An Unfortunate Reality

I have some unfortunate news for Full Throttle fans. After months spent re-reading the first four books, making changes to my outline, and writing 85 pages of Never Surrender, I’ve come to the conclusion that this last book is fatally flawed. I had my suspicions since I began working on it in early December, but I made a promise to all of you, so I ignored those feelings of foreboding and tried to force the story. The problem is, the stakes just aren’t high enough. The scenarios I’ve put Jess and Cody in just don’t matter in comparison to what they’ve already been through. Some are implausible, while others seem contrived. If I were to continue writing, all of you would agree the series has jumped the shark.

Stories need conflict in order to work, and to create conflict, you have to torture your characters. It would be hard to top the ways I’ve already tortured Jess and Cody. I’d have to be exceptionally cruel to them, as well as stretch plausibility, to make you believe so many horrible things could happen to these two kids. Furthermore, I left both of them in a pretty good place at the end of Redline. They deserve to continue from there living happily ever after. They’ve paid their dues. I don’t want to hurt them any further.

The thing that makes my stories work is the deep emotional moments shared by the characters. While I could continue with the story on a plot level and have things happen to these characters that might present some challenges, those plot points would not bring forth the opportunity for the emotional satisfaction you found in the other books. In the first 85 pages, roughly a quarter of the book, I haven’t written a single one of those intense moments. If I were to continue with this book, it would not be anything like the books you’ve read so far.

I’m sure all of you have seen a bad movie sequel. I’m sure many of you have read a book by a best-selling author who reached a point in his career where he could get away with lazy writing because the book would sell anyway. I think you’ll agree those movies and books were not worth your time or your money. What I’m trying to tell you is that if I were to finish writing Never Surrender, it would be just like those books and movies. I made a promise to myself early on that I would never allow myself to stoop to that sort of writing, even if I could get away with it. I have more respect for myself, my characters, and my readers than that.

I feel terrible that I made a promise I can’t keep about this book. Because I feel so strongly about keeping my word, I invested many weeks in this project even after my doubts became so loud I could no longer ignore them. I cut entire segments of the outline and re-plotted to them. I brainstormed with my husband and my writing friends, trying to salvage this story. The unfortunate truth is, it can’t be done. Several other writers have been watching me struggle with this book and they said long ago that I should abandon it. I told them no. I told them I’d made a promise, I owed this to my readers, and I would damn well write this book. The trouble is, I was fighting a losing battle. I was deceiving myself.

As soon as I began voicing my concerns to my husband and a close friend, I was able to see the deep flaws in this plot, and the reasons they can’t be fixed. I initially wrote the outline for this book in 2010, before I’d published anything and while I was still an inexperienced writer. At that time, I desperately wanted to hang on to these characters, much as you do now, so I buried my head in the sand and attempted to conjure something that wasn’t there. But the plot I came up with was forcing Cody and Jess to relearn lessons they’ve already learned. That’s boring to the reader and unfair to the characters. It’s fake and phony and desperate, the exact opposite of what you’ve come to expect from my books.

I’m sorry for letting you down. I’m sorry for disappointing you. I hope you’ll understand the situation. Thank you for sticking with me all these years.

~ Lisa

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A Quick Lesson in Not Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

Progressives need to realize something. Our use of language is hurting our cause. At a time when the odds are stacked so highly against us, we need to seek every possible advantage. This is just common sense.

One of the biggest problems I see in how progressives are presenting their arguments, whether through confrontations on social media or signs presented at rallies, is their use of profanity and sexual innuendo. There are several reasons this is tactically unsound. First, if you’re in a public place brandishing a sign bearing the F-word, you’re not going to look bold and edgy, you’re going to look crass and self-centered. Children don’t need to see that sort of language, and many other people (on both sides) simply don’t want to. (I already know what arguments some of you are beginning to sputter, so give me a second to circle back to that.)

