Sunday, January 29, 2012

Venture's Heart: A Fighter's Heart

I'm excited to present Venture's heart from the Venture series by author R.H. Russell. Venture is the first male character I've collected, so I can imagine he's thrilled with the heart motif. :p

I don't know how to tell you how I feel when I fight. Free. In control, even though in so many ways, I know that I'm not. I love the feel of the rough canvas under my feet, of landing a punch just right, of reversing my opponent and bringing him down, just when he thought he had me. I even love the burning in my chest when a round goes long. And the victory of simply surviving, going the distance with one of the bigger, better guys.

My first six months on the mat, this little prick named Border beat the stuffing out of me. I was the first bondsman to step on the mat, and Border didn't like that one bit. I'm a member of the lowest class in the world. I don't deserve to be at Beamer's Center, and I'm not to be trusted. The fact that I've gotten into more than my share of scuffles sure doesn't help my case.

Border got plenty of chances to try to prove that I didn't belong, because I picked him every chance I got. Every time I sparred with him, it was a chance for him to pound me, but it was also a chance for me to figure him out. When I got close, I could see the fear in his eyes. Not just fear of what I'd be able to do to him one day, but fear that he was wrong. That something about the order in our world was very, very wrong. And that because of me, other people were going to see it, too.

I'm bonded to Grant Fieldstone. He's a good man, and it ought to be enough that he treats me well, that I never go hungry, that I even get to have an education. I work hard for Master Fieldstone, but he promised my mother I'd be trained to do something other than be a servant, so that when I was nineteen and my contract was up, I could choose freedom, and I could support myself.

Master Fieldstone took me to Beamer's, one of the best centers for training boys in the fighting arts, because I was out of control, and he didn't know what else to do with me. Now I get to take sport fighting lessons just for fun. The guys at Beamer's beat some sense into me when I get out of line, but there's nowhere else I'd rather be.
Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Things could be a lot worse for the orphaned son of parents who grew up bonded, and I know it. And I am grateful.

But it isn't enough. You're from a different world. So I guess it doesn't matter if I tell you the truth. The truth is, I've always wanted to be a prize fighter--a champion in the arena, just me and my opponent and our bare hands and feet battling for the title. I know I have what it takes, and my trainer, Earnest, does, too. I can see it on his face. He wants it for me almost as bad as he wanted it for himself.

I don't know how I'm going to tell him that when I turn fourteen, the age of choosing a career path, I'm going to stay at Beamer's to train--but not as a prize fighter. As a guard. I'll end up working for some wealthy merchant, or rounding up my friends outside the pub when they get too rowdy.

Earnest won't understand why I'm doing it. Why I'm giving up what I love. No one will, except for Jade. She's my master's daughter, but she's also been my best friend from the time we were little. Jade loves to watch me practice. A fighting center is no place for a lady like Jade, but the guys know better than to mess with her. And they sure don't mind having her around. She's beautiful. And no, I'm not about to tell her that. She'd probably pop me right in the nose if I did.

Jade knows things about me that no one else does. That no one else ever will. She knows what it is to want more. She knows all of who I really am, even the part I'll never get to be--not just a fighter, but the best in the world. The Champion of All Richland.

Venture Delving, of Twin Rivers, Richland.

About the awesome author R.H. Russell--The ambitions, the struggles, and the triumphs of the fighters in The Venture Books are inspired by the author’s involvement with combat sports. Eighteen years on the mat with talented young fighters have given R.H. Russell not only the experience to write about fighters in an authentic way, but a heart for the fighter in all of us.

Venture Delving is a bonded servant, a member of the lowest class in the world. Already fatherless, when he loses his mother, he veers from energetic to out of control. But when Venture's rage saves the life of Jade, his best friend and his master's daughter, Venture finds himself in the last place he ever expected—a center renowned for training young boys to be professional fighters.

When Venture realizes he's fallen in love with Jade, he knows that the only way he'll ever have her, the only way he'll ever be free to live the life he's meant to live, is to defy convention, common sense, the trust of those he cares about most—and sometimes the law—and become the best fighter in the world, the Champion of All Richland. Venture must battle not only rival fighters, but the ghosts of his past and the members of a privileged warrior class who stand between him and his dream.

Book one of the Venture series. Approximately 60,000 words (About 240 standard pages).

Ages thirteen and up.

In Venture Unleashed, Venture Delving leaves his home in Twin Rivers to train at the renowned Champions Center, in pursuit of his dream to escape his bonded class by becoming a champion fighter. There, Venture meets two men who hold the title he longs to claim himself one day—Champion of All Richland. But a violent encounter with one of them nearly ends his life and destroys his dreams.

