What HOPE Means to Me

I’ve been accused of being the ultimate optimist. If there’s a bad situation, I’ll find the silver lining. You’d think this would mean I’m a positive person, and always smiling in my unicorn-prancing rainbow-skied world. But the truth is it’s just a coping mechanism. It’s how I SURVIVE. I focus on the good, and avoid the bad completely until it burrows into the recesses of my mind. Paired together, optimism and hope are my weapons in battling all that is bad in the world. It’s worked so far, but I’m no psychologist. And if you’ve read THE GLASS CEILING, you may recognize these very traits in my main character, Heart. So many of you are amazed at how caring and hopeful Heart is after her terrible childhood. Well, now you see where these traits were born from. Just like me, it’s her coping mechanism. If she doesn’t keep hoping there’s more out there, a way to escape, she’s lost to the tunnels forever.

Hope is a wonderful thing. It’s like standing at the bottom of the hill and not knowing what lies beyond the crest. Success? Love? Happiness? That’s the magic of hope. You just don’t know. It’s my absolute favorite part of querying agents. The not knowing. Every ding of your email could be an agent wanting to see your manuscript or better yet, offer you a contract. It’s like Pavlov’s bell, except instead of salivating, my heart does a parrump when I see that glorious envelope at the top of my phone’s screen.

I remember a friend complaining a few years ago that she was 28 and still not married. Of course, I kicked in my silver lining booster. I told her that although she’s unmarried now, there’s still “hope” she’ll marry a doctor. As opposed to me, who at that time was stuck in an unhappy marriage, and was most definitely not married to a doctor. I stressed to her that even though she didn’t have happiness “now,” she still had a chance of happiness in her future. (Years later, she ended up marrying her dream Italian guy and was able to use her favorite little girl name, Giovanna. And I found renewed happiness in a second marriage. Yay!)

Book sales also promote the feeling of hope. Each sale is important because you never know where your break is going to come from. A debut author’s “success” (and I realize success means something different to everyone) is like a river being held back by a massive rock wall. Each sale removes a pebble. Obviously, pebbles aren’t going to put much of a dent in the wall, but if just the right pebble is removed, no matter how small, it can cause a leak, which can then gain speed of its own accord until it begins breaking down more pebbles, and more pebbles, then rocks and boulders. And before you know it, the entire wall has been obliterated, the water has rushed through, and you’ve become successful. All because the right pebble was removed. The right person bought your book. It could be a huge blogger who took a chance on you. A sorority sister who has a popular Twitter feed. A celebrity who just happened to see your book come across Instagram. For me, each sale promotes hope. I’m living Christmas every day of my life, surrounded by packages wrapped in shiny paper and bows. Every fan is a gift and my hope is higher than ever that my time will come, and I will succeed.

But if we want to be honest with ourselves, hope is only the start of something greater. Something even more powerful. And that’s faith. That’s where true success comes from. It isn’t until you have FAITH that good things will come your way, and you’ll find everything you’re looking for in life.

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Our Trip to the Sweetest Place on Earth

Do you know where the “Sweetest Place on Earth” is? Why, it’s Hershey, PA! Also, the place I spent my Valentine’s Day weekend. I love history and chocolate and this place had plenty of both. I learned many interesting facts in the Hershey Story Museum that I bet three-quarters of the chocolate eating population doesn’t know. For example, Milton Hershey started out as the son of a poor farmer. He had a 4th grade education, and remained a bachelor much of his adult life. When he first started into the work force, he was a printing apprentice, but quickly got fired after losing his hat in a printing press. Next, he moved onto confectioner’s apprentice, and his sweet tooth told him this was where he belonged.

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After quite a few failed attempts at running his own business, he finally found success with  caramels (Lancaster). He made his first million and began coating his caramels in chocolate. He soon noticed that people were sucking the chocolate coating off the caramel, then throwing away the middle, and then decided caramels were just a fad. Chocolate was the way to go. But at this time, only the rich could afford chocolate. He set out to change that. He sold Lancaster and invested all the money into the first chocolate factory.

