Hope at the Crossroads, and writing my heart

Crossroads FINALThe countdown is on for the release of Hope at the Crossroads, the 2nd book in the Hope series. The book is set to release on Sept. 5, which is only 7 short weeks away. Right now, beta readers are finishing with the book, and then it goes to the editor before it’s finally released to all of you.

This series is one that’s extremely close to my heart. This morning I was thinking about what the entire 3-book series is about, and what it means for me. When I first wrote The Road to Hope, it was only meant to be a stand-alone book. I wrote about Jill’s loss of her son so that I could write about my feelings of losing my own son to stillbirth. I wrote about Maddie’s journey as a teen mom and becoming homeless so that I could write about my own journey as a young mom who struggled through poverty. I wrote about the Wilsons, who took Hope in and gave her a home, because they were like my own parents who nursed me back to health after I left an abusive marriage.

When I ended that first book, I felt like I’d said everything I needed to say. But then I realized, I really hadn’t, particularly through Maddie. That first book, I spoke about loss, about falling down and then getting back up. What I didn’t write about was what happens next. What happens after you’ve turned your life around? I’ll tell you what—your mind plays tricks on you. Your life might look different, but inside, you’re still that same person you were, ready for the deck to fall in your fragile house of cards. When things are great, you question if you’re worth all this goodness. You are prone to turning back to your old lifestyle. You feel inadequate. You may even sabotage everything you’ve gained in your new life.

In Hope at the Crossroads, Maddie is now living at the Winstons’ house with Hope. She’s just graduated, and her future is promising. She’s learning about the winery business with Mr. Winston, and her life on the streets is far behind. Except, it really isn’t. In her mind, she feels out of place. She will always be that rejected teen, the one her parents threw away, and then her boyfriend. She’ll always be that homeless pregnant teen, the one people avoided looking at while they walked by. She battles feelings of unworthiness while trying to move forward—and this affects every single aspect of her life, and threatens her relationships with the people who love her most.

While the 1st book was about falling back down and getting back up again, book 2 is about the inner battle of identity. It’s about life after a dramatic change, when life has changed but the mind hasn’t. It’s about worthiness, overcoming old narratives, and about how we tend to sabotage ourselves because we feel we’re not worthy.

I wrote this series to get out my most personal story of loss, identity, and redemption. But I also wrote it because I’m not alone. I wrote this to offer HOPE to others who have experienced loss, who struggle with overcoming lies about our identity, and about letting love lead us out of the trenches.

Of everything I’ve ever written, this series is the one that’s my heart.

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Loving the Wind: Peter Pan and the blatant racism of 1911

disney-peter-panThanks to Disney, most people are familiar with the story of Peter Pan. The universal story is that Peter Pan is a flying boy who lives with his fairy, Tinker Bell, in Neverland, an island that exists second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. When he loses his shadow in the nursery of the Darling home, he meets Wendy, and then her brothers, John, and Michael. He brings them to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys, pirates and mermaids. They save Tiger Lily from the pirates, party with the Indians, and battle Captain Hook. Then, with a sprinkle of fairy dust, Peter flies the pirate ship back to London and returns Wendy, John, and Michael back to their room.

375px-peterandwendyThe Disney movie, and many other adaptations, were based on J.M. Barrie’s book, Peter and Wendy, which was published in 1911 (following the original play that debuted in 1904). But like many originals, Barrie’s book has so much more to it. There were stories about the Never bird, the regal descriptions of Captain Hook, the real story about how Peter came to Neverland…and the blatant racism that existed in 1911. (Of course, Disney did play up the racism in its own way. Just watch the music sequence of “What Makes a Red Man Red.)

Now, Peter and Wendy is not the only book that shows its age with sign-of-the-times racism. There’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Oompa Loompas were black pygmies that came from “the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.”). There’s The Story of Black Sambo (Sambo was a racist expression back in the day and the book’s illustrations resembled demeaning images black people were trying to distance themselves from, and I’m also pretty sure that my grandmother read me this story once). And The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses the “N” word more than 200 times.

Peter and Wendy is just one of many books that holds true to the racist times in which it was written. This is particularly in regards to how Barrie addresses Native Americans in his book. They are called redskins, and they belong to the Piccaninny Tribe. Piccaninny is an offensive word that generally means “small black children.”

The most that is spoken about the Indians is when Peter rescues Tiger Lily from the pirates.

Quoted from Chapter 10:

They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.

