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My Greatest Mentor

IMG-20130917-00529The tiny five foot frame of Viola, could not contain her enthusiastic spirit for living. It spilled out in unseen waves and touched anyone she came into contact with. I was blessed to be one of those it touched.

While working together on our Church newsletter we got to know each other. I took in the articles, did the layout on my computer then Viola would edit and get it printed and distributed. During the conversations over proper grammar we also shared our past, dreams and family stories.

We had a lot in common despite the thirty year difference in our ages. Down to earth, fair minded and confident, she had an easy acceptance of her role as a woman. Fiercely independent, she easily raised children, helped her husband in his construction company and faced the inconveniences of living in rural Wyoming.

It was her innocent, fun-loving sense of adventure that drew me most. We traveled together many times to different conventions that held something of interest to us. Through all of this I shared my desire and biggest secret – my passion to write.

Viola was my greatest admirer and critic. She pulled no punches when it came to editing. When I would write an article for the newsletter, she would rave about it yet point out all its flaws.  I invited her to a writer’s convention and in her spritely way, she enthusiastically agreed to go. In her seventies, she still traveled by herself quite often and thought nothing of taking off on adventures such as flying up to Alaska to visit family.

Set in the lush grounds of the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, at first we both were impressed and overwhelmed. Surely these authors had some special talent that we lacked. But Viola wanted to learn to write memoirs and in her modest, humble way helped me to gradually become comfortable in the company of the successful.

During luncheons and dinners agents were seated at the tables so we would have access to talk to them. At one lunch we had an editor from a romance press sitting between us. Viola had outgoing social skills, while I was reserved, so it was no surprise to me when she struck up a conversation with the woman. Once the introductions were over she launched into a brag session about my skills and dreams. I blushed profusely explaining I had an idea, but had not yet put pen to paper. In the end, the agent was so impressed with Viola’s sale skills; she asked for my information and gave me her card telling me to contact her when I had a manuscript ready.

On the way home we threw ideas together and created the outline for what would become “Windswept Hearts” five years later. Every Sunday, every time we got together she encouraged me to write. Eventually, as I saw time erode away her vitality, I knew I had to write the story. I wanted her to see it in print before she went home to the Lord.

Not only did she help edit it, but she was my greatest support and encourager during the process. When I gave her the first signed copy, she beamed through a myriad of wrinkles, and ordered ten more copies for her family.

Last month, as I attended her lively, peaceful memorial, I realized what gifts she had given me. The world was less bright, my dreams of writing a little dimmer as I realized I was now on my own in my journey.

Viola’s impish spirit continues to peer over my shoulder at times when I type and I take the confidence she helped me build to go out and continue to pursue my passion for writing. That same spirit will most likely appear in a character or two, being immortalized forever. I can see her now, giggling and telling me, “Oh, that’s not like me at all and by the way, there are several missing commas!”

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Meet Chryse Wymer, Editor

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I met Chryse Wymer on a site called “BookRix.”  What caught my attention was a comment she left about grammar. I enjoyed her feisty outspokenness and I realized she was right about the grammar issues being discussedBeing grammar challenged, I found myself seeking her advice.  Slowly I began to know the person behind the comments.  I fondly call her the “Yoda of Grammar.” I’m so excited to host her blog here today.

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Thank you, Robynn Gabel, for allowing me to guest post on what I know to be of particular interest to you: commas. For those of you keeping track, this is part three of my comma series. If you are interested in reading part one, visit A.B Shepherd’s blog at: http://www.abshepherd.net/, and part two can be read on John Abramowitz’s blog at: http://onthebird.blogspot.com/

This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author—published both traditionally and independently. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get you started on your editing bookshelves. You can contact me at chrysewymer@yahoo.com, or, for more information, visit: http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/ So here goes:

COMMAS – PART THREE

I want to reiterate that the basic function of a comma is to separate.

The fifth function of a comma is to separate adjectives that each qualify a noun in the same way < Next to a few odds and ends, she found a small[,] red leather-bound book.> There are a couple of tricks to help decide if a comma is necessary: one is whether or not you can use and between the adjectives. If you can, you need a comma. My preferred method is the switcheroo. If you can switch the adjectives out, then you need a comma, e.g.: Next to a few odds and ends, she found a red[,] small leather-bound book.

