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LOREE LOUGH: LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST ONE DAY AT A TIME!

I remember the first time I met Loree; it was at a conference in Gainsville, TX. She was the keynote speaker, and I was a guest speaker. Before we addressed the attendees, Loree introduced herself. She was so gracious; one would never know they were speaking face-to-face with a best-selling author of hundreds of novels. I was slated to speak before Loree, can you even imagine? The room was silent. Gasp! But fortunately, it was because I happened to deliver information that most had not heard of at that time (industry related).

Loree stood up to speak next. I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was when she started several comments with the following statements. “And just like Amanda Thrasher said,” only to add, “I hate to repeat myself, but again, as Amanda Thrasher said.” To say I was stunned was an understatement. Best-selling author Loree Lough, backing up my claims and validating my thoughts about our industry, made such an impression on me that I never once forgot about our first meeting.

A while later, I’m honestly not sure how long, Loree called regarding a project she’d been asked to write for the talented Kevin James O’Neill (Actor, Writer, Producer, Screenplay Writer, Film Director). She described the project and spoke so passionately about the novel she was going to write that she had my attention immediately. Loree loved Kevin’s screenplay! You could hear it in her voice. And I could tell that the characters she would create to build the backstory necessary were already spinning in her head. She asked me a question that left me momentarily speechless. “Amanda, will you consider publishing this book?”

I was stunned that she wanted Progressive Rising Phoenix Press to be a part of this project. Why? Because we’re a tiny independent press founded by authors and Loree Lough is larger than life. She’s a beautiful writer, best-selling author, and well represented. Her Agent had this piece already placed, and she still moved forward with PRPP. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of this project.  But I can honestly say, and I’ve seen a lot of pieces, that this novel was supposed to have been written by Loree Lough. It was as if it was predestined to be written by Kevin specifically for her. Who knew?

There is a story behind this story; but it’s not mine to tell, it’s Loree’s. You will find the answers in this interview and in between each page of 50 HOURS. You will indeed find a piece of the author in between the lines as well as a beautiful story of redemption, peace, second chances, friendship, love, and forgiveness. If you can read this interview and not shed a tear, you’re stronger than me.

 

Meet Loree Lough.

  1. You’re a multi best-selling author, congrats! For those that are unfamiliar with your work, exactly how many books have you written?

Loree: Over the course of my looooong career, I’ve written about 250 books…but only 115 have been published. The others? Are taking up space in the bottom of a file drawer, waaaaay in the back, in the dark-dark, right where they belong.

  1. You’ve written for adults and kids, turned screenplays into novels, but what’s your favorite genre and why?

Loree: This may seem like a cop-out, but when I’m working on a project, that’s my favorite. I enjoy all genres thanks to the research, the interviews with experts, maps, and field trips (like doing ‘loops’ in an F-16 and getting into a cage to play with wolf cubs). Applying all of that to the characters, setting, and storyline is fun!

  1. One of your recent projects was taking a screenplay written by Kevin James O’Neill and turning it into a novel. Screenplays are so skeletal and novels, full of detail. At what point did you know you loved the idea enough to create a beautiful story?

 

 

Loree: Kevin hooked me on the story during our very first phone conversation. His enthusiasm was contagious, and once I saw the actual screenplay, well, I was RE-hooked! Instantly, my mind started whirling with ideas that could broaden and deepen the storyline and the characters: I saw the hospice center in my mind. Envisioned Franco and Aubrey. Built on the screenplay’s basic descriptions until the main characters were well-rounded, believable individuals with interesting backgrounds…and believable, reader-identifiable flaws.

I knew right away that these two would need other characters to interact with, so I invented them. They helped me expose the inner fears, thoughts, and joys the main characters were hiding—from others, and from themselves. (Kevin included a bluejay in his screenplay and I loved it so much that I turned it into a secondary character, and oh, what fun I had writing him!)

  1. A reference to the novel 50 HOURS has been quoted as being, “This is the kind of book that wins Pulitzer prizes.” I can’t think of a greater compliment for a literary fiction piece. What ran through your mind when you read that endorsement from the famous novelist Catherine Lanigan (Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, and a multitude of other works).

Loree: After the ‘wow, just wow’ mood wore off, I ran that Pulitzer line around in my head a couple dozen times. (Okay, about twice that many, but I digress…) I’m grateful. Humbled. Honored. Overjoyed. And you know what? My feet still haven’t touched the floor! An endorsement like that, coming from a writer as talented as Catherine, is heady stuff, indeed!

  1. Franco, the main character in the book, is a spiritually broken soul. No reason to live; simply going through the motions of life it seems, damaged. Fate changed that through the punishment phase that you described…sentenced to community service at a local hospice. It was there that he met Aubrey, the beautiful artist, who is terminally ill. The friendship that developed between the two is one that is truly life changing. Did Franco save Aubrey, per se, or did Aubrey ultimately save Franco?

