Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teaser Thursday: Brand New NA (Needs A) Title

I've got to have oral surgery Thursday morning. It means a break in my writing when I'm *this* close to finishing. Also, I just hate being prone. So in the meantime, until I'm back in prime posting form, I'm going to leave you with the project that's consuming so much of my head space lately. It's so close to my heart. So much so that certain people, who normally read everything I write almost immediately, have asked to sit this one out because it's too close to home.  Let me know what you think!

Titles (up for debate, feel free to vote):
1. Broken Compass, Bright Stars
2. Something Like It
3. Stripped
4. Under Crossed Stars

Shuffled between relatives who used him as a pawn in a high-stakes custody battle, Will Parker has been fending for himself since age twelve. Now in college, he's finally begun to cobble together a life of his own, with his own rules, and a circle of friends who know nothing about his past. 

Then he meets Abbey Banks. She speaks three languages, picks locks for fun, and reads poetry because she actually enjoys it. She has a Nobel Peace Prize winner on speed dial. And she's clueless that she has the body of a 1940s pin-up girl.

Being together makes life seem more exciting, more vibrant, more everything. Waffle feasts at midnight. Running away to the French Quarter. Skinny dipping in February. Will wants her more than oxygen, and Abbey feels the same way.

Until the day she disappears, taking nothing but the clothes on her back and her bank card. 

Will embarks on a desperate quest where just finding her won't be enough. Vulnerable and alone, Abbey's sense of what's real is unraveling fast. When she surfaces, stripped of everything that made her feel human, Will can only hope his something like a life can sustain them both.

Prologue: Abbey

The day I leave the psych ward, the sun is bright as diamonds. The world is bathed in light, crisp and unrelenting. I am no exception. I stand at the edge of the parking lot and look at my hands, outstretched with fingers opening like starfish. Even my skin looks new. Raw. My rings and bracelets have long been stripped away, and all I have left is a hospital band that tells me my name.

Just my name, my birthday, and a series of numbers and symbols that don’t make sense. This is all I have left of who I was. The rest of me is full of drugs with names that trip my tongue: Depakote. Haldol. Lithium. Trazadone. My head buzzes with the after effects of electroshock therapy. My clothes are new but freshly laundered, the cotton blessedly soft against my aching shell of a body. A yellow plastic drawstring bag holds all that I have left in the world.

Only my shoes have come with me from that other life. Mary Jane slides made of toast brown leather, worn and scuffed in all the right places, they fit perfectly on my sockless feet. I wiggle my bare toes and contemplate the parking lot curb. One step down will carry me away from the hospital, into a sea of cars. But none of them will take me home, because I don’t know where that is anymore.

I don’t know who will be waiting for me, and if it will be in anger or welcome. I don’t know who I’ve hurt, who still loves me, or who might give me yet another chance.

What did I do, before I came back to myself in a hospital bed, held down by four-point restraints? Who did I hurt? What did I destroy? And how do I go about rebuilding a life?

My shoes are the only things that feel familiar, and all I can do in them is walk away, leaving the hospital behind as I pick my careful way across the parking lot. There is no place to walk toward. I’m not even sure what day it is, or how long I’ve been under.

That’s when I see him, and I feel like I can breathe again. He’s here, waiting for me.

He doesn’t see me at first. Hanging halfway out of the front seat of his car, he digs through the mess in the floorboard for something. Music, much too loud, pulses from the car, earning him dirty looks he doesn’t even see, let alone acknowledge. His t-shirt is taut through the shoulders and loose everywhere else, jeans slung low on narrow hips. I know this shirt, faded green with a ragged collar, and the remembering makes me ache:

A strip of tanned bare skin I trace with my fingers when the soft cotton rides up between us.

Standing with sockless feet in his kitchen in the early morning light, wearing his shirt over last night’s jeans, unsure of my new place in his world.

Laying my head down on a pillow covered with this soft green cloth, because it smells like him and is the only way to feel his presence in a strange bed miles from home.

