They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.
Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
I’m so happy to be here today. Big thanks to Jess with A Book Addict’s Bookshelves for inviting me. : )
When asked to do a top ten list, an idea popped into my head. (thank goodness, because it sucks to do a guest post idea-less!) Anyway, I first thought about doing my top ten favorite books—impossible. Or maybe list my top ten favorite authors—also impossible. Finally, I thought about what I’d learned from ‘some’ of my favorite writers. Booyah, we have a winner!
Now, I’m not trying to compare myself to these writers, so let me just make that uber clear. Nor am I trying to say I’ve mastered any of the skills I’m fangirling over below. I just wanted to share what I’ve noticed, admired, and quite frankly am envious about in the books I’ve come to love.
I thought I’d share some of my observations with you …
Ten Books (complete with authors and quotes)
That Taught Me Something Cool About Writing
Jane Eyre: “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt? May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love”
Charlotte Brontë taught me about romance between feisty heroines and alpha males. Rochester blusters and scowls with his charismatic, animal magnetism and Jane dishes it right back. I admire and root for these two fiery, passionate people to end up together the minute they meet, and I do it every time I reread.
To Kill a Mockingbird: “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Harper Lee taught me about compassion. She shows us an underdog to root for—actually, several underdogs. And she uses her beautiful, heartbreaking story as the vehicle to highlight injustice. Yet, what I love most is she makes her point without preaching. She doesn’t shove anything down your throat, she simply tells her story and lets the reader decide how to feel. Good stuff.
The Lord of the Rings: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, or good or Ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many - yours not least.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing (in my opinion) shows how world building should be done. I love the way he describes different cultural intricacies from Hobbits to Orcs, Elves to Dwarves, and men to wizards. Every detail puts me smack dab in Middle Earth as though I were really there. He taught me about epic adventure. History, lore, maps, genealogy, topography, philosophy, history, songs, riddles, poetry … the man was thorough, and so stunningly brilliant!
Black Beauty: “Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?... It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doers to light... My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”
Anna Sewell taught me about ‘the feels’ … kindness, dignity, and respect—for both men and animals. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a protagonist as sympathetic as Black Beauty, or if I’ve ever rooted for an MC so hard in my life! Sewell’s writing made empathize with Ginger’s bitterness, Beauty’s hardships … and isn’t getting your reader to identify with your characters what every writer wants? Methinks it is.
The Stand: “The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there ... and still on your feet.”
Stephen King taught me how to shudder. I don’t write horror, but I like books with creepy tension and enough mystery and urgency that I must keep turning pages to see how everything is going to work out. Is it getting colder in here? *shivers*
Watership Down: “Animals don't behave like men,” he said. “If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don't sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”
Richard Adams taught me about war, and the brotherhood of men (or rabbits) that live and die following a leader, first out of respect and eventually deep love. I’ve read this book at least four times. Aside from the obvious theme of social injustice vs freedom, it’s a tale of ingenuity, strategy, incredible friendship, and loyalty against the wrongs of betrayal, cruelty and greed. So lovely.
Sense and Sensibility:“It is not what we think or feel that makes us who we are. It is what we do. Or fail to do ...”
Jane Austen is all about what I’ll call ‘smart’ love. I adore everything she wrote. She teaches us what wise, clever, funny heroines should look like. Austen just didn’t do ‘too-stupid-to live’ with her heroines. And as if that wasn’t enough, she created flawed, charismatic, honorable, to-die-for heroes worthy of those smart women. *dies* Amazing stuff.
David Copperfield: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
Charles Dickens taught me about description. In every book of his that I’ve ever read, I could see the places he describes in my mind—whether it be a filthy, freezing orphanage, a bustling city full of pickpockets and schemers, or a lush green meadow of rolling hills where I felt at peace. I see whatever he wants me to see, and though such long-winded prose is no longer popular, I happen to like it.
Wuthering Heights: “Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”
Emily Brontë wears the tiara for teaching me about tragedy. And passion, and angst … Sigh. I remember the first time I read Wuthering Heights, my heartbeat zoomed eighty miles an hour. I love the story, even though every time I reread it, I want to smack both Catherine for her selfishness and Heathcliff for his stubborn pride. Lol.
Harry Potter Series:“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
J.K. Rowling taught me about sacrifice. Throughout this series, there is a constant theme of self-sacrifice, Lily for Harry, Snape for Lily, Sirius for Harry, Dumbledore for Hogwarts, Harry for everyone. The selfless acts never end against an evil that would destroy the ones they love. That attitude makes me love the characters, and invest in the story for the long haul.
There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite writers/books and why you love them! Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve learned from the novels you can’t forget.
About the Author
Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.
I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.
Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.
Then I thought I’d write one down…
Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!
It was self defence. I never meant to hurt anyone. I wasn't that kind of person but when she...it...attacked me, I acted instinctively. Now here I am, guilty of taking a life, hunted for what I am becoming and cursed to be something I never thought was possible.
I don't want to give in to it but it is getting harder and harder to avoid the curse of the sea.
Jess is an avid reader, writer and chocolate devourer. She runs a book blog called A Book Addict's Bookshelves and co-runs Worlds of Words. She has lived in three different countries and owns an unreasonable number of t-shirts. A Whovian, Browncoat and Sherlockian, Jess loves anything to do with superheroes, Game of Thrones and Joss Whedon.
She is the author of Girl Meets Underworld, As We Lie Dying and Escaping Rapture which is part of the After Tomorrow Anthology.
