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.
Many of us belong to groups including social media groups. Often added without our knowledge, some groups I know nothing about the subject matter at all, and yet there I am, added. I won’t lie; I spend very little time socializing online, socializing period. I’m not necessarily an unsocial person, but like most people these days I’m spread pretty thin, and I’m incredibly busy. Between my family, personal writing time, and work, spare time is a real issue. But recently a social media group sent out a question that ended up in my inbox, and it caught my attention. It was a great question, which made me stop, read the question and think.
What was your proudest professional moment?
I thought about that question for several minutes. We all have proud personal moments, kids and family rising to the top of the list. But the proudest professional moment, I hadn’t given that particular question much thought till right then.
I think on a personal, professional level, having Barnes and Noble Small Press Division, NY, at one-time purchasing three of my titles, little author, and a small press was a huge professional moment for me. They don’t stay there long, store category buyers list, and it’s not the same as .com. line. That was a huge accomplishment at the time, knowing we have great titles with sales under their belts, large author platforms, that have been declined over and over again for the category buyer store purchase. That ranked pretty high for me, as an author, as a proud professional moment. Starting a business with my business partner, a press founded by authors, in a competitive industry and personally being invited to discuss our company with our print managers at LSI/Ingram in TN was huge. Touring the plant, negotiating a contract that was feasible for us as a company and beneficial for our authors was also a proud professional moment. But one of the proudest moments I can remember, professionally, was the day I received a letter from a Site Director, Jeremy McNair, for one of the after-school programs that he managed at an elementary school on behalf of another organization. I had been asked to conduct a month-long workshop with multiple sites. Listed as one of my locations the letter stated the following:
My name is Jeremy McNair, and I am the Site Director for the YMCA program at Butler Elementary School. This past Monday, you came and spoke to my students about your book and the writing processes behind them. The past two days since then have been completely filled with the kids telling me how much they learned and enjoyed your presentation. I wish I could take the time to tell you every story, but I’ve typed up several of the letters that they’ve written to you and copied them to the end of this email. Your drive and passion were well received and noted by all the children and staff, and I know that your impact will resonate in a huge way in all of their lives.
Thank you so much for your dedication to your craft, but even more than that, thank you for sharing it with the children at Butler. They were left truly inspired.
This touched me in such a way, as did the letters from the students below (read them, and you’ll see what I mean, precious) that it reminded me of why authors/writers do what we do. Why we share our work, spend time, and encourage our future young writers to tap into and use their imagination to create beautiful future works. Over the years I’ve participated, completed, and accomplished many things that other people would be proud of, but this to this day ranks as one of my proudest professional moments.
Letters from the students below (they’re in a laminate paper for protection) but click on the image to enlarge and read.
I love Amanda’s style. She puts herself in the shoes of all of her characters and makes their side of the stories, with their perspectives and emotions, come to life. You’re happy when they’re happy, and you hurt when they hurt. She draws you in, making it so hard to put her books down! Amanda has a knack for recounting very real events/situations. It is so unfortunate that situations such as these occur, and Amanda’s way of raising awareness around them is probably one of the best ways to prevent future occurrences. Possibly one of the saddest things to see is how society has evolved with the prevalence of technology and social media. Yes, there are some wonderful benefits of being so connected and having access to just about all of the information you might ever need at your finger tips.
However, this interconnectedness also enables us to make rash decisions before we’ve even had a chance to process possible consequences. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to fully comprehend long-term consequences of any action, especially when we have any number of things influencing us either consciously or subconsciously. While Amanda focuses on these issues in teens, they are experienced by people of all ages. It is for that reason that I believe a broader audience would benefit greatly from reading this book. We can all have a profoundly positive impact on our own well-being and that of others, we just need to be aware of what to look for. Thank you, Amanda, for bringing these issues to light!
Bitter Betrayal is a game changer in a world where Society claims there are no rules By Donna on February 1, 2018
Amanda Thrasher is a word magician who grabs her readers from page one to pull them into the devastating roller coaster ride of two teens flirting with premarital sex and underage drinking, not understanding the consequences that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Written with just the right amount of true-life, raw emotion without being overexposed. Bitter Betrayal should be required reading for today’s teens who are constantly bombarded with the lies of Hollywood or social media.
A Compelling and Necessary Read By Jacqueline E Smithon July 12, 2017
Having read Ms. Thrasher’s book The Greenlee Project, I knew that Bitter Betrayal would be just as compelling, just as brutally honest, and just as necessary. Hear me now: these are not easy books to read. They’re not your typical good-time YA romances. They are very real books dealing with very harsh realities that today’s teenagers face, particularly in our world of modern technology and social media. Overall, this book is an excellent read. At first, upon finishing it, I thought that I would have ended it differently. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is exactly how life often plays out. Fiction tends to wrap itself up and tie all the loose ends together and see to it that everyone pays the price for their actions, but that’s not the way that real life works. That’s what I love so much about Ms. Thrasher’s books. She isn’t afraid to write for truth or to discuss those topics that are so often ignored and yet so very relevant to teens today.
Can We Talk? By Deanna Klingelon April 30, 2017
This is a well-written story of teenage angst, of dealing with emotions they aren’t yet equipped to cope with, or even understand. It’s a story of “good kids” making a bad decision and not knowing how to stop the consequences or even to imagine what those consequences might turn out to be. It’s the story of how a bad idea, which sounded like fun at the time, destroys the comfortable social lives they all wish for. For young readers, it’s a heads-up, this is how it feels when you have to see the look of shock and disappointment in the eyes of parents who love you. This is how shame feels. For parents, it’s a heads-up, these are things you need to talk openly about with your teens, now, before someone else does. The author does a thorough job of baring teen and parent emotions equally. Thoughtful questions at the end makes an easy entry for parents who must have this discussion. Read the book together and talk about it.
I have two teenage daughters at home. My son, now grown, survived the teen years. I’m certain my girls will as well, though they’ll likely receive a few bumps and bruises along the way. Heartache, fallouts with friends, and decisions about future life goals will leave a few scars.
Dating, according to many teens these days, is often nothing more than a hook-up. Sound shocking? Yes! But according to teens, it’s normal. In fact, they rarely call dating, dating anymore. It’s often just referred to as hanging out. I’m hanging out with so-and-so, and then onto the hook-ups. This behavior of hooking up and even random hook-ups is considered normal for many teens. How do I know? I spoke to groups of teens and they spoke candidly and with no fear of their behavior. Local Dr’s told me they treat teens on a regular basis of two to three times a week for STD’s. I know… WHAT?!Scary? It is! It’s not that parents and schools aren’t talking to these kids about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases or having sex too young because they are, it’s that kids, especially teens, often think that they’re invincible and nothing can happen to them. Some teens were treated over and over by the same Dr. for the same STD, and this is a national problem, not a community issue. In addition to the physical dangers of this type of behavior, the kids often aren’t prepared for the emotional and complications that can come along with behavior that they’re not ready for.
But hanging out and worrying if your kid is hooking-up isn’t the only danger that goes along with teens social lives today. Dying to grow up, surrounded by social media promoting just that, some kids think they’re more mature than they really are, jump into physical relationships taking on more than they can emotionally handle. The problem is they often don’t understand the dangers of that until the emotional rollercoaster starts. Some teens are forced into sexual situations prematurely, especially if they’re not thinking clearly because they’re impaired by using drugs or alcohol. Obviously, the fallout is devastating and can be life-altering.
Concerned about the accounts that I heard from teen after teen, fearful my teens would find themselves in a dangerous situation themselves, I set out to write a novel that would imitate a true-life threatening situation. The situation that occurs in the book, takes place too many times and affects too many young girls/women and boys/men. This type of situation, as in the book, becomes increasingly complicated when the relationship has been a lasting one and something terrible happens. Lines are crossed, emotions are suddenly confused, and lives are forever changed. My hope is that if only one person reads the book, thinks twice about getting into the type of situation described, then I’ve done my job as an author and accomplished what I set out to do with the message in this piece.
I believe I pulled the overall message of Bitter Betrayaloff in regards to showing how the dating situation effects young boys/men and girls/women differently due to their emotions and how they handle a dating situation. I believe the scenes that show the destruction of the relationship depicts what happens to some teens when they find themselves in dangerous situations.
