7/25/2015

L.M. Montgomery & the YA Genre




When I reflect back on my reading as a teenager, I’d have to say that my favorite Young Adult author could be none other than L. M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series and so much more). Now you might not think of her as a typical YA author. I know, I know—that genre didn’t even exist until the 1940’s when the term teenager came into use. But when I think about the 1990’s when I grew up, there just wasn’t a whole lot of new YA fiction out there and definitely not Christian YA.

The first Golden Age of YA fiction started in the ‘70’s with the likes of Judy Blume & Robert Corimer (Chocolate War). The 80’s brought in more genres like horror & R.L. Stine and even the Sweet Valley High series. And then the 1990’s arrived and YA fiction slowed almost to a standstill. Why you might ask? Well, through a little bit of research this week, I discovered that in the mid-late ‘70’s there were lower birth rates so that there were not as many teens in the ‘90's when I was a teenager. Thus, there was not as much YA literature written (or should I say published) during that decade.


This makes a whole lot of sense when I think back on my love of L.M. Montgomery. Every time I made it to a bookstore during those teenage years, my young heart skipped a beat as I made it to the YA section to discover a new Montgomery. They weren’t publishing new authors, but they were rereleasing these classic novels and publishing all her short stories into anthologies for a new audience. I still have them all stacked neatly on the top of one of my many bookshelves.

After the baby boom in 1992, the YA market rebounded just in time for Harry Potter and the Princess Diaries in the year 2000. And as I began to consider writing for the YA market, I thought about my love of Montgomery and compared it to the trends for our youths today—the paranormals and the supernaturals and now the return to realistic fiction with John Green. And where did I fit into all that?

I’ll admit I love Meg Cabot. Without a doubt, she’s a talented author. Her teenage voice and relatability just can’t be beat. Even this quote from her makes me like her just a little bit more. "The whole reason you're reading is because you want some hope that you're going to get through whatever you're going through. I know how hard it was as a teenager, and I understood how it felt to be an outsider. I want to be able to offer people hope."


I love that. And I too want to offer teens hope, and fun and a great journey. Meg’s style and sense of humor are similar to mine, and I’ve always felt akin to her books, and yet I can’t agree with everything in them. Besides that, I wanted to take my books a step further. I want my readers to latch on to that hope through a knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Andrea & the Five-Day Challenge (Book 1 in the Aubrey Christian Academy Series) is written in a Meg Cabotesque style. It’s funny and quirky with its own set of memorable characters.

I wish to entertain my readers, but I want to reach them too but in a natural, organic way. I want them to be encouraged that they are not alone. We’re all going through the same thing (or we have). I want them know that you can be a Christian and have fun too, and make wrong choices, and be forgiven. I hope Christian and non-Christian teens will be inspired by my books and to what they as individuals can be and can do.

And that brings me back to L.M. Montgomery. She was a little girl who dreamed of being a writer. She wrote of characters who too dreamed the same dream. And she shared that dream with me. It’s a dream I hope to pass on to another generation of dreamers and writers and whatever else they dream of becoming.

"I don't exactly want to make people know more... though I know that is the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams



(Previously published on the Christian Fiction Online Magazine.)

7/24/2015

Challenging Miss Valentine Out Now!

From CleanReads.com!


Ella punched the button for the lobby and waited. Oh, why had she waited? Why hadn’t she taken the stairs? Behind her, she heard rapid steps thumping down the hallway. She peeked back to see Charlie Murray rushing toward her. He didn’t appear calm and mellow, like at the restaurant—not even charming and confident, as he’d been in the office. No, he was angry. Why on earth should he be angry? She’s the one who just lost her job.

Oh, dear Lord! I lost my job! No, I just quit my job. She held up the photograph. “George, I am a colossal idiot.”

What had she done? Obviously, she needed more prayer than she thought. And now what was Charlie planning to do to her? She decided not to stick around and find out. In a flash, she took off down the side hall toward the stairs. She pulled open the heavy steel door and glanced over to see Charlie still coming right for her, and this time he was jogging. After running through the doorway, she took the cement steps to the floor below as quickly as she could.

“Ella, stop!”

She paused on a step for just a second to peer up at Charlie staring down at her, a deep frown marring his handsome face.

“Stop following me. I quit, remember?”

“I remember. Now hold on. We need to discuss this.” He started down the stairs.

Her heart raced with panic. With his much longer legs, he was bound to catch up with her in no time. She launched herself down the next set of stairs. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Yes, there is,” he shouted back. “Now stand still, because I’m bringing you back to the office with me one way or another.”

