The Relaxed & Groovy Book Club – THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH

 

Relaxed & Groovy Book Club

Welcome to the summer session of the Relaxed & Groovy Book Club.  We’re having one each quarter and instead of revisiting a favorite read from the past, I’m reading a book for the first time right along with you.

This selection is from an author I’ve never read before – always exciting! I met the beguiling Ms. Brockenbrough at the SCBWI LA conference last summer and have been looking forward to reading her book ever since. It’s a book well worth reading.

Current Relaxed & Groovy Book Club selection:

THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

Published by: Arthur A Levine Books

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Genres: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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Plot Summary:

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. HELEN OF TROY AND PARIS. ROMEO AND JULIET. AND NOW . . . HENRY AND FLORA.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Martha Brockenbrough here.

Follow Martha on Twitter here.

Follow Martha on Facebook here.

Follow Martha on Tumblr here.

 

It’s hard enough being in love without immortal forces interfering or outright plotting against you, especially when you have no idea it’s even happening. Their subtle moves shape your life views and change small steps that might have made big changes in your life you’ll never know about. Such a fascinating premise for this story.

Here’s a look at the first chapter:

Chapter 1

Friday, February 13, 1920

     The figure in the fine gray suit materialized in the nursery and stood over the sleeping infant, inhaling the sweet, milky night air. He could have taken any form, really; a sparrow, a snowy owl, even a common housefly. Although, he often traveled the world on wings, for this work he always preferred a human guise.

     Standing beneath a leaded glass window, the visitor, who was known as Love, removed a small, pearl-headed pin from his tie and pricked his his finger. A bead of blood rose and caught the reflection of the slice of moon that hung low in the late winter sky. He bent over the cradle and slid his bleeding fingertip into the child’s mouth. The baby, a boy, tried to suckle, his forehead wrinkling, his small hands curling into fists.

    After a time, Love slipped his finger out of the boy’s mouth, satisfied that the blood had given the boy a steady heart. He replaced his pin and regarded the child. He removed a book from his pocket, scribbled a few lines, and tucked it away again. When he could stay no longer, he uttered two words, as softly as a prayer: “Have courage.”

———————————————————————

The next night, in a small green house across town, his opponent made her choice. In this house, there was no leaded glass in the windows. No gracious nursery, no wrought-iron crib. The child was a girl. A girl who slept in an apple crate – happily so, for she did not yet know of anything else.

     In the house’s other bedroom, the child’s grandmother slept lightly, listening from some ever-alert corner of her mind for the sounds that would indicate the child’s parents had returned home: the creak of a door, the whisper of voices, the careful pad of tiptoeing feet.

     The old woman would wait forever to hear those sounds again.

     Wearing a pair of soft leather gloves, Love’s opponent, known as Death, reached for the child, who woke and blinked sleepily at the unfamiliar face overhead. To Death’s relief, the baby did not cry. Instead, she looked at her with wonder. Death held a candle near so the child might have a better view. The baby blinked twice, smiled, and reached for the flame.

     Pleased, Death set the candle down, held the baby close to her chest, and walked to the uncovered window, which revealed a whitened world glowing beneath a silver flannel sky. She and the baby watched the snow fall together. At last, the child fell asleep in her arms.

     Death concentrated on her essential task, relieved when she at last felt the telltale pressure behind her eyes. After much effort, a single black tear gathered in her lashes. Death removed her glove with her teeth. It made hardly any noise as it hit the floor. With her index finger, Death lifted the tear.

     She held her fingertip over the baby’s clean, warm forehead. Slowly, carefully, she wrote directly on the child’s flesh a word that would be invisible. But this word would have power over the child, and later the woman she would become. It would teach her, shape her. Its letters, seven of them, gleamed in the candlelight.

     Someday.

     She whispered this into the baby’s ear:

     Someday, everyone you love will die. Everything you love will crumble to ruin. This is the price of life. This is the price of love. It is the only ending for every true story.

     The letters sank into the infant’s dusky skin and vanished as if they’d never been there at all.

    Death put the baby down, removed her other glove, and left the pair of them on the floor, where they would be discovered by the baby’s grandmother and mistaken for something else. The gloves would be the only things she would give the girl, though there was much she had taken already, and more she would take in the years to come.

———————————————————————

     For the next seventeen years, Love and Death watched their players. Watched and waited for the Game to begin.

 

I was hooked from the opening. And I found myself rooting for the two wee babes, who grew up to be very intriguing, complex characters, hoping they’d find a way to beat the odds and defy the influence of Love and Death and forge their own path.

How about you? Did this opening grab you from the start or did you need more to get invested in the story?

The Discussion:

Flora and Henry, our “players”, both have really big dreams that they are very determined to achieve. Flora wants to be the next Amelia Earhart, and even though she’d rather earn a living flying, without serious sponsorship money – rarely given to women, yet alone a colored woman – she must spend her evenings singing at Domino’s.  Henry loves the connection, the rhythm, of baseball and is good enough that he received a full scholarship to the all-boys preparatory academy, which could lead to a college scholarship and a bright future. If only he could keep his focus on his studies and off of music, his real love.