The second reason is you’re triggering a hot button for the opposition. If your agenda is to cause unrest, you’ll certainly do so, but if you’re hoping to persuade those on the fence to come over to our side, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Here’s why: just as fairness and protection are progressive values, moral purity is a conservative value. There’s no right or wrong to this; it’s basic psychology. If you want to influence a conservative in a positive way, the best thing you can do is respect their distaste for foul language and sexual references.

So back to the arguments and rationalizations. You don’t need to say a thing. I already know your objections: “They should grow a thicker skin.” “Well, maybe they need a wake-up call.” “They’re just words. I don’t see why everyone’s so damned sensitive.”

Let me explain something. Just because we don’t find a word or concept offensive doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth that this word or concept is benign. We don’t get to decide what someone else takes issue with, just like the conservatives don’t get to determine that  taking offense to un-PC language is an overreaction. We’re the open-minded ones, right? The people who take pains to be tolerant and honor diversity? So why is it laudable to be tolerant of someone’s skin color or sexual orientation, but not their moral values? Conservatives have just as much right to their beliefs as anyone else. Swearing bothers them. Sexual language bothers them. If you want to have an effective dialog and influence their opinion, the place to start is by understanding their sensitivities and working within that framework. If you choose to use that language with your own people in your own territory, more power to you, but it’s not necessary or beneficial to wave it around in public. And no, we don’t get to point out the irony of the conservatives becoming the over-sensitive “snowflakes” they accuse us of being. Even in the alternative fact world of 2017, two wrongs still don’t make a right.

Really, there are only two reasons someone might oppose this strategy. One is a lack of awareness. You just haven’t thought about it, so you didn’t know any better. Now you know. Problem solved. The other is ego. You feel the conservatives should get over it, or the behavior of someone on their side justifies your less-than-honorable response. Guess what? It doesn’t matter how you feel about this. It’s not about you. Your actions are hurting the cause. Tuck your ego away, look at this from a logical, strategic perspective, and do what’s tactically advantageous.

We’re supposed to be the ones taking the high road. We’re supposed to be the ones demonstrating integrity, empathy, and respect. Let’s start acting like it. Think about your word choices and demonstrate a little common sense. As Sun Tzu said, “the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” We’d be wise not to give the Trump machine any more ammunition than it already has.


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Why I Can No Longer Stay Silent

I’ve tried to avoid politics and religion on social media for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s not good business. For another, there’s already far too much hatred and divisiveness in this country, and I prefer not to add to it. Perhaps the most important reason, though, is that I want to be judged by my words and actions, not political or religious labels.

But things have changed. We’re in unprecedented times, where the leader of the United States is more concerned about the size of his inauguration crowd than the safety of his people. That simply isn’t acceptable. To me, the matter has nothing to do with politics. The lives of human beings are far more important than the agendas of either party. While there are a lot of uncanny parallels between The McCall Initiative and what’s going on in America today, one in particular stands out for me. The moment when Logan told Piper that with the executive branch in turmoil, Cascadia was at risk from outside forces. You can be certain this holds true for the United States right now.

We’ve reached a point where my reasons for staying silent have been outweighed by my obligation to speak up. This is a crisis situation, and it’s my patriotic duty to do everything in my power to defend the Constitution and prevent the fabric of this country from unraveling any further. However, I believe it’s possible to be true to my values without being disrespectful of yours. I proved that in my last post, where I wrote about a friend who’d spoken out against the Women’s March. When I showed it to her, she embraced my words and shared them with the people who’d argued against her. The two of us wound up in a long Facebook chat, discussing the nuances of our politics. It was amazing, beautiful, and affirming. And yet, she is conservative and I am liberal.

One interesting point that came up in this discussion was that both she and I had been afraid to speak up about our beliefs on social media. For her, it was because many of her friends in the writing world are liberal. For me, it was because many of my readers, family members, and high school friends are conservative. We both felt it was time to stop hiding and be honest. We also agreed it was important to share our beliefs in a loving, respectful, non-confrontational way.

