Sunday, February 26, 2012

The "M" Word

Relationships. They’re hard. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Husbands and wives. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. One of the themes in my YA Unbidden Magic series is the relationship between my protagonist, Allie Emerson, and her young, single mother, Faye. It’s true; Faye isn’t exactly “Mother of the Year.” Still, I was unprepared for the reaction of some reviewers. After reading Moonstone, one reviewer hated Faye so much she wanted to “smash her in the face.” Another resorted to a string of fake profanities like *#*$**! Yet another felt compelled to address her remarks directly to Faye by shouting, “GET OFF YOUR LAZY ASS AND GET A JOB!”

Okay, people, let’s all take a deep breath and think about it. Why did my portrayal of Faye hit so many hot buttons? The obvious answer: Bad mother, Faye, tapped into their own experiences, dredging up bitter mother-daughter memories. If this is the case, I completely understand and sympathize. But, if this is not the case, why such outrage over a fictional character? It’s still a mystery to me.

Like most writers of fiction, my books are based on the real world. When I worked as a counselor in an alternative school, I encountered many “Fayes” and “Allies,” mothers and daughters whose relationships were totally upside down. In other words, the kid was the adult, the adult the kid. I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. One might think the teen forced into early adulthood would be hateful toward such an immature parent. Quite the opposite is true. These kids love their mothers.  And Allie, despite having moments of extreme anger and frustration, cares deeply for her mother. As I write each book in the series, I make an effort to deepen the relationship between Faye and Allie even though it remains dysfunctional. It’s called keeping it real. Time (and reviews) will tell me if I succeed.

I’d love to read your comments and opinions on good and bad mothers, as well as answer your questions. If you leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a drawing for one my books.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unearthly and Hallowed

Looking for a great YA read? Look no farther. Lacey Kwak-Simon, who works at Inklings Book Shop in Yakima, Washington, submitted the following review for the local paper. Many thanks to Susan Richmond, Inklings owner, for allowing me to re-print the review.
Clara, the protagonist in Cynthia Hand's novel "Unearthly," smells smoke and has strange visions of a mysterious boy in the woods who will soon be engulfed by a forest fire. With this recurring vision, Clara, who is part angel, now has to get ready for her purpose in life. But when her family packs up everything and moves to Jackson, Wyo., she is totally unprepared for what her new life holds for her.
With each vision, she discovers that not only is she supposed to rescue this mysterious boy, Christian -- stunningly handsome, super-sweet and every girl's dream guy -- but she feels as though they are meant to be together. Although she knows her destiny is entwined with him, she finds herself falling for Tucker, a well-rounded cowboy and perfect gentleman.
In Jackson, Clara finds new friends, more "angel-bloods" and a new-found love for the outdoors, which she explores with Tucker. She also learns to fly and takes a short trip to hell with a dangerous Black Wing, or fallen angel. But none of that compares to the hardships and the life-changing moments before her vision becomes reality.
Grief surrounds Clara in "Hallowed," Hand's follow-up to "Unearthly"; it fills her and weighs her down as she walks. As she dreams, she wonders what causes such pain and sorrow. Then a hand takes hers that is so familiar. Her heart skips a beat, and her breath catches in her throat, and the sorrow lessens. Christian. Always Christian.
It seems like Clara's path is already chosen. She has learned that her purpose may not be a one-time event, but continues to develop on a path she is not willing to follow. She has chosen Tucker and always will, but that may not be enough. Christian lives on the fringes of her life; he knows and understands what she is going through, better than she may know herself. She will be forced to choose between the two of them, but can she do it?
As Clara matures, her powers start to develop. She also discovers a support system of new friends and allies with whom she is able to face the return threat of Sam, the Black Wing, and a time of unspeakable heartache. Clara learns more about her family and realizes that she does not know them as well as she thought. Her mom starts to open up about her past and her own purpose and her distant father comes at a time of need.
When I was younger, we went to Yellowstone National Park as a family and loved it. I also passed through Jackson, Wyo., just a few months before I got "Unearthly" as an advance read. So the moment I picked up the first book, I fell in love. I could picture myself in the setting; walking under the ark of antlers, shopping at the little specialty stores, hiking up to a waterfall. I couldn't get enough of the book and I became a huge fan of Tucker. I was a little jealous of Clara. I still kind of am.
One reason these books came to life for me was that the characters were really well-developed and had great personalities. I enjoyed getting to know them. The plot really hooked me from the beginning and kept me engaged and wanting more.
Normally when I read an amazing book, I can't devour it fast enough. I need to know everything right then and there. But with these books, I savored them and took my time. They are truly amazing, and I want the story to last forever.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rebecca Rogers Interview and Book Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Rebecca Rogers back to Book Blather. The last time she visited, she blogged about self-publishing and had one book, Silver Moon, up on Amazon. She now has three books available. Yes, three. Looks like someone wasn’t paying attention (that would be me). 
You have a chance to win one of Rebecca's book if you do the following: Leave a comment telling us which book you would like. Could it be any easier?
 Thanks for dropping by, Rebecca.
   Thank you for having me, Marilee. :)

