Book Monday: SHRAPNEL by Stephanie Lawton – Excerpt

Stephanie-Lawton-TOURShrapnel
by Stephanie Lawton
Publisher: Evernight TEEN (January 17, 2013)

I’m so excited to host my friend Stephanie for her blog tour of her new YA release, SHRAPNEL. I don’t know if she remembers this, but we first “met” on Twitter over this book in the fall of 2011. I’d just joined Twitter and scoured it for local writers and others to follow and found her, among others. She soon tweeted asking for something quick that could be flammable during the Civil War era. I replied with some suggestions and we struck up a convo. She then invited me to the Mobile Writer’s Guild and we’ve since gotten to know each other. Turns out that tweet was for a scene in this book :) This past fall I Beta read an earlier version of it, and oh boy did I love it! It’s just dripping with voice, y’all, and so deliciously atmospheric. (tweet this) I was on the edge of my seat. Seriously!

Anyway, this is a long-winded explanation about why I’m so pleased to have her on my blog today for Book Monday! First lets give you the blurb, so you know what’s going on:

It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.

Intrigued yet? I’m now turning it over to Stephanie for more SHRAPNEL!

********

Angela and I have many things in common, which is part of why I’m so excited to be on her blog today. Not only do we live in the same city, but we’re on the board of our local writers guild together. We both write quirky, strong heroines, and we both love a bit of humor mixed in with our steamy stuff.

Below is an excerpt from Shrapnel, my upper-YA mutt of a novel set at Oakleigh Mansion in Mobile, Alabama. Dylanie is a foul-mouthed tomboy, but making an attempt at being girlie. Her helper is a smarmy Civil War-era ghost named Jackson. Here, she’s seeing her new look for the first time.

I’m not prepared for what I see. Standing in front of me is … a girl. A noise makes me turn. My Army bag has fallen over and the contents are spread out on the bed, almost like someone rifled through them. Closest to me are my brush and the make-up bag Mom doesn’t know I own. She’d probably break into song and dance if she did.

“Okay, Jackson, I get the hint.” He doesn’t appear, but he’s here somewhere. Ten minutes later my hair’s under control, I’ve managed to smudge on some color without looking like a clown, and I have to admit, I look a little bad-ass. Like a girl, but in a don’t-screw-with-me kind of way. I reach for my red Converses. Just as I’m about to tug on the first one, the door on the right side of the ugly wardrobe swings open on a squeaky hinge. I chuckle when I see what’s inside.

“Are you kidding me? What are the odds that they’re my size? They’ll probably crumble into dust if I even touch them.”

“You doubt me?” Jackson’s sudden appearance sends me stumbling backward.

“You can’t just do that! You scared the shit out of me.”

“I wouldn’t have to appear if you were a good girl and did as you were told.”

I grit my teeth while weighing my options. My earlier urge to injure him loses to my need to say, I told you so.

“Fine.” I march over to the wardrobe and yank out the musty, old boots, ignoring Jackson’s lazy grin that sends my stomach into a tailspin. Except … the boots aren’t musty. Yeah, they look old, but they’re in perfect condition. The leather is supple and shiny, and the laces have been replaced with smooth, black ribbons. I don’t know whether to wear them or worship them.

Jackson makes up my mind for me when he scoots me onto the bed and lifts my foot onto his knee. I chuckle, thinking of the old man with a bad comb-over at the children’s shoe store close to our house. He used to kneel and place our feet on his knee, too, when fitting us for a new pair. I’d stare at the top of his shiny head and the greasy strips of hair carefully gelled into place.

“Ticklish?”

“Hardly.”

“Hmmm.” Jackson loosens the laces then tips the boot so I can slip in my toes. He maneuvers it until my foot and calve are perfectly encased in black leather. His fingers linger at the back of my knee.

“Seems like you’ve done this before.”

“Perhaps,” he says as he tugs the ribbons tight. “Other foot.”

He repeats the process, but this time he doesn’t release my leg when he finishes. “Lovely,” he breathes, then shakes his head as if to clear it. “Are you ready to go downstairs?”

I shrug.

“Give them a try.” Jackson takes my hand and pulls me off the bed so I’m standing on two-inch heels, a far cry from the flat Chucks I’m used to. The boots are surprisingly comfortable. “Stand up straight, shoulders back.”

