Shatter, by Nikki Trionfo, & a Giveaway!

I’m a sucker for great opening lines. Here’s how gifted debut author, Nikki Trionfo, opens Shatter:

The playfulness of the lines gives a glimpse into the innocence and vulnerability of main character, Salem Jefferson, yet belies the tragedy and darkness that soon follow. It was my love of playful first lines that let Nikki Trionfo have me at “hello” with this book.

And it’s no secret I love kissing books.

Shatter is a YA murder mystery, written in first-person, present-tense. To be honest, not something I’d normally pick off the shelf. I’m so glad I did. Within the mystery also lies a slow burn of young love that builds at the same level as Salem’s ability to trust and break down her own prejudices. SPOILER ALERT: There wouldn’t have been a clever line about first kisses, without a payoff later. If you like kissing books as much as I do, trust that amid all the sleuthing and intrigue is found your sweet reward.

The real story, though, is about Salem finding her own strength—the strength her sister, Carrie, always knew she had.

Definitely worth the read!

Shatter Blurb

“We never knew there could be people in the orchard. Dangerous people.”

When a mysterious explosion kills her sister, Salem becomes convinced the death was no accident—it was a conspiracy. But no one else at her high school believes her, and all she has so far are theories and clues. With Carrie’s killers still out there, Salem’s not sure who she can trust. If she can’t she prove she’s right before it’s too late, the conspiracy might take another life—hers.


The class is dead silent. Mr. White’s lips tighten. He swallows. There’s something dangerous about the new guy. The teacher leans over AddyDay’s desk and spins her packet so he can read the list of partnerships. “Fine. We’ll break up the threesome. You’ll pair with . . . Salem Jefferson.”

At the sound of my name, I turn to look at my new partner.

The guy near the door is tall. He has the kind of incredible good looks that invite stares, but that’s not the only reason he’s getting them now. The cursive lettering of a tattoo rises from the opening of the guy’s worn flannel shirt. Two gold chains hang from his brown neck. A guy accessorized in gang paraphernalia, not caked with it. His only completely visible marking is an upside down V inked onto his right cheekbone, black and distinct. The tattoo calls my attention for some reason, even though I’m sure I’ve never seen a symbol like that before. An upside down V . . . it seems so familiar.

His expressionless, dark eyes dart to meet my gaze from under a stiff, backward-facing ball cap. My classmates watch him stare at me.

“Salem Jefferson,” he says slowly, putting a slight emphasis on my last name. He waits for my response.

I realize he knows exactly who Salem Jefferson is. Exactly who I am. I’m Carrie’s sister.

Terrified, I whirl back around to face forward. Gang members targeted Carrie, made her frightened. Was he one of them? The skin between my shoulder blades tightens. Why were gang guys after Carrie?

Pick up Shatter Here

Did I say “Giveaway?” Check out the Shatter drawing below:
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My New/Old Day Job

This is the last day of my “day job.” The one I started only five weeks ago.

I’ve had a difficult time convincing anyone that this is the right move. I can understand how it looks from the outside looking in. I get it.

After taking a couple of years off the old eight-to-five, punch-in, punch-out grind, to focus on the writing business, this new, perfect opportunity fell squarely in my lap. It seemed like manna from heaven, and that passing on it would be the ultimate ingratitude. And even though my gut-instinct—or that still, small voice—was not giving me the brilliant green light, it wasn’t giving me a screeching warning either. It was as though the answer was, “It’s not going to hurt to check it out. Go ahead and apply. Go ahead and interview. Everything will be okay.” Not really a feeling of peace, but not one of sheer dread, either.

On the surface, this would seem like the perfect opportunity. A former co-worker contacted me, asking if I was looking for a job. I hadn’t been, but I knew I probably should have been.

After a year of serious pitching, querying, and submitting, I had a growing stack of kind and encouraging rejections on my first completed novel. I knew I hadn’t used my time and potential as well as I could have. I thought that maybe having an externally-imposed structure might improve my writing productivity, because I’d be forced to use my limited writing time with more focus. (Yeah. That didn’t happen.)

