Book Blitz, Giveaway, and Guest Post: The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross

Blog tour banner for The Midnight Sea by Kat RossBook cover for The Midnight Sea by Kat RossThe Midnight Sea by Kat Ross 
(Fourth Element #1)
Publication date: May 10th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

They are the light against the darkness.

The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.

And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

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Despicable You: Writing Great Villains

By Kat Ross

I have a confession to make—one that some of you might share. My favorite characters are usually the awful ones. The ones who do terrible things without a shred of remorse. The ones that I’m dying to see get their comeuppance, but not before they push our beloved protagonist to the very edge and nearly destroy everything in the story we care about. Yes, I’m talking about the villains.

Think the viscerally creepy Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The icily elegant Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Elizabeth Wein’s SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden in Code Name Verity, who we only meet second-hand but is terrifying nonetheless.

Villains can make or break a book. When they’re boring or one-dimensional or clichéd, there’s no tension and the plot deflates with that sad wheezing noise balloons make when you stick with them with a hatpin. But when they’re done right, meaning that they are an actual character and not simply a clunky device to test the hero, they help keep the stakes of the story high and the reader turning pages late into the night.

In The Midnight Sea, King Artaxeros II is the obvious villain, but he’s also a bit abstract—you don’t meet him until more than halfway through, and then only briefly. So I needed another antagonist. One who you really get to know. One who has some admirable traits but, as the pressures of the plot slowly pile up, becomes something much darker. Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say that I spent as much or more time thinking about him as about my main characters, Nazafareen and Darius. If you’re going to have a colossal betrayal, the reader had better care about everyone involved or it just won’t have much emotional impact.

So here are a few tips on writing unforgettable villains.

First off, all this is very subjective. What gives me cold sweats might make you laugh yourself silly. So you might start by think about which villains in film, TV, books, wherever, have resonated the most and why. Is it the prosthetic hook? The creepy Malkovich-esque voice? The mask of sanity they wear with their family when they’re not committing grisly deeds? Once you know what disturbs you in the deepest, most primal part of your monkey brain, channel that quality in your own bad guy.

Okay, this one I cannot emphasize enough: give the villain motivation that readers can relate to, even if it’s totally twisted. So they’re power-hungry. Why? Is it because they have a secret crush on someone they want to impress? Or maybe they’re compensating for a horrible childhood, or their dog needs an expensive operation, or their ideas of right and wrong are simply skewed beyond repair? I like to think that even the worst villain has something they care about. Balthazar, a necromancer who gets a starring turn in the second book of my series, is madly in love with his wicked queen. Yes, he does terrible things. But everything he does, he does for her.

Rachel Aaron has an awesome blog post on character development where she breaks it down into the deceptively simple formula below. The key is to understand that what a character wants and why they want it are two separate things and as a writer, you need to be very clear on both.

What do you want? (Goal)

Why do you want it? (Motivation)

What’s stopping you? (Conflict)

If you have trouble, you can also try flipping the story and imagining it from the villain’s point of view. You might be surprised at what you discover. Setting aside hockey-masked killers and comic book arch-bad guys, a good villain could potentially be the protagonist if he or she weren’t quite so extreme.

In my first book, the sci-fi thriller Some Fine Day, one of the most despicable characters is a military doctor who’s deliberately infected innocent people with a super-nasty Level Four virus. But as she calmly explains to the main character, the project is simply a response to their enemies engineering a similar plague. From her point of view, it’s a matter of self-defense.

Effective villains often embody an exaggerated version of the same things your hero is conflicted about. That’s very much the case in The Midnight Sea, where both Nazafareen and her antagonist face a similar choice but react in opposite ways. This is where we dig down deep and see what our characters are made of. Often, it is the villain’s inability to change and grow and face the truth (external or internal) that proves to be their undoing.

So now that you’ve got a fantastic, fully fleshed out villain that rivals Moriarty or Lecter, what’s the best way to get them across to the reader? Well, if the story is third person, you can give your villain their own POV. Jack Torrance in The Shining is one of my all-time favorites because we get to watch him slide slowly into madness over the course of several hundred pages. But the scariest part comes just before he’s lost it completely. We know he’s probably going to do some very bad things, but there’s still an unpredictable quality to him. In our hearts, we still vainly hope that his love for his wife and kid will somehow triumph over the evil ghosts running the Overlook Hotel, which makes it SO much worse when Jack finally, irretrievably snaps.