He needs a haircut and a shave. A half-smoked cigarette with a column of un-flicked ash dangles from one hand. After a moment of careful rummaging, he emerges with his prize: a battered paperback with the words “No Fate” inked along the edge.

“I didn’t know if you’d come,” I say softly.

He looks up, startled, eyes wide and sharp and the light, clear green I remember. The color of new jade. Of the river in early summer that is the only place he calls home.

“Where else would I go?” he asks, gone still and careful in his movements, as if I am a wild bird he might scare away.

Or maybe he’s afraid I’ll attack him.

It’s not an unfounded fear. Shame floods me for the hundredth time in the two days I’ve had my mind back.

“I don’t know.” I look down at my battered shoes. “I don’t know what to do, or where to go, or what I did, or why.” This last word feels torn from me, and I realize it’s the most important of them all. I’m nineteen years old, from a good family, attending a prestigious college where, I’ve been assured, my future is bright. Was bright. Was full of friends and books and music and parties and trips to the beach— all the things that make up a life. And now there’s no one but me and him, standing in a hospital parking lot, trying to find the reason why I have torn my life apart.

Why. Why. Why. The word thrums in my head like a heartbeat, threatening to swallow me. I recoil from it, this insistent drumming in my head, wrapping my arms around myself as if I can stop my mind from shattering again. I can only imagine what I look like to him, shaking and ragged in a hospital parking lot.

But he is brave, my Will, and he doesn’t back down, holding my gaze until the why fades away, leaving instead images we can both remember. Sand in our hair and salt on our lips. Music spilling out into the night through wide-open windows. Shadows cast by moonlight over two almost-sleeping bodies.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says, and I see he has cleared off the front seat for me, and is trying to coax me in by holding open the door. He’s lying. It does matter. But his eyes are begging me to go to him, to trust him, to try again. And I do trust him, despite the fact that he is drifting through life, unanchored and unmoored.

Because, now, so am I.

His shirt smells faintly of the cigarettes he has sworn off so many times and the cologne I bought him. His arms come up around me and I think, yes, this. He holds me, tight and careful, and I can feel the desperation thrumming though him just below the surface, the same feelings of fear and loss and bewilderment that have dogged me until just now. Until he offered himself to me, to cling to in a world where I suddenly have nothing left.

He feels like a direction. Not a destination, and definitely not safety. Not home, but something like it. And, for now, it is enough.

He slides into the driver’s seat and gives me his best gambler’s smile. He brushes his fingers across my cheekbone, light and quick, before fiddling with the stereo. I feel burned there, too exposed where he touched me, but also the most alive since… before the hospital.

“Where are we going?” I keep my hair out of my eyes by holding it back with one hand. I no longer even own a hair band.

Will is a careful driver. His eyes are always ahead and he stays alert to the cars around us. When his gaze leaves the road to bore into me, I know what he has to say is important. His face is etched with fierce possession and smoldering anger, creased with faint lines and dark circles that weren’t there a few weeks ago. But somehow, I know his anger is not directed at me, just as I know I am responsible for the changes carved into his features.

“With me.” He is careful to enunciate both words distinctly. “You’re coming with me. And everything else will be all right.” His knuckles are white around the steering wheel, as if daring me, my parents, and even the world to disagree with him. He shifts gears like the car has personally offended him, and we rocket forward, leaving the hospital behind.

I lean my head against the cool glass of the window. It vibrates against my raw skin as we pick up speed. I let the white noise of our movement, and the remnants of the drugs in my system, lull me into drowsiness. Will’s fingers hover over mine, as if he is hesitant to touch me, but also can’t help himself. I flip my palm upward like a flower seeking its sun. His fingers lace through mine and I feel anchored at last.

With me.

After weeks of wrecking everything around me, for no good reason except that I am wicked or star-crossed or lost the chemical lottery at birth, I fall into an exhausted sleep.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Things going on:

1. New computer. I destroy laptops. Chew 'em up and spit them out in tiny little pieces. I get fussed at for this. It's an expensive habit, for one. I'm averaging a new laptop every eight to ten months or so. But, I argue back, I'm on mine 100x more than anyone else in the household. My laptop is literally my office. Not only do I use it for all the things everyone else does on a routine basis, I write on mine. So it's constantly on, Word at the ready, in case I think of a fix for plot hole #2,  character A's defining motive, or manage to sneak in a few minutes worth of editing.

