Oct 032017
 

Johnny Big-Ears, The Feel-Good Friend
by John Paul Padilla
October 3, 2017 Book Blast

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! Join the Campaign with this Amazing Book!

Johnny Big-Ears, the Feel-Good Friend by John Paul Padilla

Book Details

Genre: Children

Published by: Padilla Goldworks

Publication Date: March 20, 2012

Number of Pages: 40

ISBN: 0979889847 (ISBN13: 9780979889844)

Purchase Links: Johnny Big-Ears, The Feel-Good Friend on Amazon Johnny Big-Ears, The Feel-Good Friend on Barnes & Noble Johnny Big-Ears, The Feel-Good Friend on Goodreads

Synopsis:

Johnny BIG-EARS is just like every other five-year-old child, but when he starts his first day of kindergarten, children begin to tease him because of his enormously large ears. Follow Johnny as he faces the challenges that being different presents. How will Johnny react to being teased? Find out why Johnny turns out to be a winner in this endearing, thoughtful book that addresses typical childhood bullying and offers children advice on how to deal with teasing. Whether you’re a parent or an educator, now you will be able to encourage your kids or students through this special book and help motivate all young kids to start feeling good about themselves no matter who they are, or what they look like!

Excerpt:

Author Bio:

John Paul Padilla

John Paul Padilla was born in December 11, in Los Angeles, California. He is a multi-award winning author that includes Mom’s Choice Award. He is also a public speaker and advocate against bullying. He is currently residing in the Central Valley of California. John Paul is an ex model, and has danced for fifteen years with a dance academy. He has written lyrical, verses that were recorded by Nashville artists. He has previously published Wings to Cross an Ocean, an inspirational poetry book that encourages personal growth and happiness for adults. John Paul was inspired to write his first anti-bullying book, Johnny Big Ears, the Feel Good Friend, based on his own childhood experiences with teasing and bullying. He has also written Johnny Big-Ears, Meets His New Neighbor Suzy, for little girls, who get teased because of their weight. Both of his books are now out in Spanish. Most recently, Johnny Big-Ears won the Grand prize for best overall, Best Book Cover in the 2017 IndieBRAG First Annual Book Cover Contest.

Visit John Paul’s website: Website or catch up with Johnny Big-Ears on Twitter & Facebook!

Tour Host Participants:

Stop by the other hosts for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for John Paul Padilla. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND 5 winners of one (1) print copy of Johnny Big-Ears, The Feel-Good Friend by John Paul Padilla, Continental US Mailing Addresses only. The giveaway begins on October 3 and runs through October 10, 2017.

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Jul 252017
 

CHILDREN OF THE FIFTH SUN Tour Banner

Children of the Fifth Sun

by Gareth Worthington

on Tour July 24 – Sept 25, 2017

Children of the Fifth Sun by Gareth Worthington

Book Details

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller | “Science Faction” science fiction, action, adventure with fact-based science, theories and mythology

Published by: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: July 25th 2017

Number of Pages: 407

ISBN: 9781944109400

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Read this Free Preview: Amazon 🔗 & Barnes & Noble 🔗

Synopsis:

Thousands of years ago, an ancient species from the sea saved humanity; now a cocky, free-diving photographer tortured by his past is the unlikely hero who must save the last of their kind from a global race between nations to control the creature’s power.

IN ALMOST EVERY BELIEF SYSTEM ON EARTH, there exists a single unifying mythos: thousands of years ago a great flood devastated the Earth’s inhabitants. From the ruins of this cataclysm, a race of beings emerged from the sea bestowing knowledge and culture upon humanity, saving us from our selfish drive toward extinction. Some say this race were “ancient aliens” who came to assist our evolution. But what if they weren’t alien at all? What if they evolved right here on Earth, alongside humans . . . and they are still here? And, what if the World’s governments already know?

