Show Me Your Worst

ShowMeYourWorst

Getting comfortable with discomfort is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a writer, and it’s a work in progress. When I first started writing, I never left my comfort zone for any reason. Which meant, no matter how hard I tried to make my characters as epic as the ones I was reading, it wasn’t happening. I was able to get uncomfortable for my antagonists, because I didn’t have to spend any more time with them than that and I certainly didn’t need them to be likable. A completely different issue for main characters, and it took me awhile to realize that my cozy corner was their biggest enemy. Sometimes, I’m a slow learner. But eventually, I had to face the fact that I was the one robbing my protagonists of the greatness they deserved.

As most writers can attest, the ease in which we’re able to explore the emotional and psychological range of a protagonist, really depends on the character. There are the vibrant personality types that can be completely fleshed out within minutes – and, then there are the characters who aren’t nearly as forthcoming. When we decide to draw our character’s flaws to the surface and pick at them, it starts getting a little uncomfortable, because we love them and we want our readers to love them, too. But a hero or heroine who is flawless is both unrealistic and flat. Not epic. Imagine how forgettable Frodo Baggins would’ve been, if he’d never struggled with and overcame the temptation of the ring’s power.

Show me your worst. I want to see how deep the pit in your soul goes. Or do I?

It’s one thing to tell a writer: “You have to leave your comfort zone to write well.” Quite another for that writer to decide just how far to plunge into the dark unknown. Again, I think this depends a lot on the character. By my guesstimation, there are 3 basic degrees of Bad Guy/Girl protagonists.

1) The circumstantial bad: They’re bad due to horrible circumstances, tragedy, childhood trauma, etc. but really good at heart and easily redeemable.

2) The lost soul bad: They’ve spiraled so far into the darkness of revenge, tragedy, addiction, bad luck, etc. they’re barely hanging onto the edge of no return and it’s going to take more than just a quick genuflection and three Hail Mary’s to pull them out of it.

3) The unapologetic bad: They have fully embraced their dark side and have no qualms using it to their every advantage, yet there’s still a spark of good in them that allows them to love and be loved. They’re not on a quest for redemption, but to find that last missing piece that would make them feel whole.

The thing I try to consider when I’m working with option 1 or 2, is just how much work I can feasibly put into it. The deeper your character’s flaws, the steeper the climb to redemption, and to show one side in great detail without the other getting equal attention is the fastest way to disappoint readers. Sometimes, it’s a natural trajectory and I’m just following the character’s lead and then realize – Oh, snap! Now I have to dig them out of this mess. Ugh! Not just out of the mess, but within the confines of a word-count limit.

This is why I write a lot of series, that’s the naked truth of it. Word count caps and I, we’re not friends. You can laugh, but 100,000 words is rarely enough for this writer. With a series, I can let my characters get into all the messes they want and then dig them out little by little over a few books.

When it comes to option 3, there’s both an easier flow to it and more of a challenge. First, you have to convince (and frequently remind) yourself that your character has no boundaries except the ones you’re placing on them via yourself. The other side of that is figuring out where to draw the lines for your audience’s sake. Knowing your character is 100% okay with being bad frees up moral restrictions and can be extremely fun to take beyond your comfort zone – If you don’t get carried away! It’s not a good idea to make them so outrageously bad that they lack any and all qualities your readers would want to root for – especially, in a typical romance genre.

Last year, I started exploring the realm of Dark Erotica where the rules are completely different and pushing boundaries is not only expected, the lack of it will stir up the wrath of the villagers. I went beyond some of my comfort zones with the Avarice trilogy, but not to the point where I was squirming and sweating in my seat…much. A lot of Dark Erotica fans probably wouldn’t even label those books as such, but since it has triggers in religion, demonology and R.A.C.K. (Risk Awareness Consensual Kink) – which is the sadistic side of BDSM – I wanted to make sure my readers were more targeted and expectant (accepting?) of those kind of situations.

Compared to some of the Dark Erotica novels I’ve read, it’s quite tame. Definitely in the mild end of the spectrum. That just means I should push myself farther away from my comfort zones for the rest of the series. More truthfully, I want to. I want the challenge of it, to see just how far I can go while still writing read-worthy material with characters my readers want to see win in the end. Though, Dark Erotica doesn’t demand a HEA, it is my personal preference.

