Monday, December 31, 2012

Moving into 2013

I don't normally get into the New Year hype, but I figured, this blog is about holding myself accountable, so why not? I didn't really set any goals for 2012 outside of the usual (write more, publish more) but it ended up being a pretty awesome year. Let's recap, shall we?

*Published The Sour Orange Derby, Dungeon, and two Helping Hands books. This was a great year for publishing, and everything that came with it, including meeting some awesome indie authors and joining their group. Raine Thomas, Tiffany King, Sarah Ross, and C.A. Kunz, I'm looking at you!

*Completed two novels - The Never and the next Helping Hands novel. These are written but still in the editing phases, which means they will be released in the coming year.

*Broadened my marketing horizons. I think the FIHA Powwow in the beginning of the year was my favorite, getting to connect with my culture, sell books, and spend time with people who celebrate Native American traditions.

*Started teaching creative writing classes at my Alma matter. Never in my life did I ever think I'd be a teacher, let alone an actual professor, but who could turn down such an opportunity? I've discovered that I actually love teaching, and that I'm pretty good at it too.

*Fulfilled my lifelong dream of being an editor. As a kid I dreamed of working for a publishing house as an editor, but let's face it. I'm not cut out for NYC. That dream took a back burner for a while, but with the help of my writing buddies, the dream has become reality.

So, with all that said, what's on tap for 2013? I figure, 2012 gave me the momentum I needed to really get things going and keep them moving forward. I refuse to let myself go backwards. I've set my goals as follows:

*Publish at least three novels. This will include The Never and the fourth Helping Hands book, as well as the third installment in The Whisper Legacy, Into the Shadow Realm.

*Write my first-ever children's book. I think this will be fun, and certainly different for me!

*Complete the fifth Helping Hands novel and start the fourth and final installment in The Whisper Legacy. That's a lot of writing!

*Build my editing portfolio. Long term, I'd like to just be an author and editor. Gotta start somewhere, so let 2013 be the year of building that business.

*Be healthier. In non-writing-related goals, it's time to be healthy. This means to exercise regularly and eat better. Of course, I won't be giving up my Doritos, but I will try to swap them out for some fruit every so often. Maybe.

*Teach more. I'm hoping to get more classes this summer and fall, and become more of a fixture at the school. I also want to research grants and try to get a writing center going at my university.

Looking at this list overwhelms me a bit. It's a lot to do, and only a year in which to do it. Tomorrow kicks off Day One, so let the adventure begin!

In the meantime, here's a cute picture of Ferguson, the star of my children's book:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Introducing 'The Iron Fist: Legacy of the Helping Hands''

The time has come for The Iron Fist: Legacy of the Helping Hands! I'm excited to announce its release, and even more excited to let everyone know that I am currently working on the next book in the series, which has never before been printed!

Below is the synopsis for The Iron Fist as well as a sample chapter (the prologue).  Apologies for the inconsistent formatting. Blogger is not cooperating with me at the moment.

The Iron Fist follows rough-and-tough Melanie O'Conner as she struggles to get her life back on track, all while being pulled back into her old life by a child in need. Check it out on Amazon and CreateSpace! E-book versions are coming soon.

When one of their own was murdered, everyone feared it would be the end to the Helping Hands. But as they are now learning, the real difficulty lies not in mourning the loss of a friend, but in protecting the project that took his life.
Kelly Mitchell is dedicated to just one thing - protecting her little sister from their stepfather’s wrath. When her family moves to San Francisco, she struggles to keep her home life a secret, avoiding the charms of her neighbor, Robbie Anderson. But when her stepfather sets her up and sends her to a juvenile detention camp, Kelly will attain her own protection in the service of Melanie O’Conner.
Forcing herself back into society as a reformed rebel, Melanie finds herself surrounded by a life filled with friends, security, and family. But the illusion of a life without disaster is shattered upon the discovery of a new, unplanned gang of Helping Hands, and two cops threatening to put her back in prison.
When faced with the copycat gang that brings the FBI to her front door, when Kelly and her sister plead for an escape from the iron fist of their abusive stepfather, when Tyler lands in the hospital and faces death, Melanie must decide which is more important - having a normal life away from the burdens of her past, or protecting the project that granted her that life.
Whatever choice she makes, someone must suffer the consequences.

Sample Chapter

          The crowd rose at the sound of the pianist’s harmony, a beautiful woman wearing a flowing ivory dress stepping into view. Her hands clutched a small bouquet of lilies, fingers gripping the flowers nervously. The afternoon sun shone down from a clear blue sky, shimmering amongst the diamond earrings and matching diamond engagement ring that would soon be joined by a sparkling band. Wisps of cool autumn wind gently blew back her thick blonde hair and lifted the veil slightly, but not so much as to uncover her radiant face.

            She never moved her dark brown eyes from the man waiting for her at the end of the aisle. The man, the tall, strong, handsome groom she would soon be calling her husband, her perfect match in every way, clasped his hands in front of him, his breath taken away by her beauty, his face a depiction of excitement and anticipation.

            An older woman sitting in the first row of seats wiped her eyes with an already-damp cloth as she watched her daughter make her way closer towards her groom. Never had she seen her only little girl so gorgeous, and she was thankful that now her child would have the wedding she was meant to have, the wedding she deserved.

