Born in England, moved to Texas and resides there still. Author of several children’s books including picture books, middle-grade chapter books, YA and a reader’s theater titled What If… A Story of Shattered Lives. Amanda conducts workshops, writes a blog, contributes to an online magazine and shares her writing process and what she has learned as a publisher with people of all ages. As Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, she assists authors with their work. A Multiple Gold recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards she continues to write.
I’ve been working on a novel for what seems too long now, but in my defense time hasn’t always been on my side. The story CAPTAIN FIN is based on a screenplay written by the talented actor, writer, movie producer, and director, Kevin James O’Neill.
When Kevin approached me about writing this novel and I read the script, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was, thrilled doesn’t cover the joy that I felt. I immediately fell in love with one of the characters, Hannah. Oddly it wasn’t at all from an angle or perspective that was presented in the script that he had handed me. But I could envision so clearly the direction that I felt he wanted to go; thus the reason he sought out a writer like me, a children’s author.
I was so worried about my time commitments. Already in the midst of writing BITTER BETRAYAL and working every day at a company that I am a partner, owner, and as the CEO am obligated to be committed to running every single day.
At one point I even told him, “Kevin, as saddened as I am, I don’t believe I have the time to finish Captain Fin. I love this piece, and if you want to take my ideas, chapters, and give them to another writer, I completely understand.” To my surprise, Kevin did not accept my offer but gave me a call instead. His words not only humbled me, but I felt as if he handed me a gift instead. I don’t think I will ever forget his words.
“Amanda, I can’t really see anyone else writing this novel. I love your ideas, what you’ve written so far, and I understand how busy you are. I’ll wait. I’ll wait until you have the time to write it.” I can’t tell you the shock I felt. To hear someone had that much faith in my work was amazing to me. #humbled #grateful
I was worried that the flow of the work would be jeopardized by the amount of time that it was taking me to write the story, again, time wasn’t on my side due to work and family commitments. But I recently went back and reread my early chapters as I’m polishing off the manuscript before sending it to my editor. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. I fell in love with Hannah all over again!!!! Her spirit, strong will, the sadness that reflects through her eyes, and the way that she eventually withdraws from others due to the hand that life has dealt her with her gentle spirit still intact, kills me! LOVE HER!
I can only hope that I delivered the novel the way Kevin had envisioned; I know it is exactly how I imagined it to be. It was challenging and exhilarating at times, but writing this piece was such a blessing. The images that you see are components of my cover. The design will be released soon. I am looking so forward to sharing this beautiful story of loss, discovery, love, friendship, and hope with the world. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it! CAPTAIN FIN, coming soon. #TLA19
Every year I would receive a book and pen, loved those things and still do, sweets (candy), along with a special item that we had asked for as kids do today. One thing that never changed was what was put in our special stockings. We always have our stockings filled with fruit and sweets (candy). An apple, orange, and tangerine just about filled the entire thing, leaving a tad of room for a bag of sweets.
“Father Christmas left me an orange!” I said every year. When I was little my mum, Irene Yvonne Mulroy, used to say it was such a treat to receive such beautiful piece of fruit. Holding the fruit in my hand, though I did think it was quite ‘orange’ I wasn’t convinced it was beautiful, though I must admit I quite enjoyed the tangerines which honestly were a treat for us.
When I was older, I asked my mum about the fruit again. She told me it served two purposes. 1) It filled the stockings to make sure they had enough money to buy what we’d asked Father Christmas for on our list. 2) It served as a reminder from their childhood, what they had then vs. now. They were children when the war had ended, still on rations, and receiving oranges (hard to come by) in England or Europe during my parent’s childhood was indeed a gift.
My mum, who I absolutely adore to this day, said when she received her first orange after the war she held onto it for almost two weeks. Once the skin became loose and dull, she was forced to eat it. I asked her. “Why didn’t you just eat it while it was fresh?” I will never forget the look on her face as she described it or the words that she said. “It was almost too beautiful to eat, and every day I would put it up to my nose and smell it. It smelled so good, and I would tell myself how what a lucky girl I was to have an orange to eat.”
My parents pulled those stockings out every Christmas, every move, from England to the US. We lost my mom too soon, but to this day my dad still pulls out our stockings and hangs them on his mantle each year. I have a family and grandkids, (tells you how old I am) but my stocking is still hung on dad’s mantle. Every time I see it my mind is flooded with memories, wonderful memories, of my childhood. I still think mine is the prettiest because my name sparkles and Santa is visible :-), and I’m grateful how something as simple as Christmas stockings can produce such beautiful memories. Those stockings are part of our family. Every time I see them, I swear, I hear my mom’s voice and have flashbacks our Christmas mornings as a child, and remember how happy she was.
Dad joins us each year, as he should, and we still talk about stuffing the stockings. Oranges in stockings, I put them in my sons stocking for years, I even told him my mum’s story. Those stockings, mine, and my sisters continue to bring my mum home to us through her own memories each and every year. I find that to be a perfect Christmas gift. “Stockings, who knew!”
Like many women, I’m a mom with kids of both genders, one son and two daughters. And like most moms, there’s nothing in this entire world that I wouldn’t do for them, nor is there anything in this world that they could do or say that would ever change my love or devotion toward them. I think by and large though there are monsters that live amongst us, most parents feel this way, and we worry about things we can’t control all of the time. We want to protect our children from the horrors and dangers of this world, and of course, we want to protect them from any negative things that we know as kids, young people, teens, they could face as they grow into adulthood. Once they reach adulthood, we tend to breathe a little easier, but sometimes life can throw hardships at them during adulthood as well.
Time for me, like everyone else, flew by too quickly as my children grew. I don’t believe they will ever realize what a joy they were to me, and my husband, but since I had the luxury of working from home especially to me! Now, if you were to ask my girls they would say, “My mom worked all the time, she was always busy.” To the degree that statement is true, my kids like others forget the good stuff and often focus on anything negative. They have forgotten the days that I played hooky to take them to the local zoo, up the street to the park, a movie, or just to have a tea party in their bedroom. We had so many tea parties and trips to the zoo; great memories!
I knew the time would come when my gorgeous little girls would turn into beautiful young ladies, teenagers. In a world that revolves around social media and kids growing up too fast, that thought terrified me. What scared me more than that was knowing that someday they would, like most girls, experience their first real heartbreak. My son, the oldest, experienced his first real heartbreak later in life, a marriage dissolved, though devastating to witness he continues to amaze me. A fantastic father, hard worker, and he defines courage and strength.
Some would say teenage heartbreaks are a rite of passage; it’s going to happen, and every girl at some point will experience it. I agree. It does seem that way, and I suppose most girls do have their hearts broken during their teen years. Both of my girls eventually went through the broken heart experience. I can honestly say even though I knew my teens would recover, bounce back, date again, get over it, at the time the breakups were occurring, to them, it was the most devastating thing that had ever happened to them in their lives.
As their mom, my heart broke for them. I couldn’t fix it. Take away their pain. Stop them from feeling awful about themselves, questioning what had gone wrong with the relationship or searching for answers they were never going to find. I couldn’t stop them from trying to reach out to the person that had hurt them, even though I felt it was the best thing for them that the relationships were over. There wasn’t enough ice-cream, movie days, cuddles on the couch or tears shed to make them feel better. It was a crushing blow to them; even though as a parent and adult, one knew it was going to happen.
Did they get over it? Yes, they did. Did they move on with other people? Yes, they did. Will they likely be hurt again? I’m sure at some point they will. But as a mom of two beautiful girls and one handsome son, I’d give anything in this entire world if they could avoid not only that pain again but what that kind of hurt does to them. It’s the kind of pain that causes them to question themselves and the beautiful people that they are growing into and will turn out to be as individuals. The type of heartbreak that suddenly makes these beautiful people of all things insecure. The kind of pain that forces them to change who they are or to try and fit into someone else’s mold or an idea of who others think they’re supposed to be????? That’s what breakups sometimes do; make people of all things question themselves instead of the other person, and that can take a toll on impressionable teens.
