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Libby Heily

Author of YA, Science Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction

Non-political

For years, I refused to discuss politics in my blog. I didn’t post anything political on my Facebook feed, Twitter or Instagram accounts. It wasn’t that I was devoid of opinions, but that I wanted to remain neutral as an artist. Maybe that was cowardice or just an eagerness to succeed in an already difficult business. But no matter what my motivation was, neutrality is no longer an option.

I’m not sure there’s a way to be a non-political writer right now in America. In today’s climate, even silence is a statement. I don’t want to be silent anymore.

I am a writer. I write in many genres. I write strong female characters. Female strength does not equal male weakness. I do not agree with the ban on immigrants and refugees and I find its implementation to be sloppy and ill-planned. I was at the Women’s March. I have been calling my senators because I think DeVos and Carson are unqualified for their positions. I stand with Standing Rock and Planned Parenthood. I think Black Lives Matter and that science is amazing. I believe in climate change. LGBTQ rights are human rights. I’m fine with the repeal of Obamacare as long as there’s a replacement that’s worth a damn. I believe in people. I believe there’s good in the world and that good is worth fighting for. I believe in respectful, thoughtful discussion. I believe in ideas. I think sex workers should have rights. I think people should be able to do what they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. Watch dogs are necessary for both government and private institutions. I think Trump is bad for America. I believe in your right to think differently than I do about anything.

My blog is not a political blog. I will not spend many posts on my ideas or what I think the government should or shouldn’t be doing. This is a space for writing and books and stories and opinions about those topics. But nor will I be silent.

On The Brink

This is an important YA piece of fiction. I was wondering what to write about this but then realized, I’d already written a review so why not just share it?

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From Goodreads:

Contains Spoilers.

Full disclosure, Christina Hoag and I have the same publisher.

All the feels. I read this over the course of one day while battling a cold. I was stuck on the couch and I thought, “I’ll knock out a few chapters.” That turned into a six hour reading marathon.

I love how this story starts. Chloe is doing a journalism internship. We get to learn the process with her, the good and the tedious. We don’t get mired down in the minutia but we do get to see Chloe learn the very basics of what might become her future career. I could see revisiting this character in her late twenties as a veteran reporter in a new adventure. Chloe is capable, willing, a fast learner and aware that she’s lucky to be able to afford to do an internship as well as lucky to land it. There is nothing about this position that is glamorous–it felt very real and I loved that.

The relationship with Kieran. UGH. There are so many YA stories that are about abusive relationships where neither character seems to know the relationship is abusive and it’s passed on as “normal” to the readers. I hate that. But that’s not what this story is about. We watch as Chloe falls for a charming, if corny, young man who is just thrilled to date her. She’s never had a serious relationship, her home life is a mess and she’s ripe to be taken advantage of because she gives a damn about people. We watch as Kieran has a fit and Chloe explains it away, as Kieran has a violent fit and Chloe is upset but explains it away. Kieran keeps her from her friends, insists on meeting her family, gaslights her frequently and insists that their problems are her fault. The relationship is built wonderfully because it all happens in increments. There are moments where you will want to scream at the book, scream for Chloe to stay away from him, to get help. But she continues and we watch in horror.

What I think Hoag does extremely well is to show us how this type of relationship can happen and then let us continue the journey with Chloe as she breaks up with Kieran and stays strong. I was so afraid this book would end in one huge scene where there’s a violent outburst and Chloe has to kill Kieran to survive. That type of story would have been emotionally gratifying but it was so much more engaging to watch the true aftermath of that situation. Chloe heals slowly. She repairs her friendships and goes to therapy and meets other women who have struggled or are struggling with abusive relationships. This is SUCH an important book for teens to read. One of the characters in the support meeting makes a great point about how were they supposed to know their relationship was going to be bad, no one had ever taught them to look for red flags or had even discussed red flags. Hoag also has Chloe’s friends make excuses for Kieran’s poor behavior early in the novel because people who are compassionate tend to empathize and it’s such a true moment.

The journey was my favorite part and this story is all about journeys. Chloe’s mother has one of her own as she heals from heartbreak. I like this character for two reasons. Often times in YA we forget that the parents are real people and that their emotional states can vary just like the main character’s can. I loved that the mother was devastated, heart broken, but managed to pull herself together and be there for her daughter.

Overall, great read. Upsetting, but great.

Hibernating

I’ve been looking forward to January/February for some time now. I knew if I made it through November and December then I would get some much needed re-fuel time. 2016 has been a busy year for me. I’ve performed in tons of improv shows, acted in a short play, my novel “Welcome to Sortilege Falls” was released and I wrote two more books and a play plus several short stories and Our Beloved Dictator. On top of that, the hubby and I go out a lot and try to see theater, do trivia, go to odd movie nights and generally be social.