Besides making chocolate affordable, he wanted to make a pleasing work environment for his employees. So he built a town for them around his factory in the middle of dairy country (actually called Derryville). He offered wonderful benefits, affordable housing, schools, sports teams (baseball and hockey), and entertainment. He literally built a small utopia. Probably the most notable thing he did, however, was to build a school for orphaned boys, which has grown exponentially over the years and helps boys and girls alike. In fact, on his death, he left all of his 60 million dollars to the school!

Here are some other miscellaneous fun facts:

  • He didn’t marry until he was 40 years old, and his young wife died early due to an undiagnosed disease. He never married again.
  • He had a ticket for the Titanic, but rescheduled for an earlier ship due to his wife’s illness.
  • Many of the factory improvements and ideas came from his employees on the floor.
  • One of these ideas is transporting chocolate from one part of the factory to another via bathtubs on wheels. And they still do it this way to this day!
  • He welcomed competitive candy companies to plant their roots in Hershey. One being a popular company called Reese’s. Later, Hershey would supply chocolate to them, and then eventually buy them out.
  • During the Great Depression, when all other companies were cutting hours and pay, he decided to create work for his town by starting construction on the Hotel Hershey, which is based off an architectural design he and his wife had fallen in love with overseas.
  • Milton Hershey created a similar utopian town for his workers in Cuba.
  • Hershey is the only company to use fresh milk in their chocolate recipe, which is why he so wisely built his plant amongst the local farms of his childhood instead of in a big city.

I have to say, that after my trip to Hershey, I’m proud to be a Hershey lover. While other philanthropists of his time squandered their money in lavish mansions and material possessions, Mr. Hershey put his money back into his company and back into his employees. What a wonderful man.

SO now to my trip! (I hope you enjoyed the mini-history lesson.)

Here’s a view outside my hotel window (we stayed at the Hershey Lodge, which is a woodsy version of the fancy Hotel Hershey).

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It was -4 degrees before wind chill!

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The streets really have chocolate themed names and the streetlights are kisses.

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We each received a Hershey chocolate bar at registration and the bathroom had adorable kiss wallpaper.

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Everything in the hotel and town smelled like chocolate! They use the cocoa butter to makes soaps and shampoos. And even utilize the leftover cocoa bean shells as fertilizer for the surrounding farms. Nothing goes wasted thanks to Mr. Hershey’s frugalness and meager beginnings.

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On the first night, we took a Truffles for Couples class. I went with the milk chocolate. Hubby went with white. By the way, do you know the difference between dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate?

Milk chocolate has chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk, sugar

Dark chocolate has chocolate liquor and a small amount of milk and sugar

White chocolate has cocoa butter, milk, and sugar (all the unhealthy stuff!)

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The most amazing thing I discovered though while touring the Hershey Story museum was the early advertising campaign for their Hershey bars.

“A nutritious confection!”

“Eat as a meal!”

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It makes you wonder what “nutritious” products out there now will turn out to be unhealthy years from now.

Besides the museum, the awesome amusement park (closed for the winter), the Hershey Gardens, and the great restaurants, there is one more little known fact about Hershey, PA. They have outlets. Lots of them! Underarmour, Zales, Coach, Gap, Banana Republic, Disney, and many more. We went a little bit crazy with our spending. Yikes!

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But perhaps my favorite purchase is my Hershey Kiss bracelet. A reminder that anything is possible if you work hard and never give up.

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I hope you will be able to visit Hershey at some point in your life. It’s definitely the Sweetest Place on Earth!

Short-Short Freebies

Hello! You found your way to my site! If you didn’t come by way of the Facebook event we’re having (Beat the Post-Holiday Blues), you can check out the activity using this link.

As promised, I’m sharing three short-shorts as a freebie. These have never been published, and were basically a result of writing exercises I did a couple of years ago. I spent all yesterday polishing them up. I can’t believe how much my writing ability has improved over the years. After reading the original versions I’m glad I didn’t snag an agent before. I just wasn’t ready.