 

Loree: I believe they saved each other. Living with the constant knowledge that your life is slowly ebbing to an end isn’t easy. But Aubrey is determined to squeeze as much joy and vigor from every precious moment as she can. Still, she’s lonely, exhausted, and no matter how hard she tries to hide it, terrified. I get that, and so will readers. I mean, it’s tough, grappling with a terminal diagnosis. Despite all that, meeting Franco gives her yet another thread of hope to grasp onto, and she realizes that her long-held dream of painting autumn leaves (something that isn’t readily found in Savannah) can come true…with his help.

And you’re right: Franco’s existence was, for the most part, flat and uninteresting. Burdened by the belief that he hadn’t deserved his wife’s love, and feeling he’s partially responsible for the car wreck that killed her…turned him into a man who eked out his existence by putting one foot in front of the other, because he doesn’t know what else to do. Then he meets Aubrey, whose zest for life is infectious. As his 50 hours tick by, he finds himself drawn to her strength. He likes her. Respects and admires the way she’s dealing with the diagnosis and accompanying symptoms. His feelings help build the foundation of a solid friendship. As they share pieces of the past, Franco’s ‘life puzzle’ comes together, and he begins to see himself through her eyes. And he likes what he sees.

  1. There is something incredible about the relationship that you have with the character Aubrey. It’s one that you usually only find in books. Healthy when commissioned to write this piece, you were later diagnosed with a similar illness as your character. Shock doesn’t begin to describe a readers’ or fan reaction when they find this out. How on earth did you continue the novel?

Loree: It was admittedly challenging at times, I’ll admit. Early on, I confessed to Kevin that I wasn’t sure I could handle it, that I might need to take a break from the story…maybe permanently. Good friend that he is, Kevin told me to follow my heart. Excellent advice, as it turned out, because every day of the year and a half, twice-daily chemo, through the stem cell transplant, I could not get the characters out of my head. Or my heart. At that point what I needed was to finish the story, to show readers whose lives have been touched by this dreaded disease that there’s plenty of reason to hope. It sounds corny and sappy, maybe, but there’s a lot of truth in that old adage: There is always, always something to be thankful for.

  1. At times, did you find your heart intimately connected to Aubrey’s, emotionally, and did it help to share you’re feelings on paper about what you were experiencing by allowing Aubrey to share her struggles with Franco?

Loree: I found myself putting words into Aubrey’s mouth, words I’d said only in the privacy of my mind. Talking with my fellow patients proved I wasn’t alone: A lot of cancer patients keep things to themselves. They do it to spare loved ones, already worried and afraid of an uncertain future, who don’t quite know what to do to comfort us. Through Aubrey, I was able to let them know that we expect nothing, quite literally, except to be with us. But it isn’t easy, watching someone you care about suffer the side effects of drugs and treatments. Friends and family deserve to hear we appreciate their steadfastness. Aubrey’s relationship with Franco and her mother helped me make that point.

Also, while it isn’t a common experience (thank God!), my research and interviews proved there are far too many “loved ones” like Aubrey’s ex-husband; Michael put on a good show of being the dutiful spouse…until her condition deteriorated, taking the spotlight off him and putting it on her. It’s an ugly fact, but a fact nonetheless: The occasional loved one will leave. So through Aubrey, I hope to show cancer patients and family members alike that we can survive even that. 

  1. I can’t imagine that the two of you, you and Aubrey, were completely separated at times during the writing process of this novel. I was struck by the humor you infused throughout the piece. Did Aubrey’s humor that you created for her help you at the same time deal with this terrible illness?

Loree: Aubrey is, in a whole lot of ways, me. I cracked jokes throughout the entire process: IV needle wouldn’t hit a vein? “Just jam it in there,” I’d tell the nurse, “and sooner or later, you’ll strike gold!” IV pole got stuck on a threshold as I (repeatedly) made trips to the bathroom during infusions? Imitating car motors and horns helped me get (literally) over the hump, and brought smiles to other patients’ faces. Humor has always been my go-to, whether dealing with Lyme Disease, Lupus, or that blasted Black Widow bite on my left butt cheek—all diagnosed in a one-month period. I built that attitude into Aubrey’s character, to help her cope with what would otherwise have been a dismal prognosis. It helped her deal with her teenage hospice neighbor, Dusty, too. And it helped me practice what I may face, far, far down the road.

  1. To me this story is so beautifully written, and I’m not just saying that. How is it different from your other pieces? Do you think it’s the topic, emotional connection, or how you are so inspired to share this story of friendship, connection, living your last dream, and second chances with the world that made it unique? (Adding of course, all of your pieces are incredible, thus you’re a best selling author). This novel has a different feel to me.