But, as I found last year, it’s nice to take a break. During the coldest months of winter, I plan to slow down social time, take a break from performing, and read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies, and generally recharge my brain.

I also want to stretch myself a little. I plan to start learning German (again – I’m easily distracted) and try my hand at drawing (again). I want to engage my brain in ways that I don’t usually. Besides delving into fiction, I will also be consuming a lot of documentaries and non-fiction books. I might even try playing games–I am one of the few people I know who hates games. Don’t ask, I can’t account for my general curmudgeoness.

What I found last year is that if I take some time away from improv where I’m constantly trying to generate material and staying in the moment, and allow myself some much needed couch time with new worlds, then I tend to be a better writer. I read all year round but I don’t have the time to binge-read and momma has a lot of books to work through.

So, if you have a favorite movie, book, TV show, documentary or game that you’d like to recommend, please do! I’ll be posting a bit more regularly here, mostly about the books I’m reading.

Hopefully, it’s going to be a wonderful winter!

Stephanie Faris and a Giveaway!

Today, we have Stephanie Faris on the blog. She’s written a book that could melt your heart. A little girl helping animals. Come on! You want to read it just from that one sentence, don’t you?

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Look at how cute this cover is!!!!!!

Piper Morgan to the Rescue

By Stephanie Faris

Blurb:
Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

 

What did I tell you? A shelter on Bark Street? A dog named Taffy? If you didn’t smile, just a little, then I don’t know how to fix you. 😉

Let’s learn a little bit more about the person behind the adorbs:

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Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

 

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

GIVEAWAY:

You could win a signed copy of this book! YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE. And, because I haven’t messed with the HTML at all on this site, I’m going to copy and paste Stephanie’s awesome Giveaway link here:

GIVEAWAY LINK

Can’t wait for that signed copy? Then click here and ordered a signed copy from Parnassus Books.

Or, order a regular copy of the interwebs:

Pre-Order B&N | Pre-Order Amazon

Find Stephanie on the web:
Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Thanks for stopping by Stephanie!

Interwebs, lets wish Stephanie much success! And feel free to weigh in on the cuteness.

Interview with Christina Hoag

Today, we welcome to the blog my fellow Fire and Ice writer, Christina Hoag. Christina has been a reporter as well as a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her latest book, Girl on the Brink, takes a look at an abusive relationship. I’m excited to read this book but I’ll let Christina speak for herself.

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How long have you been writing and what sparked the interest for you?

I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” when I was six years old so I think writing was something I was born with. As a kid, I loved books – I devoured them. My mother would buy me a book on a shopping trip and I’d have finished it by the time we got home. Then I’d feel sad because I had nothing left to read! When I grew up, I wanted to write books. I discovered journalism in high school – a career that would pay me to write! I wrote short stories on and off until I really focused on my childhood goal of writing novels about a dozen years ago.

What genre do you prefer to read and write? Any favorite authors/books?

I write gritty, contemporary fiction: thriller, mystery suspense, but I like to develop character-driven stories in these genres. A lot of work in these genres is very formulaic, which gets boring after a while, so I’m about incorporating more character into these types of plots.

As far as reading, I have an eclectic stack next to my bed. Besides crime-oriented stuff, I love what is known as “upscale women’s fiction,” a cross between literary and commercial, books where things actually happen but have a literary writing style. I’m also drawn to books with foreign settings. I always learn something when books are set in other countries and cultures.

Where do you draw inspiration?

If I had to choose one source, it would be my journalism. What I’ve always loved about being a journalist is you get to delve into all sorts of places, people and events that a normal, middle-class person would never get to see. I like to say I’ve interviewed everyone from prostitutes to presidents, bums to billionaires. People in all walks of life. It’s just fascinating. Reportage was the direct source, for example, for my other novel “Skin of Tattoos,” which is set in the gangland underbelly of Los Angeles. I covered a lot of gang issues as a reporter for the AP, interviewing gang members and people who work in that milieu, and ended up writing a nonfiction book about gang intervention “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” as well as the novel.

Tell us a bit about Girl on the Brink

Girl on the Brink is a YA novel about dating abuse and violence. The protagonist, 17-year-old Chloe, gets involved with the wrong guy at an especially vulnerable time in her life, as her parents are splitting up. At first, she thinks Kieran’s the one. He sweeps her off her feet, to use an old cliché, and she experiences an incredible connection with him. Slowly, however, he reveals a very dark side of his character – he’s manipulative, abusive, violent, possessive. Chloe wants to help him, but despite what he says, Kieran’s not that keen on being helped. He pulls a huge move to harm her, and Chloe must use all her smarts, strength and courage to defeat him.

I added this book to my TBR because I’m intrigued by a young adult unhealthy relationship. This is difficult territory and I’m interested to see how you handled it. What gave you the most difficulty in writing this novel?