I’ll be one of the authors on a panel at the TeenBook Fest by the Bay, speaking to over seven hundred teens about this book. It shows the dangers of miscommunication while being impaired and how great kids make terrible mistakes that affect them for the rest of their lives. The book has won two awards, The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA), Gold, which 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, and the New Apple Literary Award, both for YA. If you’re a teen, parent, educator, youth group leader, or a librarian, this book may interest you.
Picking a college wasn’t turning out to be as easy as Reece had hoped. The school he wanted to attend was out of state and hadn’t made him any kind of offer yet. His coach had written letters of recommendation. His grades were good, game films highlighting his plays were in the hands of several recruiters, and services that assisted students and parents were working on his behalf. But the waiting part was no fun. His parents wanted him to stay in Texas, but agreed not to stand in his way if a school he liked came knocking.
Reece wanted two things: to attend a D1 school and receive an out-of-state offer. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought too much about Payton or what she thought. There were 347 D1 schools that he was aware of, scattered across forty-nine different states. Some colleges were smaller, private schools and some larger universities, but the odds of Reece receiving a full scholarship were excellent. Coach had said a full ride was more than a realistic possibility; it was a probability, especially riding on his brother’s reputation. Reece idolized his brother and wanted to follow in his footsteps, not easy to do, but he never once felt jealous or envious of his brother’s success. Coach always bragged about Royce and Reece. Proud to have coached them both in their high school years.
“Just like Royce, son. You are capable of playing for a D1 program,” Coach Duncan would say. “You know, those programs can generate millions of dollars in revenue annually for the schools. And like your brother, you could handle the pressure of performing and the expectations of winning.”
Reece believed Coach and worked hard at proving him right. Payton cringed when Reece talked about the schools he wanted to attend, because she knew it meant the inevitable—he’d be leaving. He’d get so excited. His eyes would light up and he’d get animated as he talked. She was happy for him, but sad for herself. Despite the heaviness she felt weighing on her heart and in her head because she missed him already, she tried her best to encourage him. He called her to tell her about an email Coach had received asking about his eligibility. He could tell she was down by how quiet she got on the other end of the phone. Now he knew why he hated to call. He’d rather send her a text than talk.
“You know we’ll stay in touch every day and hang out when I come home.”
“Well, yeah,” she replied, kinda shocked that he had to actually state it. Surely that was understood. Wasn’t it?
“Just checking. You sound down or something.”
Payton shook her head, and then realized she needed to answer. He couldn’t see her through the phone.
“Sorry. I’m fine.”
“I’m almost there. Are you ready?”
“I will be by the time you get here,” she said. “If you let me off the phone!”
When Payton climbed in, Reece raised the console divider in the front seat so she could sit next to him. He’d crank the aux and she’d lay her hand on his leg, unless he was holding hers in his. She loved Friday nights, even more than Saturdays. It was the excitement of spending real time with him after being in school all week. They were going to the movies with Reece’s friends. Aubrey didn’t have a date and even though she could have joined them, she opted out. Payton didn’t mind. All of her attention was on Reece anyway.
“You smell good,” Reece said as soon as Payton climbed into the truck and turned to give him their customary kiss hello.
She knew the perfume she’d sprayed all over her clothes and neck was his favorite perfume; smiling coyly, she kissed him again.
“Trevor might bring some girl,” Reece stated nonchalantly.
Payton laughed. “Like just some random girl, seriously?”
Reese shook his head. “Right! I didn’t ask. He said he might bring some girl. I don’t care who.” He took a sip of Coke. “But I think her name begins with an S. Samantha, Sydney, Sophie, something like that. Chase is coming as well, but I doubt he’ll bring anyone; no one will date that loser.”
As they turned onto Trevor’s street, they saw Trevor outside, leaning against his car with a pretty girl standing next to him. She was tall, slim, and blond. Payton didn’t recall seeing her before, but gave her a quick once-over as they walked toward the truck.
“This is Stacie,” Trevor announced as they climbed into the back.
“Stacie,” Reece repeated, glancing at Payton.
“Hi, Stacie, nice to meet you.” Payton made the introductions for everyone.
Reece looked at Trevor as the girl climbed into the truck and gave him a nod of approval. How did Trevor score a date with that? Trevor looked as if he hadn’t quite figured it out either; he seemed to know exactly what Reece meant as he grinned big, shrugged his shoulders, and threw up his hands. No complaints from him. They had met during one of his classes. She was a transfer. Totally used to rejection, Trevor was bold enough to ask her to go out with them that night. Shockingly she had said yes, and here they were. She was undeniably hot and he wasn’t. Weird.
“You never know if you don’t ask, bro,” Trevor muttered as he patted Reece on the back.
Payton leaned over the back of the seat and spoke to the girl.
“You’ll get used to it. They talk to each other as if we’re not here, and they do a lot of things in groups.” She laughed out loud. “They say girls are bad about doing everything together. OMG! These guys. Stick around, you’ll see.”
Trevor grabbed Stacie’s hand, not sure if he’d actually see her again after that evening, but she didn’t seem to mind. More of Reece’s friends were waiting for them at the movies than they’d expected. Doug, Shane, Tristan, and Lisa. Additional introductions were made, tickets bought, and seats found. Sci-fi was not her thing, but Payton was just glad to be there. The boys enjoyed it, though; she knew because they were relatively quiet throughout the entire show. Unusual.
“Where to?” Payton asked as the credits rolled.
“Lake. Tiger’s trail,” Trevor suggested. “Denis said there’s a party up there tonight.”
Returning to the truck, Reece nodded, turned up the music, slipped his hand into Payton’s, and they took off. Trevor was right. Trucks, cars, and kids were everywhere. There was no telling how long they had until someone called it in, but they were there now. The typical classic red plastic cups found at every teen get-together were being passed around. Beer was drunk by most, but others were slamming liquor brought by kids who could get their hands on it. Some of the kids pretended to drink it. Peer pressure. Payton was one of those kids. She held onto a cup that was handed to her and pretended to sip what was in it. Fake IDs were something else that kids seemed to have easy access to. Payton was dying to look into that, but hadn’t quite been brave enough to attempt it yet. Reece didn’t need one. If he needed anything, Royce took care of him. It was common knowledge that teens were able to get their hands on just about anything they wanted or needed if they had a few dollars. If the price was right, someone always seemed to know someone who could get it or whom to ask. At these parties vodka floated around because it looked like water, was easily found in most homes, and easily mixed with soda, juice, or just about anything else. Every time Payton was handed a drink with vodka in it, her mom’s voice would ring in her head. Kids on booze: not only illegal, but lethal. Her mom had recited these words for years, hoping Payton would avoid the teen drinking scene. Payton was an observer and Reece for the most part was too, unless he was planted somewhere for the night and even then he didn’t usually overdo. But he didn’t mind enjoying the scene with his friends and usually he had fun no matter what, especially with his girl by his side. Handed a beer, Reece shook his head and pointed to his truck.
“Dude, I’ve got a full truck tonight.”
His attention turned to Payton as he reached for the cup and handed it to her.
“Babe, yours is gone, you can have it.”
She wanted to shake her head and decline as well, but against her better judgment she held out her hand. Noticing the hesitation on her face, Reece pulled her toward him and whispered in her ear.
“You’re good, you’re not driving. Plus, you’re with me.”
He put his arms around her waist, leaned forward, and kissed the back of her neck. She turned around to face him and he pulled her even closer, kissing her with such intensity that her stomach filled with butterflies. She kissed him back just as hard. As he pulled away from her, he whispered something so softly she wasn’t quite sure what she’d heard. Were they thewords, as in the real form and not a version of them, like he usually said, or number digits in his texts? That’s what they sounded like; surely she hadn’t missed the words? Tugging at his sleeve, she asked him to repeat what he had said.
“Wait. What? What did you say?”
“You heard me,” he countered with a muffled voice so no one else would hear him.
“No, really. What did you say?”
“I love you, babe,” he whispered again, bashfully the second time. He kissed her on the cheek and turned back toward his friends, joining their conversation as if he hadn’t just said the most important words she’d ever heard.
Seriously, the words! First thing she wanted to do was say them back, but she couldn’t because he was talking to his friends. Then she wanted to text her BFF, Aubrey, but she couldn’t do that either, because Aubrey would want details. Super excited, madly in love, how could she have known what would happen next?