Kelly Graham is a narcissistic, self-assured, freelance photographer specializing in underwater assignments. While on a project in the Amazon with his best friend, Chris D’Souza, a mysterious and beautiful government official, Freya Nilsson, enters Kelly’s life and turns it upside down. Her simple request to retrieve a strange object from deep underwater puts him in the middle of an international conspiracy. A conspiracy that threatens to change the course of human history.

Read an excerpt:

Freya elegantly glided in front of Kelly, breaking his train of thought. Her slender body slid through the water with grace and ease. She must have sensed his stare, because she turned her head to face him and gave a huge, regulator-filled grin. Kelly stifled a laugh.

He turned back to his equipment to check their depth—sixty-five feet. They were at the sea floor. It wasn’t very deep, but this was where it was supposed to be. He motioned his right arm to get Freya’s attention. He then signaled for her to look down and keep her eyes open. She gave the okay sign.

As they swam a little further, the structure came into sight just as Alexandro’s information had indicated. A large horseshoe-shaped wall, three-feet thick and six-feet tall, spanned more than two-hundred-fifty feet in diameter. Other than that, it was unimpressive—just an old stone wall. Surely, if a team had already been down here, they would have found an orb? Kelly pulled himself along the bottom, sifting through the sand, picking up each stone he came across. He shook his head and looked across at Freya. She seemed to be having similar poor luck, pointlessly rummaging through silt and mud. He swam across to her and pointed in front, indicating his intent to look on ahead. She nodded and watched as he flicked his fins, disappearing into a haze of ocean and sand particles.

Freya returned to her treasure hunt. All she found were rocks and the odd tin or soft drink can. Ugh, it was disgusting. Even the ocean wasn’t safe from humanity. She reached the outer edge of the stone wall and swam along, keeping close to it. Her gloved fingers prodded into each crack and crevice, not that she could feel anything through the thick material. Her mask was beginning to fill with water. She thought about Kelly’s instruction and began the mask clearing procedure.

Pressing the palm of her right hand against the top of her mask so the bottom released a few millimeters from her face, she exhaled hard through her nose, forcing the water out. A stream of bubbles crashed about her head in a white-water curtain. As it cleared, a small metallic glint protruding from beneath one of the huge stone bricks caught her eye. She clawed her way to it, then started digging in the sand. The fine silt clouded up around her, obscuring her view. Using only her limited sense of touch, Freya kept tunneling under the wall. The familiar shape of a box began to form under her fingers. She dug beneath until she could grip the box with both hands. Tugging hard, she released the cuboid object from its hold in the silt. The billow of sand cleared.

She stared at her treasure. It was a small chest, copper-colored with a green oxidized coating on its surface. She smiled. Could this be it? Could there be an orb inside? The excitement power through her. She raised her head to see if Kelly was nearby, but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She swam in a circle. The inability to hear or feel anything was unnerving. She only had the power of sight and that was restricted to a straight line in front of her for one hundred fifty feet or so.

The light above her dimmed. Freya frowned and raised her head to investigate. Above her, the huge shadow of a shark glided by. She knew her mask would magnify any object, but still, the thing looked huge. Its blunt snout and thick body looked positively primeval—the perfect predator. Panic set in.

Damn, where was Kelly? Clutching her treasure, Freya lowered her head. She searched for the knife strapped to her right calf. Before she could find it, her gaze was met by the cold stare of reptilian eyes. A sea snake was inches from her face, rippling its body to hold its position. Its eyes were fixed on hers. She froze, holding her breath. Freya shifted her focus from the uncomfortably close predator to the shadow lurking behind it. Oh God. The shark?

It was Kelly. A brief feeling of relief washed over her, but it was snatched away by the searing pain of fangs plunging into her left hand. Freya gargled a scream through her regulator and dropped the box, letting it fall to the sea floor. The snake shot off into murk as Kelly tore through the water toward her. Her breathing slowed and her limbs grew heavy. Her eyelids slid closed. She blinked before her eyes closed one last time.