Loree: 50 Hours is different, all right. Since many of my published novels are for kids or the romance audience, each includes the required “happily ever after” ending. Humor, tears, suspense, adventure, yes (to quote Prego) “it’s in there.” But in every novel—except A Man of Honor—the guys got the girls, the kids found the hidden treasure, or the bad guys got their due.

In this story, as in A Man of Honor, my aim was to give readers a satisfying ending. Have you seen the movie Somersby? It’s a beautiful, colorful story of one man’s redemption. SPOILER ALERT! The ending requires the main character (Richard Gere) to make the most difficult choice of his life: Continue pretending to be Jodie Foster’s once-missing husband (a man, it is discovered as the story progresses, who’s guilty of murder), or escape the hangman’s noose by admitting his true identity as a charlatan. By the time he’s faced with that hard decision, he has earned the respect of townsfolk; Jodie’s little boy believes Gere is his real dad; Jodie loves Gere’s character as she’d never loved her husband. Most important of all, he likes himself. So much, in fact, that he can’t bring himself to disappoint those who see him as a good and decent man, something he was definitely not before assuming the murderer’s identity.

A happy ending? No way! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as his life ended. But, it was a satisfying ending. Gere died a noble death, and spared everyone who cared about him from having to face the ugly truth.

That was the kind of ending I was going for in A Man of Honor and 50 Hours. An ending that would leave readers feeling the story simply couldn’t—shouldn’t—have ended any other way. Even if it did require a few tissues… 

  1. Franco is a changed man after he meets Aubrey. You connected and poured yourself into Aubrey. Do you believe your fans will ‘meet’ a piece of Loree Lough through the pages of this book?

Loree: I think most authors will admit (if you pump enough wine into ‘em, anyway) that a bit of themselves lives in every character they write. I identified almost as closely with Franco as I did with Aubrey. No, I’ve never been an addict of any kind (unless chocolate counts), but like anyone who has spent more than 25 years on this planet, there are things in my past that I’m not proud of. Things I’d rather keep to myself until St. Peter meets me at the pearly gates and says “What were you thinking!” There comes a time in every life, however, when regret must take a back seat to reformation, and unless we hope to spend the rest of our days looking over our shoulders, whimpering “I should’ve” or “why didn’t I?”, we have to bury those negative sentiments and concentrate on the future…where we’ll strive not to repeat those mistakes!

  1. My wish for the YA’s that I write is to write in such a way that I touch teens and prevent them from making the mistakes that my characters do before they actually experience them. Do you have a secret wish for this book?

Loree:  I definitely understand that, Amanda! My hope, my dream, my goal for 50 Hours is to leave readers with the belief that no matter how bleak and scary life is, there’s always reason to expect light can come from our dark times…if we choose to flip the switch!

  1. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

Loree: Now, that’s a tough question. I enjoyed introducing Aubrey to Franco, and presenting Dusty to readers. It was fun crafting scenes in which the annoying bluejay teased Franco. I even liked developing Agnes’s prickly personality. During one scene, as Aubrey sleeps in the RV and Franco paces outside, I could almost feel the gravel poking through his socks, could almost hear that Eagles song, pulsing in the distance. But a favorite scene? Sorry, but I have to admit I loved writing all of them!

  1. Was there ever a time, during the process of this book and treatment of your illness that you wanted to give up on this book?

Loree:  Yes, absolutely. When I first heard the diagnosis (Multiple Myeloma, which is incurable), I didn’t think I could write that close to the bone. (Pun intended, since MM is a bone/marrow cancer. Heh heh heh.) But I digress, again… I feared writing a depressing, maudlin story that smacked of defeat. Or worse, self-pity.

  1. What kept you going?

Loree:  The realization that millions of others are facing the same prognosis as Aubrey (and me) convinced me to ‘make like Franco’ and put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. It was cathartic, in a weird way, and I hope that’s what it’ll be for readers—not just cancer patients and their families—too.

  1. I keep certain objects (they’re not expensive but they’re sentimental to me), close to me when I write. Do you?

Loree: Hmm…not really. Right now, for example, Larry is asleep in his recliner while a Gilmore Girls rerun flashes in the background. The only things I absolutely must have nearby are my dictionary and a reliable Wi-Fi connection so that I can “look stuff up” at any given moment. I’m a tad OCD, you see, and must, must, must ensure that medical, scientific, historical, psychological things I’m writing about will be 100% accurate. Readers deserve to believe when they spend their hard-earned dollars on a novel that what they read will be correct and truthful.

  1. This novel, rightfully so, is going to be a feature film. Just for grins, who would you like to see play Franco and Aubrey?

Loree: I’m so glad you asked, and I hope and pray you’re right! Originally, Kevin had Peter Onorati as Franco, and Lindsay Frost as Aubrey. But, due to all the medical delays, they’re no doubt committed to other roles by now. That said, who do I see as Franco? Christian Slater. And Aubrey? Cate Blanchett. If the movie happens, I’ll insist on being on-set. (How else would I get my picture taken with the stars!)