As King says, “This inhuman place makes human monsters.” And those are always the scariest kind.

Anyway, thanks for reading! For tons more on villains, I highly recommend Bullies, Bastards And Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Morrell.

Author Bio

Author photo of Kat Ross

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Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

Skills for Survival in the Arts: A Guest Post by Nancy Lorenz, Author of American Ballerina

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Nancy Lorenz, author of the new book American Ballerina, to Angela’s Library. As you might recall, I reviewed Nancy’s debut novel, The Strength of Ballerinas, back in 2014 and absolutely loved it. The book followed the journey of Kendra Sutton, an aspiring young dancer, after her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. In American Ballerina, the sequel, Kendra leaves her home and family to start a new life as a professional dancer. Keeping to this theme of teens venturing out alone for the first time, I asked Nancy to talk about the skills young people must learn when starting a new life and a new career.

Skills for Survival in the Arts

By Nancy Lorenz

Is your teen leaving home for a career in the arts? Creative people may thrive in their art, but are not always the best at surviving in the big city. They got the job… Now what? Whether it’s an apprentice in a ballet company, a shot at Broadway stardom, or a seat in the Philharmonic, teens need more than elite training. They need a second set of skills – financial literacy, time management, and goal setting.

Today whether it is a job in the arts, or a move away for college, unfortunately, many teens today go into life unprepared. Regardless of the major, many colleges across the country have noticed this trend and have introduced basic life skills courses to help their students succeed.

As a college professor I have taught these life skills courses to new freshman at a few different schools. The courses had different names, but all trained students in the above survival tactics. Additional skills, such as critical thinking or analysis, further aided students in their late teens, setting them up for academic and life success.

Why are these skills important for a performer, though?

A dancer, actor, or musician has to maintain elite status in order to succeed, but unless he or she can survive financially in the big city, success will be unachievable. After all, your teen has to be there in order to make it!

Financial Literacy encompasses making a budget. How do you live within your means, so that you can pay rent and bills before spending on entertainment? Unless lucky enough to live in a dorm during training or an apprenticeship, teens have to get an apartment. That means they’ll have to pay rent, bills, and purchase supplies for their daily needs.

Food is one example. When I lived at home, I could go to the refrigerator any time I wanted to make a late-night sandwich or grab a snack. The fridge was always full. There was always a big pitcher of ice tea, ready at a moment’s notice, and a freshly baked cake usually sat on the kitchen table. Dinner was made by mom; breakfast was grab and go, or a hot meal of pancakes or eggs. The point is that food was always there.

When I was in New York, the realization hit me like an avalanche. Everything I ate now, I had to buy. That thought scared me to my very bones. What if I didn’t have enough money for lunch? My apartment refrigerator needed to be stocked with food, but I could never afford to fill it completely like at home. Just buying small things like condiments for a sandwich was expensive. Now, there was no cake on the table unless I made one, and no pitcher of ice tea unless I bought it.

The point is that living on your own as a teen can be difficult, especially if the teen has been coddled. Even if a parent pays the rent, sends a weekly check for food, the young performer still has to go out and buy, plan meals, and make their money stretch. Teens of yesteryear grew up in an era of more self-reliance. Less money was given to them in allowance, or support, and the children went out into the big, wide world to make it on their own, a little more prepared.

I remember being a fourteen year old, taking a trolley to a bus to a train to go to my private school. After school, it was the reverse – the train to the bus to the trolley. It’s a different world today, and few parents would allow going that distance alone now. But with more overprotective parents today, comes less self-reliance.

Will performers on their own in the big city today be able to make decisions, purchase leotards, sheet music, pay for lessons, training, seminars, and budget for transportation as well? If a young performer can maintain him or herself in the city financially, however, and perhaps with a little savvy, save a bit here and there, he or she can even grab discount tickets to a show to keep up with the art.