Writing is work. Sure, you can rip off pages upon pages of plot. Get it all down on paper. But does your writing engage the reader? Or just spit out facts, keeping your reader at arm’s length? There are so many things you don’t learn in English class or even in Creative Writing. Things you can only learn from interacting with other authors. If you are a budding writer, just be aware that it takes time and practice before your writing is ready for the world. It will happen. But patience and education is the key. Have faith! Feel free to contact me on the Dear Julie tab for writing tips or advice. Us writers have to stick together!

So now for my first short-short. This is a silly tale about some silly fellows who are in way over their head.

The Heist

Benny drummed his fingertips on the armrest of the van while it backed up to the rear entrance. This was an important job. If they didn’t get the goods, it could be the end of him…literally.

He swung open his door and signaled for Don to stay in the driver’s seat. He had to check first to see if the coast was clear. Don was a loudmouth and if a security guard was within earshot, it’d be over before it started.

Benny tiptoed to the large gate and slid behind a bush. He removed his gun from his holster and attached the silencer. The idea of killing made his stomach churn, but if it meant leaving no witnesses, he’d do it. The layout of the grounds was pretty simple. Three rows of eight enclosures. Their target was only two enclosures away, which meant less exposure, and less chance he’d have to use his gun.

Snaking his head through the bars of the gate, he checked for a visual. It was eerily quiet. No signs of security. He jogged back to the van and tapped on Don’s window, mouthing, “Let’s go.”

A smile sprang to Don’s lips, and he pushed open the van door as if he were about to see Santa Claus. He waddled after Benny, his short legs moving at toy-dog speed, in attempts to keep up with Benny’s long strides.

Thwash Thwash Thwash. Benny stopped in his tracks, causing Don to step on his back right heel. He turned around with a finger pressed against his lips. “Shhh.” His gaze traveled down to Don’s legs. “What the hell are you wearing? Jogging pants?”

Don shrugged. “I like the elastic. They’re comfortable.”

“Wonderful. I’m glad you’re comfortable. Now keep ‘em quiet.” Benny heaved a sigh and continued forward.

Thwash Thwash Thwash. Benny stopped and pivoted. “I said be quiet, Don. What don’t you understand?”

“I’m tryin’, boss.”

“Then try harder.”

Thwash Thwash Thwash. Benny whirled around again with a growl. “That’s it. Take off your pants.”

“Huh? You want me to take off my pants? It’s freezing out here.”

Benny’s lips turned into a snarl. “If you don’t remove those pants, I’m gonna have to kill someone, and it won’t be a security guard. Got it?”

Don gulped and immediately wriggled out of his pants. “What am I supposed to do with them?”

“Throw them on the ground. Throw them in a trash can. I don’t care.”

Don let the pants slip from his fingers, and he continued after Benny. They reached the gate, and Benny put his hand out. “Bolt cutter.”

“I, uh, left it in the car.”

“For cryin’ out loud, Don. I seriously don’t know why the boss still keeps ya around. You’re a complete buffoon.”

“I’ll go get it and be back in a jiffy.”

“Yay, and then we can all sing Kumbaya around the campfire.” Grumbling, he turned his attention to the padlock. Amateur stuff. It was so thin, it could have come from a bubble gum machine. He glanced through the bars at the concrete enclosures. Of course, no one in their right mind would want to break into this place.

Heavy breathing behind him announced Don’s return. Benny grabbed the bolt cutters and snapped the lock like it was a wishbone. Slowly, he pushed the gate open, being careful not to make any noise.

The two slinked their way up to the enclosure with the word “Zebra” on it. “Here it is,” said Benny. “In and out, real fast like. Let’s grab the zebra, then hightail it outta here. Got it?”

Don nodded, a jovial smile breaking out on his face.

Benny shook his head. Imbecile. After snapping the lock, and entering, Benny withdrew a harness from his pocket. “Here, zebra zebra. Come to Papa. I know a little girl who’s just gonna love you.”

 *******

Benny tightened his grasp around Don’s neck through the cold, steel bars. He didn’t care if he squeezed the life out of him.

Through clenched teeth, he hissed, “Your mother embroidered your name on your pants?”