I believe my kids learned from their breakups. The types of people that had caused them such pain are people that they will choose not to associate with again. But as a parent, if I could do anything in this world to spare them such pain, I’d do it without hesitation and never look back. One of my daughter’s, great big beautiful eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks, looked at me and said, “I am so sad, mom. My heart literally hurts.”…Looking at her, watching her in pain and knowing I couldn’t help, well that hurt MY heart.
I’m a mom of a grown son and two teen daughters. This has provided valuable information over the years for the research often needed to complete a few of my YA novels. Between them, their friends, events that they’re involved with, and kids in and out of my house, I’ve been exposed to tons of teens. However, the research does not stop with the information gathered around the family or my hometown.
Between speaking with hundreds of teens, girls, and boys, attending multiple teen events, talking with doctors, teachers, parents, librarians, counselors, police officers, the research compiled over the years confirms what most parents already knew. Many kids, though great kids, can often make ridiculous life-changing decisions during those times when ‘teens are going to be teens.’
After listening to several heart-breaking accounts of girls that had made decisions based on being ‘in love’ or ‘impaired’ and having their reputations ruined by social media, not to mention the flip side of that, boys, who have had their futures threatened by lawsuits and threats of being labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives, I decided to write BITTER BETRAYAL. This book portrays both sides of a teen relationship, girls’ point of view versus the boys’ point of view, and shows the different perspectives of what happens to them during their relationship, how it affects their families, and the community when things go horribly wrong.
Decisions, consequences, and the healing process of all involved are exposed.
My intent with the book was to allow teens to read it through the eyes of a character that they understand, hoping they could possibly avoid the same type of situation as the characters in the book. The story, unfortunately, is based on every-day life events.
Excerpt – BITTER BETRAYAL – Mom’s Choice Gold Recipient & New Apple Literary Award Recipient for YA and General Fiction
It took nearly two-and-a-half hours to get to the lake. Nice and secluded, no locals to worry about. Everyone invited knew that they had to stay for the night, no exceptions, and upon arrival Stacie had decided that Trevor or Cody would stand with a bucket and all keys would have to be turned in as soon as vehicles were parked. Safety measures: ensuring that once they arrived, they didn’t drive. The girls had stuck to their plan, providing food and sodas, but hadn’t provided alcohol. However, they weren’t stupid, knowing kids would show up with alcohol all by themselves. Private invitations on social media with the rules and directions had been axed at the last minute. If they were leaked, she’d be busted for sure; a paper trail wasn’t worth the risk. Everyone relied on word of mouth, coded texts, and phone calls. They climbed higher and higher as they drove up the long, twisted driveway to the cabin. Between the trees, the height of the location, and the lake below them, the view was spectacular. The lake house, a massive stone-and-log cabin, was two stories, complete with a wraparound porch that extended all the way around the house. Picnic areas were located on the east and west sides of the cabin, complete with fire pit and grills, and both sides had views overlooking the lake. A rock path led down the bluff to the dock and boat ramp. A covered area housed the boats and water toys, too many to count, and a boathouse sat to the left of it. Impressive to say the least, especially for a secondary home; most people never lived in anything as beautiful in their whole lives, let alone vacationed at home in such luxury.
“It’s beautiful up here,” Sophie said as they pulled up to the house. “Absolutely beautiful.”
“Thanks.” Stacie knew it was a one-in-a-million location. It was her dad’s future retirement home. “This is my dad’s dream place. Not so much my mom’s.”
“She doesn’t like this place?” Sophie asked, shocked. “Really?”
“She likes to vacation here, but not so much live. Too far away from town, she says.”
As soon as she entered the house, Stacie disarmed the security system. Unlike their main residence, her parents couldn’t access the system from their devices. Nor were they notified if something was amiss. Just an old-style, regular system had come with the property when they had purchased it. Advanced for then, it had cameras, but not like the ones at their main house, where when the alarm went off the security company was notified, and they received the call. Her dad had said on numerous occasions that he’d like to have the alarm system at the lake house updated. Fortunately for Stacie, he hadn’t done it yet. Once the alarm was dismantled, Stacie opened the wooden shutters and the windows, and cool air immediately rushed through the house. For the first time, Stacie was glad she hadn’t listened to her nerves and bailed on the party.
“Surely they’ll stay out of here, right?” It wasn’t a real question. Stacie was praying people wouldn’t trash her parents’ cabin.
“We know these guys, they’re our friends,” Sophie reassured her. “There’s really no reason for them to come in the house.”
“Well, let’s put our stuff in our rooms.” Stacie smiled. “I’m taking the master, but you can pick any other room you like.”
Each room had a fireplace and its own bathroom. It didn’t matter which room Sophie picked; she would be more than comfortable. Both girls sent random texts to their parental units. They each waited for responses. Once they received them, breathing easier, they cranked up the music and started to prepare for the party. Sheets pulled off the furniture, counters wiped down, sodas iced, and extra chests filled with ice for whatever people brought with them to drink. Snacks were ready to be put into bowls, wood placed in the fire pits outside, and chairs set out around sitting areas. It was safe to say that things were coming together nicely. A truck pulled into the driveway, startling both girls. Trevor and Cody had shown up early to help. Stacie had never been happier to see that face. Somehow he made her feel safe.
“Wow! You can’t hide money,” Cody joked.
“Hey babe, looks great, what can we do to help?” Trevor asked.
Trevor picked her up, held her at eye level and kissed her on the lips before setting her back down again. Cody, still shocked that Trevor had a girl like that, shook his head and walked over to the top of the bluff to look at the view. Sophie joined him.
“Bet there’s some good fishing out there!”
“Yeah. That’s what Stacie says,” Sophie agreed.
“Now I wish Ryan or Reece were here already, but they’ll be here later.” He smirked. “You know we love to fish.”
Cody took his cap off and scratched his head. “How long have you and Ryan been dating, anyway?”
“Almost a year.” Sophie grinned. “And yes, I do, the fishing part. You? Bringing someone or meeting someone?”
A smile crossed Cody’s face. “Meeting someone here. Aubrey. Do you know her?”
Sophie nodded. She had met Aubrey several times and liked her. Aubrey was easy to get along with and was cute. Trevor and Stacie joined them. Trevor also made a comment about the fishing. Stacie offered to have them over when her dad was there, take them out on the boat and fish to their hearts’ content.
“How did you get this girl?” Cody joked. “Hot. Likes football, Dad’s the Coach, and she’s a dudes’ dude. Too good to be true.”
“Well, he won’t have me for long if I’m dead!” Stacie flopped down in Trevor’s lap. “We’ve got to pull this off with no hitches. None!”
Getting back to work, they finished setting up. Stereo outside worked. Didn’t matter anyway, they’d pull a truck over and attach an aux cord to play their own music. The ice chests were placed by the fire pits and outside sitting areas. Stacie hoped this would help keep people out of the house. Trevor and Cody set up two tents in the area to show everyone where to start setting up their tents. It was going so well; nothing could go wrong!
“Grab that bucket over there, the big one from under the outside faucet on the left,” Stacie instructed. “It’s for everyone’s keys. No exceptions.”
“How are we going to do that?” Sophie asked.
“I’ll do it,” Trevor offered. “As soon as they park, I’ll take their keys. Have them put them in the bowl themselves.”