Goal Setting helps the performer to focus. What does he or she want to achieve now? Later? How does he or she use logic and reason to plan an artistic career? Yes! I said logic and reason! People who are creative think that being artistic is enough. They are right-brained people; however, logic and reason guides creative people to succeed. Imagine being an artist like Van Gogh. Your paintings are brilliant, but nobody buys your art. Left brain skills, such as logic, reason, and language, help one to crunch the numbers, market artistic skills, or plan events to propel that performer toward success. It takes both right and left-brain skills to come up with a plan to sustain a career in the arts.

Goal setting also looks at short and long term goals, including setting a time limit for making it in the field. What is the creative goal for success? Financial goal? Two years? Five years? Once you know, you can work toward it logically.

Time Management also keeps teens on track. They can’t do everything all at once. What is the priority? If a teen is an apprentice in a ballet company, what is the schedule? How much disposable time does he or she have for function tasks, such as grocery shopping, laundry, or washing his or her hair? Make a plan! An actor can make a chart to keep track of auditions, classes, part time jobs, and miscellaneous tasks. Unexpected tasks can pop up too, such as getting headshots taken, learning monologues, and working on speech regionalisms for a particular play. Teen musicians have similar issues of how to deal with personal versus work schedules.

In my sequel to The Strength of Ballerinas, the young ballerina, Kendra leaves home, but grows as a person. She has to face all of the above challenges, and still maintain an elite status in her art of ballet. As she bridges this gap from childhood to adulthood, she learns to make judgments (critical thinking) budget (financial literacy), plan her time between art, school, and responsibilities (time management). She must also set her goals realistically, and not overreach for one that is too high to achieve (goal setting). Just as it isn’t easy for a fictional character, it isn’t easy for other teens that are suddenly on their own in real life.

So, whether a teen is right or left brained, using both sides – creativity and logic – can help him or her succeed in the arts. The arts are tough enough, but if smart and savvy, a teen can survive in the big city alone and have a better chance of making it to the top. Teens who practice financial literacy, goal setting, and time management will have, in Hunger Games lingo, “the odds in their favor.”

About Nancy Lorenz

Nancy Lorenz is the author of The Strength of Ballerinas as well as its sequel, American Ballerina. She still takes ballet as an adult, and is also a college adjunct professor within the English curriculum. She writes about ballet on her website blog: www.Nancy-Lorenzauthor.com/blog.

About American Ballerina

In The American BallerinaStrength of Ballerinas, her dancing dreams were put to the test as she worked to overcome every obstacle that came her way. And now, seventeen-year-old Kendra is about to face a whole new set of challenges in American Ballerina. As summer comes to a close, the teen prepares to leave home behind for a three-week ballet intensive—followed by an apprenticeship at the Premiere Ballet.

After saying goodbye to her family, friends, and boyfriend Troy, Kendra jumps headfirst into the fast-paced, hectic ballet class, where she takes on the role of student and teacher for a group of younger girls. There, she meets new friends from around the globe—including a handsome French dancer named Jacques, who sees himself as prime competition for Kendra’s long-distance love.

Between adjusting to her new surroundings and keeping her health in check, Kendra finds herself filled with doubts about her future—despite a life of dance being everything she ever dreamed of. As she comes of age in the high-stakes world of professional ballet, will she manage to balance personal well-being, friendship, love, and her blossoming career?

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Wolf: Guest Post by Alma Alexander

If you’ve read Random, Alma Alexander’s novel about a family of shape-shifters and their numerous secrets, odds are you’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the story’s sequel, Wolf. After the cliffhanger ending Alma tortured us with in Random, I couldn’t wait to get my greedy little paws on Wolf. Not only does it pick up following the shocking revelation of the first book, but it’s narrated by the character who intrigued me most in Random: Jazz Marsh’s mysterious older brother Mal.

A friend of mine recently confessed that she fell “a little bit in love” with Mal after meeting his character in the first book of The Were Chronicles, and I can’t say that I blame her. Mal is brooding and inscrutable, a curious amalgam of anger and guilt and wounded pride. He’s also one of the author’s all-time favorite characters, and she’s here today to share why.

