Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Ruined" by Marian Cheatham

(Stratford High Book 1)
by Marian Cheatham

Ruined is the first book in Marian Cheetham's new Stratford High series inspired by the works of Shakespeare. This book blitz and giveaway is brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours.

When your life has been ruined by lies, do you seek justice … or revenge?
Blythe Messina spends her senior year focused on her studies and college, and not on her ex, Stratford High’s lacrosse star, DB Whitmore. At least, that’s what Blythe keeps telling herself. But her younger cousin, Bonni, knows otherwise. Same goes for DB, who professes to be over Blythe and their breakup, but his teammates aren’t fooled.
When scandalous photos of Bonni and the lacrosse captain are texted around Stratford, Bonni’s virtuous reputation is ruined. She pleads innocence, but no one believes her. No one, except Blythe and DB, who come together to uncover the truth. But, will they stay together?
Ruined is a modern twist on a classic Shakespearean romance, Much Ado About Nothing.
Blythe Messina
I’d been bitchy and on edge ever since that blasted luau last Saturday. Seeing DB, talking to him, being near him again, had taken my life off course. For days now, I’d been ordering my brain to STOP THINKING ABOUT HIM. We were ancient history, two people doomed from the start, like Antony and Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette and King Louis. So why couldn’t I regain control of my world? I snatched up my backpack and my Coach crossbody bag, and did a quick once-over in my bedroom mirror. The hair was tied back in a no-fuss ponytail. The jeans were clean, well, relatively. This faded ASPCA tee was past its expiration date, but good enough for school. I turned off my bedroom light and went in search of Bonni. 
She wasn’t in her room or downstairs in the kitchen. So I grabbed a frosted Pop-Up and headed into the garage, where I was blinded by piercing sunlight. Someone had left the outer door open, and my new hybrid was nowhere to be found. I shaded my eyes and peered outside.
Halfway down our long driveway, I spied Bonni and Uncle Leo with their backs to me, their heads together under the opened hood of my car. They were talking, but in this quiet morning air, their voices carried. Even from this distance, I could hear fragments of their conversation. And if I heard them, so could our neighbors. I was hurrying toward the hybrid, anxious to warn my cousin and uncle to keep it down, when I heard something that stopped me in mid-stride.
“… believe what Cory told me … DB and Blythe …”
Had Bonni just mentioned DB and me in the same sentence?
I ducked behind the six-foot-tall hedges lining the drive.
“What else did Cory say?” Uncle Leo asked.
“According to DB, he and Blythe had a decent conversation at our party.”
“Decent? That doesn’t sound too promising.”
“Oh no, Daddy. It is promising.”
I needed to hear more. And better. I parted the branches and leaned out.
“Seems DB wants to try and work things out. Maybe get back together.”
“A reconciliation? That would be wonderful!”
I fell back on my butt, releasing the branches, but not before some prickly stems slashed across my left cheek. I screeched in pain, my hand flying to cover my big mouth.  
“What was that?” Bonni asked.
Oh, hell. She’d heard.
I peeked through the hedge. Bonni’s head had popped up and she was glancing around the front yard. She laughed—at what I didn’t know—and then bent back under the hood. I sighed in relief until I remembered that DB wanted to work things out.
An image flashed through my mind. DB at the party, an awe-struck look on his face. He’d said I’d looked hot in leather. Had I started something with that new skirt?
No! Lust didn’t equal love.
“According to Cory,” Bonni was saying. I sat up. “Blythe has to make the next move.”
Move? What move? I didn’t have any moves. I didn’t want any moves. I wanted my life back to normal. I wanted to forget I’d ever known someone named DB Whitmore.
But still, us, back together? If DB was willing …
We were over! End of story. I took some tissue from my crossbody and wiped the bloody scratches on my cheek. I stuffed the soiled tissues into my pocket, dusted off my jeans, and stepped onto the driveway.
“What’s up with you guys this morning?” I tried sounding like my same old self, not like someone who had overheard something weird and unnerving. “What’re you doing with my hybrid?”
“Daddy’s showing me the environmentally friendly engine—Hey! What happened to your face?” 
My hand shot to my cheek. “It’s nothing. I-I …”
“Don’t tell me you cut yourself shaving this morning.” Uncle Leo looked at Bonni, and they both buckled in half, laughing.
“Cut it out you two. Let’s get going, Bon.” She hopped into the passenger seat, still giggling.
Uncle Leo tossed me the keys. “Carpe diem, girls.”
“I’ll seize the day.” And shake it until it makes sense. I got behind the wheel. The hybrid cleared the driveway, and we hit the street. “So, Bon, you and Cory getting serious?”
“Totally.” She pressed back and put her pink Keds up on the dashboard.
“I guess I have to get used to having him around?”
“You’d better.”
“So you guys are close? Then you probably share secrets with each other?”
She stared at me. “What kind of secrets?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe some juicy gossip?”
“Since when are you interested in gossip?”
“Just making conversation.” The light at the corner turned from yellow to red, catching me off-guard. I slammed on the brakes.
“Take it easy!” Bonni dropped her feet and grabbed the dashboard. “You trying to kill us?” We were a good ten feet into the intersection. I checked behind me, saw it was clear, andbacked up. She released her grip. “What’s your problem today, cuz?” She turned and looked out her window. And smiled.
“What’s so funny?” The light changed. I stepped on the gas, but with a bit more caution this time. 
“You. And the way you drive.”
“Sorry, I’m a bit out of sorts this morning.”
“Why? Looks like a perfectly beautiful day to me.” Bonni flipped down the sun visor.
“That’s because you’re in love.”
“Like you should be.”
I turned the hybrid into Stratford’s parking lot and got caught up in the slow-moving line to find a prime spot. Students were so lazy. They couldn’t park at the rear of the lot and walk. No, they had to play chicken with one another to see who could park nearest the door.
“Listen, Bon. I don’t have a love life because I don’t want one. I need to focus on graduation and college. Not guys.”
“Suit yourself. But you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Oh, but I did know. And it wasn’t some right-wing attackman.

