A fun and funny paranormal mystery with some romance thrown in!
I’d never read a paranormal mystery (or paranormal anything!) before so I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down with Kim Cox’s “Haunted Hearts,” the first in the Lana Malloy series. While Lana and Tony are the main characters—and they are wonderfully drawn, especially Lana’s internal conflicts— it is Lucy, the ghost, who steals the show. The way the author describes Lucy and her antics made me feel like I was in the story with her and I could visualize her perfectly. I love it when a book makes me laugh out loud, which this one did. And it had just enough suspense and mystery to keep me interested to the end.
You can read a lot more from Kim Cox, including the entire Lana Malloy series, as well as many others!
As I develop my characters I tend to do a lot of “what if” thinking, wondering how each might react in certain situations. Kind of like, “What Would Autumn Do?” or “What would Meg do?” Then I got to wondering, what type of advice or pearls of wisdom would my characters impart, based on their personalities, if you ran into them on the street or sat with them over a cup of tea? (Like Martha does for Autumn!) Practical, gentle Autumn would give far different advice than grumpy, but likeable Meg. And in her seventies, Martha’s advice would be a mix of experience and hindsight. So I’ve written five pieces of random advice each of these characters might give someone. It’s a way of getting to know my characters…for you and for me. Here goes:
“Your home is a sanctuary and everywhere you look, you should see something beautiful.”
“Try to do something creative every day. Making something makes a better you.”
“Engineer your environment for success.”
“You don’t live in a vacuum so don’t let yourself suffer in one.”
“Denim is the new black.”
“People will hurt you but the trick is learning not to let them.”
“Sometimes in loneliness you find yourself.”
“Say what you mean. It’s better to put your real feelings out there. And remember, you can always change your mind.”
“Sometimes you don’t know best.”
“Forgive everyone, especially yourself.”
“Don’t force things. If something is not coming together there’s a reason.”
“There’s always a better way to do something, but you must be open to finding it.”
“The ache of grief never goes away but it does subside. You
must be strong enough so you will emerge whole again.”
“You’re never too old for love.”
“Denim is the new black.”
People often ask me how I could have written a book about an identity thief when this very real crime impacts millions of innocent people each year. My answer is always the same: "Read the book, then let's talk."
But they're right to wonder, of course. Identity theft is a significant problem costing millions of dollars each year and stealing the financial reputations of innocent people. And here's a new twist: More and more, identity thieves are stealing birth dates and social security numbers from children, and this fraud isn't detected for years.
In the spirit of preventative action, I offer the following advice and resources to prevent identity theft:
Take steps to protect yourself from identity theft:
It's funny where our minds go, and the connections and associations the holidays bring. The past few days I've been thinking about some of my favorite children's/YA books and remembering some of the Christmas scenes from them. At the risk of sounding corny, they make me feel all warm and fuzzy, and ready to curl up by the fire and read the stories all over again!
Here are four of my favorites:
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1935
A dear friend of the Ingalls family, the wily Mr. Edwards battles the elements and a flooded creek so he can bring Christmas presents to Laura and Mary.
[Laura] heard Pa piling wood on the fire, and she heard Mr. Edwards say he had carried his clothes on his head when he swam the creek. His teeth rattled and his voice shivered. He would be all right, he said, as soon as he got warm.
"It was too big a risk, Edwards," Pa said. "We're glad you're here, but that was too big a risk for a Christmas dinner."
"Your little ones had to have a Christmas," Mr. Edwards replied. "No creek could stop me, after I fetched them their gifts from Independence."
What Katy Did by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (pen name Susan Coolidge), 1872
Once flighty and selfish, an accident caused Katy to become an invalid for a number of years, and she gains a new, mature perspective on life. In one scene, her aunt gives her $5 before Christmas, because she knows that Katy will want to use it to buy gifts for her siblings.
"I didn't know what to give you for Christmas, Katy," she said, "because Helen sends you such a lot of things that there don't seem to be anything you haven't already. So I thought I'd give you this, and let you choose for yourself. But if you've set your heart on getting presents for the children, perhaps you'd rather have it now." So saying, Aunt Izzie laid on the bed a crisp, new five-dollar bill!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1869
The Christmas morning where each of the March girls receives a little book under their pillows, from their mother:
Then [Jo] remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a Merry Christmas, and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, 1936
Set in Wisconsin in the 1860s. The Woodlawn children run wild and have high adventures that typically get them in trouble. On one occasion, spunky little sister Caddie falls through the ice and has to spend Christmas in bed, subdued and chastised by her mother, who is always scolding Caddie for her tomboy antics.
Christmas came and went while Caddie was still recovering. She had intended to spend some of her silver dollar for presents, but it still lay snug and safe in the wooden trinket box, because she was not able to take it to the store. They hung their stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus came down the chimney here in Wisconsin, just as he did in Boston and St. Louis. But the apples and nuts which he packed around the toys were strangely like those which they themselves had picked.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
I know that one of the first things I'll be asked when people start reading Stealing Away is something along the lines of: "Aren't you just glorifying identity theft in this book?" or "Why are you encouraging and showcasing illegal behavior?"
To these questions my answer will always be this: "Read the book and then let's talk."
As a disclaimer, let me declare front and center that I don't condone identity theft in any form, at least not any more than I condone vampires killing innocents, girls burning down houses with people in them, witches putting spells on others, and so on, and so on. I hope you are getting my subtle point here. YA literature—nay literature in general—is full of flawed characters who do bad things. Often, these characters also do good. And grow. And come to terms with their actions. And seek redemption. And become better people as a result. Sound familiar? It's called life. And art, as they say, imitates life.
Stealing Away is about more than identity theft, and the main character, Jaynie Haart, is more than just a thief. Just like you are more than just the sum total of your flaws and mistakes.
And for those who charge that Stealing Away is a "how to manual" for identity theft, let me say this: Give teens a little bit of credit! Young adults don't need to read a novel to learn how to "do" identity theft. The topic is all over the news. And all aspects of identity theft that I explore in this story I learned from articles, books, YouTube videos and news stories about how to prevent identity theft.
And now that we have that out of the way, I'd like to tell you what Stealing Away is really about. Take one wounded girl. Drop her in an abusive environment. Give her a smattering of determination and a whole lot of resilience. Make her smart. Really smart. Give her the tools to achieve what we are all looking for in our lives—love, security, a sense of belonging, and the peace of mind that comes only when we try to right the wrong we have done. Stealing Away accompanies one girl as she pursues the happiness that has long eluded her, and examines the lengths to which she will go to find it, the turns she takes at the crossroads life throws at her, and the people she collects along the way.
And that, dear reader, is what Stealing Away is all about.
After you've read the book, I hope you'll let me know whether you agree. Or not!