Things really get interesting when their worlds collide, and then Henry hears Flora sing for the first time.

Here’s the scene where Henry has convinced Ethan, his foster brother, to go with him to Flora’s nightclub, The Domino, on the pretext of writing a story  for Ethan’s father’s newspaper, about Flora, the girl pilot they met earlier that day:

   On the far side rose a stage flanked by red velvet curtains and pearly lights. Everything had seen better days, to be sure. But it was the biggest, brightest thing Henry could remember since before the Crash, and for a moment, he almost felt as if he were back in that old world, the one he’d lived in with his family before the influenza took his mother and sister, before his father…Henry stopped the thought in its tracks. Now wasn’t the time.

   A group of musicians stood on one side of the stage, and the drummer kicked off a new song. Center stage, stepping down a wide white staircase and curving handrails, was Flora, looking paradoxically the same and yet so different from the way she looked on the airstrip. She smiled as she walked, but it was clear she couldn’t care less about the audience clapping and hooting on the floor below. A spotlight pinned her in front of a nickel-plated microphone.

     “Something wrong?” Ethan said. “Don’t tell me you’ve come to your senses.”

     “It’s not that. I just -” Henry shook his head. “The singer.”

     “Not that it matters, but she’s not bad-looking out of that canvas getup,” Ethan said. “I’ll grant you that. Even if her dress looks like something that was in style twenty years ago.”

     Henry didn’t care about the dress. It looked fine to him. More than fine.

     Flora opened her mouth to sing and Henry swallowed hard. He’d never heard anything like her voice, which made him wish he had his bass in his hands, just so he could return the sounds, a mix of chocolate and cream, something he wanted to drink through his skin.

Once upon a time I dreamed

Of how my life would go…

     He recognized the song: “Walk Beside Me.” But her voice nailed him to the floor. It made him feel as though something had slipped under his skin and was easing everything nonessential straight from his bones.

     “Cigarette?” A blonde wearing a short red dress and a tray of Viceroys slung from a strap around her neck leaned in toward them, blocking Henry’s view.

On that day I saw you

It wasn’t love at first sight

But slowly, like a sunrise

You revealed your light

     Henry craned around her as Ethan waved the cigarette girl away. “Your kind always says no to mine,” she muttered as she left. The maître d’ approached holding menus.

     “Follow me, gentlemen,” he said. “It’s your lucky night, We have a table right up front by the dance floor.”

     Henry had heard “Walk Beside Me” many times on the wireless. But he had never heard it like this, slow and tender. And the accompanying music was nothing like the orderly, upright way the Ozzie Nelson Band played it. This was something unsettling here, something unpredictable, as if some set of rules, both written and unwritten, was being shattered like glass. The awareness of it dampened his forehead and made his blood sing, raising all the tiny hairs on his arms and the back of his neck.

     Flora moved on to the chorus.

I may have dreamed before you

Of how my life should be

The only thing I want now

Is for you to walk beside me

   Beneath her voice, a skinny young bass player plucked a steady rhythm, holding her on a sturdy web of notes. For some reason, Henry immediately hated the man, his mustache, his pompadour, his trim tuxedo, the way he looked at Flora as though she were a thing he owned. The music picked up a notch, taking Henry’s pulse with it as the song traveled back to the main melody, now with the full band. It was a conversation with a piano, a guitar, a saxophone, two trombones, and a pair of twins playing trumpets that turned the reflection of the chandeliers overhead into movable stars.

So Love’s player is on the hook, but will Death’s player forsake her goals and ambition for Henry?

As Henry visits the Domino almost every night, getting closer to Flora, neglecting his responsibilities and letting his grades suffer, putting his future college scholarships in jeopardy, we begin to see the effect the actions Love and Death have on each of the “players”. One side isn’t above shoving obstacles in the way to move the players in the direction that suits their outcome of the game even if that means causing them a great loss.

This is a beautiful story that will have you rooting for Henry and Flora (and maybe even against Love and Death) and have you thinking about the balance between love and self-sacrifice.

What wouldn’t you give up for love? Heavy question.

What did you think of the story?

 

Up next…

 Fall Relaxed & Groovy Book Club selection:

RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy

Published by: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Release Date: May 9, 2017

Genres: YA, Contemporary

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Plot Summary:

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family.

Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected.

With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Julie Murphy here.

Follow Julie on Twitter here.

Follow Julie on Tumblr here.

Follow Julie on Instagram here.

Follow Julie on YouTube here.

 

I’ve interviewed Ms. Murphy right here on this blog a few years ago and finally got to meet her in person during her Epic Reads tour for this book. Such a delightful person! While I’ve enjoyed reading her other books, like SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY and DUMPLIN’, she said this one took her the longest, and it’s because it’s a reflection of her inner self as much as DUMPLIN’ was a reflection of her outer self. Wow! Does that make me want to read it all the more!