She stopped and his footsteps ceased, as well. Would he actually force her back to the office? She could almost imagine him picking her up and tossing her over his shoulder fireman-style to carry her back to the office.

Carefully, she peeked up the stairwell. Shimmering brown eyes filled with determination met hers. Her breathing from all the running remained elevated.

“Ella…what are you running off…like that…for?”

Charlie stood right in front of her now, a little short of breath and patience, too. He couldn’t hide the flash of annoyance ruminating in his dark eyes, as he stared her down.

Like he had any right to be mad at her! What had she done? Not a thing. Except quit. And she had every right to do that. The longer she looked at him and ignored the cute dimple in his cheek, the angrier she got.

“Now, just take a step back, mister.” She held her palm out to him. “I quit, and you have no right to force me to come back.” With her wool coat in place, she felt incredibly warm. Why had she put it on when she was still inside the building? A trickle of perspiration formed at the back of her neck.
“You’re right.” The way he smiled just then made it absolutely impossible to ignore the dimple a second longer and her anger began to wane.

But then she remembered why she could never see this man again, never be in his presence, and most definitely never work for him. That Saturday night. The flirting. The fake number.

“Y…you should have told me,” she blurted out, “who you really are.” His eyes opened wider, as if confused. “At the diner. ‘Just Charlie.’” She firmed her mouth and tilted her head slightly.

In response, he gave her a relaxed smile. He leaned into the wall of the stairwell and placed his hands into his pockets. “I like just being Charlie. It fits me a whole lot better than Charles Murray II.”

His sincerity at that moment moved something deep inside her chest. It must have been her heartstrings. It had been a long time since someone had yanked on them. She’d done her very best to keep them hidden away. Away from the players, the liars and the commitment-a-phobes. Away from anyone looking one iota like Mr. Charles Murray II.

And yet she couldn’t help but think that Charlie wasn’t like many of the men she’d dated. He had eyes that seemed too direct and too earnest to ever intentionally hurt someone. And it seemed as if the boss’s son carried a burden of his own. You probably needed big shoulders to carry the Murray name around. Although, in point of fact, Charlie had mighty broad shoulders, now that she came to think of it.

Oh, she couldn’t think. Her emotions were a blur racing through her system. Pondering the width of Charlie’s shoulders was not helping. She lowered her eyes and leaned against the door to the third floor. If she looked into his eyes one more second, he could probably get her to do whatever he wanted. She glanced at the photograph and focused on George’s face. If only her brother were here now. He’d get her out of this mess.


Blurb:
For one mad moment Ella Valentine steps outside her comfort zone and ends up caught in a lie and saddled with a new boss who she suspects might be losing his mind. Now he has her enacting insane acts of espionage while trying to catch the culprit who has embezzled money from their company. 

Charles “Charlie” Murray II might be heir to the Murray family dynasty, but he’d rather be off creating than running the CFO office. However, if he can discover who’s been stealing from the company then he just might attain the position of his dreams or will he sacrifice it all to be with Ella.


Available from CleanReads.com.

Buy at Amazon.

6/11/2015

GoodRead Reader Interactions



I've heard such varied stories from authors about their interactions with readers on GoodReads--some good and many not so good. It has sent a number of authors running from this social media site. Even I avoided the place in the past, but ever since my latest YA novel released in March, I have been utilizing the site a good deal. In fact, the site Seekerville asked me to write an article for writers on how and why to use GoodReads. You can find that article here. I was told later it was the most viewed article on their site that month.

But I have to say that I have had some of the best reader interactions with teen readers over at GoodReads. I'm not there as often as I was back in March and April, but I pop in every now and then. The other night I had another fun interaction with a teen reader. We were discussing one of Jenny B. Jones' books when she messaged me this:
             "Jenny B. Jones reminds me so much of your book, Andrea and The Five Day Challenge. Which BTW I think about your book almost every day...It was awesome!"

It is moments like this that makes this whole crazy, harried author life worth it. I love sharing my stories and knowing that they are being read and being loved as much I do.

6/02/2015

Welcome guest author Jane McGarry




CG: Hi Jane! Welcome! Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? What do you write? Why do you write?



JM: I grew up in New York State about an hour north of New York City. Now I live in New Jersey with my husband, two kids & one over-indulged cat. Not Every Girl is my debut novel. It is a young adult adventure/romance with a feisty heroine, a standoffish prince and a few crafty outlaws for good measure.

CG: The book sounds great! We are totally a cat family too. What is one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?