* * *

Excerpt from Children of the Fifth Sun by Gareth Worthington. Copyright © 2017 by Gareth Worthington. Reproduced with permission from Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary. All rights reserved.

Q&A with Gareth Worthington

Welcome!

Thanks, glad to be here.

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Absolutely. Its cliché, but I really feel one should write what one knows. Children of the Fifth Sun is very personal, as the lead character is based on one of my stronger character traits – though somewhat exaggerated. His journey reflects very much my own.

In books 2 and 3, Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon and Rubicon, respectively, I am drawing very much on my experience as a new father.

In terms of current events, Children of the Fifth Sun plays more on the historical things that have occurred on our planet and tries to tie many of them together. Everything from the unifying myth of the ‘knowledge bringers’ after the great flood, to the alignment of the Giza pyramids to the stars of Orion’s belt – 2000 years before they were supposed to be built – to the creation of the CIA and the NSA.

You can read much of the research at www.childrenofthefifthsun.com

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

Kind of both. I have a beginning and end in mind. Then I flesh out the chapters into one or two line reminders: this happens here; X character learns this. Then, as I’m writing, I organically change and move things. I do more research and when I find something awesome I want to include, I consider what it does to the end. I usually change the end multiple times – although, for Children of the Fifth Sun, one piece of the end was always fixed. For me, it had to be that way. I personally needed it to happen.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

Yes and no. Honestly, I pour a lot of myself into the protagonists, as it helps to keep them real. In Children of the Fifth Sun, Kelly Graham represents my fear of human connection only to then lose it. Like me, he uses sarcasm and distancing tactics to keep people at arm’s length. Whereas in It Takes Death to Reach a Star, Demitri Stasevich is based on my self-doubt – the character has a voice in his head that constantly chides him. I can’t speak for Mila in that story, Stu wrote her. But as I know Stu, her character has some of his strong traits (sorry Stu!).

As for other characters, I create them based on what the story needs to balance it out. But I don’t base them on people I know.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I wouldn’t say idiosyncrasies. But I write when I can – literally, any minute I have. My day job is complicated and takes me all over the world. If I combine that with two children under three years old, going to the gym, being a husband, and all other things people have to do, I need to write when I have an hour. Usually on a plane, or late at night when the kids are in bed. I’m not a morning writer, that’s for sure.

Tell us why we should read this book.

Haha, well several reasons I guess.

1. There is no story like it. More than 20 years of research has gone into it and I do believe it to be unique.
2. It has multiple story threads, so even if you hate one character or one plot line, you will hopefully love another (everybody loves the character K’in).
3. You get to learn things as well! It’s full of scientific research, history, and geographical locations. You might be able to apply for credit at an open university!
4. I try to tackle everyday issues as much as anything. It’s a story about what it means to be human.
5. You should always read the book before the movie comes out (you can’t see, but I’m winking).

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Martin. Awesome authors. And of course my co-author Stu Jones – we’ve just written a new book together. He’s a great creator and our latest book would literally be half what it is if he weren’t with me.

What are you reading now?

Weirdly, I actually read more non-fiction than anything. It’s where my ideas come from. The best one I’ve read in a while is Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. Fantastic book summarizing human existence to date.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m working on four! First and foremost, Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon (book 2). Book three, COTFS: Rubicon is simmering in the back of my head.

Stu Jones and I have written, and are editing, a futuristic thriller duology that extrapolates two hundred years into the future and considers how the war on terror, widening differences between social classes, and anti-bacterial resistance will shape humans.

The interesting piece about this duology, is that we aimed to also explore theistic and scientific explanations for human existence. Stu is a Christian law enforcement officer from Alabama and I’m an atheist scientist from the UK. The book is written in first person present tense from two points of view, with Stu writing one character and me the other. It’s worked perfectly. The first book called It Takes Death to Reach a Star will be published by Vesuvian Books in 2018. We’re also working on the sequel, With the Fourth Comes Hades.