“You sound like my mom.”

He smirks. “Now walk.” I feel like a horse being led around a ring as Jackson keeps me steady. “Don’t lock your knees. Use them to help you walk naturally, heel to toe.”

After a few adjustments, I’ve got the hang of it. “Like this?”

“Mmm, excellent.” I swear his dead eyes just got warmer. Is that possible? Something tells me that isn’t the kind of thing I can ask Riley. His raises my hand to his lips and leaves a small kiss that sends tingles all the way up my bare arm and beyond. “I think you’re ready, sweetheart. Do not forget to pay attention to what you learn today. I’ll be nearby.”

“Yeah? That’s pretty damn creepy, you know.” My heart begins pumping out a cocktail of Oh, crap when he crosses his arms and stares at me. Guess that was the wrong thing to say. As the seconds stretch out, I count my blinks. After six, he still hasn’t broken eye contact. My toes wiggle inside my boots. Then my leg starts bouncing. “Okay, maybe not creepy. Maybe protective is more like it. Or concerned. Or, I don’t know, sweet? You know it was just a joke, right? I always say stupid, sarcastic stuff.”

Still, he doesn’t answer.

“Are you mad at me?”

Jackson takes a deep, unnecessary breath. “Is that how I appear to you, creepy?”

“Well, you are dead.” He nods. “And you can appear and disappear whenever you want.” He nods again, so I keep prodding. “And you can … um, touch me. Even though you’re not real. So yeah, that qualifies as creepy.”

I watch, mesmerized, as a crooked grin slowly softens his face. “And yet you’re not running for the door, pulling out your hair and screaming like a hysterical schoolgirl.”

“No, um, that would be—” I point in the direction of Ashley’s room.

Jackson rewards me with a genuine laugh. “And that is why I chose you, not her. I can’t promise I won’t be creepy, but hopefully I can be a number of other things to you, as well.” He takes a step toward me, while I take a step back. “Intriguing, perhaps? Helpful?” He eyes my boots and takes another step closer. “Educational, even?”

His eyes land on my lips, and even a novice like me can tell where this is headed.

*********

photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Where To Find Stephanie:

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Where to get your paws on SHRAPNEL:

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | Barnes and Noble (paperback) | Evernight Teen | All Romance ebooks (digital) | CreateSpace (paperback)

It’s Carnival Time!

Unless you’ve had reason to be in Mobile at some point in your life, or have ever met a Mobilian, you probably don’t know that Mobile is home to the original Mardi Gras celebration in America, fifteen years before New Orleans was even a twinkle in some founder’s eye.

You see, we were the first capital of French Louisiana and we also still retain some of our French heritage. In fact, I’m a descendant of an old Creole family.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, mainly to let you know that I will not be posting a Weekend Grab Bag on Saturday, or a Monday Hunk Who Reads. I will, however, be posting my Six Sentence Sunday (got it queued and tweet scheduled) but I might not be able to return comments until after Tuesday, cuz, you know, IT’S CARNIVAL TIME!

Some differences compared to New Orleans

  • Our parading and ball societies are not called Krewes, but Mystic Societies
  • Our colors are purple and gold, not purple, green and gold. However, since New Orleans eclipses ours, it’s hard to find decorations to buy that don’t have green in it.
  • Our king is King Felix III, not King Rex. Last year I was at the coronation of the Queen, and for the first time, an emissary from King Rex came and paid obeisance to our king, acknowledging (finally) that our Mardi Gras is older.
  • No flashing of boobies for beads (yay!)
  • We keep the MoonPie makers in Tennessee in business, as that’s one of our traditional throws, unique to Mobile. I remember being at my first Mardi Gras in high school (we’d come to Mobile for a visit) and everyone around me screaming “MoonPie!MoonPie!MoonPie!” as the floats rolled by.
  • And like any folkway, we have different traditions that have evolved, just like they have. Here we have Joe Cain Day on Sunday, and his Merry Widows (all twenty!) hand out black roses. The oldest parading society here, OOMs, have as their emblem float Folly chasing Death around a broken column (picture at top of blog post), and many other customs.