            It should have been this way the first time, the mother thought, a wedding with roses and music and white gowns and tears of happiness. But her daughter was stubborn, as she always had been, eloping with that half-witted slob who cheated and lied and dared to call himself a man. But she was happy with the man her daughter was marrying today, a kind man with a promising career and a steady income who would care for her daughter and grandchildren.

            Two little girls, the bridesmaids of the wedding, exchanged nervous glances with one another when their mother began to say her vows. The older of the two gripped her flowers tightly and swallowed heavily, while the younger looked over at her big sister with apprehension. They didn’t smile when the bride and groom placed the rings upon each others’ fingers. They didn’t clap when the minister declared them husband and wife, or cheer when the adults kissed and sealed their bond for a lifetime.


            But they did have a reaction to the moment. As the kiss ended and the bride turned, ready to walk back down the aisle after giving her two beautiful daughters a tearfully happy smile, the groom glanced down. He smiled at them, giving the girls a small, deliberate grin, his eyes darkening for only a second, containing all the disturbing and sinful secrets of his soul.

            The little girls could do nothing but step back in fear.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Into the Shadow Realm

It's been awhile since I did a blog post, so here's a fun update. Well, fun to me since I'm the weirdo who loves to talk about writing.
Book Three in the Whisper Legacy is almost ready for final edits. For those of you who don't already know, the official title is Into the Shadow Realm. Book Three takes readers on a journey into the shadow world, where spirits are sent after their second deaths.
Whisper must right the wrongs committed in Walk the Red Road, while a new leader prepares to rule the Land of the Dead in her stead. All the while, Sun Woman seeks her vengeance against the living realm and a young Cherokee boy in the living world discovers he is meant to lead his people into a brighter future.
A longer synopsis is coming soon, but that's the gist of it. Into the Shadow Realm sees the introduction of new legends and characters, including the seductive Father Moon, as well as welcomes old characters from Beyond the Western Sun. And at the center of the story is Whisper as she continues to follow the Red Road.
So, for the fun part. I love the writing process, and taking a look into that process as a whole. So, I figured I'd share my own process below:
The following two pics are images of Into the Shadow Realm as a work in progress. As you can see, I sometimes write in a weird way. I have just snapshots of scenes, ideas of what will come next. At the end of my manuscript, I always keep a "Notes" section. Things I don't want to forget, reminders to go back and add this or that. Questions I ask myself as I'm writing.

Next comes the editing process. So far I've only done my first edit and then the second with my first  reader (AKA, Mom). This means I get it back like this:
And then it all comes together, like this:

In case you're wondering, I chose sections with no spoilers. So, even if you're a cheater and read the pages you won't get any special details on what happens in the book. Just have to wait and see!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Everyone Look at This Map

It's located right here:

Zoom in a few times because the booth numbers are ungodly small, and look toward the bottom, across from the Veteran's Park and at the corner of the "soccer field parking." See Booth #56? That's where yours truly will be this October 6th and 7th.

I'm very excited about this. It's a great location right in the middle of things (on the other side of the lake is where I did my sidewalk paintings at Family Days for 10 years straight). Last year I was right by the amphitheater. Usually, Booth #56 is surrounded by food vendors, and I'm hoping that stays the same so I can smell popcorn and hot dogs and roasted almonds all day long...and send S out on missions to find me some.

I was just informed earlier that all booths for Family Days are sold out, and that they sold out in record time. Glad I got my registration in early! I know I said this last year, but I love Family Days and would be really disheartened to not be a part of it. This will be my 12th year as a participant (10 years as an artist, 2 as a vendor).

Be sure to come see me October 6th and 7th. I should have the next book in the Helping Hands series, Shadows in the Night (blog post on that coming soon) available, but I'll only have a small amount so get yours first!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Never Say This to a Writer

"I just want to make a bunch of money so I figured I'd write a book. Can't be that hard, right?"

I can't tell you how many times I hear this at book signings, writing/book conventions, and during random conversations. Each time I smile and nod and offer a few tips on writing, and each time in my head I'm judging you. Hard.

First of all, this asinine statement makes it sound like writing is easy, that anyone can do it and do it easily. Sure, anyone can write, but writing a good book IS hard work. It takes time, dedication, focus, and passion. This is not to say that every book is good, or will appeal to everyone, but regardless, a book isn't something you can just throw together all willy-nilly and think it's up to par with the work of someone who has given it the proper amount of time and attention.

Second of all, it's incredibly insulting to those of us who don't write simply to cash in on a fad and make a quick buck. Some of us simply love to write, and enjoy sharing our words with others. It's fun, it's hard work, it's fulfilling, and there's nothing else we'd rather do. It's not all about the money, which is why many, many, many of us have other jobs and use what little free time we do have to write. Because we love it.

At my last book event, I had no less than five "writers" say this to me. One stated that the economy was bad and she couldn't find a job, so she was going to write a book and cash in on the paranormal trend/craze while it was still hot since "people love vampires and I figure books can't be all that hard to do." Another asked if my books paid all the bills and allowed me lots of vacation time/spending money, and when I stated otherwise, decided "maybe writing isn't worth it after all." I was tempted to ask their names simply so I'd know better than to buy their books in the future.

Maybe I just don't understand this mindset. Perhaps I'm too sensitive. Sure, every writer wants to be successful and be able to support themselves solely on their books. But unless you are incredibly lucky or know someone in the industry, chances are, you aren't going to be an overnight hit. Maybe you never will be, but if you love writing, then that doesn't matter. You do it anyway because it's about doing what you love, and not about trying to leech ideas off of people you think are also only writing to pad their bank account.