I dreaded the coming of 2017. Long hours of painful work anticipated. Anxiety over payments owed or debts that would accumulate. Rollbacks of regulations and freedoms that were imagined to be permanent for our future collective good. But, nothing had braced me for the fears that did arise this last year.
In the past year, I have gone from devastation to thankful and grateful reprieve.
Let me preface this by saying that I am close to my mother. Very close. Early on in 2017, my mother was hospitalized with jaundice. That led to the discovery that she had a cancerous tumor blocking her pancreas.
Now, pancreatic cancer is one of the most pervasive and aggressive cancers. I know this because a dear friend of mine died just a few years ago after fighting pancreatic cancer for six years.
This news shook me to my core. I had to face the real possibility that my mother, the stable influence throughout my life, might not live past my fiftieth birthday this year. So many things raced into my mind of what my sister and I needed to decide on, from an estate and parental care point of view concerning our aging father and the house our parents owned. We suddenly found ourselves in the realm of having to deal with “what might happen after…”
And it was the After part that tore us to ribbons. We both love our mother more than words can say. She was our rock. She was our inspiration. We would both rather die than see her in pain. But, we both had already seen friends dealing with cancer, up close and personal. So, we dreaded having to see our mother in that position.
But, by the grace of all that is holy, her jaundice was a blessing in disguise. The cancer had not spread beyond her pancreas and she was able to be connected with the best surgeons in Florida.
It is the second week of December. It has been a long and emotional year for my family, but after chemo and surgery, my mother has been labeled as clear of cancer. I am beyond thankful to have her healing and still with us for this holiday season. I am thankful that she is celebrating the new year with us. And, through it all, I am thankful for the love and support that we have received from friends and relatives.
Politically and artistically, not much has been achieved in my personal life, but as far as my family life is concerned… 2017 was a win, because it helped my mother heal her body against a frightful foe.
Wow what a year and boy, did it go fast. I feel like I did a lot this year professionally and personally speaking, but lets just stick to writing and promoting.
OWL AND PUSSYCAT/OWL BRANCH PROMOTIONS:
My promotional business with Viv Drewa morphed into a partnership with Crystal Gauthier and we became part of The Owl Book Promotions. I met a lot of great new authors that have since become great Facebook friends if they already weren’t. However due to Health issues of one of the partners we went back to Owl and Pussycat Promotions.
WRITERS ROUNDTABLE saw a lot of new literary guests come to the show. In essence, my interviews were entertaining, to say the least and look forward to an exciting 4th year on the air.
WRITING, WRITING, AND MORE WRITING:
I had Dead Men Don’t Swing republished during the year through Southern Owl Publications, which is owned and run by Crystal Gauthier. I plan to do this more in 2018.
I also attempted to work on some WIP projects and get them done but alas they are still WIPS. Maybe next year! I won the NaNoWriMo this year for What the Heart Wants
I have tons of ideas for stories but again the muse is fickle.
When not doing writing related things I dabble in arts and crafts or I can be found reading and gaming.
Here’s Merry Christmas to everyone and a happy 2018
2017 is coming to an end; shocking, since it seems like the year was a blur. As I reflect upon the past twelve months, it feels as if I lost time (I didn’t), but the year that was filled with successes, regrets, and joy, indeed flew by. My oldest daughter, now a beautiful young lady, is about to jump into the next phase of her life. As she visits colleges, I’m terrified she’s unprepared, but surely I’m mistaken? She’s as ready as every other kid about to leave home, right?
My personal work, writing, suffered this year due to a lack of time dedicated to existing projects and for that, I have sincere regrets. I am thrilled that Bitter Betrayal released, and in time for TLA, that was a huge relief. Despite my lack of writing time our company is thriving, and that is a direct result of our (mine personally) and the commitment of others to ensure that we worked tirelessly on behalf of the authors that we represent. The company is in an excellent position and will start 2018 with the most robust first quarter that we’ve ever experienced to date. Starting off the year in such a way will allow me, as an author, to take back the time I need to commit to writing and finishing existing projects. Projects that mean a lot to me and that I’m passionate about such as finishing Captain Fin.
I believe 2017 was a fruitful year, but a year where I wished I’d spent more time with my family, and as I stated wanted to finish Captain Fin (which will be a priority in 2018). My daughter, the senior in high school, should have spent more time with me (not that she would have) but I wished I’d forced the issue a little more, though I was pleased I was able to attend most of her soccer games this year. She experienced her first real heartbreak; every young woman goes through such, but it was awful to witness, and my heart broke for her. She learned from that experience to never look backward and is now excited about her future and a new relationship.
My youngest daughter continually challenges me as a mom, but in the neatest way. Learning to drive, testing those around her, she still has the sweetest spirit of any child I know. Others would not understand this statement, one of the mysteries of this young girl. 2017 was a year in which she truly blossomed, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.
Watching my son work and grow is always a treat. Continually striving to be his best, a great father, husband, and son. Spending time with him is still a joy, and one of the greatest gifts of 2017 was going on vacation with him and his family. Our family (Mike, the girls), my dad, who I adore, and my sister who I appreciate more now than ever. Having us all together at the same time, in the same place for an entire week, was the highlight of my year.
As an author during 2017, my work The Greenlee Project, a book about bullying, won the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award for YA-Social Issues. Because this book is so important to me, I was naturally thrilled about this, and the news brought me to tears. Bitter Betrayal was the Gold Recipient of The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) for YA and General Fiction. The Mom’s Choice Awards® 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. It, Bitter Betrayal, also won the New Apple Literary Award for YA and General Fiction.
My goal for 2018: Finish Captain Fin and write the fourth installment of the Mischief series. And of course, continue my role as CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.
2017 has been an eventful year, in one way or another. We witnessed the birth of our second granddaughter in July, and rode out a hurricane. (When I say rode out, I really mean that we retreated to Virginia and visited our daughter for nearly two weeks) The good thing about that trip was that I got some uninterrupted time with my beautiful granddaughters. (The eldest is 9 going on 90)
Hurricane Irma gifted Florida with something to which my body has strenuously objected. I’ve been sick on and off since she roared through. Whatever it is, I sincerely hope someone takes it back, because I’m tired of it.
On a professional note, I consider 2017 more of a success. A few years ago, after looking at the queue of unfinished work, I set myself a goal of finishing a book a month. In 2014, I finished 14 books. 2015 was even better, with 25. I reverted to 14 in 2016, but 5 of those were start to finish books: two at 9 days each, then 6, 4 and 2 days. To be fair, the 2 day one was a novella, but the rest are over 50,000 words each. Shortly after writing of this article, I finished a piece for December. Making a total of 14 once again. It’s a novella, but I’m still pleased with it. Not bad, considering how much time I spent on the road between here and Virginia, and how much of that time, I was sick.
I published several books this year. So Much It Hurts, a contemporary romance, was released by Tirgearr Publishing on November 1. I also released an adult coloring book, Doodle Your Stress Away. I re-released a new and improved version of Indian Summer, as well as publishing its sequel, Savage Heart. I also published The Maker – Book 3 in my sci-fi series. Now, if they would sell, I’d be ecstatic.
Looking toward 2018, I hope for better health, and the ability to release a few more books. I’m constantly writing, creating interesting blog posts, and enjoying my days in the literary universe. I call it that, because it’s much more than a world. Books set us free from the here and now, carrying us far away from the everyday. What a blessed release, to lose oneself in somewhere completely different, even if for a short time.
I received an email yesterday from a friend, fellow author, who knew of a child who had killed themselves due to a cycle of bullying. I didn’t know the details, and I didn’t ask about them; I knew it never should have happened. It happens too often, and these days, with social media, anyone can be a victim.
This issue breaks my heart, kids being bullied at school or elsewhere, but being pushed to the point of a child taking their lives is gut-wrenching in the worst possible way. I often wonder what the child/ teen was thinking in those last moments. How disturbing that they’d be in that position at all. Did anyone, anyone, stop to think about their mental well being before push, push, pushing, them over the edge that one last time? And therein lies the problem; no one has a clue what someone else is going through or deals with on a daily basis in regards to mental health issues.