Perfect. They were all on the same page. They went through the cabin with a checklist and confirmed everything had been done. It was about that time, party time, and everything was ready. The boys picked a bedroom and hit the shower, and the girls went to their rooms and did the same. Casual attire, yes, but hair and makeup still needed to be perfect; after all, girls will still be girls. A call from her mom couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Stacie was as calm as could be. Small talk and lots of questions about the game, complete with a request for her dad to text the final score, sealed the conversation as a success. No nerves to be found. Excitement and adrenaline rushed through Stacie’s body. Now ready, she couldn’t wait for the party to begin!
Pouring food into the bowls, Sophie placed the snacks on the tables outside, another deterrent from the house. Texts were coming in left and right. Were they on the right track? Did they miss the turn? Should they bring anything special? Stacie finally handed her phone to Sophie.
“Unless my dad or mom texts, please handle these.”
Cody set up by the main gate. As cars pulled in, he directed them over to Trevor and the parking area. Once parked, Trevor stuck out the bowl. Keys in the bowl or don’t stay, that was the rule. Surprisingly, no one seemed to object. Once parked, most put up tents or makeshift tents. Some more like windbreakers for ball games, but once a sleeping bag was thrown inside, all looked like they were functional. Others set up pallets in the beds of their trucks, and some said they’d sleep in the back seat of their cars. It was coming together better than Stacie had even imagined. It was starting to look like a camping resort by eight p.m. By nine p.m. it was hard to find a parking place. It was apparent that more people than had been invited had shown up. Payton, Aubrey, and Maddie, had followed Reece. Reece had a cab full of guys, Dustin, Gavin, Larry, Dolton, Ryan, and Mick; they all played football together. London and Zoe arrived shortly after Payton and Reece. Gavin was waiting nervously for her. Needless to say, they all arrived safely.
“I thought you got lost. Scared me.” Gavin leaned into her window and kissed her cheek.
“You are the sweetest!” London grabbed his face and placed a kiss on his lips.
Gavin jumped into the back seat of her car and rode with her over to the parking area. Stacie checked her watch. Surely arrivals would start to slow down. Trevor jumped up on the tailgate of Reece’s truck and made an announcement.
“Guys, find a tree.”
“Girls. You can use the bathroom, lower level, by the kitchen on the right, in the house. That’s the visitors’ or guests’ powder room.” He raised his hands in the air and quieted everyone down. “Seriously. Have a good time, but don’t do anything stupid. You break it, you pay for it and you’ll have answer to her dad for damages and we all know who that is . . . Coach.” Trevor took a breath. “My advice, stay out of the house.”
“Thank you, babe, appreciate you looking out for me,” Stacie whispered. “Glad you handled that.”
“No problem. It’s what I do.” Trevor pecked her on the lips, popped a can, and handed it to her. “Here ya go. Ladies first.”
Stacie reached out and took the beer. She didn’t ask where it had come from or if Trevor had brought it with him. The truth was, she didn’t want to know. She hadn’t brought it, right? She was only going to sip it. Payton and Reece walked over to where Trevor, Stacie, Sophie, Ryan, Gavin, and London had gathered around one of the fire pits by the bluff. Aubrey and Cody soon joined them. Teens were in small groups all over the property, having fun and talking among themselves. Music was blasting, but no one cared. There were no neighbors to be had. Sophie was right. People managed to bring their own liquor and beer in, and no one said a word. That wasn’t her problem; she didn’t bring it, buy it, suggest it, or even say it was OK. Drinks of all kinds were flowing and despite having soda available, the only time they seemed to drink it was with the liquor. Some of the boys had made a drinking game out of throwing horseshoes, and a round of beer pong was next. A team of girls, including Payton and her friends, challenged them to a round. Drinking. Laughing. Seemed like fun, at first.
“Every time we’re supposed to drink, let’s not,” Payton giggled.
“Sounds like a deal to me.” Stacie laughed, enjoying the challenge and the thought of tricking the guys.
Beers were opened, and Gavin explained the rules. The boys allowed the girls to go first. It didn’t go as planned. They couldn’t fake taking the sips of drinks; they got caught up in the fun, and the boys had marked the cans with sharpies. Time was flying by. And after a while Stacie had no idea who was outside, who was in the cabin, or what was going on at her own party anymore. A drinking game consumed the whole group, which turned into a game of truth or dare. Laughter, sometimes bitterness, and the occasional temper flared. Payton didn’t care. It was late, she was feeling ecstatic, and Reece hadn’t left her side. He slipped his arm around her waist and kissed the back of her neck. Nestling into him, she felt the warmth of his body on hers. She’d been sipping more than she’d realized. Between the laugher and the fun, she hadn’t been keeping track of how easily it could go down. Reece sat down in a chair and pulled her into his lap. Payton didn’t question it, automatically sitting down on his knee. The music blared out across the bluff, and the louder it got, the more fun they seemed to have, as the kids’ voices echoed the words of all the rappers and the artists that they played. The no-pic rule didn’t last; but looking back, why had Stacie thought that it would? Teens and their phones; inevitable they’d start pulling out their phones and snapping pics for their streaks and social media favorites. #litparty #beerdoesabodygood #litnight #whereru #bestnightever
A trash can full of party punch had finally surfaced. A concoction of whatever liquor, juices or sodas they could find, a bad deal for everyone. No one really knew what was in it; they never did. Disguised with anything to make the flavor doable, most of them downed it. Sophie poured plastic cups and left them on the table, but soon Zeke was handing them out. Payton’s hand reached for one of the infamous plastic red cups. It tasted like cotton candy and went down like Kool-Aid. She had never felt so happy and in love in her life. Invincible. Guilt—what’s that? No adult supervision. Feeling intoxicated without knowing it. Sitting in her hot boyfriend’s lap, while he whispered how much he loved her and wanted her, all at a party she was invited to with him. The Coach’s daughter’s party at that . . . Payton never wanted to go home. Stacie’s favorite song came on, and a group of girls jumped up and started dancing in a big circle. Reece and the others were watching and hollering, egging them on. Some of the guys joined them, but most just watched. Payton stood up to join in, but Reece pulled her back onto his lap.
“No. Stay here with me,” he said. “I want to do this.”
She never asked what. He slipped his hand up inside of her shirt and rubbed her back. Payton smiled and leaned back into him, glad she’d sat back down. The air was nice and cool, feeling good on her skin as he rubbed her back. Happy, Payton turned around and kissed Reece. He kissed her back just as hard. Their mouths locked together as they kissed in sync with each other effortlessly, barely able to breathe. Reece’s hands started to roam. Payton grabbed his hand, stopped him, and whispered in his ear.
“A lot of PDA. Not right here.”
Reece kissed her again and then checked his watch. It was still a tad early to disappear unnoticed. Holding her face in his hands and staring into her beautiful brown eyes, he took a deep breath and pushed her out of his lap. Puzzled, she stood up. He ran his fingers through her hair, kissed the back of her neck, and whispered in her ear.
“In a bit, we’ll disappear and do whatever we want. OK?”
Payton, not thinking about the words he was actually saying, immediately nodded. She couldn’t wait to spend alone time with Reece, but wasn’t thinking literally about a thing. Here they were, only an hour away from her usual curfew, and she still had all night. Any nervousness she had about breaking rules had long disappeared. Blissfully in love, she couldn’t wait to slip away.
Cody cracked open another beer, and everyone gathered around their host. Laughter and voices continued to echo around the bluff, but no one cared, no noise violation to worry about that night. Trevor lifted his cup and kissed his girl.
“Can I have your attention please?” He laughed. “Hey, for just a second,” he yelled again when no one seemed to stop talking the first time.
Reece offered his assistance. “He’s trying to say something here, shut up!”
One by one the voices lowered, and all eyes were upon Trevor.