We’ll reconvene this most relaxed and groovy of book clubs in the fall. (Tie-dyed tees and funky shoes optional, as always!)

Happy reading!

PARASITE Release Day

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My dear friend K.T. Hanna celebrates the release of her final book in her Domino Project series, today. As a special treat, she’s giving some behind the scenes insight into her characters and this outstanding series.

First, let’s learn more about her newest book!

 

PARASITE cover

PARASITE (The Domino Project #3) by K.T. Hanna

Published by: Amaranthine Press

Release Date: February 22, 2016

Genres: YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Amazon | Signed Copies from Watermark Books

Plot Summary:

With the Damascus closing in on the Exiled, Sai and Dom must put their grief and inner demons aside as they rush to free the people of the Protected Conglomerate from the influence of the psionic grid. 

Chipped and placed under house arrest with a guard, Bastian’s only hope lies in reaching his core to disrupt Deign’s ruthless plan. 

 Intent on putting a stop to the Damascus and the GNW’s reign, Dom discovers the true extent of the parasite within. Just when Sai thinks the Exiled have a chance, their greatest weapon turns on them. (From Goodreads.)

What an exciting series!  Recently, K.T. received some wonderful news when her first book, CHAMELEON, was reviewed by Kirkus.

“Hanna takes familiar sci-fi genre elements… and spins dystopian gold.” Kirkus Reviews

Can’t ask for much better than that. And now, to celebrate Parasite’s release, Chameleon and Hybrid are on sale for $0.99! 

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hybrid

 

 

 

 

Without further ado, let’s hear from K.T.

Guest Post

Thank you so much for having me. I wanted to tell people a little bit about Dom, and how The Domino Project books came to be.

It might surprise people who’ve read the books to know that Domino has always been my favorite character. These books originally started out as two completely different novels. One with a school that trained psionically gifted people to be assasins, and another set on a different world with a race of engineered beings called the Dominos.

The Domino Project is called that because when they were created it was in a sense a way to topple opposition. Make them fall like dominos.

In his own book, Dom was an alien engineered being that can totally meld with the shadows. A part of a larger faction of assassins and infiltrators, he malfunctioned and separated himself from his orders and the others like him to make his own way in the world.

Sai was his sidekick in these books and far different to what she is in Chameleon.

The other book, Jaded, was home to Aishke and Bastian. They were student and teacher, respectively, in a school where her abilities led to Bastian training her to take over his position of assassin. I still adore the first scene I wrote for that book.

When I came up with the idea to meld both books, I didn’t realize how amazing the world and characters would turn out. I’m so excited that people can read the whole trilogy now.

I hope everyone enjoys the conclusion.

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About K.T.

KT Hanna has a love for words so extreme, a single word can spark entire worlds.

Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically out to kill you.

When she’s not writing, she freelance edits for Chimera Editing, interns for a NYC Agency, and chases her daughter, husband, corgi, and cat. No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, and beef jerky.

Note: Still searching for her Tardis

 

Author Links:

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

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The Giveaway

To celebrate the release of PARASITE, K.T. is holding a giveaway! The giveaway includes a Domino Project Swag Pack and a $10 Amazon gift card.

ENTER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤ a PARASITE Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be announced after March 4th.

YA Bounk Tour Button

Book Blitz Organized by:

YA Bound Book Tours

Book Blitz – LEGENDS by Doug Solter

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I’m happy to be the host for today’s stop on the LEGENDS Book Blitz tour for my friend and #okscbwichat co-host, Doug Solter. This is the third book in this exciting series, and I for one can’t wait to read it.

(Stay tuned for a huge giveaway package!)

 

Let’s learn a little bit more about the author:

doug-solterGrowing up in Oklahoma, Doug Solter began writing screenplays in 1998 and became a 2001 semi-finalist in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. He made the switch to writing young adult novels in 2008. His first novel, the Formula One racing romance SKID, was honored as a young adult semi-finalist in the 2013 Best Kindle Book Awards. His paranormal werewolf romance MY GIRLFRIEND BITES was honored in the same category in 2014. Doug is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He respects cats, loves the mountains, and one time walked the streets of Barcelona with a smile on his face.

Learn more about Doug Solter here.
Follow Doug on Twitter here.
Follow Doug on Facebook here.
 Visit Doug's Goodreads Author Page here.
Let’s get some details about the new book:

 

LegendsLEGENDS (Skid#3) by Doug Solter

Release Date: September 2, 2015

Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Order the eBook on Kindle: amazon



Plot Summary:


Looking for an exciting young adult read about a kick-butt girl that doesn’t revolve around high school?

Meet Samantha. She drove the car that killed her dad. Now racked with guilt, the 18-year-old-girl racer dedicates her life to becoming what her dad always planned her to be…a racing champion. Now demoted to number three driver, Samantha feels alienated from her friends on the crew and Manny. And the worst part of it is…she knows it was all her fault.

Determined to make amends and save her Formula One career, Samantha re-commits herself to winning the championship. But how? How can she convince her boss to give back her car? How can she convince the crew that she’s changed? And how can she win eight consecutive races against the best drivers in the world? That’s what it will take for her to have a shot at the world championship.

