Today’s Featured Author – Belinda Crawford

Please welcome author Belinda Crawford to my blog. Riven, the second book in her The Hero Rebellion series, will be coming out in September. Today she is sharing an excerpt of Hero, Book 1 of The Hero Rebellion. You can purchase Hero on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Excerpt

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.

She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylines.

Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.

The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.

She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.

‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.

Hero wondered at where Tybalt –butler, tutor, substitute parent – had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.

‘Hero, you need to come in.’ Determination gathered on the Lamb’s face, in the firming of her jaw and the tiny crinkle at the corner of her eyes. When she stepped forward, Hero let herself be mildly impressed.

Fink flipped his thick, hairless tail, letting it land with a solid thwack on the deck not two feet from the tips of the woman’s shoes.

The Lamb stopped, her gaze locked on Fink.

It was hard to tell which characteristic people found most intimidating about him. It could have been the teeth, the claws, the sheer six-legged bulk … or it could have been the reputation: the stigma of a species mixed in a lab by not just a crackpot but The Crackpot—Woolsey.

They’d all been crackpots back then, those first-gen colonists, but Woolsey had topped them all. No one else would have thought to mix a little bit of rat with a little bit of leopard and a whole lot of alien to create something big and strong and scary enough to walk the surface with impunity.

Hero wished she could be like that: big and strong and scary instead of just strange and small and special. Old Terra, how she hated being special.

Book Blurb

HeroCenturies ago, humans colonized Jørn, a lonely planet on the far side of the galaxy. Arriving in five great colony ships, they quickly settled the surface only to discover, after a few short years, that the planet was killing them. The culprit, a native spore, carried on every wind to every corner of the globe.

Genetic engineering, blending DNA from Earth and Jørn species, saved their crops and livestock, but for humans there was no cure. Instead they took to the skies, turning their colony ships into cities that floated above the spore’s reach.

Hero Regan is special, and not in a way she likes. She hears voices, voices in her head that other people can’t. Surrounded by butlers, bodyguards and tutors, insulated from the outside world, her only solace is Fink, a six-hundred-kilogram, genetically engineered ruc-pard. They share lives, thoughts, triple-chocolate marshmallow ice-cream and the burning desire for freedom.

Their chance comes when Hero is allowed to attend school in Cumulus City. Here, along with making unexpected friends, Hero discovers she is an unwitting part of a master plan set into motion by the first colonists, a plan she must either help or foil if she’s ever to attain the freedom she craves.

About the Author

BelindaBelinda is a geek. She loves Star Wars, Dr Who, spaceships and girls who kick butt. When she’s not writing books or playing Guild Wars, she’s on a horse named Wombat or wrangling a small herd of cats.

Riven, the second book in The Hero Rebellion, is due out this September and Belinda’s currently hard at work on the third and final installment in the series.

You can find out more about Belinda on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Hero on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Doing your research before you write

I have often written about making your story believable. And the one way to do that is to do your research.

Research

In the days of e-mail and the Internet, researching for novel is even easier. But as with all things found on the Internet, remember to take everything with a grain of salt and verify and re-verify any “facts” you read.

court2If you are writing a court drama, you should have an understanding of how the court system works. Do not rely on TV shows or movies to clue you in on the justice system. These do not always give an accurate view of how things are. Speak to lawyers (or at least law professors), judges and bailiffs. Go watch court proceeding and make sure you understand what happens and how fast (or slow).

If you are going to write about a certain city or region, it obviously would be best if you have visited that region. But if that isn’t possible, you can still find maps, photos and first-hand accounts of those areas on the Internet. Knowledge of the area will help make your story believable to those who know the area.

Stereotypes

7d0d10e2e367849747a5675362dcf280Now speaking of locales, make sure you are not stereotyping the region. People think of Texas as a place with people wearing cowboy hats and riding horses and saying, “y-all.” But for a majority of Texas that is not how things are. Here again, research can be a big help. Take the time to understand the area before you write about it.

And of course the same goes for people. Don’t generalize people because they are poor or live in a certain region. Not everyone is exactly what is expected, and the same should hold true for your characters.

Too Much Info

ToadilyInsaneResearching the careers and locales is important but remember that there is such a thing as including too much information in your book. I remember reading a book by a well-known romance author. The story was about the people who handle forest fires. It was clear that she had done her research, but she also included WAY TOO MANY facts in the story that I found myself skimming over those descriptions.

You can weave in your knowledge of the person’s career or location without whopping the reader over the head with it.