  You’ve been a busy lady since last you visited Book Blather. You’ve published a sequel to Silver Moon titled Black Moon, a continuation of Candra and Ben’s story. Do you have more books planned for the series?

Yep. I’m actually hoping to release a prequel to Silver Moon this September, which is the story of how the werewolf curse began for Candra’s and Ben’s families over five hundred years ago. The third book in the series, titled Blood Moon, will be released sometime next year.

You’ve also published another book, Under the Stars that seems to have a Sci Fi flavor. Did you write this book before Silver Moon? Do you plan to make it a series?

Under the Stars was technically the third book I’ve written, but the second to be published. Unfortunately, I don’t have plans to make Under the Stars into a series. With the way it ended, I just don’t think it’s possible.

You’re becoming a very prolific writer. What’s next?

Well, I’m currently working on an edgy contemporary set for release this summer. It’s about a girl who discovers a homeless, drug-addicted boy during a vacation at her parents’ lake house, and what lengths she’ll push herself to save him. It’s titled Last Summer.

After this, of course, is the prequel to Silver Moon, set to release in September, Blood Moon at the beginning of 2013, and then the start of a new high fantasy series also out next year.

Any promotional tips for your fellow authors?

I’ve found that kindness goes a very, very long way when it comes to readers, whether they love or hate your work. The more you interact, the more down to earth and humble you appear, and the easier they can relate to you. Basically, don’t put yourself on a pedestal because you’re published.

Also, to gain a readership, readers LOVE giveaways—Goodreads, blogs, anywhere! Free books are awesome in this tough economy. I know this because I’m constantly scouring the freebies on Amazon. ;)

Self publishing seems to have worked out well for you. Any regrets?

Nope. Can’t say that I have any. I have freedom to do what I want, how I want. The only downside is not being able to reach all corners of the globe via foreign rights or to see your book(s) in the local superstores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.). Other than this, I’m extremely content with where I’m at as far as publishing goes.

How about an excerpt from one of your books?

Here’s a snippet of Black Moon I posted on my blog at the end of December:

Rebecca Rogers expressed her creative side at an early age and hasn't stopped since. She won't hesitate to tell you that she lives inside her imagination, and it's better than reality.

To stay up to date with Rebecca's latest books, check out her website at or find her on social sites such as Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Links to websites:

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Writer’s Baby/Giant Steps

 George Bernard Shaw said, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Isaac Asimov called rejection slips "a laceration of the soul." Despite the challenges, millions of us continue to pursue our dreams of publication. Our guest this week, Cheryl Dale,is one of the millions. Keep reading to see how she stays motivated. Her articles have been published in multiple children's and adult magazines. She writes Christian fiction and non-fiction, young adult and middle grade novels. She also loves to dabble with picture books and is working hard for that first book contract. Welcome to Book Blather, Cheryl.