The sixth function of a comma is separate a direct quotation from its attribution <“Blue. I like the color blue,” she said.>

The seventh function of a comma is to separate a participial phrase, a verbless phrase (group of verbless words that make sense but do not form a complete sentence), or a vocative (direct address)—e.g.: “Having had coffee[,] she made her son breakfast.”/ “Anna, you’re so rotten!”

The eighth function of a comma is marking the end of a salutation in an informal letter <Dear Ms. Gabel,> <Dear Chryse,> and the close <Yours sincerely,>

Finally, the comma separates parts of a physical address <258 Monkey Butt Drive, Macon, WV> or a date <October 21, 2013>

Stay tuned as I continue my grammar and style tour 30 Days of Linguistic Love with . . . semicolons, one of the most-often misused punctuation marks. Visit me tomorrow on Dionne Lister’s blog at http://dionnelisterwriter.com/ to find out more about semicolons.

 

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The Real Writer’s Block

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Staring out the window, you contemplate your next scene and come up blank. Frustrated, you are stumped at what comes next. . A moment lost as the story line goes cold can put a writer into panic. This is called a ‘writer’s block’. 

There are many fixes like taking a walk, a hot shower, listening to your favorite music or just taking a break for a few days. The list of cures is endless.  But the most insidious writer’s block is sometimes not even recognized by a writer.  

Recently someone asked me to read their work.  They were concerned about their grammar. I found the story to be quite different as it was written laced with prose. Unfortunately some of the words used were not in proper context. After some quick emails back and forth, it finally boiled down to the author still only being concerned with grammar. They thought their ‘prose’ style was unique and the reader would figure out what they meant by using words out of context.

I understand. I do. It takes a lot of work to create art. We are proud of our creations, but the worse block is not being able to see where the weaknesses are, even when pointed out to us. The refusal to edit is a death knell for our work.

Read any author’s autobiography and you will find again and again the editing process was the hardest part, but necessary for all writers. We are blind when it comes to our own work. The block we put up, using the excuse it is ‘our art’ and should not be changed, puts us in the dark. Readers are educated. Usually they have read oceans of words and demand a smooth flow, proper usage of the English language, a developed story plot, and understandable dialogue.

I’m not saying that you cannot be artistic, but be realistic. If you are just starting out and haven’t developed your ‘brand’ yet, it is better to be safe. Every established author will tell you that their first work is not as polished as what follows.

Listen to your friends, family and readers. If you are not selling, if more than one person has told you something needs to be changed, consider it. Get an editor. I can’t say this enough. Get an editor!

Don’t be blinded by the worst ‘writer’s block’ of all. An over-inflated sense of how great your writing is.

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Trolling Away

Every now and then I find an article that just says it all for me. As if the writer just knew so much better how to word something.  The following is written by Nick Thompson of CNN.  Below is the link to his awesome article on Internet Trolls.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/11/world/internet-trolling

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Addicted to Writing?

writing2I once worked  in a psych and chemical dependency treatment center. The first thing I learned was the definition of addiction and how we can be addicted to anything. There was checklist to measure the depth of the addiction

For instance – has it interfered with personal relationships? Has it affected your finances such as lost jobs, or impulse buying, or missing payments? Have you had problems with the law? Is your health affected by it? Your spirituality? Has it affected your lifestyle? Or have you been displaced such as a loss of residency? Do you have problems concentrating or are you obsessing about attaining your next encounter with it?

The other day I went looking for a box of my high school writings. I had read a blog by Ionia Martin where she asked if we thought our first writing was any good. I was curious about mine. I found several boxes filled with notes written on every conceivable form of paper. Post-it notes, napkins, scraps of wallpaper, receipts, postcards, envelopes, kid’s school projects, even toilet paper. I promise it was clean!

Suddenly I thought about that checklist. Had my writing interfered with personal relationships? Well, my husband had complained on more than one occasion about my vacant stares and his repeated questions that fell on my deaf ears. The kids got to know that look and knew not bother me when I was scribbling frantically. Impulse buying of notebooks, notepads and bushels of pens and pencils did affect the finances I guess. I can’t look at an empty piece of paper without the urgent desire to write something on that white expanse.