At this new place, there were ten people I’d worked with at the “great and spacious building” I left two years before. Joining them seemed like becoming part of a David and Goliath story. It felt like sticking it to the man. It was closure for an open wound. I’d be working in a familiar industry, fighting the good fight for those in need. And I’d be good at it.

Two days into the new job I received an email from an acquisitions editor at Cedar Fort Publishing.

“Hello Tana, I have read your entire book and am going to pitch it to the board.”

It didn’t have the word “love” or even “like” in it, but those things are implied. Editors do not read an entire manuscript if they aren’t in love with it.

That one sentence changed my whole perspective about the new job.

(Long story less long, I signed with Cedar Fort. Much more on that in a different post.)

I believe everything happens for a reason.

The writing thing is still a crap shoot. There’s no guarantee this book or future books are going to sell even one copy, much less become a viable income stream. But having this one success has at least given me an indication I’ve been on the right track. This experience has shown me what I DON’T want to be doing for a living. It’s given me a renewed sense of purpose. It’s reminded me that I MUST treat the writing like the business I’ve always wanted it to be.

Thanks for listening. I need to jump in the shower and get dressed for that last day.

Next week I’m taking my new writing career on a road trip to visit family in Vegas. Because you can do that with a writing career. Writing IS my day job. I remember that now.

And I finally feel that peace again.



Take Care, Scout. Take Care, Miz Lee.

Harper Lee has passed at the age of 89.

Her Pulitzer Prize winning book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the only one we know for sure she approved of being published, is my all-time favorite novel. Or at least that’s what I’ve always believed. I’ve just recently picked it back up after 43 years.

My thirteen-year-old self fell in love with the relationship between Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout. I’m told by others that every little girl wished they had a daddy like Atticus, but, at thirteen, I thought I was the only one.

In the book, Leto-kill-a-mockingbird2_9855e describes Atticus like this: “Jem and I found our father satisfactory; he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.” A girl being raised by a single mother, with a very charming but mostly absent father, longed for a relationship with that kind of “courteous detachment.”

Scout learned to read while sitting on Atticus’ lap every evening with the paper. She and Jem were comfortable enough with their relationship with him to refer to him by his first name—but always called him “Sir” when speaking directly to him. It was Alabama, after all. He spoke to them almost as contemporaries, and he never talked down to them

At thirteen, the worst time of my life (yours too?), I felt, at turns, both micromanaged and neglected (because everything is a blown way out of proportion when you’re a thirteen-year-old girl). Atticus’ “courteous detachment” meant neither of these things, and I adored him for it.

I’ve been afraid to re-read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, in case it didn’t live up to the “favorite” status I’ve given it all these years. I’m not done with it yet, but so far, it’s holding its own.

I’m sad to see Harper Lee go, though her quality of life had suffered over the past several years. It’s bothered me that her younger relatives sold her second book, GO SET A WATCHMAN, last year, likely without her express legal consent. She had decades to publish it, if that’s truly what she really wanted, and she didn’t.

I will read it anyway, hoping my Atticus/Scout ideal won’t be bruised too badly by it.

Goodbye, Miz Lee. Goodbye Scout. I will miss you. Y’all take care, now. Hear?


I Said I Was a #Twitterspaz

twitterthumbsDo #PitchMAS, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Who knew tweeting was such a fine art?

This week was filled with pitching opportunities for those with the talent of distilling the very essence of their story to 140 characters, spaces included.

I am, apparently, not one of them. Today I came, I tweeted. I was ignored.

My friend, writing buddy, and tweeting Sensei, @debra_elise, got a quiver full of requests for partial and full manuscripts.

I got quivers.

