Touched With Fire Cover Reveal!!

Standard

badge Welcome to the TOUCHED WITH FIRE cover reveal! This fabulous historical fiction has received a new look and it’s going to blow you away. Now before we get to that, let’s talk about Touched With Fire, a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft.

Ellen Craft is property; in this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father:” the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale—indeed, lily-white—skin.

Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

touchedwithfire
The story tells of how a brave and resilient black woman went to great lengths to gain not only her freedom, but that of the man she loved.” – Amazon Reviewer Kelley McCormick

“[A] deliberate and sincere historical fiction wends its way through this abject time in our nation’s youth…Touched with Fire is a welcome addition to the ever-increasing canon of Civil War fiction.” – E. Warren Perry, Jr., author, Swift to My Wounded: Walt Whitman and the Civil War

Celebrate this great new cover with us by entering our giveaway below and spreading the word!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read an excerpt:

Late Evening of September 20, 1862
Warren, Ohio

Ellie rolled up tight in her blankets, as usual sleeping in the upper hayloft of the stable on a bed of straw. She stared out the open hayloft door at the stars glittering in the moonless night sky, her breath condensing into white mist in the cold September air. Only at this time of the evening did she allow herself the luxury of becoming a woman again. She thought about William, as she always did before sleeping. Was he still alive? If he was, was he right this moment gazing up on the same stars? She missed him every minute of every day, but she missed him the most as she lay waiting for sleep to take her to him in dreams. Her cousin Ann had tried to help after William was left behind at Baltimore, yet there had been a barrier that Ellie could never quite overcome, that never let her feel comfortable around Ann. She was white, and Ellie was black. It was simply not in her to trust a white. She could not help it, her fear and loathing of that race rooted in a lifetime of hard experience with its cruelty, starting with and most particularly including her very own father, the man who should have cared the most for her happiness and welfare and who instead kept her as property.

Ann offered to buy William, and Ellie appreciated that. But out of sheer spite Miss Deb bought William herself to stop the sale. Even worse, she sent slave hunters north to find Ellie and bring her back.

Foolishly not expecting Debra Collins to stoop so low, Ellie was caught off guard and nearly taken. The fugitive slave act required Mrs. Henderson to turn Ellie over to the authorities, and the slave hunters brought local police with them to Mrs. Henderson’s home, demanding she surrender Ellie, who was no more than stolen property in the eyes of the law.

It was a narrow escape. Dressed as a man again, Ann sent Ellie through a hatch in the roof. From there, she stole across the tops of several adjacent row houses until she found a balcony she could safely drop down to. She nearly broke her ankle doing it, but from there used a fire escape to climb down to the street and disappear. She walked right past a policeman posted at the end of the block, but he was on the lookout for a woman. Once again, becoming a man saved her.

After that, Ellie determined to stay disguised as a man. The slave hunters searched for a woman. As a white man, Ellie could go where she pleased and do what she wanted without arousing suspicion. Even a white woman did not have the freedom she now had. She blended in and covered her tracks so well it made her impossible to find. At least, she hoped so.

With money Mrs. Henderson had thrust into her unwilling hand as she fled through the roof, she caught a train west, eventually stopping in Warren, Ohio, nearly broke. She started working for Mr. Craig as a stable hand, tending horses and fixing wagons. She slept in the stable except on the coldest of nights, and spent little of the money she earned. She had no desire to socialize and kept to herself, which suited Mr. Craig fine since he also had little use for mixing with folk
outside of his business dealings.

But every day she thought of William and the bitterness grew and burned inside her until she felt consumed by it. What she feared most, her separation from William by the white masters, had come to pass, and she hated them for what they did to her in the name of preserving “their way of life.” Most especially she grew bitter toward her white “family,” her father and her half sister Debra. She wanted so much to make them pay for their plain low-down meanness.

She spent every night thinking on how to free William. She saved what she could against the time when an opportunity might present itself, and had accumulated five hundred dollars, but rack her brains as she might, nothing realistic ever came to her.

But today what this Wilkins fellow said kept running through her mind. The only real hope she had of rescuing William was in the defeat of the South. At the opening of the war, from all she heard, Lincoln was perfectly content to let the South keep its slaves if it would preserve the Union, and she had set no hopes on the war bringing William back to her. But perhaps that was changing. If it was true Lincoln would soon make this a fight to end slavery, then maybe there was hope after all.

