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Monday, July 16, 2012

Author Guest Post: Alicia Singleton, Author Dark Side of Valor

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Alicia Singleton, author of Dark Side of Valor!

Alligator's Crack-houses and Rats ... Oh My! 
The Boring Life of an Author?

How does an author spend their day? Up at dawn, start the coffee brewing, then sit down to type page after page of the characters' lives that are buzzing in their mind. They break to pop a frozen diet meal in the microwave, wolf it down, then back to the typing grind. 

Boring, right?

Not so. An author's life can be solitary, but, it can also be filled with adventure, intrigue and unseen dangers. Not the, 'Darn it, I just broke my nail on the keyboard.' danger. I'm talking about the kind of danger that can get you shot, scared spitless or eaten. How can this be, you ask?


Research, deliberate or accidental, can be as docile as reading an article or as perilous as standing in a crack-house. The research for my recent novel, Dark Side of Valor, provided me with both types of experiences. Studying the Sudan, the jungles of the Congo, interviewing child advocates, even pulling from my experience of working in a homeless shelter as a nurse, seemed mundane compared to some of the crazier things I've done for the sake of a novel. 

Research for the most harrowing scenes from the book came totally by accident. Some years ago, my husband and I were interested in buying rental properties. We'd venture into boarded houses with our real estate agent. The strong smell of rodents would stop me near the front door. On a good day I'd make it to the living room. I was more afraid of the rats then standing amid the litter of needles, syringes, broken crack pipes, piles of trash or looking through the splintered floor boards wondering if I were going to fall through. Going to house after house, the heroine, child advocate Lelia Freeman's encounters became crystal clear. I thought, 'This is what Lelia sees when she is going into the crack-house to save her children.' Through those experiences, I was able to infuse the emotions I felt, the things that I saw, the smells I smelled, into the story. 

More perilous times lay in store for my husband and me on a research trip to a former rice plantation, turned bed and breakfast, in South Carolina. It was about 11:30pm when we got near the location. We passed the entrance to the plantation several times before we saw the plank signage, turned onto the dirt path, then stopped underneath the sign to stare into a hole cut into the woods. When the inn keeper told us that the bed and breakfast sat about a mile and half off of the road, I had no idea that it sat 'off the road' down a single dirt path, cut through very thick woods. Did I mention that there were no street lights, no moon light and that it was 11:30pm? My husband said, "Uhhh, are you sure about this?" To be honest, I was ready to turn around to try to find a Holiday Inn, but in my mind I kept chanting, 'bestseller's list, bestseller's list.' Gritting my teeth, I said, "Let's do it." and we drove on. 

About a half a mile down the road, I was about to ask my husband to turn around and find that Holiday Inn when he decided that it would be fun to turn off the headlights! Driving 35 to 40 miles per hour isn't fast, but when its pitch black and you can't see ... it feels like warp-speed.

In stressful situations, I'm a fairly calm natured person and generally don't cuss, but that night was not a 'generally' night. I was yelling at him to turn the lights on, he was saying how awesome it was driving in the dark and all of my previous thoughts of being a bestselling author went out the window.

We finally made it to our room, had a de-stressing sleep and started the next day by venturing all over the plantation. It sat on 500 acres, most of which used to be rice patties, river beds and swamps. Behind the plantation's main house, there were acres of tall grass, paths and cut-outs in the tall grass. Each cut out had a trench furrowed in the ground that led down to the river. I thought about the amount of rain it took to hollow out the trenches and was fascinated. I knelt down to examine the river at the top of each trench, had a wonderful time being one with nature.

The following day we had the delight of meeting Captain Sandy, our tour guide. We told him about walking through the grass and the trenches. He told us, "Yep, those trenches are where the gators slither down into the river. They lie in the grass waiting for their dinner to come along, catch them in their snouts, then drag them down in the water. Hold them there till they drown." Of course, we didn't venture back into the tall grass for the rest of our stay. 

