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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Copper Reign: Book Club

When I first started work on the Heartstone Collection, I wanted to create a story with layers of depth that any level of reader could walk away from wanting to discuss what they’d discovered about themselves. On the surface, the first book, Copper Reign is a love triangle, but if you delve deeper into the core this story is a battle of personal truth. Nina starts out as a weak teenage girl full of insecurity and doubt, and grows into a woman so strong and assured that even the devil himself can’t touch her. It is a right of passage that reflects pieces of many of our lives, and sparks the debate of create or fate.

With all of this in mind, I hosted a dinner at my house with my first readers who just happened to be the neighborhood book club. I wanted to see what type of discussions sparked up from my manuscript, and see if I was on the right track. Unfortunately, little was said. They smiled sweetly, and said they loved my cute little story, and that was that. The real debate took place the next month when I wasn’t able to attend. I live in a very conservative community. Needless to say, there were strong feelings on both sides, but they were too polite to talk about their issues in front of me. I completely understood. I hadn’t explained that my father was Irish. There aren’t very many ways to offend me, but luckily rumors trickled back, and I couldn’t have been happier. I’d hit the sweet spot. Anything sparking that much emotion definitely had my readers thinking. That’s awesome! And what any writer, or book club hostess dares to hope for.

I’ve put together a discussion guide and recipes to help your Copper Reign themed book club be a success, and although my appearance shut down the debate in my neighborhood, I’d still be happy to video chat into yours, or even stop by if you live with a reasonable distance! Find me on Facebook and we’ll talk.

The Recipes:
Drink: Ocean Blues Punch (Sprite mixed with Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid).
Dinner: Shrimp Scampi (saute’ 40 medium-sized shrimp in 1/2 cup of butter and 2 tablespoons of garlic salt, serve with 1 lb of linguine, 2 medium sized zucchini saute’d 1/4 cup of butter, white chardonnay, and garlic bread) serves 6.
Dessert: Angel, and Devil’s Food Cake topped with appealing Strawberries on Cream (mix and bake cakes to boxed specifications, top both with strawberries and whipped cream).
Candy: Chocolate-Covered Cinnamon Bears
The music:

Nina
Bleeding Out—Imagine Dragons
Dark Paradise—Lana Delrey
The Lonely—Christina Perry
Down—Jason Walker
Never Let Me Go—Florence + The Machine

Nate
Come Home—One Republic
Car Crash–Matt Nathanson
Draw Your Swords—Angus & Julia Stone
Wrong Side of Heaven—Five Finger Death Punch
Closer—Kings of Leon

Sinclair
I will Not Bow—Breaking Benjamin
Love Me Again—John Newman
Just One Yesterday—Fallout Boy

Discussion Guide—Copper Reign
In Copper Reign, Nina and her mother face issues beyond our reality, but the way they cope with one another reflects countless parent/child relationships. For better or worse, why do parents feel the need to mold their children into something they’ve pictured?

At the beginning of chapter two, Nina confides in Nate, and instead of judging her for being different he asks her out. How hard was it to take that leap of trust, and why did she hesitate to accept his offer?

The best moment of Nina’s life is quickly snatched away and replaced with tragedy. It’s a common theme throughout the novel. How does Nina cope with adversity in the beginning of the story compared to the end?

After her parents’ death, Nina honors her mother’s last wish, and uses the amulet to lock away her gift. She is held in a holding pattern until the amulet fails, at which time all of her emotion comes flooding back. What do the walls of protection represent, and who is Nina truly facing when her safety crumbles?

Sinauf has discovered her name, and he’s coming for Nina. He’s the embodiment of everything she fears and desires. She’s drawn to him, even after she watches her best friend, Jenny kill herself under his power. This trope goes back to the beginning of women’s lit. Good girls can’t seem to resist the allure of reforming a bad boy. Why is that? And how do these types of relationships differ in actual life?

Nate is everything a girl could want, handsome, attentive, and fun, yet Nina continues to fight loving him. What do you think were the reasons she avoided her feelings, and what methods do you consider Nate’s most effective in overcoming this obstacle?

Sinauf (aka Sinclair Devereux) burns through Nina’s world like a wildfire, consuming her every thought. She’s tricked into betraying Nate, and turns him away. Why did she think this was the right course of action? Here’s a fate, or create moment to question. Would anything have changed if she’d chosen to stay?

Nina’s in hell, quite literally. It’s been revealed that Sinauf and Sinclair are only a couple of a thousand personas the Archangel Lucifer has used throughout his time on Earth. She’s discovered his plan to destroy the world, and her role. Instead of allowing him to use her, Nina decides jump, and her sacrifice opens the Copper Way. Going forward, what will this mean for their world?

After making the right choice Nina falls into Nates arms, secure in the knowledge that he belongs to her. But their troubles aren’t over yet. Discuss the lull before the storm and Nina’s growth through her worst fears coming to pass.