JM: I have a bit of an obsession with movie musicals—The Sound of Music and Moulin Rouge are right at the top of the list. Naturally, I have all the soundtracks downloaded and burst into song at any given moment in the safety of my home. My kids think I’m weird!

CG: Love it! I grew up on musicals thanks to my mother. Of the writing process, what do you enjoy most?

JM: The limitless possibilities to create stories and worlds. The excitement when you start a new project and all the elements are half-formed waiting to be hammered out into something that does the idea in your brain justice. (Of course, that’s when the hard stuff starts!)


JM: I love the plotting/planning stage of writing too. It gets me so excited! So, what came first the story or character for Not Every Girl?

JM: Honestly, it all came at once—the idea of this strong female character and what her adventure would be. Of course, each evolved in different ways as I wrote and not always in the manner I expected. But, the end result is more or less what I originally imagined.

CG: What love song would you pick to be the “Theme Love Song” for Not Every Girl? Why?

JM: “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole because both Olivia and Liam never thought there was a person out there who they would connect with so entirely. When I read this question, I instantly thought of the line from the song, “That’s why darling, it’s incredible, that someone so unforgettable, thinks that I am unforgettable too.”


CG: Oh that’s awesome. I’m definitely going to have to read your book. Can you give us a tidbit about Not Every Girl that readers might not know?

JM: I cried the day I had to write the last scene Athos the outlaw has in the book. He was such an amazing character to write and I felt like I had to say good-bye to a close friend.

CG: It’s amazing how real our characters become to us. We only hope readers feel the same way. Thank you so much for being here today Jane!


Here is more about Jane's YA novel, Not Every Girl.



Blurb:
Olivia Davenport’s plan is destined to fail.

She is going through with it anyway, of course. After all, it is the chance of a lifetime. The unreasonable rules of others should not stand in her way.

In her small kingdom of Stewartsland, Olivia trains with the squires and harbors a secret dream. She longs to become a knight under the command of the Master-of–Arms, who just happens to be her father. He has indulged her passion so far, but they both know a simple fact – girls may not attain knighthood. Dismayed by the constant discouragement of her ambitions, she makes an impetuous decision to disguise herself as a boy in order to sneak on a mission. The consequences are not at all what she anticipated.

When her deception is revealed, she is sent home in disgrace; however, an unexpected turn of events puts her at the center of a dangerous plot against the King. The ensuing adventure finds her grappling with mercenaries and outlaws, yet these pale in comparison to her newly awakened emotions. She finds not only her life at risk, but also her heart, when the aloof Prince Liam begins to affect her in ways she never thought possible. In the end, it is her courage and unique spirit which must guide her through the challenges she encounters both physical and emotional.






Excerpt #1
"I came to offer the young lady one of my guards as an escort home."
What?
That is not part of my plan! And besides, my father could not seriously consider sending me off into the woods with a strange man, royal guard or not. It takes every ounce of my restraint to not jump up and protest.
"That is gracious of you, Your Majesty," my father answers. "However, I am concerned about the propriety of that arrangement. Not," he adds hastily, "that I would expect anything less than the highest scruples from one of your men."
Good. So Father has a grasp on the situation. Sending me back with any strange man and no female chaperone is entirely inappropriate. And there are no other women on the trip. Too bad Puck isn't here; my father would trust him with me. Now, they will all have to work out the only viable option—that I continue on the trip. I merely sit quietly and wait for them to come to this inevitable conclusion.
"Well, I certainly understand your feelings. Especially since the young lady in question is your daughter," King William agrees. "I am sure if I had a daughter of my own, I would feel much the same way."
They discuss me as if I am not sitting right here, as if I have no capacity for thought—or hearing. I am actually quite capable of taking care of myself and could get home without help from any man, thank you anyway. Not that I will suggest this as an option, of course.
Time drags into a prolonged silence. Birds chatter in the trees, the river bubbles happily by, the men are all packed and ready to go. They stand in a huddled mass waiting for instructions from their superiors. Come on guys, surely one of you can figure out the answer. My father must be aware of the only solution, so why isn't he saying anything? Perhaps he is waiting for the King to suggest it, so it appears he thought of the idea and can take credit for it.
"If I may make a suggestion, Sir Jack…" Prince Liam begins.
I am so happy someone is finally going to state the obvious, I don't even care that it is coming from his egotistical mouth. But then, he decides to become the next person to throw a wrench in my plans.
"Why don't I accompany the young lady home along with one of the guards. I give my word that everything will be handled with the utmost discretion."