I’ve always been something of a great blue heron—an animal that lives on the brink of two worlds, equally at home in each. When I started racing, I spent half my time in the liberal college atmosphere of Eugene, and the other half in the conservative blue collar speedway community. Not only did I learn a lot about people and life by having a foot in each world, I also learned that no issue is as simple as it seems. I took what l gathered from this experience and weaved it into all my books.

The Full Throttle series naturally attracts a conservative audience due to its stock car racing backdrop. I wrote it to give the world a glimpse of this family-oriented microcosm that so many on the outside have written off as “redneck.” Themes include compassion, forgiveness, grace, and equality, and I think we can all agree these are good values. The trouble is, each side tends to think they have the monopoly on them. This is something I’ve seen time and again on Facebook, Twitter, and the comments left on news sites. Whenever something unpleasant happens, people immediately offer snarky opinions about how the perpetrators obviously must be from the opposing party. After all, all those people are evil and stupid, right?

Wrong. Here’s the bottom line. Conservatives love my books. Liberals love my books. They love them for the same reasons. That means all these people have something in common: a deep core of compassion. So why can’t we focus on that? Why can’t we be like my friend and me, earnestly comparing and contrasting what we believe—loving and supporting each other implicitly, despite knowing that at some point, we will vote in opposite ways? Respecting each other doesn’t mean deserting our values. Respecting each other means we refuse to abandon human decency and civil discourse, despite the fact that we will at times be working in opposition to each other.

So, yes, it’s time for me to start speaking up on occasion. I want the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind my stances. I want the freedom to talk about the world in general without having to worry about stripping out every hint of my political leanings.

My readers will have the advantage of knowing my heart. A writer can’t help but have its contents spill out onto the pages. In all my books, there is a thread of open-mindedness and compassion—a “why can’t we all just get along” sort of theme. I think, just from knowing my characters, you’ll realize that at my core, I’m all about reaching out, being fair, and listening to everyone, no matter their label.

Moving forward, when I address political topics, respect and empathy will always be at the forefront, and underlying that, the deep-rooted conviction that we are more alike than we are different. In addition, I’ll be as likely to call out liberals as conservatives, because along with resisting Trump’s agenda, I intend to educate people on the art of effective, respectful political discourse. If you’re politically opposed to me and can’t accept this, I’m fine with us parting ways. But I hope you’ll stick around. I think my books offer proof that what I have to share can help us all understand each other a little better.

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A Matter of Perspective

I’m still whittling away at Never Surrender, but it’s been difficult for a variety of reasons. First, it’s been four years since these characters last skulked through my subconscious, and it’s hard to lure them back. Second, by necessity I’ve had to spend a lot of time on a revenue-generating project that hasn’t yet panned out. And third, I’m missing and mourning the characters from The McCall Initiative. But the biggest problem, really, is the political climate. It’s been such an enormous distraction. I can’t go on Facebook without reading a shocking post made by a person I’ve always respected. I can’t read a news story on a local channel’s website without being blindsided by the ugly comments below it. The perpetrators aren’t people who merely disagree with each other. They’re so full of hatred and bitterness that they use the most insulting, angry, vitriolic language they can muster. It used to be that people could disagree on a topic but still respect each other. Now, if they can’t immediately wrap their head around what another person is thinking, instead of taking a moment to try to understand, they simply pull out their big red “WRONG!” stamp and slam it down on the conversation. They use their righteous indignation (which usually isn’t so righteous) as permission to condemn their opposition without giving any consideration to their reasons.

Sometimes it’s not ugly and hateful like that, but it’s still a mind-blowing difference of perspective. Case in point: the Women’s March. One of my Facebook friends, someone I have the utmost respect and compassion for, had a surprising interpretation of a statement some women made about marching for those who couldn’t be there. This individual thought that meant they were marching on her behalf, against her will. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The people I encountered when I attended our local march here in Portland weren’t trying to force any belief down anyone else’s throat. In fact, one of the basic principals of progressive thought is “What you believe is your business, so long as you don’t try to force it on me or anyone else.” If these people said they were marching for other women, they were talking about women who supported the cause but couldn’t be there. Women like my friend Rose, who uses a walker and was incapable of navigating the crowd, or my friend Alice who no longer feels comfortable driving unfamiliar roads, or countless other friends who were recovering from nasty bugs.