Also, I stopped using a Mac about three computers ago. Or was it four? I was really happy with the switch to Windows, but even with all my perfectly reasonable explanations (cough: justifications), I'm still going through computers at an alarming rate. Macs did seem sturdier, if a little wonky to drive sometimes.

2. Signings! I posted about this a while back, but the actual time is drawing closer, and I'm getting hit with random waves of signing anxiety. It seems as if all my author friends have really cool swag- custom bookmarks, pens, book purses (!!!), and singing book lights. Well, okay, I made that last one up. But still. It feels that way! And I have... not much. Ideas? And vague plans to make them happen? And a crate of books on the way. That's the main thing, right? To have something to actually sign? At least I've got that going for me.

3. Signature anxiety. I never, ever dreamed this could be A Thing. But it is. I find myself caught up in nightmare scenarios where I go to sign a book and out comes this blocky, childish scrawl. Or else, a bunch of loopy scribbles. Sometimes, in these scenarios, I even forget how to write at all. That's not likely to happen, but still. It's clearly a fear. So I'm going to sit down and practice writing my name like I haven't done since seventh grade, when I practiced writing "Mrs. Latest Hot Guy Crush." And what the hell kind of pen do people use, anyway? This is yet another anxiety-ridden scenario, where I run out of ink or poke a hole in someone's book because my pen won't cooperate. Stupid, I know, but there it is. I think I'm going with a pen-line Sharpie. Can't really go wrong with those. Unless you're drawing cat whiskers on a friend's face and forget you're using permanent ink, so that they have to walk around, an adult in permanent cat whiskers. (Yes, this actually happened. Sorry, Brad.)

4. I have no grown-up clothes. Like, none. The most dressed up I get is for church and school functions, and since it the 21st Century here in Central Florida, people wear jeans and shorts pretty much everywhere. I can't even claim I own a really nice shirt. At least, not one that fits post-baby. I'm a few years into this writing gig, with a baby, and you can imagine what kind of wardrobe that creates. Pajama pants and t-shirts, maaaybe a pair of jeans, and sandals. I can't remember the last time I wore socks, even in the dead of winter here. So a-shopping I must go- terrifying on its own because of the aforementioned baby weight thing.

5. Panel! I got on a panel at LeakyCon in Orlando, Fl in August. As far as I know, this Con started out as a Harry Potter thing, and evolved from there. It's still pretty lit-heavy, although there are movie and television components, as well. And some concerts, I think. And guess who some of the other panelists are? SCOTT freakin' WESTERFIELD! JOHN GREEN! HOLLY BLACK! LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON! And many more.... Not that I am on the same panel as these luminaries and keynotes, mind you, but still. I am uber happy to have been accepted. My fellow CQ writers and I will be hosting the "Create Your Own Novel" panel, in which we use worldbuilding scenarios from three different iconic YA novels to, you guessed it, write your own novel. The winners get swag. (I really need some of that, it seems.) So yes, that's another writer milestone for me- to be on a panel, look all serious when asked questions, and... hopefully not sound like an idiot when I actually open my mouth. ;)

6. New author photo. Grr. Enough said.

That's a round-up of what's going on in Vicki's world. Thanks for stopping by. (And thanks for letting me test drive the new keyboard. I think I'm going to like this one- the keys are a bit more raised than the last model. Nothings worse for sloppy fingers than a flat keyboard.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Addict (w/ bonus Very Embarrassing Childhood Photo)

I don't even know how old I am in this picture. It's got to be the early eighties- I mean, look at those shorts! But as my mom (the only person with access to photos this embarrassing) pointed out, even then I dragged a book with me. And I'm clutching it for dear life, even though I'm in alleged little kid heaven- an amusement park. See the pretty pony? I didn't. I get so immersed in books, not even bodily harm can rouse me. I know this because my brother- the kid in the unfortunate shorts lounging just behind me- would get so irritated that I preferred dead trees to his company that he threw shoes to get my attention. Sometimes it worked. It's only gotten worse with age:

Daughter: Hey Mom, when is dinner?
Me: Growls: I'm reading. Turns page.

