Monday, April 14, 2014

The Unwanted VBT

Book Description:
Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon!

Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back and needs Jamie’s help. A curse has caused the ancient tribe of warrior women to give birth to nothing but boys, dooming them to extinction—until prophecy reveals that salvation lies with one of the offspring they abandoned.

Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.

Excerpt from Chapter One:
889 words

The house was empty. No big surprise there: Dad never got home before me. When I checked my nose in the bathroom mirror, it was starting to swell up and look like someone had painted purple under my skin. I didn’t think it was broken, but no one had ever punched me in the face before, so what did I know?

At that moment, I knew three things. I didn’t want to explain my nose to my dad when he eventually got home. I probably needed to put ice on it. And I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow.

In the kitchen, I filled a towel with ice. As I tilted my head back and lifted the towel to my nose, a flash of white darted past the sliding glass door overlooking the backyard. Our yard was fenced, so no one should have been back there. By this point, thanks to the almost-daily antagonism from Billy, it was in my nature to see every unexpected or unexplained thing as a possible threat. It seemed foolish, but I grabbed a knife from the butcher block before I opened the door and peered out.

I was lucky I didn’t stab myself in the foot when I dropped the knife. A white horse, its head lowered to the ground as it searched for bits of grass to its liking, ambled slowly across the yard. When it heard the knife clatter, it looked up and stared right at me, blinked its glossy black eyes—
—and shook its wings.

I was glad no one was around to hear me, because I screamed like a girl. My first thought—well, my second thought, right after Oh my God there’s a horse with wings in our yard—was that Billy must have given me a concussion when he hit me and knocked me down. I looked away, shook my head, and blinked a couple times.

When I looked back, the horse was still there. It had folded up its wings and gone back to browsing the lawn.

“Richard, is that you?”

The voice, a woman’s, came from upstairs. It was followed by a clanking noise, like someone rattling pots and pans. I picked up the knife again and slid the door shut as quietly as possible.

“Richard?” she called again, then, in a more threatening tone, “Is someone down there?”

She started coming down the stairs. Pressing my back to the wall, I inched out of the kitchen and into the dining room. I watched the kitchen doorway, wondering who this woman was and how she knew my father…and what was all the clanking about? When it appeared she hadn’t followed me from the kitchen to the dining room, I turned around and prepared to make a run for the front door.

She was standing right behind me.

I screamed, again. Like a girl, again. (What? She scared the hell out of me.)

She also snatched my wrist and twisted the knife out of my grasp before I remembered I was holding it. Then she put her hands on my shoulders to keep me from running headlong into her chest, which was covered in a bronze piece of armor that made her look like Xena, Warrior Princess.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said—not in a dismissive tone, the way that sort of thing is usually said (at least to me), but more in a sense of wonder, as if I were the last person she expected to see. She put a hand under my chin, gently, which I didn’t expect since she wore a sword at her waist. “You’re so…” Her voice trailed off as she took in all of me. “Short.”

Short? I’d never seen this woman before and she was calling me short? Admittedly, she looked taller than my dad, even, maybe by a couple inches. Before I could protest, she turned my chin left, then right, inspecting my face.

“You’ve been in a fight, haven’t you?” She smiled, and it seemed like a smile of admiration, like being in a fight was a good thing.

I batted her hand aside and backed away. “Who are you?”

She frowned. “Didn’t your father tell you anything about me?”

“Tell me what?”

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang. In an instant, everything about her changed. Her expression hardened as she whipped around toward the door. She’d drawn her sword without my even noticing, and now she crept toward the foyer. Her steps were so light I didn’t even hear her armor clank.

The doorbell rang again, sounding far away to me, like a dream. I started to ask her what she was doing—hadn’t she ever heard a doorbell before? Why was this clearly crazy woman in our house? And why did she know my dad? But she silenced me with a gesture.

This time, instead of the doorbell, there was a knock.

“Jamie?” It was Sarah. “Are you home?”

“Who is she?” the Xena wannabe asked.

“Who is she? Who are you?”

She lowered her sword for a moment and looked at me as if I were asking a stupid question. “He really never told you anything about me, did he?”

“Tell me what?”

Her face softened, neither stony nor angry, but sad.

“I’m your mother.”

Buy Links:
Indiebound    Amazon      
Barnes and Noble     Indigo

Jeffrey, thanks so much for stopping by. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Okay, here’s a secret just between you and me and the internet (hi, internet!): most writers? We’re boring. Duller than dirt! We get up, eat our breakfast, pour the first of many cups of coffee, and then we sit down in front of a computer and write. (At least, that’s my M.O.) We make watching paint dry seem epic by comparison.