What is manageable for one kid, isn’t manageable for another at all. I have a child that has suffered from issues that no one knows about, and I wonder about the thousands upon thousands of kids that experience the same. They’re fragile. They’re beautiful. They’re undeserving of being pushed because they’re different. Until my child was stronger and could fend for themselves, if need be, I lived in fear on a daily basis of losing them to the world. I was fortunate, but even as an adult, their struggles are real.
This topic, bullying, is so near and dear to my heart I wrote a piece titled The Greenlee Project. It’s a book about the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying is a Gold Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards, the 2017 International Book Award Winner for YA Social Issues, and won the first place at the 16th annual North Texas Book Festival (NTBF) for YA and General Fiction. It showcases the all-too-common anonymous and cruel betrayals of others through social media, of such magnitude that it devastates a young teen, her friends, family, and the community.
Cyberbullying or bullying affects not just the victims, but everyone around them. After being the target of cyberbullying, what Greenlee does next is shocking. I sincerely hope you enjoy my work and if you have a tween or teen, you’ll share this book with them. If this book prevents one child from being hurt or causes kids to think twice about their actions, then I’ve done my job. Enjoy this excerpt.
All rights reserved. Published 2014 by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The bus pulled away from the curb slowly, but the shift in gear caused such a jolt that it shook Greenlee’s whole body and woke her up, leaving her dazed and confused. Her eyes tried to focus on the fabric pattern on the seats. It hadn’t registered to Greenlee that she was still on the bus until then. A stale odor wafted through the aisle and filled her nostrils. The smell was nauseating, but brought her back to reality quick enough . . . Greenlee stared out the window with no idea where she was. She didn’t recognize a thing. Hanging her head in her hands, she closed her eyes and thought back to the events that had taken place and brought her to this moment.
Cole’s laughter had rung in her ears and flashbacks of kids pointing fingers and laughing at her raced once again through her mind. Embarrassed, she sank down in her seat. Her heart burdened and heavy, she knew that she couldn’t stay there much longer.
Glancing out the window, Greenlee tried to recognize something, anything, but she realized without a doubt that she was lost. She panicked. Nervously she stood up and moved toward the front of the bus. As if she were invisible, she avoided eye contact and waited for the door to open.
The bus stopped and the doors swished open. Greenlee noticed that the bus driver was staring at her. The woman had an odd look on her face and her mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, but she didn’t. Greenlee couldn’t discern if the lady was concerned or if she owed her more money. As if purposely biting her tongue, the driver simply shook her head, clenched her mouth shut, and waited for Greenlee to step down. As soon as she did, the doors closed behind her and the bus pulled away.
Greenlee stood on the pavement, not sure which direction she should go. Her phone vibrated and it occurred to her that she hadn’t talked to a single person all day. Avoiding people forever was impossible and she knew that, but for now it seemed like a plan. She had twenty-eight missed calls, eleven voicemails and fifty-four texts. Greenlee deleted them all without listening or reading a single one of them. She couldn’t deal with it, not right then anyway, even knowing the consequences for what she’d just done. Marianne’s intentions were good, but she was becoming a problem with her nonstop calling. The phone vibrated again and against her will, Greenlee answered.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Are you kidding me? What’s up? That’s all you have to say?” Marianne said angrily.
Greenlee didn’t want to talk, let alone argue with her. She already felt like a piece of malleable meat, beat to a pulp for someone else’s enjoyment. Regardless of Marianne’s intention, being chewed out wasn’t her idea of a phone call. Her cell phone pressed against her ear, Greenlee heard the words, but her mind was a million miles away. For the first time, the saying in one ear and out the other made total sense to her. Marianne kept talking but Greenlee wasn’t listening . . . then dead silence. Finally, Marianne had caught on.
“Okay, I’m sorry, I admit it. I’m not thinking clearly. I’m worried about you. Are you all right?” Marianne asked softly.
What a stupid question! Of course, she wasn’t all right. Greenlee didn’t respond. Her throat felt as if it was closing up and she couldn’t breathe. Who was she kidding? She couldn’t have talked through the tears anyway. She wanted to scream into the phone, “No, you idiot; I’m not all right. I’m anything but all right. I’m a mess. How come you don’t know that?” Keeping her mouth shut, she just listened.
“Greenlee, where are you?”
Greenlee glanced at the street sign above her head and mumbled the name of the street written on the sign above her, adding, “I don’t really know where I am. I mean I’m not sure that I really care.”
“I can send someone to come and get you,” Marianne said quietly.
The comment both surprised and alerted Greenlee to the unusual situation that she now found herself in. She declined. She had mixed feelings about that, wanting to be safe but at the same time not wanting to see or talk to anyone, at least not yet. She knew she faced an impending confrontation with her parents and she was avoiding it. Not for her sake, but for theirs—the humiliation she believed that she had caused them was too much to bear and having not been able to handle it only infuriated her.
“No, thanks. I’ll use the GPS and go from there. If I need you, I’ll call,” Greenlee said calmly.
“Greenlee, I just don’t think that’s a good idea. Are you sure?”
Marianne was disappointed, realizing that she’d been dismissed.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll call. Okay?” Greenlee said, knowing that she wasn’t going to call her back.
Greenlee was dismissive and Marianne felt ditched. Hurt and disappointed that Greenlee hadn’t trusted her, she reminded herself it wasn’t about her. Once again she forced the idea of contacting Greenlee’s parents out of her head, but had resolved in her mind that if they called her, she’d tell them what she knew. For Greenlee’s sake, she wouldn’t leave her out there in her mental state by herself.
Greenlee pulled up the GPS on her phone. She was twenty-eight miles from home. How in the heck had that happened? Suddenly she felt fearful and started to panic. She hit speed dial D.
“Greenlee, where in the hell are you? We’ve been trying to call you all day!” Matt Granger said.
He didn’t wait for her to respond and kept firing questions at her one right after the other and immediately Greenlee felt that she’d made a mistake.
“What are you playing at? Where are you? What are you doing?” he asked with a slight hesitation. “Where have you been?” After a pause, he said, “We’ve been worried sick!” Breathing deeply, he continued, “Greenlee . . . Greenlee, where are you now?”
Greenlee blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Dad, I don’t really know,” she said. “And if you don’t mind, I really don’t want to talk about this right now!”
“You called me,” he snapped.
Her dad bit his lip, took another deep breath, and as calmly as he possibly could in that particular moment said, “Greenlee, we’re definitely going to talk about it; maybe not at this very second, but you can rest assured that we will talk about it!”
“Dad, please, could you just come and get me? Please.” Another slight pause and he could hear her exhale, “I don’t even know where I am . . . I know you’re mad and disappointed in me, but please, can you just come and get me?”
A combination of relief and fear swept over him with such magnitude that he was forced to bat away his own tears. The photo of Greenlee that sat on his desk didn’t help: all smiles, sparkling eyes, and freckles across her cute button nose. It took him back to the days when he’d lift her in his arms and swing her around and around until she begged him to stop. He took a deep breath and spoke as softly as he could without breaking down.
“I’m not mad at you, Greenlee,” he said softly, “or disappointed in you. Don’t say that. But we will talk about this and you know that we will!” He grabbed his jacket and his keys. “I’m on my way. Don’t move from that spot and text me the street address.”
“Don’t talk to strangers!” He slammed down the phone and left his office.
As the air chilled, Greenlee realized that she was starving and cold. She wondered if she should ask her dad to stop and grab her a bite to eat, but given the circumstances, she figured it wasn’t the best time to ask for a favor. She kept her head down, hoping to avoid eye contact with the people on the street. She wasn’t used to being in the city by herself, especially at that hour, and the hustle and bustle of people that spilled onto the concrete made her fearful. Fortunately, no one was paying much attention to her, and that brought her some comfort. She shivered as a gust of wind blew through her body. Her hands clambered to grab her sweatshirt and wrap it as tightly around herself as she could. She continued to wait for her dad, who seemed to be taking too long. In less than twenty-four hours she had gone from not wanting to see her dad at all, to feeling relieved that he was finally pulling up to the curb.
The car door opened and she slid into the front seat without saying a word. Her dad asked her if she was hungry and Greenlee nodded gratefully. He pulled into the first fast-food place they came to and he ordered a burger and a large coffee. Handing her the brown soggy bag, he continued driving home.