“I just want to thank my girl for pulling off this amazing night. Is this fun or what?”
Everyone hollered and cheered, and applause broke out for Stacie. People were truly enjoying themselves, and for the most part, no one seemed to be acting like an idiot; no fights to be had. Drinking, yeah, they were doing that, but Stacie had convinced herself they were doing that responsibly. She was wrong. Not one of them thought twice about being a minor and breaking the law, deceiving people, let alone the effects of the alcohol itself. The party, in her mind and everyone else’s, was a huge success. They’d gotten away with it; pulled it off. If only they’d known.
Stay Out of the House
No matter how hard Stacie, Trevor, Sophie, or Ryan tried to keep people from lingering in the house, it wasn’t working. Kids were everywhere, and that included upstairs. Most were just talking and hanging out, but some were looking for areas of the house where they could hook up; hardly unusual for teen gatherings, but even Stacie didn’t want to deal with any of that in her parents’ cabin. Something inside her allowed her to block out what they might be doing if she knew they were outside and she didn’t have to deal with it. But in her parents’ house, different story, get out. Things out of place or damages were constantly on her mind, knowing she couldn’t possibly duplicate everything in time the way her mom had left it. The housekeeper wouldn’t be back until her mom called her, and if she noticed too many things out of order, Stacie’s mom could expect a call from her. Stacie needed them out of the house. She went from room to room and told them they had to go outside; some listened, some couldn’t care less. It seemed that every time teens gathered, there were always people who brought people. Those were the ones who didn’t care; they didn’t really know anyone anyway, except the person they tagged along with in the first place.
Payton didn’t have to worry about hooking up or hanging out with guys or finding a boyfriend; she was with her boyfriend, and her best friend Aubrey had Cody by her side. Maddie was hanging with them as well, talking to Dustin. The fire pits were awesome since the air had chilled, perfect for a camp night, and another round of truth or dare had been started. Stacie was freaking out as she tried to monitor the house. The thought of locking it up crossed her mind, but the girls were running in and out of the bathroom, and the kitchen and her bedroom were in there, and she decided against it.
“I wish they’d at least stay the hell out of the house, that’s all!” she snapped. “It’s not a lot to ask!”
Cody handed her a drink of something in a cup. Lifting the cup to her nose, she drew in a big whiff of something sweet: trash-can punch.
“Relax. It’s your party. Remember?” He laughed.
Stacie threw her head back and downed the sweet-tasting punch. It went down with ease.
Cody pulled Aubrey closer and asked if she’d like some as well.
“What is it?” Aubrey asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know. Some concoction that Justin threw together—trash-can punch. You know, anything they were able to get their hands on. Taste it, it’s good.”
Aubrey shook her head and pointed to the half drank, warm beer in her hand. She’d made that one last for over an hour. Not liking the taste, but trying to fit in, she hung on to it. She knew better. Trash-can punch: good going in, nasty coming out and that was only one-way—puking.
“No thanks, still drinking,” she held up her beer.
Cody didn’t pressure her to try it, and she was grateful for that. But he didn’t slow down on his, either. Between the kids who had snuck alcohol or paid older friends with fake IDs to buy them alcohol, they’d combined quite an assortment of liquor and beer. No one was concerned about how much they’d consumed. No need. There wasn’t a single threat of anyone coming home or breaking up the party. The party was lit, all that, that’s for sure, everyone on social media said so!
It didn’t take long before one of the beer pong games was interrupted. Josh fell onto the makeshift table and knocked all the drinks over. Should have been their first clue to shut it down, but it wasn’t. The boys were getting rowdy and the girls were getting crazy. The partying and laughter didn’t seem to slow down. A game of hide-and-seek broke out, but as soon as Stacie realized they weren’t listening to the rules and going too close to the bluff, she ended it. Too bad, because that was fun!
Reece grabbed Payton’s hand and led her toward the tent that he had put up for them to crash in that night. Cody and Aubrey were sitting outside the tent, but that didn’t stop Reece and Payton from moving past them and crawling inside. Neither one of them had been keeping track of how much they’d drank. Consumed with the party and hanging out with their friends, with zero supervision or the worry of a curfew, they both had more than they thought they’d had. Reece pulled open the canopy, letting the breeze flow through the mesh netting of the roof. The air was cool, which felt good on Payton’s face as she lay down on the makeshift pallet he’d made out of sleeping bags. Muffled voices outside could be heard, but they suddenly sounded so distant. Reece lay next to her and moved her long dark hair that had fallen over her face to one side. Grasping her face in his hands, he leaned forward and kissed her. She kissed him back just as eagerly.
Within minutes they both forgot that they were at a party at all, lost in each other. Hands roaming, mouths barely breaking apart from each other’s, the two teens found themselves in a position they had never been in before. They were alone, in love, and worst of all, without understanding it, totally impaired. Neither one of them was thinking clearly; intoxicated, having the time of their lives, they felt invincible. Feelings, emotions, and being wrapped up in each other, they had no reason to stop a single thing that they were doing; every touch felt amazing to both of them as their hormones raged. Zero threat of anyone walking through a door, and in that moment, if they had, they wouldn’t have heard them anyway. Payton’s heart was pounding as she continued to reciprocate each and every move that Reece made. Between the two it was a disastrous, heated, unstoppable situation, until Payton finally gasped for air.
A glimpse of the dark blue sky through the window of the tent above her, the stars scattered as if just for her, the muffled voices, the smell of the fire, and then all of a sudden the alcohol that she had consumed hit her like a freight train. It was like an oven in the tent; no longer cool. So hot that condensation had formed on the sides. Her head was spinning, and she couldn’t breathe. Nauseous, she felt as if she might throw up right then and there on Reece. She tried to push him off her body, but her arms felt like jelly; no strength in them at all. Reece’s mouth clamped once again over hers, still in the moment and unaware she now felt ill. He kept touching her and kissing her. She tried to push the nauseous feeling deep down inside, and moved her head to one side to avoid Reece’s kisses. Reece kissed her neck, as Payton tried to locate any cool air that might blow through the tent. Unaware of what was going on, his hands continued to roam her body. Uninhibited, she no longer knew where her safe zones were. Pushing the limits without thinking, Reece tested the waters with his wandering hands and Payton didn’t think to stop him. Spinning out of control, both of them, faster and faster with no time to think. When the cool air finally hit her leg, Payton realized her clothes were half on and half off. Shouldn’t she have felt her buttons being undone or her zipper go down? But she didn’t remember them being undone. She did remember trying not to puke. Reece’s pants were about the same, half on and half off. Had she done that, taken off his clothes, or had he assisted? Suddenly embarrassed, not knowing what she’d done, fear and panic swept over her. She turned her head, but he turned his with hers, thinking they were merely changing positions, not knowing for a single second that she wasn’t prepared for the unexpected situation that they both found themselves caught up in. Turning her head again, this time with force, she muttered the words she thought would make it all OK.
“I need some air,” Payton mumbled. “Not yet.”
Her voice so faint, he didn’t hear her. The weight of his body, suddenly like a ton of bricks on top of her, no longer felt loving but suffocating, and the cozy comfort of the tent became confining, as it seemingly spun around and around as she gasped for air. Trying with all her might to push him off her chest was impossible; she was tiny, and all of a sudden he seemed like dead weight. Continuing to kiss her and softly whisper kind things to her, including how much he loved her, she tried to swallow the vomit that was crawling up her throat. Swallowing, she pushed it back down into her stomach and hoped that she wouldn’t puke on him. For some bizarre reason, her eyes caught sight of a drop of condensation on the side of the tent, and she watched it drip down the wall. Feeling violently ill, trying to talk, but realizing he couldn’t hear her, she felt helpless. He couldn’t hear her, and she could barely talk anyway.