Another misunderstanding (magnified by the language choices of some celebrities at the Washington march, as well as the prevalence of pussyhats), was that any positive messages brought about by the event were outweighed by dirty, low class immoral ideas. I’d like to explain the whole pussyhat thing to those who don’t get it. It’s not about being vulgar or defining oneself by a certain body part. It’s about reclaiming usurped power. It’s about defiance. The first thing to understand is that the majority of these women aren’t bandying about low-class terminology merely for shock value. They simply see the word “pussy” as less offensive than the misogynistic, bullying, entitled attitude behind the incident that spawned the whole movement. An attitude that absolutely must be addressed. They see this as a way to shine a light on a dangerous, backward mentality. I actually saw someone arguing that this term shouldn’t be used because it brings up something Trump said that is best ignored. The trouble with this reasoning is that Donald Trump is not a bratty child whose negative behavior can be moderated by pretending we didn’t see it. He’s the leader of the free world, and that means—for the safety of not just everyone in this country but everyone on the planet—he has to be held to the highest of standards. This is a man who can start a nuclear war with one careless tweet. And if you want to dismiss that thought as paranoid, you might take a moment to consider some of the crazy individuals who are leading other countries. People with terrorist mentalities who would gladly assume the role of suicide bomber for the planet in order to be right.

To get back to the whole pussyhat thing, I understand that some people find that sort of talk vulgar—that it honestly offends them. It took a bit of thought, though, for me to reach a point where I could empathize, because this position is outside my own experience. The language doesn’t bother me. It’s not that I condone it, it just doesn’t trip my censors the way it does for some people. So what does offend me? People who abandon their cat when they move because “it’s not a real pet.” People who cut the ears off dogs for kicks. People who make snap judgments about Jews, Hindus, Muslims (and yes, CHRISTIANS), based on nothing but a label. People who make fun of a little boy on Twitter because they don’t agree with his father’s politics. People who think it’s okay to brag about dominating women by grabbing them by their genitals.


But I’m getting off topic. The point is, I understand the perspective of those who have issues with certain elements of the Women’s March. I get why some people would be offended by seeing women ring their faces with hats shaped like giant vaginas. (Yeah, that actually happened.) I respect that they don’t want to look at things like that. And I certainly wouldn’t be inconsiderate enough to do something crass like show up to their dinner party wearing a pussyhat to get them to “loosen up.” (That sort of bullying, self-righteous attempt at “education” does nothing to promote understanding and only demonstrates a lack of compassion.) The bottom line is, I don’t expect these people to agree that references to this part of the anatomy aren’t offensive. I simply hope they’ll consider my insights so they’ll no longer harbor misconceptions about the motivation for the Women’s March.

Do you see what I did there? *Makes an I’m-looking-at-you-gesture at culprits on both sides of the political aisle.* I made the effort to understand an opposing point of view instead of simply condemning it. I didn’t attempt to talk anyone out of their beliefs. I simply implored those who disagree with me to try to wrap their heads around how I see things, not so they’ll change their position, but so they’ll comprehend my perspective the way I comprehend theirs. So they can say, “Yeah, that’s totally not where I’m at, but I get why you believe it.” So we can continue to respect one another and focus on the things we have in common.

Wouldn’t Facebook and Twitter and family get-togethers be a lot less stressful if we could all step up like that?

Wouldn’t it make it a lot easier for me to write this damned book?

~ Lisa

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A Quintessential Crisis

There’s this expectation in my family: if we’re going to get together, I have to make the arrangements. For a while, we met once during the summer and again on Christmas Eve, but after I stopped planning the summer gig, it died out. I’m now at the point of stepping down altogether.