Greenlee spoke first. Her voice echoed with the sound of distress, her pitch inconsistent, and she frantically tried to compose herself to speak without trembling. It was impossible. Reaching over, he grasped her hand. He never took his eyes off the road and didn’t offer any kind words—his simple gesture was enough. It was heartfelt, meaningful, filled with love and compassion, and touched Greenlee beyond any words that he could have chosen anyway. Gently he squeezed her hand in his, and she tried to speak.
“I . . . I can’t go back there, Dad, I just can’t. I thought I could,” she said as the tears flowed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She swallowed, sucked in a gasp of air, exhaled, and tried to continue.
“The whole thing is just too unfreaking believable. I can’t wrap my head around it. I still feel so stupid.”
She wasn’t hungry anymore but took another bite from her half-eaten burger, chewed a moment too long, swallowed, and looked at him as he continued to drive.
“I’m begging you, Dad, please, please don’t make me go back there. I still need to do what I’m doing, just maybe somewhere new.”
Her words and the tone with which she said them broke his heart. He hurt for her. He was angry for her, angry at himself for not having known, and furious with the kids who were involved. His daughter! Terrible for anyone’s daughter, but it was his daughter. Swallowing hard, he struggled to find the right words. His voice sounded different than usual: shaky but soft, concerned, but definitely filled with anguish. Greenlee studied his face for a moment but was forced to turn away. Tears had filled her dad’s eyes, and though it would have killed him to know, Greenlee felt humiliation engulf her as she realized that she had inadvertently brought her father to tears and caused him such pain.
“It was cruel and I still want to kill him, hurt him, and the others for that matter,” Matt Granger said. “And of course I can’t kill him. I’m angry, no, make that furious! I’m disgusted and mad at myself for not protecting you.” He couldn’t look at her, but he had to ask, “Greenlee, how did I not know?”
Greenlee put down the burger and whispered, “It’s easy, Dad, I didn’t even know!”
He stopped at a red light, released his grip on her hand, and took a sip of coffee. Clearing his throat, he tried to speak again, but he couldn’t. The words simply would not come. Rage had taken over and fearful of scaring her, he put his foot on the gas pedal and moved forward into the flow of traffic again.
“If you don’t go back, you’ll have to transfer. If you transfer, they win. You can’t let them win. You are better than they will ever dream of being. I hope you know that. I hope, Greenlee, that you see just how amazing you are. I think you should return to school. I don’t know how hard this will be for you. I’d be lying if I said I did. But I do know this”—he hesitated, choosing his words carefully—“you have to do this; you have to do this for yourself.”
He never said another word and Greenlee didn’t offer any either, there was no point. The inevitable was around the corner, but how she’d deal with the situation once she went back to school, facing the people who had put her through hell, remained to be seen.
The principal had been calling their house all day long. He didn’t mention the calls the school had made to Greenlee.
“We assure you,” the principal had said, “if anything else has happened, anything at all, we will handle it appropriately. Any student that may have been involved in this dreadful situation, if it was brought up again, will be disciplined to the full extent that the district is able to.” He hesitated and added, “Mrs. Granger, you have to know that we do not under any circumstances approve of this behavior.”
The principal waited for any assurance that he was handling the situation appropriately, but that affirmation wasn’t about to come. Mrs. Granger was angry and her words were sharp and bitter.
“What am I supposed to tell her?” she asked. “That you’re handling it as best you can?” She wasn’t thinking, just spouting words. “How do I explain that you’re handling the situation to the best of your ability? Greenlee is devastated and rightfully so. She’ll never get over this.”
She despised the sarcasm in her own voice; she tried to bite her tongue, but the poison, the bitter tone toward him, continued to flow, her voice hissing as the words attacked on behalf of her daughter.
“Clearly I’m not thinking straight,” she muttered through gritted teeth. “My apologies to you for my tone, but not to those kids, and for that, I make no apologies. I can’t imagine, as I’m sure you can’t, how Greenlee must be feeling right now.”
She didn’t wait for an answer or say goodbye; she simply hung up the phone and burst into tears. Where was Greenlee? Why hadn’t she called? She glanced at the phone, but it still didn’t ring.
Many authors hold multiple positions in other areas of our lives. However, regardless of how busy we are, nor how many books we have written, it does not change the fact that each time we have a new release we feel the same as any other author exposing themselves to the world for the very first time. Feelings are often are the combination of joy, nervous anticipation, excitement, and a slight element of fear (at least for me). Dellani Oakes is no exception to the rule of a woman with multiple roles; she is a busy wife, mother, Blog Talk Radio host, publisher, and an author. She lives in Florida, grew up in Western Nebraska, has lived in multiple states, and being a people watcher by nature, this has given her the opportunity to gather information over the years for her work.
She’s written multiple novels, but now has a new romance, set to release November 1, 2017, from Tirgearr Publishing, titled – So Much It Hurts. I’m thrilled to say I had the opportunity to interview Dellani about her work and her new novel.
The main character, Pia Donovan, Pia has just moved to the City from a tiny town in Nebraska. Overwhelmed by the fast pace, and after a long day of getting lost in the worst part of the city possible, she finally arrives at her destination, a historic, grand hotel in the downtown area. Picking her way across the rutted ground in front of the building, she loses her balance, practically falling into the arms of Flynn Chancellor. Handsome and friendly, Flynn presents a happy distraction for a girl who’s trying to recover from a broken heart.
1) You have written several novels. Is this your first romance?
Dellani: I have written other straight romances, but this is the first published romance. The others are either romantic suspense or sci-fi.
2) Does Pia resemble anyone you know?
Dellani: She resembles me in several ways. First of all, she’s an academic brat. My father was a college professor. For Pia, it’s her mom. We both grew up in Nebraska, though she’s from the east and I grew up out west. It’s still the small town girl vibe. Also, her musical loves are mine – hands down, exactly like me.
3) Is the protagonist, Pia, a heroine, victim or neither?
Dellani: She is certainly no victim, though she has some hurt in her life. She does suffer a little in the story, but she rises above. I wouldn’t call her a heroine, as there is no real villain. However, she is a strong female lead.
4) When I think of romance, I often think of love stories. Is this a typical love story?
Dellani: It is a love story, with a bit of a surprise. If you’re asking if this follows the standard romance formula, no. But it is a sweet story of loss, love and redemption.
5) I am sure some scenes maybe steamy. How would you rate them, R rated or X?
Dellani: This particular story is very mild. There are some heavy make-out scenes and certain acts are mentioned, but there is no graphic sex in the story. It’s more of an understood thing. Because there are some sensitive people out there, I would give it a light R. It would be appropriate for 17+
6) Being a visual writer (myself), do you have to visualize your scenes. If so, how fun 🙂 but on another note, is it emotionally draining at times being in someone else’s relationship?
Dellani: Yes and yes. I see the scenes play out in detail. I hear them talking in their individual voices, and try to capture their individual styles.
There are times when character’s don’t get along. That’s inevitable. It’s hard when the actions of one character adversely affect another. Sometimes, there’s reparation. Other times, there’s an irreparable split. Those are hard, especially if I really like both characters.
7) I know by nature you are an observer; the material is all around you, but writing romance, is it hard to find good relationships to mimic these days?
Dellani: I don’t really try to mimic any relationships. If anything, their couple dynamic is similar to my own marriage. We’ve been together 35 years and still have fun together. Our style is a little avaunt-garde but it works for us.
8) If you had to tell your audience/readers one thing about this book that you want them to know?
Dellani: Don’t pick it up expecting a “typical romance”. Anyone who knows my work already knows this, but new readers don’t. I have never followed the boy meets girl, boy and girl fight, boy and girl makeup and live horribly ever after. I can’t even imagine people hating one another throughout a book, then realizing they are in love. I give it a year—maybe.
My couples meet, feel a spark and work together against conflict. They resolve their issues and work through them together.
9) Flynn sounds as if he is gorgeous and delightful, but is he a nice person? Don’t answer if it gives away your story 🙂
Dellani: Flynn is a great guy, but he has some baggage that even he doesn’t recognize. He’s learning and growing as a person. I love Flynn. (I love Yancy and Pia as well) 🙂
10) While writing romance is hard to put original spins on twists that are already out there and make them your own?
Dellani: Yes, it can be. People have certain expectations for romance, which I don’t give them. I do my best to find ways to bring my characters closer, not drive them apart. Not to say they don’t have problems, but at least they try. Finding a new spin isn’t easy, but I hope I still deliver a good story.