Writing about things you would never do in real life is not the same as writing outside of your comfort zone. I would never go skydiving, because I’m terrified of open heights. But it wouldn’t stress me in the least to have one of my main characters do it. Actually, that would be kind of fun. One of the joys of both reading and writing is to have adventures, right? But, having your main character do something that makes you feel physically or emotionally drained when your through- that’s writing outside of your comfort zone!

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far, is having an ‘unapologetic bad’ protagonist show up for an established series that’s NOT labeled dark – and by his own admission, he is one sadistic f**k. When he first appeared, I was faced with the choice of either staying true to his character or true to the genre, because I can’t really do both without sacrificing something. This is still a WIP, but I’ve decided to stay true to my character, mainly because I know it can be done. I’ve seen Nora Roberts push this particular envelope more than once and while fame may be on her side, I’m still a big advocate for characters who are purely themselves and not diluted for genre’s sake. What’s your thoughts on that, as both a reader and a writer?

 I’d love to hear more of your take on this subject: How comfortable are you with discomfort? Do you try to challenge yourself with every new novel, or do you have to wait for the right character to come along? Show me your worst, writers! 🙂

“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise #ExcerptReveal

Felicia Denise, Author


In this short excerpt, Lenore Porter is reading a letter from her beloved Aunt Diane who recently passed away.


In every area of your life, you always stood out. You never tried to be the center of attention or sought the limelight, but it found you! It always found you! Your beautiful inner light shone like a beacon drawing people to you. You were never a vain or prideful child, but your dignity and grace were evident long before you reached your adult years. Why are you allowing this man to dim your light?

And you are allowing it, Lennie. I don’t for one minute believe that Ranard controls or dominates you in any way. He’s more like an unruly child acting out and you’re the tolerant, long-suffering parent.

That’s not what marriage is about, Lennie.

I’ve watched you both when you weren’t looking. I’ve never seen him hold your…

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inFAMOUS Second Son ★ A Review

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Why yes, that is the Space Needle you see in the background, thank you for noticing. Do you know how awesome it is to play a game set in your home territory? Awesome! And long overdue, since Sucker Punch Productions is based in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle. It was also a huge surprise, considering inFAMOUS was set in the fictional Empire City (based on New York), and inFAMOUS 2 was set in the equally fictitious city of New Marais (fashioned after New Orleans). However, the Seattle in Second Son is not the real Seattle, but I won’t spend all post pointing out the differences. Though I was sad not to see the famous red Pike Place Market sign in the game’s skyline, it was still a total blast to play…twice.

Who, What, When, Where and Why?

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inFAMOUS 2’s Cole MacGrath vs. inFAMOUS Second Son’s Delsin Rowe’s Karma

Just like its predecessors, Second Son is a Karma based game (this is why we play it twice). There is the Infamous (evil) game play and the Hero (good) game play, only Sucker Punch one-upped their own style and added a few more ways your choices affect cut scenes and the way your interactions go with friends and family. That was a nice touch.

The title Second Son seems to apply not only to the fact that we’re now playing a whole new character, but a whole new kind of conduit. It’s also a nod toward the original inFAMOUS, which dealt with the secret society, the First Sons, though this is never referenced or mentioned throughout the entire 3rd installment.

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Delsin’s first weapon of destruction

Who: Delsin Rowe, a much younger and more carefree protagonist than Cole MacGrath, who was always broody and, albeit hot for a game character, needed to stress less. Delsin is pretty much a juvenile delinquent that likes to tag, has funny comebacks and is a member of the Akomish. Washington has 29 federally recognized Native American Tribes, we’re a state overflowing with tribal culture, traditions, art, namesakes (why no one can pronounce our cities or towns) and not a single one of them is the Akomish. This is a made up name – but, with real tribes like the Snohomish, Suquamish, Samish and Skokomish, I suppose Sucker Punch found it a plausible – if not more phonetically appealing – name, without risking possible legal issues.