I suppose the electric company may have wondered about me when I asked for the bill back that I had sent in with the check because I had written a line of poetry on it. Then there were those occasional speeding tickets on trips. This is when I get most of my books written in  my head. I love a long drive so I can busily construct. Unfortunately I’m not always paying attention to speed limit signs when I’m doing this.

Of course there is the eye-strain from copious amounts of reading and bright computer screens. I stay up late into the night researching and writing so there has been many a Sunday I’ve been to tired to get up and go to church. Concentration on daily chores is interrupted by my mad dashes to the nearest piece of paper to capture an idea. Let’s not forget about obsessing over getting that opening chapter just right or the editing rewrite done.

So, I don’t know. Do you think I may have a writing addiction?

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Embracing Rejection

Winner-180x180Back in November I decided to try out NaNoWriMo. This is a month long challenge to write at least 50,000 words off the top of your head.  I decided this would be the perfect time to put on paper a story idea that I had carried around for over twenty years in my mind. If you accomplished it,  there was a publisher that offered  a chance to have the work looked over for possible publication. 

Even though I knew it was rough, crude, unpolished and nowhere ready for a public read, I went ahead and sent it. I wanted to experience rejection.

I know, sounds crazy don’t it? 

Up to this point I’ve been fairly insulated against rejection. None of my writing sees the public eye until thoroughly gone over and edited. Of course my editor pushes me and is my greatest critic!  But I’m extremely selective about what I let out of my vast ocean of words. Family and friends have been pillars of support. Every writing club or site I’ve posted on, people have been gentle in their critiques. But I wanted a taste of  the real world of publishing, to mature, to become more. 

That’s what rejection can accomplish. Someone, somewhere, is not going to like my writing. No matter how polished, how good, how entertaining. This is the spice of life. The variety we need to keep it from being boring. That extra incentive to make us want to strive to do better. To step back and view our work differently. 

I knew the story I sent was raw, undisciplined and unfocused. I have to admit an arrogant part of me thought maybe I’m that good. Thank heavens that got shot down! I would be insufferable otherwise. Yes, I was disappointed. To me this is a great idea for a story. I was hoping the merit of that would outweigh my shoddy writing. Maybe it isn’t all that great and they have seen plots like this forever. But, for a moment, their polite rejection made me really examined why I write.

I embraced all the feelings that rejection brought up because it finally clarified for me this insane desire to write. I’m like all other writers and have been telling stories since I can remember. Committing bits and pieces of words to paper all of my life. It is simply for me the best way to communicate. 

Will I ever sell a book? Will I ever be a best selling author? Well, I’d like to think so. We must have that bit of arrogance to push our writing out into the world. In reality though, maybe not. There are a lot of writers out there far better than I. Yet, I would write no matter what. Because it is part of me, who and what I am.  I can’t look at a blank expanse and not wish to scribble words upon it. 

To everything in this world there  exists a negative to balance the positive. I don’t like rejection, it stings. But it  drives the incentive to push on, do better, refine and hone my communication style. Because no matter how many times I get rejected, I have an insane love affair with writing. Like a jilted lover I will go back again and again until I get it right.  For now, that’s good enough for me.

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End of the Journey

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November 2012 is not a month I will be forgetting anytime soon.

I attempted my first blog tour, Blog Blizzard, with twelve very brave authors. It was a whirlwind of learning. Three weeks into it, my computer decided to crash. This put my tight schedule in quite a turmoil, but we all bounced back and the blog tour continued. As I would arrange, paste and promote each author, I would read about their work and lives. Some were quite entertaining, and yet through it all, I saw a common thread for all of us. We love to write.