11) Greenlee honestly could have been any kid, in any town, anywhere in America. Could Pia be any woman, anywhere, in any small town or is she special?
Dellani: She’s very universal, in my eyes. Although she is a musician, she could be anyone, anywhere—a displaced small town girl in the big city. I love that she’s like that, but retains her individuality – just as Greenlee did. (I love her)
12) Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
Dellani: I love all my leads, but as far as favorite – I’m gonna have to go with Oz. He’s not a major character, but he is pivotal. Oz is special, a young man with Asperger’s, who lives down the hall from Pia. He is fiercely loyal, intuitive and sees into a person with a great clarity. He talks to Pia about seeing the pattern. At first, she’s not quite sure, but when she sings for a group of the residents, she sees it quite clearly. Glancing at Oz, she realizes that he knows what she’s seeing. It’s a cool moment.
13) What would you tell your fans excites you about this release?
Dellani: I love this book! I fell in love with the characters, I love the plot twists and I can’t wait for it to be out so that they can enjoy it too.
14) Did you learn anything about your self while writing this piece?
Dellani: Yes, I learned that I’m very sarcastic and have bizarre sense of humor. Oh wait, I knew that already. Let’s say that the dialogue made that abundantly clear.
15) I cannot go back and reread my pieces for a long time. I would change too many things (it is a personal author/writer thing). Now your new book is ready for release, is there a single thing you would have written differently and will you ever go back and rewrite it?
Dellani: Usually, I’m the same way. I read my books later and find things I’d change. This time, I can’t say that. I am really pleased with how this came out. Of course, five years from now, I might feel differently, but right now, no.
16) Will you write a sequel to this piece?
Dellani: I’m not sure about a sequel. It’s possible, but I think I tied up the loose threads successfully. However, I’m very likely to bring these characters into other books set in the same city. There are a few incidental characters that the three core characters encounter, who are featured in other of my books (which aren’t published yet).
17) Is there an element of mystery to this romance?
Dellani: For once, there is no real mystery involved. Since I mostly write romantic suspense, I thought it would be interesting to break away from that for once. I think I was successful.
18) How do you define success as an author?
Dellani: If I get positive feedback from readers, I feel I’ve been successful. I would love to be the writer making millions (who wouldn’t?) but I’m realistic. Those contracts are rare. If I make even one reader laugh, cry or sweat, I have done my job.
19) Define the best makebelieve day as a writer?
Dellani: My best makebelieve day would be to have a movie company call me up and tell me they want to turn one of my books into a movie and I can pick the leads.
20) If you could speak to a stadium full of Dellani Oakes fans about this book, what is the very first thing you would say after the initial introduction?
Dellani: I think I’d channel comedienne Minnie Pearl. I’d walk onto the stage in a big, flowered hat, wave my hand and say, “Howdy!” Once I had everyone laughing, then I’d start to talk.
“You weren’t kidding about how close it all is. I’ll have to explore Making Music soon. I can’t go long without a fix.”
“We can go in now, if you want.” He turned to face the store.
The front window was filled with shiny saxophones, sparkling flutes, and tantalizing objects Flynn couldn’t name. It caught his artist’s eye, drawing him in.
“Today’s goal is campus.”
“As the lady wishes.” He swung her around to face the way they’d been going. “I should see if they’ll let me do a camo piece there. I could have fun with all the shiny objects. Matching things like metal and leather is tricky.”
“I imagine so. The textures and the way it catches the light. And suede versus tanned hide would be an additional challenge.”
“You must have taken painting classes.”
“A few. Mom thought we should all have a well-rounded education. Her granddad was an artist in Mexico. Quite well known. Maybe you know the name. Rafael Dominguez?”
Flynn stopped in his tracks. “No! Really? Shit!” His hand flew to his head, searching for a cap that wasn’t there. He grasped his hair instead. “I am the hugest fan of his work. My first copies were of his Santa Rosada Sitting. The colors are so hard to match, I couldn’t do it justice. It’s phenomenal.”
Pia’s eyes watered and she sniffled. “That was my great-grandmother. He painted that of her just before she died.”
“The play of light…the textures…his use of bold colors. It just leapt off the canvas. Incredible! Is it true he made his own paints?”
“Yes. Mom even has some containers of his original paints. Would you believe, they’re still good? We don’t use them, of course, but Mom has his recipes. Virtually unintelligible, though. We’re hoping someone will be able to read through them and figure them out. He used a very bizarre shorthand, since he couldn’t read or write.”
Flynn dug his hands into his pockets, biting his lower lip. “I need a project for my final semester. I chose the work of Rafael Dominguez. Do you have copies of the notes, or could you get them? Because I would be honored to try to translate them.”
“I do! Well, Mom does. We loaned the originals to a museum, along with some of his paintings, and sketches. They scanned them for us and put them in a display case. I can make that happen.”
Swept away by the moment, Flynn grabbed her face and kissed her. It was brash and impulsive, but he didn’t even think. As soon as he realized what he was doing, he considered stopping, but Pia took his face in her hands and kissed him back. From there, it took on a life of its own and he couldn’t stop. Sighing contentedly, Pia disengaged and smiled up at him.
“Unexpected,” she murmured. “Nice.”
“I’m sorry. I got carried away…”
“Don’t apologize unless I rack your balls.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled her close, resting his forehead against hers. “Does that mean I can hope for another?”
“We’ll see.” She cut her eyes at him, grinning. Swishing away, she walked down the street.
Being a mother of two teen girls, I am often surrounded by groups of teenagers. The stories that they share from time to time are both disturbing and concerning. Teen novels often glorify teen dating and teen romances, but there are so many dangers out there in the real world that many people do not always discuss the ugly side of dating for fear of shaming their kids or admitting it could happen in their family communities. After listening to more than one story about terrible, dangerous dating experiences of teens, interviewing teens and listening to their examples of neurotic behavior when where actual individuals personalities were compromised and changed while dating due to their emotions, I was compelled to write a novel based on the ugly side of teen dating. I set about writing a book titled Bitter Betrayal, that shows the parallel lives of a teen boy and girl and how they think and react differently to the exact same situations that they find directly or indirectly involved in. I also wanted to point out how certain situations become dangerous and life-changing within in a blink of an eye.
The purpose of the book is to demonstrate how the simplest actions in the name of fun can have devastating consequences. Some results are everlasting and can’t be undone. And the circumstances and decisions themselves, due to the maturity level of impressionable teens, is often confusing and leaves lasting emotional scars that can take years to overcome, if ever. Consequences of reckless actions can put kids, families, friends, and communities at risk. I hope that the story I’ve written triggers discussions, emotions, and allows teens—girls and boys—to make smart, intuitive decisions, and that they remember to respect each other’s boundaries.
I understand that the Young Adult (YA) category covers the ages of thirteen through eighteen years. But I believe impressionable teens—thirteen through sixteen years old—aren’t as emotionally mature as the older teens, yet they’re in the same category. For this reason, I intentionally kept the language and descriptive scenes in Bitter Betrayal clean so all teens could enjoy the book. The book is a two-time award-winner (The Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold. (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, and an Apple Literary Summer Ebook Award winner). Here’s an excerpt; enjoy.
Cover for Me
“They say there are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth; there’s no exception to this one. But whose truth will you believe . . . his or hers?”
DTB CU there!
(Don’t text back see you there)
The message flashed across her phone, and that’s all it took. Not even a whole sentence and suddenly all she could think about was getting out of class. As her fingers frantically tapped away on her phone, Payton didn’t hear a single word from the kid speaking nervously in front of the class. Looking back, what was she thinking?!?!
Payton: Cover for me
Payton: Really? J
Aubrey: BTW 182
Payton: U don’t hate me 🙂 Luv u
Five, four, three, two, and the bell finally rang. Payton shot out the door. Aubrey, her best friend since sixth grade, shoved the books Payton had left behind in her own backpack. Payton’s behavior, though frustrating at times, wasn’t surprising. She was head crazy about that boy, Reece Townsend, and it helped that Aubrey liked him as well.