Here are my attempts of the day at twitter pitching AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE:

Going against resolve, new chocolatier falls for small town royalty. Is he too good to be true, Casanova &con man, or her destiny? #PitchMAS

After chaotic childhood & bad divorce, chocolatier chooses happily ‘independent’, over ‘ever after’ Small town hero doesn’t buy it. #PitchMAS

Wanting roots, new chocolatier in town gets more than she bargains for Hot widower’s family is EVERYWHERE& they want him married. #PitchMAS

Romancing the Stone meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding-in Mayberry Confectioner &widower-next-door find room untouched for 30yrs-&LOVE #PitchMAS

He attracts women like a weepy-day carton of Ben&Jerry’s. She avoids him like Ebola. Is he just a pretty face?Can she trust again? #PitchMAS

Heartbroken CPA gets do-over as Chocolatier. RealEstateMogul returns to family deli @wife’s death. She’s who he’s waited 5yrs for #PitchMAS

CPA-turned-Chocolatier & RealEstateMogul-turned-deli-guy find HEA & that every day is a good one-AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE #PitchMAS

And the final Hail Mary Pass:

“Sweet Lord of the Dance!” “Holy Hannah & her sisters” “Mother Mary Tyler-Moore” “Dalmatian!” “Hell O’Kitty” –Heroine’sPottyMouth #PitchMAS

 Many a terrific book has been overlooked because of a horrible pitch or query. Getting the right person to read a manuscript is 90% of the battle. It’s a very good thing for me that twitterpitching isn’t the only option.

I’ve never said 20 words when 40 will do. Ask the Captain. He’ll nod, because I won’t have paused for a breath.



Coming to Terms

shirley maclain screaming

“It’s time for her pain medication!!!”

I think the time has come to talk about it.

I had always wondered how I’d be affected by the death of my mother, though, on some levels I believed she would live forever. I’m still stunned and a little put out that she left us three months ago.

Mother/daughter relationships are complex, sometimes fragile things. At least ours was…Is…Will always be.

I was her only daughter. All her daughter-chips were riding on me, and frankly, her losses at that table were frequent.

mom 1982I would never be created in her own image. In every way imaginable, we were different. (Although as we both got older, I began to resemble her a little, despite having inherited my father’s squinty-eyed, dimpled smile.)

When I was twenty-four, and in the middle of the false labor Cha-Cha with my third child, she and my Nana came to stay. (They ended up leaving after a week of no birthing, taking my 23-month-old with them to wait it out.) One evening during their stay, my mom sent CAM and I to see TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. She said I just had to see it.

Because she recognized it herself, I think it is okay for me to share that there has never, in the history of all time, been a truer example of life imitating art than that movie and our own story.

It was not just pregnancy hormones that made me bawl uncontrollably that night. I’m not usually a crier—at least not like that—even in pregnancy. Captain Awesome Man was helpless; I was a mess.

If you’ve ever seen the Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels interplay in TERMS, you’ve had a fly-on-the-wall view of our own little dramedy on earth. Nothing explains it better than that movie. (Except that my husband has always been loyal and faithful and my very best friend.)

She and I loved each other fiercely, sometimes disagreed fiercely, and rarely lived up to one another’s expectations. We were occasionally critical of one another but defended against criticism by someone else. (Siblings have a lifetime exemption from this rule.)

We were each other’s pains in the rear, but the ones all up in someone else’s business on each other’s behalf. Like Shirley, maniacally circling the nurses’ station when it was time for Debra’s pain meds.

We were proud of one another’s accomplishments, talents and strengths, though they were almost never like our own. Our brains worked differently, and yet, I hear her words in my head—and out of my mouth—on a regular basis.

For two such vastly different humanoids, living hundreds of miles apart, our lives were so very tightly intertwined. Like Shirley’s and Debra’s.

Three months after her death, my brothers and I are still circling a nurses’ desk, dealing with someone she put her trust in, who has failed in his duties to honor that trust. I know she’d expect nothing less than to make this person do his freaking job. She’d be stretching up to every inch of her five feet and spitting nails. I find myself spitting them for her. That’s what Debra would do for Shirley.quen for a day

The answer to how I would be affected by my mother’s death? It’s like an amputation. The recuperation period is pure torture. I’m still feeling a bit crippled, and she’s not here to tell all about it. The ghost pains, the residual sensations of the missing part, may always be there.

But it’s also like an organ transplant, because the bits of her I’ve kept—her words in my head and out of my mouth—are starting to make me stronger every day.