You can read all the research at www.ittakesdeathtoreachastar.com

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

Oh that’s easy! I wrote Children of the Fifth Sun as if it were a movie playing in my head. Kelly would be played by Gerard Butler – I wrote it for him. I need someone who can play the sarcastic, cheeky, Indiana Jones-type guy but also do hurt and vulnerable too. For Freya, I had Jennifer Connelly in mind. Just the right amount of tough and feminine. And as for K’in? He’d be CGI and I’ve already created him, you can check him out on the website!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

Muay Thai, without a doubt. A proper combat sport that has so much honor and discipline woven in. I love the Thai Fighters and miss my Krus in Singapore.

Favorite meal?

A good old fashioned English Sunday roast. I’ve lived abroad for many years now, and this is one of those meals that just hasn’t spread to many places. It’s all down to the roast potatoes and the gravy made with the juice of the bird. Okay, now I’m hungry.

More about Gareth Worthington:

Gareth Worthington

Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in endocrinology, and currently educates the World’s doctors on new cancer therapies. Gareth has hand tagged sharks in California; won honorable mention at the New York Book Festival 2012 and 2013 for his writing; and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, and MMA at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and Phoenix KampfSport Switzerland. Born in Plymouth UK, Worthington currently resides outside of Zurich, Switzerland.

Visit Gareth Online:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Tour Host Participants:

Stop by the other hosts for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Gareth Worthington and GH Literary. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of CHILDREN OF THE FIFTH SUN by Gareth Worthington. The giveaway begins on July 24th and runs through September 27th, 2017.
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Jun 282017
 

Friend (With Benefits) Zone
by Laura Brown
on Tour June 26 – July 13, 2017

Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown

Book Details

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Published by: Avon Impulse

Publication Date: June 27th 2017

Number of Pages: 384

ISBN-13: 9780062495594 (ASIN: B01EFM8NC0)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis:

I’m ridiculously attracted to my best friend.

Today is a bad day. The worst actually. After dealing with the constant manhandling that comes with being a cocktail waitress at a dive bar and surviving a date from hell, I see an eviction notice slapped on the door of my sketchy basement apartment. Great.

When my best friend Devon shows up at my door and uses his stubborn charm (emphasis on stubborn) to get me to move in with him, I give in. We’ve had about a million sleepovers since we met in the kindergarten Deaf program, but this time it’s different because I can’t stop thinking about his hard body covering mine, every single night.

I know Devon would do anything for me, but I’m afraid what I want to happen will ruin our friendship forever. And the more time we spend together in close quarters, the harder it’ll be to resist the spark of attraction I’ve always felt. But maybe it’s possible to have the best of both worlds: keep the one relationship I can’t live without and indulge in an attraction I can’t deny.

I guess the only thing we can do is try…

Read an excerpt:

I was still staring at my notebook when a light flashed by my tiny window. Outside someone stood with a flashlight, shining it into my apartment. I didn’t need to adjust to the light to know who that someone was with the one, two, three blinking pattern.

It took five steps to stomp over to the door. Dev came in once I wedged it open. He pushed the door closed.

“You can’t have your clothes back,” I signed, even as I was grateful to see him. When Dev was around, even this place sorta felt like a home.

“I don’t want my clothes back. Not now, at least. I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held out my hands, showing that I was fine. Even if I did scan my coffee table and breathe in relief that the eviction letter was face down in a crumpled mess.

He studied me, searching for all my little tics that spelled I was in trouble, tics only he knew. I blanked my face; otherwise he would latch onto there being a problem. A big one. Dev shoved a hand through his hair, those wavy locks rioting into one massive sexy-as-hell bedhead. I missed the days when he was a spindly little thing, before he grew into this hunk I could never unfriendzone. He meant too much to rock the boat, and I didn’t dare risk losing him. He scratched at a day’s worth of scruff, the black stubble contrasting with his pale skin. Then he kicked off his shoes, tossed his coat on the back of a chair, and plopped down on my bed in a way that had to have a spring or two digging into his back.