  1. You lived the research in this book. What did you learn emotionally during treatment that you think readers wouldn’t believe, meaning they think it’s fiction, but it’s fact?

Loree: Rarely, rarely, people who’ve been told there is no cure for their illness sink to moments of desperation. Oh, we fight. We down the pills and struggle through the treatments. We put on a brave front, and take pride in not complaining. (It’s not healthy for us or those close to us. Doctors, nurses, and techs find it easier to deal with us, too!) Once in a while, though, we give in to the horror of it all, and entertain fleeting thoughts such as “How much easier would life be—for me and everyone close to me—if the end just came now?”

As I developed her character, Aubrey experienced several of those moments, but I only showed readers one. She quickly came to her senses, though, as most of us do, once she acknowledged, as I did, that causing the end would hurt our loved ones far, far more than walking beside us on this strange journey.

  1. I know you donate a portion of your royalties, all books, to charities. Cancer research is on the list. Is your type of cancer added to that and if so, where can people donate?

Loree:  Years ago, I volunteered at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, where I lugged a tackle box filled with paints and brushes so that I could brighten the kids’ lives, even if only until the paintings flaked off. (I liked to paint their forearms, rather than their faces, so they could see likenesses of Disney and Poke Mon characters, roses, dragons, even <cringe> skulls and snakes. They were such courageous little people that I was inspired me to donate to an assortment of childhood illnesses, which I added to “the usuals”: Heart, cancers, soldiers’ organizations, Autism, Alzheimer’s, etc. When MM entered my world, everything got a whole lot more personal, real fast, and I added MM research to my list. In the two-plus years I’ve lived with this monster, researchers have made great forward strides. New, successful treatments pop up on the horizon every six months or so. My favorite? The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation: https://www.themmrf.org/

  1. Being so closely connected to Aubrey, did you learn anything about yourself that surprised you?

Loree: Well, I always believed I was fairly tough. I lived by the “Never let ‘em see ya sweat” and “Never let ‘em see ya cry” codes. Since the MM diagnosis? I feel climbing onto the roof and bellowing, “I’m big and bad enough to beat your butt, MM!” What I learned is that I’m even stronger than I thought!

  1. If another world, would Franco have dated Aubrey?

Loree:  In my mind and heart, the answer is no. Because although their unusual situation drew them into a deep and abiding friendship, they really had very little in common. The chance that their paths would have crossed elsewhere would be, as they say, slim to none. Sad, I know, but that’s life, y’know?

The way 50 Hours ends, however, leaves hope that there could be a sequel, featuring Franco and Aubrey’s mom, Agnes. If readers asked for it, that is. But only then. <hint-hint>

In closing, I’d like to thank you, Amanda, for sharing your blog and your audience with me. This has been one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve participated in: Excellent questions that really made me dig deep in order to give honest answers!

Loree is available for author interviews and is open to discussing anything you’d like to ask. Media or other requests contact@progressiverisingphoenix.com or contact Loree through her website. Loree Lough

50 HOURS pre order http://amzn.to/2qcFiy6 (Goes live June 30th).

Amanda M Thrasher

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Writer’s All Have A Thing, What’s Yours?

Writer’s All Have A Thing, What’s Yours?

amanda-m-thrasherLike most writers, authors, I’ve been writing for years. But when I sit down to write a new piece, though I’ve evolved slightly over the years, my primary process has never changed. It’s kinda like my personal thing, my way of doing it, that kicks off the project and keeps me motivated and excited throughout the entire thing. It’s possible other writers use the same method, I don’t know, but it works for me.

So what is it? It starts with an idea, of course, but ends up with an entire book mapped out in my mind. Naturally, my head is often spinning, don’t get me wrong, I like it that way. This can lead to one sided conversations for those around me. Distractions during activities that I’m involved in, being there in person but not really being there, and never being as involved as I should in group projects since my mind wanders to engage in the story that I’m writing. (Certain this isn’t always easy for those around me, but don’t worry, upon release of the work all returns to normal).

Preferring to have a complete understanding of my entire storyline, the reason things will happen the way that they will, my characters, a lovely twist, and theories on ways that I could pull it all together, my mind is racing all of the time before an actual word is written. Personally, I like to visualize each scene as I write, hoping to recreate in words the things that I see in my mind. If I do this correctly, the words paint a visual picture for my audience.

For me, not all writers, this can be a slow draining process, especially when the topic is a controversial or brutal one such as bullying, cyberbullying or date rape. Each chapter can be a depleting energy experience. And if I’m not mistaken, it’s because authors want their characters to be so life life-like, that it can actually feel as if they’re experiencing some of the things that they’re writing about for their readers.