About Wolf

WolfMy name is Mal Marsh.

Instead of remaining the Random Were that I was born…I enlisted the help of a friend, a creature beyond the strictly drawn boundaries of Were-kind, and chose to become a Lycan, a true wolf. I thought it would give me a chance to take my revenge on those I believed to be responsible for what had happened to my sister. Right until the moment I realized that things were much more complicated that I had ever believed possible… and that my choice might have far more repercussions than I had thought.

One thing was clear.

Everything I thought I knew about my family was wrong.

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Falling in Love

By Alma Alexander

When I first nutted out the storyline of The Were Chronicles in my head, I had, as usual, the most broad-strokes outline possible.

I don’t, as a rule, go in for detailed planning or outlining of my books, and I tend to find out what happens next in the same breathless fashion as my eventual readers do – they by reading and me by literally writing the next bit of the narrative. This can mean a very rollercoaster ride for the writer because there are often unexpected things that I never see coming until they flatten me. And boy howdy, did this happen with a vengeance when it came to this series.

These books evolved as a loose triad – not so much a trilogy as a triptych, a story arc seen and observed and most importantly reinterpreted by three different (VERY different!) POV characters.

Random, the first book in the series, showed up in the firm grip of young Jazz, who carried it with grace and humor and a sense of slow enlightenment. But for all that she was familiar territory, when it came to characters. I’m always writing books with strong female protagonists and the 15-year-old Jazz was (almost) a breeze. She was a known commodity, someone whose character I could simply sit down and pour out. She was funny and tragic and strong and beautiful and she was the rock on which I built my story.

But in “her” book, in Random, I also introduced her brother, Mal, the character who would become the POV character in book 2, Wolf. A 17-year-old boy who was tortured by things of a magnitude that would shatter a lesser being. He had to be so much, did Mal – he had to carry so much. And honestly, he was wholly strange in the sense that I had rarely – make that almost never before – written a full book from a male protagonist’s view of the world. He would be a challenge to portray accurately, sympathetically, and believably.

So I started writing his book, in his voice, and waited to see what would happen.

And what happened…was little short of miraculous.

I watched this little boy I had created from my own mind and heart and spirit. I watched him struggle to deal with the weight of the worlds I had laid on his narrow young shoulders, trying to come to terms with difficult things. I watched him *fail* to do that. I watched him turn into this utterly believable sulky, whiny, self-pitying teenage…BOY. A REAL boy. Someone whom I had no problem imagining stepping out of the pages of my book and existing in the real world. Many real people like him, I am almost certain of that, already do – or at least many like this difficult to like early character whom one reviewer has described as a “hostile witness.” That’s exactly what he is – he’s been shaped by forces which are titanic, by love and loss and a sense of inadequacy and self loathing for reasons he can do absolutely nothing about and by a shattering tragic guilt which overshadows his life to the point of threatening to permanently destroy him…until he finds a way to turn that guilt and that sense of personal failure into an ill-thought-out plan of personal revenge, in his own name and in the name of the beloved sister he has always believed himself responsible for the loss of.

And this is where his story really begins. Because at this point, I saw him struggle to deal with his demons, I saw him come face to staring face with one of them… and instead of falling or whining or sulking or doing anything at all that hearkened back to his earlier difficult teenage self, he stood up straight, looked everything in the eye, and TOOK IT ON. Against all odds, against any and all words of wisdom, against everything he knew – putting into jeopardy all of his plans – because he found something else, something bigger, something greater, something that demanded all of him…and he gave it. All.

Does that sound like I kind of fell in love with him at this point? You’d be right. I did. He was so strong, and yet so vulnerable, that everything in me rose to both applaud and protect him.

Perhaps it was that second impulse that breathed life into another character in this story.

I was the author. I was God. I was above and beyond this universe, and it seemed that all I could do for poor Mal was to keep piling grief on him. But inside the story lurked another difficult character, another rebel – Asia. Asia the half-Lycan, with her own dramas and burdens. A touch bitter, bowing down to pack loyalty and doing everything that the pack demanded of her…including being mated within the pack with the newcomer, the boy younger than she by a handful of years, the entity she half-disparagingly refers to as Wonderboy, and trying to make the best out of the situation…until everything crumbles around BOTH of them and she is forced to make an almost impossible choice: her pack, or her mate.

