Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guest Post: MJ Schiller--Spotlighting Abandon All Hope

Good morning and thank you, Katriena, for having me here today!

I’m going to admit to something here. I may have gotten myself into a bit of a spot! You see, the second in my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION is out now and I’m not sure it’s going to be what people expect. When the first book, TRAPPED UNDER ICE, came out, I was lucky enough to have some people fall in love with my main characters, Beth and Chad. 

So where’s the problem, MJ? Right? 

The problem lies in the fact that the difference between a collection and a series is not always understood. Two different monsters all together! A series follows the same characters through a span of time, usually in chronological order, but not always. A collection is a group of books gathered around a common theme; in this case, rock romances. After TRAPPED I got comments like, “Can’t wait to see what you have in store for Chad and Beth next!” Still other readers had the next book pegged as Roger’s book (Chad’s best friend). I’m not saying there won’t be a Roger story somewhere down the line. (I do love his character. He’s a hoot!) But right now, that’s not in the works. 

ABANDON ALL HOPE, the second in the ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION, is not about any of these characters. It is the story of photo journalist Hope Creswell and rock star Chase Hatton. Their story begins when they were kids, follows them into their teens, and brings them back together after an eight year separation. Compared to TRAPPED UNDER ICE, it’s a lot lighter read, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some danger lurking. Hope tries to uncover the story behind a reputed mobster’s ties with a city councilman and runs into trouble. And her father is one unpalatable character, let me tell you. But the love story has a sweet sadness that’s different from TRAPPED. Don’t fear, Hope and Chase get their happily ever after at the end. I wouldn’t gyp you all out of that. 

Another difference between the two books is that Chase and Chad are dissimilar rock stars. While Chase is as successful as the lead singer from Trapped Under Ice, he purposefully keeps out of the limelight and doesn’t participate in some of the activities that are generally associated with rockers (i.e.- drugs, drinking, and womanizing). I had my editor question some of his activities saying, “Would a rock star do this?” That’s like saying, “Would a dentist trash a hotel room?” Maybe not your average dentist, but it is not completely out of the question for anyone to do something like that. Chase does not have a cook. His home is fairly average. He does utilize a chauffeur and a pilot for a personal plane, but he also likes to do work around the house that he could easily hire out. In other words, he is a real person. Yes, with some of the baggage that goes along with fame, but a real person none-the-less. 

Another place where the two books diverge is that Chase’s band is hardly mentioned in ABANDON ALL HOPE. This was intentional. They are not integral to the story, or really to his life.  He is like a Sting or a Madonna. Can you name the members of Madonna’s band? I’m sure they are talented musicians, but they are not part of the public package. And Madonna may or may not hang out with them or know their families or what their order at Starbuck’s would be. We all run our lives differently. So do my rock stars.

Anyway, just a little FYI to help you know what not to expect from the second book in the ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION. Now that I told you what ABANDON is not, let me tell you what it is.


It was one of those mornings for newspaper-writer/photographer Hope Creswell.  The alarm clock didn’t go off and she cut her finger on broken glass.  Not one to let such things get her down, Hope headed into her assignment meeting with excitement, only to leave it stunned.  Her new assignment is to trail the sensational rock-star, Chase Hatton, for an article.  Chase Hatton!  No one knows the power that name holds for her.  No one knows of the childhood friendship that blossomed into romance, only to abruptly die on the night of Hope’s senior prom.  No one knows of the ache that still fills her heart. 

What starts out for Chase Hatton as an average publicity trip to Chicago suddenly becomes complicated when his manager tells him that Hope Creswell will be interviewing him in the morning.  He had spent eight years trying to forget Hope, and now she would be in his penthouse in a matter of hours?

When Chase opens the door to his penthouse and finds Hope on the opposite side, his heart begins beating a rhythm the rocker has yet to capture in any of his music.  The smoldering embers of their former romance are fanned by their mere proximity.  Will they both be burned again?  Can Hope ever trust her heart to Chase after what he did?  Can Chase bear to see her walk out on him a second time?  And what about Hope’s boyfriend, Phillip?  Where does he fit into the picture that Hope is developing?
You can find ABANDON ALL HOPE at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