But she doubted it. She found little support for the abolitionist movement here in Warren. Northern whites, on the whole, did not care one way or another about the welfare of Negros; they just wanted them gone. Even if Lincoln declared this a war against slavery, the North, she believed, would go back on its word in a heartbeat if keeping slavery reunited the nation.

And then a thought suggested itself. Maybe the North would not, in the end, free the slaves, but the one thing the North had to do was to conquer the South. From one end of that infernal pest hole to the other, Union troops would have to strike down and occupy every inch of Southern territory. Ellie pursed her lips in the dark, thinking hard on that fact. She could join the army and fight her way into Georgia. At the head of an army, there was nothing any planter could do to stop her. And once she found William, they could easily escape to Canada where the slave hunters could never reach them no matter how the war ended.

She jumped up, clutching the blankets close around her shoulders and pacing before the open hayloft door. Wilkins said the 125th Ohio was recruiting volunteers. She could join. What was to stop her? Her fevered mind thrilled at the excitement of finally having a plan, until all the reasons why it could not be done rained down on her like a thunderstorm on an open camp fire.

It was one thing to play a man while escaping North, which had been for just three days and with the help of William to guide her, and quite another to be a man in the army. Of course, even now she managed it well enough, but she lived a solitary life. She had plenty of time by herself in the evenings to let her guard down and take care of womanly things as required. Even with that, Mr. Craig once found a bloody rag she discarded during one of her flows, and demanded to know where it came from. Had she injured one of the horses? She made up a
story about losing a wisdom tooth. Concerned, he asked to look in her mouth to see, but she was able to attend to a customer who fortunately appeared at that moment.

Being in the army would give her little to no privacy. Living in the constant close company of men, she would have to be a man all the time and never let down her guard. How would she bathe? How would she manage her cycles? What if she was wounded? In the army, the odds of being discovered multiplied a hundredfold. She sat down on a bale of hay, holding her face in her hands, despairing.

She had looked at it a thousand different ways. If she slipped back into Macon on her own, even disguised as a man, she would certainly be recognized eventually. Even if she was not, and she found William, how could she free him? No white Southerner would dare take a slave North for any reason now. Everyone she met would demand an explanation she could not give.

Joining the army was her only chance. She could not just wait for the war’s end and hope the North won, and in winning also abolished slavery.

She lifted her face from her hands. She was tired of being alone. She was tired of feeling powerless to change her life and William’s. She was tired of despising her half sister and her father and the entire South without having the means to punish them. A grim determination filled her. She would join the army. She would carry a gun and she would fight. She would find a way to keep her identity secret, and if they found her out, she was no worse off than now. All they could do would be to send her back to Ohio. All she could do was try and trust to God.

She stared up at the night sky, hoping William also looked up at those same stars, and she suddenly was sure of it. She could feel him reaching out to her, and she held out her hand to the lights in the sky, reaching back to him.

“I’m coming for you, William,” she said out loud, her hand clutching into a fist. “I’ll find you, and as God is my witness we will never be slaves again.”

TA-DA!!

Standard

This is how I feel right now. (Also, this is from my favorite episode of Too Cute! on Animal Planet. But I digress…) Why? Well, because here is my big announcement: I HAVE A BOOK COVER!!

Would you like to see it??

OKAY!

BEHOLD MY NEW COVER:

seconddeath

Thank you to Mallory Rock for holding an awesome contest and creating such an amazing cover for me. It’s perfect.

So… what do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Apologies

Standard
Apologies

I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the sudden absence in blogging. I have a really great excuse. It’s one of two big announcements, and the bigger of the two at that.

This happened:photo

If we connect through Facebook, this is old news, but it’s worth mentioning again. : )

Now just to confirm I’m the worst parent ever: I abhor being pregnant. The only thing that makes it easier the second round is knowing the end result. Which is pretty cool. Monkey has named kid 2 either Nugget (a boy) or Noodle (a girl.) The husband hates these nicknames, but it’s probably already too late.

But Emily,” you say, “lots of women don’t like being pregnant. That doesn’t make you a bad parent.” You know what, you’re right.

