Q: Tell us about your book
Sugar Scars is set in a post-apocalyptic world, which is a pretty common story premise these days, but I've taken a different approach than other books in this genre. Most of these kinds of stories focus on the desolation that the survivors face. Worlds like Mad Max or The Walking Dead.
In Sugar Scars, a virus kills all but 1 in 10,000 people on the Earth. The survivors are left in a world of virtually unlimited resources where survival is easy. Plenty of food on the grocery store shelves. Thousands of cars and houses to pick from.
The struggle in Sugar Scars comes entirely from within the main character. She is a Type 1 diabetic. She lives through the virus but realizes that she will die soon if she can't figure out how to make the insulin that keeps her alive. Extracting and refining insulin is a highly complex process that takes an entire industry and was discovered by brilliant Nobel-prize winning scientists. Now a nineteen-year-old high school dropout has to rediscover the process or die trying.
In Sugar Scars there are no villains. No one directly opposes her attempts and, in fact, many people try to help. But the task is almost impossible and she has to make some very difficult choices along the way to keep body alive.
Q: What inspired you to write the story?
I read an article about having characters with disabilities, which is rare in fiction. I was fascinated by the idea of having a character whose main struggle was against their own body. I decided to write a short story and started researching different disabilities and diseases.
Diabetes is so manageable with modern technology these days that most people don't realize how deadly it is. Before the early twentieth century Type 1 diabetes was a certain death sentence. The story of the discovery and use of animal insulin to keep human diabetics alive was quite dramatic. They used to have wards of diabetic children that were slowly dying. When their pancreases finally stopped working, they would slip into a coma and soon pass away.
The first insulin, extracted from dogs, was given in one of these wards and within minutes the children started waking up. It's incredibly rare that a cure is so powerful and effective.
I decided to recreate this situation in our modern world and began writing a short story. But the story was too exciting and I couldn't make it anything less than a full novel.
Q: Is this your first work of fiction? If not, please tell us a little about your first book/series.
This is the third novel I have written, but the first one to be published. The other two will be published after Sugar Scars. We decided that Sugar Scars was the best introduction to my writing. I write Science Fiction and it is the least fantastic of the three and will be accessible to people who don't normally read Science Fiction. It's highly realistic. The only speculative element is the virus that kills most of the population.
My first novel's working title is Suspended. It's about a starship that is travelling to colonize a new world. All the passengers are kept in suspended animation for the two-hundred-year journey. An accident occurs and one man and one woman are awakened during the journey with more than a hundred years to go. These strangers have to live out their lives on the starship, trying to build a life from nothing.
Q: When I read the books I see subjects, themes and story lines that could appeal to many different kinds of readers. Who is your primary audience for series?
I think in general my writing will appeal to people who like stories that get tension from moral choices that the characters have to make. There's some physical action, but the most intriguing parts come from the difficult decisions the characters are faced with. They have to do things that make them question their basic beliefs about morality and faith.
Sugar Scars, like all my novels so far, has a strong romantic element. I think readers that enjoy romances will find plenty to keep them interested. While the main character is concerned about keeping herself alive, she is literally one of the last young women left on Earth and she can't help but attract the attention of men. She meets a few men and each has a different reaction to her imminent mortality.
Q: Please tell us about yourself.
I live in Montgomery, Alabama, with my wife and five children. My wife and I have a heart for orphans and we've adopted one of our children and been foster parents to another.
The foster system brought us the greatest joy and greatest sorrow of our lives. We had a foster daughter for nearly four years and tried to adopt her, but that didn't work out. I wrote Sugar Scars during this and I think a lot of the pain we were experiencing made it into the novel.
In my day job I develop software for hospitals. My thinking is very logical and mathematical, and you'll see this in my writing. But for writing to be interesting it has to deal with human emotion and the hard choices people have to make. I like to show characters that think logically, but are faced with situations where this fails them.
Faith is a big part of my life. I'm involved in my local church. Faith is a frequent theme in my writing, especially in Sugar Scars, but I don't like to write characters that believe just like I do. That's boring. The main character is Sugar Scars has no real belief in God, but she gets to see -how faith works for other people. Like in real-life, some people are transformed by their faith. Others become obnoxious and self-righteous.
Q: Have you been writing for a long time?
I graduated college about twenty years ago with a minor in Creative Writing. That sat in the back of my mind for years while I started my career and raised my family. About three years ago I realized that if I didn't pursue my dream of writing, it would never happen. So I began with my first novel, Suspended. I loved doing it and I got very positive feedback.
I signed a publishing contract with Booktrope in January and I hope to have a new novel out every six to twelve months.
Q: How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
Many writers have a rule of writing something every day, but I find that doesn't work for me. It comes in seasons. I love writing so much that once I start on a project I tend to obsess on it and my wife and children are fond of eating on a regular basis, so I can't do that for too long.
So I'll go through periods where I don't write much, but spend all my time thinking of story ideas. Then when I can't stand it anymore, I'll spend every spare moment writing. The first draft of a novel usually takes six to eight weeks.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished the editing phase of Sugar Scars and now I'm trying to decide on which of two stories to pursue for my next novel. One story would be about a woman who adopts an alien child. I think it would focus on the difficult process of getting the alien culture to accept her as a valid mother since she is not of their race. The other story is about a woman who goes into the military and has her body enhanced for service, but in a way that she didn't expect.