Thrust into the center of growing political turmoil and confronted with choices he never imagined he’d have to make, Venture must find a way to keep his hope and his love for Jade, his master’s daughter, alive. Thanks to the privileged Crested warrior class who’d rather see him die than live his dream, the worst nightmares of Venture’s past and his future are about to follow him onto the mat as he fights the match of his life.

72,000 words (about 290 standard pages). Ages 15 and up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ivy's Heart: My Favorite Photo

I'm excited to present Ivy's heart as part of Emily Casey's blog tour. The next stop on the tour is Tia Nevitt's blog on Sunday.

Emily Casey's The Fairy Tale Trap is about a girl named Ivy who gets sucked into Beauty and the Beast. She’s modern and snarky and she turns the fairy tale on its ear. But she has a vulnerable side that you get glimpses of every now and then. Most of them center around her mom and dad as she struggles to get back home.

Ivy’s Heart

Like most girls my age, I have a special connection with my dad. Unfortunately, he’s in the military, so he spends a lot of time overseas. I worry about him when he’s away because, you know, anything could happen.

That’s when I bring out my favorite photo. It’s a picture of him when he finished his first-ever marathon. He’s kind of a small guy, and he’s really skinny. We used to joke that just the sight of him would give the Kenyans second thoughts. His clothes are dusty, but he’s got this big goofy grin on his face. Whenever I look at that picture, I imagine that, wherever he is, my dad is happy, with the same goofy grin.

This picture means everything to me. We move around a lot, sometimes without Dad, so the photo is sometimes the only connection I have to him.

My story starts with me looking for the picture. It’s gone missing. I don’t know it at the time, but the picture was stolen. Someone took it because they knew how much it meant to me. If I had known the picture held so much power, I would have guarded it more closely.

But even without having it in my hands, the picture pulled me through some tight situations. There’s a part in The Fairy Tale Trap where my friends and I were under a spell. Thinking about the people I love was hard because the spell fogged up my brain. But the picture was still so vivid in my memory, my dad’s love found its way to me, even when I was stuck in a fairy tale.

Some day, I’ll get that picture back.

Note from Emily: Ivy’s dad is wearing a race number in the photo—number 2504. This particular number has significance for me, too. It’s the race number I wore for my first half-marathon in March 2010.

Emily is an awesome author who can be found on her blogFacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. Her book, The Fairy Tale Trap is available on Amazon.
Ivy has always been afraid of mirrors, but she never knew why. Then one of them sucks her into the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. All she wants is to find her way home. But when she tries to escape, Ivy breaks the wrong spell. Now Beast is not so gentle-on-the-inside, Beauty is falling for the wrong prince, and Ivy is no closer to figuring out how to get through the enchanted forest that traps her.

With magic mirrors, dancing fairies, a sadistic pixie, and other random fairy tale twists, Ivy doesn’t know what’s safe or who to trust. Can she escape the fairy tale trap?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Golden Apple Presents Suz and Noe from I Adore Books and Film

Happy Friday, everyone! I'm just finishing up with The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series, so hopefully I'll have more blogging/chatting time in the near future. :D

I'm really excited to introduce an incredible book blogger today. And because they are so awesome, I'm happy to present not one, but two: Suz and Noe of I Adore Books and Film!

What do you love most about books?

Suz: I love the movie that plays in my head, the tone that is set by my own experiences.  The relationship I have with the writer is unique to me and my venture into their world. Unlike film, where the director can manipulate the scenario and characters, with creative features, writing is subjective and solely between the author and reader. 

What about a story catches you in the beginning and doesn’t let go until you reach the end?

Noe and Suz: It’s the intimate details. Example, film can help you feel sympathy for a character, but the written account of someone’s actions tap into an empathetic point of view. We’re all about the details, whether they are cleverly revealed as in Cormac McCarthy’s work, or in your face, per say, as in C.S. Lewis’s work.

Oh yeah, we love a good twist, too!

What’s your favorite kind of hero? Your favorite kind of villain?

Noe and Suz: My favorite kind of hero has to be one that finds the inner strength to carry on and not necessarily in the right fashion. But he/she has to be good hearted.

(Suz) It’s why I loved the Stieg Larsson trilogy so much. I love Lisbeth Salander, though she wasn’t always careful or thinking straight. But her intentions were good. (Noe) I like to read historical fiction, and mainly stories set during WWII. I love characters that endure, regardless of what they are put through because of their faith.