“I need some air,” she repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time.
He loved her, he said. She knew that, but in that moment, she didn’t care. She felt sick, incredibly ill, and needed some cool, fresh air. Where was the cool air? And why weren’t the words that she wanted to say forming in her mouth and coming out?
“I love you, baby,” he said again.
She couldn’t say them back and she didn’t care right then. “I’m going to puke.”
He hadn’t heard her; her voice was barely a whisper. For all he knew, she’d said she loved him too. She had no idea her voice was so muffled. Slurring her words due to the amount of alcohol she’d consumed, she was making no sense at all. Looking down, Payton could tell by the way they were positioned what they were about to do. Panicking, she kicked her legs, but they barely moved. Why didn’t her body respond to what her brain was telling it to do? She was scared and her arms pushed Reece as hard as she could, but she had no idea her strength wasn’t there, and Reece, impaired as well, didn’t pay the attention that he normally would have to her petition to stay away from areas that she was uncomfortable with at that time.
“I’m not ready,” she thought she’d said out loud. “Not yet.”
“I’m not ready,” she said again and again. “Not yet.”
But he hadn’t heard her earnest pleas. Fumbling with their clothing and lost in clouded judgment, her voice was truly muffled and barely audible. Both slurring words, in love, he kissed her again, and didn’t even notice that she hadn’t kissed him back. Barely able to breathe, as she concentrated on not throwing up, Payton wasn’t prepared for what happened next. What started out as the best night of her life was turning into a horrific nightmare. It felt like an eternity, but within seconds the entire situation had gotten away from her. Reece looked her in the eye before kissing her lips, and that’s when the excruciating pain that she felt told her that they had done it; pain, penetration, they’d done it. IT! Between the pain, fear, and panic, Payton let out a gasp that sounded like a scream. Reece, fearing she’d startle others, placed his hand momentarily over her mouth and whispered words that she couldn’t remember saying.
“It’s OK, baby, it’s what we wanted. Remember?”
But not yet, Payton thought, but didn’t have the energy to say. Her head was spinning around and around and so was the tent. The sound of Reece’s voice and the words he usually said brought her no comfort at all. His hot breath hit her face as his muffled words poured out of his mouth, but she didn’t care. She wanted him off her, as the vomit traveled up her throat and pooled in her mouth, she could hold it in no longer.
“I love you, you know that, right?”
Frozen. In shock, sick to her stomach, and blaming herself, Payton didn’t know what she was supposed to do. What had just happened? Images flashed through her mind, but she couldn’t process the horrific scene. A familiar voice brought her back to reality.
I have heard it said a million times, “teens will be teens, and that is what they do.” While I understand the statement to some degree (I have a teenager still at home, one in university, one out of the house, teens constantly in and out of my home), I do not agree with it. I continually research and visit with other teens, this is a key phrase, other teens! This has given me a brand new perspective on that statement. You see, when one speaks candidly with kids other than their own, they will tell you the truth. They often tell their parents what they know a parent needs to hear (my kids have done the same). Let’s face it; it is far easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission, but the problem is that what kids are doing today has been amplified due to social media, their maturity level, their attitude of entitlement, and the laws that they are subject to if caught, (teens are going to be teens statement) is flat out scary and dangerous.
There are too many dangers to list out there, but the book BITTER BETRAYAL touches on the dangers of teen dating. It parallels a relationship between a girl and boy, and focuses on how differently they portray, act, and define that same relationship. The consequences of how their actions trigger responses from each other that neither of them had anticipated and how it affects their relationship in the long run. Worse, neither of them had thought about the legal consequences or the damages that they would carry for life, emotional, physical, and potentially legal that they could have inflicted on themselves, their families, community, and friends. These simple things, relationships that are rushed into too quickly affect everyone at times. This book is based on real-life events that teens face daily. It isn’t a fun, romantic, or necessarily sweet read. But it is important if you have teens, girls or boys. – Enjoy. – Amanda M. Thrasher
Love, Trust, and Betrayal!
They say there are two sides to every story, and somewhere in the middle lies the truth. There’s no exception to this one. Impaired decisions, questionable actions, and consequences with irreversible damage destroy the lives of two young teens. High school junior Payton Phillips is dating the boy she knows she’s going to spend the rest of her life with: Reece Townsend. An opportunity for the dating teens and their friends to have the night of their lives–an invite to Stacie Wiggin’s party–will go down in the books as epic. But when things escalate and emotions run high, the evening of their dreams turns into a nightmare of he said, she said. Who did exactly what that night? As teens tweet, Snap, and play their stories out online, social media threatens to ruin more than the teens’ reputations. Relationships, scholarships, and entire families are at stake. Whose side of the story will you choose to believe, his or hers?
Reece stayed with Payton until she fell asleep. Carefully, so not to disturb her, he made his way outside. He needed some fresh air, get his head together. He wasn’t feeling great about the way things ended; not his ideal first time with his girl puking in the tent afterward. A few people were still standing around talking, and a couple of Reece’s friends were still up. But most of the partygoers had finally crashed. Some of them hadn’t bothered finding their tents, hitting the back of their trucks, blankets making pallets, and coats thrown on top of them to stay warm. Taking a last glance at his phone, Reece noticed it was four-thirty in the morning. Trevor and Cody were planted on the porch steps.
“What’s up?” Trevor asked as Reece approached.
“Nothing,” Reese responded, realizing for the first time he was exhausted.
Trevor’s phone was being passed around. Shot after shot of the party had already hit the social media scene. Pics were on snap stories and everyone was talking about the party. As soon as the drinking had kicked in, all inhibitions had disappeared. Stacie, despite her best intentions, had no way to control it as kid after kid pulled out their phones and started to take group photos, selfies and worse, sneaking photos of unsuspecting couples hooking up. Funny, they said, as they snapped away. The sneaking around part became a game, but the end result was the same—out on the net for the world to see. Stacie landed in a few of them; it was a move that she would later regret. Mouth dry and dehydrated, Reece grabbed a soda and downed it. It didn’t taste good, too sweet. Cody suddenly grabbed Trevor’s phone out of his hand.
“Who took that?” he asked.
Trevor leaned over, peeked at the photo, grabbed it, and deleted the pic before anyone could see it.
“Man, I have no idea!”
“What was it?” Reece asked.
Cody didn’t say anything, and Trevor looked like a deer in headlights.
Cody nodded. His stomach growled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten anything all night; too busy drinking. Starting to feel sick himself, he needed to eat.
“I’m starving. Anything left to eat?”
Trevor pointed to a bag of chips. “Here, bro, you can have these.” He handed Cody the bag, but not before grabbing a handful of chips first.
“So you and your girl snuck off for a while, taking care of business,” Trevor playfully shoved Reece.
“Something like that,” Reece laughed.
He didn’t add to the conversation, but he didn’t deny it, and that’s all it took. Boy talk, locker-room style, took over. Admired by his friends, the conversation about his actions in the tent with Payton gave him additional bragging rights. The fact that he didn’t deny any of their speculations about what they’d done in the tent fed the fire. Only thing he did right in that moment was to keep his mouth shut. The truth was, if he were going to be honest with himself, it wasn’t exactly the way he wanted it to go down. Starting off fun, ending with his girl puking afterward. Nice. Not exactly something he was proud of.
“You and Stacie?”
“Nah, man. Like a zoo around here, keeping up with who was doing what and where. Don’t touch this, don’t touch that, I’m freaking tired!” Trevor took a swig of Coke. “I hope we get this place put back together in time before she has to be back, I mean. Can you imagine facing Coach after his lake house had been trashed?”