“The great white father,” he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, “is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates.”

“Me Tiger Lily,” that lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”

She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, “It is good. Peter Pan has spoken.”

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When writing Loving the Wind, my focus was to give Tiger Lily a voice, and to also shine a light on what life was like in her tribe. Where Tiger Lily only had one speaking part in all of Barrie’s book, I gave her a whole novel of her thoughts, her feelings, her values, where she came from, and so on.

I also aimed to strip the story of racism. Instead of the Piccaninnies, Tiger Lily’s tribe was the Miakoda Tribe. Miakoda means “power of the moon,” and is of Native American origin. Because the moons (yes, there are more than one) play a central part of Loving the Wind, it was only fitting that Neverland’s tribe would be named after them. I also never describe the tribe as Native American or Indian at all, letting that be up to the reader. Sure, there are similar themes to Native American culture. But I wanted to separate these people from the tribes of America. After all, they live in Neverland, not America. Even the names of their homes have changed—instead of wigwams, the tribe lives in “yinshaws.”

I also explain the whereabouts of Tiger Lily’s mother. Neither the book nor the Disney movie addresses where her mother is. Loving the Wind shares how Tiger Lily’s mother actually died a few years back, just when Tiger Lily was nearing the age of young womanhood. This, obviously, would affect a young girl who was constantly at the center of attention because of who her father was.

One of the things that I kept the same as the book, that the Disney movie stripped out, was the story of the Never birds. These birds play a central part in the very beginning of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

From where I sat, the top of the forest spread out all around me, blanketing this part of the island in a sea of green. I could see birds fluttering in and out of trees, playing hide and seek as if all life were a game. I whistled to them, practicing a birdcall I had once heard Lean Wolf use. The birds paused, then scattered with the wind. Frustrated, I tried it again. Then I listened. Silence. And then, faintly, I heard one solitary bird mimic the tune I just whistled. I tried it again, and was met with a few more songs from the birds. The third time, the birds burst from the trees, singing the song repeatedly, incorporating it in their play. I grinned, but then caught my breath when a brilliant Never bird, the size of three large horses, erupted from the tree in an explosion of color. It soared overhead, calling out the song I had sung, searching the canopy for the song’s source.

Look for a few more Never bird appearances as you read the story.

One character that I mentioned above, Lean Wolf, was also mentioned in Barrie’s book—but just briefly. I won’t completely give it away, but let’s just say it didn’t end well.

In Loving the Wind, Lean Wolf is the strongest, bravest warrior of the tribe. He also has a thing for Tiger Lily. Unfortunately for him, the feelings aren’t mutual. The thing is, he’s a bit sexist and chauvinistic—a result of growing up in a chauvinistic culture. Tiger Lily’s tribe lives by strict gender roles—the men go hunt and provide; the women stay home, tending camp and watching over the children. Lean Wolf has a good heart, but these are the only roles he knows how to live by.

And, these are the very roles that Tiger Lily is trying to escape.

And that is just a smidge of what you can expect from Loving the Wind.

If you’re curious about the original story of Peter Pan, I highly recommend reading Peter and Wendy. If you can look past the racism of the times, the story is full of adventure and imagery, and the theme of never wanting to grow up is one that almost everyone can relate to. And, of course, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my book, Loving the Wind, and find out more about Tiger Lily’s story.

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open-mic-september-flyer-gaiaI’ll be reading from Loving the Wind this Saturday at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa from 2-4 p.m. If you’re in the Sonoma County area, please stop by and take a listen. See upcoming events for more information.

Book crush: The Sea of Tranquility

tranquilityI’m not exactly crushing on The Sea of Tranquility, a novel by Katja Millay. However, I did enjoy reading it enough that I finished it in just a few days. And it’s a long book.

Let’s start from the beginning. I did not like the beginning. In fact, I was incredibly irritated with the beginning. We’re introduced to Nastya, a girl who can only think really hateful thoughts about anything and everything. She is carrying a huge secret about how her hand became mangled, and because of that, she has a huge chip on her shoulder. To top it off, she makes sure she is completely unapproachable by the way she dresses. Shooooort skirts. 4-inch heels. Painted on makeup. Everything tight. Her reasoning is that everyone is going to stare at her anyway, so she might as well have control over where they are staring.

This was the first thing I just couldn’t buy.