From a technical standpoint, getting the voice right. It went through numerous rewrites. From an emotional standpoint, it was hard to write some of the tougher, violent scenes. Writing the happy, joyous time of Chloe and Kieran’s relationship was definitely more fun! But I did like writing Kieran’s backstory of a rough childhood because that’s what drives his behavior. I felt compassion and empathy for him, which is what Chloe feels.

What type of feedback have you gotten from readers for Girl on the Brink?

It’s been pretty incredible, actually. Both teens and adult women are saying “this happened to me” or “this was my home growing up,” or “this happened to a friend of mine.” It just shows that domestic violence is incredibly common, but it’s something people don’t want to talk about because they feel ashamed. This also leads to a sense of being alone in the struggle. My goal in writing this story was to show girls and women that they’re not alone, that they can move beyond this.

The cover is amazing. Were you able to inform any of the design decisions?

My only specification was that it not be a depressing downer sort of cover, which I’ve seen on other YA novels that deal with abuse. I wanted it to reflect hope and optimism, as well as that sense of aloneness. The cover designer at Melange Books, Caroline Andrus, totally got what I was looking for. When I saw this cover, I knew she’d nailed it. I’ve received a lot of compliments about it so it definitely works. A good cover is the most basic but probably the best marketing tool an author has.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two novels, both nearing completion. One is a traditional detective mystery set in Los Angeles, and the other is what I’m calling a literary political thriller, set in Caracas, Venezuela, during the 2002 coup attempt. I was living there at the time and I covered the coup as a journalist. It was a very intense time. My goal is to finish both of these next year.

I see you write fiction and non-fiction, do you have a preference between the two?

Fiction, hands down! Although I’ve always loved journalism and it’s certainly informed my fiction, I always found it a bit constraining, as far as the type of language you can use (eg. no adjectives), style etc. I feel my true métier is fiction. There’s nothing like creating your own story as opposed to writing someone else’s.

If you could go on vacation right now and money was no object, where would you go?

I’m an inveterate world traveller. High on my list is Mongolia. I’d love to roam the steppes with yaks and sleep in a yurt. Kind of weird, I know, but I love remote, isolated places. This December I’m going to Hong Kong and Myanmar.

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You can find me at:

www.christinahoag.com

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Goodreads

BLURB

Sometimes the one you love isn’t the one you’re meant to be with.

The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2aRFsVZ

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657690

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2bFrCGQ

Thank you Christina for dropping by! Best of luck with the book!

Portland!

The hubby and I spent most of last week in the amazing state of Oregon. We called Portland home base but we definitely explored several of the natural splendors in the surrounding area.

 

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One view of the gorgeous Columbia River

The trip was meant to mostly help us relax and focus. I lived in Seattle for two years and knew I definitely loved the Pacific Northwest. We were hoping that Portland would be entertaining, beautiful and allow for a bit of downtime as well.

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The view from Mount Hood

We were not disappointed. The two photos above were from the same road trip. We drove along the Columbia River and then swooped around and ended up at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. The views were stunning. My camera phone pics are a poor representation but I hate carrying an actual camera around with me. Stunning views greeted us everywhere we turned. I felt so charmed and alive on this trip.

Our second road trip took us to the coast. I have NEVER seen cliffs like this in real life. On TV, sure. The magnitude of the drop was astounding. The three pics above are three different views from capes along the coast. The only bad part about this road trip was that we took it the day before we left and I was battling a cold. Ugh. Who likes to sneeze into the wind? Not this girl.

But what about the city itself, you may be wondering? Portland is fabulous. There’s a vibrant and active downtown with cool neighborhoods spiraling off every which way. Each neighborhood has its own main street with funky little shops and tons of coffee houses and bookstores. If you’re a reader, Portland is a good place to visit/live. I told myself I wouldn’t buy any books, and of course I bought three. Still, for me, that was showing great restraint. Have you seen Powells Books? It’s a city block long. You try not buying anything there. 🙂

Art abounds throughout the city. Whether it’s murals, sculptures, or cool little things like this:

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This is the tiny museum that was just chilling in a little neighborhood.

You’re bound to be visually delighted as you walk/ride/bike throughout the city.

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Portland’s street art is on point!

One thing I love about both Seattle and Portland is that each city contains a vast amount of nature. Parks are everywhere in both cities! Portland has several major parks but Washington Park is just minutes outside of downtown. Here, you can hike, look at the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, or visit the zoo.

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Just me and my new elephant friend. He’s the hard-to-get-to-know type.
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View of the city from Mount Tabor Park – so much nature within city limits!

There’s also the food. Here’s one thing I can tell you. I live in Raleigh and we are a people who love our food and drink. I was not disappointed in Portland. Just look at these crazy portion sizes:

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I mean, really? You could die eating this way. But die happy. 🙂

Oh, and about those books I bought. Here they are:img_3621

Okay interwebs, where are you planning to visit next?