If your goal is to be rich and famous overnight by writing a book you don't care about past a paycheck, then good for you. I wish you the best of luck. Just leave me out of it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Florida Heritage Book Festival

The Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, Florida was a success! I sold a lot of books, the most popular being The Sour Orange Derby. I definitely need to order more in time for Port Orange Family Days next month. I also got a chance to network with people and get new ideas for marketing my books, including making audio books and videos featuring local Native American histories and landmarks. More on that to come!

I also got two new indie books to read for my Indie Year Challenge - Prey of the Spirit Bear and memoirs from a flight attendant (can't remember the exact title, but I will post more about it after it's read). I started the Spirit Bear book already and am excited to get into it. Y'all know how much I love my Native American stories. This one focuses more on the tribes of the Southwest.

That reminds me - if you're ever an author at a book event like this, don't go around asking people how well they did and then tell them, "Oh, well I sold out! Lucky me!" First of all, everyone brings a different number of books so selling out doesn't mean much if you bring 15 and another brings 50. Second of all, you kind of sound like a douche. Just saying.

Anyway, some pics!

At the Table

Surrounded by Readers

Other Vendors

Other Vendors

My Outfit (Had to Have My Momma Help Me - I Have No Sense of Style)

(Ignore the white spaces around this photo. It was the only way I could get it to post without it being sideways)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dungeon: A Short Story

(Art by Marks Haven)

It's been awhile since I've done a blog post. Things have been overwhelmingly busy with teaching, work, and book stuff, and I'm happy to say a lot is getting done, including the upcoming release of  Shadows in the Night (Helping Hands Part Two) and finishing Into the Shadow Realm (Book 3 in the Whisper Legacy - titles coincidental, I don't actually have an obsession with shadows.

My latest endeavor is to release my first-ever short story titled, "Dungeon." I started it years ago but never finished as I began working on other books. I've now dragged it off the literary shelf, dusted it off, and completed it. After editing it will be made available for the Kindle only, price still to be determined (but no more than $.99). In the meantime, enjoy a synopsis below!

A Short Story by Kristina Circelli

Locked away from civilization. Starved for a freedom yet to come. Lost in the world they created for themselves.

They were friends once, before they were prisoners. Then they were allies, dependent on one another for daily survival. When they escaped, if they escaped, more than just that bond built on desperation, loneliness, and familiarity would be tested.

Their existence - one small, cramped room with a cracked table in its center. Their reality - secrets and lies and a struggle to balance the present with the past.

They were the four. They were the prisoners of the Dungeon.

Stay Tuned for the Release of "Dungeon"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Author Interview: Kristi Strong

Today I’m proud to introduce to everyone emerging novelist Kristi Strong, author of the new fantasy novel The Lady of Steinbrekka. Taking readers deep into a new world of mystical creatures, an evil king, thrilling adventure, and the discovery of one’s self, this debut novel is for anyone who loves to escape into faraway places and take literary journeys that explore the power between woman and nature.

Below is a synopsis and an interview with Kristi, as well as where you can buy The Lady of Steinbrekka (LoS).


Rhea Aralia lived an uneventful life in Virginia, until the fateful night of her kidnapping. Taken to a strange realm of destruction, despair, and mysterious people with dark secrets, the young woman must learn a new way of life to survive.

With the help of her new companions, Rhea discovers the courage to defy the tyrant King Verikhan and his heir, the cleverness to deceive the court, and the power within herself to transform this world of darkness into one of beauty and hope.

Will Rhea triumph over those who seek her destruction, or will she be forever lost in the darkness known as Kaldalangra?

Where to Buy:

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook

Interview with Kristi Strong

1) Thanks for participating in this author interview (and for being my guinea pig and being the first…)! I am so excited The Lady of Steinbrekka is available. Being your first novel, how does it feel to go through the self-publishing process and finally, at the end of it all, have your book in hand?

It is very surreal. When I first saw my book up on I screamed, and grabbed my husband and just kept pointing at the screen going “It’s there! It’s there!” It is a wonderful and incredible feeling. At first I did experience some doubt because I always thought you had to go through a big time publisher to be legit, but this has just blown my mind and that notion straight out the window. The indie novel world is so immense, and has such wonderful creations that it is a awesome source of entertainment and stories.

2) LoS has been many years in the making. What inspired you to go back to your idea, and how did you keep that motivation going throughout the course of writing the book? 

That would be you ;) I have been writing short stories and poems my entire life, but never really thought of other people enjoying them. Your constant excitement kept me writing and made me realize that this is something that should be shared. My mom actually got pretty emotional when I told her that someone was encouraging me to write, and then publish. I had given up on it in college because “I was no Emerson/Tolkien/Rowling” and had forgotten why I write in the first place.

I also hit some spots where the characters or events totally surprised me by taking a different path than originally intended, and that is always exciting. After one fight scene I found myself going “Oh wow, I wonder what will happen next and if everything will be ok!” Then I realized I would have to actually write that and figure it out as the story evolved.

3) LoS is filled with many unique characters and places. Do any of them come from specific inspirations, or people?

Mateo is actually the only one based on a real person, although more so his nicer side. Also, many of Rhea’s college experiences she refers to late in the book were pulled (and embellished a bit) from our friendship.

Many of the terms, names, and creatures do pull from a variety of languages (mashed together in many cases) or loosely resemble myths and folklore stories told throughout the world.

