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A Note from Jessie Gillmansen of the 13 to Life Series

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So, Jess isn't taking part directly in the upcoming MAX-imum Exposure Blog Tour (let's be frank, the girl gets plenty of time to speak her mind as narrator of the books). But she does have a little something she'd like to share--and who am I to stop a girl like Jess from speaking her mind?

I'm not Buffy and I'm not Bella. And it helps that my sometimes-boyfriend Pietr isn't a vampire. But he is a werewolf. A hot, Russian-American werewolf with more than a few enemies.

The CIA wants him (though I'm beginning to wonder if our government's seriously using taxpayers' money to finance werewolf hunts).

The Russian Mafia wants him.

My best friend Sarah wants him.

And now it seems there may be one more player in this crazy game. One more wildcard stacking the deck against us...

And I want Pietr, too, but for my own reasons.

Unfortunately, as wanted as Pietr is, he still has to figure out what hewants...

...and stay alive long enough to have a shot at getting it.


Timing is Everything

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The grandmother of a friend of mine just passed away this week and it got me thinking about death again. Those of you who truly know me know death—mortality—is never far from my mind, especially since the death of my mother. Although his grandmother’s death didn’t seem to come as a huge shock there wasn’t time to prepare and getting to the funeral looked to be an impossibility. I don’t like impossibility. I’m a “where there’s a will there’s a way” sorta girl. And that mentality—or stubbornness—has gotten me far.

Some claim the realization of one’s own mortality and that of those around you is a mark of the onset of “middle age”. If so, I’ve been middle-aged since 9th grade when a boy who briefly sat near me in Latin lost his fight with Leukemia.

Death stops me in my tracks at the oddest times—the pang of possibility I may lose someone else and am helpless to stop it. When one of my ewes died suddenly a few weeks back it wrecked me for an entire day. Her dying with me right there and with me unable to do anything to stop it took me right back to my mother’s death and the helplessness I felt then.

And if you truly know me you know helplessness freaks me out.

I’m an admitted control freak.

The 13 to Life series deal a lot with death. It’s what severed Jess’s mom from the Gillmansen family. It’s the sword of Damocles hanging over each Rusakova--ready to fall way too soon.

Death’s the great equalizer, right? And depending on your belief system—your code—death’s not a big deal. It’s to be embraced.

I was like that once.

Now I have far too much to accomplish—to much to see and do yet—to embrace death. It’s selfish in a way, really—I’ve lived and seen a lot in a relatively short time.

And this is probably the worst possible time for this blog post:

Valentine’s candy and cards spatter store shelves like romantically lobbed pink and red grapeshot and everyone’s thinking about the coming of spring and *love* and I have a book releasing right after Valentine’s Day that deals with some definitely romantic stuff...

But maybe this post is some weird way my mind’s acknowledging the sheer inconvenience of death. And love. Neither takes into account your schedule, you know?

So I started writing the following stuff Wednesday in a chilly Jeep on my way to the neighboring farm. It was before I knew if I’d be driving this friend to a spot that he could get to his grandmother’s funeral or not—timing, right? Also a theme of 13 to Life.

Bear with me, please.

There is a certain grace to a killer like cancer. And I feel only someone who has watched a loved one die at its greedy claws—gnawed to nearly nothing but spirit and spark—can dare make such a claim. It’s a murderer—true—a thief of the cruelest sort—yes—but a diagnosis of end stage cancer comes with a timeline and a certain grim understanding that this may just be your last fight. At least that’s how it seemed for my mother.

Mom was a southerener, born and bred. A Daughter of the Revolution (and later the Confederacy), her people landed in Philadelphia and made the journey south through the Shenandoah Valley with little more than their fierce Scots-Irish spirit and their dogs. They settled in western North Carolina, established a breed of hounds based on those dogs of theirs and lived a simple salt-of-the-earth existence. They were proud public servants. Police, military, educators and eventually nurses—they did the jobs that most needed doing. Hard work was good for the soul (if not hard on the back) but the soul was always more important anyhow.

Mom was a spirited redhead who grew up in a small railroad town. Her daddy worked on the trains and her mama taught piano and helped with the museum in Cherokee. Times were sometimes hard and there were some dresses my mother remembered wearing as a child that were made by her mother out of the cotton comprising flour sacks.

She told tales of picking wild blueberries on the mountainsides, of the pig house her brother told her was “the home of the devil,” of being told she was going to hell by the neighborhood woman who watched her from her porch every week when mom headed to the movie theater. She told of how her daddy measured the feet of the kids too poor along the railroad tracks to afford shoes—how he traced their bare feet on scraps of cardboard, jotted down their names and used whatever extra money he could to get shoes made for them. She told tales of her dog Inky and a parakeet that made a friend think they were being watched late one night by a peeping Tom because he did a great wolf whistle. She told of how her baby brother died smothered in her mother’s womb because a doctor had insisted there was plenty of time and she told how her sister ran off with a fiddle player.