This does:

comingsoon

Given the foreseeable un-funness awaiting me for the the next nine months, and the fact that the awesome payoff is going to take for-ev-er to get here… I’m more excited (today) about my other awesome announcement.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not as awesome as the addition of a new family member, however — it was painless and offered nearly instant gratification.

There’s a joke there somewhere, isn’t there? Ah, well. Pregnancy brain is strong with this one. I’m full of stupid.

Check back Thursday for the other awesome stuff!

Genocide: Only for Mosquitoes

Standard
Genocide: Only for Mosquitoes

I know that most things, even ones I don’t like, are here for a reason. Do I hate things that fly and sting? Absolutely. Are bees and their evil kin useful for flower pollination, thus maintaining the floral circle of life, giving herbivores stuff to eat and almost everything air to breathe? Well, yeah. Dammit.

Then there is the mosquito. Other than population control due to all diseases they spread, what do they bring to the table? Significant cursing? Keeping the calamine lotion and bug spray industry going? The answer is: nothing that can’t be replaced or will be missed.

Why all this sudden vitriol? How’s about eight freaking mosquito bites in five days! Not only that, for some stupid reason, they always go for my feet. I could have a head wound gushing blood and Nature’s A-holes would still bite my feet. God, I hate them.

But back to my point, if we got rid of every stinking one of the species that drink blood, what would happen? Occurrences of diseases like Malaria and West Nile would drop, and because humans are AWESOME, we’ll find new, more fun ways to kill each other. Same goes for population control on critters. We invented the wheel; between us and nature, plenty of things are still gonna die. What about all the creatures that eat mosquitoes, you say? Turns out that mosquitoes are either not the main source of food and won’t be missed, or there are plenty of other little critters to supplement their diet.

Not only that, there’s someone who agrees with me. Janet Fang. Not only is her name awesome, but she maintains we could eradicate them and be just fine. No really, it’s SCIENCE! She did the research so I didn’t have to. Read here.

So now the only question is:

Thank you Seth Macfarlane

Thank you Seth Macfarlane

My Neurotic Pug and my Two Year Old Puppy

Standard

This week has been… eventful.

This time last week I was herding in a stray that had been running around my neighborhood for a few weeks. Now “Tank” is passed out cold asleep on my couch. We now have four animals in our house… not counting Julia the Beta. (I know the beta is a male, but Monkey insisted his name was Julia.)

Just to make sure I’m not the only one with weird pets, similar to my weird food issues, I’m going to share, and I hope you will share your kooky pet stories as well.

Wonder Pug or not, this balloon is flippin' creepy.

Wonder Pug or not, this balloon is flippin’ creepy.

We’ll start with Zoe the Wonder Pug. She is a HUGE pug, but we’re working on that. She will eat or try just about anything. She loves people, but is somewhat aggressive with her affections. She demands attention and will jump and bark to get your attention. She is indifferent about other dogs, excluding her “family pugs.” (The woman we got Zoe from has Zoe’s mom, and two rescue pugs, one of which was fostered by me.) Cats are fun to chase, but they’re awfully fast. Classic pug, right?

Here are my Zoe’s weird quirks. She takes forever to go to the bathroom. Not only that, she has to turn circles to warm herself up. I counted once. Seventy-five circles before a pee. When she is in she tries to chase her tail. Problem is, she’s so thick and stocky, even she knows she’s not going to reach it. So instead, she sits and turns circles on the ground in hopes of finally catching that bastard of a tail. She has yet to beat it. And finally, she’s paranoid. Not of aliens or break-ins, but of the other animals in the house, especially the cats. For a reason I have yet to discover, Zoe is convinced that someone is out to steal her toys. As if the cats care. When the mood strikes her, she will take a toy and start searching for a hiding place. She goes from place to place, hiding the toy, covering it, standing back to admire her work, decides she’s unsatisfied, and picks it up again. Rinse and repeat. The funniest part is the furtiveness with which she searches. As if to say, “Aww, shit! Gotta hide this! Gotta hide it from the cats! Out to get my Precious!” (If you don’t fill in for the voices for your pets, then you’re either lying or in denial. We all do it.)

 

 

 

If the human head weighs 8lbs, Tank's is a solid 10.

If the human head weighs 8lbs, Tank’s is a solid 10.