He didn’t budge.

I wanted to laugh. Forget me time—neither one of us had given the other the right to be alone since we first met. Still, I couldn’t let go of our usual bickering match. “Go home.”

He folded his hands behind his head, not moving. I crossed my arms. A few seconds later he sat up, grabbed my laptop off the floor, and flipped it open. “We’ll watch a movie.”

“My laptop can’t handle Netflix. You know that.”

He closed the laptop. “Right. Forgot.” He unlocked his phone and placed it on the bed.

“Tiny viewing tonight?”

“You refused to come to my place.” Underlining meaning: we could have watched on a large flat-screen TV.

Since there was no budging him now that he had settled in, I climbed onto the bed with him. He picked up the phone so we could watch, and I settled my head on his chest.

I didn’t pay much attention to the action flick he put on. Most days I loved the intensity of those movies. Tonight, those explosions felt too close for comfort. Instead I made a mental list of my options. Had to before Dev found out. He’d want me to stay with him. And being cuddled up with him, I had to admit, had potential. More so when I placed my hand on his firm stomach and took in a deep breath of the ocean scent of his soap. Problem was, I needed to be on my own two feet. The last person to take care of me—my mother—had failed. I couldn’t trust anyone else.

Not even Dev.

***

Excerpt from Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown. Copyright © 2017 by Laura Brown. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Laura Brown

Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky abnormal family. Her husband’s put up with her since high school, her young son keeps her on her toes, and her three cats think they deserve more scratches. Hearing loss is a big part of who she is, from her own Hard of Hearing ears, to the characters she creates.

Visit Laura on her Website, Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads pages!

Visit these Tour Hosts for More on Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Laura Brown and Harper Collins. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Signs of Attraction by Laura Brown. The giveaway begins on June 24 and runs through July 14 2017.

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Jun 202017
 

Practicing Normal
by Cara Sue Achterberg
on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017

Practicing Normal

Book Details
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1611882443 (ISBN13: 9781611882445)

Get Your Copy of Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads!

Synopsis:

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

Kudos:

“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In PRACTICING NORMAL, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain ― and the occasional gifts ― of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and the New York Times bestsellers PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW

“PRACTICING NORMAL takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of THE VANISHING YEAR

Check out my review HERE

Read an excerpt:

Waving to Jenna as she waits at the bus stop, all I can think is, Please let her go to school today and stay in school all day. Jenna is such a smart girl; I don’t understand why she doesn’t apply herself to her studies. She could be anything. A doctor, even. I was a nurse, but Jenna is smarter than me. Of course, that was twenty years ago. Before I married Everett. Before Jenna and JT were born. Before we ever lived in Pine Estates.

I was the one who chose the house. Everett thought it was pretentious, and it was. All the houses on our end of Pine Road were pretentious. But it was the nineties. Everyone was building McMansions and taking out ridiculous loans to pay for them. Everett had just left his job as a police officer for the job at FABSO (Family and Business Security Options).

We needed to start a new life. We celebrated the new job and didn’t talk about the fact that things could have turned out very differently if his captain had chosen to bring charges against him. Instead, he recommended Everett for the job at FABSO and made it clear Everett would be wise to take it.

I remember lying in bed holding Everett the day he turned in his gun and his badge. He was devastated. Being a cop had been Everett’s dream since childhood. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a cop. If I can’t be a cop, who am I?”

“You’re a father and a husband. That’s so much more,” I told him. He didn’t say anything about it again. He got to work. He made something of FABSO. And he’s tried so hard to be a good dad.

I don’t remember much about my own dad, and whenever I asked my mother she would say, “There’s nothing to remember about that louse except that he was a louse.” When I pressed her later, after I’d grown up, she’d said, “It doesn’t matter now. He didn’t want to be with us enough to stay.”