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What: Brooke Augustine (referred to only as Augustine) and her government-sanctioned D.U.P. (Department of Unified Protection) idiots.
When: 7 years after Cole’s final chapter in New Marais.
Where: Salmon Bay and Seattle, Washington

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Why: Conduits are now labeled as Bio-Terrorists and treated as such by the government and populace with equal prejudice and fear. In short, an escaped convict tries to use Delsin as a human shield, but Delsin ends up leeching his powers just by touching him, thus revealing himself as a conduit…er, bio-terrorist. When Delsin can’t answer any of Augustine’s questions, she reveals herself as an evil conduit and uses her ability to render most of his tribe incurably injured. This happens, regardless if you choose to turn yourself in (good) or sacrifice the tribe (evil). Despite NO conduit ever having the ability to wield more than one power on their own, Delsin has the brilliant idea that he can leech Augustine’s powers, too and save his people. In other words, it was in the script, so we’re off to Seattle…

Highlights

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A lot of the inFAMOUS features we love (just me?) are carried over into Second Son. Again, you’re given the choices between good or evil reactions/actions at just about every turn. A plethora of side missions (colored red for evil, blue for good or yellow for neutral/D.U.P. related) make your trek through an enormous city far less daunting – especially, given there are no grind-wires between rooftops like Cole always got to use. You spend a lot of time chasing down ‘blast shards’ which are now inside of little drone helicopters all over the city, so you can improve your powers and take in the scenery.

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The graphics were amazing, and I was so happy this game was available on the PS4 despite originally coming out for the PS3.

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One of my favorite features (psychiatrists will have a field day with this) was the ability to completely destroy most of the D.U.P.’s structures, barricades and walls all over the city. Have I ever mentioned that I’m not a fan of the color yellow? No, you don’t get extra cool points, it’s just fun! Another add-on not featured before was the ability to ‘unlock’ different jackets for Delsin to wear. Whattaya think? I might have to get this one below in my size.

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The absolute #1, best feature of this 3rd inFAMOUS installment, was the fact that Delsin was right – he is special – and has the ability to leech multiple conduit’s abilities. inFAMOUS 2 kind of introduced this with the “Power Transfer Device” which Cole uses to gain the powers of either Nix or Kuo, depending on if you’re playing evil or good. SP kicked this WAY up a notch, introducing a total of 4 powers Delsin gets to have and switch between by the end of the game. Of course, Delsin’s smoke is going to be the main ability used the longest and upgraded the most. Even after playing the game all the way through twice, I never found any other ability as effective against defeating enemies faster, with less chance of dying, than when using Smoke. But, here’s a look at all 4:

Smoke, is the 1st ability Delsin gets thanks to the escaped bio-terrorist convict, Hank. Hank will play a larger role in the storyline later on, as well.

Neon, is the 2nd ability Delsin gets and the one you’ll use the most outside of smoke, if for nothing more than the ability to run faster than the speed of light through the city. Did I say grind wires between rooftops? Boooorrrriiiinnng! Del gets his neon ability from another escaped bio-terrorist who calls herself Fetch, though her real name is Abigail. First you have to catch and then defeat Fetch, before you can use her powers.

Video, is the 3rd ability Delsin gets and suddenly all of those satellite dishes atop every rooftop makes perfect sense! While it’s a little badass having digital angels and demons come to your rescue and the ability to fly, or feed yourself through the airwaves – it just wasn’t that effective of a power against enemies. Like with Fetch, Delsin has to first find, then defeat Eugene in order to gain his powers.

Concrete, is the final power Delsin gets and it is also at the very end of the game – so, if you finished all of the side missions prior to this, there’s really no reason to keep playing other than to see just how far you can upgrade your new abilities. While I liked the concrete better than the video, it still never became my go-to power when up against a swarm of D.U.P. soldiers and their merciless machine guns.

Downsides

The annoying as hell sidekick: In InFamous, we had the insufferable chatterbox, Zeke, who was like a man-child unable to let go of his glory days, while simultaneously suffering from cock-envy. In InFamous 2, Zeke was far less annoying, but then we got sidled with Nix and Kuo, who were like the angel and devil on Cole’s shoulders – the living embodiments of his good and evil choices – but at least they were passionate and believable in their personalities.

