done told you, I’m Amy.”
She levitated higher—as if I needed any more convincing of her ghostly nature at this point. Her little ankle boots rose nearly a foot off the ground. She came eye to eye with me, only her brown eyes didn’t reflect back my image.
The elastic in the waistband of my underpants started to itch, and then I felt the two metal hooks in my bra and the elastic in the bra band rub against my skin along my rib cage, like it always did when I was nervous. I started scratching the top of my head, then at the bumps rising on my neck.
The temperature of the air around me turned frosty. I rubbed my itchy arms against the chill. “I’m not sure what you are, Amy. I’m not even sure that I’m awake. For all I know, I could still be in bed, and you’re some bad dream. But just in case I’m wrong, could you please go away?”
I prayed that if she was truly a ghost that she wasn’t like Geneva’s, who according to my aunt, was bent on sticking around. “Why not?”
She shrugged. “I wanna play Hide and Go Seek.”
Okay, this had to be a dream. Ghosts in movies don’t play cheesy kids’ games. They wanted to go toward the light or something like that.
“If you don’t play with me, Heather, you’ll be right sor-ry,” she sang.
That’s when one of the galvanized wires training the grape vine closest to me pinged and dropped its burden like someone had snapped it with cutters. The whole vine arm with its spurs and large leaves slumped, nearly touching the ground. It was rust, not Amy, because Amy didn’t exist, because I was in bed having a nightmare, because fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to stick me with a whiny kid ghost after years of trying to live down a nickname from preschool that wouldn’t die.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Well, I can assure you I’m not cleaning my house unless I’m stuck on a plot point or company’s coming. ☺ I spend a lot of time at my daughter’s ballet studio as a costume committee chair. While she’s in dance class every day after school for a couple hours and most Saturdays, I’m often in the company sewing room altering costumes for the next production or fitting dancers. The pre-professional Northeast Atlanta Ballet performs an average of three full productions each season, and the company owns their costumes and most set pieces. Last year we did four productions, but that’s highly unusual. During productions, we perform up to six shows in a weekend plus two school shows for students from title one schools.
I’m there at the performing arts center working in the Green Room, fixing costume issues, helping dancers into and out of tutus, making certain all costumes and their headpieces and other accoutrements are accounted for at the end of each show. Who knew learning to sew in high school would lead to this? It’s a big commitment, but I’m happy to make it for my daughter. Plus, I’m around the audience I hope books like Haint Misbehavin’ might appeal to. I hear how the girls talk to one another. I learn what music they like, what their biggest conflicts are. I’m immersed in YA culture with a bunhead slant, you could say.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on Book Two in the Ghost Handler series Hainted Love, which takes place during the family vacation to Jekyll Island, Georgia. I have another short story “Sister Knows Best” included in Book Eight of the Mossy Creek Hometown series Homecoming in Mossy Creek that’s coming out in the fall. I’ve been working on a novella and have also been revising another novel that I’d like to send out soon.
As to ballet, this dance season includes The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Little Mermaid with pieces from Anchors Away and Paquita. So I’ll probably look at some of those costumes over the summer to see what repairs can be made prior to fittings. The ballet season follows the school calendar, which means I have a lot more time during the summer to get projects finished.
Maureen is giving a book to one commenter today, so tell us: What’s your favorite ghost story? If you could talk to ghosts, would that be a boon? If so, what would you ask?
Today we welcome back YA author Gillian Summers and her alter-egos, Michelle Roper (below left) and Berta Platas (below right). They’re celebrating the launch of The Secret of the Dread Forest. This is half-elven Keelie Heartwood’s third outing and the final book of the Faire Folk Trilogy.
Welcome, y’all! For those who aren’t familiar with the Faire Folk, who is Keelie Heartwood, and why is she in the Dread Forest?
Michelle: Keelie Heartwood is a California girl, who discovers while living with her Dad on the Ren Faire circuit that he’s an elf, and that makes her half-elf. The Dread Forest is the home forest for her father’s tribe of elves.
Berta: Keelie initially doesn’t want to leave California or live with her father, and especially dislikes the Renaissance Faire. She has a lot of changes in store!
How has Keelie changed over the course of the trilogy?
Michelle: She’s gone from a grieving teenager, totally overwhelmed with her new magical abilities and the discovery of the elves to someone who is learning and accepting her place in her new world.