Though I’m at odds with my family when it comes to politics, normally it’s not an issue. I’ve never been the sort to reject someone over how they voted or what they believe. In fact, I’m the peacekeeper, the one who counsels the individual family factions, convincing them to let go of their grudges so we can all be together. But this election was like no other in the history of the country, and my issues with it go far beyond political affiliations or agendas. I simply didn’t have the stomach for subjecting myself to small talk about it.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I finally relented and called the brother who hosts the event. When I confessed that I wanted to skip out this year, he assured me we wouldn’t talk about politics. Then he added that he didn’t think the two of us were quite on the same page about the subject. Now, I know where most of my family votes, but I’d always thought my brother was more moderate than the others. His statement was a little unexpected. I told him I was probably more middle-of-the-road than the family gave me credit for, and he responded with, “I think the country will be more middle-of-the-road under Trump.” While I was still stunned into silence by that statement, he added “I think he’ll pick good people.” Just for clarification, this was after a month of controversial selections that had been raged about on every possible news and social media source.

“I haven’t seen much evidence of that so far,” I said.

My brother laughed. “Like I said, I don’t think we’re on the same page when it comes to politics.”

Shrugging it off, I told him I’d get in touch with the rest of the family and see him on Christmas Eve.

I sent out the email, heard back from no one except a sister who said she probably wouldn’t make it, and went about my business. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother. It wasn’t how he’d voted, it was that he seemed so woefully unaware of what had been happening since November 8th. It was his casual attitude, shrugging this off as if it were like any other election—and Trump like any other president. If this was where he was, it stood to reason that a good part of the country was in the same place. And that was a staggering thought. The uproar on both sides of the political spectrum—that seemed like a logical reaction—but this obliviousness was boggling.

As Christmas drew closer, I began to dread our get-together. It’s always stirred up a bunch of crap I don’t want to think about, and for the past couple of years, it hasn’t even been much fun. Despite that, I’ve continued to go because I knew it was expected. But as I was taking my walk on the night of the 23rd, I started to wonder about that. Why was it expected? Other family members had blown it off. Why did I always have to be the one to go the extra mile? Why did I waste so much energy doing the right thing, when so many people didn’t return the favor? What would happen if I just said “screw it”?

When I got home, I shared my thoughts with my husband. He had no trouble with bailing, but for me, it wasn’t an easy decision. I felt like I was violating some sacred ritual, and I was sure I’d catch hell for it. Besides, I’d never let politics get in the way of a relationship. All my adult life, I’ve reached across the lines to maintain friendships in groups that were traditionally at odds with each other. Unlike many, who stick mainly to their little red or blue bubbles, I’ve been able to find common ground with just about everyone. My Facebook friend list is a mishmash of political purple.

So I slept on it. But then, on the morning of Christmas Eve I sent an email to my family. Instead of getting into the ugly truth, I told them I had a cold and didn’t want to share it with them. I expected the emails to start rolling in within hours: people giving me crap for bailing, telling me I had to go, harping on how it was tradition.

I didn’t hear a peep. Not an email, not a phone call, not even a text. Even though this is standard operating procedure for my family, it caught me off guard. I guess the biggest surprise was realizing what an idiot I’d been, forcing myself to organize and attend these events all these years simply because I thought it was required.

I’m still not sure how I feel about my motivations, or how I can justify them. This decision feels like it’s leeched away part of the essence of who I am. Let me explain. The growing divide in this country is a source of deep pain to me. I’ve always wondered why we can’t just get along. And when I saw the episode of The West Wing where the Republican Speaker of the House told the Democratic Press Secretary, “The things that unite us are far greater than the things that divide us,” I stood up and cheered. Peacemaking and mediation are in my blood. So how could I not only violate a thirty-year tradition, but also let politics be the reason? If I can’t resolve this lack of acceptance in my own life, how can I expect people who’ve always been at each others throats to do so?

I don’t have an answer for that question. No, scratch that. I’m convinced there is no answer. The truth is, no matter how much you might want unity, no matter what pains you take to be fair and accepting and to not offend—there are times you have to voice your opinion and stand your ground. There are times when the political situation is about more than just the politics.

I honestly think we’ve reached a point where it’s impossible to bridge the political gulf in this country.

But that’s a topic for another blog post.