SecondSonReggie

In Second Son, your A.A.H.S. is Delsin’s older brother, Reggie – the sheriff for the Akomish – and about the most prejudiced character I’ve ever had to listen to for that many hours. All of the characters in S.S. were rather flat and didn’t evoke any emotion from me. Delsin at least had witty comebacks and when he goes evil, he doesn’t go halfway. The lack of characterization in this game was further amplified by the pathetic dialogue. There was no depth or even likeability – especially, for Reggie. That was just a bad character all around. I got more emotion out of the conversations we had to find the right signal to eavesdrop on from the faceless, nameless D.U.P. soldiers. Yes, that was another downside. I wish I could’ve made Delsin throw that damn walkie-talkie off the roof a thousand times.

Final Conclusion

Aside from the horrible dialogue and flat sub-characters, inFAMOUS Second Son was still a kick ass game that introduced many more conduit abilities and harder to beat enemies. Hell, even just defeating Fetch and Eugene – who end up becoming your friends – was extremely tough! I loved that the amount of side missions were both plentiful and different than inFAMOUS 1&2. The only one I didn’t care for that much was the tagging. It was just kind of a blahzay thing you had to do to clear the areas.

What did I miss? Believe it or not – I missed the public throwing rocks! LOL In inFAMOUS 1&2, if you were evil, you had to dodge bad guys AND mobs of pedestrians who would throw rocks at you, even as you were scaling buildings. In Second Son, they cheer and crowd around you when you’re good (so irritating when you’re trying to move fast) but they scream and run from you when you’re evil? C’mon, Sucker Punch! Where’s the passion?

With all that said, I’m not sure I would play another inFAMOUS installment, unless the character depth could be reintroduced into the storyline. Second Son was fun. inFAMOUS 1 & 2 were epic. Something got lost in between…

Currently Playing: Rise of a Tomb Raider slowly, but surely. So far, I’m on the fence…it’s bound to be an interesting review when I’m all done. 😉

All images were found on the internet and I do not own any rights to them, the story, game or characters mentioned in this post. No copyright infringement intended.

 

#ThrowbackThursday

 

 

Woe, Be the Spider

Woe, be the spider
Who sits down beside her
This warning I must give
Whispered words, a last lament
From the one who didn’t live:

“Little Miss, what a twist
Weaving lies to pass the day
Flaunt innocent virtue
To hide the real you;
Pander for your prey.

“Little Miss, ’twas one kiss
What a wicked trick to play!
Under deceiving label
The truth proved fatal;
Venom in thy whey.”

~ A.C.M.

originally published April 21, 2014.

#WIP Invasion

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image source: etsy.com

Can we talk for a moment, writer to writer?

Lookit, I can’t be the only one who’ll be happily plugging away at a highly anticipated novel (that’s code for it’s way overdue and readers are jumping ship by the hordes. *snort* You actually thought I had hordes of readers? Awww, that’s sweet) – and all the sudden a NEW book decides to just plop its big, bony ass right down on top of everything else with no intention of moving. A massive blob of scenes and backstory, brooding hunks, damsels in defiance, whips, chains and garden hoses (don’t ask), all reminding me that I have absolutely no willpower!

I’m not alone, right?

How do you deal with this kind of situation? Do you:

a). Ignore the new story until you’re done with the first one, because you’ve got discipline and the memory of an elephant?

b). Take the detour just long enough to frantically jot down everything you can for the new story, because your discipline’s flexible, but your memory’s a toss?

Or

c). Attempt the juggling routine, because you’re fairly sure the 100th time is the charm?

I made the mistake of thinking I could pull off a combination of options b & c….1 week later… Update: Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, Book 2) will be delayed, yet again. I’m sorry. Please refer to the part where I have no willpower.

How many #WIPs are you working on and what’s your favorite strategy for those invading new ideas?

Review ♥ Explicitly Yours

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Title: The Complete Explicitly Yours Series
Author: Jessica Hawkins
Genre: Erotic Romance / Love Triangle / Revenge
Rating: 3 ‘s

WARNING: This Review is one giant page of Spoilers and 100% Honest. Proceed at your own risk.