Keelie’s journey begins when she arrives at the Renaissance Faire, and she
tree allergy she’s had all her life turns out to be tree magic inherited from
her tree shepherd father, Zekeliel Heartwood. As Keelie opens herself to her
magic, she discovers more and more about the trees, and her elven side.
As she learns how to balance her magical abilities with the trees, she also
grieves the loss of one parent, and getting to know her father, along with living
in a new environment. It’s a lot to throw at a kid, but she handles it.
The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter is the first book in the Faire Folk trilogy. It starts when fifteen year old Calilfornia girl, Keelie Heartwood has to go and live with her father on the Ren Faire circuit, after she loses her mother. At the Renaissance Festival, Keelie experiences another world within the Renaissance world, she discovers magic and that her father is an elf. And that means–she’s not totally human.
Into The Wildewood continues Keelie’s story as she travels with her Dad to an upstate New York Renaissance festival. She is still grieving the loss of her mother, adjusting to life with her father, and discovering her magic. To complicate matters, the elves are getting sick, the forest is not well, and the Wildwood unicorn, the forest guardian is dying.
A hawk figures prominently in this book and earlier ones. What inspired you to use it?
Michelle: At the Georgia Renaissance Faire there are raptors who cannot be released into the wild. I thought as a character, Keelie could relate to an injured hawk. Keelie is grieving for her mother and her old familiar life. An injured hawk has to grieve for its freedom and for the life it once had.
Berta: Yes, the hawk’s frustration mirrors her own. Because the hawk is half blind it can no longer hunt or fly well. Keelie identifies closely with Ariel the hawk. Hawks are so beautiful, and can be so strong and deadly. We saw Keelie’s potential that way as well. Her growing powers, if she chooses to accept them and learn to use them, will make her a force to be reckoned with. If she doesn’t learn, she’ll be just as injured as Ariel.
There’s no Ren Faire in this book, as there was in the first two. What takes its place?
Michelle: We have lots of fun things taking the place of the Ren Faire. The setting of the Dread Forest allows readers to see the home forest of the elves. There is a ‘human’ town that borders the Dread Forest, and we created some fun characters, including a tattoo artist who reside in this unique place and befriends Keelie.
Berta: We wanted to have a Ren Faire in each book, but there was no way to cram one into this story, and it was a story that we had to tell before we went on with Keelie’s adventures. The next book definitely has a festival, as do the next two, but as Michelle said, there’s plenty of exciting stuff happening in this one. Lots more magic, for one thing.
Keelie seems to be having some romantic issues. Can you tell us a little about those?
Berta: Keelie has an ugly surprise waiting for her in the Dread Forest. I won’t say anything more about that. I will say, though, that she gets to spend much more time with Sean than she has before, since he’s not working. Elves are such workaholics. Who knew? He’ll be in the Redwood forest with her in book four, as well.
What unusual goodies do you have on Gillian’s website?
One way we connect with readers is by adding to the published stories. Gillian’s website has a map of the fair from The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter, and we’re putting the finishing touches on a map of the fair from Into the Wildewood because readers requested it. For Into the Wildewood we also posted paper dolls of Knot the cat with various outfits, suitable for the color, cut and paste kid in all of us! At Halloween last year we posted a short story on our blog about Knot’s visit to the elven pumpkin patch. As you can imagine, no good came of it.
Besides Keelie’s further adventures, what’s ahead for Gilian Summers?
We plan to write stories about Keelie’s friends, too. Laurie, her old friend from California, and Raven the herb lady’s goth daughter, will get stories, and so will her new friend in the Dread Forest.
What has been happening with Gillian Summers since you were here last year?
Seems as if it was just the other day! Had we announced the continuation of the series then? We’re doing three more Keelie books! We just finished an appearance at TimeGate 2009, a science fiction and fantasy convention where we hosted a launch party for The Secret of the Dread Forest, and were surprised by a group of kids who made a role playing game of The Faire Folk for a school project! It’s based on Dungeons and Dragons rules, and it’s amazing! What a huge amount of work and dedication, and so much fun!We’re wrapping up our May contest this weekend. We have two autographed copies of the new book to give away on our blog, and on June 20th we’ll be signing at the Norcross Hilton on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard at 2:30 pm, joining several other authors. The public is welcome!Romance Bandit readers don’t have to enter our contest – we have an autographed copy for you to give away here (much better odds, believe us).
For more about Gillian Summers and Keelie’s adventures, visit Gillian’s website.
