Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel
Today we are welcoming Shannon Kennedy to the blog. Shannon writes YA as herself, but she also writes Mainstream Western Romance as Josie Malone. She’s here to share about herself, her writing, and share an excerpt from her YA novel. I hope you enjoy what she has to share.
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. I got in trouble for making my bratty little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer.
Today, I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington state in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo! I share it with my two cats or maybe, they share it with me. I still read a great deal. My favorite shopping trip is to any bookstore. As Stephen King says, “Writers need to read – a lot.”
I read everywhere. There are books on the kitchen table, by my rocking chair in the living-room, next to my bed and even in the bathroom. Often, I read more than one at a time, so it’s lucky that I can multi-task. However, when I write, I only do one mainstream and one young adult project at a time, because I want to know everything about my characters and their lives.
Because of all my time with horses, they tend to show up in my books. I write mainstream western romance as Josie Malone for BookStrand and young adult realistic fiction for Black Opal. And horses gallop through all the pages – well, maybe not all, but they definitely show up in the stories. I spend a lot of time with teens both at the family riding stable and as a substitute middle/high school teacher. I love hearing what they think and say – the books seemed to come about naturally out of both those venues. And of course, it’s always easy to find “beta” readers at the barn or the schools who are happy to tell me when I make a mistake and need to rewrite, sort of a “turnabout is fair play,” time.
I’m delighted that the Stewart Falls Cheerleaders found a home with Black Opal Publishing. I have a terrific cover and my own real puppy is on it. I still don’t know how we got him to hold still for the picture – he’s a whirling, horse-chasing, sister-puppy–attacking, cat-romping fellow at the best of times. But I have to admit that when he’s sleeping, he’s downright adorable. He loved our snow in January, but he does think that the cones I use to teach the kids how to steer their horses are actually made for puppies.
The Stewart Falls Cheerleader series is about a cheer squad at a private high school in western Washington, because “Sometimes, you have to be your own cheerleader.” And these books have a special place in my heart – I think I have a new “fave.” In the series, selected girls overcome problems that life hurls at them.
The start of the series is Throw Away Teen. It’s the story of one of those girls, B.J. Larson. She grew up in foster care, bouncing from home to home since she was a toddler and now she’s in my fictional town of Stewart Falls, Washington living with an older couple, Liz and Ted Driscoll. As B.J. says, they’re different – kind of what she always thought grandparents would be like, only nice. And Ted even gives her a puppy that she names, Guard-dog. Still, it doesn’t matter what anyone tells her, she knows she’s passing through and will soon be back in the group home or on the streets of Seattle.
The second book, Asking For It is about dating violence. The flyer of the squad, Sarah Flynn thinks she’s found the boy of her dreams, only to discover she’s living in a nightmare. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t seem to please him. When she disagrees with him, it grows harder and harder to explain her constant injuries. Will she even survive to Homecoming, much less the end of football season? Can she get out of this relationship alive?
Either way, it was good to meet you!
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell is a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest. Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State. Some days are longer and harder than others, but I still write from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week. As a substitute school teacher, I love the school breaks but I’m just as busy, since there are 36 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.
With all the critters on the ranch, I don’t have time for a husband. As for kids, I have to give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and in my next 50 years, I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!
THROW AWAY TEEN Excerpt:
I kept my eyes fixed out the window and stared at the row upon row of stacked buildings that made up Everett. It was a good sized town that buzzed with a major party vibe. I knew because I’d been stuck in a foster home here once when I was twelve. The kids I hung out with were all street trash like me. We partied every night and even on weekends. It took less than a month for me to get moved and another week to sober up afterwards. There’d been way too much whiskey at those parties and wow, I loved that stuff. It warmed me all the way to my toes.
Gabe had a raging fit when he got wind of that little incident. He made me promise not to drink more than I could handle, so I wouldn’t be the guest of honor at a “gang bang.” I don’t know how many times he told me, bad things happened to girls who passed out at parties. They weren’t able to look after themselves and I rarely had anyone to watch my back as it was. So, I promised him I’d leave the booze alone unless he or Helen were around.
As much as I disliked being forced into a weekend at a nursing home, it wouldn’t last long. They’d call Carol and beg her to come get me before noon tomorrow. I’d be back in Seattle by Saturday night, just in time to hang out with my friends. I was B.J. Larson, after all. I could totally handle two old people.