Our favorite type of villain? (Suz) I’ll answer this! I love psychological thrillers. I love finding out the bad guy all along was the main character to begin with! You know, like The Shining… Nothing scares me more than a lack of humanity, driven by insanity. And maybe a touch of supernatural. Creepy!!

Five books you’d take with you as you flee a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion? (E-readers don’t count.)

Noe and Suz: (Noe) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series! (Suz) I’d take obviously, the bible. Best book ever! And then C.S. Lewis’s collection (yes, it comes in one book at Barne’s and Noble. That counts!) Probably anything from Anne Rice, and the Zombie Survival Guide… for knowledge!

Favorite book as a child? Favorite book now? How have your tastes changed/remained the same?

(Suz) When I was young I was really into Greek Mythology, until I discovered Edgar Allen Poe. I couldn’t understand a lot of his work, but The Black Cat and The Pit and the Pendulum really struck a chord with me. I still enjoy scary stories to this day, again, especially ones that are psychological in nature. I think Stephen King is the master of this type of work, but I love a good cheesy Dean Koontz book, or even Mary Higgins Clark. 

Thanks so much, Suz and Noe!

I adore Books and Film You can find Suz and Noe on their blog. As always, you can check past and present Golden Apples up in the tabs or by clicking here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mara's Heart: Frozen in Time

I'm excited to introduce another new feature to my blog today.

At least twice a month, I will be collecting hearts. >:) Character hearts. Each guest poster will be a character from a recent release (or not, depending on my mood) who will post about something that is at the very foundation of their being. Their heart. And, because I love you all, I wanted to share the hearts with you too. O:)

So, warm welcome to Mara--a character from Shana Norris's newest release: Surfacing.

Courtesy of fangol

Frozen in Time

I received my first camera when I was seven years old. Pink and plastic, oversized buttons and a viewfinder that gave a fish-eye effect to everything, it was the love of my life.

I had always loved to take pictures. My mom would always try to take pictures of me and the various things I did—being the only child of a single mother, any and everything I did was deemed worthwhile for posterity—but somehow I’d always end up with the camera and it would be me taking pictures of her and our tiny apartment and the little Chihuahua that lived next door in 2-C.

So, deciding that the only way she’d ever get to take pictures with her camera was to get me my own camera, my mom surprised me with a child-sized pink camera for my seventh birthday. It was nowhere near top-of-the-line, but I loved that thing to death. I captured almost every moment of my life from seven to twelve with that pink camera, which eventually became scratched, battered, and faded to a dull rose color.

For my twelfth birthday, the only thing I wanted, the only thing I hinted for months leading up to it, was a digital SLR camera with a few different lenses. It was asking for a lot, considering money wasn’t something my mom had in excess. To tell you the truth, I never really expected to get it and I gave myself pep talks in the days before my birthday, telling myself that no matter what kind of camera I did or didn’t get, don’t let Mom know I was disappointed. My deadbeat dad had already upset Mom enough to last her a lifetime and I never wanted to add to that.

So I plastered on a smile during my small birthday party when Mom handed me her wrapped gift. I pulled back the paper, willing myself to keep that smile in place as I opened…

My brand new digital SLR camera. Not the newest model, but slightly older. Still, it had all the features I wanted and three interchangeable lenses. It was the greatest gift I ever received from anyone. I may have even cried a little, and I don’t cry easily.

It’s been four years since I received the camera and it’s still a permanent fixture around my neck. I carry it everywhere. After my mom’s diagnosis, I filled up a memory card with pictures of her. As the cancer ate at her body and mind, I took pictures of every day I had left with her.

My camera has always been a way for me to capture time, but after my mom’s death, I realized it was a way for me to capture people too. I can turn on my camera, cycle through the photos on the little screen, and go back to when my mom was healthy and happy. Back to when the only thing I worried about was if a certain boy in school liked me. Back to a girl I used to be once.

-Mara Westray

Mara is the main character of Surfacing by Shana Norris. She can often be seen snapping photos with her camera around the small island of Swans Landing, North Carolina.

Shana is an awesome author who can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can learn more about her here.

Sixteen-year-old Mara Westray has just lost her mother, and now, being shipped off to live with the father she doesn’t know is not how she imagined grieving. She’s already counting down the days until she turns eighteen and can leave the tiny island of Swans Landing.

But from the moment she steps off the ferry, nothing is as ordinary as it looks. Whispers of a haunting song on the wind make her see impossible things, and she isn’t sure she can trust her judgment about what is real and what isn’t anymore. Maybe she can’t even trust her judgment about quiet Josh Canavan, whose way of speaking in riddles and half-truths only confuses her more, luring her deeper into the secrets hidden beneath the ocean’s surface.

