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Free All Weekend!

2015nominee-300x297I got some very cool news the other day – my book Wrapped Around Her Little Finger has been nominated for a 2015 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBooks Award!

Wrapped revTo celebrate the nomination, the book is FREE at Amazon throughout Memorial Day weekend (through Monday)!  It’s a collection of stories about a dad’s relationship with his daughter from birth to her wedding day – upbeat, sweet, and funny.  Here’s a little excerpt:

“Day,” Annie says mournfully.

“Day,” of course, means “Daddy” in Annie-speak, which is something like Filipino. Or Hawaiian. Lots of extra vowels, or missing consonants, whichever way you want to look at it. Since Mike – who went through childhood with about eight thousand nicknames, some of them cute and clever and some of them bloodcurdling – will answer to pretty much anything, he’s never made an issue of the missing Ds. There are a lot worse things the kid could be calling him.

He considers the issue for a minute, the fact that nobody ever said, “Don’t turn on the lights.” What they (what Lindsay) said was, it didn’t make sense to have them on during the day.

Annie whoops and crows when Mike jams the plug into the socket and a thousand tiny lights come twinkling to life.

“You and me, sister,” Mike tells her conspiratorially. “If somebody asks, we’ve got no idea who did that.”

Check it out!  (Just click the cover photo or the book title to go straight to Amazon.)  I hope you enjoy it.  🙂

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Kimberly Readnour – For My Daughter

visions cover webIndy author Kim Readnour is making her first foray into publishing this month with Visions: The Mystical Encounter Series Book 1 – a book she wrote for a very special reader, one who’s also her most devoted fan!

When I discovered that the main theme of this blog was family, my daughter immediately came to mind since my entire writing career could be attributed to her. In the back of my mind, the thought of writing a novel was always present, but I never followed through. That changed when my daughter reached her teenage years. With her passion for reading, we often read the same books. One day, after completing a particular book that neither one of us liked, something sparked inside me. The desire to write her stories took precedence over everything else. That began my journey for writing.

After completing some mediocre novellas, I wanted my next story to be meaningful. With my daughter’s varied interests, I wanted to write something different. Something that neither one of us had previously read. My goal seemed impossible, but I was determined to try. After pondering what to write, with unproductive results, frustration set in. I remembered lying down that evening, thinking I needed to relax. If I relaxed, the story might present itself. The next morning I grabbed my laptop and began writing the story.

What started out as a standalone novel easily transformed into a trilogy. After I finished the first book, it was nerve-wracking allowing my daughter to read it. When she finished the story and told me she loved it, the sensation swarming through me was enough justification. Pleased that the story made her happy, I worked on the second section.

With my daughter as the target audience, I never had inspirations of publishing. She, of course, had other ideas and tried convincing me to get the first book published. After sending it to a few literary agents and being politely turned away, I stalled on finishing the series. Their rejection derailed my confidence, slowing down my writing. After a few months passed, I reread the manuscript and became embarrassed. What I had submitted was more like a rough draft than a polished version. Boy, I had a lot to learn.

After some major revisions and the “save” button pressed, the manuscript sat untouched. In the meantime, my daughter started pressing for me to self-publish. Her enthusiasm for my book was encouraging, but I didn’t know if I was ready to take on that challenge. Four years, I sat on the manuscript. Four years, she kept encouraging me, insisting on a wider audience. Finally, I heeded her advice and recruited a friend of mine to read over the manuscript for a second opinion. When she finished, she not only demanded that the series be completed, but also demanded that it be published. That was my final push.

Now, after professional editing, I feel the book is ready for a wider audience. My hope is that other readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Whether or not any copies sell, just by having it published, I deem it a success. The entire journey was for my daughter. From writing an unusual story, to following her advice, everything was for her benefit. Knowing how proud I made her by pursuing this, makes me proud. Not to mention having the book I wrote solely for her eyes out in the world.

You can find Kim’s author page on Facebook right here.

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Another addition to the catalogue!

Wrapped revEven though the common advice is “Write novels!” – my stock in trade is short works, ranging from drabbles (100 words) to novellas. During the past 7 years I’ve turned out over 600 short stories, some of which I’ve been gathering into collections that I release from time to time.

This is the latest: a group of stories about a dad who was convinced he wasn’t ready. That he was just the “fun uncle.” That he couldn’t possibly provide all the right answers for a child of his own. But he finds out over time that his new little daughter doesn’t care, because he may be a jerk, but he’s her jerk.

You can find Wrapped Around Her Little Finger at Amazon – for only 99 cents!

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Ree Mariani – Family Ties

Ree Mariani is new to e-publishing – her first novel, City of the Seer, went “live” on Amazon just a few days ago. In the midst of all her debut-novel activities, she took a few minutes to share her thoughts about family and storytelling.

516Z8SOpjAL__AA160_Everyone has heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” But what does it really mean? The modern interpretation is that family ties are more important than any other. But what if you don’t have any common ‘blood’ with your family?