Trying to compensate for this slow process of mine, I try to write relatively clean. The results, for me, tend to be less time consuming regarding actual clean up of the final manuscript. Since each chapter can be exhausting, mentally, I’ll ensure it’s a decent chapter before moving on. By the time the manuscript is complete and reworks begin, the rewrite process isn’t as bad as dealing with raw work.

I’ve been working on my new YA, BITTER BETRAYAL, since the middle of 2016. It’s almost done; clean up, and then off to the editors (I use two editors, content and copy line). The topic is controversial but incredibly important. Each time I sit down to write the material has flowed, this is a good thing, but the nature of the topic is controversial, important and difficult to discuss. That is the reason I believe it takes me a tad longer to write these pieces. After a few chapters, a mental break is required. It’s the emotional side that’s exhausting. Characters that are so life-like they could go be anyone’s son or daughter, and that’s truly heartbreaking.

I’m excited about the release of my new piece. It’s important to me to get the word out in a delicate manner for young impressionable teens. But it’s imperative that the message is strong, and I hope that the images expressed through words that I’ve written deliver not only the entertainment factor but more importantly the message I’d hoped to share. Below is an excerpt from my new novel. What’s your ‘thing?’

UNEDITED EXCERPT:

BITTER BETRAYAL Copyright © 2017 Amanda M. Thrasher

ISBN – 978-1-946329-18-9 & ISBN 978-1-946329-19-6 Tentative release April 2017.

Chapter 1

Cover For Me

“They say there are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth; there’s no exception to this one. But whose truth will you believe?”

DTB CU there!

(Don’t text back see you there).

The message flashed across her phone, and that’s all it took. Not even a whole sentence and suddenly all she could think about was getting out of there. Payton hadn’t heard a single word the kid standing in front of the class nervously speaking had said, as her fingers frantically tapped away on her phone. Looking back, what was she thinking?!?!

Payton – Cover for me

Aubrey- Seriously?

Payton- Problem?

Aubrey- Yah

Payton- Really? J

Aubrey – Nah

Payton- K

Payton – G4I

Aubrey – 182

Payton – U don’t hate me J Luv u

Five, four, three, two, and the bell finally rang. Payton shot out the door. Aubrey, her best friend since 6th grade, took her time and shoved the books she’d left behind in her backpack. Payton’s behavior though frustrating at times wasn’t surprising. She was head crazy about that boy, Reece Townsend, and it helped that Aubrey liked him as well.

With less than ten minutes to freshen up, get across campus to her car and make it to the dam in time to meet Reece, Payton didn’t have time for small talk with anyone. Dodging in and out of kids, she avoided eye contact with as many people as she possibly could. The boy’s football coach, Coach Duncan, was headed her way. His voice, undeniably recognizable, bounced off the walls and echoed through the corridor before he was physically present. When finally in view, she purposely looked at her feet and rushed passed him. No way was she making eye contact with him; questions about her brother and his playing time on the field at college would stall her.

“Whoa girl, where’s the fire?”

Coach grabbed her arm as she tried to rush past him, her whole body swung around forcing her to face him. Arm still in his grasp he shook his head. “Slow it down girl! If only my boys had moved half as fast this morning.”

Managing a slight smile, she pointed toward the bathroom. Coach raised his hands in the air shook them back and forth, stopping her from saying another single word. He wanted no part of what could pop out of that girl’s mouth. She was liable to say something for the shock value alone. He didn’t need to know, want to know, or care to know for that matter. He let her on her way, no questions asked. A healthy spritz of perfume, lip-gloss, duck-lip practice, and Payton climbed into her car.

“What took you so long?” he said.

Payton’s love of her life, well at least to a sixteen, nearly seventeen, year-old love struck teen. One look at his face with that smile and she melted. It was bad enough they attended different schools, but him a senior, narrowing down his college options meant she’d be stuck there without him. The thought of it made her cringe. She obsessed about him leaving on a daily basis, even when he asked her not to, but she couldn’t help it. Not today she told herself pushing the thoughts out of her head. The best part of his day was right then as he watched her walk toward him. He was sitting on the back of his tailgate, swinging his legs back and forth, waiting for her to join him. He tapped the cool metal, her cue to join him. She grinned. So freaking hot! He always looked that way to her, and all she wanted to do was wrap her arms around him and kiss that face of his! Her grin turned into a girlish giggle.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

“Whatever!” A cute smirk crossed his face. “Something.”

She grabbed his face in her hands, laughed out loud, and kissed him before stepping aside to hop up next to him on the tailgate, but Reece playfully pulled her back toward him instead. Standing face-to-face, she brushed his sandy-brown hair to one side revealing his green eyes. She could get lost in them; they were that pretty, at least to her.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Payton giggled. “You grabbed me, remember?”

“I did. But why are you staring at me like that?”

His breath hit her face. Truth be told all she wanted at that moment was for him to kiss her; really kiss her. Move Payton. Move now; she stepped back and took a deep breath.

“I’m just looking at you, that’s all. You’re kinda cute like that.”