All that bitterness can’t hide the fact that when my father left, he apparently took my mother’s heart. She’s spent the rest of her life alone. Except for me. And Evelyn. Although, once Evelyn left home, she didn’t come around much. These days she visits Mama on Saturdays, unless she has something more pressing to do, which is most weeks. Mama annoys her. I suppose I do too. We don’t fit into Evelyn’s shiny, perfect life.

When I first met Everett and told Mama about him, she was skeptical. “A cop?”

I told her how he’d wanted to be a cop since he was a little boy, the same way I always wanted to be a nurse. I gushed about how he told me I was beautiful and how he said he’d been certain about us the first time he saw me. Mama said, “Men will say whatever it takes, Kate. When will you realize that?” But I knew she was wrong about Everett.

I met Everett in the ER. I was treating a patient who was high on coke or meth or God knows what. He was lean and riddled with track marks, his strength coming from whatever drug was flooding his body. I didn’t recognize him as one of our regulars—the ones who showed up like clockwork in search of pain meds. This guy was out of his mind and covered in his own blood from where he’d scratched his thin skin. Another nurse helped me attempt to strap him to the gurney with the Velcro holds, but he was out of his mind and reached for the needle I was about to use to sedate him. Everett was nearby at the desk filling out forms and heard me yell. In just moments, he wrestled the junkie to the ground and held him still as I plunged the needle in. When the man finally collapsed, Everett lifted him back onto the gurney and secured him.

When he turned and looked at me with his green eyes, the same eyes Jenna has, I knew I would marry him. I told him that on our second date. He laughed. I’ve always loved his laugh.

When Everett started at FABSO, he made nearly twice the salary he’d made as a cop. I didn’t need to work any longer. It was our chance. I would stay home and take care of our happy family in our beautiful house in Pine Estates. It was our new start. I thought we belonged there.

When I open the door to Mama’s house, she’s already calling for me. She may be losing her mind, but her hearing hasn’t deteriorated one bit.

“You’re late!” she scolds.

“Sorry, JT had a hard time picking out a shirt to wear today.”

“He’s not a baby! I don’t know why you put up with it.”

I smile at her. No sense taking the bait. “You’re right, Mama.”

“You’ve always been so indecisive. I swear if I didn’t tell you what to do next, you’d stand there like a statue.”

“Good thing you’re so good at telling me what to do,” I mutter as I go to prepare her tea.

Mama wasn’t always like this. When Evelyn and I were little, she was our whole world. She baked homemade cakes for our birthdays, and elaborately decorated them with whatever we were currently obsessing over—Tinker Bell, Barbies, guitars, or, for Evelyn, a computer one year, and the scales of justice the year she announced she was going to be a judge when she grew up.

Mama read to us every night. I remember snuggling into the crook of her arm, even when I was too old to be doing it. Evelyn would be on her other side and our hands would meet on Mama’s flat tummy. I loved the stories with a happy ending, but Evelyn demanded that she read “real books.” She wanted mysteries and thrillers instead of the children’s books Mama picked out at the library. So Mama began to read Nancy Drew, but Evelyn went to the adult aisle and picked out John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. Mama tried to read them to us. She’d come to a part that she felt was too racy for us and she’d hum while she skimmed ahead til she found a more appropriate section before beginning to read again. This drove Evelyn nuts. She’d pout and complain, eventually stomping off. Mama would return the books to the library unread, but it wasn’t long before Evelyn was old enough to have her own library card and checked them out for herself.

In the mornings, Mama would braid our hair, pack our lunches with tiny handwritten notes, and walk us to the bus stop for more years than was appropriate. When Evelyn reached high school, she demanded that Mama stop, but she still followed us with her car and waited to be certain we got on the bus safely.

Now that I’m a mom, I know it couldn’t have been easy raising us alone. As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten difficult. But I put up with her increasing number of quirks because I feel I owe her. Evelyn doesn’t see it that way, but then again Evelyn doesn’t feel she owes anybody anything.

“Here you go.” I hand Mama the bitter Earl Grey tea she likes over-steeped with no sweetener.

