Thursday, January 16, 2014

#ThursdayThirteen from author @PiperPunches and #TheWaitingRoom

Welcome to one of my favorite features here at Through Stephanie's Eyes. Thursday Thirteen showcases either the first thirteen lines or sentences of the latest release of my guests. This week I'm excited to welcome author Piper Punches.

Her debut novel The Waiting Room came out just a few short months ago and already it's racked up a pretty good line of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Here's the blurb:

Find this on Amazon
Waiting rooms tell stories. They are a medical purgatory. Some sit in the waiting room for hours to be shone the light, graced with blessings. For others this is the final holding room before they are delivered into hell; facing uncertainty, despair, sadness, even death. 

When Charlotte receives a note on the day of her mother’s funeral containing a cryptic message, she is confused and intrigued. Although she knew that waiting rooms told stories, she never realized that part of her own story resided in this seemingly neutral environment. But, then again, why should she be surprised? Her mother had secrets. Charlotte knew this. She just didn’t know how life-altering those secrets could be. . . 

A stunning debut novel from Piper Punches, The Waiting Room weaves a tale that reveals the complexities of family, the invisible bonds that connect people, and the pain that can reverberate through the choices we make. Told from several points of view the story becomes clearer and clearer with each turn of the page that the secrets we keep aren’t always ours to take to the grave. 

Now, here are the opening lines...

I had never felt so many emotions in one day. Never had I found myself sobbing guttural, disgusting sobs one minute and feeling completely elated and awestruck the next. All day long I received strangers, childhood friends, even a random news crew at my mother's home; all of them offering condolences, adding their memories to the collection of things I didn't know about my mom, and telling me what a wonderful woman Dr. Sylvie Day had been. I listened politely and nodded accordingly, feeling at ease, yet utterly bewildered that my mother had touched the lives of hundreds of people in this small town, not to mention scores of others who mailed or posted social media condolences.

Each person that stepped over the threshold of my mother's two-bedroom farmhouse brought with them a symbol of their generation. The oldest of my mother's patients brought baked goods. Middle-aged women and men brought flowers or plants. The youngest visitors were teenagers, with empty hands and sullen faces, being dragged to the visitation as evidence of all the good my mother had done in this small town. After all, she had birthed at least three-fourths of them.

About the Author

Piper Punches lives in the far west suburbs of St. Louis with her husband and two daughters. The Waiting Room is her debut novel. Piper is excited to connect with her readers and encourages everyone to stop by her website and say hello. In the meantime, she is currently working on her second novel, 60 Days, which will be available April 2014 and a short novella, Missing Girl, available January 2014.


Monday, January 13, 2014

OhMy! Monday: @StephRyanAuthor Loves Flawed Female Characters #amwriting #ASMSG #MyWANA

Welcome to another Oh My! Monday. This week I wanted to touch upon a hot topic buzzing around the author community. The discussions all center on female characters and whether or not the weak, blank slates are more accepted than the visions of perfection.

I say neither. I want a female who's a combination of both. She should be a blank slate when faced with a new adventure. She may have some preconceived notions about it, but she's willing to learn from her journey and adapt as she goes along. She should be confident,but not afraid to show her vulnerable side. She shouldn't think her life isn't complete unless she's in a relationship, but she better damn well not shove someone out of her life because "she doesn't need anyone."

Do you see where I'm going with this? 

My favorite characters are flawed and REAL. They're smart and talented in a variety of different ways, but their far from perfect. Perfect heroines are BORING. Completely blank, single dimensional characters or boring and IRRITATING as hell. Someone made a valid point as to why these blank slate characters are so appealing (think Anastasia of 50 Shades...). Readers identify with these sort of creatures because it's easier to insert themselves into the story if they don't have to pretend to be strong, assertive, smart, self sufficient, and unafraid to try new adventures.

Yeah, that may be true. Personally I think it's a crock and a cop out. I love meaty, raw, in your face female characters who've been kicked to the curb one too many times and now they're fighting back. I like to put myself in their shoes and story lines during the times when I'm not my strongest. Through the lives of these colorful heroines I can escape and maybe feel good about myself because I concurred a fear or two...even if it was just in a fictionalized tale.

I read Fifty Shades and the other two books in the series. I also read all of the Twilight books. I enjoyed all of them...not the female leads though. I wanted to grab both of them and shake the shit out of them.