Carol took the next exit and headed further into the sticks. More trees lined the road; the only signs of life were the rows of “McMansions” perched on top of the hills.
I shuddered. “You said they lived in the city, Carol. This is not the city.”
“You’ll get used to it. Did Liz tell you about her 4-H club, B.J.?”
“No. What kind of club is it? Something like bingo for senior citizens?”
Carol laughed and made a right turn onto the road for Stewart Falls. “I’ll let her tell you all about it.”
I saw sunlight glimmer off a lake through even more trees and we kept going for what seemed like forever. Finally, Carol pulled into a driveway and we followed it up to a house that looked bigger and older than most of the other places we’d passed on the way here.
The house was ominous. It stood three stories tall, with two sprawling porches and bay windows that resembled bulging eyes. “Jeez, this looks like something from a horror flick, Carol. You know the kind where the killer hides in the attic and the walls run with blood.”
“Save it, B.J. You can’t shock me. Tell that one to Liz. I bet she’ll get a kick out of it. I won’t even mention the fact that you get sick at the sight of blood, much less the fake stuff they use in Hollywood.”
How did she know? I was sure that question hadn’t come up the last time I lost at poker.
Carol pulled up beside a black B.M.W. and parked. “Nice scenery.” She pointed through the windshield at a guy mowing the front yard. Long blond hair curled down to brush bare sun-tanned shoulders. He wore dark blue shorts and grass-stained running shoes, his blue shirt dumped on a rose bush near the front porch. The sight of him made me wish I hadn’t gone for the “skank” approach.
Well, maybe he liked sluts. And I could always play the part.
When he spotted the car, he turned off the mower and came toward us instead. At first glance, he seemed too broad-shouldered and tall to be a high schooler, but on closer inspection he was probably around sixteen or seventeen. I could see the man he’d become in the planes and angles of his face, and I really wanted to paint him.
Having a love for art and drawing didn’t fit my image so I usually kept it a secret from the other kids at the center. Gabe had sent one kid to the hospital for teasing me about my drawings. I kept them well hidden after that. And Helen had a fierce rep around Evergreen. Nobody came in our room because she’d kick their butts first and lie about it afterwards.
That was one good thing about Carol. She knew about my art, but she never teased me. I still didn’t know how she’d figured that out. Last Christmas, she even gave me a set of oil paints and a special pad of canvas paper.
Still, I wasn’t going to give in. Did she think having a hot guy mowing the front lawn would make me change my mind? I’ll admit it was a nice touch though, so I let out a low whistle.
Carol laughed again. “Come on, girl.” She opened her door and smiled at the guy. “Hi there.” She flashed him her best caseworker smile and I rolled my eyes. “Are Liz and Ted around?”
“Liz is inside and Ted’s at work.” The hunk brushed his hand on his shorts and then offered it to Carol. “I’m Ringo.”
“Carol Peters and this is B.J.” She gestured to the car.
That was my cue. I got out of the car, lifting my chin.
Ringo’s eyes were bluish, but it was a shade I hadn’t seen before. Silver, green, purple and navy all rolled into one. Could I get the right color with my paints? I’d stuffed them in my pack before we left. Some of the kids at the center still didn’t understand the concept of private property and they were the first to whine about Helen. No telling what would happen to my art stuff or who would learn my secret if I left them there.
He kept staring down at me, not saying anything and I had an odd feeling he saw through my fake veneer. His scrutiny was making me nervous but I kept my mouth shut. I grabbed my backpack off the floor and slammed the car door.
Carol winced, but I refused to feel guilty. She hadn’t been my caseworker that long but I already knew a lot about her. Like how she’d worked two jobs through college and the Escort was her first car, her baby. And how really lousy she was at poker.
Ringo came closer and tried to take my pack. I held onto it as tightly as I could, but he lifted it away easily. “I’ll take this inside for you.” His voice was deep. It matched his eyes.
“You don’t need to. I’m not staying long.”
Carol cleared her throat, shaking her head at me, but I ignored her. He eyed me again and I felt even smaller than my barely five foot height.
He grinned, “Well, aren’t you tough?”
“Yeah and I’m serious, so give it back!”
He shook his head and laughed. “Sure thing, Shorty.” Then he turned and walked toward the house, still carrying my back-pack.
I’d like to thank Shannon for dropping by and sharing! I”ve included a few other links to post Shannon has done. Enjoy!