Excerpt #2:
I dust off and grab my bags, intending to fetch the horses. Only one short step later I hear an angry voice yell, "Peter! Where are you?"
It is Sir Michael. He is not happy. Freezing in my tracks, I spin around to him, as does nearly everyone else.
"Get over here, lad," he yells in my direction, "this stupid lace has broken."
In an instant, I am at his side. Indeed, the end of the leather lace that secures the left side of his jerkin has snapped off. His supply sack sits nearby. I rummage through it, hunting for a replacement cord. Surely, Puck packed an extra lace or something that can be used as a reasonable substitute.
Uh-oh!
Dread drifts in, envelops me in its icy claws. My stomach becomes lead. Puck had spoken about replacing the laces of Sir Michael's jerkin in the armory the other night. Obviously, he had planned to do it before the journey, but he did not get the chance—because I had interrupted him with dinner and…
My heart races, sweat beads on my brow. I am paralyzed with fear until a boot toe jabs my side. "Look alive, boy!" Sir Michael orders. Mechanically, I resume groping through the bag hoping to find something—anything—that I can improvise with. There is nothing.
"What I don't understand is why these laces were not replaced prior to this trip. They clearly needed to be," he snaps.
Unsure what else to do, I mumble an apology.
Bad move.
Sir Michael takes this as insolence and yanks me up by the armpit. Spinning me around to face him, he roars, "I am speaking to you, Peter, and therefore require your undivided attention. Do you understand?"
I stand there mutely, aware that his yelling has drawn the attention of everyone. Certainly, they all try to act as if they are not listening, but I am sure every ear is perked up in this direction. Before I can think of a way out of this situation…
"And take off that blasted helmet so you can look me straight in the eyes when I am talking to you!" In one fell swoop, he reaches out and knocks my helmet to the ground. "Surely I have taught you more respect than…"
His words abruptly cease.
Under different circumstances, his expression would be quite comical. He has stopped yelling in midsentence, his mouth agape, eyes wide and disbelieving. His face resembles those painted masks some gypsy vendors sell at our city's festivals. Lydia has one; she always tries to scare Grace with it. Since no response from me seems to be required, I stare at the ground and wait for all the pieces to fall into place for him. To my surprise, he draws his sword and points the tip right at my throat. For some reason, at this stressful moment, my brain manages to register that this is the second time in three days I have had a sword to my throat. Not such a good track record. His next words surprise me even more.
"Who are you?" He scowls. "Speak quickly!"
"Olivia," I say in a strangulated whisper. It dawns on me that Sir Michael does not have the first clue who I am. For all he knows, I mean them harm, particularly the King, whom he is sworn to protect with his life.
"Who?" The point pushes painfully into my neck.
"Olivia?"
This time the voice isn't mine. It is my father's. He rushed over at the sound of the commotion and now stands with much the same expression Sir Michael had a moment ago.
"How…? What are you…? Explain yourself, young lady!"


Author Bio:
Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with a good book and said cat. It is her belief that a good book, a loyal pet and anything made of chocolate can brighten just about any day.

You can visit her online at: www.janemcgarrybooks.com

Buy Jane’s book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Connect with Jane:






5/19/2015

Meet Guest Author Dana Pratola


CG: Hi Dana! I’m so excited to have you here on the blog today. Your new book, Voice of Truth, sounds fabulous. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? What do you write? Why do you write? 



DP: I was born and raised in New Jersey. I write because I’ve never been able to not write. It’s part of my make-up and what I know God wants me to do.

CG: So true! For many of us authors, we write because we have to. There really is no choice. So, what is one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

DP: I’m pretty good with a gun. Oh, and if I’m in the car and Steve Perry comes on the radio, all talking must cease, lol.

CG: Sounds like the ladies around here out in the country in NC. OK, lets get to the nitty-gritty of writing. Of the writing process, what do you enjoy most?

DP: Editing. I know that sounds crazy, but for me the pressure of getting the story down is off and I can relax.

CG: I completely agree. I enjoy editing too. And the the plotting. When you wrote your latest novel, Voice of Truth, what came first the story or character?

DP: The story. I’ve always wanted to wake up one day and just know how to play piano – without lessons. So I thought, hmm, what if that actually happened to someone, only with a voice?

CG: Oh, wow, yes! Wouldn't that be awesome? Now speaking of your novel, Voice of Truth if you had  to pick a “Theme Love Song” for it what would it be? Why? 

DP: I’m Movin’ On by Rascal Flatts. It’s not a love song, but it describes very well the kinds of things Sophia is going through during much of the book and her decision to finally move ahead in spite of her life not going the way she had planned. Excellent song.