It goes on. She can’t cook to save her life. But apparently she can bake up a storm. She doesn’t talk, and is sexy/scary, and somehow that means the most popular guy in high school (Drew) is highly interested in her. She’s incredibly anti-social, and yet she keeps going to high school parties with him.

Here’s what I did enjoy.

Josh. This is Drew’s best friend who has basically lost his whole family to tragedy. He spends his entire life in his garage building furniture. It’s kind of old man-like, except it’s also sweet and manly at the same time. Think Sex and the City’s Aiden (Carrie, what were you thinking breaking up with him???).

Drew. Despite the fact that we’re introduced to a full-of-himself jock, he’s actually quite sensitive and sweet. He and Nastya have a totally inappropriate flirtatious relationship, but it becomes pretty clear that he’s not going to try anything because neither of them really want that.

Drew’s family. They’re basically that all-American family you wish could be yours, even if you’d probably be rolling your eyes the whole time. His mom has Sunday dinner every week, and anyone who wants to come is invited. It basically becomes a thing amongst all the friends. They even hold a family dinner when the parents are out of town, even if a bottle of tequila might be involved with the sit down dinner.

The build-up of Nastya and Josh’s relationship. Even if I hated the inevitable scenario that forced them to be apart (classic YA formula: MC is awkward and misunderstood. Meets love interest who’s awkward and misunderstood. Spends more than half of book denying love. Fall together in beautiful moment. One person messes up. Break up. Spends too long avoiding other person. Some thing or event forces them back together. Realizes they were in love the whole time. Lives happily ever after.), I enjoyed the sweetness within their relationship. With Josh, Nastya could let her hair down, strip off her makeup, and breathe easy. She kept her secrets, but she’s also safe with him.

So while this wasn’t my favorite book, I still recommend it. If you can overlook a few warts within the story, you’ll find a sweet tale of a broken girl who was dealt a hard lot in life, a broken boy who continues to live while everyone around him is dying, and a meant-to-be relationship that holds all the innocence neither of them had every been allowed to have.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
PG-13 for some violence and non-explicit sex.

Book crush: Hell’s Children

hellschildrenSometimes a book is so good, you don’t want it to end. And when it does, you go through a bit of a mourning period. This is a strange sentiment I’m feeling for a book titled Hell’s Children, but it’s where I’m at right now. The book starts out with Jack Ferris, a home-schooled kid who has to bury his own mom after a Sickness took her. The Sickness has stripped the world of all adults, leaving only kids behind, the oldest being 15, if they were lucky to survive the Sickness. Most older teens didn’t. Lucky for Jack, he’s learned survival skills from his parents, a couple who already foresaw that Jack would have to fare without them since they were seniors when they had him. Those survival skills are exactly what Jack needed to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, now run by various gangs of kids who are desperate to survive and void of morality. Jack and a few friends form their own group, and the story becomes a survival of the fittest with a dozen or more twists and turns.

The character development in this book is fantastic. There were so many characters mentioned, but the author did a great job giving each a distinct persona, and offering subtle reminders if a character hadn’t been mentioned in awhile. The last half of the book had me nervous, and I couldn’t stop reading until the end.

I totally recommend this book. In fact, I plan to buy a hard copy for my 15 year old son, who I think would love this. He’s not a reader, but when I mentioned the plot, he was fascinated.

The book that almost never was

TigerLily tease2

I’m about to tell you about the book that almost never was. Every year I write a book for National Novel Writing Month in November. This last year, however, I was stumped. I had just written Reclaim Your Creative Soul, and that book took a lot of energy out of me. I figured I would just skip it this year. But at the eleventh hour before the eleventh month, an idea came to me—why not just have fun with it this year? I know, a novel idea for a novel.

And so, I did. Having always been a fan of Peter Pan and Neverland, I began exploring the idea of writing about a character that only got a bit role in the original story: Tiger Lily. I began to develop who she was, where she came from, the values of her people, and her likes and dislikes. Just like Peter Pan is a coming of age story, Tiger Lily’s story was much the same. She became a princess held captive by rules she didn’t appreciate, and with hopes and desires that didn’t fit the mold of her people.

Throw in some pirates, a few Never beasts, the Lost Boys, and Peter Pan, and I suddenly had a story.

To up the ante, I not only wrote the story, I LIVE wrote it. Many of you followed along as I posted each chapter to Wattpad, allowing you to see the inside process of what it’s like for a novel to be written beginning to ending. While it was just a rough draft, I was pleased with how things worked out as I wrote. Many of you expressed interest as well, anxiously waiting for me to post the next chapter.