A big thank you to the following intrepid experimenters for allowing me to learn while promoting them.
Ann Swann – http://www.annswann.com
Rebekah Roberts – http://www.RebekaRoberts.net
Sara Barnard – http://www.sarabarnadbooks.com
M.J. Kane – http://thiswriterslife-mjkan.blogspot.com
Mylnda Price – http://www.melyndaprice.com
M.O. Kenyan – http://www.mokauthor.wordpress.com
Hillary Seidl – http://www.hillaryseidl.com/
Erika M Szabo – http://www.doktorszaboerika.com
Christina Ow – christinaow.wordpress.com
Carmen DeSousa – http://www.carmendesousa.com/
Doug Simpson – http://dousimp.masi.net
Bernadette Marie – http://www.bernadettemarie.com

Of course, while doing this I also took on the National Novel Writers Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I must say, I thought it would be a peice of cake. Oh, what a fool I was! Yet, again, it turned out to be a tremendous learning experience. I humbly thank my family who put up with all of my craziness during the month of November. Without them I would have never attained what seemed at times the impossible goal of 50,000 words in an understandable format.

So as I get ready to Deck the Halls, and celebrate Christmas, this month seems tame and peaceful after last months whirlwind of endeavor. Thank you to all of you that have stopped in and visited my blog and guests this last month. You are appreciated as well.

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Blog Blizzard presnet Ann Swann – Author

To Write or Not to Write?

C’mon . . . is there ever a question?  Everyone who wants to write should write.  We know that.  So why is it we sometimes do everything in our power to not write?

Example:  “Good morning!”  I’m speaking to my dogs Bonnie and Rocky, and the Supreme Ruler, Maggie, the cat.   They summarily lick my hand; bump the back of my bare knees in my So-Many-Books-So-Little-Time nightshirt, or totally ignore me and sit by the door waiting to be let out into the morning sun.

I head for my biggest vice, the iMac, wiggle the mouse, click on email, let the cat out, and stumble toward the Mr. Coffee while one hundred sixty-two emails load up.  “My,” I say to the assembled doggie crowd.  “It’s only eight a.m.  Someone’s been busy!”  I belong to several online writer’s groups (and a couple of real-life groups) so I always have a ton of emails . . . makes me feel special even though most of them are simply buy-my-book promos from other authors.

Tossing the dogs a peanut butter flavored doggie biscuit, I pop a tart into the toaster and swallow a vitamin capsule with an old Flintstones jelly glass half-full of with-pulp OJ.  Yum!  Okay, that’s my nod to nutrition.

Nibbling my tart, I scan the headlines of my paper-newspaper (yes, I’m a throwback, I can’t say no when they call me each year to renew, even though it’s gotten so thin the carrier has to roll it with a super-fat rubber band to give it a little heft and keep it from blowing right out of the driveway when he speeds away).  Next, I work the daily Jumble, ink smiley faces beside the easy words, frownies beside the hard ones, and then leave it open for my handsome hubby, Dude, to look at tonight when he gets home from work.

By this time it’s 8:30, maybe 8:45 if there was actually something interesting in the paper or if I stopped midway to play my turn in one of the dozen games of Words with Friends on my iPhone, so I take my second cup of coffee back to my desk and settle in to write.  Except the Supreme Ruler is looking in the window at me with that exasperated you-have-one-second-to-get-that-door-open-before-I-release-all-the-wrath-of-Cat-upon-your-head look.

I let her in and then she has to have a dollop of cream in her special ramekin, which has to be carried to her bathroom and placed upon the counter out of reach of the scrounging horde of dogs—all two of them.  I tried placing it on the kitchen counter one time, which would have been much quicker and easier and still out of reach of the horde, but Her Royalness didn’t go for that, thank goodness, because what was I thinking putting her on the same surface where I lay my Poptart each morning?  Ewww!  She walks around in her own poop for crying out loud.

At last, I sit down in front of the Mac and get to those emails.  About 70% are simply click and delete (I’ve seen them all before), but the rest are personal and actually require a reply or at least a closer look.

It’s now 9:30 closing in on 10:00, and I still have to check the blog, Twitter, Triberr, Goodreads, and my Facebook author groups that post ads for me and vice versa.  I love these groups.  All those lovely book covers, and book trailers . . . it’s easy to get lost in that indie forest.