 

Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of Our Beloved Dictator. 🙂

Experimenting

As most of you know, I’ve been publishing a serial on my blog: Our Beloved Dictator. I’ve been asked a few questions about the project, both online and in real life. The one that surprised me most was: “Why wouldn’t you charge for this?”

The question came from a writer in my critique group. He’s a fan of the series and doesn’t understand why I don’t get the story published or self-publish and charge for downloads.

I hadn’t really thought to publish OBD in any other manner than online. I’m writing it because I love to experiment with story and form. I want to tell a story in a series of short blasts that offers a peek into the private lives of an entire town. OBD is non-traditional in the sense that it’s not quite linear. We delve into side-stories that do not affect the main narrative. The stories can stand alone but they also inform us of the strange world that George (the main character) has entered.

I believe OBD has value, even if I don’t charge for it. I love the story. I like to think of it as David Lynch meets Terry Pratchett. I share it here, on Goodreads, Inkitt and Wattpad. My hope is that OBD will find a broad readership.

The value in OBD isn’t the money it could make for me. The value is in the writing. I’m trying to push my imagination and comfort levels. I’m bending genres and breaking rules. Even if OBD only gets read by a handful of people, I’m going to walk away from it a better writer.

The story is also fun for me to write. I LOVE Phyllis the one-lipped cop and Down-On-Your-Luck-Dan who has a great attitude but just can’t get ahead. Independence Long and Leonard make me happy. And there’s so much more coming down the pike. Greenville’s my kind of place, and I want to share it.

So, I will continue to publish it for free. I’m considering it a decree from the Dictator himself. 🙂

Out to Betas

Such good news! I’ve finished the latest (and hopefully last major draft) of the second book in the Grape Merriweather series!!! There were tons of surprises along the way, both for me as the author and for you as the reader. Grape and Brad are going to go through a heck of a lot of changes and not all of them are fun. Who am I fooling, none of them are “fun”. This is me after all. The danger in book two increases as does the tension. Aaaaand, Grape has a love interest.

Okay, I haven’t sent the book to my publisher yet, so I can’t really give away any juicy secrets. 🙂 But you’ll be surprised. I promise.

What about you interwebs? What’s new in your world?

 

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Every girl has to have her heroes and it looks like Shirley Jackson is going to be one of mine very soon. No one can replace Virginia Woolf or the utterly dark and stylistically daring Muriel Spark (read the Driver’s Seat. DO IT). But Shirley is certainly trying.

Like most high school students, I read The Lottery. I liked it, of course, but I wasn’t blown away. I think that was partially because I already had a healthy distrust of crowds and communities so the story didn’t really surprise me. I then forgot about Miss Jackson (not Janet, she played heavily in my middle and high school years).

Then, several years ago, Neil Gaiman wrote an article or a blog post, I forget which, about Shirley Jackson. I had just started my obsession with Muriel Spark and while the two are very different, they do have similarities. I decided to check her out starting with The Haunting on Hill House which I loved and used for inspiration for a flash fiction story.

A few weeks ago, I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I usually don’t pay attention to covers or at least I try not to let them influence me but let’s take a moment and appreciate the haunting beauty of this cover:

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Thankfully, the story is just as good. The blurb:

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

But, this blurb really doesn’t do the book justice. Merricat is such an incredibly interesting character. She buries objects and hangs books as talismans against evil. At eighteen, she still has a fort in the woods. She plays games while shopping in the village to keep the hostility of the villagers at bay. She dreams of murdering them all, but she is rather quaint about the whole thing. Her sister, Constance, accepts all of Merricat’s eccentricities and she sees the world in kind of an easy-breezy-let-it-be type of way that is both attractive and repulsive. Poor Uncle Julian is rather poorly both mentally and physically and he obsesses daily about the murders. The relationship between the three is just fantastic and if the book had only been about that, I would’ve been blown away. But then there’s Charles and the villagers. Oh the villagers. I really don’t want to spoil the story but what the villagers do and how they react to their own behavior is frightening and intriguing and seems pretty true to life. But how Merricat and Constance react–I think essays could be written about that.

The style of the novel is so interesting. At any moment, you feel like it could devolve (or perhaps evolve) into a ghost story or a dealing with the paranormal, but it never does. The problems are all earth-bound but the continuous playing with otherworldliness is intoxicating and allows you to sink in and out of the novel like a ghost floating from room to room, engaged and aloof at once.

If you haven’t read this book, please do. If you do, please email me and tell me how you liked it or didn’t like it. I love talking about books. 🙂

And, just a reminder, the next chapter of Our Beloved Dictator has been posted! Happy Reading!

 

Also, for this week only, you can download Tough Girl for free on your Kindle!

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