“I’ve already missed Phillip,” she says as I help her out the door to the back porch. She spends most mornings there, talking to the birds that frequent her multiple bird feeders.

“Who’s Phillip?” I ask, mostly to make conversation. She loves to talk about the birds.

The look she gives me is just like the one JT gives me when my random “Wow” comes at the wrong time in one of his lengthy soliloquies on his current obsession. “Phillip is the male cardinal who has begun stopping by each morning. He comes over the fence from the southeast. He’s usually here before the chickadees move in and take over the birdbath.”

I look at the crowd of birds fighting over the seed at the feeder. They all look the same to me. “I’ve got to take care of a few things at home after I run JT to school; I’ll be back at lunchtime.”

“Always leaving me!” she complains. “You can’t even spend five minutes with your mother.”

I’d protest, but there’s no point. She sees things the way she needs to see them. Rewriting history is one of her specialties. I’ve been listening to her do it all my life. When Everett and I took the kids to the beach last summer, she said, “Must be nice! I’ve never had a vacation.” Yet, I remember several summers when Mama took Evelyn and me to the same beach we were headed to. Or when I graduated from nursing school, Mama said, “I’ve always said you’d make a fine nurse,” when, in reality, she’d been telling me for years that I could never be a nurse because I was so weak at chemistry. She thought I should have considered something in business—like being a secretary. She’s been spinning her stories of Evelyn’s escapades, my mistakes, and my father’s general louse-likeness for so long, she probably believes them as gospel truth. They are, I suppose, at least to her mind.

I hurry home, hoping JT has finally decided on a shirt for school. We’re going to be late if we have to argue about it.

Excerpt from Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg. Copyright © 2017 by Cara Sue Achterberg. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Most of my stories grow out of my personal experience, or more specifically, an issue or idea that I’ve been wanting to explore. Occasionally, though current events can draw me in. The idea for my next novel focuses on a current issue. Practicing Normal, though, came from my heart. Perhaps, it grew out of the isolation I’ve always felt in the small rural community where I live. It’s very insular and I’ve often judged others and felt judged by the people who live around me. Practicing Normal explores the question of how well we know each other and pokes holes in our assumptions based on appearances, financial situations, and employment.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I always, always start at the beginning and see where the story takes me. I can’t imagine writing any other way. In fact, if I knew the answer or the ending, I doubt I could enjoy the writing or even find the motivation to write the story in the first place. Every story is a journey of discovery for me. I know that sounds new-agey, but that’s exactly what it is – I learn something about myself, the world, people. Once the story is set in motion, I can’t let go of it and I follow where it takes me. Sometimes that’s scary, especially when the word count creeps up and I don’t see any hint of an ending. Many times I’m surprised by where the story takes me and I marvel at how magical it feels. Practicing Normal spilled out of me quickly like I was watching a movie.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
My characters are absolutely based on people I know, and at the same time they are definitely not based on anyone I know. There’s no way around using what you know to devise characters. Is it done intentionally? At least for me – no. That would be too weird and basing a character on someone I know would take me (and possibly my readers) out of the story. That wouldn’t work.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
It’s very hard to have a writing routine when you have kids living at home, multiple foster dogs, a small farm with horses and chickens, and a distractable personality. But if I have a routine, it’s this: I read and journal early before breakfast. I work on ‘nonfiction’ (blog posts, research, social media, email, website) before lunch, and after lunch I turn to my fiction. I love the afternoons when no one is home and no animal is in need and I can lose myself in a story. The only idiosyncrasies I have about writing are that I need silence to write (no music, no people talking, no TV in the other room) and an enormous cup of tea. I favor black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.