On a more serious note, I’m currently attending graduate school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, getting my MFA in creative writing, after spending the past 20-odd years as a graphic designer and editor. I’ve lived in St. Louis, Missouri for the past 22 years but I’m originally from Maine and I was born in Hawaii. (If you guessed that I’m from a military family, you’d be right.)

How did you get started writing?
The story I don’t often tell people is that I started writing when I was about eight or nine. I was writing little stories in notebooks and one day found an old manual typewriter in the toolshed. I don’t know why it was out in the shed, but I hauled it into the house and started using that. In undergrad I took creative writing courses off an on, joined a writing group in St. Louis, called Writers under the Arch, a few years after graduation, and basically kept going, had a few stories published, and things took off from there.

What was the inspiration for your book?
My Stepmother Is An Alien. No, really. Let me explain. I must have been channel surfing one day and saw it on the cable schedule or something. My mind does strange random word-association things, and the phrase “my stepmother is an Amazon” sprang into my head. I took off the “step” and there you have it.

Also, I’ve always been a huge fan of Wonder Woman, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I explored Amazon myths.

Lastly, this is my first YA novel, and when I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of books for teens with gay characters. (I can’t think of any, really.) I did find books with gay protagonists—really great books, namely A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White, The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, and Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin—but those were pretty clearly intended for adults. So I wanted to write the sort of book I like to think my younger self would have been interested in reading.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I’ve written stories in a lot of different genres—horror, romance, science fiction, some (ahem) rather naughty stuff as well—but I think I’d like to write more contemporary fiction, humor, and science fiction.

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I can’t really think of any that I won’t read. I’m not a genre snob. If the writing is good, the story’s compelling, and the characters seem authentic, then I’ll give it a chance. Same thing goes for writing. I take my inspiration here from my editor, Greg Herren, who’s also a prolific author. If someone asks me to write in a genre I’ve never written in before, I try not to say, “Oh, I can’t write that.” Instead I try to think of it as, “Hey, I’ve never tried that yet. Let’s give it a shot.”

So, what are you working on right now? Have any releases planned, or still writing?
I have a few short stories that I’m working on, I’m revising a novel that’s my MFA thesis, and have a few other things in the hopper, including a couple short stories on the horizon publishing-wise. Also! I had a bit of a breakthrough this past week, thanks to my colleagues in my fiction workshop. We were workshopping a story I’d written, one that I’d spent a lot of time on and that I finished rather hurriedly as deadline was breathing down my neck. They quite rightly pointed out the abrupt change of pace, and—this is the best part—almost every one of them said, “I don’t think this is a story. I think it’s a novella or a novel.” It combines characters from three different stories I’ve published over the years, and the idea of bringing them all together was one that I hoped would have legs. It’s nice to have that idea validated! Now I just have to write the thing.

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?

Favorite movie?
Oh, this is hard. Favorite drama: Casablanca. Favorite comedy: What’s Up, Doc? Favorite science fiction movie: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. I can’t choose between those three, really.

Book that inspired you to become an author?
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We read that in tenth grade and I was hooked.

Alright, you have one superpower. What is it?
Infinite healing.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
First one’s a no-brainer: F. Scott Fitzgerald. After that, I’m not so sure. Wait, I’ve got it: Lynda Carter and the late Dixie Carter. Though they wouldn’t see eye to eye at all politically, I bet I could get them to sing a duet. Maybe F. Scott knew how to play the piano....

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
I hope I’m most like Dudley, the dog in my first novel, Detours. Always try to be as good as the dog.

That’s all from me, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!
My pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Hope everyone likes the book!

My Review:
Coming this afternoon!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker

The Unwanted

by Jeffrey Ricker

Giveaway ends April 16, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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March 19 - Books Direct
March 21 - Mythical Books
March 28 - Melissa Stevens
April 9 - Zipper Rippers
April 10 - Roxanne’s Realm
April 14 - Sharing Links and Wisdom

About the Author:
Jeffrey Ricker’s first novel, Detours, was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books. His second novel, The Unwanted, will be published by Bold Strokes in 2014. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Paws and Reflect, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, Blood Sacraments, Men of the Mean Streets, Speaking Out, Raising Hell, The Dirty Diner, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, and others. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he is pursuing an MFA at the University of British Columbia.

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  1. Thanks for hosting a stop on the tour, Emily. The last stop, in fact! I think it ended on a high note. This was a lot of fun—loved your questions.

    1. I'm so glad to have you, I'm almost done with The Unwanted and I freaking love it! Thanks so much for stopping by!