Manny doesn’t like to create waves. His uncle owns the racing team, but the crew teases the boy like one of their own. But that’s okay. Manny dreams of designing his own race cars and he thought his girlfriend Samantha would race them. But she tossed him to the side when the self-absorbed racing star took over from the small-town girl from Oklahoma that he fell in love with.

Samantha needs an edge. She needs that revolutionary new transmission Manny designed that made her car so nimble and fast. But Manny hates her. She neglected him so bad that he broke up with her. Why would the boy help her? Especially when Manny’s ex-girlfriend is making her move to take Samantha’s place.

The world now thinks Samantha Sutton is a joke. Solid proof that girls don’t belong in a race car.

She doesn’t have a choice. Samantha must prove the world wrong.

I love stories about girls that kick butt. And if you’ve read my bio, you know I’m a fan of speeding, errrr, driving.

 

Let’s read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

Samantha

Munich, Germany

The human shell that bears my name wears jeans, a little makeup, and a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. She feels hollow. Like her guts have been scooped out. The guts that made her take risks. The jittery stomach that made her puke before a race. The pulsing heart that made her fall in love. The delicate tissues that made her human. Made her real.

It’s all been sucked out of her.

Shutting my eyes, I listen to the sounds around me in the first-class departure lounge. A man speaks to his wife in German. He’s flying to Toronto on business and must be on the phone since he’s telling her when his plane is scheduled to leave. A woman in a strong Jersey accent scolds her child for making a fuss over her drink. Yeah, she’ll be sitting right next to us on our flight, I bet.

I tune out the voices and stretch on this comfy leather couch I found.

The silk scarf covering my face lifts as my sister leans in to destroy my moment of nirvana.

“Are you gonna be moody on the plane too?” Paige asks.

“Yes.” I grab the scarf and place it back over my face.

Paige lifts the scarf again. “Do you want a cookie? The walnut chocolate-chips are wicked.”

“No.” I take it from her again. I don’t wanna talk. Eat. Or experience life. I want life to leave me alone for a while. Or better yet, forget that Samantha Sutton ever existed.

Doesn’t Paige get the message? Do I have to spell everything—

Paige lifts the scarf. “Please stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’ll get through this. Everything will be mucho better. You’ll see.”

A spark of rage throws me off the couch and into my sister’s face. “Shut up. You don’t know anything. My future is gone. I screwed up my entire life and I don’t need my baby sister acting like she knows what’s best for me because you don’t know crap. You’re useless to me right now. Do you understand? Useless. Go bother someone else with your condescending wisdom.”

Paige wants to cry, but she somehow chokes off the tears. She stands and grabs her purse before shuffling out of the lounge.

Good. Now I’ll have some freaking peace.

I lie down on the leather couch. Voices murmur around me. Fingers point. That loud argument with Paige draws the room’s attention to that eighteen-year-old girl on the couch. That girl who looks oddly familiar because she took off her stylish Italian scarf and her large designer sunglasses that disguised her identity.

Crap.

Please leave me alone. I don’t want to be her. I want to be a nameless traveler. A plain, uninteresting girl you would pass in the hallway without a second peek.

I throw on my sunglasses, hoping it will make me invisible again.

Wrong.

Their hushed voices start it off.

“Is that the girl who…?”

“Samantha Sutton. Yes, that’s her!”

“How could she do that to her team?”

“What a spoiled brat. Did you hear what she did?”

“What an embarrassment to the sport.”

“She’s a teen girl. What do you expect?”

The first-class lounge becomes my court room. All the passengers self-appointed judges. I can’t look at them. But I can’t stare at the ceiling for another hour. Maybe if I sit here and be quiet, they’ll leave me alone.

The voices go on and on as if I can’t hear all the awful things they’re saying about me.

People take pictures. I ignore them and play a game on my phone.

They stand up and approach me.

I don’t look up or acknowledge them.

Those people snap pictures anyway. Like I’m this inanimate object. Not a person with feelings. Or a girl who craves her privacy.

A few ask questions. Normally I would answer and be that professional sports celebrity I’ve been in the past. But I’m too fragile now. If I talk about what’s happened this week, dig up all those horrible moments again, I’ll totally lose it. So I walk out of the first-class lounge…

…and into a sea of media. They circle me like a pack of wolves and I’m trapped. They just won’t let the story die. Guess my location isn’t a secret now. Microphones and cameras aim for my head. It’s the quickest way to take me out. Their questions fly like spears…

“What’s the real reason you skipped the German Grand Prix? Was it to get back at the team for not supporting you?”

“Will Porsche sack you for embarrassing them?”

“Did Ralf Wolert’s nephew break up with you because he found out you were pregnant?”

“Was the pressure too much for you? Are you seeking professional counseling?”

“Is this the end of your career in Europe? Will you try to race in America?”

I can’t answer them. The mountain of crap that I’ve created is suffocating and I have no energy left to fight it.