     I was sifting through my overstuffed file of manuscripts, poetry, articles and ideas and thinking about how much easier it used to be for an aspiring author.  When I first became serious about getting published I needed a pencil, a tablet and a library card to research publishers.  And of course –fresh inspiration, passion and commitment.
     Now it seems I need a computer, several memberships in writing groups, a blackberry or Iphone, internet access, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog, email, a plethora of writer’s newsletters, magazines and conference brochures.  And of course – fresh inspiration, passion and commitment.
     How do you keep up with it all and find time to write and submit?  How do you read daily tweets about first time authors getting their big chance and not become discouraged that your name isn’t among them?  How do you survive the ups and downs of encouraging comments from publishers but no contract?  How do you find the time to read what’s new so you can stay contemporary, research what’s old so you can write history, observe what’s real so you can compose interesting and believable dialog, and write, write, write?  And of course – continue to have fresh inspiration, passion and commitment?
Here’s how I do it. 
Step One:  Every day I get up and remind myself that I am a writer.  I write because I have words inside that are fighting to get out.  I write because I have something to say that I believe others want to hear.  I write because – well because it’s what I am, a writer.
Step Two:  Every day I choose to play the game of words.  Pretty words, ugly words, rhyming words, soft words, loud words, long words, short words – words no one has ever used in the particular way I use them, words to spur laughter, bring tears, sing a story, paint a thought, knit an idea, quilt a relationship, weave a thread, wring a response.
Step Three:  Every day I listen to someone’s story, watch someone’s action and reaction, measure someone’s impact on others, study someone’s physical appearance and ponder someone’s history that got them to where they are today.  This forms the rich, marbled, fragrant cake batter of ideas I can bake into a manuscript.
Step Four:  Every day I choose to cheer a debut author’s success and I remind myself I might be next.  I read their book and search for the one thing that sets it apart.  And then I shove aside my rejection slips, pick up my pen (or turn on my laptop) and go back to step one!

If you're a writer, how do you stay motivated? Inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kathleen Eagle

A warm Book Blather welcome to Kathleen Eagle, the prolific author of more than 40 books and one of my Belle Book author sisters. Kathleen has kindly offered an autographed book to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment. Aw, come on, it's not that hard.

Kathleen, you write in one of my favorite genres, cowboy romance. How did this evolve?

I married an Indian cowboy.  I was the dude from the East gone West for a summer adventure.  Of course a lifetime of Westerns—books, movies, TV—helped to set me up for that love-at-first-sight moment.  Clyde was competing in amateur rodeo when I met him, so the characters in the first book I published (SOMEDAY SOON, a Silhouette Special Ed) were straight out of  Eagle casting.  We ranched for about seven years, and we’ve always owned horses.  In fact the two things we had in common from the get-go were love of horses and books.

I see in your bio, you taught at Standing Rock High School in North Dakota. Can you believe I’ve been to the Standing Rock reservation? Yep, our numbers are few – LOL!

Now I’m dying to hear your story, Marilee.  I taught in Fort Yates for 17 years, and I still have contact with many of my students.  I learned so much from that experience, and the only reason I quit after publishing a few books was that we had three young children, and I to make choice between teaching and writing.  But, oh, teaching is so important and so rewarding in ways more important than financial.  Let’s hear it for teachers!

Tell us about your new release from Belle Books, The Last Good Man. (Actually, I thought I was married to the last good man)

My “baby” sister inspired this story.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy when she was 40.  She was the single mother of a 4-year-old.  There were several emotional aspects to her recovery that contributed to the story, of course, but I decided to step it up a notch on the physical side when the Victoria’s Secret Catalog came in the mail one day, and I started thinking about breasts and bras and models and beauty.  What if one of the women in this catalog had had my sister’s surgery?  And what if she and her somewhat mysterious little girl returned to the small Wyoming town where she grew up?  Home of the last good man, of course.  They were best friends growing up.  She had a crush on his older brother.  He would’ve done anything for her then, but she was flying high, all the way to New York, riding on her beauty.  Now that she’s crash landed, what can he do for her?  What should he do for her, and what can she give in return?

THE LAST GOOD MAN is the only Romance ever to be named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award.  It was one of Library Journal’s “Five Best Romances of 2000,” winner of Rendezvous Online’s Rosebud Award, and a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice finalist.  Beginning sometime in February THE LAST GOOD MAN will be available for the first time in trade paperback, digital, and audio formats from Bell Bridge Books.

Your husband is Lakota Sioux. Has being exposed to his culture influenced your writing?
Absolutely.  I’m a white woman sojourning in Indian Country.  My stories are often written from that viewpoint.  Sadly, Indian Country is the road less traveled, and we are missing out as a nation because of that.  It’s a road that changed my life.  I don’t speak for Indian people in my stories.  I try to create characters who mirror the people I know, and I invite readers to walk that road with me.  A reader from Maryland actually took his family to the Dakotas on vacation and visited places he read about in my books.  They went to the Fort Yates powwow.