Around noon I wander back to the kitchen for a diet Coke, a handful of Wheat Thins coated with cream cheese and jalapeno slices, and take the snack out back to the patio just to stretch my legs and the muscles in my lower back—I’ve been sitting at the computer for over two hours and haven’t written a single word except for emails, blogs, and tweets.

The weather is so lovely I think about how nice it would be to have a sleeping porch so I could take a nap without the help of those pesky mosquitoes and horseflies.  But how could I be sleepy?  I haven’t actually done anything!  Which reminds me, I really need to get dressed and brush my teeth.

It’s almost 2:00 by the time I finish my snack, play a few more WWFs on the iPhone, do a bit of lackadaisical grooming, slip on a pair of old capris and a cotton shirt, and head back to the computer.  Now, what to write?  I studiously ignore the 43 new emails that have come in since before lunch, and I don’t even think about looking at Facebook, okay, maybe just a peek to see if my daughter has posted any new pics of the grandkids.  No, no that can wait . . . must write!

I pull up my Work in Progress, a romantic suspense called Stutter Creek, hit Option-Command G to go to the proper page and . . . oh, yes, here we go, I was working on the scene where the serial killer is closing in on our protagonist.  Need to make it scarier . . .

Chewing the end of a Sonic straw to help me concentrate—I gave up smoking twenty years ago—I let my mind wander into the scene . . . but those darn little email numbers keep popping up so I do what I always do to help my mind focus, I get up and do some housework.  Sweeping and mopping are always good, rhythmic chores that seem to release my grip on reality, and I love the fact that I am actually doing something constructive while I construct the scene.

It works!  While the floor dries, I dash back to the computer and slash at the keys in a frenzy to get the creepiness down on “paper” before it melts away.

And now it’s six o’clock and time for the Dude to get home.  Where has the time gone?  I stand up and rub at the small of my back, amazed that five pages of fairly good material have materialized in front of me.

Wow.  Not bad for a couple hours work.  Just imagine if I’d actually started writing at 8:00 this morning.  I could’ve had the book finished like, yesterday!

Website: www.annswann.com

Blog: www.annswann.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annswann.author

Email: Swannann76@yahoo.com

Twitter: @ann_swann

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/annswann/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5420711.Ann_Swann

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Blog Blizzard – Ann Swann – Author Interview

Ann Swann, author of ALL FOR LOVE

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Making up characters and bringing them to life while still dressed in my pajamas and nursing a cup of coffee.

What genre(s) do you write?

Adult contemporary romance, romantic suspense, young adult ghost stories and paranormal short stories.  I’m also writing a cop story set in small-town West Texas.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I tend to rush to the finish.  I have to slow down and plump up.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I have to know the ending, then it’s strictly seat of the pants!

Why do you think people should choose your books over another author?

I like to make people cry.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?

Unforgettable characters.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In All For Love, I hope the reader gets the message that decisions made in haste often have life-long consequences.

How long have you been a writer?

Since I was old enough to string sentences together in a spiral notebook.

How much time did it take from writing your first book to having it published?

Well, my first book was never published.  It died a slow and painful death at the hands of zombie-dust-bunnies in the bottom drawer of my old desk.

Twenty years later, I got serious and published a novella.  However, I was writing and publishing short stories all along.

What other careers have you had?

Elementary school teacher, 911 operator, waitress, radio-station secretary, freight office supervisor, newspaper delivery girl—don’t laugh—I was able to take my kids with me when they were small.

Do you write under more than one name? Why?

No, I have thought about it though.  Especially since I write in more than one genre.

Are any of your characters based on real people or events?

Oh, I always use an amalgamation of real people and real events.  I’ve killed off my “enemies” a few times.

How would you describe yourself if you were “speed dating” your readers?

I strive for action and deep emotion in all my stories.

What’s something fans would find fascinating about you?

I believe in spirits—I’ve been visited on three separate occasions.  Plus, I can wiggle my ears.

What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?

My work is heartfelt.  It comes from the pain and joy of living.  I always try to convey that via my characters.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?

Everything from Black Beauty and Call of the Wild, right up through The Crystal Cave, and on into Stephen King’s work (especially works like The Woman in the Room); books have taught me everything I need to know about life.

How do your family and/or friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?