My cheeks become moist.

Crap. I can’t start bawling. Not here. Not in front of the cameras.

They want to break you. Reduce you to nothing. Don’t let them do it.

The cameras move in to capture my face. The tears flow and I can’t stop. These reporters will get what they want. A pathetic little girl crying over the boy she loves.

I wedge myself in between two reporters and push through them. I dash across the terminal in this frantic state. Searching for an escape. Searching for anything that will keep them away.

And they’re chasing me. Seriously. Chasing me across the freaking airport.

I spot a women’s restroom and dash inside.

Finding an empty stall, I slam the door shut and sit on the cold toilet seat. I relax for a second and rest my head against the wall. Then it rolls out like a tidal wave. I sob and the tears drip off my jaw. I drift forward. My wet cheek slides against the wall. The friction it makes is the only thing preventing me from collapsing on to the bathroom tiles.

There’s a commotion as the restroom door opens. Things being moved around. It must be the mob. They won’t give up. They’re stuffing themselves into this bathroom. Excited that I’ve trapped myself inside this stall. They don’t care about decency. Or empathizing with the pain of a human being. All they care about is their story. Catching pictures of me in this helpless position would be the perfect image for their news feeds.

The stall door opens.

It’s Paige.

She kneels down and wraps her arms around this hollow and broken girl who’s totally lost it. Paige rocks me back and forth like a child. But it does the job. It helps me find my voice.

“I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say,” I blubber through the tears. “I’m losing my mind.”

“Don’t worry,” Paige says in this upbeat tone that I hated a few minutes ago…but I so need to hear now. “I blocked the door. No one’s coming in here.”

“But they’re still out there. Waiting to pounce. I can’t—I can’t get on a plane now.” I sniff and my nose is clogged from crying. “Look at me. I’m a disaster. And everyone’s gonna stare at me on the plane for what…? Nine hours?”

“We’ll charter a private jet home, okay? Megan will have a cow, but this is an emergency and we’re spending the money.”

I manage a nod.

Paige dives into her purse for a moist towelette and cleans my face. I sneeze and snot comes out my nose. Paige gives me a tissue and I blow into it. Paige gets rid of the tissues and my ball cap. She brushes my hair to make me look like a girl again.

I breathe in and relax.

Paige searches her purse and takes out a big cookie. “Here, I saved you one.”

I take the cookie and examine its rocky surface of walnuts and serious chunks of chocolate. My mouth waters. “Are they really wicked?”

“Dude! You won’t regret it. Now do the Cookie Monster on that bad boy while I call NetJets.”

Nice! I’m ready to find out what happens next. And strangely, I’m hungry for a chocolate chip cookie.

Doug has self-published all three of these books and has done a tremendous job. So much hard work goes into this process when you do it right. Doug will actually be speaking about the ups and downs of self-publsihing at our local SCBWI schmooze in October as part of a panel on self-publishing. If you are interested, check our OK SCBWI website for more details.

And now that you are all excited about Doug’s new book…

THE GIVEAWAY!Skid Series Pic

And man, is it ever a big one!

  • One signed paperback copy of LEGENDS.
  • One paperback copy of the first two books in the series (SKID and RIVALS)
  • One T-shirt and one hat from the main character’s fictional racing team
  • And one book cover jigsaw puzzle!

 

ENTER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤ LEGENDS Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all who enter!

FYI,  I just picked up the first book in the series, SKID,  at our spring conference so I could have an autographed copy, but if you are also new to the series, you can get it FREE for your Kindle on Amazon. And the second book, RIVALS is only .99 this month.

ORDER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤amazon

Thanks for allowing me to host this fantastic event. I wish you well on the rest of your book tour, Doug!

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Doug Solter – Author Interview & Book Giveaway

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October is all about celebrating the fantastic local talent here within our SCBWI Oklahoma group. I’ll be sharing great insights from our phenomenal fall retreat and highlighting some of our brave authors who allowed me to interview them here on the blog.

doug-solterFirst up is YA author Doug Solter.

No stranger to this blog, back in early August, Doug shared the cover reveal of his latest book with us. Doug’s third self-published book, RIVALS (SKID #2), is celebrating its book launch this week. Doug really knows the business of self-publishing and knows how hard one has to work to take this challenging route to publication.

Now for the even harder part, answering my probing interview questions.

(Make sure you stay tuned. There’s a chance for awesome prizes at the end.)

 The Interview

Valerie Lawson: Your protagonist in RIVALS is a female racecar driver, what unique challenges did writing about her world from her POV present for you?

Doug Solter: Well, one big challenge was writing from a teenage girl’s POV. Honestly, I couldn’t have done that without reading piles of young adult novels by female authors. This allowed me to step inside Samantha’s head and present her in what I hope is an honest representation that other girls can empathize with. Another challenge was exposing female readers to the world of racing without turning them completely off. Maintaining a balance between Samantha’s person life and racing was crucial is this regard. Based on feedback from readers of the first book, many were surprised how interested they were in the racing scenes. I think it was because they were experiencing it through the eyes of a character they’re invested in and so they’re willing to open themselves up to that strange world of racing.