Do you remember teenage angst? Do you like the outdoors or are you, as Keelie starts out, much more at home at the mall? If could have a magical power, how would you use it?
Young Adult author Tina Ferraro was one of our very first guest authors here in the Lair, and we are always happy when she can come back and pay us a visit! Aunty is tickled pink to sit down today with her buddy Tina and talk about her new release, changes in the YA market, and a cool new thing called “webisodes!”
AC: Welcome back, Tina! Please tell us a little about your new release with the fantastic cover — The ABCs of Kissing Boys.
Parker Stanhope has played soccer practically since she could walk. And now that she’s a high school junior, everything she’s worked for is finally coming together. She’s paid her dues on the field, and as an upperclassman, she’s a shoo-in for the varsity team. But that’s not what happens. This year, the coach moved up every JV player but two-and one of those two was Parker. Now, she’s stuck with the freshmen, and her friends are cutting her loose. But Parker is determined to get her life back. She has to get on the varsity team, and she has the perfect plan. All she needs now is the right kind of coach.
Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters? And how did you come up with it/them for this story?
I had the idea that a girl-doesn’t-get-moved-up-with-her-team floating around, as well as a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque parental feud. (Shakespeare fan AC rubs her hands together with glee!)
But it didn’t come together until I decided on my (admittedly ridiculous) title, and had to figure out how to tie those things all together with the heroine learning “everything there is to know about kissing.” My critique partner, Kelly Parra, was wonderful in helping me sort out my thoughts, and before you knew it, I had a storyline, and I started writing.
So that was a really long way to say “the plot first.”
AC: This is your third Young Adult release in as many years. What changes have you seen in your sub-genre since you first started writing in it?
Tina: Wow–I am no expert on Young Adult fiction, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it does seem like the most popular books today have fantasy/paranormal themes, while when I started targeting YA, the books on people’s lips were more contemporary high school stories, like Gossip Girls and (the now-defunct) Dorchester Smooch line. As for the future? Well, everything old is new again, right, so I imagine things will circle back.
AC: What new and exciting things are coming up in your future?
Tina: I have another book coming out in the summer of 2010, which I am really excited about. Here’s a blurb:
When Bad Flings Happen to Good Girls
It took 17 years for Brandy to get her life the way she wanted it–and about 17 seconds for it to fall apart. Her well-intending friends tell her it’s time to stop working so hard and “get a life.” By this, they mean a boyfriend, and they give her the summer to find one, or they’re going to go hunting the halls themselves. Not realizing that adding a boyfriend to her hectic AP and robotics team schedule, she’d have zero for them.
Away at her uncle’s cabin, she sets out to find a guy who will “break her heart,” so she can return from summer in need of her friend’s TLC, rather than matchmaking skills, and then can resume her well-planned life. She quickly finds the perfect candidate. But hooking up with the lifeguard proves harder than she can imagine. Even with the help from his nice-guy friend who seems to have his own reasons for getting them together–and keeping them apart…
AC: Sounds like another fun read Tina! Now what other fun things have you been up to? A “webisode” version of my second book, How to Hook a Hottie, is currently being shopped at TV studios. A “webisode” is a mini-episode, especially geared at websites. You’ll find them popping up on TV channel websites in the forms of brand-new programming, and “extras” from your favorite TV shows. For instance, “The Office” just ran a three-part webisode series on the NBC website.
Anyway, yeah, so wish me luck on that.
AC: How exciting, and GOOD GOOD LUCK!
Tina will give away a copy of her newest release The ABCs of Kissing Boys to one lucky commenter today.
AC:Since Tina’s book is all about kissing, why not share one of your favorite kisses (first or otherwise) in a book you’ve recently read. Hey, Tina! You can go first!
Tina: I liked the first time Ranger kissed Stephanie in Janet Evanovich’s series. WOO HOO! Hot stuff!
AC: NO arguments here! Okay Banditas and Buddies, lay the kisses on us!
