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Review & Interview: Broken by Heather McCollum

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BROKEN

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Taylin Banes’ familiar world shatters when the cruel curse that kept her unable to love is broken. Now she’s bombarded by all the human emotions she’d been forbidden over eleven lifetimes. The nightmares of her deaths crack through her tough exterior, reminding her that this last life is fragile, and fear becomes a new type of torture.

Zach Buchanan comes from a long line of Guardians and has trained with the Magic Alliance his whole life. With the shake-up in the organization over the recent end of Lamont’s curse, he’s been reassigned. He is to help The Cursed learn basic protection skills. But can Zach set aside his hatred for the infamous Taylin Banes who targeted his family two generations ago?

As Taylin and Zach clash, a sinister force rises up, targeting members of the Magic Alliance and Taylin. With her last life on the line, Zach turns from instructor to protector as the frenetic conflict sparking between them transforms into a fierce attraction. Together they must stop the malevolence threatening those with innate magic before darkness consumes them all.

Excerpt:

I recognize most of the shelter pups from helping out this past week. I pick up a box of treats and give a few to the kids to feed the dogs. It’s puppy Halloween too. I hope they don’t get sick or cleaning the cages will be a bitch. I engross myself in uniting puppies with ecstatic children for close to an hour, then stop to grab another water bottle from the cooler.

“So you’re here with Rick?” Zach is right behind me.

I jump. “Damn, do you always operate in stealth mode?”

“Are you here with Rick?”

He looks pissed. At me, as if I did something wrong. “He asked me to come help with the dogs,” I say, my eyes wide as if to question his question.

“So it’s not a date?”

I wonder if my face shows my budding annoyance. “Why do you care?”

“It is a date,” Zach says low.

“No food has been eaten. I drove myself, and I don’t plan on going home with him. In what universe is that a date?” I don’t give him time to answer. Instead, familiar anger tightens my stomach, making the earlier somewhat pleasant discussion dissolve like wispy candy. “You track me down at school, convince me to give my eyewitness testimony, almost get baked into a crispy cookie with me, yet you don’t call or stop by. So you also don’t have any right to be,” I move my hand up and down to indicate his battle stance, “pissed off, even if I did come here with Rick. You are obviously not enough into me to talk to me.”

Shit, I can’t believe I said that. Pathetic. I stomp away toward the shadows beside the center’s long two-story wall. Heat rushes up my neck. Lord, he must think I held my phone the whole time, waiting for him to call. Ugh.

“Taylin, you shouldn’t walk back there in the dark.” He’s following me. I continue to head through the trees that surround the center on three sides, leading back toward the abandoned part of the institute. The stillness of the trees makes them look like they’re watching. My stomach tightens, but I keep moving, anger overriding the sheer terror that should be turning me back. I will not admit that Zach’s presence makes the night less menacing. I will not.

“Taylin,” he calls again. “We haven’t figured out who locked us in or who attacked Zoe. It isn’t safe for you to be roaming around out here.”

“If you’d stop following me, I’d stop roaming,” I throw back. One glance shows he’s closing in even though I can’t hear him. I manage to beat him to the brick building and hurry around the corner.

“I can’t,” he says, and I whirl around.

“You can’t stop following me?” I stare at his dark face in the shadows. “Is it still your job to track me, hunt me down?”

“If it was, you’d never know.” He lays heavy hands on my shoulders.

“Until you killed me. Or would you have stabbed me in my sleep so I wouldn’t know who to damn with my last breath?”

His hands drop, releasing me. “It was never my job to kill you,” he says softly.

“No, that was Patricia Ashe’s job,” I remind him. “But no one tried to stop her until she wanted to cut open the precious Siren, Jule.” Why am I talking about this? I haven’t spoken about the incident that broke the curse to anyone. Yet here I am out in the dark, vomiting it up all over Zach, a Hunter.

Zach raises his hands and I take a step backward. “She was nuts, Taylin. Alba didn’t figure out her plans until the very end. We were supposed to just watch you three.”

“And that’s why you have a tat of the blade that was supposed to kill us. Not a set of binoculars to watch us, but a triblade to slaughter us like the Hunters two hundred years ago.”