VL: Tons of research and engage the reader by making them care about the character. Very sound advice.

What was the inspiration for this book?

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DS: Rivals is the second book of my Skid young adult racing series. The inspiration for Skid was initially a screenplay I wrote called Season of Speed. I wanted to do a racing story involving someone from Oklahoma who moves away from a small town and steps into a much larger world. One big thing was that I wanted the driver to be a young woman instead of the usual guy. When I made the switch to writing young adult novels, this screenplay became a book and I knocked down Samantha’s age to 17 instead of 23. Rivals is a continuation of Samantha’s story, dealing with her second season in Formula One.

VL: We’ve personally talked about your background in screenplay writing and how you’ll write screenplay adaptations for your novels. I love how you do this just as an exercise and how it helps you write more visually. 

 

 When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you start pursuing that seriously?

DS: It happened in two stages for me. My brain was always filled with creative juices leaking out in the form of day-dreaming and thinking about “what if”. But then I didn’t know how to channel that creativity in some form of art. Creative writing itself seemed too daunting at the time. But in my twenties I worked as a production assistant on a local film that a friend of mine at the time was producing. The script was awful. Bad dialogue, cardboard characters, predictable ending. It caused me to think about writing my own screenplay. I did write one and it got me hooked on screenwriting. After my fourth script made the semi-finals in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, I finally believed that writing was something I did do well and I should really pursue it.  Stage two. I wrote eight scripts and submitted those to film production companies and Hollywood agents with some interest here and there but no deals. And then the economy in 2008 tanked and the screenplay spec market dried up. No one was buying scripts from unknown writers, so I switched tactics and decided to write my first book. And here we are.

VL: Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about your formative years. What was the worst job you ever had while going to school?

DS: I didn’t work during high school, but on one summer break from college I worked at a telemarketing company. I would call people using the phone book (pre-internet) and tried to convince them to buy passes for a charity event that was suppose to help local kids. It was awful and I hated it. Plus I wasn’t sure if the passes we were selling actually did raise money for the kids. I quit after like a month or two.

VL: Yikes. That definitely qualifies as an awful job. I applaud you for lasting that long.

Tell me about the most interesting place you have ever lived. What did you like/hate most about it?

DS: After graduating college, I lived in Fairfield, Iowa for two weeks to work at a video production company that did info-commercials. What I didn’t know was that Fairfield is the center of the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation movement. Almost everyone there is a self-proclaimed “meditator” so I instantly felt like an outsider, especially when people were constantly asking me if I was one of them. The town was out in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing to do there but…meditate. The only good thing was meeting Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) of Gilligan’s Island fame when she came to do an info-commercial about rice cookers.

VL: That is completely surreal. And sounds like the plot of a great story.

Tell us about your self-publishing experience. What’s harder/easier about this path to publication? Why was this path right for this story?

DS: Self-publishing takes more work. It’s all up to the writer to handle all the publishing steps and to maintain a level of quality that the reader expects when they hand over their money. The book must go through beta readers, a thorough editing process, and finally a proofread to purge as many errors as possible. I can distribute the eBook quite easily on-line and also have a paperback version available for giveaways, local signings, and those readers who prefer paper. Do I get into Barnes & Noble? No. But 90% of my sales are through eBooks anyway so it’s not that big of a deal.

I went the traditional publishing route with my first book Skid. Queried over 60 agents. Sent out manuscripts to publishers and all that. I did receive positive feedback from a few people, but not enough to take on the book. So after that process, I decided to try the self-publishing route as an experiment in order to learn the process and see if it was a viable last option. The process was harder than I thought going in, but I’m still glad I did it. I’m convinced that Skid or Rivals would have never been published otherwise.

VL: Any tips you’d give other writers considering self-publication?

DS: You still must act like a professional. That means don’t take short cuts with your work. Hire out professionals to do your book cover and editing. If you can’t create the eBook or paperback yourself, you can hire those professional services too. The eBook revolution is not a gold mine. You must publish a lot of books and readers must find them among the sea of titles that are available. You must build up a fan base from scratch. This takes time, good marketing, and patience. You must think and act like an entrepreneur because your writing is a business and you must treat it as such.

VL: Very sound advice. And it looks as if you followed it to the letter. Your covers are so captivating and from the pages I’ve read, you’ve really taken the time to craft your story. I love Samantha. We need more characters like her.

What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?

DS: I finally read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell this year and loved it. The setting took me right back to school in the 80’s. I was on that very same bus that was described in the book. Perfect representation of that time period. I loved both characters and the story itself felt more down to earth and real. Not so much plot driven but character driven in many aspects.

VL: Loved, loved, loved, that book! I felt my hair getting bigger as I read each page.

What are you currently working on?

DS: The next book I’m working on is Skid #3 which I hope will be out by early spring of next year.

VL: Doug, thank you so much for sharing your time and your knowledge with us.

Good luck with your book and the rest of your tour!