She moved north to get her education and boy did she! She’d never even heard the term “prostitute” until she came north of the Mason-Dixon. She got her Bachelor’s, her Master’s and more. She only traveled out of our country twice in her life and was completely content with what the USA had to offer even though she wasn’t always thrilled with our politics and leaders.

She and I had our moments... We went toe-to-toe about religion, clothing choices, boys, religion... Did I mention religion?

Any grace and poise and passion—that fire--I have, I owe to her. Phrases like “I can’t go into town without my face on” or “that’s leaning toward Blankenship’s” were first hers. And she made them sound far more amazing just by the lilt and tone of her voice. My freckles are hers. The red that naturally peppers my hair (let’s not discuss the fact you can no longer see its true coppery shade)—hers.

My heart? Very much hers.

She fought with cancer for a while. Lost her right leg. A teacher, an avid hiker, canoer and gardener, life changed dramatically. But she wasn’t done fighting. She learned how to get around with a walker and a scooter (nearly took out a couple tables in one restaurant in Cape May but my son learned to say “Charge!” riding with her and “fiddlesticks!” too).

We thought/hoped/prayed she’d beaten cancer. For a while we lived with the belief it was true. I didn’t visit as frequently as I probably should have. But hindsight, right? It’s always 20/20.

Finally my mother was given one month to live. Thirty brief days shortened by morphine-induced haze and heavy sleep and the struggle for lucidity as the morphine level was tweaked to try and cope with the pain of the cancer that had spread into her lungs—nodes they had accidentally missed in a scan six months earlier—and the base of her brain.

Although thirty days was too generous a number when compared to what reality finally dealt us, still my mother handled things with a grace and poise and a certain southern charm that so frequently eludes me. She had some time to make some arrangements. To come to terms with certain things and make peace with others. And we each had the chance to have one final talk with her—to have a sense of clarity and closure.

Some people never have or never take that chance to get closure—or it’s stolen from them by circumstance. So although cancer stole years from my mother—from all of us, really, in a way it also graced us with the ability to draw things to a close and make death as tidy as it can ever be.

I thought I’d find some way to neatly tie this all together by the time I was done, to illuminate some truth. To come to terms with something chewing at me—writing frequently provides me with that. I guess my point, as dull as it is, is that I hope each of you take the time to say the things that are needed while you still have a chance to. To enjoy life with friends and lovers—to live it fiercely and love courageously so you don’t have to worry about things like having closure and making your peace with death. Yeah. That’s it. If you live your life fully—like my mother seemed to feel she did –maybe the end is truly something to embrace. So there. Do that. Like I’m signing in books this go round—Live Life Fiercely and Love Courageously.

Ah, excellent. Pink's "Perfect" just came on the radio. Fitting somehow.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 January 2011 09:53 )

Secrets and Shadows Pre-order Places

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It’s that time again. The second book in the 13 to Life series, SECRETS AND SHADOWS, is available nearly everywhere online for pre-order. Frankly I don’t know what pre-ordering does to my book’s sales numbers or how it affects “the lists” and (between you and me) I don’t particularly care. I just want you to read the book and hopefully (hopefully, HOPEFULLY) love it like mad. I’m a simple girl, really. ;)

So here’s the lowdown—the list of online places to pre-order Secrets and Shadows AND the current (like, at the very moment I’m typing this) price of it at that site. The differences are pretty interesting.

AND (me being me ;) I want to remind you that I absolutely support you shopping wisely and using your hard-earned dollars as a vote of support for a particular company. AND, and, AND--I still (and will probably always) support you buying my books (and everyone else's) from independent booksellers. I *love, love, LOVE* the spirit indies possess.

Borders (I love them, they are SUPER supportive of authors.) $9.99

Barnes and Noble (I have certain B&N stores I simply love like mad—I sign at those ones.) $8.99

Book Depository (These guys ship worldwide for free, so I see them as an easy choice for international readers.)

Amazon (If you know me and have followed me a while, you can probably guess why this list isn’t in alphabetical order.) $9.99

Books*A*Million (They were the first place to stock 13 to Life IRL—2 weeks before the release date—so they hold a special spot in my heart.) $9.54 or $8.58 for Club members.

Walmart (Yes, Walmart gets a bad reputation because of discounting and using books as loss leaders, but an order through them can mean a lot to an author’s print run numbers. And seriously, if you have a Walmart giftcard...Well, why not buy some books?) $8.49

Target (Another big store. :) $7.73

If you find any other spots--or are a bookseller who will be showcasing Secrets and Shadows in some small (or large) way, contact me and I'll send some love your direction. :)

Happy shopping!