In 1988 I was adopted. My immigrant Polish-Argentinian mother and my Italian-American father had tried for years to have a child with no luck. Then within six weeks they got not one, but two baby girls. My parents tell me that growing up everyone assumed my sister and I were twins – however, as we got older it became clear that my sister had a serious disability.

I remember the first time someone told me I looked like my mother. Her kinky brown curls and gray eyes were nothing like my straight, strawberry blonde hair and avocado colored eyes. I didn’t look like my father, either, not with his reddened skin and his coal-colored hair. It should have been obvious that I didn’t belong – however, my family never made me feel that way and I think that is something I’ve carried on in my writing.

Family is not blood. Family is not the people with whom you share genetic similarities. Family is the people who support and love you, who will put up with you even when you don’t deserve it. In my premier novel City of the Seer, Braelyn makes her own family. She finds people who will support her no matter how poorly she behaves or how impulsive she is.

Blood is not thicker than water. Love is thicker than everything, and family is love.

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Book Review: “Life As We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

41q2QectsSL__AA160_Maybe you’re already familiar with this book – judging by the number of Amazon reviews, it’s pretty well-known, and I understand that it’s required reading in a number of schools.  But I haven’t been anywhere near a school reading list in a loooong time, so when I happened to spot it on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, it was something new.

Giant moon on the cover.

Yes, the full moon is something cool, and more often than not it sends me running for the binoculars.  It’s also one of my great bugaboos – most of my seriously creepy nightmares involve an enormous moon looming there in the sky.  (I’m talking BIG.  Like on the book cover.  Giant, look out, I-am-not-kidding-you moon.)  But we try to conquer our fears, right?  The tag line (“The weather finally broke…for good.”) was awesome, and the book wasn’t a typical size.  When I picked it up, I liked the heft of it, and the old-school cheap paper it’s printed on.  $8.99?  Sold.

Story?  In a nutshell: an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it askew, and its new position in the sky begins to wreak havoc on Earth.  Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic explosions.  The skies fill with ash and the sun more or less disappears.  All of this is observed by a 16-year-old girl and chronicled in her diary.

Yes, some of the science is suspect.  With no alphabet soup attached to my name, I can’t speak to how bad it is; I will say some of it had me doing an “Eh? What, now?”  Ditto some of the everyday stuff.  As someone who frets every single winter about losing power because it will mean my heat – natural gas, but the thermostat is electric – goes off, I was baffled by how Miranda’s furnace somehow works long after the electricity has failed.  (About 3/4 of the way through the book, she finally explains that her father rigged up “a battery thing.”)  It’s also somewhat bewildering that no one attempts to invade Miranda’s family’s home to steal their food and water.  There is no anarchy in her town.  Everyone’s polite, and other than one desperate plea from a neighbor, they all go about their own business, starving or freezing to death without ever running amok.

But… eh.  I’ll let the author have that.  Maybe there are places where the people would remain civil during an apocalypse, places where nobody would bust into your house with a gun and steal food away from you and your kids.  Who’s to say?  The more important thing to look at is the voice of the young narrator – an honest 16-year-old whose typical high-school life has been completely torn apart.  A number of the Amazon reviews complain that she whines too much.  That the story is boring.  I suppose they expected those missing home invasions… or maybe some zombies.  Instead, the story revolves around one of my favorite themes: quiet desperation.  As things grow progressively worse, Miranda begins to remind herself that she should seize the day, no matter how bad it is, because tomorrow…

Maybe there won’t even be a tomorrow.

It’s thought-provoking.  A reminder that we’re all at the mercy of things that could change on a dime.  If you had a matter of hours to stockpile things that would keep your family alive for months – what would you grab?  Would you realize right away that things you’ve valued will be useless tomorrow?  It was of course of great interest to me that Miranda’s mother insists that family is all that matters – and to see how Miranda responds to that.  Her story is a good one.  Maybe not flawlessly told, but – I think – truly told.

Would you survive what’s essentially a nuclear winter?  Would your family?

If you did… how would you feel when the lights came on again?

4 stars.  Very family-friendly (no cussing that I remember; no sex).  If your kids have to read it for school, grab a copy and talk about it with them.  And let them know that nobody’s likely to survive if all they’re eating is canned vegetables.

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Jessica Randall – Paying Homage to “My People”

Jessica L. Randall is the mother of 5 — so she’s certainly familiar with the challenges and inspiration that go along with FAMILY!  She began e-publishing earlier this year and has two popular novels under her belt already.  She’s another KBoarder I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with… especially getting some inside info about her husband’s famous peanut butter and chocolate chip Monster Cookies!

71U1ZxUr9rL__UX250_I was raised along with nine siblings right next door to my grandparents, so I think it’s safe to say that those people had a large part in shaping who I am. They have definitely colored my writing, and even set me to the task in the first place. Several years ago I began pondering what made my family and my upbringing unique. As I thought about the mannerisms and the crazy anecdotes, I realized that “my people,” as I used to call them, needed to be immortalized. I was sure they’d make the perfect characters. However I didn’t have enough faith in my abilities until I saw people I knew writing and self-publishing books. I was also encouraged by the idea that if I was proud of what I did, I could send it out into the world rather than leave it sitting in a neglected file on my computer.