As she tries to unravel the events that led to her mom fleeing the island sixteen years ago, Mara finds that the biggest secret of all is only the beginning.

SURFACING is an approximately 78,000 word/314 page young adult paranormal romance.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Golden Apple Presents Diana of Diana's Amazing Book Adventures

Welcome to 2012, everyone! Sorry I've been so MIA of late, but one of my New Year resolutions is to be a little less, erm, intense when it comes to writing, thus hopefully avoiding burn out. We shall see if I can keep it this year. O:)

A special thanks to all of you who have stuck around. I'm hoping to be a lot more responsive comment-wise and return comments a lot more frequently. As certain deadlines approach, I might wobble a little, but hopefully I won't be knocked out of orbit.

I'm happy to say that this blog will be undergoing a transformation. Rather than focusing purely on writing, it will be a little more, how do you say, eclectic. There will still be a bit about writing, and there will still be books.

As part of that transformation I was alluding to earlier, I'm excited to introduce a new feature to the blog: The Golden Apple of Book Blogs. Herein, every week (or every other week) I will introduce book bloggers that I follow and enjoy.

Why the golden apple?

Because books and fairy tales are so very important. They take life, paint it in a mirror, and reflect it back at us. What better way to discover new truths and new books than from people for whom reading is a passion?

But what does that have to do with apples?

“Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”
~G.K. Chesterton

So, without further ado, I'd like to present Diana Ault from Diana's Amazing Book Adventures! (PS: If you look up in the tabs section, you'll be able to see all the Golden Apples I've featured by way of their buttons.)

What do you love most about books?

The escapism and the close look a reader can get at humanity through well-written characters.

What about a story catches you in the beginning and doesn't let go until you reach the end?

I love stories that create intrigue and suspense and just plain old curiosity. The kind of story that throws in twists and turns that keep you guessing and wondering until the very end.

What's your favorite kind of hero? Your favorite kind of villain?

I enjoy heroes that are the "every man". The ones that you could imagine being yourself, or parts of yourself. The best villains are the ones that likewise you can see parts of yourself in, or who are at least understandable. I don't like two-dimensional main characters. They've got to have depth and make sense.

Five books you'd take with you as you flee a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion? (E-readers don't count.)

My Chronicles of Narnia hardcover B&N compilation, Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe (also hardcover), The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (HC), my old scripture compilation that I've written notes in all over the place (and have even drawn tiny pictures in), and...gosh. To make the choice of the fifth book easier, I'll say our Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, B&N compilation (HC) for my husband. He loves those stories.

Favorite book as a child? Favorite book now? How have your tastes changed/remained the same?

I can't really remember what my favorite book was as a child. Honestly, when I was a youth, I read a lot of grown-up books and in my adult years I read mostly youth books. When I was VERY young I remember liking a picture book called Groundsel by Fergus Hall. It was given to me when I lived in Germany (where I was born) and I still have it. The artwork is so interesting and kind of creepy. I read Watership Down by Richard Adams when I was in fifth grade and loved it. A great book that I read recently that made me give an audible "wow", is Variant by Robison Wells. It is the first in a new young adult series and packs quite a sucker punch. I've always leaned toward fantasy, but in recent years I've allowed myself to branch out and experience other genres, like the historical, piratical adventure, Captain Blood, written by Rafael Sabatini in the early 1900s. I highly recommend it. I still tend to stick to fiction though.

Special features on Diana's blog:

I think I create some pretty fun posts (all focused on youth books; children's, middle-grade, and young adult). They are chock full of information and fun extras. I often feel like I'm writing an exciting research paper with each post!

Mondays are for yummies: Recipes either directly from books or inspired by books.

Tuesdays focus on children's picture books or middle-grade novels.

Wednesdays feature YA/teen books.

You can find quotes on Thursdays, either directly from a story or from an author or illustrator.

Fridays are for event or author/illustrator highlights. The post can be based on an event I've been to personally or an author or illustrator I've met in person, or simply about an author/illustrator who I think is cool.

I like to write, so Saturdays are devoted to writing help in some form such as advice (from people who know what they're doing), writer resources, and inspiration/motivation.

Lastly, Sunday is devoted to reviewing the past week and looking forward to the week ahead, including local events (I live in Provo, UT), books and bookish things I've acquired, and recent and upcoming releases.

Thank you so much, Diana!

You can find Diana on her blog and Facebook and learn more about her here.