He rolled his eyes. But Payton could tell by the boyish smirk that crossed his face that her comment had pleased him. She loved that look on his face. He looked a few years younger, like a real kid. It was sweet.

“You know I’m supposed to say that kinda stuff,” he said as seriously as he could, but it wasn’t working.

The long cotton skirt she’d chosen to wear that day wrapped around her legs as she swung them back and forth on the tailgate. Sandals, painted toes, and a T-Shirt completed her outfit. Her long dark hair with a delicate headband, complimenting her outfit, finished off her look.

“You look hot. But I know you know that, so I’m not going to tell you!”

He laughed. “Just kidding. You look amazing. Beautiful as usual!”

Payton’s face lit up. She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Funny thing, though, she thought Reece was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. They’d actually argued about that statement once. Guys aren’t beautiful, he’d stated. They could be handsome. Good looking, sexy, dope, hot or even cute, but not beautiful! Men were not beautiful. But it didn’t matter what he thought. To Payton he was, and she could look at him all day long.

“Hey, you never did answer my question,” he said.

“What question was that?”

“Why were you late?”

“You idiot!” She nudged him playfully. “I’m not late; you’re early, and for the record, I’m the one who’s usually waiting for you!”

He held her by the elbows, leaned in, and kissed her quickly on the lips. She would have kissed him back, but he’d already pulled away. Just as well, she wouldn’t have wanted to stop, and that wouldn’t have been good since time wasn’t on their side.

UNEDITED EXCERPT:

BITTER BETRAYAL Copyright © 2017 Amanda M. Thrasher

ISBN – 978-1-946329-18-9 & ISBN 978-1-946329-19-6 Tentative release April, 2017.

Amanda M Thrasher

 

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CDC Says 4,400 Teen Suicides Per Year – Bullying a Factor? Yes!

amanda m thrasherOctober marks National Bullying Prevention Month. Many organizations join STOMP Out Bullying™.

STOMP Out Bullying™ encourages communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the impact of bullying. It’s a great goal. STOMP Out Bullying
Social media has desensitized many of our kids to certain acts of bullying that occur. Often behavior once considered unacceptable has slipped into the realm of acceptable. Outrageous name-calling or verbal onslaughts for the sake of humor is quite the trend, and verbal attacks causing harm can inflict damage in less than ten words. Reputations ruined. Individuals isolated. Simplest things can be used as a weapon, phones, tablets, and more. Tween and teen language, more like slang bombardments, I’m sure we all find quite disturbing. “Drink bleach.” “Go die.” “No one likes you!” Worse, “Kill yourself.” And when questioned or disciplined the common answer is the same, “I was just kidding.” Alternatively, “I didn’t mean it!” But unfortunately we have tweens and teens that take these words literally. Popular videos, produced by teens, have included kids luring innocent victims to remote locations to beat them with bricks, bats, or shovels for no other reason than to post the incident on social sites. Why? Hoping the post will go viral.

According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. However, for every successful suicide there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Unfortunately, many of those are related to bullying. Cyberbullying is experienced on some level by many kids today. As a parent, this is shocking to me. Over bullying. Terrible.

the greenlee projectDue to the overwhelming kids affected by bullying and cyber bullying, I was inspired to write The Greenlee Project. It is a cyberbullying book specifically for tweens and teens it demonstrates the effect of using social media in a negative way. How it affects the victim, family, friends, communities, and even the one(s) that are sending the damaging texts. So-called good kids, unexpectedly, become the so-called bad kids. How? Easy. Once touch of a button. Send! Kids can’t retrieve those damaging text messages.

During my research for The Greenlee Project, I observed teens, sat in football games, cafeterias, libraries, and interviewed many different types of people. I have teens of my own and my house is often full of kids. But I wasn’t prepared for the things I heard or found out about during my research, and we have great kids in our area. Things such as apps that parents can’t trace, the language and terminology that kids use with each other, secret groups, to name a few. Vicious onslaught of texts and postings when kids get mad or worse, sexual sites of kids barely in their teens. We all know that bullying has existed for years, but today it’s a different world. The exposure, due to social media, has the ability to put the victim on a public platform delivering the maximum amount of damage within seconds. What’s the answer? Clearly we can’t take away nor do I suggest taking away phones, tablets etc., I believe constant communication and teaching our kids not to be fearful of speaking out against the kids that are inflicting harm with their texts. Yes parents are vigilant, I get that, but if you aren’t aware of the app in the first place, you can’t keep an eye on it. I think our kids are too young for some of this technology. It doesn’t change they fact they have it. If you’re looking for a book that will assist with this message, read The Greenlee Project it won a The Mom’s Choice Awards® Please let me know your thoughts, we’ll visit.