New Orleans also incorporates their debutante season into Carnival season, but not sure if it’s as extended as ours. The official start of The Season here is the Camellia Ball after Thanksgiving, then the debutantes and their escorts attend parties from that time forward (just like you read in Regency romances!) until they are presented in elaborate court dress on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday to the King and Queen.

Balls!

Are a lot of fun, though this will be the first year since I moved here in 2009, that I will not be attending one (I don’t think– have received last minute invites before. I’ve learned to get dressed in floor-length ball gowns in 15 minutes!) There are only a few for which you can purchase tickets, the rest are invitation only. Many have their own King and Queen and they put on elaborate tableaus before the dancing starts.

Women must wear full-length gowns and men white tie and black tails, known as costume de rigueur. My heroine in MUST LOVE BREECHES, was a debutante in Mobile and so I do have some flashbacks chronicling this little bit of Mobile history.

Here’s some pictures of me during past pre-ball parties:

So, laissez les bon temps rouler! See ya on the flip side…

New Southern cookbook by Eugene Walter now on sale!

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Eugene Walter was a true Mobilian, zany and infused with joie de vivre. He passed away in 1998 and so we thought there wouldn’t be another Eugene offering. But today, his new book goes on sale nationwide, The Happy Table of Eugene Walter: Southern Spirits in Food and Drink.

Local author Franklin Daugherty, in his review, said it best:

There is nothing quite like Eugene Walter’s love of food and masterful style. Imagine Truman Capote or Flannery O’Connor writing cookbooks, but with a Mozartian wit and lightness. This is not just a cookbook but also a guide to life and a vision of convivial happiness, in which the cook as well as the projected reader are constantly surrounded by friends, guests and family while telling stories, gossiping, joking, celebrating, toasting, hosting and entertaining. And that, dear reader, is exactly how Eugene lived.

Is it possible you’re showing when you should be telling?

Last night I shared a couple beers and an awesome burger (best burgers in town, can I get an Amen?) at a local watering hole in Mobile, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, with a fellow emerging writer.  Above the sound of a local music duo, we talked about the ol’ show vs. tell rule. My friend was so sick of hearing of this rule and thought it was about time it should be thrown out. I’m not there yet, but I do see where she’s coming from. Sometimes it is better to tell than show, no doubt. And new writers might have a hard time distinguishing when that time is.

The operative word there, though, is sometimes. I think most helpful articles about this do mention that there are times to tell, but point out that with new writers the big mistake is telling when they should show. I think this is true. Most often when you’re telling it doesn’t help your story so it is best to change it into a richer experience for the reader.

But when should you tell? I’m not sure I’m there yet as a writer and so am trying to eliminate instances of telling whenever I find them. However, I think one comfortable caveat is when you’re transitioning your character from one place to another. A simple statement that they got into the car or carriage is all that’s needed. If nothing happens along the way that helps further your plot, then there’s no need to convert that one sentence of showing to a blow-by-blow of everything that person saw and did. Does this sound obvious? Well, I read a published mystery a couple of years ago where the author had obviously had this rule pounded into their head because we were treated multiple times with scenes just like this (actually the character was walking to work). Because it was a murder mystery, I kept thinking that something was going to happen during those scenes, and nothing did! It was extremely annoying.

One of my favorite links to pass on to folks when critiquing is Shirley Jump’s article Show Not Tell: What the Heck is that Anyway? Her last two points at the bottom I think sum this up well:

  • Don’t pad it too much. Don’t overwhelm the reader with description either. You’re not writing a travelogue, you’re writing a story. Add enough details to give them a picture, then move on to the meat of your story. If you have several paragraphs in a row of description, chances are you’ve gone overboard. Try to work the description in with the dialogue and action instead so you can maintain your pacing and reader interest.
  • Don’t be afraid of telling sometimes, too. A mix of both showing and telling is a good idea. You don’t have to show every single thing in your book. Sometimes, a quick telling helps get through a slow part or provides a quick recap. The goal is to make the MAJORITY of your writing vivid and strong (i.e., showing) and keep the telling to a minimum.

That mystery book was padded with scenes that served no purpose plot or character-wise, IMO, and only served to create false suspense.

So what do you think? When is it okay to tell? Do you think this rule should die a horrible and miserable death?