While away on an undercover mission, Undertaker Will Ritter has made an unthinkable alliance...with a Corpse! But though Robert Dillin (aka 'The Zombie Prince') is indeed one of those alien invaders who animate and possess the bodies of the dead -- unlike the rest of his kind, Dillin isn't evil. In fact, he wants to help. And Will needs that help, because the Queen of the Dead has learned the location of Haven, the Undertakers' secret HQ, and is planning a massive and deadly assault.
With the last day of the Corpse War finally upon them, Will and his friends find themselves in a desperate race to close the Rift between worlds and forever kill the Corpses. But can they do before Haven is overrun?
I started writing at age 3, before I knew how to read. What’s that look like? Well, I’ve seen the old black-and-white photos, and apparently it looks like a little kid with no shirt on, my hair sticking up, and my tongue hanging out the corner of my mouth. I’m sitting on the living room floor with paper and a crayon. After scribbling madly for a while, I’m told, I would hold up my masterpiece and yell out something like, “Cow!”
But, in my head, I was telling a story. :)
What makes you want to write?
My wife once asked me, “Do you really walk around with stories roiling in your head all the time?”
Yes, I do. And getting them down on paper, telling them, is as natural to me as breathing. I’ll stop writing when they pry the keyboard out of my cold, dead hand.
Do you ever get writer's block and what do you do to get over it?
I’ve never really had writer’s block. I’m not even sure I believe in it. I’m never short on ideas, though they’re not all good ideas! LOL!
If I get stuck on a plot point, I usually go for a walk or drive, listen to music, and just … think. Before too long, some kind of answer almost always presents itself. I use a part of my brain that I call the “Idea Machine,” and it hasn’t failed me yet.
Do you have a special way of going about writing?
1)Get the idea. 2) Find the music. 3) Write the story.
The middle one probably confuses you. But every story has its music. I literally listen to all sorts of music until find a “soundtrack” that seems to suit the story I’m trying to tell. Then I’ll make a playlist on my iPhone and play that soundtrack, over and over, while I’m walking or driving, and let the plot take shape in my mind.
I don’t make outlines or, if I’m forced to, I usually ignore them. I’m a “pantser” more than a “plotter.” I like to sit down with a general idea of where I want to go and then let the writing “wander” as it will. It often surprises me.
Do you have any works in progress?
I’ve been hard at work on “Torq,” which is kind of like my take on the YA superhero origin story. With the Undertakers series finished, I wanted to go off and try something a little different. But it’s been a struggle. I’ve had to do a lot of world building and my first vision of the novel didn’t really work very well. Since then, I’ve been hammering at it.
Fortunately, I have a great agent who’s been helping me make sense of it.
What are your hobbies?
My wife Helene and I are avid hikers and kayakers. I recently started studying Korean swordsmanship, just in case there’s ever a zombie apocalypse! LOL!
How did you choose the character names for the Undertakers series?
There’s a lot of my childhood in the Undertakers. When I was kid, I drew comic books that I shared with my friends. They all centered around a group of child-superheroes called “The Kid Kidets.” Well, in a very real sense, the Undertakers are the Kid Kidets grown up, so to speak. Unlike their comic book counterparts, the Undertakers have no superpowers and their secret base isn’t all that shiny and cool. But they fight the good fight. And they’re led, just as the Kid Kidets were all those years ago, by a brother and sister team named Tom and Sharyn Jefferson.
In the same spirit, a lot of the other Undertakers are named for kids I grew up with. And Helene Boettcher, of course, is named after my wife. Now, I didn’t know my Helene when she was thirteen, but I truly believe she had the same courage and independence as her fictional counterpart.
And Will Ritter? “Ritter” is German for “knight” and “William” means “strong-willed warrior.” It seemed perfect for my hero.
Who is your favourite character in Last Siege of Haven?
For the first time in the series, we get inside of head of Tom Jefferson. I really enjoyed glimpsing the amazing mind inside that young leader. As I indicated, Tom and I go back a long way. It was a pleasure sharing him with my readers.
How did you get the idea for Last Siege of Haven?
When you write a series, you have to keep expanding the universe, pushing the envelope. In each Undertakers book, I’ve tried to bring a new dimension to the Corpse War. In LSoH, I wanted to do something that no one would expect, so I dreamed up the idea of good-guy Corpse. My readers will distrust him, of course, just as Will does – at first. That’s part of fun.
What was your favourite part of writing Last Siege of Haven?
Will’s final battle with Lilith Cavanaugh, the evil Queen of the Dead, was wonderful to write. She’s the best villain I’ve ever created; I’m incredibly proud of her. And having her and Will face off at last was a scene I’d been looking forward to penning for years. And, in all humility, I don’t think it’ll disappoint! :)
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” I’m also reading “The Enchantress,” the sixth and last book in Michael Scott’s series, “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel.”
What is your favourite book?
“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
Who is your favourite author?
Lee Child, creator of the “Jack Reacher” series.
What is your favourite film?
Tough one. I have too many. I guess, if you press me, I’ll have to say it’s the first “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “The Hobbit” didn’t impress me.
What is your favourite TV show?
I’m a “Doctor Who” fan from way back! :)
Chocolate or ice cream? Ice cream! Vanilla or strawberry.
Paperback or ebook? Paperback! Hands-down!
Dogs or cats? Dogs, though I currently have both.
Go out or stay in? Stay-in, but less so now that the weather’s nice.
Summer or winter? Spring and fall! LOL!
About the Author
Ty Drago does his writing just across the river from Philadelphia, where the Undertakers novels take place. In addition to The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses,The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead, and The Undertakers: Secret of the Corpse Eater, he is the author of The Franklin Affair and Phobos, as well as short stories and articles that have appeared in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. He currently lives in southern New Jersey with his wife and best friend, the real Helene Drago née Boettcher.