He runs a hand through his hair, looking every bit the warrior in his costume, his face hard and sliced by splashes of moonlight. “It’s an old symbol, Taylin. That’s all. It means nothing now, especially since the curse is broken.”

Stupid tears press against my eyes so I walk farther behind the old psych hospital. He follows and I breathe relief that I’m not alone out here in the dark. If he’d just leave, I could leave.

“Those of us who were trained as Hunters have been reassigned. The job is obsolete.” He grabs my arm, forcing me around.

My jaw aches. “I’m sure you’re not the only Hunter at the center. Maybe someone still wants me dead.”

“I was in that sauna with you,” he says.

“Maybe you just got in the way.”

“Or maybe you did. What if I’m the target? Someone attacked my sister.” He drops my wrist. “Taylin,” he says and stares hard at me. “I get it.” He looks sincere, but his expression borders on pity. I almost pop him in the nose, but I want to hear this.

“You get it?” I ask.

“Yeah. You’ve lived life after life knowing you’d be born again. This is the first time you’ve had to face mortality. When you die now, you die for good. That change would freak anyone out.”

I stare at him, unmoving, but the tension in my chest presses hard. He takes a step closer, his voice low. “Everyone is afraid of dying, Taylin. I know what that’s like. It’s the unknown.”

“So,” I start just as low, drawing out the word. “You’ve got me figured out.” My smile is anything but warm. I nod. “So, Zach Buchanan, you know what it’s like to have a blade jammed into your middle, slicing open your intestines like they are sausages. You know how it feels to refuse chemo because no matter what docs give you, it won’t work and you’ll waste away. You know the burn in your lungs as you breathe in water until the world around you fades away.” I shake my head but keep my eyes on him. “Oh, how about dying of scarlet fever, alone, because no one wants to risk caring for you? And my all-time favorite, being burned alive.”

“Shit, Taylin,” he murmurs. “You’ve been burned alive?”

I blink and push his pity behind my hard eyes. “Luke shot me in the forehead with a crossbow before the flames reached me.”

He rubs a hand over his face but still watches me. I release a bitter chuckle and glance upward so the tears will stay put inside. “You, Zach, are afraid of the unknown.” I level my gaze on him. “I am afraid of the never-will-forget.”

Review: Broken by Heather McCollum is a sequel to the Siren’s Song. It’s a book that I found very hard to put down and can’t wait to see what the author does next! You will find that this leaves off where the previous book ended and keeps you turning the pages with all the action and adventure.Taylin and her brothers are in for a new journey. Taylin also meets Zach who is a hunter without a job since the curse was broken, sparks and laughter fly! Can Zach be trusted and can Taylin get through this new journey? Those who love YA fantasy and romance will enjoy the second book in this amazing series.

Heather McCollum PicInterview:

Thanks so much for having me here today on Pen & Muse Book Reviews! I’m very excited about my new YA paranormal romance BROKEN.

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I moved around a lot as a kid. No not military, meteorology. My dad was a weather man J Who knew that career choice would require so much relocation! After living on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean (Wake Island) and then in Alaska, my family moved to the east coast. I went to college in Maine, where I met my fabulously supportive husband, and now live in the southeast.

 

I’m a mom of three spirited kids (ages 8, 14 and 16), a dog-mom of one rescued golden retriever, and guinea pig-mom to three adorable cavies. When I’m not picking my teens’ brains for authentic snark, I’m usually educating women on the whispered symptoms of ovarian cancer. I am a four-year survivor and feel both grateful to be alive and determined to spread the word on this vicious, sneaky disease that strikes 22,000 women a year in the United States alone.

 

What are the symptoms? Thanks for asking : )

The main symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

Persistent bloating

Pelvic pain               

Eating less & feeling fuller

Urinary tract issues

 

Other symptoms may include: fatigue, constipation, indigestion, back pain, pain during intercourse and menstrual issues. If you experience one or more of these symptoms every day for three weeks or more, please see your GYN.

 

Let’s see…I’m also a lover of happily-ever-afters, chai lattes, gourmet hot cocoa, dragonflies and anything that makes me happy to be alive (beautiful thunder storms, rainbows, puppies, etc.).