Web site: travisnorwood.com
Facebook: Travis Norwood, Author
Readers interested in receiving an email when Sugar Scars is published can sign up at travisnorwood.com
ABOUT SEA BREEZE: Jordan has never been in love, or been anywhere. Trapped in Vegas, she schleps drinks and dodges losers, while suffering under a burden only she can shoulder. Her life is an endless stretch of blah with no escape.
Instead of looking back, she’s sailing forward.
Eric has left his family and friends in San Francisco to travel the world, tending bar on a cruise ship to fund his adventures. He can charm any coed who comes aboard, but Jordan sees right through him.
On the blue cobblestone streets of San Juan, everything changes. Food. Music. Exotic locations. Possibilities. Setting out to discover the world, will Jordan discover herself?
Sometimes, adventure can set you free…
We make a little picnic on the grass, finding a place under the shade of a tree, and Eric
takes his button-down off for us to sit on, leaving him in only his undershirt. My, oh my, the man
has some nice shoulders.
He hands me a can of Medalla Light, this one a lot colder than the one I had earlier today,
and we dig in.
“Oh my Lord, what are these called again?”
He holds up a finger and finishes his mouthful before answering. “Alcapurria.”
“So good.” I take another bite of the fried fritter meaty goodness as Eric takes a sip of his
“What about the tostones? Do you like those? They’re pretty much a staple here. They
use plantains in a lot of cooking. The most famous dish is mofongo.”
I swallow a big bite of my savory pastry and respond. “Did we get any of that…mofongo
stuff?” I snag a couple of tostones, expecting sweet, given that they’re fried plantains, but they’re
“No. We didn’t get any mofongo because it’s more of a sit-down meal, in my opinion.”
“We are sitting down.”
“You know what I mean.” Eric takes another swig of his beer and rolls his shoulders.
“Yes, I like everything. At first, I thought the tostones were a little bland, but now I can’t
stop eating them.” I pop another in my mouth to make my point. “I guess I’ll try the mofongo
Eric frowns as I take a sip of beer. “You keep saying next time, but we aren’t going to
dock here again on this trip. You know that, right?”
“Yes. But I also know that I’ll come back to Puerto Rico. There’s too much to see and do,
not to come back.” I finish the last bite of my meat fritter, and survey the food we still have left.
Eric quiets, staring at his skewer. I pick up the last pincho and start biting off deliciously
grilled pieces of chicken.
“Do you have—” The sound of drums right behind us interrupts Eric and almost makes
me drop my chicken.
Three different drummers tap out a hypnotizing rhythm, and the man in the middle starts
to sing. At the sound of his voice I turn back toward Eric and smile. He grins, and nods in the
direction of the musicians. “Bomba.”
We both stand at the same time and gather our trash, placing it in the can a few feet away.
I fold the rest of the fried plantains up in a napkin and place them in my bag. We take our beers
around to the other side of the grass to watch and listen.
The call and answer of the drums and the man’s voice causes me to sway as I stand there
listening. A crowd gathers, and I’m completely captivated.
“We’re going to have to start heading back soon.” Eric’s voice in my ear gives rise to a
shudder that runs through me. Maybe it’s the heat and the beer, although I’ve only had two. Or
maybe it’s this music, almost spiritual, yet extremely sensual. Whatever it is, the sound of his
masculine voice in my ear makes my stomach flip.
I look up at him as the drummers continue their intoxicating rhythm. He stands so close
to me, his shirt slung over one shoulder. His focus is on the musicians, but when he takes a sip of
his beer, he catches me staring, and his hand lowers to his side.
Our gazes lock for exactly sixteen seconds, the drum beats keeping count. Sixteen
seconds of blood pumping through my veins. Sixteen seconds of his gaze scrutinizing mine and
then shifting down to my lips. Sixteen seconds of wondering what his chest would feel like
against my bare breasts.
“It’s getting late, Jordan.” It’s only a murmur, and there’s no way I should’ve heard him,
so I must be reading his lips. He has nice lips.
He breaks eye contact and looks out over my head. We’re surrounded by people. He
wraps his fingers around my forearm and gently tugs me behind him and through the crowd. My
other hand easily finds his back, and I use it as a guide to follow him out.
As we make our way down the crowded street, Eric pulls his cell out of his pocket to read
a text. “Shit. We need to hurry.”
I quicken my pace to keep up with him. “Why? We still have an hour before we have to
be on board.”
“Actually, I need to be back and ready for work in forty-five minutes. My boss wants me
to fill in at Allure tonight, and I still need to get back, shower, and change. Come on.” Eric holds
out his hand, and we push through the crowd.
I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.
Shay Wes't book Dangerous Reflections is by far one of the most unique looks at time travel that I have read. Not only has she incorporated a new mechanism for time travel, she kept the story true to its YA genre, with believable early high-school aged characters I could sympathize with and cheer on or boo at.