What do you think really defeated Lucifer?

Discuss the epilogue, and what comes next.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cover Reveal: Copper Reign

Book covers are like an amazing recipe. Starting out, there are all these separate ingredients that are fine by themselves, but if they’re thrown in a pot together, or baked in an oven, they change on a fundamental level. Suddenly, the flavors meld in ways you never imagined, and sometimes, something richer and more decadent than you could’ve ever imagined emerges. This recipe is one of those instances. Lyndsay Johnson caught the essence of Copper Reign by orchestrating the basic themes of this story through her artwork. Then she weaved in subtle lighting and texture to bring this novel to life. All I can say, is this girl can cook a wicked cover!


Let me introduce you to Copper Reign, Book One of the Heartstone Collection:

The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for generations. But after six-hundred years of concealment, their protection has failed, bringing Nina’s fate into light, and revealing an inescapable truth.
The dark god of legend is real.
Caught in an ancient war still raging in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, she must resist the seductive charm of an alluring monster, or prepare for the destruction of an entire universe.
Temptation is known by many names, and he is coming for her

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stained Glass

I was raised in the disease of poverty.
Imagine, beginning at the bottom of a big, dark hole. Desolate, except for the light at the top, and the champions standing too high to reach. They claim that with the slightest bit of effort anyone can climb up. Ropes are thrown down and they cheer encouraging words, frustrated that no one is willing to meet them halfway, but another dynamic plays out below that only the people living it really understand.
To climb not only abandons a way of life, but also a way of thinking. It’s an uphill battle of tremendous weight that doesn’t end when you reach the top.
Twenty years ago, I personally took this journey, and everything I am today is molded through a shattered lens of two perceptions. read more 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Races and Ribbons

When I was ten-years-old, my school had field day. I never liked school events. My parents never came to them, and seeing my peers with their families was a painful reminder of the distance between our worlds. I didn't want to participate. What was the point? I wouldn't win. But my teacher insisted, pointing at a gunnysack. I stepped into the bag and up to the starting line. BOOM. We were off. I didn't try very hard at first, but I realized I had a knack for jumping. I jumped further and faster, and further and faster, and before I knew it, I'd crossed the finish line. They pointed at me and called out,"Six." Six! That meant I'd made it into the next round. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself as I lined up with my classmates. They counted us and there was one too many kids, but they couldn't decide who didn't belong. The refs agreed to go ahead and run the race with thirteen, but I didn't care. I was six, I'd made it. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I'd tasted success, and it suited me. I was as taut as a bow and ready to pounce. The starting gun fired, and I had never moved more quickly. I pushed further and faster, further and faster, further and faster. Once again, I crossed the line and turned to look back. Everyone else had ate my dust.

First place.

You'd think the story would end there, right? It doesn't. I got to hold my pretty blue ribbon for about five minutes. An irate parent claimed that I had cheated, that her son was sixth place and I had no business participating in that race. She ripped the ribbon from my hands and nobody made a move to stop her including the ref who'd named me six. He just stared at his shoes and refused to meet my eyes as I begged him to tell her that I had belonged. This moment was also pivotal. Two conflicting life lessons in a single afternoon, and never raced in field day to win again.

I didn't share this experience to have you feel sorry for me. Many of us have gone through similar trials, but I needed to explain this event to put the rest of this post in perspective.

One year ago, I released my first novel. Hard to believe it's only been that long, yet in some ways it's still surreal. So much growth has taken place since that little girl held her ribbon, but the fear of winning has never really gone away. Most of the time, I keep it hidden. On the outside I project the embodiment of confidence. It's been easy enough for people to believe because I'm involved with some pretty amazing people, and together we've accomplished some pretty remarkable things. But the only reason anything happened in my career was because somebody'd pointed at me and said, "Six." Their faith gained me opportunities not always afforded to debut authors, and I worked my butt off. Pushing further and faster than ever before, I proved their confidence wasn't misplaced. But inside I was ten-years-old again, waiting for someone to take my ribbon. With each new triumph, my feelings of inadequacy grew more weighted, because there was always another race, another way to be assessed and show that I was lacking. The stress of becoming a failure ate holes in my stomach until finally I reached my breaking point. Something had to change. I couldn't continue living in fear of losing everything I'd worked so hard to gain, but how could I possibly fix a flaw so deeply rooted in my psychological make-up? I stepped back to reevaluate, and here's what I discovered:

1) Taking a ribbon from a child may seem heartless, but that wasn't the woman's perception. More than likely she been wounded herself, saw her child hurting, and thought she was doing the right thing. Which leads me to my next point.

2) If something like that happened to one of my kids, I'd totally kick some ass, and how does that make me any different? The problem wasn't the actual conflict, but the feeling of isolation and not having any kind of support.

3) In the end I was holding on to the loss of a piece of material.