Creeping back into the tent, Reece laid next to Payton. He left the flap open to circulate the cool air, which helped with the stench of alcohol puke. She was out of it, which was likely for the best. She was going to feel like crap the next morning. Not having a clear head himself, he continued to push the entire thing out of his mind. Do-over. Do-over. Do-over! They’d redo that night. Even Reece wanted a do-over first time with his girl. Tired. Not feeling well or good about himself, Reece wished he were home in bed. He closed his eyes, but the tent started to spin. Lying on his back with his eyes wide open, Reece tried to fall asleep. It seemed to take forever, but finally he drifted off. The sound of people moving around alerted him that morning had arrived too soon. He felt like crap and could only imagine how bad Payton must feel.
Payton reached for her phone, but felt a person next to her instead. Rolling over, she came face-to-face with Reece. Images of the night before flashed through her mind and feelings of embarrassment and panic set in. Before she could compose herself or her thoughts, vomit rushed up her throat and into her mouth. Jumping to her feet, tripping over Reece, this time she managed to puke outside the tent. To her horror, groups of people stopped and stared. Reece suddenly appeared at her side.
“Still not doing good?”
What a stupid question, she thought. But was grateful her words hadn’t popped out of her mouth. Payton shook her head and walked over to the picnic table and sat down on the bench. Despite how hard she tried not to, her eyes filled with tears and she started to cry. Reece slid his arm around her back, but to his surprise she jumped like a cat out of its skin. Even Payton noticed her own reaction.
“I’m sorry. I feel like crap.”
The shocked look on his face hurt Payton, but not as much as it had surprised her. He pulled his arm away, embarrassed, and headed to the cabin to find a cool washcloth for her face. Confused by her sudden anguish from the night before, Payton didn’t know how to feel. She racked her brain for answers about what had taken place. Did they have sex? Yes. But had she said yes? She didn’t think so, but wasn’t sure. She had asked him to stop, right? Had she? She couldn’t remember, but she did remember saying she didn’t feel well and could have sworn she’d said the words “not yet.” She remembered that Reece had mentioned they’d talked about it that night. But despite how hard she tried, she just couldn’t remember discussing the issue of having sex with him that evening. Was it really possible she didn’t remember such a conversation—or worse, they didn’t have one? Her head was throbbing, her stomach nauseous, and the flashbacks, combined with rapid-fire questions, wouldn’t quit coming. Faster and faster they came. But the question that haunted her most was horrific; it was about the person she loved the most in the world, Reece. Why didn’t he listen to her and wait? How much did they drink? Confused beyond belief, not knowing what to do or how to feel, ashamed and scared, Payton’s body started shaking uncontrollably.
“OMG! Stop thinking,” she whispered to herself. “Please don’t overthink this thing; not here and not now!”
“Can I get you anything?” Reece asked as he handed her a cool cloth. “Are you OK?”
“I’m trying not to puke again,” Payton replied. “But we probably need to talk.”
Reece picked up her hand. For the first time ever, she wanted to pull hers away from his. That had never happened before. How had twenty-four hours changed everything? She felt dirty and confused, and wanted nothing more than to climb into a hot bath. Her hand hung limply in his, which he noticed immediately. Squeezing hers, trying to get a response, he leaned in toward her and kissed her on the cheek. Her long dark hair fell over her face, and Reece, as always, moved it to one side. Payton didn’t flinch, but it felt weird. It would take her a moment to process. She didn’t realize that she didn’t know how. Even though her whole life her mom had said she could tell her anything, Payton felt she couldn’t confide in her mom now. It wasn’t true, but she wasn’t prepared to test the waters. The disappointment she could only imagine she’d see in her mom’s eyes: lying, drinking, and going to the party had put her in this mess in the first place. Not to mention her parents would hate Reece forever. She didn’t want that; she loved him, and she wasn’t convinced it wasn’t both of their faults.
“I brought you a Sprite for your stomach.” Aubrey handed her a cup of ice and soda. “They don’t have any crackers.”
Payton sipped the cool liquid and actually kept it down. She wanted to talk to her friends, but didn’t dare tell them her first time hadn’t gone according to her life plan. Maybe she wouldn’t have to discuss it at all. Ever. Maybe they’d just think she was sick and that was that, hanging, too much punch. A thought popped in her head, and she almost had a panic attack on the spot. Fear swept over her. Did they use anything? She certainly wasn’t prepared. Was he? Was she protected at all? Did he think about that, did they? Was anything about this really OK? Nothing was! White as a sheet and scared to death, Payton needed her mom.
Payton: Got your text. Love you too, can’t wait to see you.
Mrs. Phillips: Did you have fun?
Mrs. Phillips: See you soon
“Babe, can I get you anything? Something to eat?” Reece asked.
Payton shook her head. “No thanks. Guess I know now why teens aren’t supposed to drink.” She took a deep breath. “I’m never drinking again. Ever!”
He nodded sympathetically. Hangovers. It would take at least a few more hours before she felt any better. Reece gently rubbed her back as she sat with her head hanging between her knees. Payton tried to act as normally as possible, but all she wanted was for him to leave her alone. Before last night, if she were sick, the thought of him taking care of her would have been the sweetest thing in the world. Now, if he would just leave her alone, she could actually breathe.
He kissed her softly on her forehead. “I love you,” he said. “I want you to be OK.”
As if forcing the words out of her mouth, she managed to say them back. “Love you too.”
Reece took down their tent and loaded up their stuff so they could go home. Stacie walked the property with Sophie and Trevor. The damage was worse than she had feared. Trash. A broken bench, two fire pits that needed to be emptied or her parents would know they’d been there, unmade beds, bathrooms that needed to be cleaned, as did the kitchen. She’d received a text that her parents were on their way back into town. Trevor started gathering as many people as he could who weren’t feeling like crap to pitch in and help clean up the place. There were a lot of teens who had overdone it and were feeling as ill as Payton, all vowing to never touch a drink again—that likely wouldn’t last. If you arrived in a truck, bags of trash were going home with you; how you disposed of them was your problem. He pointed to Reece’s truck; Reece nodded. That was fine. Load it up, he’d find somewhere to dump it on his way out of there. Aubrey, Maddie, and Payton were starting to get messages from their parents, as were most of them. Stalling for too much longer was going to be a problem. Stacie opted to allow her parents to believe random trespassers camped out on the broken bench, or weather had worn it down. She knew it didn’t look weather-worn, so was going with random trespassers. The likelihood of them buying it, slim to none, but it was all she had to go with. The key would be getting the inside of the house to look as pristine as it had upon their arrival, and that was proving to be problematic. Overall it looked somewhat passable, if her mom didn’t purposely inspect it, but to say it looked the way it had upon arrival was a stretch. It was clear that someone had been in the house; that’s all there was to it. Stacie had a plan. The next time they went to the lake house, she would take a few friends and hopefully they could head up there early. Let her friends pick rooms; that way her mom wouldn’t enter them. It just might work—doubtful, but possible.
Maddie, being a sweet friend, offered to drive Payton’s car home. In her mind, she thought Payton would ride with Reece, and Aubrey would ride with her before meeting and switching drivers. She was shocked when Payton turned her down. Even more surprising was that Payton asked Maddie not to mention her offer to Reece.
“I won’t,” she promised. “But what’s going on? Did you guys have a fight?”
Payton shook her head. It was the first time ever she wished that they had. Fights were easy. You got mad and you got over it. Hurt and confused, and she didn’t know how to deal with that yet, especially the confused part. Something else she didn’t know how to deal with: the situation or mess she was in. If she objected to having sex with someone she loved more than anything or anyone else in the world, did that count as being defiled? She couldn’t even think the words, let alone say them out loud, that were trying to pop into her head. Did that count as rape?She had said “not yet,” hadn’t she? But she didn’t use the word “no.” The waters were muddied. Impaired judgments, both parties, and he loved her and she loved him. Confused. Scared. Ashamed. Payton struggled to say her goodbyes. A forced, swift kiss was all she could manage before she climbed into her car with her friends.