 

The Cricket Matchmakers 

Molly pushed the carrot through the mesh of the wire cage. “Here’s a little treat for you, sweetie. Don’t tell Jane.” The rabbit sniffed the carrot then started munching with impressive speed. Molly grinned. “I bet that tastes better than that boring ol’ food Jane feeds you, huh?”

The bell over the door tinkled and Molly looked up. Trevor Dean stepped inside, glancing around the pet shop. What was he doing here? Okay, just act natural, Molly. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Of course, the fact that she’d had a crush on him since second grade didn’t make things easier.

His cool blue eyes caught her own, and she froze in her currently bent over position. She forced herself to straighten up and blink a couple of times.

“Hey, I know you.” He waved in her direction.

Molly turned around to see if anyone was behind her because he certainly couldn’t mean her. Not that anyone else was in the store.

He laughed. “Yes, I’m talking to you. You’re Molly, right?”

Wow. He even knew her name. “Uh, yeah?”

“I’ve seen you sing at school. You’re very good.”

Molly’s face warmed as she thought of her recent solos with the concert choir. A jock who came to school concerts? That was a new one.

Trevor must have seen the surprise on her face because he added, “My little sister plays flute in the band. My parents kind of make me go. You know, to support her and all.”

“Oh, okay.” She teetered on her heels. “So, uh, can I help you find something?”

He scanned the shelves to her right. “Yeah, I need some crickets for my frog. He’s running low.”

Molly couldn’t help but shiver. She loved animals and all, but the idea of an animal eating another live animal gave her the heebie jeebies. “Sure, they’re right over here.” She led him toward the back corner. This was the hardest part of her job; catching the little buggers. And now she had Trevor as an audience. Great. Just great.

She retrieved a container and opened the lid of the plexiglass case. Cringing, she reached inside and tried to grasp hold of one of the crickets. Just when she thought she had one cornered, it jumped over her hand. She followed the pesky cricket’s path with her fingers for a minute with no luck.

“Let me try.” Trevor placed a hand on her shoulder.

The warmth of his touch penetrated her lightweight shirt and seared down her arm. She hated to break away from his grip, but stepped aside to give him access. In the process, her foot snagged on her shoelace. She wobbled, attempting to regain her balance, then bumped against the cricket case, sending it crashing to the floor.

“Oh no!” Molly clasped a hand over her mouth, unbelieving of what she’d just done. And in front of Trevor Dean, no less. At least a hundred crickets bounced off in all directions. She scrambled to put the top back on the case before any more could hop out.

Goodbye Trevor. No one would stick around for the major clean-up job she had ahead of her. If the crickets were hard to catch when they were contained, this would be near impossible.

But Trevor didn’t leave. Instead, he grabbed a container and lid and dropped to his hands and knees.

“You’re helping me?”

“Of course. What kind of guy do you think I am?”

An awesome one. Molly joined Trevor on the tile floor and the two crawled after the tiny fugitives. Every time she got close, the crickets would hop away. She just wasn’t fast enough.

“I got a couple,” Trevor called out. Well, that was a couple more than she had.

She glimpsed a gang of crickets heading toward the front door. Maybe she should just let them outside and pay Jane for them? It would be a whole heck of a lot easier than trying to catch them.

Molly crawled after the crickets, her eyes focused on their hopping brown bodies. Slam! She reeled back on her heels and rubbed her forehead. Through squinted eyes, she saw Trevor sitting across from her, mirroring her actions. Heat rushed to her cheeks.

“Oh my God. I’m so sorry,” she said. “Are you okay?”

He waved her away. “I’m fine. Are you?”

“Yes.” She looked around and let out a puff of air. “Not sure how we’re going to catch all these guys though.”

Trevor suddenly burst out laughing. “Well, you’ve already caught one and don’t even know it.”

Molly wrinkled her eyebrows. She hadn’t caught one.

“You have a cricket in your hair.”

A chill ran through her body. She batted at her hair, and screamed, “Oh, yuck. Get it out!”

Trevor reached over and flicked the invader from her curls, then let his hand linger on her cheek. “You sure know how to liven things up, don’t you?”