Any kind of trophy is symbolic, not the actual victory. My priorities were all screwed up by emotional responses to experiences that needed to be viewed logically. Irrational feelings had allowed some stranger who probably didn't even remember what had happened the power to control to my life, not only in that moment but for many others over the past thirty years.

With this in mind I spent the past few weeks making some tough decisions. I walked away from current my publisher, and in turn he decided to close his doors. We parted amicably, and I will forever be grateful for the run we had together, but if fear hadn't been my motivator I would've left months ago. I let go of my ribbon, but I am no longer scared of what that means. You see, I've lined up lots of times over the past year, and I have many great people supporting me. Really, that's the important part of becoming successful in any endeavor--hard work and the ties that form between like-minded people.

So I'm starting a new race. I'm preparing to go further and faster than ever before, but this time I'm lining up for all the right reasons. I might gain a shiny publishing contract, land an agent, or decide to be indie. Any way, it doesn't matter. Winning the race is more important than how you get there. Regardless of my choice, what I've accomplished will forever be mine to keep.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When It's Your Child



As a part of Secrets and Doors blog tour I volunteered to write a piece about why the Secret Door Society chose JDRF. Admittedly, I’ve been dragging my feet, not because I don’t want to share this story—I do—but it isn’t easy. Looking back on my reality of living with a T1D diabetic has stirred up emotions. The wound is still raw.
Nine years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Just like any other mother, I imagined this pretty little girl growing up happy and healthy. Chronic illness wasn’t even a blip on my radar, but six months after her eighth birthday all of that changed. My once sweet and loving child was suddenly angry and confrontational. She didn’t want to go to school, cried her stomach hurt too much, only to be laughing and playing an hour later. My father had died earlier that year, and at first I thought she was having trouble coping with the loss of her grandfather. I took her to the doctor, and he agreed that was probably the cause of her erratic behavior. He gave me the names of several counselors, but drew blood as a precaution.
I’m so glad he did.
Her test results came back a few hours later with a blood sugar reading of 637. A normal range sits at 100. We were lucky. We had caught it early enough to avoid ketoacidosis shock, a condition caused by high blood-sugar that can lead to coma. This was the optimistic phrase delivered to me, but I didn’t feel very fortunate as I drove 40 minutes to the hospital to place her on Diabetic protocol, stealing glances in the rearview mirror. She’d grown so thin. How had that escaped my notice? The signs were there. She was always thirsty. Just that morning I had scolded her for drinking too much in the middle of the night and disrupting her sleep by needing to pee. Later the diabetes signs were easy to see when I thought back on the weeks leading up to her diagnosis, but at the time I'd missed them because I didn’t have a clue what to look for.
When it came to diabetes, my only frame of reference was Steel Magnolias. I’d directed the play in high school and could still recite every line from memory like some kind of sick cosmic joke. One thing was for certain: I couldn’t stand the thought of my baby girl cast in the role of Shelby. Shelby died too young, too soon.
As her parents we carried so many hopes and dreams. With the diagnosis, the simple future we’d pictured for this sweet little angel was torn from us and replaced with fears of kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. I wished with all my heart the diagnosis would’ve been mine.
At the hospital we learned what protocol meant. The staff had to work quickly to rehydrate her and bring dangerous sugar levels down. My daughter was eight and didn’t understand. I can’t begin to explain how hard it was to watch a team of nurses hold my fighting child down and repeatedly stab her with needles, injecting her with life-saving insulin and testing her blood. At the time, all I could hear were her screams; all I could see was the look of betrayal in her big, blue eyes. I stood there, helpless. A mother’s supposed to protect, but all I could do was whisper I’m sorry over and over. Pain became a daily part of her life. Pain from testing. Pain from injections. Pain from the disease itself. Pain is hard, but for T1D kids, pain means life.
T1D is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system malfunctions and attacks the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. There is no proven cure at this time. It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States are affected by this disease, yet it receives very little media attention.
I believe a cure is obtainable within our lifetime, but just like any other project, funding and awareness are crucial. That is why we decided to name the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as the beneficiary for Secrets and Doors. No charity is closer to the hearts of many of our contributors.
My baby is seventeen now, healthy and happy like I had imagined—at least as healthy as any T1D kid can be. Parents of her peers are worried about college. I worry over prescriptions, rising medical costs, insurance premiums, and deductibles that have doubled every year since 2010.  (Thank you, Obamacare). I’m scared for her future. Just staring out in life as a young adult is hard enough without an added financial burden of a major medical condition that needs constant monitoring and medicine to survive. While the fear never goes away, I’m optimistic. She’s grown into an amazing woman, capable of overcoming any and all obstacles.


Please join us in our support of T1D research by buying a copy of Secrets and Doors. Just like my baby, many others have been robbed of their childhoods. Together we can unlock the door to a brighter tomorrow.


Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).
In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.
Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.

Buy your Kindle copy here. And thank you for your support!