There have been a lot of reviewers attacking the strong, self-reliant, heroines. They think their abilities to get through adversity on their own is just as irritating as I find the blank slates. I'll give odds 10 to 1 that these very same reviewers would attack the blank slates with just as much venom.


Women in general can't be happy for another woman...ever. There's always a bit of jealousy there. I'm guilty of it as much as anyone and it's one of my own characteristics I'm not fond of and would just as soon dump it on the curb. Unfortunately, it's a part of me as much as my hatred of black licorice and the taste of coffee.

Before you jump all over me about the virtues of the candy and a good strong cup of Joe, stop.  Just stop. I have my opinions and you have yours. My tastes are mine and yours are yours. There will always be someone out there who doesn't like my characters. I'm fine with that. 

What I won't do is change them to make those few people happy. If I do, I'll only anger another group who adored everything about them. I've decided to let the characters speak for themselves and the chips fall where they may. It's all a crap shoot anyway. 

So here's to writing the best story you can, with characters who are real and true to themselves. May all of us find others to share our worlds and have fun along the way.

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

PTSD, Paralysis, and Human Trafficking—Creating True-to-Life Characters with @MtnMoxieGirl Amber Lea Easton #ASMSG

Welcome to Through Stephanie's Eyes. Today we have a very special guest. She's not only a fabulous author of romantic suspense, she's one of my personal friends. Amber Lea Easton has also joined another group of friends of mine: The Four Seduced Muses. Today will be The Temptress's very first post there so make sure you check that out as soon as you leave here. ;)

Amber's here today to tell us a bit about her romantic suspense novel Reckless Endangerment and how she came up with characters dealing with a very real issue Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Let me turn over the reins to her so she can tell you all about it in her own words.

PTSD, Paralysis, and Human Trafficking—Creating True-to-Life Characters
Amber Lea Easton

War doesn't end once a Marine sets foot back on US soil. Battle takes a toll, not only physically but mentally as well. Self-doubt affects heroes as much as anyone, only they know how to conceal it better than most. In my latest romantic suspense novel, Michael Cedars faces the concept of never walking again and questions his ability to be the man his wife married.

When writing this novel, the characters were my main priority because I knew they would drive the plot. I needed to research paralysis and partial paralysis. What kind of surgeries and physical therapy would be involved in recovery? More than that, what is the emotional toll that takes on a man who once commanded men in battle to know he may not be "whole" again?

Add other layers of his wife, Hope Shane, who's not willing to let go of their marriage without a fight and a human trafficking story she's chasing as an investigative reporter. Research about sex trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical therapy served to form the characters from their mannerisms to their reactions in every scene.

There's a saying that goes, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." That holds true for the story of Michael Cedars and Hope Shane.  I felt their pain, their frustration, their fear, and their hope with every rewrite and each word. In order to create fully fleshed out characters that readers will not only cheer for, but also cry for, an author must make them flawed in a way that is believable and forgivable. Human beings aren't perfect. Neither are heroes. Maybe that's why heroes are held to a high standard. We know they are mere humans, but they do things for the sake of justice or love that others wouldn't dare. 

Reckless Endangerment Blurb

Sometimes heroes fall and take the ones they love down with them. Colonel Michael Cedars and reporter Hope Shane fell in love in a war zone, but then the world blew up, and splintered their lives in two.

Michael Cedars returns home from Afghanistan wounded and unsure where he fits in this 'new normal' of civilian life. Unsure if he'll walk again, he questions his abilities as a man, husband, and father. Accustomed to giving orders, he's thrown into a world where he doesn't know the rules anymore and no one is respecting the officer in the room.

Hope isn't one who gives up easily—not on her marriage and not on the innocent victims of a human trafficking ring she's investigating. As the danger of her story intensifies, she struggles with her own post-traumatic stress disorder and a husband who resists her love.

Danger intensifies as Hope searches for truth and justice. Everyone she loves is at risk. Will her reckless pursuit of the human trafficking ring jeopardize their lives?

Michael knows she needs him, but doubts his ability to be the hero she still believes him to be. Is he still the man she married or has he become a liability that could get her killed?