4) In the book, Rhea loves horses and has a strong connection to nature. Does she reflect a part of yourself? If so, how much of yourself is reflected in your main character?

Absolutely. I was an avid horse rider when I was younger but had to stop due to time and lack of funds when I went to college. I find myself re-living those days a lot in my writing.

I have always felt a close connection with nature and grew up in the middle of a cornfield, surrounded by a forest. When the average teen was playing video games or hanging out at the mall, I was exploring the woods and trying to sneak up on the resident deer population. I worry that the current youth of the world are going to greatly miss out on the joy that can be found in the woods, and in untouched natural places. Hopefully they can get that connection from the book, and then go camping for a weekend or just sit in a park and feel the breeze.

5) Now that LoS is done, what are your plans for the future? Sequels, a new series, any signings or book events to look forward to soon?

I have two other books currently started, the sequel to LoS and a different fantasy story for another series I would like to write ( sort of a “how the gods came to be” series for a new cosmology).

I am hoping to do some local events as well but have nothing scheduled as of yet. I will keep all of those updated on my Facebook page (Novels by Kristi Strong) or Twitter (StrongNovels)

6) What’s been your biggest challenge in publishing your first novel?

Letting it be finished. I feel like there will always need to be one more edit, one more re-write, etc. I think there is also a touch of apprehension/ anxiety when releasing characters that I have known and loved for so long into the public. I can only hope others love them as much as I do.

7) Describe LoS in two sentences (and yes, I know how hard this is).

The Lady of Steinbrekka is a book about creating your own destiny, and finding the strength to change a world that isn’t the way it should be. It isn’t your typical fairy tale and, I hope, gives an aura of reality to the classic story of good meets evil.

8) Okay, you have to choose. Rowan or Mateo?

Rowan all the way. I fell in love with him as the book evolved. He did not start out nearly as lovable (in my head) as he ended up being. I can’t wait to focus more on his side of the story and emotions as I get further into the second book.

9) We know that you love to write, so how about reading? If you could sit down right now and pick up a just-released novel, who would it be written by?

I have The Devil’s Diadem by the late Sara Douglass ready for reading in my Nook. Also a copy of The Sour Orange Derby by yourself, and a million “How to raise your toddler” books. Also any of the series by Anne Bishop. My paper copy of her book, Dreams Made Flesh, just literally fell apart from being read so much,  so I need to re-buy it!

10) Some authors say that writing is just as frustrating and stressful as it is cathartic and beautiful. How would you describe writing, and the writing process, for you personally?

Writing is just…everything. It releases emotions, it is therapy, it is joy and celebration, happiness and grief. I love to create these worlds and create characters, and love even more when they take paths that were not originally intended to be taken. It can be incredibly frustrating at times, especially when you know what is supposed to happen several pages away but just can’t make the connection between “this page” and “that page”, but it is a wonderful and incredible thing.

11) You have the chance to be any animal for a day. What do you transform into?

My cat. I have a toddler at home so spending the day sleeping in a sunny spot and only waking up to go get petted seems like a nice thing. It also seems incredibly fun to be able to just randomly jump five times higher than my height, or to have a fluffy tail. Really, it’s all about the fluffy tail.

12) Post-apocalyptic stories are all the rage right now. How do you see the world ending? Zombies? Worldwide plague? Giant soul-sucking black hole?

I would say financial ruin, followed by the shut down of all electricity which leads to complete chaos and sends us back a couple thousand years as we try to figure out how to grow crops, hunt, and survive in a world where there are too many people for the resources.  It would definitely not be a pretty sight, but would definitely make a good story…

13) Any parting words of wisdom to share?

To all writers out there, just do it. Keep writing your stories and letting your characters live. If it is something you enjoy, just keep writing. Even if no one reads your words until years and years later (I wrote my first “book” at age 8 and my mom still has it, printed on the old school printer paper with the perforated edges), just let yourself enjoy getting lost in worlds and characters that you have created.

 Read and draw inspiration from others. I have running storylines in my head that I play out if I am bored, or can’t sleep, that revolve around the characters of my favorite books, but take place completely outside the actual book plotline. That is a great place to start and many times I can take those events and re-work them into an original story.

Kristi's Contact Information:

Facebook: Novels by Kristi Strong
Twitter: @StrongNovels

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Derby Pics & Book Tour

A Humbling Experience

(pic from an actual Sour Orange Derby game)

My first book blog tour has come to an end, and I'm pleased with the results. I got some great reviews, generated some awesome press, and sold some books! I've provided the links to all the reviews, interviews, and other posts below.

Before that though, I just wanted to say that this has been a pretty incredible experience. I don't even care so much about the sales as I do what fans and reviewers are saying. Truth be told, I never expected so many people to enjoy The Sour Orange Derby. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but I did worry it would come off as confusing, disjointed, and with an overall air of "why is this important?" After all, it's a story I understand and appreciate, but would others outside the family?

Now, though, I'm pleased that readers get as much out of the story as I did writing it, living it. So many great reviews make me even prouder to be a Standridge (you know what I mean), and recall those memories with an even bigger smile. So, thank you for making The Sour Orange Derby a fantastic experience for me.

