Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anabel Divided #Giveaway and excerpt

Find Anabel Divided here on Amazon

Thank you so much to Alison for hosting me today on your blog! Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of ANABEL DIVIDED:
I pulled my bathrobe around me and I tiptoed down the creaky stairs, careful to not do anything that might wake up sleeping baby.
I was so not in the mood to deal with sleeping baby. She had kept me up the entire previous night, and then had had the audacity to resist napping. Yes. She needed to sleep.
I flopped down on the cushy couch and flipped on the lamp, blinking into the light. I felt a pang for my house in Mclean; there, I could have gone into the library to read, but instead, I was here, in the house I had insisted we needed. The one with the creaky steps and the small downstairs and the hardwood floors which gave the place some incredible acoustics.
Oh, I should have just gone to school at American, and not here.
I was wide awake now. Matt was right ̧ as he often was; I would have tossed and turned for a long time up there.
So I might as well read, right?
I opened the book to the ladybug bookmark and considered the handwritten pages. Most of the information that the volume contained was mundane: “Tennis date with Alicia this morning—I wish she wasn’t at work all the time!” and “Took A to the pediatrician today—the girl is growing like a weed!” But I still perused the pages, looking for something, anything . . . I needed a clue, a hint as to who she was.
After years of unconcern, I was trying to figure out my mother.
I wasn’t sure why this was so important to me now. Maybe it was Emma? I was struggling to figure out my daughter, so perhaps I thought she would make more sense to me if I could understand my mother?
Miss Marilyn had told me I had cried for my mother for days on end when she had first arrived on Caereon, but then, as time had gone by, I had stopped asking for her. It was like I had erased Cassidy from my memory, and instead transferred my affection to Miss Marilyn. Now that she and I were finally speaking again, I had asked her to fill in the holes . . . but she had had precious little information to give.
So I had given up . . . until I had found the box of papers and diaries in the library. My mother’s sloppy script filled each page, and each word gave me hope of figuring out why she had never fought for me.
Why had she let Jonathan take me away? I mean, didn’t most places give the mother the child?
Had she not wanted me? I couldn’t even fathom that. I mean, I had wanted Emma so much, and the thought of being away from her tore at my soul . . . even after a sleepless night.
Maybe this was stupid—an exercise in futility. I had read through three volumes of diaries, and none of them were particularly revealing.
But, considering everything, there was probably a good reason for that. He was, I was sure, spying on her every chance he got.
I sighed. What was I doing? It was now well past four, and I was tired, and Emma would be up at some point in the next two hours.
So then I did something that I never did. I skipped to the end.
And the words I read on the last page made me gasp.
***
Blurb: Anabel Martin thought that the resolution of her father's murder would bring a resolution to her problems. After all, she was starting life over in a new place, with new friends, and new adventures, focusing on attending college and raising her daughter free from the distractions of Washington, DC. She was ready to move on.
But a trip back to the District for Meghan's wedding stirs up old feelings and brings new life to old relationships. Matt is cold and distant, while Jared is caring and attentive. A woman from Matt's past, a bold public flirtation, and Anabel's desire to be truly loved lead her to a crossroads...and her final decision leaves her with more questions than answers.
Amanda Romine Lynch

Amanda Romine Lynch is a writer, editor, and blogger who grew up in Florida knowing she belonged somewhere else. She now lives in the DC Metro Area with her husband and three amazing little boys. She is the Eco-Friendly/Green Living Contributor over at the Prime Parents’ Club and strives to live earth friendly in a world of disposable diapers. When not writing about Anabel and Jared or chasing around a curly-haired boy, she cheers for the Gators (in all kinds of weather) and occasionally remembers to sleep.

You can find Amanda on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Importance of a Good Beta-Reader

From wiki commons, labeled for reuse
This week I'm sorting through feedback I got from three wonderful beta-readers. Betas are people who take my self-edited manuscript, read it, and respond with detailed notes about the current manuscript. I use a worksheet provided by my dear friend and fellow author Connie Jasperson, and it works wonders in eliciting honest opinions about my current work-in-progress.

Because that's what I need at this point: complete honesty. Glowing reviews are lovely, but in this creator's journey I desperately need signs and guideposts to help me to the next level as I develop this tangled mess that will, once day, be a somewhat polished book.

Luckily, I have those amazing betas to help. None of them held back in offering opinions, and it's an incredible thing to get inside their heads a bit while they detail what bored or turned them off as they read. All three are very intelligent, and they were quick to point out a huge section that has to be completely re-researched and rewritten.

Naturally, it would be great if the feedback was "Amazing! Ready to go to the publisher!" And of course, each time I open a beta's feedback form I'm secretly hoping for that. Instead, I always get a series of little reality checks to show me where I somehow lost my mind while I wrote. Characters 'appear' in rooms without explanation. Entire plot points make no sense. It's impossible to tell who's speaking in a scene. One character's ethnicity isn't described well enough. 
from flickr.com, labelled for reuse

It's as though I got the chance to go inside those readers' brains and look through their eyeholes, like a mad scientist. And what an amazing view it is! The feedback suggests entirely new journeys for my main character, for the antagonist, and I can't wait to get started.