Book Tour Itinerary

To Learn more about RIVALS (SKID #2) and to follow Doug on the remainder of his launch tour or to catch up on stops you may have missed, here are stops:

September 29th – Guest Post – BC Brown – http://bcbrownbooks.blogspot.com

September 30th – Character Post – Jess Mountifield – http://www.jessmountifield.co.uk/

October 1st – Guest Post – Mandy Anderson – http://twimom101bookblog.blogspot.com/

October 2nd – Guest Post – Skyler Finn – http://randomofalife.blogspot.com/

October 3rd – Author interview – Valerie Lawson – https://valerierlawson.wordpress.com/

October 6th – Character Interview – Jessica L. Brooks – http://www.coffeelvnmom.blogspot.com

October 7th – Character Post – Melissa Robles – http://thereaderandthechef.blogspot.com

October 8th – Author interview – Dani Duck – http://daniduckart.blogspot.ca

October 9th – Gif Interview – Kate Tilton – http://katetilton.com/blog

October 10th – Guest post – Jasmine  – http://bookgroupies2.blogspot.com

Learn more about Doug Solter here.

Follow Doug on Twitter here.

The Giveaway

Doug has a fantastic launch-wide giveaway that you can enter right here. He’s giving away two autographed copies of his books – one copy of SKID and one of RIVALS.  Click on the link below to enter.

Win an autographed paperback copy of Book One
Win an autographed paperback copy of Book One
Win an autographed paperback copy of Book Two
Win an autographed paperback copy of Book Two

ENTER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤ Doug Solter’s Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover Reveal – RIVALS

Doug Solter is a delightful addition to our local SCBWI family and he has to be the hardest working author on the self-publishing front. I read all his notices about the daily word counts he pushes to achieve after a long day at work and I see him all the time on the Twitter chats interacting and encouraging his fellow writers. So when Doug asked if I’d liked to be a part of his cover reveal, I didn’t hesitate.

There’s also a giveaway for those paying attention, so make sure you’re one of them!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

doug-solter

Growing up in Oklahoma, Doug Solter began writing screenplays in 1998 and became a 2001 semi-finalist in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. His script Father Figure was one of 129 scripts left from 5,489 entries. Doug made the switch to writing young adult novels in 2008. Doug is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Doug respects cats, loves the mountains, and one time walked the streets of Barcelona with a smile on his face.

ABOUT RIVALS

Eighteen-year-old Samantha Sutton is back for a new racing season in Formula One. The hot new racing star of Wolert Porsche has everything she wants. An awesome team. An awesome car. And the perfect boy. But her optimism sinks when her boss steals arch-rival Emilio Ronaldo away from Ferrari and makes the jerk her team’s number-one driver.

Stressing about Emilio, Samantha struggles with her new public life as a teen sports star. Finding time to be the best girlfriend to Manny proves more and more difficult. It also doesn’t help that Manny’s ex-girlfriend Hanna shows up. The girl treated at a mental hospital for poisoning his grandmother’s dog.

The pressure on Samantha becomes unbearable. Paranoia, mistrust, and jealousy take over. She lashes out at everyone as the world seems determined to bring her down.

Can Samantha rise above it all and win the world championship? Or will this be the end of everything she’s worked so hard for?

This novel is the sequel to Skid which is available for free download in either eBook or Audiobook form when you sign up to the author’s free email list.

RIVALS RELEASE DATE

Tuesday, September, 23rd

EXCERPT FROM RIVALS:

“Are you ready to meet your new teammate?” Benito asks.

            Not really.

            Outside the main garage, the three of us take the little sidewalk that leads to the scenic overlook near the back of the office building. The overlook is this cozy spot with chairs and benches. Lots of Wolert Porsche employees walk over here to have lunch or to take a break from work to stare at the pretty view of the deep valley and the pointy tops of the Alps surrounding it.

            A slight breeze runs up the valley and smacks the side of the mountain we’re on. The sun spreads Emilio Ronaldo’s shadow over the molded-stone pavement as he leans against the wood safety rails that prevent people from falling over the steep drop.

            I join him along the rail.

            Emilio takes a long drag from a cigar, blowing out a large plume of smoke. He tucks his hand inside his sport coat and pulls out another cigar. “Do you smoke?”

            “Seriously? You’re offering me a cigar?” I ask.

            “They’re very good. Very strong. Grow hair on your chest.” Emilio grins.

            Yeah, right. Smoking a cigar is a macho-guy thing. They need it to feel like men. Hmm. I wonder if little-old me is intimidating him again. The same girl who made him flinch during that race at Spa. That would be awesome if I’m getting under his skin.

            Emilio slips the cigar back into his coat. “But if you don’t feel adventurous I understand.”

            Wait a second. Is he saying I’m too timid? That I can’t handle a cigar just because I’m a girl?

            “I’d love a cigar,” I say, acting like it’s no big deal.

            Emilio pulls out the cigar. I snatch it and place it in my mouth. The foreign object lays heavy on my tongue and feels like I have a wad of paper stuffed in my mouth.