When Chase opened the door, Hope was looking down, her thick, black eyelashes contrasting with her fair skin as she examined her shuffling feet, waiting for someone to answer her ring. There was an innocence in her face that was captured in the first millisecond before realizing she was being observed. But hearing the noise of the door opening, she glanced up quickly. Their eyes locked, and they both froze for several seconds, unable to speak.
            Although he had seen her brilliant eyes a hundred times in his dreams over the past eight years, seeing them here, now, even though he had mentally prepared himself for her visit, took his breath away. His heart, which had been beating wildly in anticipation of her visit, now seemed to stop, and then a second later, charge ahead, as if trying to beat its way out of his chest. His palms on the doorframe became sweaty, and he tried to gather his wits so as not to appear like the lovesick whelp he now felt himself to be.
            Hope looked very much the same as she had eight years prior. She wore her long, golden-brown, straight hair in two braids dangling past her shoulders. He was barely able to suppress a desire to touch the feathery tips below the rubber bands holding them together. Her hands were stuck deep into the pockets of the slouchy tweed coat she wore over a tight-fitting, baby-blue, v-neck t-shirt, which fit snugly over her hips and dark blue jeans, hanging slightly lower than the bottom of her jacket. As in high school, she had a camera slung carelessly around her neck, like an Olympian’s gold medal, and nearly as valuable to her.
            Slowly, a smile spread across his face, and he forced himself to exhale, saying, “So, it is you.”
            She smiled in return, a little shyly, he thought, responding, “Hello, Chase.”
            She held out her hand and he was taken aback, the gesture seeming too stiff and formal considering their intimate past, but after a second, he took it and shook it warmly, covering it with his other hand as well. His touch and smile seemed to relax her a little. Maybe this wouldn’t be so difficult after all. They both were adults now; they should be able to act maturely.
            “Come in,” he invited, standing aside to allow her to pass. He never took his eyes off her as she entered, soaking in the details they offered. Her short jacket, coming just to her waist, permitted him a clear view of her tight tush and shapely hips. She had filled out some since her tree-climbing days when they had first met. She still had the muscles of an athlete, and the tomboy she once was, but now, time had added the soft, tempting curves of womanhood. Though her t-shirt hugged her hips temptingly and covered the tops of her jeans’ pockets, he still fantasized about sticking his hands in those pockets and feeling her warmth.
            He watched her face as she gazed about, seeing the glow of excitement that was sweetly familiar to him. He had almost forgotten just how lovely her face was. She had a clear complexion, delicate features, and big, expressive eyes. Whatever she felt could be seen on her face; she had no gift for pretense. Her eyes were unique, a pale blue with thin rays of yellows and browns radiating out from the center, like a starburst, the outside of the iris a thin circle of black. The mix of colors was not a distracting feature. In fact, it was something that wouldn’t be noticed at a distance, but up close, they were mesmerizing.
I was born in Overland Park, KS, in the heart of Tornado Alley, and my life has been a bit twisted since.  Actually, it’s not all that twisted, but I’ve always wanted to use that line.  I grew up in St. Louis, MO, went to school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and moved to Bloomington, IL, fresh out of college, after my husband got a job at State Farm’s corporate headquarters.  I’ve worked as a high school/junior college teacher, personnel recruiter, office manager of a jewelry store, and, for the past ten years, as a lunch lady.  I like to karaoke and attend rock concerts.  I am actively involved at church and spend too much time on Facebook.  I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old, and fifteen-year-old triplets, and have been married to my husband, Don, for over twenty-four years.
I have been a writer all my life.  My first book, which was co-written with Mary Ellen Murphey in second grade, was titled The Black Cat, and was written on blue hotel stationary, hole-punched, and bound by white yarn.  I believe it is currently out of circulation. 
When I turned forty, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I realized those bigwig publishing houses in New York were now probably run by people younger than me, so I shouldn’t be intimidated by them.  At about the same time I was watching one of those award shows, and Jaclyn Smith got up to give a post-humorous award to Aaron Spelling.  She credited him for encouraging her to go into acting, saying something brilliant like, “Reach for your dreams.”  Nothing new.  Almost even seems a little Jiminy Cricketish.  But, for some reason, it struck me that night.  When Aaron Spelling was thirteen, he was probably just like any other acned thirteen-year-old.  But he worked to achieve his dreams, and became a household name.  So, I began to write.  Once I finished my first book, I wasn’t able to stop.  I would rather write than do just about anything else.  After all, you get to make people (characters) do what you want and design your own happy endings.  What power!  What a privilege.


MJ Schiller said...

Hey, Katriena! It is a lovely morning here in Central Illinois and I am about to go out and tackle some weeds that have shot up while I've been busy letting people know about ABANDON ALL HOPE. I want to thank you for the opportunity that you've given me to tell your peeps about it and continue to try to get the word out over the Internet. I hope you all have a lovely Sunday!