With less than ten minutes to freshen up, get across campus to her car, and make it to the dam in time to meet Reece, Payton didn’t have time for small talk with anyone. Dodging in and out of students, she avoided eye contact with as many people as she possibly could. The boy’s football coach, Coach Duncan, was headed her way. His voice, undeniably recognizable, bounced off the walls and echoed through the corridor before he was physically present. When finally in view, she purposely looked at her feet and rushed past him. No way did she want him stopping her and stalling her with questions about her brother and his playing time at college.
“Whoa girl, where’s the fire?”
Coach grabbed her arm as she tried to rush past him and her whole body swung around, forcing her to face him. Arm still in his grasp, he shook his head.
“Slow it down, girl! If only my boys had moved half as fast this morning.”
Managing a slight smile, she pointed toward the bathroom. Coach raised his hands in the air and shook them back and forth, stopping her from saying another single word. He wanted no part of what could pop out of that girl’s mouth. She was liable to say something for the shock value alone. He didn’t need to know, want to know, or care to know, for that matter. He let her on her way, no questions asked. A healthy spritz of perfume, lip gloss, duck-lip practice, and Payton climbed into her car. She must have sped, because she made it in record time.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
The love of Payton’s life, well, at least to a sixteen-year-old, love-struck teen. One look at his smile and she melted. It was bad enough that they attended different schools, but he was a senior, in the process of narrowing down his college options, which meant she’d be stuck there without him. The thought of it made her cringe. On a daily basis she obsessed about him leaving, even when he asked her not to, but she couldn’t help it. Not today, she told herself, pushing the thoughts out of her head.
The best part of his day was right then, as he watched her walk toward him. He was sitting on the back of his tailgate, swinging his legs back and forth, waiting for her to join him. He tapped the cool metal, her cue to jump up next to him. She grinned. So freaking hot! He always looked that way to her, and all she wanted to do was kiss that face of his! Her grin turned into a giggle.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Whatever!” A cute smirk crossed his face. “Something, or you wouldn’t be laughing.”
She grabbed his face in her hands, laughed out loud, and kissed him before hopping up next to him on the tailgate. Right before she jumped up, Reece playfully pulled her back toward him instead. Now face-to-face, she brushed his sandy-brown hair to one side, revealing his green eyes. She could get lost in them; they were that pretty.
His breath hit her face. Truth be told, all she wanted at that moment was for him to kiss her, really kiss her. Move, Payton. Move now, she thought as she stepped back and took a deep breath.
“I’m just looking at you, that’s all. You’re kinda cute like that.”
He rolled his eyes. But Payton could tell by the boyish grin on his face that her comment had pleased him. She loved that look on his face. He looked a few years younger, like a real kid. It was sweet. She stared a second too long, capturing that face a moment longer in her mind.
“You know I’m supposed to say that kinda stuff,” he said as seriously as he could, but it wasn’t working.
He tapped the tailgate again and held out his hand. So thoughtful! Payton thought, and this time she jumped up and joined him. The long cotton skirt she’d chosen to wear that day wrapped around her legs as she swung them back and forth off the back of the truck. Sandals, painted toes, and a T-shirt completed her outfit. Her long dark hair, with a delicate headband complimenting her outfit, finished off her look.
“You look hot. But I know you know that, so I’m not going to tell you!” He laughed. “Just kidding. You look amazing. Beautiful as usual!”
Payton’s face lit up. She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Funny thing, though, she thought Reece was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. They’d actually argued about that statement once. Guys aren’t beautiful, he’d stated. They could be handsome. Good looking, sexy, dope, hot, or even cute, but not beautiful! Men were not beautiful. But it didn’t matter what he thought. To Payton he was, and she could look at him all day long.
“Hey, you never did answer my question,” he said.
“What question was that?”
“Why were you late?”
“You idiot!” She nudged him playfully. “I’m not late; you’re early, and for the record, I’m the one who’s usually waiting for you!”
He held her by the elbows, leaned in, and kissed her quickly on the lips. She would have kissed him back, but he’d already pulled away. Just as well, she wouldn’t have wanted to stop, and that wouldn’t have been good, since time wasn’t on their side.
“Aubrey covering for you?” he asked as he rummaged through a sack next to him.
“Yep. Advisory. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
She was always late getting back when they met for lunch, but there was no way she was going to tell him that. He’d cut their time short for sure. Payton had never struggled with confidence before Reece, but he unknowingly made her question herself. She didn’t need to worry, though; she was popular, a good student, considered hot, and well liked.
“Whole or half?” he asked, holding a sandwich in his hand.
“Half,” she answered, knowing she couldn’t eat in front of him anyway.
The breeze was cool but not cold, a perfect day for a picnic on the back of her boyfriend’s truck. Why did they have to go back to school?
Reece’s phone buzzed. She didn’t glance at it, but she wanted to. It buzzed again. He didn’t read the text, but did check the time. Pointing at the sandwich she hadn’t touched, he nudged her to take a bite. She didn’t think he’d noticed she hadn’t eaten, but he had.
“We’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up. Eat.”
She leaned into his arm. It felt good just being close to him. The feeling of closeness made her want to kiss him, and she had no idea if he knew that. It was so stupid and irritating that she felt this way every time they were together. Not to mention when it was time to head back to school. It made leaving incredibly difficult. Payton missed him before they’d even left. Surely this was normal for a teen like her, wasn’t it? She looked at her sandwich just as Reece took a bite of his.
“I’m not really hungry.” She hesitated for a second, opened up her mouth to speak, but closed it again.
“What is it?” he asked, knowing she wanted to say something.
The words unexpectedly flew out of her mouth, surprising even her.
“We could cut class.”
Reece’s eyes darted toward her.
“Stay here and hang out a bit longer,” she added.
Payton Phillips suggesting they cut class. Sweet! He wasn’t sure if he was shocked, but he was definitely impressed that it was her idea. They’d been together nearly two years, but she’d never once insinuated they should cut class before. Grinning, he shook his head.
“I can’t. I’ve got a test this afternoon. No pass, no play, remember?”
Even though she knew he was right, her heart sank.
“But I can’t believe you just suggested that—it’s something I might think of, might, but I didn’t think you would.” Reese took a drink of his Coke. “Um. OK then. I think you just kinda got yourself in a bind. I might hold you to it later!”
She didn’t care. Hell, Advisory or Reece?
Seriously . . . was that a real question? Worth the trouble if she got caught? Hell yeah! Reece jumped off the tailgate of his white dodge and stood in front of her. One arm wrapped around her neck, one around her waist, he kissed her, a real kiss, and she kissed him back. An incoming text interrupted them. Flushed cheeks, heart racing, and although Payton wouldn’t have agreed in that moment, it was for the best that the text came in. They may not have left that spot for a while longer, and then they both would have been late. Not to mention Aubrey couldn’t cover for that long. After all, Aubrey wasn’t a miracle worker. Covering for lunch and half of sixth period, Advisory, was no problem, but more than that rose the red flags. Reece’s phone buzzed again; this time he answered the text.
Reece: K CUS – DTB
(OK See you soon, don’t text back)
“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
Reece shrugged his shoulders. “Sure.”
“How come when you text me sometimes, and apparently others.” Her raised eyebrows indicated she’d read his response.
“Yeah,” he said hesitantly.
“You don’t let me text you back?”
He looked puzzled.
“What are you talking about?”
“What’s with the DTB, don’t text back?” she asked.
Reece shoved his phone into his back pocket and packed up the trash. Payton waited for his response.
“What? Seriously?” He laughed. “That’s your question?”
She nodded. “Yeah. That’s it,” she said, moving her foot in tiny circles in the dirt. “Like, if you text me first, why can’t I text you a response back?”
He grabbed his phone and pointed to her texts. Now she wished she hadn’t asked such a stupid question. It felt like she was invading his privacy or something, but a simple explanation hadn’t seemed too much to ask for a second ago.
“Really, you want to know why?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It’s simple. Sometimes I’m in class. Sometimes I can’t talk for various reasons. Like right now, I’m here with you, and dip-wad Walker is looking for me. Or sometimes I’m driving, at practice, whatever.”
He glanced at his phone to check the time. “But right now I’ve gotta go, and so do you.”
DTB. A way to communicate without communicating. Cute, wasn’t it? Was it? Why was she suddenly questioning it?