Anything new in the works?

THE LAST GOOD MAN is the first of seven books Bell Bridge Books will be bringing out in the coming months.  These are some of my best books, and they’ve been out of print for a while, so I’m thrilled to have them available in new formats.

The last book in my Wild Horse Sanctuary series for Silhouette, THE PRODIGAL COWBOY, comes out in August. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Periodically I teach a class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and I recommend 1) read  2) write 3) make friends with other writers (they’re the only people who really understand you) 4) get reliable feedback 5) keep reading and writing.  When writers tell me they have little time for reading, I just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them.  Writing begins with reading.

Where can people buy your books? 

Most bookstores carry my books, and they can generally order the newer ones if they don’t have them in stock.  The usual online booksellers keep the Silhouettes in stock longer, and readers can order directly from them.

Please provide us with an excerpt from The Last Good Man.


            The queen bees of Sunbonnet, Wyoming, were all a-buzz.  Savannah Stephens was back, in the flesh this time.  
How long had it been since the last time they’d pulled Savannah, dressed only in satin bra and lace panties, out of their mailboxes?  She’d been quite the regular fixture on the cover of that mail order catalog for quite a while.  Of course, everyone knew all about how those pictures got touched up.  But they had to admit, Savannah had the basic equipment. And it was all natural.  She was born and raised right there in Sunbonnet. She was a natural.  That dewy-eyed smile had been just the right counterpoint for the flawless body of a woman who didn’t have to think twice about walking around in broad daylight wearing nothing but pretty underwear. 
Then suddenly she’d vanished.  Air-brushed clean away, as though somebody had thrown a coat over her and dragged her back into the house.  Had it been three years ago, maybe five?
The drones had noticed right away when it happened, but they hadn’t said much.  Once Savannah was gone, the men had gotten their catalog back.  If anybody was to order anything, it was probably going to be a man.  He’d send for something black and lacy for his own lady, something she would put on for him, just so he could take it off.  The next morning she would tuck it away in the back of a drawer, and he’d never see it again.  Then it was back to the mailbox.  Sure, the men missed seeing Savannah, but there was still plenty of fine-figured diversion on the cover of Lady Elizabeth’s Dreamwear Catalogue. 
Still, the women pondered aloud on occasion.  What ever became of Savannah Stephens? 
Speculation was part of the pondering.  Some had heard she’d found greener pastures, but there were all sorts of tales about the nature of green.  A movie mogul with a pocket full of green had her stashed in a cottage beside the green sea.  Or she’d starved herself like they all did to stay slim, taken to eating nothing but lettuce and drinking green tea, and she’d just wasted away.  Some said she’d made so much green herself she’d been able to retire and get fat.  Heck, she always was pretty sassy. 
The ebb and flow of such comments depended on the weather and what else was in the news, but they never sloshed through the door of the Sunbonnet Mercantile, owned and operated by Billie Larsen, the only relative Savannah had left in Sunbonnet.  Or anywhere else, as far as anyone knew.  The old general store was a gallery of pictures of Savannah dressed in pretty suits and glamorous evening clothes.  The catalogs were stashed underneath the counter.  Billie was proud of those, too, but she didn’t tack them on the wall. 
Whenever anyone asked, Billie said that her niece was taking some time off from her modeling career.  The response hadn’t changed in five years.  Conventional wisdom calculated that it had probably been five years since Billie had heard from her once-famous niece, and the conventionally wise were not surprised to hear she’d come home with her tail tucked between her legs.  It just proved that New York City was no place for a nice girl from Wyoming.  It was bitch eat bitch in places like New York and L.A., or so the females of Sunbonnet had heard.  And so they were fond of saying.    
The males of Sunbonnet still weren’t saying much.  They couldn’t imagine pastures any greener than the pages of Lady Elizabeth’s Dreamwear Catalogue.  The thought of that tail and those legs coming home to Sunbonnet seemed too damn good to be true.  They’d have to see to believe, and so far the sightings had been few.  
But she was surely back. 

Visit my website for the rest of this scene.  I’d love to be your friend on Facebook, and do check out my group blog, Riding With The Top Down, and the gang at The Story Garden, “where good books make good friends.”
There’s an autographed copy of one of my Wild Horse Sanctuary books—your choice—for the randomly selected writer of one of today’s comments.