~ Lisa

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Free eBooks

Are you buying someone a Kindle for Christmas? Hoping to receive one yourself? Get an early start on loading it up with free ebooks by either downloading now or saving these links for later.

I know it’s asking a lot to expect people to take a chance on an unknown author. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of crap out there, and I’ve downloaded my share of it. That’s why I’m offering the first book in each of my series for free. Give one of these books a try, and you’ll become a loyal fan.

Are you a librarian or do you know someone who is? All my ebooks are currently available free to libraries through Overdrive.

McCall_CVR_SML_LRWhat if the Pacific Northwest seceded from United States? In 2063, it has.

The climate change that’s devastated all but the Northwest corner of the U.S. has been around since before Piper Hall was born. She doesn’t spend much time thinking about it, the secession that created Cascadia, or the closed border, erected to keep out climate refugees. All she wants is to get through high school and earn a degree in medicine so she can pull her family out of poverty. Piper’s sure her little brother’s stories about poor people vanishing are just rumors—until she comes home to an empty house. Losing her future, her family, and her freedom and forced into hiding, Piper has to find a way to get to the bottom of the disappearances. But the only one who can help might be the very boy whose family has displaced her own.

RunningWide_CVR_SMLCody Everett has a temper as hot as the inside of a combustion chamber, and it’s landed him at his uncle’s trailer, a last-chance home before military school. But how can he take the guy seriously when he calls himself Race, eats Twinkies for breakfast, and pals around with rednecks who drive in circles every Saturday night?

What Cody doesn’t expect is for the arrangement to work. Or for Race to become the friend and mentor he’s been looking for all his life. But just as Cody begins to settle in and get a handle on his supercharged temper, a crisis sends his life spinning out of control. Everything he’s come to care about is threatened, and he has to choose between falling back on his old, familiar anger or stepping up to prove his loyalty to the only person he’s ever dared to trust.

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The McCall Initiative Episode 1.1: Deception

Almost a year ago, while my husband and I were driving to a friend’s house, he told me about a story he’d read in the Portland Mercury. According to the article, fifty years from now much of the United States will be devastated by climate change. The Pacific Northwest will remain relatively unchanged in comparison, which will result in an influx of climate refugees.

The first thing that sprang to mind upon hearing this was a similar rush of immigrants to Oregon in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and what Governor Tom McCall said in response. “We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.” This quote was often misrepresented as, “Welcome to Oregon. Now go home,” something I myself believed at the time.

“That sounds like a great set up for a dystopian YA novel,” I said. Within minutes, I had the basic premise outlined. The Pacific Northwest, disgruntled over the population boom, secedes from the United States to form its own country with a closed border. Wealthy Americans want to buy their way in, so poor people begin disappearing off the streets. Naturally, I needed a romantic aspect, but I wanted to give it a twist. I decided my protagonist would be a girl whose family had disappeared, and the love interest would be the boy whose family had displaced hers.

Over the coming weeks, the idea grew to include an existing political movement to form a bioregion called Cascadia, Portland’s MLS soccer team and its rowdy band fans, the Timbers Army, and a rock star-turned-activist who becomes the first president of the new nation. My husband, friends, and fellow writers supplied me with myriad excellent ideas and educated me about the subjects of history, politics, computer science, medicine, and soccer.

Several writers I know have been experimenting with serialized stories, and this idea seemed perfect for that venue. I envision it much like a season of a television series. Each short episode gives you part of the story, with the entire plot-line playing out over a nine book “season.”

After months of work and research, I’m happy to announce that The McCall Initiative, Episode 1.1: Deception is now available. I plan to release the rest of the series at six-week intervals. Each episode will be between 50 and 70 pages long (though episode 2 stubbornly decided it needed to be about 90) or about 15,000 to 25,000 words. I’ve already got additional ideas for a second season. One thing to note is that this series is only going to be available in ebook form.