I could not help Mal, I could not save him, so I created this strong, savvy, fiercely intelligent, proud young she-wolf to run at his side. And no, she was not a Mary Sue. She was not, in any way, me. She was the character whom Mal needed to survive this story, and when he needed her she was there.

This is very much that thing which is known in the trade as a “coming of age” book – and both of these young people come of age within it. They are faced with difficult challenges that make them take adult decisions way before they are ready to do that – and they rise to the occasion. They are both adrift, lonely, alone, lost, trying to find a place to belong – but that’s the beginning of the book. By the end, they haven’t adapted themselves to the world – they forced the world into a new conformation which held a new and unexpected and wholly unique new place for them. They were also no longer alone. They weren’t standing back to back, forever looking in opposite directions. No, they were standing there, together, steady, hand in hand, staring the world and all of its demands down until it backs off.

It is not an easy place, and it’s likely to get harder. But it is theirs, and they are there together, and I think, with Asia at his side, that Mal can take anything on at this point. He’s still young but he’s a tempered sword, and he’s a deadly force to be reckoned with.

He is in so many ways a gift of a character – and yes, I fully realize that he can be difficult to like. That, I think, may be the point. He is flesh and blood – he is not a pretty picture painted to be admired by readers, he is there as a full equal to those readers, as real as they, someone they could wrench their eyes away from the book and easily recognize in someone standing right beside them in the “real” world in which they live. He is quite possibly the first male protagonist of mine who has carried the plotline of an entire novel on his own shoulders, and despite having had little practice at writing such characters…this one stepped out fully formed, and perfect. I am so ridiculously PROUD of him.

Mal is an unbelievably powerful character for all his being “difficult” – and by the end of the book, loving him, feeling this insane urge to run out and protect him against all the drama and mayhem that I myself unleashed upon him, it was the best I could do to give him someone like Asia, someone who lived in his world and who could love him and trust him and believe in him and work beside him as partner and as someone to love.

Mal will stay with me for a long time. For someone who never really existed outside the words on the page, he is instantly recognizable to me – I can close my eyes and he is with me, with those brooding eyes, that sardonic grin, that stubborn strength of character which brought him through everything, if not completely unscarred, then at least in one piece. I threw enough at him to break him and he would not break, he shouldered it all and stood tall under the burden and looked me in the eye and said, Damn you, I will survive this. Yes, I will, and all those whom I love, also. Do your worst. I will live. I will endure. I will not ever bend or break or stop being ME.

All I can do from here is smile, and nod, and whisper to Asia, Take good care of him. You won’t find his like again.

About the Author

Alma Alexander author photo

Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched 2000-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma on her website, her Facebook page, or her blog.

Don’t forget to check back on Wednesday to read my review of Wolf!

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Guest Post: Shifter’s Heart by Desiree Williams

Blog tour banner for Shifter's Heart by Desiree Williams

I’m happy to participate in the blog tour for Shifter’s Heart, the second book in the Heart Song trilogy by Desiree Williams! Shifter’s Heart was released last week, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s an exciting romance with great humor, likable characters, and a love story that’s equally steamy and sweet. In a nod to this wonderful romance, I’ve asked Desiree if she’d be willing to do a guest post on love and relationships, and she’s kindly obliged.

After reading her advice, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post – you could win a great prize pack with jewelry and gift cards!

Desiree’s Tips for a Good Relationship

Photo of Heart Song author Desiree WilliamsHello, everybody! Before we get started, I want to personally thank Angela for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. It really is an honor.

Go pull up a chair and hang out, as we chat about two tips for a good relationship.

I insert a laugh right here because most guys shudder when they hear the term—relationship. Either they’re commitment-phobes, jaded to what love could be like, or they don’t want anyone to read past their tough-guy facade to know that, deep down, they’re a big softy. But in reality everyone wants a relationship at some point in time. Life was meant to be shared with someone we love.