She looked into his eyes and tried to slow her racing heartbeat. The sensation of his skin on hers made her feel like she was floating. Say something, idiot. Coming up blank, she let out a pathetic giggle.

“Would you like to go out some time?”

Would she? Was he serious? “Yeah, I’d like that.”

He glanced down at her still untied sneaker, then winked at her. “You may want to wear slip-ons though.”

 

(Story below is for older audiences)

The Tell-Tale Shirt

Jordan peered out from under the crumpled white sheet, admiring Marissa’s bare shoulders. He couldn’t believe he’d spent the night with Marissa Long, the varsity football coach’s daughter. She was off-limits to anyone on the team. A roll in the hay with her could get him kicked off the team, but hell, with her body, it had been so worth it.

The alarm clock read six twenty-two. Maybe he could get in one more round before he had to head home. He’d told his parents he was sleeping over Joe’s house. They wouldn’t be expecting him for hours.

Marissa sighed and rolled over to face him, the sun’s rays enhancing the sparkle of her green eyes. Grinning, she said, “Morning, Lover.”

The word “lover” made Jordan’s heart rate chug, and he beamed. Yes, he was her lover now, wasn’t he? He imagined himself as Casanova, sneaking into girls’ rooms and giving them pleasure while their parents slept just on the other side of the bedroom wall.

“Morning,” he replied. “When are your parents going to be home again?”

Marissa craned her neck to see the clock. “We have about four hours. Their plane comes in at ten.” She reached down and felt his growing lump. “Why? Are you thinking naughty thoughts?”

Chills went up his spine as she grazed her fingernails over him. For a moment, he lost his train of thought. “Uh…uh…”

“Uh, I think you’re at a loss for words, aren’t you?” She giggled. “Don’t worry. What we’re doing doesn’t involve a single one.”

Jordan gulped as she suddenly ducked underneath the sheet. He felt her satin hair blazing a trail down his chest. Thoughts of what she could do with her mouth excited him beyond belief. He squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation.

Slam. Marissa popped her head back out of the sheet, her eyes wide. “What was that? It can’t be…” She sprang out of bed and looked out of her window toward the garage. “Oh. My. God. My parents are home!”

Jordan’s breath caught in his throat. He was a big guy at sixteen, but didn’t relish taking on a man with the nickname “Wall.” Not to mention losing his spot on the team. Maybe this was a stupid idea after all.

Scrambling out of bed, he shoved his legs into his jeans, while hopping on one foot. He stuffed his socks in his pockets and threw on his sneakers, then scanned the room for his jersey. Where was it?

“Hurry, hurry!” squealed Marissa. “They’re almost inside!”

“I know, but I can’t find my jersey.”

The two scurried around the room, looking for the bright purple and yellow shirt. “It’s not here! Just go without it. Use the kitchen door in the back. Hurry!”

Jordan bound down the stairs two at a time, perspiration forming on his forehead. Just as he entered the kitchen, he heard the front door open. Quietly, he tiptoed across the linoleum floor, unlatched the back door, and slipped through. Safe.

He rushed across the grass to the house next door, glancing over his shoulder every few yards. As he approached the back door, he stopped to calm his breathing and slow his pounding heart. He took a deep breath and opened the door. His mom sat at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee in her hand.

She looked up, surprise showing on her face. “You’re back early. And shirtless?”

He glanced down at his bare chest. “Oh, yeah, I lost it in a bet.”

“Jordan! Coach is going to kill you.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” He gave his mom a peck on the cheek and hurried out of the room. He had to see what was happening next door. Grabbing his binoculars, he opened his window shade.

Every muscle in Jordan’s body froze. Across the way, Coach Long stared back at him with angry eyes, his yellow and purple, number twenty-two jersey squeezed tightly in his fist. Mom was right. Coach was definitely going to kill him.

Promotion and the Telephone Game

I can now officially check the box off for published author of a novel-length story. Woo hoo! And I have to say that thanks to all the friends I made on Facebook, my launch party was a success, as were my initial sales. Now, comes the hard part. The part that is completely out of my hands. And it’s called the telephone game.