41+vLtB4ttL__AA160_For my first book, Goldenhood, I chose to write a twisted tale. It was helpful to have the rough outline of a story to work with as I learned. I quickly found that family members not only inspired my characters, but that family became a theme of the book. Elise loves healing others using herbs as did many generations of Roux women before her, but she also finds herself drawn to the dark magic that claimed her grandmother. She has to learn which parts of her inheritance she should develop and be proud of, and which elements are meant for her to struggle with and conquer. There are also a couple of characters that have to learn to accept a new role in their family when tragedy strikes. The ties of family are strong, and often demanding. Their loyalty is what makes their struggle such a difficult one.

519g7fxIzYL__AA160_After I had successfully written one book, I wanted to challenge myself to create a new story. The Obituary Society is that “heart story” I’d wanted to write for years. The book was a way for me to pay homage to the people that I love, and even tell some of their stories. One reviewer said, “There is so much subtle love written in this book — love for small towns, love (and acceptance) for the older community, love for the simpler way of life.” When I read that I was thrilled that someone understood. The love that came through was for my family, my grandparents, and the homes I loved.

The theme of family came out in this book as well, as Lila’s great desire is to feel she belongs somewhere and to learn as much as she can about her family, even though there are some family secrets that are hidden for a reason.

Right now I’m in the midst of a book that is a sequel of sorts to The Obituary Society. It’s about two sisters and love and good food in a small town, those themes that I believe will show up in my work again and again.

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Kyoko M – True Companions

Kyoko M is another of the terrific authors I’ve been getting acquainted with via KBoards.  She’s the author of the urban fantasy series The Black Parade – a continuing story that revolves around a “made” family.  Here, she offers some background on her series and the idea of true companions.

61oc8puX9cL__UX250_Saffron: Everybody plays each other. That’s all anybody ever does. We play parts.

Mal: You got all kinds a learnin’ and you made me look the fool without even trying, and yet here I am with a gun to your head. That’s ’cause I’ve got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other, and ain’t always looking for the advantage.    — Firefly

Often, we authors tend to have laser-focus on our main characters—their development, their doubts, their fears, their flaws, and their strengths—but one thing I’ve learned through writing my urban fantasy series is that one of the most effective ways to measure your protagonist is through their family. After all, no man is an island. However, what happens when your lead is an orphan? Is blood the only thing that makes family? I beg to differ.

51692sJGRvL__AA160_Jordan Amador started out as just another happy little girl with a single mom, Catalina, until she was five years old and her mother was taken away to a psychiatric hospital. Jordan was sent to live with her mother’s older sister, Carmensita, and unfortunately, Aunt Carmen was not mother material. It turns out there was extremely bad blood between the sisters and Aunt Carmen only took Jordan in to exact her revenge through physical and verbal abuse. Jordan later ran away and started her own life, but fate had something planned for her. After accidentally murdering a Seer, Jordan finds out that she has the ability to see and hear ghosts. She is sentenced to help a hundred souls with unfinished business cross over or she’ll go to Hell. A couple years later, only days from her two-year deadline, Jordan bumps into Michael: a handsome, sarcastic poltergeist who is the final soul that will save her soul. Unfortunately, his case busts open Pandora’s Box—robbery, murder, a deadly conspiracy, and bloodthirsty demons with an ax to grind.

51uJTLZy6zL__UY250_Jordan spent most of her life as a teenager and twenty-something on her own. She’s very closed off emotionally thanks to being raised in a broken home and missing her mother, who died not long after she was committed to the psychiatric hospital. As the story continues, she bonds with the archangel Gabriel, who occasionally drops in to check on her progress with the souls she saves and later becomes like an older brother to her. He offers advice, teases her about her peculiar relationship with Michael, and gently reminds her to have faith in herself when times get rough.

Jordan’s best friend and fellow waitress Lauren Yi also has a large impact on her life, primarily as a playful voice of reason. She is fully aware of Jordan’s crotchedy personality and knows how to prod the truth out of her when she’s being hardheaded. Whereas Gabriel is always polite and appropriate, Lauren gives Jordan candid advice and won’t take no for an answer when she tries to deflect attention away from something that’s bothering her, like any good sister would. Plus, Lauren has a six-year-old daughter named Lily who looks up to her “Auntie Jordan” and is a beacon of light in Jordan’s mostly dark world. They are constant reminders that in spite of all the violence and the sacrifices the life of a Seer requires, there are still simple, beautiful things to live for.

Writing family has never been a challenge for me, as I have been fortunate to have a loving, supportive, colorful family. They might not see it right away, but many of my family’s interactions with me have influenced how I write Jordan’s true companions. We make fun of each other, but we do it out of pure affection. It’s a lot easier to keep your head above water with your family as your life raft. Just as I wouldn’t have made it this far without my family, neither would Jordan, and I think that’s what makes the best fictional characters. Family can show the many shades and layers of a character, whether implicitly or explicitly, and that’s why they’re vital to any story, fictional or not.