Blog Tour Links:
Mommy Reads Too Much (Review)
Generations of Savings (Excerpt)
My Crafty Life (Review)
Couponing with Boys (Review)
EReading on the Cheap (Author Interview)
Susan Heim on Parenting (Guest Post)
Day by Day in Our World (Review)
Niki's Book Corner (Review)
Identity Discovery (Review & Interview)
Gina's Library (Review)

And Now, Some Pictures!

"June Standridge"

"Kariss Standridge"

A Solid Hit

Injury on the Field!

Sour Orange Fight!

Cleanup Time

"Kariss and Christian Standridge" at "Sugar Plantations"

"K.B., Joyce, and Colly Standridge"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Indie Year Challenge

I recently decided, for no real reason, that for 1 year, I am only going to read indie novels. This means no novels by traditionally published authors, a pretty big sacrifice for me. But, I've read some great books by indie authors lately, and I'm looking forward to supporting more throughout this year. My Goodreads to-read list is pretty full, so this will give me a chance to finally go through it!

Side note: Another reason why I'm determined to do this is because when I mentioned it to S', we had the following conversation:
Me: So, I think I'm gonna go an entire year reading only indie books.
S': Good luck with that.
Me: Meaning what?
S': Meaning you have too many favorite authors to not buy their new books as soon as they come out.
Me: Are you doubting me, peon?
S': Of course not, minion.
Me: So what are you saying then?
S': That "one year" in Kristina Time is more like 3 months. No way you make it a year.
Me: Challenge accepted.

And thus the Indie Year Challenge was born.

HOWEVER, S' is right in that I do have many favorite authors. I'm considering allowing myself 2 "cheat" books. One would be reserved for whenever the next Percy Jackson book comes out (shut up, I love Rick Riordan). The other, probably either Cassandra Clare or Veronica Roth, whoever comes first. But I will have to earn these cheat books, so we shall see.

My Indie Year Challenge begins with 3 books:

Collapse by Richard Stephenson (Amazon)

Fairy Circle by Johanna Frappier (Amazon)

Flame of Surrender by Rhiannon Paille (Amazon) <---I don't know if this actually qualifies as indie since it's through a small press, but I'm counting it because it's not a traditional publisher.

Let the Challenge begin!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Helping Hands: Get Your Copy Today!

Kindle & Nook Coming Soon

Fans of the series, you'll notice this book is a bit shorter than the original (by about half). Not to fear! Part Two is coming soon. I suspect these first two books will be the shortest of all 7 in the series, but because it was soooo long originally we just couldn't make it work without charging readers a small fortune or making the font super tiny (you're welcome). Book Three will certainly be longer!

Also, I would like to note that The Helping Hands is not like my other books. It is not YA, has no elements of fantasy or "magic," as I like to call it. I might even venture to say it's not for the faint of heart (feint of heart?). There is a lot of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, language, and general dark themes. But at it's core, it's a book about hope, overcoming the bad, and fighting for the good.

I only give this warning because people have told me they never know what to expect from my books as I don't stick to any one genre, so I wouldn't want anyone to go into The Helping Hands expecting something more light-hearted or YA-age appropriate. I'll even admit that one woman called my main character, Melanie, such an "evil, morally depraved character with no hope for redemption" that she had to stop reading. First of all, how fucking awesome is that. Thank you. Second of all, if you actually read the book, you'll see this is not true at all. Melanie's just a little rough around the edges. But it's still my favorite book insult-compliment ever.

And yes, I am fully aware that the entire book is based on an entirely implausible plot that might as well make it fantasy. Just go with it. It's fun, I promise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Helping Hands - Cover Reveal & Excerpt!

We have a cover for The Helping Hands, and it's great. Many thanks to Jake at Sage Words Publishing for all his hard work in getting this series going again. We're in the final edit, so for now I'll leave you with the new cover (you'll notice similarities with the original, though this one is much cleaner and, in my opinion, more eye-catching), and the prologue!