If you’ve never played this game in grade school, I’ll explain the rules. You stand in one long line. The teacher whispers a phrase into the first child’s ear. That child whispers it into the next child’s ear, then they whisper it into the next child’s ear, down the line, until you reach the last child, who says the phrase out loud. What makes this game so fun is how messed up the phrase gets by the end of the line.

At least that’s what I thought made it so funny. When I was in 2nd grade, I happened to be the last person in line. It was Christmas time, so the phrase was “Santa climbed down the chimney.” I wanted to be a comedian. I figured, hey, no one is going to know where the message mixed up. There’s twenty of us! So I changed it to something like “Santa fell down the chimney.” Of course, the person who whispered it to me instantly yelled out, “That’s not what I said!” There went my great plan of anonymity. And it didn’t really help that we were working toward a prize as a class if we got it right. Yeah, I wasn’t voted most-loved student that day.

So after that drawn out example of me making a fool of myself, let me explain how the game of telephone has to do with promoting my book. You see, I have about 1,000 Facebook friends. Of those 1,000, probably 100 see my posts, which means my ads/teasers only reach a hundred people. The same hundred over and over. I’m sure they’re getting tired of seeing them, and I’m not making any new fans that way. Enter the telephone game.

How it works is that any of the hundred friends who have read The Glass Ceiling (and liked it), would then tell their Facebook friends, “I just read the most awesome book. You NEED to read it!” Then those friends would tell their friends, and thus, you’ve made a large game of telephone spider-webbing in all directions. It kind of reminds me of a graph you’d see in the case of an epidemic. Of course, this is a happy epidemic, not a zombie apocalypse, world is over, epidemic. It also looks eerily like a pyramid scheme. But we won’t bring that up. (Another epic fail of mine.)

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This “telephone game” is what every debut author counts on, especially those that come from a small publishing house (like me) or are self-published. We don’t have our agents tweeting about us ten times a day or a large publishing house pushing our book out to major reviewers. We will only be known by WORD OF MOUTH. And as we’ve seen with many self-published authors, word of mouth works! In fact, it works quite well. It’s just a matter of getting the telephone chain started.

I ask you, friends who have become new fans, to help start the chain. If you like my book, tell people. Your mailman, the waitress, your son’s English teacher, your local librarian, and yes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads,or whatever social network site you prefer. It all starts with YOU. You’re my front line, hacking and slashing through the millions of other books out there, to get Heart and her friends to the top. To get her story known.

Okay, that may be a tad melodramatic. But I’m a writer. What did you expect?

So do you, my fine knights, accept the quest? Virtual cupcakes for everyone who steps forward! Yay!

Launch Party-Woo Hoo!

Okay, so I haven’t updated my blog in a while. I’ve been so busy organizing my Facebook launch party that I’ve been neglecting it. Shame on me! I have some news though fresh from my publisher tonight. Due to last minute details, The Glass Ceiling will only be available for “pre order” this coming Friday. Boo hoo! The good news? We’re still partying on Friday like it’s 1999, well, 2015. Wow, has it been that long?

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I have five guest authors lined up:

Michelle Argyle (writes YA and NA)

Iris St. Clair (writes YA, suspense and erotica)

Haley Whitehall (writes YA and historical romance)

Lee Ann Ward (writes YA)

Kristina Rienzi (writes paranormal)

I’ve beta read for two of these authors (so you know their books will be good ;)) and have read the books from the others. We’ve got a good group of authors here and they’ll be available for 30 minutes each to talk more about their books and answer questions. And I’m sure they’ll be offering prizes. 🙂

We also have two book giveaways:

Shannon Eckrich (Kissing the Devil)

Crit Kincaid (A Wounded World)

I hope you can join us for the launch party. There will be cupcakes, cats, and prizes. What more do you need on a Friday night?