 

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

 

BROKEN is the second book in my Guardians Series. SIREN’S SONG is the first book and just won the 2015 Readers’ Crown for YA! The premise of the trilogy revolves around a dark…wait, I can’t tell you or I’ll reveal something about the first book. There are three…teenagers, two boys and a girl, who have a connection (which I can’t tell you about).

 

In SIREN’S SONG, Luke must deal with his emotions regarding Jule, a talented singer. BROKEN involves the girl in the trio (Taylin) who is all sorts of angsty and well…broken. She must learn to deal with her traumatic past and the fear it is causing in her present life.

 

Basically Taylin is afraid of dying, a theme I’m unfortunately very familiar with. Since battling ovarian cancer and continuing to deal with the ever present worry that it will return, I’d say Taylin’s hang-ups could be blamed on me : )

 

How do you create your characters?

Characters are everywhere. One just needs to sit and pay attention. I watch my own teenagers and their friends a lot (yeah, creepy). If someone has a strange habit, I tuck it away mentally to give to a character down the line.

 

To help me really understand my characters (which is crucial), I collage. Yep, glue, scissors, magazines/internet. I find pictures of people who might look similar to my characters, but what I’m really looking for is the emotion they might be feeling. I look for images titled after emotions, like “fear” and “anguish.” Slowly I fill in the details beyond eye color and birthmarks. I need to understand how they felt as a child, what causes their mouths water, and what makes them laugh or tear up.

 

What inspires and what got you started in writing?

I’ve always written stories and poems, since I was little. By high school I was writing romance. Everyone thought I’d be an English major. I surprised them all by majoring in Cellular Immunology, a branch of Biology, instead. It’s funny how I’ve come back around full circle to my first love, writing.

 

After my first child was born I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America and started seriously pursuing writing and publication. For all you writers out there, you know how daunting a journey this can be. But what kept me going was the thrill and joy I felt (and still do) every time a scene comes together perfectly, like snapping in puzzle pieces to create something beautiful. It made my soul smile. Even now, when I’m tearing up over a sweet sentiment or happily-ever-after that I’ve crafted, I stop to soak in the feeling. That’s what inspires me to write the next story.

 

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

I write just about anywhere I can find some peace. I do have a lovely little writing desk, which I’ve named Eleri, where I write while being able to see my flowers growing outside the window. I have a second-hand tiffany style lamp to set on Eleri, making her even lovelier. I named the lamp Jule after the heroine in SIREN’S SONG. Jule sits next to my 1960’s vintage rotary phone named Harvey. Now if I start talking out loud to myself, I just tell my family I’m talking to Eleri or Jule or Harvey, so they don’t think I’m crazy ; )

I often escape with my lap top onto the screened back porch if the weather is nice. I can listen to the wind and birds out there, while drinking my chai latte (something my muse requires if I want her to come out and play). During my lengthy health issues, my back porch was my sanctuary, and it still is today.

I also have an AlphaSmart electronic booklet that I type on in carpool, doctors’ waiting rooms and my kids’ sports practices. Then I can upload my words back into my computer when I return home. Every little bit helps to get the next book written.

What would your advice be for aspiring authors in regards to writing?

 

  1. Keep writing. Don’t give up if it feeds your soul.
  2. Listen to critiques, sometimes the reviewer is spot on. I came in third place in a big contest. The final judge was an editor and told me I’d written the ending wrong based on my heroine’s motivation. At first I was upset, but then I realized she was right. I rewrote the ending and sold that book.
  3. Try different processes for producing pages until you find what works for you. I collage, listen to a soundtrack, walk my dog and diagram out the plots on a huge white board. Some people use index cards or computer programs to keep track of their scenes.
  4. Use positive affirmations to convince yourself that you will sell. Once you are certain, it’s just a matter of when. “I am a successful, published author.” That was one of my favorites. I used to say it to myself in the mirror every day.

 

Thanks so much for having me here today! For more information on me and my books, please stop by my web site at www.HeatherMcCollum.com. I can also be found here:

Twitter https://twitter.com/HMcCollumAuthor

FB https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMcCollumAuthor

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/hmccollumauthor/

Instagram https://instagram.com/heathermccollumauthor/

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