If you’re looking for a great bullying book for pre-school and elementary kids, include The-Greenlee-Project-amanda-m-thrasherShelby the Cat by award-winning author Don W. Winn. Shelby loves to read and tell stories. He makes friends with birds, mice, and even dogs. This makes the alley cats look bad, so they try to force Shelby to be more like them. Shelby refuses. He knows who he is and won’t let anyone pressure him to be different. This is a great book to start conversations about dealing with bullying and peer pressure. The book includes questions at the end of the story to give parents a jumping-off point for starting discussions with their children. I interviewed Don specifically for Bullying Prevention Month. Take a peek.

1) Bullying is a serious issue that kids have dealt with for years; however, technology has magnified the intensity of the situation due to the sharing and spreading of information and terrible threats. We can’t take phones, laptops, and electronics away from kids. What do you propose we do?

shelby the catDon
Parents and concerned educators can strive to help young people understand the responsible use of technology. All of us, at any age, need to be judicious about how much information we put out on the web. We also need to be aware that everyone has cameras with them at all times, and remember that a sizable segment of the population does not respect personal boundaries when using them.
It’s also important to teach kids how vulnerable their own personal reputations can be, and why that matters. In years past, a person’s ethics and standards were discerned by observing their conduct. With advances in technology and social media, anyone can say anything, accuse anyone of anything, exaggerate anything, and Photoshop or fabricate anything they like against another individual. Sadly there’s often very little recourse against a targeted cyber-bullying campaign, other than relying on the fact that real friends, family, and teachers will know who you really are based on their genuine experiences with you, and that in time, the truth of the matter will come out.

Amanda
2) As children, we both endured some bullying, and most kids experience verbal or physical bullying at some point during their childhood. What did you do to overcome your bullies or did you?
Don
My family life was comprised of a hardworking dad who was unfortunately away from home much of the time, and a mom who struggled with mental illness. Home was not a place of proactivity in teaching coping skills. Therefore when I encountered bullying, especially because of my difficulty reading and spelling due to my dyslexia, I was unprepared, way out of my depth, and on my own. Some of those early experiences were quite traumatic. This is one of the reasons I seek to help parents to have conversations with their kids about potential problems before they encounter these situations. Kids who are well prepared can cope more effectively.
Amanda
3) Children relate to words and find comfort in stories. We are fortunate that we can share our experiences through our words. Did you create your character Shelby because of your personal experiences or to prevent children from getting into bullying-type situations?
Don
I wanted kids to see that people (and cats too, I suppose) who know what’s important to them, who have principles they believe in, and who believe in themselves are able to withstand attacks by bullies. When we make sacrifices to share with others, do acts of advocacy, behave honestly, resist the lure of instant gratification or peer pressure, we must also remember the purpose of those sacrifices, or the pressure to lower our standards can overwhelm us.
Amanda
4) You’re accomplishing some amazing work with your series, Sir Kaye 1 & 2, (reluctant readers), but also with Shelby the Cat, and your anti-bullying message for younger readers. With October being Bullying Awareness month, are you inspired to write another Shelby the Cat message? Maybe incorporate a story with a dyslexic message for your reluctant readers as well?
Don
Shelby’s character is a good stand-alone foundation for younger readers to begin to understand what it’s like to successfully stand up to bullies. I am continuing to go back to the message that we can stand up to bullies in the Sir Kaye series for middle readers. Throughout the stories and adventures, the protagonists in those books also face lots of bullying, scare tactics, and moments where they have to actively decide whether they’re going to do the right thing or not. Reggie, one of the young boys in the series, struggles with dyslexia, reading, and writing, but also discovers his strengths and sees that, though challenged at times, he is a meaningful part of the group. He finds the acceptance he needs and feels good about his contributions to the adventures and solutions to problems the group faces.
Amanda
5) If you could give any advice to a bully victim, what would it be?
Don
We all crave love and acceptance from our peers and family. The fact that you have been targeted does not mean you are not loveable or acceptable. But having been targeted, one of the best ways you can respond is to love and accept yourself, even if at the moment, you may feel like an outlier. The more comfortable and secure we are with who we are deep down inside, imperfections and all, the more resilient we can be when under attack. Keep sticking to your own code of behavior, and eventually you will find companionship and acceptance among others who value similar ethics and beliefs.
Amanda
6) If you could give any advice to a bully, what would it be?
Don
Be curious about why someone who looks, acts, or believes differently from you, angers you or makes you want to do hurtful things. Is it possible that there’s a part of you that knows that choices you are making are not true to who you really are inside? Could it be possible that in the search for acceptance and belonging, you are joining in group activities that hurt others? Believe in the possibility that you can become part of a group who accepts you without having to attack those different from you.
Amanda
7) If you could sum up your feelings about bullying as a whole in one word, what word would you choose?
Destructive.
Don
If you could sum up your feelings for the bullied victim(s) after their incidents, what word it be? Compassion.