“I’m sick of not having a say in what I do or don’t do.  You can’t do this. Just because I’m trapped in this chair doesn’t mean I don’t have a say about my life and I want you out of it. Get the hell out and leave me alone. I don’t want to be married to you and, unless something’s changed in the good ol’ USA, you can’t stop me from divorcing you. Listen closely, babe. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
Rage consumed him. Rage for what could have been, what should have been, for a life lost. Rage for everyone acting like he had no rights anymore, like he couldn’t make his own decisions.  He tossed the wedding ring and pictures across the room.
Looking horrified, she covered her mouth with her hands and walked to where the frames smashed against the floor.  As she bent, her bag spilled, contents ranging from liquid soap to a flashlight scattered across the tile. She fell to her knees, hands shaking as she scooped up the items. Broken glass crunched beneath her.  Hair shielded her face from view, but he knew she cried.
He remembered another time with her on her knees when that bag had saved his sanity. Bombs had rocked the walls. Blood had dripped into his eyes. Dizziness weakened his legs. From that bag, she’d retrieved bandages, protein bars, and bottles of water. He had thanked God for her and that oversized bag.
“I’ll make sure I call next time,” she said in rushed, quiet voice, “wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”
“I’m sorry.”  He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and stared at her bent head.  “I don’t know how to handle any of this anymore, Hope, especially you.”
She froze at his words. “Especially me, huh? I’m the one constant in your life, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Despite all the bullshit, here I am. Me, stupid me, still needing you as much today as I did a year ago.”
His chest caved in at the sight of her eyes glistening with tears. He wanted to take it back, every word.
“I don’t know how to do this, how to be married, how to be back in the States, how to be a civilian again, how not to walk,” he admitted.
“You break my heart,” she whispered.
“How could I possibly break your heart?”
“By not seeing how strong you are, how much you mean to everyone in your life, how worthy you are to be alive, how heroic you’ve been, how much I love you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Maybe I need to stop trying to hold on. Maybe you’re right.”  Sighing, her shoulders slumped.  “We were this close,” she held her fingers an inch apart, “to having a life together when everything blew up in our faces. Literally. What else do I have to lose, right? I already lost my dignity when I begged those damn bureaucrats to let me see you in Germany.  And when I say begged, I mean I begged, pleaded, bartered, whatever I could possibly say or do to get in and they told me that you,” she pointed at him, “said no, you told them I lied about being married to you. McGee backed you up. I looked like a fool and a liar.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Now you’re doing it again, denying me. You’d rather sit in this place alone than admit to the world that I’m your wife. It’s true.” She nodded, gaze gluing him in place. “I gave up my everything for you. My life. My pride. My dignity. I gave it all up for you.”
“Why?” he choked out the question. “I did everything to get you to let me go.  I don’t want you to give up anything for me; can’t you see that? You were born to be in the spotlight, dodging bullets, charming your way into and out of trouble. I’m an anchor to you now; you know it but refuse to admit it. I want you to forget me. Why won’t you let me go?”
She closed her eyes, face tilted toward the ceiling. “Because maybe I went crazy over there. Maybe we weren’t this close,” again with the fingers, “to having a life together. Maybe we were already there. Maybe it wasn’t conventional, but it was real, it was us. Maybe I misunderstood sex for more. Maybe I thought that our wedding meant as much to you as it did to me. Maybe I’m the biggest fool to walk planet earth.”
“But now I’m broken so...”
“Yeah, that’s right.”  Nodding, she looked away and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes.  “And I’m too shallow to be the person you need, right? Too superficial? I know the truth. I know that you should be capable of limited mobility, that you are not trapped in that chair, that you have sensations in your right leg and have even managed to stand for a brief period of time here and there. Didn’t you think I’d do some research on your injuries? I may have kept my distance, but I have a knack for getting people to talk to me, remember?  Yes, you’re in a wheelchair, but your situation isn’t hopeless.  You’re the one who gave up, but for the life of me I don’t know why.  It’s not like you. You’re a goddamn colonel in the Marine Corps. You don’t surrender, so what’s going on with you?”
Her words stung. He had heard them for months now and he didn’t know the answer. He couldn’t explain anything to anyone, not even himself.

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About the Author

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. She spent years working in journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial sector. She has three published romantic suspense novels—"Kiss Me Slowly", "Riptide", and "Reckless Endangerment"—and a contemporary romance novella, "Anonymity." Her memoir about surviving the suicide of loved one, "Free Fall", published in September 2013. 
Easton is also an editor and professional speaker. Links to radio interviews can be located on her website,, and her videos about romance writing have been showcased internationally on the Writers and Authors television network. 
Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. She gives thanks daily for the view outside her window and healthy children. As long as she's writing, she considers herself to be simply "a lucky lady liv'n the dream."

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