So, on any given day, the life of an author isn't boring. It can take you to the streets of the inner city to the perils of the vast outdoors. It all depends on a willing heart and the pursuit of the ultimate prize, a great story. 

About The Author:

Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born. The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son. Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel. Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor.

BUY THE BOOK: Dark Side of Valor

Book Description: The Dark Side of Valor

Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath. 

Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune's specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.

Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the Dark Side of Valor.

Book Excerpt: The Dark Side of Valor

Pain played just below the surface of Lelia’s stare. Sadness, despair seeped from her stiff body, stroked Joella.

Joella opened her mouth, then closed it. No amount of talking would ease the look fixed on Lelia’s face. Joella knew better. She’d seen that same look reflected in her own mirror. She’d lived in the same hell many times herself, almost didn’t get out.

Life, cruel and hard, must have whipped up on Lelia, made her draw inside herself like a cornered hare drawn inside its burrow. Best thing to do was leave her be, for now. A burrow was the safest place for her.

Joella was an expert on safe burrows. They made life endurable, harbored your mind, saved you from going mad.

A lifetime ago, they were the only way she’d survived. She used to fill her burrows with rainbows, magic dragons and pretty horned horses. All the things her daddy used to spin tales about before he’d tuck her into bed. She hadn’t needed safe burrows when Mama and Daddy were around. But all that vanished when they left.

For a while, Grandma Dell was all she had. Until Cousin Daryl came sniffing around, hard on his luck. Evil took the form of that hard-on-his-luck doper. 

Joella thought hell was missing her parents. Cousin Daryl had other thoughts of hell. He shared them with her daily.

Open-handed cuffs across the face, kicks to the ribs. The thrashings. Still, no hell he executed terrorized her more than the darkness.

Cousin Daryl always locked her alone. In the darkness.

Grandma Dell tried to stop him, but he hit her, too, forced her in her room. 

Joella could still hear Grandma calling through her bedroom door, begging him to stop. She still felt fire scorch her skull from his fingers clenched in her hair, still remembered half screeching, half choking on fear as he drug her to the barn. Taught her her lesson.

Sprawled on her stomach, her back ripped raw. Tears puddled mud under her cheek. Dirt and sweat throbbed in her busted lip. Blood and bile sullied her tongue. Unable to move, she lay in the blackness, hushed her sobs, scared he’d hear. Scared he’d come back to teach her more lessons. Those were the times her safe burrows surrounded her, pressed insanity to the fringes of her mind.

One night she ran away from Cousin Daryl while he was sleeping off a high. She’d helped Grandma Dell to Granddad’s old truck, and drove off. Her feet barely reached the pedals. They hit a couple of ditches, but they’d made it.

A family friend in the next county took them in. For a few weeks hell disappeared. It resurfaced when Cousin Daryl tracked them down.

Joella took off, never looked back.

Some nights Cousin Daryl still found her, stole into her dreams, locked her in darkness. Memories of Daddy or Mama didn’t keep him from hurting her, remembering Grandma Dell’s kind words didn’t hold him at bay. Only Lelia’s soft voice broke through the death dream to save her.

Now Lelia needed saving.

Her friend knelt in front of the candlelit muffin. Zombified, she stared at the burning wick.

Comfort was the only thing Joella could offer. She shrugged the rough quilt off her shoulders, wrapping them both in it. She rocked like Grandma Dell used to do. It felt like forever. The hardwood dug into her knees, the candle burned, she kept rocking.

For once, Lelia needed her. No matter what, she’d be Lelia’s light, ’cause no one should be left in the darkness.

Book Trailer: Dark Side of Valor

* $100 Visa Gift Card Contest Giveaway * 

Contest Dates: June 4 - August 24

Author Alicia Singleton will be giving away a $100 Visa Gift card during her June, July & August virtual book tour campaign for Dark Side of Valor.

Here's How To Enter The Contest Giveaway:

Each person will enter this contest giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour.

This $100 Visa Gift card promotion will run from June 4 - August 24. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on August 25, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alicia Singleton's Dark Side of Valor Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book!

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