Amazon Links:mom's-choice-award-progressive-rising-phoenix-press

The Greenlee Project
Shelby the Cat

 

Both books are Mom’s Choice Award Winners!

 

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Ex-Amish Girl Wants to Dance

 

Good morning,

As I am sitting at Starbucks drinking coffee on a beautiful gorgeous Friday morning – the beginning of my 3 day weekend (I have an awesome job), I am reminiscing all the things I’ve done just this year. I surprised myself and I am happy… that’s the way it should be.

I always think of my long and short term goals quietly in my head for a while before I actually verbally say them out loud to another human being…

because I know once I say it out loud it has to be accomplished. That’s just the way I am.

I had the urge to go on a mission trip earlier this year, mainly because I felt a need to use my many blessings to bless others. However, I had no idea how to even plan one, much less where I wanted to go (there were SOOO many options), so I just took a leap of faith and choose Nepal. Once I had my heart set on Nepal, then I started letting my friends know what I was doing. Of course, I waited to tell a select few until I had my plane ticket so there was no way I could be convinced not to go 🙂. Yes I am strong-willed! I get it.

Now that I have accomplished such a major challenge and realized how truly broken my soul was.. I have a new goal that has been circulating in my brain for a long time and I finally started verbally expressing it to other people… ooops!

I want to be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars!

I can’t even begin to say why, how, or if it’s possible. This goal is different because I can’t be solely in control like I was with the decision to go to Nepal. I can’t just buy a plane ticket and decide I will show up on the dance floor and make those judges go “oooohhh” and “awwww” over my dancing skills (I have none).

If I go on the show…

I will be out of my comfort zone more that I have ever been. That’s what I want.

I will embarrass myself every single day. I can’t help it.

I will cry happy and mad tears within a few seconds of each other. I  am simply a girl.

…. but mostly – I will express happy emotions. 🙂

My publisher Amanda Thrasher believes in me and everything I do. She believes Ellen Degeneres should read my story and also took in the consideration of my dreams to be on Dancing with the Stars. We are both a huge fan of Ellen and being on her show would be a great honor. And most of all… I could finally have a chance to be dunged in the water tank.  Please read my publishers email to Ellen below and share share share 🙂  I love y’all!

_____________________________________________________________________

Dear Ellen,

I’m writing to you on behalf of Emma Gingerich- she is a role model for women, college students (non-gender specific), teens and tweens. Raised Amish with her immediate family the ‘community.’ She made her clothes and was forbidden to use electricity or running water. Rarely played and of course transportation was a horse and buggy. She knew she wasn’t supposed to live that way. “It wasn’t her.” She decided to leave.  Kept it secret and endured bizarre dating rituals and medical treatments until the day she left. Had the clothes on her back and fifty dollars.

– She lived with strangers in a barn.

– Eventually moved in with a family.

– Shunned by her family.

– Taught herself English.

– Got her GED.

– Went to College

– Worked for the family that she lived with

– Went through horrific ordeals no one should experience

– Got her Bachelor degree and is working on her MBA

– Wrote her book.

– Attended writing conferences.

– Found a publisher.

– Goes to signings.

– Continues to speak, sign, and share her story.

– Kept her faith.

– Went to Nepal on a mission trip to serve others.

She’s 27 years old, young in some ways, so smart and strong in others. Impresses me every single day. My heartbreaks for what she went through. No woman, let alone child (mentally she was), should go through that, yet I’m so proud of her. By the way, her dream of all things is to be on Dancing with the Stars. Can you believe that? If anyone can arrange that, it’s you.

Sincerely,

Amanda M. Thrasher

Ex-amish-girl-wants-to-dance
 

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Book Signing

matthew-gene-hope

Earlier this evening I had been blessed with the opportunity to attend a book signing event at The Full Cup Bookstore & Coffee Shop located in Weatherford, TX. I have attended author events prior to this, but this is the first time I had attended one where I was the only author to appear.

The store itself was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for any better. It was quaint and very comfortable. There were people scattered about, some with their laptops out working on projects, or a few off to one side or another jumping into a new read. At the opposite end from the book section, was the coffee bar. I was immediately greeted with an iced coffee that practically sent my head spinning through the roof. Those of you who know me, realize that I probably didnt need to be drinking that, but yes, I enjoyed every last drop.

I met several people and had great conversations, one of which I will never forget. He was a fellow Gemini and had just celebrated his 79th birthday just last week. Come to find out, we were on the same page about a lot of things in this crazy life.

Needless to say, the party had to eventually break up and we all went out separate ways. Now, before I could get out the door, I was then presented with another drink from the coffee bar. This time it was a strawberry frappuccino with whipped cream on top. Really? Yes, it was wonderful, but I do believe it was straight from Braums. There wasn’t much coffee in there, at least none that I could taste. However, my tastebuds were not complaining at all! If you’re ever in the area, please visit The Full Cup; you won’t be disappointed.

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