I’ve worked with a lot of teens and young adults, and have seen their ups and downs with relationships. As a writer, my imagination wanders to what the relationships could be like for my characters. When I set out to create each story, I want the characters to have something that goes deeper than the physical. An unbreakable connection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all the tingly feelings and stolen kisses are great. They make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But if that’s all the relationship is based on, then there isn’t any depth. It won’t be long lasting.

Tip #1: Be emotionally invested.

A good relationship is solid when the two individuals are emotionally connected, in a way that they know the other individual. They know their likes, dislikes, what they crave, what they aspire to become/achieve—they know because they’ve invested the time to listen. That’s not a razz on the guys, girls are just as guilty for not being invested listeners.

Challenge #1: Order a meal for your significate other the next time you go out to eat, without asking them what they want first. And please don’t go through the fast food land. Choose something nice! =) If you can successfully order their meal by knowing ahead of time their likes and dislikes, then that’s a good sign you are—or are on the path to becoming—emotionally invested.

Tip #2: Be YOURSELF

There is too much pressure to be “perfect.” I’ll tell you right now, being perfect is overrated. Save the time, energy, heartache, and just be yourself. How can someone truly get to know you, when you aren’t even being you? Be unique, be YOU, because you are the one and only you.

Challenge #2: When you’re getting all fancied-up for your dinner to complete Challenge #1, ask yourself: am I dressing to impress myself, or am I dressing to impress everyone else? If it’s the latter, please stop. You are precious and worthy and don’t need the validation of someone else to give you self-worth. (And insert sappy virtual hug here. =))

So, do you dare to take up my challenges? Hmm? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Special thanks again to Angela for allowing me to stop by. I had so much fun. Blessings!

You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.

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About Shifter’s Heart

Book cover for Shifter's Heart by Desiree WilliamsAs the flames of Varkadon spread, war rips through the Shifter Territory…

With the Aldonnian kingdom celebrating the news of her brother’s soul bonding, Laelynn seizes every opportunity to drive herself to the brink of exhaustion. If her body is worn, then her brain would be too tired to dream. Laelynn knew the men who’d captured her were gone from this world, but that didn’t stop the haunting images from plaguing her mind. Not even the pesky thorn-in-her-side Shifter Prince could keep the dreams at bay. Though Dustan’s commentary through their mental bond had kept a lingering smile on her lips, despite the battles that rage within her.

Yet when Dustan distances himself Laelynn questions the connection between them. Those fears rise when her own talents begin to morph and growth into the unexpected. Torn between love and faith, Laelynn strives to find the purpose behind the evolving gifts. What she discovers is far more than she ever imagined.

As tragedy befalls the Shifter Territory and brother battles against brother, Laelynn knows what must be done. Face her demons and triumph, or she’ll never claim the song of her heart.

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Giveaway

Desiree is giving away a lovely Origami Owl bracelet, a $10 Amazon gift card, and a $10 iTunes gift card! For a chance to win, enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be announced on Desiree’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter account the morning of February 7.

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Guest Post and Giveaway: Wish by Grier Cooper

Wish Book Cover Wish
Grier Cooper

For Indigo Stevens, ballet classes at Miss Roberta’s ballet studio offer the stability and structure that are missing from her crazy home life. At almost 16, she hopes this is the year she will be accepted into the New York School of Ballet. First she must prove she’s ready, and that means ignoring Jesse Sanders – the cute boy with dimples who is definitely at the top of Miss Roberta’s List of Forbidden Things for Dancers.

But Jesse is the least of Indigo’s concerns. When she discovers her mom is an alcoholic, it simultaneously explains everything and heaps more worry on Indigo’s shoulders. As her mom’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Indigo fights to maintain balance, protect her younger brothers from abuse, and keep her mother from going over the edge. When the violence at home escalates, Indigo realizes she can no longer dance around the issue. At the risk of losing everything, she must take matters into her own hands before it’s too late.

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As I previously mentioned in my Getting to Know You Blog Hop post, dance has played a huge part in my life. I took lessons from the ages of 3-18, made many life-long friends, and performed the lead role of Clara in The Nutcracker alongside the man who would later become my husband. Although I’m not currently dancing any more, I’ve retained a deep admiration and love for the art form.