I have an extremely tough job ahead of me, but it's going to be fascinating - like untangling a huge knot while simultaneously fighting a hydra and taming a pack of wolves. I really can't wait to get started.

As I do, I just want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful betas. You make writing my books possible. Cheers!
The beast SHALL be tamed. (wikipedia, labeled for reuse)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Don't Forget Me, Bro by John Michael Cummings

The last words Steve Barr ever said to his brother Mark were, “Don’t forget me, bro.” When Steve passes away (perhaps from complications from his schizophrenia or a complex reaction to his prescribed drug cocktail) Mark insists on driving back to West Virginia to visit his spiky, damaged, unloving family and try to fulfill Steve’s last request.

What follows in the novel, titled after Steve's last wish (due out this October) is a journey into the heart of starkness, an odyssey of within and without. Leaving Brooklyn and returning to his family’s broken home – in every sense of the word – makes Mark confront memories that are unbelievably bad and, along the way, golden as well.

John Michael Cummings details this journey without a trace of Lifetime-movie proselytizing or Hallmark card sweetness. Each character is real, alive, vibrant in their sodden acceptance of the ugly nature of living and being human. Only Sherry Mayer, the mentally-challenged girl Steve called his girlfriend, sees life as colorful and wonderful, a view reflected in her pink, sparkly sweatshirts and the way she eats fries - by throwing them in the air and catching them in her mouth.

The lovely language of Mark’s journey, both inner and physical, seduced me completely. It’s tough and spare, but beautiful at the same time. Look at this description of Steve, the deceased brother:

Steve was that guy on “COPS”—no teeth, no shoes, no shirt, hairy white beer belly hanging down over his dirty jeans, screaming and hollering in the street for Momma or Loretta Lou, only to whimper as the cops walked him like a child to the backdoor of the squad car.  On that last visit home eleven years ago, I had thought—he’s dead already.

Greg, Mark’s second brother, is evoked through an odd little story:

God, he was still strange.  Back in junior high, he once ate a whole lemon—bit right into the bright-yellow rind, then proceeded to chew it up and swallow it down in half a dozen face-wrenching bites, just to impress some girl who, as it turned out, wasn’t even watching.  Instead, he impressed half the guys in school.  They looked at him, at first amazed, then a little weirded out. 

And there are tiny details that catch the readers by our throats, pulling us further into this peeling, gothic world: a Snoopy figurine, with ‘angry, inverted-apostrophe eyes’. I was transfixed by the simple horror of ‘Overhead sagging power lines, black snakes frying on the sky.’ In fact, snakes appear throughout the book, most frighteningly as a metaphor for the wires Steve and Mark’s father attached to Steve’s mattress designed as homespun electro-therapy for when the boy wet the bed.

Yes, Cummings isn’t holding back in this book. Such dark visions take great courage to write, and I was lulled and horrified by those dreams.

Throughout the novel there is a struggle over burial versus cremation. Mark is entirely against turning his brother to ashes, since Steve requested a corner of the churchyard near their grandfather. This theme is expounded, always with frustrated attempts: the burial ground has a two-year waiting list. Mark cannot get legal advice quickly enough. And always his own stifled endeavors, lost promise, and mental challenges are there to catch him up, stop him from doing something heroic.

As someone who cremated both parents, I was able to read with detachment the sections giving Mark’s fervent opposition to cremation. After all, he is what is now called an unreliable narrator, and we all have different views on death and the afterlife. Still, for those readers who might not be able to read those sections with such detachment, I must advise caution for those chapters.

I loved the scenes with Sherry, and even the taut, frigid interactions with Mark’s parents are so real they bloom like funereal flowers. However, my favorite section of the book was the painting of Steve’s old bedroom with Sears paint Mark finds in the attic. The walls are covered with notes about the Baltimore Orioles, and Mark refuses to use primer or sandpaper before he splashes on the Eggshell White. His method is explained, and for me it crystallized the novel:

There was a secret reason for my slap-dash approach. If I painted over the Mona Lisa, experts could remove my cheap Sears paint, and there’d she be, unblemished and all the more radiant for the world to worship. If I soaked Steve’s walls without first sanding away scuffs, smudges, and stains, the evidence of his growing up in this little house might not be destroyed but preserved.

Not destroyed, but preserved.

Because it seems we are all looking for a piece of the future, a slice of memory even after we are dust or ashes. As we write, create, paint, or simply survive, one large portion of being human is a plea that screams, Remember this. Don’t forget me. Don’t forget me, bro.



You can find John at Goodreads and Amazon Author Central.