Click Here for The Glass Ceiling Launch Party

COVER REVEAL FOR THE GLASS CEILING

The time is here to reveal the cover for my YA Speculative Fiction, THE GLASS CEILING. The book is not slated to come out from Frost Book Group until early 2016, but with such a thrillingly gorgeous cover, who could wait to reveal it? I’d like to thank my cover artist, Melody Pond, for being such a gem to work with. She took all my concerns into consideration and created great solutions. If you’re in need of a cover artist, check out her website at: http://melodyypond.weebly.com/

And without further ado, meet Heart, the main character in THE GLASS CEILING.

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Sixteen-year-old Heart escapes slavery in the tunnels, but merely trades her small prison for a larger one. A world controlled by a madman bent on genetic perfection. In searching for a way out, her rebellious nature pits her up against the Guardian, who stops at nothing to protect his secrets. Human skulls atop crude sticks serve as a warning: treason is punishable by death. When her new friends are held captive, and escape is only an arm’s reach away, Heart must decide. Take the freedom she so desperately wants or save her friends’ lives?

Prize Details:

Retweet or Share on Facebook to be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Winner to be announced on Friday.

A Review of GUARDED and a Special Announcement

This review has been a looooooong time coming and I’m so sorry I waited until now to write it. Wedding stuff took up a lot of my time, but it’s back to business!

As you know, Carmen Fox is a master manipulator of words, a plot genius, and a heroine of description. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, shame on you! You need to get with the program. Carmen has gone from a nerd reading physics books (for the fun of it!) to an Amazon bestselling author in two months. In fact, she’s #1 in both Werewolf & Shifter Mysteries and Vampire Mysteries. Wow, how’d she do that, you ask? You don’t pay attention, do you? See first sentence of paragraph.

I am lucky enough to have Carmen as a mentor. Now mind you, she’d probably say it’s the other way around being the humble Englishwoman she is, but I assure you, she’s the brains of the operation. And GUARDED showcases her talent one hundred percent.

So let me start by being square with you. This book is not a beach read. Or an airplane read. Or for that matter, a kid napping read (not meant to be confused with “kidnapping”). This is an “I want to challenge my brain read.” Now what does that mean? It means Carmen’s books are like onions. Her plots contain layers upon layers that you need to pull away. Can it be confusing? At times. But some of the best plots are born from early on confusion. Then when the fog clears, the reader can say, “Oh, I get it now! I never saw that coming!”

GUARDED is a spicy urban fantasy that has a little bit of everything for everyone. It has mystery, paranormal elements, contemporary life (MC is a private investigator), humor, romance, and scenes to make you blush. The story pulls you in from the beginning and there are plenty of good looking men to keep you company on the way.

Reader Tip: To keep track of the characters (i.e., suspects) and the multiple intertwining plots, it may be a good idea to keep your own notebook on the side and try to solve the mystery alongside the main character, Ivy. You could be like a Junior Nancy Drew! I keep notes on books I’m reading all the time. Mainly because my memory is so horrible. But in this book there are a lot of characters to keep track of, so it may be helpful to jot down a couple of notes like Greg = hot human, Waylon = hot demon, Lathan = evil demon, etc.

With thousands of sales, and “currently” 48 awesome reviews on Amazon, GUARDED is finding a home with many readers. So what are you doing sitting there and reading this blog entry still? Go buy it, silly! And be sure to spread the word. Books sell best through word of mouth. To purchase a copy of GUARDED, click this link. Oh, but don’t forget to come back for my special announcements below!

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Back yet? Awesome.

I’m proud to announce that first and foremost, I officially became Mrs. LaVoie (not just a pen name anymore) on September 5th. I’ll be sure to post wedding pictures in a future blog entry!

Second, the first round of edits are complete for my early reader chapter book, THE CASE OF THE PLANT KILLER. It’s coming along nicely and I’m two-thirds of the way through writing the next book in the series.

Third, the cover is DONE for my YA Dystopian, THE GLASS CEILING. The grand reveal will happen later this week so stay tuned! Here’s a hint. Think eerily beautiful. Bet you never thought those two words could go together. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Absolutely gorgeous.

Be sure to check out Carmen’s book and I’ll see you later this week! Go Team Flo!