CG: Everyone give it a listen. It is a great song! Can you give us a tidbit about Voice of Truth that readers might not know? 

DP: This book was actually part of a different, longer story, but the parts I didn’t use here, are now the plot foundation for another book I’m working on.

CG: Thats very interesting. I find that I too am scavenging older, out of print stories and reusing them. Thanks for being here today, Dana. Please give us an excerpt from your new release. 


The chill Sophia radiated when he’d first arrived hadn’t warmed any, yet by the time they stepped into the afternoon sun, Cade had decided he was quite infatuated with her. He wasn’t the type to believe he could fall in love over the space of their short acquaintance, but he could accept infatuation. He would enjoy it until it faded. He’d give it another week. After giving her a sidelong glance he revised it to two, taking her hand as they walked.

“Where’s Leon or Lenny, or whatever his name is?” Cade asked when the new bodyguard failed to materialize at Sophia’s side.

“Lonnie is no longer under my employ,” she said, snatching her hand back.

He chuckled at the haughty tone and the fact that Lonnie was the third bodyguard she’d had since they’d met. He’d thought Kitty had been exaggerating when she’d told him Sophia went through them like a kid with candy.

“How about a ride?”

“I have my car,” she said, pointing to a white SUV.

Though Sophia slitted her brown eyes, she made no argument when he led her past her own car and opened his passenger door for her. Cade’s gaze stayed on hers as he rounded the hood and got in. The instant his door was shut she tore into him.

“Don’t you ever do something like that again,’ Sophia said. “I don’t appreciate you horning in on my personal time.”

Personal time?

“Whoa,” Cade raised his hands and turned to face her. “I do what I like, Sophia, remember that.”

“We agreed—“

“To meet tomorrow morning so I can interview you until you pack up your tents and move out,” he interjected. “I still intend to do that.”

“Well, between appointments, you can’t just show up and take notes.”

“Yes, I can.” He stabbed the key into the ignition.

“You won’t.”

“As I said, I can do what I like.” With a turn of his wrist, the engine roared to life and tires squealed into the light flow of traffic.

“You have no right to haunt me!”

A thought occurred to Cade, one that had occurred to him when he’d first arrived and one that twisted his gut into a very unpleasant knot. He’d never been jealous a day in his life, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t recognize the insidious monster when it reared its head. “Did I interrupt something in there?”

Sophia’s mouth dropped open, and then shut as quickly. Her chin came up defiantly. “That’s none of your business.”

She was right, of course.

“I think it is.”

Fists clenched in her lap, Sophia sat rigid in the seat. At the first red light, she reached for the door handle only to find her arm trapped in a vise-like grip.

“That’s not a good idea,” Cade told her, eyes glittering, but he loosened his fingers enough for her to yank away. “It’s a long walk and if you called for a ride, you’d probably fire the driver halfway back.”

Her body remained a controlled bundle of fury for the duration of the ride, yet when he pulled to a stop in front of the hotel she didn’t slam the door as expected, or bolt for the lobby. Instead, she walked with quick, measured steps into the building. He knew following her was pointless, but he did it anyway.

He hadn’t gotten ten feet inside when he saw them: two plain-clothes guards, conspicuous in their drab, colorless suits when contrasted with the sophistication and gloss of the clientele. They flanked him, as another whisked Sophia into the open elevator.

“That’s far enough, sir,” one of them told Cade.

Sophia offered him a sweet smile as the doors slid shut.


Purchase Voice of Truth at Amazon and Pelican Book Group

Blurb: Sophia Gallo is celebrated and adored by millions, but in her meteoric rise to fame, it might appear she’s forgotten the One Who gave her the gift that made possible her life of wealth and glory. She hasn’t forgotten. She’s reminded every day as she endeavors to hide a secret that could change everything and expose her as the freak and outcast she always thought herself to be.
Cade Fioretti has never backed down from finding the truth, and he’s not about to start now. Its his job and his passion. Sophia is beautiful, talented, and the subject of his next book; but she’s hiding something. No matter what it takes, he’s going to dig it up, and in the process learn all there is to know about this woman who’s stolen his heart.


Author Bio: I was born and raised in West Orange, New Jersey, home of the Thomas A. Edison factory and springboard of celebrities and astronauts alike. But, I’ll say the most important people ever to hail from West Orange are my three children, all of whom are destined to make wide, colorful splashes in this world. My husband and I share our home with two dogs, who pretty much run the place. I have no hobbies to speak of, unless you include writing. I don’t. http://danapratola.webs.com