“OK, babe, follow me,” Reece instructed.
“Love you,” he said.
“Love you too,” she barely spat out.
Payton didn’t have the answers that she needed, and she didn’t know half of what to expect from the consequences of the situation that had taken place the night before. Emotions she’d never felt before ran through her, and she wasn’t mature enough to know what to do with them or how to feel. Fears she didn’t know existed consumed her mind. Damage beyond repair had only just begun, and she hadn’t even made it home.
A recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards for YA and General Fiction!
The Mom’s Choice Awards(R) (MCA) evaluates products and services created for parents and educators and is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Using a rigorous evaluation process, entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media trust the MCA Honoring Excellence seal when selecting quality products and services for families and children. A recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards!
New Apple Literary Award Recipient for YA and General Fiction.
Reading to your unborn baby brings many benefits – both for the parent and the baby. The relaxation and bonding you feel when you share reading time with your baby are undeniable. Did you know that, according to science, reading to a baby in the womb helps the baby develop early language learning?
It is well-known that reading helps with language development and word recognition in small children. It creates a positive bond between the child and the parent, providing a special unity feeling before bedtime. Knowing that all of these also apply to unborn babies in the womb gives you the ability to get a step ahead of bonding with your child, and preparing them for the outside world.
Let’s list the most important advantages of reading to your unborn baby:
Reading to Your Unborn Baby Might Make the Baby Smarter
The University of Oregon conducted a study during which they gave pregnant mothers a recording containing a made-up word which they would play to their baby near the end of pregnancy. After they were born, the babies were able to recognize the made-up word and some of its variations. They measured the neural signals the babies emitted to show that they realized the sounds of the fake word. The most cogent response came from the babies who heard the recording most frequently.
In conclusion, the study suggests that infant language learning begins before the baby is born.
Reading to Your Unborn Baby Reduces Maternal Stress
Many studies show reading to your baby in the womb causes the baby’s heart rate to drop, mainly when it’s coming from the mother’s soft, relaxing voice. Reading to your baby doesn’t only help the baby relax, it also helps reduce maternal stress. It will help you relax and slow down, and thoroughly enjoy the early fun moments of parenting and bonding with your child. Nothing reduces stress as much as happiness and love do.
Bonding With Your Unborn Baby Through Reading
Even while your baby is still in the womb, you can experience the bond that usually starts developing after the child is born. All that it takes is for mommy and daddy to read to their baby prenatally. Reading is also a fantastic way for other family members to bond with the baby.
Very often we get caught up in preparing for new life on the practical side, that we forget about the benefits of early attention to the child. Reading to your unborn baby builds a fantastic foundation for future loving relationships.
The Best Books For Your Unborn Baby
It is the process of prenatal reading that matters more than the type of book you choose. However, you apparently shouldn’t read a mystery novel or a thriller while trying to bond with your unborn baby. Reading to your baby should be relaxing and loving, and not stressful in any way. The best books to choose are classic children’s books with cheerful characters and exciting stories. Choose a traditional book or a contemporary, funny fairy tale – whichever you find more interesting. The important thing is to feel calm and loving during the reading process, and you can rest assured it will benefit both you and the baby.
As a parent of teens, I try to stay observant in regards to what my kids are doing with their devices and use of technology. As an author who has written a couple of award-winning YA books, I tend to research what teens are doing with technology period.
I want to be clear it’s not that I want to bust teens or even seem like a super mom, because I’m far from it, though like every other working mom we sure try our best to get it all done. My research is for the work that I do (my novels, fiction) to ensure the work has truth in it. I like to show the dangerous side of what can happen when teens aren’t careful with the technology that they have access to these days. I try to explain the dangers through my characters so teens have the opportunity to think about the consequences of their actions through someone else’s eyes. It never occurred to me I would stumble upon an application disguised as a calculator that kids, teens, and anyone else can hide their photos be it nudes, inappropriate videos, sexting, or whatever from whomever that they like in an app. called a Secret Calculator Photo Vault.
These secret vault apps are also known as private photo apps. They can be disguised as calculators or games.
They look like any other app to someone like me, a parent that isn’t tech savvy and keeps an eye on teens but isn’t out to deceive anyone. They are designed to mimic a calculator or a game. In reality, they are a secret passageway to hide private photos and videos. Here’s what they look like (see photo) a calculator. All you have to do is search Secret Calculator Photo Vault from your App Store. There are hundreds of them. Assuming your teens aren’t sending nudes, drinking at parties, doing drugs, sexting, or having sex on video, you have nothing to worry about, but unfortunately, we know statistically that’s not the case. Plus, if these kids or anyone didn’t have something to hide there wouldn’t be a use for these apps. However, what if it’s not just about the teens? What about child pornography? This, for now, could be another way to hide horrific photos like that.
I’m not trying to say you have to invade your teen’s privacy continually. I’m just saying to be alert. These apps are designed to deceive and secrecy which could lead to teens making terrible decisions that ruin them later on in life. Nudes are often are revealed, shared, and of course, reputations destroyed.
And just when I thought we were out of the woods; should have known! Be safe and stay vigilant.
If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher or around kids for any length of time, then you already know kids have their opinion about most things. They’re often brutally honest, which I find quite refreshing; if you want the truth, ask a child.
One of the neatest things about being a co-owner of a publishing company is the freedom we have regarding our work, design, production, marketing, and pricing.
Freedom of such things do not come without cost, and we often learn lessons along the way, some we’d rather not. Many would argue that those are the best kind of experiences to learn from and I agree with that, and I’m sure we’ll continue to discover new and exciting processes throughout this publishing journey as this turbulent industry continues to change.
The request to conduct a workshop happened to come in at the same time as a new series cover reveal; perfect timing, test the covers out on the target market (niche group of kids). The kids I addressed were intense, listening to every word that I’d said, excellent feeling knowing you have such talented writers amongst the children your spending time with and showing them the steps of production. The staff stayed behind and asked questions themselves, also talking about wanting to become authors, and then I had the opportunity to ask for the kids’ opinions regarding the new covers.
I had six works on display that day and a mock-up of a fourth; all from The Mischief Patch Series. Two different artists, styles, and visions, were presented. One by one, both girls and boys passed on their honest opinions of what I thought about the beautiful new covers and the existing older ones. “Do you like the colors in this one?” I asked. “What don’t you like about this one?” They kept pointing to one or the other and I kept tallies of each. I finally asked, knowing the time, energy and dollars that had been spent on each cover. “Why do you like this one and not the other?” I waited patiently for their responses. The answers surprised me. “Because there’s Boris” or “I like Jack,” and of course my favorite, “I love the one with Lilly.” They were on the other covers as well, but for some reason, they related better to these versions… precisely what I needed to know. Needless to say, Lilly, Boris, and Jack are my escape books. I love to write them and will continue to work on them as soon as my existing projects are wrapped up. A fourth is already mapped out. They’re fun for me to write, fantasy is such a great escape. The characters, Lilly, Boris, and Jack, are sweet and kind, but most of all they hold a special place in my heart. Needless to say, the kids that day helped pick the covers. Kids – Need an honest answer, just ask. BTW – Spider Web Scramble is a Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children, families, and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services. The organization is based in the United States and has reviewed thousands of items from more than 55 countries.