A thin trail of smoke drifted from the lips of the fourteen-year old girl as she sat on the back of a bench located just outside the gates of Cedar Hill Elementary School. Glancing over her shoulder at the school, the girl took in a deep breath, scanned her surroundings, and then looked back to the street. She leaned forward, her elbows resting on her knees as she held the burning cigarette loosely between her fingers, waiting for the second hand of her watch to hit the twelve and signify the end of another school day.
An elderly pedestrian strolled by, giving the girl a disapproving scowl as she glanced down at the cigarette and then back up at the black eye makeup and gangster clothes that seemed to make the scars on the teenager’s face all the more menacing. The woman, leaning heavily on her dark-red fiberglass cane, grimaced at the teenager’s appearance. She stared disgustedly at her greased hair that was held back by a bandanna, then at the ring that was pierced through her eyebrow and at the spiked jewelry wrapped around her neck. The girl eyed the stranger back, taking a long drag off the cigarette and deliberately blowing smoke in the old woman’s direction. The woman hurried across the street and the girl turned her green eyes away after she had disappeared around the corner.
Soon, restless children poured from the redbrick school building as the final bell of the day rang. They ran for their bikes, their parents, or for the sidewalk, all determined to race home so they could call their friends or watch TV. The girl on the bench waited patiently, her eyes searching for the one particular child whom she was intent on finding. Kids ran by her, some giggling as they passed when they saw her strange makeup and the tattoo on her hand, others not giving her a second thought as they hurried home. Finally, as the last of the children exited through the large green double doors, the girl saw the small child.
Mathew Harper walked slowly, dragging his book-filled backpack behind him with all the strength his eight year-old muscles could gather. He knew that he would get in trouble with all the books he was bringing home, but he wanted to read them and his teacher had let him borrow them for the next two days. He trailed behind his classmates, not bothering to catch up to them, for he knew he would not be able to play with them even if they asked, which he was sure wouldn’t happen. Crossing the street carefully after searching to his left, to his right, and then back to his left again, the child turned left and began the ten-block walk home, not noticing the thin curtain of cigarette smoke he walked through as he passed the bus stop waiting bench.
The girl raised her eyebrows as she watched Mathew Harper walk past her without even a glance up. Her dark green eyes watched his retreating figure, and when he had walked about two hundred feet from where she was waiting, the girl jumped off the bench, threw her cigarette to the ground, and started after the little boy. She walked quickly yet casually, not wanting to waste time but also not wanting to attract attention to herself. She kept her eyes trained on the boy’s back, ready for him to turn around at any moment, which would mean that she would have to duck from his sight. He didn’t turn, however, so the girl quickened her pace.
The teenager pulled up directly behind Mathew as he came to a dark alley filled with an abandoned car and seven dumpsters, along with several other small objects that were long past useless. As he walked by it, the girl came up to his side and casually pushed him into the dark passage, then continued on her way. Glancing around only once, she quickly made sure nobody had seen her before disappearing into her surroundings.
Mathew couldn’t stop himself from being pushed into the alley. He hadn’t been expecting the sudden shove, so he had no time to keep his feet from losing their balance. He vaguely saw a dumpster flying by his eyes as he fell, but he was then caught by strong hands and pulled behind an old, rust-covered station wagon. Fear began to well up in his throat and he swallowed heavily as the figure ducked down to his level. He was unable to scream, for the hand that was clamped over his mouth kept him from making a single sound. He stared into the person’s eyes, his own wide with terror and tears.
“Are you Mathew Harper?” the person, one that Mathew perceived as a middle-school boy, asked softly. Terrified, Mathew nodded. “Don’t be scared. My name is Caleb.” The voice was no more than a whisper, but to Mathew, it seemed like a shout to his young, scared ears.
“You’re a stranger,” Mathew replied behind the boy’s gloved hand as he looked at the person wearing a black hat and clothes. “I’m not supposed to talk to you!” He raised his voice and began to struggle with the male teenager, but it was useless. The boy who called himself Caleb tightened his grip on his arm and kept his other hand over his mouth. Mathew looked at him once again, silently wondering if the boy was going to kill him. His back was beginning to ache because of the car door handle that was sticking into it. As Mathew observed Caleb in the slight second it took for him to lean closer to his ear, he thought he saw a cord going to his ear from the collar of the jacket he was wearing.
Caleb, his hand still covering the young boy’s mouth, gave a regretful yet reassuring smile. “I know what your daddy does to you, Mathew,” he said softly, his eyes searching the child’s. Mathew’s eyes widened at that.
Suddenly, the stranger didn’t seem so scary anymore. He didn’t know how the boy dressed in black knew about his dad, but he didn’t care. Mathew only wanted to know one thing from the masked figure as he lowered his hand from his quivering lips.
“Can you help me?” the child whispered, his request coming out in tears as the stranger slowly nodded his head.
The sky was black with nightfall, the air clouded from a late-night fog when the dark blue speedboat crept through the ocean waters. Waves splashed roughly against the sides, then smoothed out as the boat continued further into the sea. A light rumble of thunder made its way throughout the sky, warning all who dwelled beneath the clouds that a storm would soon be upon them. The passengers gave no worry, however, for they knew that their destination lie just ahead.
The driver of the speedboat pulled around to the back of the island as they approached, carefully maneuvering through sharp rocks that were protruding from the dark ocean waters. As the rocks began to clear, the boat was piloted into a small channel surrounded on either side by dense trees and shrubbery. Slowly and silently they came up next to a newly constructed wooden dock that was standing steadily among the ocean.
Dark green seaweed floated around the underside of the wood as Caleb Brinson tossed a rope to a figure that was waiting on the dock, his accomplice holding onto the wood with one hand. When the boat was secure, the driver turned to Mathew Harper, who was sitting on a navy blue seat, his backpack and a small suitcase next to him. He didn’t know when the two strangers had gotten some clothes and toys from his house, but when he asked they simply told him that they had done so when his parents were at work. He was no longer scared, for the boy and girl had been nice to him, had given him a good dinner and even played a game with him while they waited until nighttime.
Mathew rose from his seat when the girl gestured to him. Caleb took his bags and handed them up to a second person on the dock. The boy looked up, but couldn’t make out the faces of the figures, for the fog was thick and the sky was dark. He watched as one of the forms leaned down and extended a hand, as did the driver. The girl in the boat said nothing as he looked at her hand, at the short fingernails that were painted black and then at the black HH tattoo right above her thumb. He vaguely remembered seeing the same tattoo on Caleb’s hand as well, but he didn’t know what the letters stood for.
With his mind clear of any fear or worry, Mathew reached up and took hold of the second hand that was waiting in front of him. The person’s fingers closed around his, and he felt safe as he was led out of the boat and down the dock. Looking back, he saw the speedboat gently floating away and he waved, but the people that had saved him from his father weren’t looking. Even so, he knew where they were going.
They were going home, so they could help more kids just like him.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

So, I had this dream...

...and I'm pretty sure it indicates that my mind is eternally messed up. And now I'll share it with you.