Praise for the Book
"Deceit, loyalty, honor, and romance - Ruined has it all! A teen version of Much Ado About Nothing that Shakespeare aficionados are sure to savor!" ~ Kym Brunner, Author of Wanted: Dead or in Love and One Smart Cookie

Interview With the Author
How did you get started writing?
In a former life, I taught special education to primary-aged students and read to them every day. At that age, they enjoyed picture books, and so did I. In fact, I’m still not sure who loved them more - me or them. One summer vacation, I decided that I could write a picture book. Boy, was I wrong. There’s a very special technique to writing for young readers, and I just didn’t have the knack. So I tried middle grade and finished off a few novels which I sent around to agents and editors without any luck. I moved onto to YA and found my niche. I love writing for young adults and will probably stay with this genre for the rest of my career.
What's your writing day like?
I’d like to say that I write consistently four to six hours per day, but that’s not always the case. Life is hectic, so I take whatever time I can get. But my office is my sanctuary where I try to enjoy peace and quiet. When I’m in the “zone,” time whizzes by me. An hour can seem like a minute. I have to be careful when I’m cooking to set a timer or I’ll get involved in my writing and completely forget about dinner. Believe me, I’ve burned my share of food. My poor husband can attest to that.
What advice would you give to newbie writers? 
First and foremost, get involved in a good critique group for support and guidance. You can attend meetings before you even start writing and listen to others read their work. It’s amazing how much you can learn from a few good critiques. If you’re lucky enough to find that perfect fit, you can stay with that group throughout your writing career. I’ve been with the same bunch for a dozen years. We’ve all grown together as writers, and we’re each other’s biggest fans.
Then you have to read, read, read. Study how-to’s on writing. Immerse yourself in the genre that you’re interested in writing for. And when you’re ready, BIC – put your ‘butt in the chair’ and write. Fill that blank screen with your thoughts. Don’t edit. Finish the first draft and then go back and rewrite. Remember - rewriting is the key to success. Don’t hang on to something that doesn’t work just because you like it. You’re writing for others, not yourself, so be ready and willing to let go and rework your piece. You’ll be glad you took the time to kill your darlings.
What else have you written?
My debut novel, Eastland, came out in February 2014. Eastland is historical fiction YA based on the real-life story of the 1915 Eastland boat disaster in Chicago. The book is intense. There’s no way to sugar-coat a disaster of that magnitude. But I added romance and a sense of hope because life after all, did go on for the survivors and their families
Who are your favorite authors?
Well, the Bard of course. But I have eclectic taste in literature. I love Harry Potter and couldn’t wait for the next book to come out, so I’d have to say I’m a huge fan of J. K. Rowling. Right now, I’m reading the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin who I think is the most creative writer on the planet today. I enjoy the sci-fi writings of Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game). But I also love historical fiction, especially the work of Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl). But my most treasured book by far is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. When that book ended, I sat stupefied for half an hour. I wanted it to go on forever. Now that’s a great writer!
What inspired you to write Ruined?
My father took me and my brother to the Goodman Theater in Chicago to see Hamlet when we were both in junior high. George fell asleep. I fell in love. The way the words played against each other. The strange rhythms, the energy and emotions of the actors. I didn’t understand everything that was said that day, but I knew one thing with certainty – this Shakespeare fellow was amazing and I wanted to find out more about him. That’s just what I did.
I read his works in high school and college, and attended every play I could afford to see. I travelled to Stratford Canada for a Shakespeare festival, visited Stratford-Upon-the-Avon in Great Britain to see where the Bard was born. I even toured the new Globe Theater in London overwhelmed by the thought that WS himself walked these very streets hundreds of years ago. So I guess you could say that I’m kind of a Shakespeare nerd, but that’s okay. I’m fine with that.
My Stratford High series may or may not turn readers onto Shakespeare. But even if readers don’t fall in love, I hope they still enjoy the book. Ruined is fun and evil and romantic all at the same time. Forget about iambic pentameter and dive into Ruined.
What's next for Stratford High?
Book Two in the series will be inspired by the Merchant of Venice. The working title is Turnabout, but that may change. We’ll see come fall 2014 when the book is due out.
In the series, will the characters be new to each book or will some characters reappear?
Right now, the only character that will re-appear in each book is Dr. Bard, the principal of Stratford High. Dr. Bard is of course …

About the Author
Marian Cheatham was born in Chicago, Illinois. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marian taught special education in Cicero, Illinois for several years before becoming a full-time writer.
Marian is currently writing a new young adult novel series, Stratford High, contemporary retellings of Shakespeare's plays set in the fictional high school. Ruined, book one in the series, is inspired by Much Ado About Nothing. Book two, due out fall 2014, is based on The Merchant of Venice. Book three is due out winter 2015.
Marian is the author of Eastland. She writes a weekly post called the Everyday Eastland, with facts and stories, both historical and current, about Chicago's greatest loss-of-life disaster. She lectures on the Eastland at schools, libraries, and on Haunted Chicago coach tours. Marian is also an active member of a Barnes & Noble critique group.
Marian lives in a suburb of Chicago with her family and a menagerie of pets.

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