I’m a new reader of Jessica Hawkins, and I can’t deny my love for her writing style and the depth of her characters. This review does not reflect my overall opinion of the author, and I will be giving her books another shot, I just have to lick my wounds first. Since this is a collection, I’ve broken my review down for each book and the rating I would give them, individually:

Possession / 5 ‘s:

To begin, this is an ‘Indecent Proposal-esque’ story, but I was immediately enthralled by Possession. I loved not only the instant chemistry between Lola and Beau, but that he didn’t just sweep in, make his offer and leave. Nothing about this book was cliché or predictable. The progression of Lola and Johnny’s contemplation over Beau’s offer was extremely believable and real. I fell in love with Lola, because of her relatability in those matters of the heart, where she begins admitting things to herself about her relationship with Johnny she’d known for quite some time, yet had been ignoring. Her first night with Beau was not only off the charts sweltering, but endearing in those moments where he proved in so many little ways how he already appreciated the ‘real’ Lola far more than Johnny ever had. I was not surprised she wanted to run back to him – I wanted to run back to him! Needless to say, I was completely enraptured with this book and couldn’t wait to read the next.

Domination / 5 ‘s:

I was immediately taken by the way night two with Beau didn’t just happen. That it was a realistic, roller-coaster ride of uncertainty, soul-searching and emotional highs and hard-hit lows between Lola and Johnny, before the decision was actually made. However, it did start to drag a bit, as if the author needed to stall the reader more than she actually needed the time to relay pertinent information. The best part is there’s really no ‘bad guy’ in this love triangle. Both Lola and Johnny have had a hand in the slow destruction of their relationship that has nothing to do with Beau. That was refreshing and very realistic. I know I keep repeating those words, but this exact style of writing by Jessica Hawkins is why I’m not giving up on her as an author, yet it’s also why this review was so troubling to write. At the end of Domination, after softening us up with some suspenseful action, some deeper heartfelt moments between Beau and Lola, our world is shattered and the truth behind Beau’s obsession with Lola is finally revealed. I was striding right out of that hotel room with Lola, 100% on her side the whole time and just as heartbroken, but I loved that she didn’t go back on her plans to end things with Johnny. I applauded that despite what happened between her and Beau, she still recognized that her relationship with Johnny was over and needed to be.

Provocation / 2.5 ‘s:

Provocation is where my love for this series began it’s gradual decline, but I held out hope the author wouldn’t let me reach rock bottom. My first issue was that it began 3 weeks into the future, then kept jumping back to show us how Lola and Beau had gotten to present day. That was pointless, the book could’ve been written chronologically without losing any of the information and would’ve been far less annoying to read. I was on board with Lola’s initial idea to get a little revenge on Beau, because he definitely needed to be taken down a few notches and his character is so pure in itself, only getting a taste of his own medicine would work. But, I’m not a fan of eye-for-an-eye revenge plots, if they don’t eventually evolve into a more meaningful outcome. I felt fairly confident, knowing the characters thus far, that it would turn out to be a good thing. I was wrong. I kept waiting for Lola’s plan to get to the point, but it became painfully obvious the only thing she would be satisfied with, was being the victor. Eh… hypocrite much? It took her 2 nights to fall so deeply in love with Beau that she spends 3 weeks plotting her revenge? Perhaps, if the 3 weeks had continued the same way their 2 nights had gone, I would believe that, but instead she spends 3 weeks playing second fiddle to his work, with all of her days and nights alone in a cold, empty house. That should’ve completely disenchanted her, cooled her lust, love and resentment. Instead she allows his love of money to feed her single-minded obsession with vengeance to the point where I was really beginning to doubt my loyalty to her as a character. She’d quickly become a much bigger lying fraud than I ever saw from Beau. Whatever happened to two wrongs don’t make a right? And why is my heroine turning into the villain?