I realize this is quite a departure from the books of my readers are used to, but I have a little secret to reveal. You guys don’t read my stories because they’re about racing. You read them because of the characters and relationships and emotional connection. Even though The McCall Initiative is a dystopian story set fifty years in the future when the cars drive themselves, I think you’ll enjoy it. Besides the price is right. Each episode is only $1.99.

McCall_CVR_SML_LRWhat if the Pacific Northwest seceded from the United States?

The climate change that’s devastated all but the Northwest corner of the U.S. has been around since before Piper Hall was born. She doesn’t spend much time thinking about it, the secession that created Cascadia, or the closed border, erected to keep out climate refugees. All she wants is to get through high school and earn a medical degree so she can pull her family out of poverty. Piper’s sure her little brother’s stories about poor people vanishing are just rumors—until she comes home to an empty house. Losing her future, her family, and her freedom and forced into hiding, Piper has to find a way to get to the bottom of the disappearances. But the only one who can help might be the very boy whose family has displaced her own.

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Some Updates

It’s been nearly three months since I wrote a blog post. I’ve thought about it a few times, and even went so far as to take voice notes on my walks, but ultimately, cleaning up and posting those ideas seemed like too much work. I’m really burned out. Not just stressed and overworked—which (let’s face it) is sort of my regular operating speed—but totally and utterly fried. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve dropped out of writers groups, turned off most of my Facebook notifications, and given serious thought to dumping my Twitter account. (The main reason I haven’t done this last thing is I’ve been too lazy to make the effort.) I’ve also gotten behind on my blog reading. If I used to come around to your blog and comment, and I haven’t lately, it’s not because I’ve forgotten about you. I just don’t have the energy. I spent a good part of the last year-and-a-half caught up in the social networking/marketing game, and it’s gotten to the point where I practically have an anxiety attack just thinking about that stuff. So I’ve made a lot of changes. I’m not messing with promotion anymore. My social networking (which is practically non-existent) is currently limited to two things—hanging out with friends and conversing with fans. Regardless of how important it might be for writers to promote each other, I just don’t care any more. The only author-related activities I’m willing to take part in are two local critique groups in which I’ve made a great many friendships and … writing. No more teaching, no more blog tours, no more book fairs or public appearances. Even so, I feel stressed.

Partly that’s due to a positive thing. A Shiny New Idea whapped me upside the head last October, and I’ve been trying to juggle that, and my revisions to Redline, ever since. This project has required an enormous amount of research, which of course takes an equally enormous amount of time. I’ll save the details for another blog post, but I do want to update my readers about Redline. I’m just shy of being two-thirds of the way through with my revisions. A lot has come up this winter, slowing my progress, but things are moving more quickly now. I think I can get it to my editor by the middle of March, which means I’ll potentially be able to get the ebook out by mid-April. I don’t want to make any concrete promises because things always come up, but I have two powerful incentives to keep me on track. One is that I really want to get busy on my new project. The other is that the Ides of March will usher in the beginning of landscaping season, and once that happens, I’ll hardly have any time for writing.

While you’re waiting, if you haven’t read Dead Heat, you might want to try that. It’s a little darker than the Full Throttle books, but if the character relationships are what you liked about those stories, I think you’ll enjoy this one as well. I know I’m way behind, and I appreciate your patience. I’ll send out a newsletter to let you know as soon as Redline is finished.

Dead Heat blew me away. It’s a gritty ghost story interwoven with all-too-real subject matter that will make you cry for Alex, ache for Cole, and thank God for Jade. I was invested in these characters’ lives and you will be too.”

~ Stacey Wallace Benefiel, author of the Zellie Wells trilogy

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Spooktacular Interviews: Halloween Spavento

In the month of October, I’m going to be interviewing some characters for new releases with a Halloween/spooky theme. Today I’m interviewing Halloween Spavento, a character from Portland author Lisa Ard’s middle grade book, Saving Halloween.

Hi, Halloween. Welcome to the Tao of Webfoot. Could you tell me a little about your siblings?

Halloween: I don’t have any siblings, at least, none that I know of. I was left on the Spavento family’s doorstep on Halloween night twelve years ago.