In my dream, S' and I went to visit his mom, who all of a sudden lived in Pittsburgh (don't know why, I've never even been there). After a nice visit, S' decides he wants to go kayaking in the misty, monster-infested marsh. It's getting late, but I agree anyway.

We kayak our little hearts out, seeing lots of wildlife, teasing each other on being slow or for running into trees, and then it gets dark. Being the smarties we are, we didn't bring any lights. But we see a glow up ahead so we decide, hey, why not? Let's go toward the light.

Finally we come upon a beach (yes, a beach in the middle of PA). People are standing around having a grand ole' time, so we park our kayaks on the shore and head up to figure out where the hell we are. There's a creepy music-filled carnival going on just up the road with ferris wheels, strange games, roller coasters, and people pretty much getting it on in the middle of the street, so we walk around, have a good time, totally not concerned that someone has probably stolen our kayaks back at the beach. It's a weird festival that I know is inspired by Anne Bishop's Ephermera series and the Den of Iniquity (or, the carnal carnival)  since that's what I was reading before I went to bed last night.

I ask someone where we are and she says, "Fitchland Burns." Where is Fitchland Burns, you ask? I have no idea, since Google couldn't tell me when I checked on my phone. So I start panicking figuring we just kayaked our way into some kind of hell when I see an information booth.

According to the woman at the booth, we are about 7 hours from Pittsburgh. HOW did we kayak 7 hours away in such a short time? I blame the misty marsh. Before we can decide what to do, one of S's friends appears out of nowhere. Turns out he lives in Fitchland Burns and is more than happy to show us the way home because, naturally, we have decided to walk.

Why didn't S's friend offer us a room to stay for the night? Why didn't we call a taxi, or S's mom to figure out what to do? Why didn't we go back for our kayaks? I have no freakin clue. No, walking was a much better solution.

So, we set off for the open road. We've walked a couple hours when S' decides he's tired and is going to sleep. "You can't sleep in the middle of the road, idiot," I say, annoyed. "Someone will rob you, or kill you." S' then says, "Well, you can carry me." Of course, why didn't I think of that?

But S' is too heavy for my weak arms to carry. "And how am I supposed to do that?" I ask. To which S replies, "I'll make it easy for you."

Here's where it gets really weird, people. How does S' make it easy for me? By turning into a large pile of sticky spaghetti noodles. Oh yes, a pile of noodles. But dream me doesn't find this weird, so I gather the noodles in my arms and keep walking.

Fast forward some 5 hours later and I'm walking down the sidewalk in the early morning light. It's a pleasant little town with cobblestone walks and shops lining the street. People greet me warmly as I pass and when I see a bakery I decide to get some breakfast. Glass of OJ, chocolate-covered donut, and a sprinkle donut hole.

I resume my walk, enjoying my treats, when I realize I'm no longer holding my noodles. I start to panic, searcing all around for my poor lost husband. The noodles were nowhere in site, my hands filled with nothing but fried ddough deliciousness. Before I could start a mad search  andd rescue, I woke up.

So, yes. I left my poor noodle-form S' somewhere between Pittsburgh and Fitchland Burns, more concerned about my donuts than his safety. Luckily S' found this dream quite hilarious and told me I'm one of the biggest weirdos he's ever met.

He better be careful. I might leave his noodles somewhere more dangerous next time. Like a boiling pot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Helping Hands: Remade

So, some decisions have been made. And they are awesome.

Those of you who have read The Helping Hands already will be the only ones to notice these changes, but I'm going to tell everyone else anyway because it helps me to talk through them. Or type through them. The biggest of those changes - The Helping Hands is being split into two books.A novel idea, I know! I've toyed with this idea for years but figured it wasn't really possible since it was already published as one. But when my new publisher suggested the idea, I figured hey, it's my book, I can do whatever I want with it.

As of now, it is divided into two parts, with Part 2 taking place about 4 years after the end of Part 1. Part 2 is now getting its own book. This not only makes the (very) long book shorter, but also more affordable for readers. It also gives me an extra title in the Helping Hands series overall, which I love. That means we're now at 7 books. When I say I love series books, I mean it. Y'all have no idea how hard it is for me to keep the Whisper Legacy at just 4 books -- and I've already planned a spin-off with two characters introduced in Book 3. I have a problem. But luckily, everyone else benefits from it.

Side note - The Helping Hands series is WAY different from the Whisper books and from The Sour Orange Derby. It's dark, gritty, violent, and I like to think, pretty damn cool. It's not YA and not for the faint of heart. If you're looking for a light read, this probably isn't your cup of tea.

Second side note - Something just fell out of my laptop and I don't know where it goes back in, or what it does. Here's to hoping my laptop doesn't spontaneously combust on my lap and turn me into a puddle of purple goo.

Anyway. So what happens next?

First of all, a new cover for The Helping Hands. We've picked the image, and the final piece is coming soon. We also have a final edit before formatting. Because of the split, I'm happy to say that The Helping Hands is set to be released by the end of the month, or very early August (assuming all goes well, of course, nothing is ever final). I can’t wait for the “new” Helping Hands to be released. After what, 8 years? I'm finally able to get back to this series and share it with the world.

While The Helping Hands is being finalized, we now have to focus on book 2. The most important change here is a new title. This is harder than it sounds. I had a title for Part 2 when it was just one book but I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to stick with that or go with a brand-new exciting title. We also have a new cover to think of and I might change up the opening a bit to make it a better prologue.