If ever a book was predestined to be written by an individual, it was 50 HOURS by best-selling author Loree Lough. You will indeed find a piece of the author in between each page. Loree, healthy at the time she was commissioned to write the novel, was diagnosed with a similar terminal illness as her main character! The shocking diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma allowed her to write one of her most memorable novels to date. It is not by any means a depressing story that smacks of defeat or worse self-pity, but of all things, is a story of redemption, peace, second chances, friendship, forgiveness and of course, LOVE!
The famous novelist Catherine Lanigan of Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, and a multitude of other works, wrote, “This is the kind of book that wins Pulitzer prizes,” the highest compliment for any literary fiction novel.
Loree, admittedly, found it challenging at times to write 50 HOURS and early on confessed to Kevin James O’Neill, the screenplay writer the novel is based upon and a movie producer, that she wasn’t sure if she could handle the story or workload. However, for over a year and a half, through twice-daily chemo, plus a stem cell transplant, Loree could not get the characters out of her head and had the overwhelming desire to finish the novel. Wanting more than ever to show readers whose lives had been touched by this dreaded disease, cancer, that, “There’s always plenty of reason to hope and have something to be thankful for,” Loree forged ahead.
The realization that millions of others were facing the same prognosis as her self and her main character, Loree decided to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. For her, it was cathartic, and she hoped it would be for her readers—not just cancer patients and their families—too. Loree has always believed she was fairly tough; living by the “Never let ’em see ya sweat” and “Never let ’em see ya cry” codes, and continued to think that way as she poured her heart and soul into her novel through her characters Aubrey, Franco, and Dusty.
Aubrey is living with the constant knowledge that her life is slowly ebbing to an end, but she’s determined to squeeze as much joy from every precious moment she has left. Still, she’s lonely, exhausted, and no matter how hard she tries to hide it, terrified! Meeting Franco gives Aubrey a thread of hope to grasp onto, as she realizes that her long-held dream of painting autumn, in of all places Savannah, has come true with his help. Franco, burdened by the belief that he’s partially responsible for the car wreck that killed his wife, turned him into a man who eked out his existence by merely putting one foot in front of the other because he doesn’t know what else to do. After meeting Aubrey, whose zest for life is infectious, his 50 hours of community service tick by, as he finds himself drawn to her strength.
Loree found herself putting words into Aubrey’s mouth, that she’d only ever said in the privacy of her own mind. Talking with her fellow patients proved she wasn’t alone: A lot of cancer patients keep things to themselves. They do it to spare their loved ones, already worried and afraid of an uncertain future, who aren’t entirely sure or know how to comfort their loved ones. Through Aubrey, Loree was able to tell them that she expected nothing, quite literally, except to be with them (her family and friends). It isn’t easy watching someone you care about suffering the side effects of drugs and treatments. Loree, through Aubrey, showed friends and family that she appreciated their steadfastness. Aubrey’s relationship with Franco and her mother helped her make that point.
Her research and interviews proved there are far too many “loved ones” like Aubrey’s ex-husband; Michael who put on a good show of being the dutiful spouse…until the condition, like Aubrey’s, deteriorated, taking the spotlight off him and putting it back on her. It’s an ugly fact, but a fact nonetheless: The occasional loved one will leave. Through Aubrey, Loree hoped to show cancer patients and family members alike that they can survive even that!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Once upon a time, best-selling author Loree Lough (literally) sang for her supper, performing before packed audiences throughout the U.S. Now and then, she blows the dust from her 6-string to croon a tune or two for her grandchildren but mostly, she just writes full time. Over the years, her stories have earned nearly 100 industry and “Readers’ Choice” awards, 7 movie options, and over eighty 4- and 5-star reviews. There are NEARLY seven million copies of Loree’s books in circulation, and by year-end of 2018, she’ll have 119 books (fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults) 72 short stories, 2,500+ articles in print. Loree shares her [i]learned-the-hard-way[/i] lessons about the craft and the industry, and her comedic approach makes her a favorite (and frequent) guest of writers’ organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, college and high school writing programs both here and abroad. A writer who believes in “giving back,” Loree dedicates a portion of her income to Soldiers’ Angels, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and other worthwhile organizations. She splits her time between her home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, and shares both with her real-life hero Larry, who rarely complains, even when she adds yet another item to her vast collection of lighthouses, wind chimes, and “wolf stuff.”
Spreading the word about this book increases the opportunity for Kevin James O’Neill to take make it a feature film as intended. Royalties from 50 HOURS go toward Cancer Research. Specifically, the Multiple Myeloma ResearchFoundation.
50 HOURS is available wherever books are sold including Amazon
Sooooooo the coolest thing that I believe as an author, Amanda M. Thrasher, and organization, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, that we are a part of on an annual basis is the TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference. I have attended this conference for years, signed as a featured author for at least five years, and we have committed as a publisher, for now, four years.
Being an author first, and a co-owner and CEO of an independent press founded by authors, we continually try to locate and find ways that bring the most ‘bang for our buck’ for our authors. What exactly does that mean when it comes to TLA? In case you are not familiar with TLA, it is a professional organization promoting librarianship and library services in Texas. Through legislative advocacy, continuing education events, and networking channels. The conference usually has between 5000 to 6500 attendees, if not more, and often consist of librarians (academic, public, and private), educators, consumers, category buyers, publishers, vendors, to name a few.
Being that it takes place during the week, most attendees go on their companies time and dime. This is good for us, (publishers and authors) because the visitors are pre-registered and literally plan up to a year in advance to attend the conference which brings a different type of ‘crowd’ versus people just look for something entertaining to do. So what do all of those people do?
Everyone attends sessions as they listen and learn about new techniques, equipment, products, and don’t forget they all get to network and socialize as well. Meeting the authors is always a big draw, especially the featured authors, and so many fantastic publishers are represented such as Penguin Random House, Scholastic, McMillan, Disney, Chronicle Books, Capstone, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Book Co., to name a few…. Oh yeah, and us 🙂 as well, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.
I am not big on the author to author events (me personally), that become book swaps. However, I will always tell our authors, or any other that ask, that I believe in this particular trade conference. This one is worth saving your $’s for and vesting in the trip. It moves yearly, location, but is always in Texas. We network; share our work with the librarians, teachers, and readers. Sign books, and pick up book orders. I have attended and signed at ALA, BEA, and TLA. For us, PRPP, I still believe we receive the most value for our vested dollars in this event. If you have ever considered going, as a company, but you are not sure if it is worth it or if you are an author and you do not know if you should spend the dollars here are my top reasons for doing so:
1) It is a professional trade show; attendees are pre-registered, and that means a guaranteed X amount of participation.
2) Attendees are there with a purpose to do the following: Place book orders for their locations, receive free books for review, and to share new talent or books with their districts. If you have a new title or an old title with limited exposure, it is the perfect place to share your work with the experts or potential real buyers.
3) It is expensive, yes, but with a joint effort it can be done and is worth the $’s spent due to the added benefit of buyers, readers, vendors, librarians, educators, all under one roof at the same time.
4) Networking with different schools, librarians, teachers, readers, is priceless, especially when they are all book lovers and want to be there with you.
5) We have placed multiple bulk orders through this conference, introduced new titles and authors, and re-launched older titles.
6) Negotiated contracts for services authors cannot receive on their own, such as Lexile scoring, contact made through TLA.
7) Received great submissions & we do not solicit authors.
8) Met librarians, teachers, educators, and others that we have stayed in touch with and shared our catalog, and new titles over the year. They have come back, and picked our latest work, sharing it with their districts.
9) Featured author area: the authors are reviewed and scheduled to sign. The advertising is great, and visiting with people as you sign your work is fantastic, but having them come back year after year, remembering you from the year before as they look for your new work….is…..priceless.
10) Often it seems as if we accomplish more at this one trade show than at ten regular author events. Those often seem time-consuming, turn into author swaps, and end up with minimal unit sales.