Let’s give a rousing Bandit welcome to Young Adult author, Terri Clark! Terri’s novel, Sleepless, is out now (and check out that great cover *g*)
I’ve long been fascinated with dreams. Here are some interesting facts you may not know:̊
Nearly six years of your lifetime will be spent dreaming.̊
Your brain waves are just as active when you’re dreaming as they are when you’re awake.̊
Dreaming takes place in the R.E.M.—Rapid Eye Movement—stage of sleep.̊
Scientific studies have proven that animals dream.̊
Elephants, in fact, sleep standing up when they’re in non-REM sleep. When they’re in REM sleep, they lie down.̊
Mrs. Maureen Weston participated in a rocking chair marathon in 1977 and still holds the longest recorded period for going without sleep–449 hours (18 days, 17 hours). She suffered hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
While dream research in the last twenty-five years has certainly yielded some interesting facts, there’s one question that continues to be debated—WHY do we dream?
A lot of people think dreams are just a way for our brain to purge the day’s happenings. The images we see as we sleep are nothing more than nonsensical remnants of the things we came into contact with.
Other people believe our dreams are detailed truths and if we take the time to study them, interpret them, we’ll discover hidden meanings in our mind’s late night movies. Freud, the pioneer of dream interpretation, believed our dreams were symbolic of our deepest wishes.
Another common belief is that our subconscious is merely working through issues and trying to alleviate stress.
However, throughout history dreams have been given much more weight as they were often viewed as prophecies.
Still others believe that power can be found in our dreams. During our sleeping hours our mind is not restricted, our thoughts are boundless, and our brain can expand beyond its physical shell. Unimaginable things can be attained when we’re not shackled by logic.
And some believe we can control our dreams, manipulate them and even use them as a tool for bettering ourselves and our lives.
As for me, I tend to believe dreams can be all the above, but the one thing that most fascinated me was that old wives tale, “If you die in your sleep, you’ll die for real.”Is that possible?
SLEEPLESS is about Trinity Michael’s, an eighteen-year-old dreamwalker who’s being stalked in her sleep by a killer. If she dies in her dreams, she’ll die for real. In order to survive, she must stay awake and find her would be murderer before he can find her and the only person able to help her is the last person she thought she’d ever align herself with.
How old were you when you started reading? If you like to read now, that started somewhere, right? So…where?
Do you remember the first “real” book you read?
No, I don’t mean See Spot Run. Ha! I mean the first story that affected you. Anna Campbell’s Big Fat Book post got me thinking about Kid Books.
(Yes, it was a convoluted path from that sexy Riders cover to this, but hey…)
So, for you, what was “THE BEGINNING” ? (cue the music from the 10 Commandments)
For me, since my father’s a Librarian, The Beginning was at the Library. As a kid, I loved anything with fur or feathers. (Have to confess I’m still not a reptile fan, except for dragons) Tell that to an astute Children’s Librarian and s/he will pile your arms with books – fiction and non – about animals. (Note: I just LOVE Librarians!)
For horses, I started at the beginning. Billy And Blaze: A Boy And His Horse(Anderson) were ancient, but well loved books in my library’s Children’s Room. I graduated to BLACK BEAUTY (Sewel), National Velvet> (Bagnold) and a fabulous book on life, growing up and harness racing called Red Horse Hill (Meader) which made me want to move to New Hampshire. From there I read non-fiction about Shires, Clydesdales and Connemaras.
In reading O’Brien and London, I found adventure stories. OH! The wonders! Swiss Family Robinson (Wyss), The Black Arrow (Stevenson ), Ivanhoe (Scott), Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk (Sabatini), Robin Hood Tales,The Egypt Game (Snyder) and (tribal drum roll please) Tarzan of the Apes .
To my mother’s great dismay, for weeks I lived, slept, breathed and ate while holding a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. There are 10+ in the Tarzan series alone. From his John Carter of Mars tales, I transitioned to the fantasy realms of the late great Andre Norton, as well as Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Zelazney and so on.
I read the obligatory school-reads like Lord of the Flies (Golding), A Separate Peace (Knowles), and the dread The Crucible (Miller, Ugh), but the ones I search for are those oldies which evoke a vivid image from the tale. The bear fight in Big Red. When the weakling heir finds his inner Survivor and his mate in The Cave Girl (Burroughs) The quiet scene with the cocker spaniel as Pongo and Perdita search for their missing pups. The mines of Moria. (Shudder) Most are HEA – happily ever after – which eventually led me to Romance…but that’s another story altogether…
So this flashback made me wonder what would be the Anne of Green Gables for the next generation. I asked a friend, fellow 2006 Golden Heart pal Lavinia Klein, what her daughter was reading these days and got a GREAT list…(I didn’t see my old favorites on Becca’s list, but I chalk that up to my early Children’s Librarian being into TRADITIONAL books. Oh, and me being animal mad. Yeah, that’s the reason.) BTW, I’ve already made a trip to the library and B&N to snag some of Becca’s recommendations, as well as ordering Anna’s Silver Brumby stories. (TOLDja I’d read ’em Anna!)