Husband: Sweetheart? You're still in your pajamas. And you wore them all day yesterday, too...
Me: Snarls: I'm. Reading. Turns page.

President Obama:Unless you perform this vital task immediately all life on Earth will cease to exist.
Me: Yells: I'M READING. Turns page.

The second most amazing thing about being a writer has been discovering a whole universe full of people who feel the same way. People who get it, no matter what their role in Book World actually is. Book bloggers, publishers, editors, agents, reviewers, readers, writers, illustrators, librarians, English teachers- fellow book junkies all. If we could, we'd distill books into liquid and mainline them straight into our veins. That new book smell we all claim we love? It's really just an excuse to stand over a fresh volume and inhale deeply, hoping that somehow, this time we really will ingest the sucker. 

The first most amazing thing about being a writer?
Well. Everything. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mainlining, Meth, and Messy Endings

Yes, I drive this. Exactly this.
And thank god for commas, because otherwise this post would mean something different altogether.

One day a couple of years ago, I came out of Kroger loaded down with groceries, cranky kids in tow. I popped the hatch to load up my haul and stopped short. All of us did, the kids and me, because some punk had scrawled the word "Meth" in big letters across the rear window of my vehicle that (obviously) needed a wash. We just stood there and stared at it under the halogen sky, puzzled and kind of creeped out. I mean, what the hell? Were the bored kids of Auburn, Alabama fresh out of creative dirt-graffiti?

But it all makes sense now, because my sneaky, inconsiderate family started mainlining Breaking Bad on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.

I drive a gold Aztek, usually covered with at least one layer of dust or pollen or something, which gives it a certain famous golden-green hue. Glamorous, right? But it gets me around, is handy for hauling dogs, children, groceries, props for the school play, tubas, chain saws (not kidding- there's one in there now), and I don't have to worry about messing up the upholstery because hey, it's an Aztek with a limited lifespan, which will soon be replaced by a more practical vehicle. Probably a truck. I've never had really strong feelings about it- or any vehicle, really- one way or the other. Until this week.

Now I'm rockin' that Aztek like a boss. My car looks exactly like the Walter White mobile. I mean, exactly, except I've got all four hub caps. (For now, anyway.) Same color, same crappy stereo, same upholstery, same annoying locks that engage every single moment the car's not in park. So inconvenient for picking up kids or running from gun-toting cartels. To love that show is to love that car. And I do.

In the immortal words of Jesse Pinkman, "Take that, Bitch!"

At first, I resisted. Not that long ago the world seemed to be made up of two kinds of people: those who loved Breaking Bad, and the rest of us who wished they'd just shut up already. I was in the second camp. Television is just one of the many things I've sacrificed for writing. But then the two men in my life started watching, and what could I do? Just not visit the living room for a month? I so did not have time for a show, but like a good book or some 99% pure sky-blue crystal, I was soon as hooked as all my friends had been.

But, as with all mainlined shows, it came to a halt. Tonight, actually, which is good because hey, I've got my living room and valuable doing stuff time back. Bad because everyone hates an ending. Breaking Bad happened to have a really excellent ending- the best I've seen barring Six Feet Under. But, even though the finale tied up all loose ends and left me with a sense of closure, it was still an ending. And those suck. Bad endings? Those really suck. Good ones just suck less.

Which got me thinking. I really struggled with the ending to my trilogy. I hated to do it. And some fans have not been pleased. I was not pleased. Not, "Omg, THIS is how Veronica Roth ends the Divergent trilogy? Pitchfork, now!" kind of upset, but still, not happy. Only after seeing the finale to one of the finest dramas ever made have I started to be sort of okay with it. Sometimes, you just have to end it, and move on to the other stories clamoring for your attention. I'm lucky that I have a series so strongly grounded in setting that I can always, always revisit it. As I'm doing now with a prequel novella.