The story was never supposed to be published. It was just something to amuse myself and a few fans, and nothing more. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized that the story was taking on a life of its own. It was more than just an amusing tale, it was a story that needed to be told.

This story became Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, and it just published this morning!

For the next few days, I am keeping the Kindle version of this book at 99 cents so that there are no barriers for you to buy this book. This is my gift to you for sticking alongside me, cheering me on, and anticipating this very moment. Please don’t delay in buying this book now, as the price goes back up after the weekend.

Furthermore, I have a few contests on my Facebook page if you’d like a chance to win the print version of this book. Just look up #LTWgiveaways and you’ll find a bunch of contests that are going until Sunday.

Thank you for all your support, and happy reading!

Love,
Crissi

Pre-order “Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan”

ltw-FRONT-cover-finalIf you’re a Kindle reader, Loving the Wind is now available for pre-orders! Even better, it’s temporarily discounted to 99 cents! Read the untold story of Tiger Lily and how she met Peter Pan in this fun prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy.

bit.ly/lovingthewind

Here’s what one reviewer said:

Crissi’s latest book, “Loving the Wind” is a fun new dimension to the Peter Pan stories we know and love. She captured the voices of the characters so well, I felt like I was a pixie on the wall watching the whole time.
It takes us to Neverland through the eyes of Tiger Lily, a young native girl who is mentioned in the original stories, but not much is known about her.
Tiger Lily’s story as told by Crissi is deep and rich. We get to experience her adventures from just before she meets Peter in the belly of a pirate ship to the end of the book (but not the story, hopefully!!) as a wise young woman in her tribe. She takes us with her as she learns what it is to love her people as a leader.
Tiger Lily is the girl I want to be when I grow up. Brave in spite of her fear, bold in standing up for those who had no voice, humble in her accomplishments, and open to the lessons in hardships she experienced. She’s wise and graceful in the end, when she’s finally accepted the path that is before her, unexpected as it is.

So, the question is, should you read this book? If you appreciate a new angle on the characters we’ve met before, absolutely. This is a fun, easy to read story. It flows along nicely- not too fast or slow. Plenty of action, some really great lessons, and friendly enough for families. This is a coming-of-age storybook I’ll encourage my own daughter to read when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Thank you Crissi for the amazing gift of this story!

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P.S. Would you like a chance to win a print copy of this book for free? Follow me on Facebook and take part in my 6 Days of Giveaways.

Days of Giveaways for “Loving the Wind”

Loving the Wind publishes this Thursday, Aug 18! What better way to celebrate than with some free gifts? 🙂

image1Starting today, I’m counting down to the release of Loving the Wind on my Facebook and Instagram pages with chances to win a signed copy of the book. Want to be a part of the excitement? Be sure to follow me!

Today’s giveaway is over at Goodreads. Go to bit.ly/GRgiveawayLTW and enter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Loving the Wind.

HINT: Tomorrow’s giveaway is explained in Facebook video, and part of it requires that you join my newsletter. (If you join now, you’ll get a free gift!)

So, head on over to my Facebook page. You may even want to turn on notifications so you don’t miss a post. And then enter for a chance to win!

Good luck!

YA paranormal ‘Forever Thirteen’ is only 99 cents!

Sorry for my absence here. I’ve been living in my writing cave lately, pounding out my latest novel that’s shaping up quite nicely (if I do say so myself!). Some things have been placed on the back burner, and this blog, unfortunately, is one of them. But I promise you all a more worthy blog post, and eventually (eek!) some sneak peeks into my work in progress.

However, I do have a little bit of news now. My newest novel, Forever Thirteen, is available for only 99 cents for Kindle readers! A discount on this book is rare, so it’s kind of a big deal. If you’re interested, go check it out now. After this week, it goes back up to $3.99.

Book link: http://amzn.to/1o6hMwL

That’s all for now. Hope you’re having a fabulous week!

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Forever Thirteen, released today!

It’s finally here! Forever Thirteen is here! And heads up, if you’re buying for Kindle, it’s $2.99 for this week only to celebrate release week (after that, it’s $4.99).

And because I am just too excited to write, here’s a video:

Find out more about Forever Thirteen at crissilangwell.com/forever-thirteen.

Where to buy:
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Print
Nook
Smashwords
Createspace Print

Coming soon to:
Kobo
iBook

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