I don’t just enjoy dancing and watching others dance; I also enjoy reading about it as well. That’s why I’m proud to participate in this book blitz for Wish, Grier Cooper’s debut novel about an aspiring ballerina contending with the struggles of dancing and living with an abusive mother. As part of this blitz, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, Cooper is here to share a manifesto on the rules of ballet.

The Rules of Ballet: A Manifesto by Grier Cooper

Indigo’s ballet teacher, Miss Roberta, is very outspoken about a lot of things, including personal hygiene and what dancers should and shouldn’t do outside of ballet classes. Since she was a professional ballet dancer herself, she knows what it takes to be a ballet dancer and how hard it is to make it. This is the manifesto she shares with all of her ballet students to help guide them:

Humans are naturally lazy and dancers have to work hard to overcome this tendency. Take a moment to look at the average person’s posture and you’ll see the truth in this statement. Most of us shuffle through life in the default setting: with our shoulders hunched over and our heads down.

There is always room for improvement. If you think you are a good enough dancer, you’re wrong! Ballet is all about reaching perfection­–your own version of perfection. There is always something to fine-tune or something new to learn.

There will always be someone who is a better dancer than you. This is a difficult reality to face but sooner or later this is true for all dancers, whether it’s due to skill or age. My first ballet teacher used to tell us to never get comfortable or cocky because there would always be better dancers out there. You have to stay sharp and constantly push yourself if you want to reach the top. The good news is hard work and persistence pay off. Work to the best of your abilities and you will forge forward.

It takes hard work and discipline to get ahead. It also takes ironclad willpower, indestructible courage and ridiculous levels of confidence. But hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you are in the wrong place. By the time you reach the professional level of ballet, you are not only able to handle criticism, you live for it. Ballet dancers eat up “corrections” like most kids chow on candy because they know if someone takes time to make a comment, they think you’re worth it.

If you are too tall, too fat or too lazy, pick a different career. As stated before, this is not a career for anyone not prepared to work their butts off. Although the physical ideal in ballet is slowly changing it’s still a much tougher road if your body type doesn’t match what ballet companies are looking for.

The love of dance brought you here and it will carry you through your career. Every dancer you see on stage today started with love of ballet in their heart and the dream to become part of the magic onstage. That love is what keeps dancers going day after day, sometimes working through pain in various forms. But ask any dancer if they love what they do and you’ll get the same answer: Yesssssss!

Ballet is equal parts dedication, inspiration, and perspiration. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, either… or for anyone who minds getting sweaty.

The human body is a dancer’s most important tool and our biggest challenge (see Rule #1). As mentioned above, the human body is naturally lazy. Dancers have to fight hard to overcome this tendency. Since top fitness is part of the job description, most ballet dancers spend every waking minute keeping their tools in prime shape, either taking classes, doing supplemental training like Pilates, stretching or going for a massage (although this last activity is far less likely).

Ballet involves sacrifice (of certain dangerous activities…including and most especially boys). If you do the math you’ll immediately see why this is true. If x, the dancer, spends almost every waking moment in a ballet studio that leaves y hours left to do anything else. In this case y=0. But all kidding aside, there are certain activities most dancers don’t do because of the risk of injury or because they will develop the wrong muscles: skiing, horseback riding, and circus arts, just to name a few.

Whether you are a ballet dancer or not, you probably have your own manifesto for life. May it guide you well. Even if you don’t resonate with Miss Roberta’s manifesto, do take her advice and wear deodorant.

About the Author

Photo of Grier CooperGrier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than 30 years of experience as a dancer, teacher, and performer. She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection of dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims, and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of Build a Ballerina Body and The Daily Book of Photography.

Win a Copy of Wish!

I’ve got not one, but TWO great giveaways for you today courtesy of Grier Cooper and Xpresso Book Tours. One reader will win an e-book copy of Wish, and another will win a prize pack of the following items:

  • Collection of dance films (Mao’s Last Dancer, Save The Last Dance, Center Stage)
  • $15 iTunes gift card
  • e-book copy of Wish

Both giveaways are open internationally to anyone age 13 and above. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter forms below.

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