RITA Winner and NYT best-selling author, Lorraine Heath joins the Romance Bandits in the Banditas Lair today. Lorraine’s newest historical romance, Just Wicked Enough, recently received a 4-1/2 star review from Romantic Times Magazine and will be on the shelves at your local book stores tomorrow. Today, she’s here to give us a sneak peek at Just Wicked Enough and talk about writing both historicals and Young Adult (YA). Congratulations, Lorraine on the great review and welcome to our lair.
Your stories always bring your readers wonderful alpha males in need of the right heroine to love. Can you tell us about the hero and heroine in Just Wicked Enough? Michael Tremayne, the Marquess of Falconridge, stole my heart the moment I met him. He’s extremely proud (what male isn’t, right?) and in dire financial straits. In A Duke of Her Own, he watched his best friend court a wealthy American heiress only to end up with the penniless chaperone. Michael hasn’t the time to waste courting a woman when the outcome is questionable, so he decides to hold a private auction with all the American fathers. He’ll marry the daughter of the man willing to arrange the best settlement.
Kate Rose has a secret in her past that makes her more than willing to agree to marry Falconridge if for no other reason it’ll get her out of her overbearing mother’s house. But Kate also believes strongly in love and courtship so before she’ll consummate the marriage, she insists that Falconridge earn her love. And since her father has given control over the money to her, my poor hero—who had hoped to avoid courtship—finds himself dancing to her tune.
Kate seems to be one of those headstrong Americans you love to incorporate in your books. How does she feel about her father essentially buying her a husband with a title? When she finds out, she’s furious . . . but since it was a private auction and neither man wants to confess what he’s done, it’s a while before she learns that Falconridge didn’t approach her parents and ask for her hand in marriage.
You originally wrote Western historical romances, which garnered you your RITA award. Was it hard to change from Western settings to books set primarily in England? It was difficult in that I had to do a lot of research because life was so very different in London than in Texas. Clothing, food, to a degree etiquette, all different. But I’d always wanted to write a story set in England, so part of the reason that I brought the second sons of English lords to Texas in my Rogues in Texas series was so that I could begin researching England and getting comfortable with the differences when a story wasn’t completely dependent upon a vast knowledge of English ways. So the Rogues in Texas became exactly what I’d hoped they would—a stepping stone to writing stories set in England.
If you had the chance is there another time or place you’d like to take your readers to with your historicals? Actually, I wrote three medievals before I was ever published and I’ll admit that lately I’ve been considering dusting them off and seeing if they have any potential. Although I suspect in truth I’ll find that they’re simply awful.
You’ve ventured into contemporary romances with Hard Lovin’ Man and Smooth Talkin’ Stranger. Are there plans for more of those stories in your future? I would like to write more contemporaries, have worked on a couple of stories actually, but I’m just not entirely comfortable with my contemporary voice and I’m not sure I’ve managed to figure out how to create that “big book” feel that you really need to be successful with contemporaries.
Our blog readers may not know this, but you also write YA stories under the name Rachel Hawthorne. Want to tell us about your latest YA release, The Boyfriend League? The Boyfriend League was a lot of fun to write. DH and I had gone to watch the McKinney Marshals play. They’re a collegiate team—college players move to the city during the summer, stay with host families, and play baseball. It was family appreciation night and they recognized the families who had provided homes to the players—and I immediately envisioned a teenage girl desperate for a boyfriend who talks her parents into hosting a player so she can get up close and personal with the players. Came home from the game, sat down at my computer, wrote the synopsis, pitched—so to speak—the story to my editor, and she loved it. I had my fictitious Ragland Raiders play actual teams in the North Texas Collegiate League. Although I’ve heard that the league may disband after this year.
If you read the excerpt for this book posted at my website, you’ll discover that Michael believes he has only to guess Kate’s favorite color in order to prove that he knows her well enough to be invited into her bed. His misguided belief provides some of the lighter moments in the story. What one thing does a man need to know about you to prove that he truly knows the real you?
One lucky commenter will receive an autographed copy of JUST WICKED ENOUGH along with a JUST WICKED ENOUGH mug!