Obsession / 0 ‘s:

My love and enjoyment of this series went from slow decline to rapid nosedive with its final book. By the time I got half-way through Obsession, I was already done. I was angry that I was being forced to travel around the continental U.S. with the self-righteous coward, Lola, whom I no longer had any feelings for. I had already stopped being on her side, so I started skimming over the details. I just didn’t care enough to read it word-for-word, because NOTHING was going on with Lola. She was traveling and thinking, and none of it meant anything. She never once owned up to her own mistakes out loud, so her ability to think about it was inconsequential. The only reason why I wanted to read the ending was because I’d invested so much time and energy into the story. I think the attempt to sidetrack us with the development between Brigitte and Warner was too much, too late. At this point, they were getting far more screen time than I could stomach. I didn’t care about them and it felt, once again, like a stalling tactic. The best part about his entire book was the reconciliation between Lola and her mother, but even that was tainted by the one plot point I absolutely despised, the very one I feel was worse than anything else – a pregnancy. Are you kidding me? I nearly threw my laptop the moment Lola realized she was pregnant. I actually stopped reading, deciding I was for sure done. Beau was the one who drew me back in. I wanted to see him get his ending, whatever that may be.

It was wrong. All of it was 100% wrong. By the time Beau finally catches up with Lola – at the very end of the very last chapter, which is not nearly enough time to reconcile anything –  I had switched sides and then some. I despised Lola a thousand times more than I’d ever been angry with Beau. I didn’t want her to get a happy ending anymore and the final argument that was supposed to resolve their MASSIVE issues in just a matter of seconds was asinine. It was Lola throwing a temper-tantrum, because it was happening before she was ready and not on HER terms. Girl needs a serious reality check. And if she’s still clinging to all of that resentment, that means this relationship is far from being “fixed” and there should be at least a whole other chapter afterward to convince me (the reader) otherwise. There is absolutely no trust mended between them, because they haven’t spent a single second of the entire book together and very little in the book before it. Lola was no longer in the right by any stretch of the imagination. She had surpassed all of Beau’s wrongs by miles and then to add a baby on top of it! I’m sorry, but these two characters shouldn’t even be together anymore, let alone having a kid together – a baby does not make this a better HEA – it makes it worse!

I’ve never started out loving a series as much as I did this one, only to end up despising it so much. I was the one left feeling betrayed, cheated and heartbroken – and not in empathy of the characters. There were a million other ways to show Beau getting a taste of his own medicine and the time he needed to start becoming a better man while Lola, too, started coming down from her revenge tower and admitting her own mistakes. But, they never spent any time together to make that happen. Lola never returned to being the woman I felt supportive of and wanting to root for in the beginning. To have seen both of them evolving into better people would’ve made this series end on such a high, satisfying note. But it didn’t. This entire book dragged on, using time the characters needed to start healing their relationship TOGETHER, rather than moving at a turtle pace – completely apart – to what felt like a rushed stand-off that only proved why there should be no relationship at all.

“I want to gut you of your dignity” is not a phrase you spew at the person you supposedly love five seconds before forgiving them and walking off into the sunset. If a woman can’t trust a man without ‘gutting him of his dignity’ first, then she has no business being with him – or anyone else for that matter, as she clearly needs time to detox from the power trip she’s gotten addicted to.

I write some pretty messed up characters, but even I felt like Lola and Beau had reached a level where their relationship was purely toxic and unhealthy – as in DO NOT PROCEED – and the author really should have reeled it back – on both sides – because in no known universe, fictional or otherwise, had their dynamic developed into anything remotely heartfelt, let alone deserving of a HEA. Therapy, definitely, and a lot of it.

In the end, I’m left feeling crushed by the weight of disappointment that only hurts more for how much I want to praise the first two books.

This is an HONEST review of a box set that I purchased, I was not given anything by the author in exchange for it.

“In The Best Interest of the Child” by Felicia Denise #FREE

A 5☆ #MustRead debut novel! Can’t Wait for Book 2!

Felicia Denise, Author

#FREE August 1-3 through Amazon!


ITBIOTC Front Cover

Book Title: In the Best Interest of the Child
Author: Felicia Denise
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological
Release Date: September 30, 2016

Amazon US http://bit.ly/BestInt

Amazon UK http://bit.ly/BestIntUK

Amazon CA http://bit.ly/BestIntCA

Amazon AU http://bit.ly/BestIntAU

Goodreads Button with Shadow


Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, underserved child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.

Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.

Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma…

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