Wow. That’s fascinating. I guess I’ll have to read your book to find out the story behind that answer. In my books, one of my characters is known for his insatiable appetite. How about you? What’s your favorite food?

Halloween: That’s a very difficult question to answer because my family is known for their food. My mama’s cookies are tough to beat. But then, Professor makes a great osso buco and risotto. Uncle Fenris roasts lamb to utter perfection.

Sounds delicious. Friendship is also very important to my characters, and I can imagine it must be to you, too. Can you tell me a little about your best friend?

Halloween: Anne Parson is my best, and only, friend. I met Anne in the apple orchard one day. I liked her from the moment I saw her. I don’t think she quite believed me when I said I could turn her nose into a pickle. But, she’s since come around.

A pickle, eh? That’s a handy trick. Okay, Halloween, can you describe for my readers what you look like?

Halloween: Since Uncle Fenris styled my hair for school, my red curls are much tamer. Papa says my creamy, pale skin reminds him of moonlight. I’m pretty active, so I like to wear comfortable, knit clothing – often a black jumper with green tights and black boots or black knit pants with an orange turtleneck.

So how would you spend a typical day?

Halloween: Before I started school with Anne, I studied with Professor at home. Mama likes my help in the kitchen, baking her bewitching cookies. Uncle Fenris tends our flock of sheep, so I’m often out with him in the fields and orchards in the afternoon. Papa rises at night. Our favorite activity is opera night, with lots of singing, dancing and piano playing.

Thank you very much, Halloween. Now I have a question for your author. Lisa, can you tell me something you know about this character that she would never admit?

Lisa Ard: Halloween is much loved by the large, extended Spavento family, but she still needs a friend her own age. It’s a good thing Anne happened along one fall afternoon – or did she just happen along?

Thanks, Halloween and Lisa. I’m sure some of my readers have young family members who would love to read your book.

When book-smart Anne Parson meets Halloween Spavento, she sees exactly what she wants to see — a friend. Halloween waves away trouble, magically silences school bullies and offers Anne unfailing friendship. But, when the Spavento family’s enchanting exploits are exposed, will Anne face her fears and save Halloween? A spellbinding tale of outcasts who find acceptance, a girl who discovers the true meaning of family, and characters who are not always what they seem.

Saving Halloween was a 2012 Kay Snow Award Winner


Connect with Lisa Ard online:
Author website:
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DEAD HEAT is now available

A man who longs for a son and a boy who can’t escape his father’s violence.

Even death can’t break their bond.


Alex is a machine whisperer. He can tell what’s wrong with a broken-down car with a touch. But his gift can’t save him from the brutality of his meth-addict father. For two years, Alex experienced kindness through Cole, his mentor. Now Cole’s dead, and the violence in Alex’s life is escalating.

When Cole reappears as a ghost, Alex clings to the tenuous link. Then he learns Cole might’ve sacrificed his chance to cross over. Jade, the first girl to look beyond Alex’s past, assures him Cole can reach the Other Side—if Alex escapes from his dad. But a previous terrifying attempt has convinced Alex it’s impossible. Unless he can find the courage to try, his friend may be earthbound forever.


Dead Heat blew me away. It’s a gritty ghost story interwoven with all-too-real subject matter that will make you cry for Alex, ache for Cole, and thank God for Jade. I was invested in these characters’ lives and you will be too.”

~ Stacey Wallace Benefiel, author of the Zellie Wells trilogy

I’m excited about this book because not only does it deal with important social issues, like child abuse and the murky waters surrounding how best to deal with it, it also features a main character who struggles with a learning disability. This is a completely different type of book than any of my others. It came about after an agent told me he couldn’t sell Driven because it wasn’t edgy enough. I took my favorite type of story—one about the relationship between a kid and his mentor—and cranked the heat up a few dozen degrees. What if a boy who needed his mentor even more than Cody needed Race suddenly lost him?

I really hope you’ll enjoy it, even though it’s considerably darker than my Full Throttle books. For those of you who prefer paperbacks, I should have that out sometime in November.

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