As for Tank, he is all contradictions. He is big, muscular, and scary looking. His skull is probably the same width as mine. He is also a little dainty. Tank tip toes in wet grass because he doesn’t like to gets his footsies wet. He also has to “wipe” his face in the grass after eating, as opposed to trying to lick it off. The vet thinks he’s about two, but when he plays, he’s a 60 pound puppy. He wasn’t comfortable playing at first and I don’t think he was really able to do that in his early years. But a few times a day, he will “galumph.” Like from the Jabberwocky poem. He runs after a toy with his paws spread out and his back feet coming up to his ears. I’ll have to tape it, it’s so cute. He runs the way a horse runs, all legs out, all legs in kinda thing; except significantly less graceful. I’m just glad he can play. All the scars on his body tell me he didn’t get to be a puppy when he actually was one.

What silly things do your critters do? Enough comments, maybe a few videos from your phone, and we could have a winning YouTube channel or Meme!

Insomnia and I am in so much trouble…

Standard
Insomnia and I am in so much trouble…

This is Tank. He is a stray that’s been in my neighborhood for a couple of weeks, and well…

I am in so much trouble. I talked my husband into letting him in so I could see if the vet would do some pro bono work on him in the morning. Honestly, my thought was if I could catch him, I could find a rescue to take him. Ridicuslously good dog, but given his looks, not long for the pound. Of course, that was Sunday, so who knows when I will hear back. And now there are talks of fostering. The hubs has already given a maybe on that, which, considering I didn’t whine, wheedle, convince and cajole, is pretty miraculous.

I think it’s the dude code. Tank and Ryan are the only ones not fixed in the house. And he must have had a guy for an owner at some point, because he follows Ryan around with pretty much worship. Given that my dog is a giant pug, Ryan is suddenly talking about “a man’s dog” and not being “embarrassed” when walking the dog if it was Tank. I think I see the beginnings of a bromance here.

Of course, Tank will need to get fixed. He has crazy wanderlust, and escaped my yard like a ninja. As in, if he didn’t fly out, I don’t know what happened. But at this point, there is some serious male bonding going on.

Or there would be. If it wasn’t 5am. Yeah, that’s the insomnia part. Ryan is allergic to pets in general, so no dogs in the bedroom. No unoccupied crate, or one that would even fit. Also a couple of cats that have yet to make an appearance since Tank’s entrance. So, in true, save-the-world-without-thinking style, like I do, I offered to sleep on the couch with him. We haven’t let him upstairs, so I was on the less than comfy downstairs variety. Five hours after laying down, I have two snoring, dead to the world dogs, the jinglings of cat plotting upstairs, and a migraine from this stupid couch bought for form rather than function.

May Monkey forgive me, I’m going to suck at parenting today. Oh, no. It’s the last day for testing slips for karate. We have to be there. Ugh. This is why my husband is always on me about not rescuing everything I see. Damn it if he doesn’t get to do the I’m right dance. Possibly video to follow.

Well, I’m up, so comment, facebook message, or hit me up on twitter. Especially if you or someone you trust can give Tank a good home.

Also, be warned I may not make much sense, especially given the length and rambling of this post. Ugh. I promise my books don’t suck this much.

Question of the Day: What’s your food issue?

Standard
Question of the Day: What’s your food issue?

I was reading an article on Jezebel today about finickiness in regards to food. These days, it seems like everyone has something they refuse to eat. Vegetarians, Vegans, and Raw Foodies, well… this is what we expect from you. But then there are the other weirdos, like myself.

For the most part, I don’t want my food to touch. If it wasn’t part of the recipe, I don’t want it in there. Exceptions are made for, lets say, dipping chicken into gravy and mashed potatoes, (Keller ISD kids, you know what I’m talking about,) or beans and Mexican rice. But for the most part, sectioned plates are the greatest thing ever.

To take it a step further, I have a “Sweet & Meat” rule, which should be called sweet & savory. The two never shall meet. Pork and apples, no. Turkey and cranberry sauce, no. Garden type salads with fruit, no. The only exception I can think of for this one is the awesomeness of the Monte Cristo sandwich, but they’re hard to come by and will probably kill you.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also eat things in a specific order. I didn’t realize it until a co-worker called me on it because he did the same thing. Least favorite to most favorite, normally with meat being the last thing eaten.