And there you have it. After these two books are released we’ll turn our focus to The Iron Fist: Legacy of the Helping Hands, what is now the third book in the series. I’m not sure yet if this will remain one book or be split. More on that to come!
I think this is a great development for the Helping Hands series. It's hard for me to put the books in someone else's hands, as this series is very close to me and it's not easy to give up control. Changes have been made that I know are for the better, but anyone who knows me also knows that I am not always the most flexible person. Giving up that control is something I've been struggling with, all the while loving that my publisher is awesome at what he does and is making excellent decisions. It's a weird internal conflict.
I also worry what people who have read the first two books will think about the changes., even though I know deep down that this reprint is for new readers. At this point I'm just pushing doubts aside and moving forward.
I think we all will be thrilled with the results.
I feel weird not having a picture in my post. All posts need a pic but I don't have one that fits. So, here is  one of me in a creek in North Caroline this past June.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kristina Versus The Internet

So, you know how this blog started as a way to kick myself in the butt and stop being lazy with my writing to-dos? Well, I've come to discover that I'm not lazy - I'm just way too easily distracted by the wonders of the Internet. And by too easily distracted, I mean my brain needs an "off" switch for random thoughts and an "on" switch for only concentrating on the things that matter in the moment.

I was actually trying to be productive today. Got some work done on the third Whisper Legacy book (and it's going to be completely awesome, by the way), got some pre-ordered books ready to be shipped, and then started working on my guest post for my upcoming blog tour. And here's where the day spiraled downward.

Image Found Here

About 5 sentences into my blog tour post, I remembered I haven't checked any of my friends' blogs lately. Obviousy that's more important. Off I went to check the dozens of blogs, and after reading this one about Ryan Gosling my brain naturally switched to "Ryan Gosling is hot. So is Sam Worthington" since we just watched "Wrath of the Titans" last night.

Cue the Google search for all things Greek gods. My minor was classic civilizations so I already have a pretty decent background on the Greek gods, but I still love reading about them anyway. I'm pretty sure about 2 hours were spent reading about Poseidon, Agenor, Perseus, and Theseus, among others.

Ah, Theseus. You can't read about Theseus without looking up the movie "Immortals." Greatest collection of hot dudes since "300." Naturally, this search was conducted primarily in Google Images looking at, well, I'm sure you can guess. And after looking at hot movie guys, of course that would lead one into seeing what movies James McAvory is working on (I just watched "Wanted" today, it was a natural progression).

(I mean, of course you'd want to know more about these people)

Side note - In case you were wondering, "21 Jump Street" was surprisingly hilarious. Go watch it.

Amidst this search I also was playing Words with Friends with my cousin and had the opportunity to play the word "shat" for 18 points, which I didn't even think WWF would accept since it rejected my numerous attempts to play words that probably don't even exist. This amused me for reasons I can't really explain, but I decided that I should nonetheless tell the Internet about it. And here I am. You're welcome.

But now I have to go back to work. I'm seriously considering disconnecting the wireless for an hour or so. But who am I kidding. I'll just tell y'all that I did and then lurk like a champ. I need an Internet-vention.

Also my spell-check said I wrote this entire thing without a single misspelled word. I refuse to believe this, but I'm going to accept it anyway because who knows, maybe I really am that awesome.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Updates: Blog Tour & The Helping Hands

Things have been going well in the writing world, starting to break some ground and try out new marketing avenues. I'm eager to see what the future holds, both personally and professionally. So, let's see what all's been going on:

1) The Sour Orange Derby is officially released in all avenues, both on Amazon and through my CreateSpace store as well as for the Kindle and Nook. See my website for all the details! I look forward to promoting the Derby and creating lesson plans to hopefully get it in schools like I did with Beyond the Western Sun.

2) The Helping Hands is being re-released soon! I am beyond excited about this. As much as I love the Whisper Legacy, the Helping Hands has a special place in my heart and I am so happy to finally be getting back to Melanie O'Conner, Tyler Mason, and the rest of the Hell Hounds. More on that to come!

3) My first official blog tour starts July 16th! The Sour Orange Derby will be featured on various blogs with reviews, excerpts, author interviews, and my own guest posts. More on this coming soon as all the details are still being worked out, but for now here is the tentative schedule:

July 16 - Book Review
July 17 -  Excerpt
July 18 - Book Review
July 19 - Book Review
July 20 - Author Interview
July 22 - Author Post
July 23 - Book Review
July 24 - Book Review

Stay tuned  for the latest details on the Derby, Helping Hands, promos, and blog tours.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Now on E-Book: "The Sour Orange Derby"

The Sour Orange Derby is  now available for the Kindle and Nook! Get your copy today for only $5:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodreads Giveaway: 2 Copies of "Walk the Red Road"

It's time for another giveaway on Goodreads! The giveaway for Beyond the Western Sun was a great success, so now I'm offering 2 free, signed copies of Walk the Red Road. The contest ends June 25th, so sign up today for your chance to win Book Two of The Whisper Legacy, and tell your friends to do the same!

Enter Here (Clicky)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cover Reveal: "The Sour Orange Derby"

It's done! Many thanks to my friends, artist Kelly Hall (whose work you'll also see on the cover of Walk the Red Road), and designer Nicole VanNienwenhove (who also provided the text for the cover of Walk the Red Road) for making this possible.

I'll be submitting the art soon, and after that the Derby will be ready for print!