            “You need to cut off the end first.”

            “I know that.” I pull the cigar out and notice the round end that isn’t cut off. I bite into that and rip it off with my teeth. I taste flakes of pure tobacco on my tongue and it’s like ash and it’s disgusting and I spit it all over the stones at my feet.

            Emilio smiles and holds up some rectangular-looking tool with a round hole in it. “I have a cutter. You don’t have to bite the end off.”

            Now I feel like an idiot. Emilio must be enjoying this. Another genius plan to embarrass and humiliate me. Too late to stop now. I hold out the cigar and he cuts off the end. I put the cigar back in my mouth.

            Emilio takes out a lighter and flicks. The flame licks the end of my cigar. “You must inhale to draw the flame in and light the tobacco.”

            I breathe in and smoke fills my lungs.

            Oh My God! I cough hard and bend over, belching smoke from my mouth like a dragon. I feel my eyes watering. A definite sign my body is yelling. What the hell are you doing to me, Samantha?

            Enjoying my discomfort, Emilio inhales his cigar, the end of which glows bright red. Like a demon.

            I take another drag on the cigar and my lungs belch out the foul smoke again. But I try to stand casual. Like the smoke doesn’t bother me.

            “I would like to begin,” Emilio says. “By mentioning that our past grievances should be left in the past. We are both competitors. We both fight to win. But starting today, we will be teammates. Do you understand? When both of us do well, the team does well. The team will always matter more than one driver. I look forward to working with you. Not against you.” Emilio takes a moment for a puff on his cigar. “What is your opinion on that?”

            My opinion? Someone actually wants to hear my opinion? It’s a mountain of cow puke. That’s my opinion. This is still my team and Emilio is not going to come in here and take it away. All this crap about team this and team that. It’s only to put a pacifier in my mouth so I won’t complain. Be the good little girl, Samantha. Play nice and get along with the boy who stole your place on the team.

             I puff the cigar and cough. Jeez. That’s what this cigar is. It’s a pacifier. Make baby Samantha shut up.

             I take the cigar out of my mouth.

            “Is it too strong?” Emilio asks.

            This guy can read people crazy-well. He read me like a book right before our final race at Spa. Emilio detects weakness in others like a hawk drifting over a limp sheep, patiently waiting for it to fall over before attacking.

            I won’t let him read me ever again.

            “I agree. We so got into it last year and it was insane.” I use my sweet girlie voice that fools most guys. “And there were times I actually wanted to kill you. Like that time at your home in Brazil?”

            “I remember,” he says. “I mentioned something about how you could never win the world championship.”

            “Because I was a woman and didn’t have the killer instinct or something like that.”

            Whoa. Easy, Samantha. Don’t lose it. Stay under control. Do not let Emilio beat you.

            “Yes. Something like that,” Emilio says, his voice quieter. “You proved me wrong. The way you hunted me those last few laps at Spa. You were ruthless. Unyielding. You chased me down like a cunning animal that had learned patience and the art of intimidation. My observations please you?”

            Crap. He caught me smiling.

            “It was impressive. We are teammates now so I can mention this. You are not some female racer who shows off her body more than her racing skills. You are quite different.”

            If that’s his version of a compliment, I guess I’ll take it.

COVER REVEAL

Now that we’ve built up plenty of anticipation, without any further ado, here it is…

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Jealousy is a powerful emotion, it can destroy even good people.

I hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of this reveal. For participating, you can enter the Giveaway below to win either a signed copy of RIVALS, SKID 2 or a signed copy of the first book, SKID. Simply click on the link and follow the directions.

Learn more about Doug Solter here.

Follow Doug on Twitter here.

➤ ➤ ➤ ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE!!! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Masquerade Tour – The King of Sunday Morning by JB McCauley

Welcome to the  Masquerade Tours book tour for The King of Sunday Morning by JB McCauley. I’m happy to host today’s stop. Please make sure you follow along the Tour Schedule for more reviews throughout the week. You can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card by following the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post.

The Author:

J B McCauley is an English born Australian author. Born in the heart of Essex County U.K., he is a retired Music Journalist/Reporter and House DJ. He has performed as a DJ across five continents and has also been a very popular radio presenter.

The King of Sunday Morning is his fictional account of one man’s journey through the criminal underworld set against the backdrop of the early dance music scene. Although taking place in an extremely toxic environment, The King of Sunday Morning is a tale of enduring mateship and love, a bond that runs deep through the Australian psyche. His writing style is modern, containing liberal use of the colourful side of the English language but within which, is contained a sensitivity which belies the situation in which it sits. “I do not write to become rich. I write to enrich. If I can achieve that then I will be a happy man.”

J B McCauley lives not so quietly on the New South Wales South Coast. He broadcasts an extremely popular Podcast on the web under the title of The King of Sunday Morning and counts amongst some of his friends and peers some of the world’s most famous DJs.

Website  | Twitter  | Facebook |  Goodreads

The Book:

Trouble never strays far…

 

The King of Sunday Morning

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