Tell us why we should read this book.
Hmmm….this should be my elevator speech, right? You should read my book because it’s a good story. It will make you think about marriage and family and love and probably make you wonder what your neighbors are up to. But mostly, its characters will touch your heart, helping you to realize that there’s some good (and some bad) in all of us.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love so many authors that it’ll be hard to keep this list short. I’ve always loved John Irving, Joyce Maynard, Wally Lamb, and Anne Lamott, but I laugh outloud at Jonathon Tropper and love the worlds that Barbara Kingsolver creates. Michael Perry and Barbara Brown Taylor are two of the most talented writers I can think of who consistently make me think and wish I wrote better. I’ve recently discovered Kathryn Craft and Christopher Scotten, and can’t wait to read more from them. Sarah Gruen, Elizabeth Brundage, and T. Greenwood make me turn the page happily. I’ll forever love the writing of Connie May Fowler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katrina Kennison, and Kate Braestrup because they were the voices that helped me begin to find my own. I have a lot of favorites. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading a fascinating nonfiction book call the The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin. She’s a journalist digging deep into the world of puppy mills and dog rescue and the big business of dogs. As far as fiction, my choices are many times dictated by my book club who have me currently reading, A Tale of the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, but the book I’m really enjoying right now is Kate Moretti’s Thought I Knew You.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve actually got two in the editing phase, plus my agent is currently shopping a memoir I wrote about my family and our first fifty foster dogs. One of my fiction manuscripts revolves around a mother and daughter in the aftermath of a texting and driving accident, while the other is a bit less dark and follows a quirky young waitress who goes on a honeymoon with a customer whose just been stood up at the alter.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I hate this question because it exposes how out of touch I am with the current movie scene. I guess I’m a cheapskate because I can’t bring myself to blow a hundred bucks on taking our family to the movies, so we wait for most everything to come out online. Add to that my complete inability to retain the names of movies stars and I’m at a loss. If I could freeze them in time, I’d cast Meg Ryan as Kate (because I love Meg and Kate) and Ellen Page (at the age she was in Juno) as Jenna. Everett is a bit tougher – maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon or Robert Downy Jr, but not because any of them are ‘perfect’ just, once again, because I like them.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to hang out with dogs – does that count? I also, very occasionally, ride horses. I run or hike most days and love to go wine-tasting at little wineries in Virginia. Any pretty day will find me poking around in my gardens.

Favorite meal?
Easy – steamed shrimp (which I rarely get to eat because my husband is allergic!), Caesar salad (with the dressing on the side), a loaf of crusty wheat bread, olive oil for dipping, and plenty of wine.

Cara Sue Achterberg

Author Bio:

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for liv- ing a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

CaraWrites.com | Cara Sue Achterberg on Twitter | Cara Sue Achterberg on Facebook

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Jun 192017
 

PRACTICING NORMAL by Cara Sue Achterberg
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61188-244-5
Pages: 352
Review Copy From: Publisher
Edition: ARC
My Rating: 5+

**Tomorrow Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg and a giveaway**

Synopsis:

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.
Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

My Thoughts:

Meet the Turners, your normal upper-middle-class family living in an upscale neighborhood. Husband, Everett, former cop and now a successful businessman, Kate, former ER nurse now a stay at home mom, daughter Jenna, your typical rebellious teenager, and son JT who has Asperger’s and dog Marco.

Not only does everything appear normal from the outside, but the family within, go about their day to day normal routines. But what is truly normal?

The story is told from the POVs of Kate, Everett, and Jenna.

Everett claims to be in love with Kate but is it true actions speak louder than words? Kate’s days are consumed with taking care of her autistic son and elderly mother, who has been a bitter woman since her husband left her and her daughters. Jenna, a loner, who has a knack for B&Es and JT who is a brilliant boy but lives in his own world.

This story is absolutely captivating!! The author’s outstanding writing technique brings these characters, and others in the book, to life. I found myself not wanting the book to end, but then, on the other hand, I couldn’t wait to see how this family deals with the circumstances (vague due to not wanting to include spoilers) that were their norm.

A riveting and engrossing story that I could not put down. I am the newest fan of Ms. Achterberg! I highly recommend this extraordinary novel!!!

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