My family is very supportive.  They have no choice.  I know where they live.

Where are you from?

Lamesa, Texas

It’s a small town surrounded by cotton fields and pumpjacks.

How do you come up with the titles?

The Muses supply them—then the editors change them.

Has your life changed significantly since becoming a published writer?

Yes, I have become a slave to Internet marketing.

Do you work on one project at a time? Or do you multi-task?

I work on several at once.  I also read several books at the same time.  I think I may have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder.  Either that or I just got such a late start in publishing that I’m constantly trying to catch up . . .

When not writing, how do you relax?

I like to read, walk two or three miles a day, go to the drive-in movies with my handsome hubby, Dude, swim, and try out new restaurants.  We also love live music and are fortunate to be able to attend concerts frequently.  ZZ Top, Craig Chaquico, Pat Benatar, Reckless Kelly, Bruce Springsteen, Charley Pride, Bill Cosby (okay, he’s not a musician, but boy can he tell it like it is) those are some of the most recent . . . I want to see George Jones; he is coming to town soon, but I will be in Austin at the Texas Book Festival.

Please tell us 5 miscellaneous facts about yourself.

I love roasted jalapenos.

My favorite drinks are coffee, chocolate milk, and Diet Coke (not usually all together).

My daughter, Sara Barnard, is also an author published by 5 Prince Publishing.

I have five grandchildren.

I once met Andre the Giant (from The Princess Bride).  He was very nice and very, very large.

Please share with us your future projects and upcoming releases.

My next book is The Phantom Student; book two in The Phantom Series, which will be released in October 2012.  I am also at work on Book Three, The Phantom of Crybaby Bridge.

I have two stories included in Campfire Tales, an anthology of spooky stories, which will be released in September 2012.

I am finished with my Romantic Suspense novel, Stutter Creek.  It’s fermenting.

Please share any links you would like.

Website: www.annswann.com

Blog: www.annswann.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annswann.author

Email: Swannann76@yahoo.com

Twitter: @ann_swann

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/annswann/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5420711.Ann_Swann

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Blog Blizzard – Rebekah Roberts – Author

Rebekah Roberts’ obsession with fairytales, romance, and Jesus came at an early age. She knew as a young teen that she wanted to write books for girls that were both fun to read and good for them.

While working as a nanny and volunteering in her church’s youth group, Rebekah continues her mission to write wholesome romances and uses fiction as a platform for The Unfolding Rose Ministries; where she helps to promote true beauty and self confidence in girls.

Rebekah was homeschooled through high school.  She continued her education at Moore Norman Technology, where she studied creative writing. She uses her education to instill a love of the craft in the next generation through teaching writing classes.

Growing up in small town Oklahoma, she loves the old south and history, which finds its way into her writing and everyday conversation with dreams of plantation houses, WWII dances, and Victorian trivia. She has a passion for taking an old story and making it new.

When she is not writing or working with youth, she loves to watch sci-fi movies with family or enjoy a pot of tea with good friends.

Petals is her first novel. www.RebekahRoberts.net

Pen Name: Rebekah Roberts

Book Title: Petals

Series Title: Once Upon a Tuesday

Number in the series: Book One

Book description as it will read on the back of the book:

“Beauty might just be the beast.”’

Calla Williams is not like other girls.  Most girls spend their whole lives trying to be beautiful, Calla already is…and she hates it.

When she is shipped off one summer to live with family friends in their dilapidated Mississippi plantation, Calla is faced with the prospect of living with strangers and their teenage son.  This is annoying because, like any other boy, he is sure to fall in love with her on sight. However, Griffin Davenport is not your typical teenage guy. With his hot temper and half of his face severely scarred, “hate at first sight” is closer to what she finds.

Though the two teens try to stay out of each other’s way, an odd attraction to each other makes staying away anything but easy.

Now, Calla must deal with growing feelings, her own prejudices, and finding the secret to Griffin’s past. As hate turns to friendship and friendship becomes something more, Calla learns a startling truth: God uses even how we look in His plan for our lives.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/RebekahRobertsWriter

https://twitter.com/RebekahFRoberts

www.RebekahRoberts.net