Different reactions/thoughts

The last thing I wanted to comment on doesn’t necessarily have to do with research exactly. It is remembering that everyone doesn’t react the same way you would to a situation. What is logical for you (and your character) may not seem logical to someone else. Really all you have to do is look at the news stories on the TV or the Internet to understand this. (People leave young kids home alone; they kill someone over a petty argument; they beat or burn dogs, and many more things that I would never even consider doing.)

When you are writing a scene, try pausing and playing out different scenarios. Think of different reactions, even if they seem far-fetched to you. Of course if you know your character well (and you should), then your character’s reaction will stem from who they are and not from who you want them to be.

By taking time to reflect on your character’s actions and decisions or researching their jobs or where they live, you will improve your writing. Your characters and setting will become believable to your readers, and that is a good thing.

Recipe of the Month – Snickerdoodle Cookies

IMG_4757I am always in the mood for a home-baked cookie so when I needed to find something for my Receipe of the Month I knew I should turn to one of my favorite cookies – the Snickerdoodle. These cookies are easy to make and delicious. My kids loved them too! I found this recipe online and the only thing I would change is to add less cinnamon to the sugar the cookies are rolled in before baking.

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

2 t. cream of tarter

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

3 T. sugar

3 t. cinnamon (I suggest 2 t. instead of 3)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter, 1 1/2 cup sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl. Combine flour, cream of tarter, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 3 T. sugar and cinnamon in  small bowl. Scoop 1 inch globs of dough and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. When done, remove from pan immediately.

Attending Texas PTA Leadership Seminar

Once again, I joined the thousands of women and men who attended the Texas Parent-Teacher Association Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas last month.

This is the third year I have attended the conference. (Last year was in Dallas and the first year I went to it was in Houston.) We typically send four officers to the conference but since this year it was in our hometown, we opted to send six officers and four committee chairs to the conference.

There were classes to fit every interest level – from the basics of how to do your position (Treasurer, Parliamentarian, President, Fundraising, Secretary, etc.) to PTA issues (how to deal with contentious meetings or other drama, expanding membership, getting volunteers) to parenting issues (Lice, cyber bullying, talking about sex, online safety) and even personal things such as what to cook for dinner and how to save for college.

For the past two year, I held the position of Treasurer, and that was the focus of many of the classes that I took. This coming school year I will be vice president in charge of parent education and programs.

I did not see many classes specifically dealing with my new position, so I just chose classes that interested me or ones I thought could help our PTA.

Here are the Classes and Discussion Groups that I attended.

Classes

Ha! Ha! Help! Parenting with Humor – I took this one purely for my own enjoyment. This was offered last year, and people raved about it. It was a good presentation by a humorist and mother. It was all about how when we yell, our kids win so she parents with humor. It gets her point across without a raised voice.

You Want It When? – Again, a personal choice rather than one that will help me in my job as VP. And again, another excellent speaker. This course was all about prioritizing your time. I knew a lot of the techniques, but it is nice to pick up a few pointers and be reminded of how I should balance my family, work and volunteering.

Cyberbulling, Social Networking, Apps, Sexting & More: How to Keep Your Kids & Schools Safe – Again, an awesome speaker and great material. I sure know how to pick the right classes. I attended this with a friend, and we both agreed we would love to have this lady come speak at our school. (She is 90% booked for this year, and I figure she is out of our price range.) We learned a lot about not just the latest apps and Cyberbullying but how the police handle sexting and cyberbullying. Very informative.

Involving Members and Attracting Leaders  – This class was taught by four PTA members – three from the state level and one from a Dallas area PTA. They really did not have a set speech but rather just talked about the topic and focused on real examples, whether it was something they had done or suggestions from the audience. Another good class with useful information.

Your PTA Got the Crab Mentality? – This speaker discussed the idea that a lot of times we are pulling each other back rather than pushing them toward success. It was a lot about embracing new ideas and challenges. Probably my least favorite class of the bunch but still a good one.

Discussion Groups

Programs, Parents and Infinite Possibilities – This discussion group talked about programs and how to get people involved in the PTA. The good thing is that these are real examples from other PTA school leaders. I was able to get a list of free activities that fall under my job description of both programs and parent education.

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold – Engaging Families – I attended this one with three other ladies from my PTA. It focused on how to get families involved. Again, it had some good ideas.

It was a fun, informative weekend, and it was awesome to hang out with the other ladies from my PTA who I will be working with this school year. I look forward to next year’s conference.