So, I'm sad to see such a great series end. And I'm sad that I ended my own series kinda so-so. But guess what? I have a Meth Mobile. So there. Bitch!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cover Reveal: "Destruction" by Sharon Bayliss

Author Sharon Bayliss is thrilled to share the cover for Destruction (Book One of The December People Series), a family drama about dark wizards living in Houston.

I am a big fan of this book. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy, and loved it. When I saw the cover, I was even more in love. It was designed by the same artist who did all three covers for my Angel's Edge series, the wonderfully talented Michelle Johnson. If this cover were a painting, I would hang it up in my house. Here's what Sharon had to say about the design process:

"The butterfly will show up on the cover of all four books in the series, as a symbol of redemption, hope, and re-birth. Despite the dark themes in the series, I believe that the most important themes of the series are hopeful ones, such as love, family, and triumph against adversity, which is why the butterfly is in the center.

The broken glass surrounding the butterfly rather obviously symbolizes the concept of destruction, which is also a central theme. The title Destruction refers to the fact that dark magic is inherently destructive, but also refers to how a person can be destroyed, in body or soul.

One thing I was sure of, I wanted the word, Destruction, to be in "pretty" letters. I loved the contrast of having a dark and violent word look beautiful. This also fits the theme, as I wish to show the beauty in darkness and destruction, and the good in people who are supposed to be evil."

Want to know more about Destruction, coming out 4/14/14?

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Add this to your Goodreads list:
Destruction (Book One of The December People Series)

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If you're a book blogger or reviewer, you can also sign up to be part of the blog tour and/or get a free ARC: CLICK HERE

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Summer Signing Fever

I know it's probably hard to think about summer with most of the country still wearing ski jackets and navigating snow drifts the size of an Imperial Walker, but here in Florida, we're already gearing up for the summer months that invariably bring tourists, cram the amusements parks beyond capacity, and cover every inch of sand on our beach.

I'm not complaining, though, because along with all this crazy comes my favorite thing of all: Book Festivals!

My summer is already filling up with fun festivals, including the University of Central Florida's Book Fest in April. I'm going to be doing some local summer workshops at schools, working one-on-one with students. The most exciting thing, though? I'm going to UtopYA, baby! I am so excited I could die. This is like the YA prom and the Oscars, with a good dose of Disney World all rolled into one. Held each year in Nashville, TN, the conference has grown from a lil ol' gathering of like-minded readers, writers, and fans, into THE event in the genre. Krystal Wade, publisher-sister and author of the Wilde's Fire series, along with the forthcoming Shattered Secrets, and I are rooming together. Which means, of course, we won't be getting any sleep at all. Red Bull, anyone? Long-time friend Stacey Wallace Benefiel, author of the Glimpse series and the New Adult contemporary Crossing, are going to meet in person for the first time ever! She's already warned me that we're not going to hug so much as tackle, so those in our vicinity, be warned! And there are so many more amazing writers I've worked with, as an editor, beta, or collaborator in an event. I'm looking forward to this more than... dare I admit it? More than Christmas. Yes, it's true.

I'll be signing books from 6-9 p.m. in the lobby of the Millenium Maxwell House Hotel on Friday, June 20, 2014. I'm in good company- literati like Sylvia Day (!!!) and Genifer Albin (Crewel World series) will both be there, along with Charlotte Abel, Kailin Gow, Tamara Rose Blodgett, Kristie Cook, and my publisher sista Sharron Riddle. And many, many more. The event is free to the public, some come by to get some books signed, or just to chat and snag some swag.

The UCF BookFest is held in Orlando on April 5th. It's free to the public and has something for everyone. Bestselling wriyers in genres as diverse as non-fiction, local history, YA, contemporary Romance, Thrillers, and more, are all going to be there doing panels and signings. There's even a separate area for children and teens, with fun events like scavenger hunts. I'll keep you posted as to where our booth will be as the information becomes more available.