Alex, the main character comes across her new found time traveling powers at a pivotal point in her own personal life. She's in a new place, making new friends and dealing with family drama that tangles her up inside. Unlike so many YA novel's heroins, she's neither apathetic or vindictive but she may be a little on the whiny and victimized side of things. For the most part, she behaves as one would expect a typical straight A teen to behave in a similar situation. Her main circle of friends, too, were believable, though I feel they lacked enough physical description for me to fully embrace what they looked like. I especially liked the dynamic between Alex and Beau and, as a former nerd, completely understood Alex's motive in continuing to help him with his studies.
One of my personal favorite bits of this book was Alex's relationship with her mom. Unlike the emotionally unavailable mother that is prevalent in many YA novels, Alex and her mom, Patricia, do not have a perfect relationship but they have a functional one. Their relationship was plausible and Patricia had good healthy boundaries for her daughter to abide by. It was refreshing.
Onto the time travel. Wow! What an interesting concept. I absolutely love the fresh approach to time travel the author incorporates! It is intriguing and I'm eager to read more about Alex's amazing gift in the follow-up books, Twisted Reflections and Desperate Reflections. Being a tiny bit of a history buff, I appreciated the depth the author went to in describing the past times and places Alex was traveling to. Again I wish there were more colors, smells and physical descriptions to draw me into the places Alex traveled, but still I was thoroughly entertained.
The only thing I wish I could know more about were Drifter and Master, the villains. The two main malevolent characters lacked the development of the other characters. I feel like they are more a means to an end, they provided a crucial mission for Alex to embark on but, I felt, in and of themselves they lacked depth. I would have liked to know more about them both, but perhaps I will learn what I want to know in the final two books of the series.
Find all of Shay West's books on Amazon or visit her on line at: http://shay-west.com/
Downcast by Cait Reynolds is one of the best YA novels I've read in a long time, I can't wait for more from Cait and the Olympus Falling series.
Stephanie Star is an awkward high school senior with an overprotective mom and penchant for going unnoticed rather than stirring up the ire of the Gaggle and Goons, the “popular” cliques at Darby Field High. It has worked rather well her entire high school career until the new guys… the new, hot guys show up the first day of her senior year. Haley Smith, tall, dark, brooding and mysterious has eyes for no one but Stephanie. His equally attractive, albeit very different brother, Zach has taken a liking to her scientifically inclined friend, Helen.
The romantic tones and notions of the story are hot and steamy and made me want to reach through the pages and kiss Haley myself! As the story progresses Stephanie, with the help of her friends, unravel the mystery of her life, her mother and the new players in town. I felt a little like I had finally found a girl version of the Percy Jackson series, peppered with hot guys and amazing flirting that made me smile scandalously as I read.
I believe this is Cait's debut novel and I am totally impressed with her skills. It was well written, flowed nicely and the dialogue was completely believable. I loved it and look forward to more of Stephanie and Haley.
Cait Reynolds lives in Boston area with her husband and 4-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Reynolds is able to pull from real life experiences such as her kidney transplant, and her writing reflects her passion for life from having to face the darkest places and find the will to laugh. Find more about Cait online at: http://caitreynolds.com/
Roses are Red … Violet is Dead by Monica-Marie Vincent reads like a typical teenaged horror story should. First there's the girl who unwittingly becomes the object of obsession. Then there's the family drama that keeps it interesting and gives the lead character, Violet, also known as Six, depth and reader sympathy. Next is the tight-knit but troubled clique of friends, because what teenaged horror story would be complete without a clique? And of course, it wouldn't be scary without a crazed psycho-killer on the loose.
The book's fast pace and quick tempo kept my head in the story from the very first ominous text Violet received. That was a good thing because had it read any slower the dysfunction within the central clique would have really gotten to me. Luckily the action moved me from one scene to the next quickly and fluidly so I didn't have too much time to over analyze the dynamics of the friendships all that much. The dialogue was much more difficult for me to wade through. I feel like all of the character conversations were riddled with overused cliches and puns that got old after only a few chapters. Again if it hadn't been for the pace of the story it would have driven me crazy but I was unable to roll my eyes and give up because I wanted to know what would happen next.
Despite my frustrations, and to be fair to the story, I have to say, the book is filled with little jewels I truly appreciated. While it would have been easy for the author to keep it totally cliched, she spoke to some real and relevant issues teenaged kids face these days. The story shed light on the dangers of texting and driving and gave readers a feel and understanding for what it's like to be a victim on the other end of the accident. More than that the story was sprinkled with alternatives to texting while driving. I applaud the author for speaking up on a difficult but relevant issue.
All in all it was exactly what I'd expect from a story in this genre and then some because of the author's boldness in speaking out against a real-world problem in the lives of teenagers these days. I openly admit this genre isn't my cup of tea and so my review should be taken with a grain of salt.
Monica-Marie Vincent writes Young Adult novels about troubled teens and even more troubled parents. She currently lives in Sacramento, CA although she would rather be in her home town of San Francisco. Thanks to her very put upon husband Monica-Marie is always well stocked with coffee, Diet Coke, and Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos, so she wouldn't have to move away from her writerly lair to do mundane things like shopping.
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