I can’t believe it’s been five years! You know they say for a 5th anniversary you’re supposed to buy wood but the only thing I can think of that a writer would want that’s wooden is maybe a pencil? Okay, how about a paperweight? Hey, you know paper is technically made from trees, imagine it, I can be the Oprah of loose leaf paper…
Call me crazy but I don’t see anyone getting excited over paper products. As you see, tradition isn’t very helpful when it comes to a fifth anniversary. However instead of going on about how lame these gift traditions are, I’d rather explain why we decided to do this blog in the first place…
Once upon a time, a group of authors got together and decided form a collective blog where we shared book excerpts, writing tips, or just plain ranted. Today, with over 1,100 posts, we’ve surprised even ourselves by the amount of work we’ve done and I can only speak for myself but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here. If it weren’t for this blog, I wouldn’t have started, let alone finished my romance novel, Fedelta.
This blog keeps me accountable, it forced me to take my career seriously. It also keeps me surrounded by other authors who are also pursuing their dream and that’s infectious.
As I look back on the last five years, I noticed that many of the authors that started out with us are no longer around. Some had health problems or money issues, while one of us actually died! It’s been quite the journey nonetheless and the fact that we’re still here, and still writing, tells you about our determination. This isn’t our hobby, we’re serious!
Anyway, enough of my babbling, I wanted to showcase the works of our authors here and hope you take the time to pick up one of our books. Just click on the graphics, and it will take you to that author’s Amazon page.
Dellani Oakes Author of Sci-Fi & Romance:
J.D. Holiday: Author of Children’s Books & Short Stories:
Karen Vaughan: Author of Cozy Mysteries:
Amanda M. Thrasher: Author of YA & Children’s Books:
Ruth Davis Hays Author of Fantasy Novels:
Rachel Rueben: Author of Romance & YA
Stephanie Osborn: Author of Sci-Fi & Mystery Novels:
I guess the moral to this story is, to always surround yourself with people who are doing the thing you want to do. Despite what the naysayers tell you, you can succeed at a career in publishing. It just takes time and dedication. A few years ago, there was a TED Talk concerning the subject of grit and how success is usually determined not by intelligence or talent, but by grit. Grit is often defined as determination and/or resolve. After seeing that video, this blog immediately came to mind, because I can say without a doubt, that the Cereal Authors are some of the grittiest authors you will ever meet and I mean that with all the love in the world. ❤
Anyways, happy anniversary guys, it’s been a privilege to know you all and to be part of this blog. And here’s to the next chapter of our journey…
Most of the images in this post are courtesy of Pixabay
Our spotlight finally falls on the lovely Amanda Thrasher. Honestly, she doesn’t need a spotlight, because she lights up the room with her smile. Publisher, author, mother of teens (the woman is a saint) she’s constantly on the go. We’re pleased she was able to take a few minutes from her busy life to drop in and say hello.
Amanda M. Thrasher was born in England, moved to Texas and resides there still. Author of children’s books including picture books, middle-grade chapter books, young adult (YA) novels, and a reader’s theater written for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center (DRSR) Driving on the Right Side of the Road program, titled What If . . . A Story of Shattered Lives. She conducts workshops, writes a blog, and contributes to an online magazine.
Amanda is a multiple Gold Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards in YA, General Fiction, and early reader, chapter books. The 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 entries from more than 55 countries. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers, and members of the media look for the MCA mother-and-child Honoring Excellence seal of approval when selecting quality products and services for children and families.
The Greenlee Project, a book about the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying, also won the first place Young Adult Book Award at the 16th annual North Texas Book Festival (NTBF). The NTBF helps schools, public libraries, and literacy programs in North Texas. Since its inception, it has awarded more than $45,000.00 in grants for literacy.
As Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, an independent publisher founded by authors, she assists authors with their work and continues to write.
Have you ever, over the years, lost your self in a certain piece (novel) to such a degree your family, friends, and even YOU, didn’t recognize yourself, and if so was it worth it?
I remember so clearly the day I decided to write The Greenlee Project. It wasn’t with the usual excitement or exhilaration that I typically feel when starting a new project; it was a with a sense of urgency and desperation to try and do something, anything, to stop kids from being so cruel to each other through social media. Having teens at home, watching their actions, and listening to the words of their conversations and their friend’s conversations, sitting on school campuses, attending football games, and visiting with students that shared their bullying stories, the more disgusted with social media and bullying I became. I knew The Greenlee Project would have to be written.
When I created my character, Greenlee, she could have been any kid, anywhere, in any part of the world, and that made the task of creating her brutal believable journey that much sadder; she was so normal. It put me in a very dark place. It was incredibly depressing researching all of the lost kids due to bullying, and ensuring the proper emotions from all parties involved (Greenlee, bullies, parents, and the friends in the book), literally had me in tears on multiple occasions while writing scenes.
Withdrawing noticeably from my family and friends, rarely engaging in conversations or laughter, I finally finished the book. It was a relief. My family constantly asked, “What is wrong with you?” I didn’t have a right answer because I didn’t know. I believe writing ‘The Greenlee Project’ was worth it because I think the book helps tweens, teens, and parents, reflect on the effects of cruel words and social media bullying has on others and their lives. I felt a different kind of sadness with Bitter Betrayal; almost a need to tell the ugly truth of consequences and action vs. glorifying teen issues.
Describe your Muse and the working relationship you share.
Um. Mine honestly change with each new book that I write; often the main character, but sometimes the secondary or auxiliary character will play a stronger role. I put myself completely in ‘their’ head, and it helps me to write what they would feel, do, think, or how they’d act, etc. It allows me to pay attention to the world as they would, often in unlikely places, such as grocery stores, movies, and football games. Being observant but in their shoes.
How long does it take you to write and illustrate a book?Or, What is the longest it has taken you to write a book?
I’m not an illustrator, but I’m a slow writer. 1) Time. 2) I cannot write, just to write. I have never struggled with writer’s block, knock on wood, and always know the story that I’m going to write before I start. I tend to map it out, complete with beginning, middle, and end. Of course, it can change along the way. But if I can’t sit down and write without chaos, I feel rushed and frustrated. My words are empty and merely appear on the paper, flat. I prefer to write with emotion and feeling; words that count, not solely for a word count. Therefore it often takes me a year to write a piece; but that includes the entire process, edit, etc.
What are your publishing goals? Meaning: Would you like to become a bestseller or just make a comfortable living at it?
I can’t imagine any writer/author that wouldn’t want to become a best-seller, but it’s not my place to say that. I would love to be on that list, but not for the reasons people may think. It will always be my goal to write the’ one,’ the legacy piece. The ‘one’ that lasts the test of time. The ‘one’ that when I’m dead and gone, and my children’s, children, are grown, people will say to them and others, “I love this book, it’s my favorite. It touched me and made me think.” Maybe they cried or got mad, laughed or got sad, but it meant something. They may not remember my name, but if they say, “I can’t remember who wrote it, but I can tell you the story by heart,” that would mean as much. I think writers, writers in it for the long haul, the ones that are going to write no matter what would love a legacy piece. What we write will be left behind. If it touches others, have wonderful is that?
What does your favorite book say to you? What do you feel it might say to someone else? (could be either your own work or that of someone else)
I have a few favorite books. Books from my childhood that I’ve never forgotten, they sit in my office today. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. It taught me how to love a great story. Along with Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which taught me to never judge a book by its cover (characters). Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, my all-time favorite classic story, Pride and Prejudice a close second, taught me that love, money, and betrayal go hand in hand. And I love great biographies; reading about the lives of people that have shaped the world. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; I loved this book! Many interesting lessons in this book, but what stood out to me was the demanding the best of everything, materials, design, people, vs. being able to just mass produce, manufacturing, to define your product or company and stand out. He was eccentric but brilliant. Demanding, but at times odd. The biography was well written; loved it!
What makes you laugh or cry?
I need to laugh more…wow…that sounds awful! I work too many hours and do not have enough downtime or writing time. But if I had to say what makes me laugh it would be the simple things such as an off colored joke from time to time, things that my teens think are genuinely funny, but as they’re trying to tell me, it’s not funny at all, that in itself makes it funny. My grandkids at times, again, when they don’t realize it, and my dogs.
What makes me cry: I hate being hurt, who doesn’t? And will limit my time with people because of past relationships from years ago. I have deep empathy for others and their situations, but can’t help but tear up if it involves children. Kids. They get me every time.