I have no idea why I do these things. Maybe it has to do with how I was introduced to food, although my mom tells me she mixed everything. Maybe I really hated that, who knows?

My husband refuses to eat cream cheese, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, any vegetable he has to lean over and pick up off the ground excluding potatoes, cold tomatoes, and would rather have a hot dog instead of steak. My kiddo, even worse.

So you’re not alone. Now tell me what hangups you have with food, so I feel better! ; >

Some Parenting Advice

Standard
Some Parenting Advice

39 million, 100 thousand. That’s how many results come up in a Google search for “parenting strategies.” Good Lord.

Admittedly, I have only been parenting for four years, seven months, and two days. Still, there are a few things I thought I would share that have really helped me along the way.

  1. Most importantly: Every child is different. Feel free to look at what I do, but by no means think it’s a guide you must follow to raise a decent human being. Like I said, Monkey is only four.
  2. Solidarity. This was a new experience for me, being raised by a (wonderful) single mother. One of the most comforting things about raising Monkey is knowing my husband has my back and I have his. No matter what. Even if he doesn’t agree, we side-table the issue until we are able to discuss it — without Monkey. This really helps when she is whining… which she does… daily… at length.
  3. Appropriate punishment. It’s inevitable. Kid steps out of line, parent must respond. We’ve tried a bunch of different things. Time out never worked because it became a game to see how many times she could escape. Also, as right now she’s an only child, it’s not like she’s missing out on that much; we have yet to go in her room and play with her toys without her. Spanking… very controversial. We’ve tried giving her open handed swats on the but. She might cry, but then moves on. Her attention span is that of a gnat. In ten minutes, she’s forgotten what she did and why she shouldn’t. Also, she was one of those babies that liked her bum patted, and has yet to grow out of it. I truly think that the best way to correct behavior is to get inside your kid’s head. What does my kid want? To please people and not missing anything. Which means that as long as she’s been able to comprehend what we’re saying, we’ve been telling her when her behavior disappoints us. I can’t believe how well it works (I would’ve just said sorry and kept it up. She gets devastated.). Now that she’s “big” something that really helps is moving up her bedtime. She never wants to go to bed, convinced we throw all night parties the moment her door shuts. So now, when she doesn’t want to listen, her bedtime gets docked 30 minutes. The best part: we’ve never had to dock bedtime more than once.
  4. You and, if applicable, your partner are the ones who decide what’s good for your kid. It took me a while to get this one down. I come from a family of outspoken women, and at least one outspoken man. Which means on more than one occasion I’ve been told I’m too strict, not strict enough, no fun, not serious enough, an alcoholic, and a bad mother. What the hell ever. You know what? I have never had to leave a restaurant due to my child’s behavior. She’s never that kid. Not only that, she’s a legitimately good kid. Which means I’m doing something right. You know what else? I bet you have a good kid too. If anyone starts telling you you are raising them wrong, or not “right enough,” they can back the f up and worry about themselves and their crazy suppressed kids that are someday going to go postal.
  5. Kids have terrible memories. This is especially important with your first kid. You get pregnant, have a baby, and the next day they send you home with a human being and tell you, “Have fun! Don’t raise a serial killer!” With that pearl of wisdom you arrive home, put the tiny human in some contraption that Parent’s magazine told you buy and then you stare at it. Breathing, yes. Asleep, yes. Soooooo… now what. Here’s what: you will mess up. A lot. I did. This tiny human will make you want to punt them between the goalposts and bring you to tears. You will call your parents and apologize for being the little $hit you know you were, because it must have compounded and made your child a demon baby. You’re folding laundry when the baby picks that moment to learn how to roll… right off the couch. The good news? They will forget. (Also, they bounce and are surprisingly resilient.) I don’t want to sound harsh, but I don’t want Monkey to see my parental failures. All that’s important is that she knows I tried my best. She doesn’t remember the day I had to put her in a pack n’ play, go in the other room, and cry for a half an hour because of how angry she made me. As if that weren’t enough, then I felt guilty for being angry at a toddler. However, she’s not going to remember this until I tell her, which I plan on doing when she calls crying to apologize to me.

If any of this helps, awesome. If nothing else, you can take my advice from #4 and tell me to mind my own beeswax. Just remember, there are plenty of people you know who have been through this before and survived along with their children. If they can, so can you.