In Which Shannon Dreams of Brazil

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It's cold here. That's not much of a surprise for upstate New York in that strange blur of weather which appears to be the lovechild of fall and winter. So as I'm sipping my hot cocoa (with marshmallows because I've been quite good recently) I'm thinking about something I learned about yesterday.

13 to Life has a Brazilian cover. And a title in Portuguese. YES.

Here, it's about 15 degrees Fahrenheit and clear.

Today in Rio De Janeiro--? 79 and mostly cloudy.



My book's toasty warm in a country I have yet to visit. I am jealous of my book. My more urban- and masculine-looking book. My book with a cool brand-type-thingee in the upper left that incorporates a howling wolf in the word "Life." Yeah. I <3>13 to Life in Brazil...

I'm smitten. It's totally different than I expected, but, Brazil? I look forward to seeing what you do with future covers of my books. I love this one.


Last Updated ( Monday, 03 January 2011 19:35 )

The Most Beautiful Boy in the World

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It's October 20th and because of the rash of recent suicides by teens who were homosexual or bisexual there's a push to talk about the situation and to assure teens that it gets better--life goes on and you reach better places and meet better more understanding people. I'm going to agree with that idea and tell you a little story that I hope will give you hope. It's a bit grim at a point, but it proved to me the resilience of the human spirit and that old adage--"it's always darkest before the dawn"?


I want to tell you about the most beautiful boy in the world...

I was either seventeen or eighteen when I met him. I was at the Renaissance Faire in my pirate garb, peace-tied sword at my side and stiletto at my back, and it was one of the few days I wasn't making trouble for the actors and actresses. I don't remember where my crew was or if I'd gone up without them... I just remember it was summer, I was Muirgheal Brighid Faoltheargna O'Shanahan the Irish pirate lass and life was pretty good.

I was sitting on the benches at the Rose Stage watching people come down the steep hill from the Gate and make their way to the long line of food and beverage stalls that ended in a crossroads at the hill's bottom. He caught my eye immediately, dressed beautifully in black--a trim build with decent shoulders and the way he carried himself--there was an understated pride and leonine grace about him. He was a brunette, his hair nearly shoulder length with a wave I envied.

And he paused at the lemonade stand at the bottom of the hill--very close to my bench. (You have to understand something about me that I seldom confess--I'm not tremendously brave by nature. At one time there were only a small handful of people who really--really--knew me, and, in fact, I'd have to say the same's true today. But when I was Molly or Muirgheal or Karalinda--I was bold and a touch dangerous. I blame the boots. ;-)

He had paused. He was handsome. I was unencumbered...I had coins in my purse. These things coming together meant I had to buy him a drink. It was destiny. So I kicked out my feet, rose and strode across the hardpacked red clay path toward him. I saw his profile first--an aquiline nose and firm chin--a jaw that was strong enough to devastate a girl's heart. The hint of cheekbones...

He turned to face the wench behind the counter and I slipped between them, setting my money down. "Good sir, I pray ye, allow me to buy ye a drink," I said, looking up to catch his eyes. He smiled and I managed to keep breathing. And it wasn't his beauty that made me nearly lose my breath--though he was dazzling--it was the scars that sliced up his face and tried to make him less than he was. But I was a good actress--or so I thought. "Thank ye, milady. Tis most generous of ye," he responded.

He followed me to the benches and we began to talk. I was smitten--scars or no scars. He was sweet and gentlemanly and paying attention to me. And I was quick to look beyond the scars (thank goodness), but he wanted to address their existence (and probably clarify that we wouldn't go any further than potential friends). He opened the topic and I opened my mouth and asked, very simply, "What happened?"

He caught my eyes and held my gaze throughout the conversation--the whole time he told me he and some friends had been playing a gig at a gay bar in Philly. He held my gaze the whole time he explained that his friends had left ahead of him and as he headed out into the alley he was jumped by a couple drunk guys from another bar who called him "pretty" and beat him down in that dark alley and pulled out knives to cut the beauty from his face and leave him...bleeding...among the garbage. The whole time his gaze never once wavered from mine.

In that brief conversation he defined courage for me like no one else had.

And his beauty? It was only eclipsed by the bravery he showed by moving forward and boldly dealing with his pain.

I have to admit (and I'm ashamed to do so) that I don't know his real name or even recall the character name he gave me as his own. And, being a dumb teenage girl I had no idea what to say to him after all that other than "I'm so sorry." We chatted a little longer--he must've known something about me had become unhinged at that moment and didn't want to leave me that way--so he did me the courtesy of making small talk. And then we went our separate ways.

But the memory of him has stayed with me for years. And the way he dealt with his attack and came back into his own--beautiful and proud--it made me want to understand people better. To be a better and stronger person myself. So, those of you who know me--really know me--know I can be overprotective and a bit of a bleeding heart (which is disastrous for my sleeve as I tend to wear it there). Now maybe you understand a little bit better why.

Our lives are short, the world's too often cruel, but what we do within that world makes all the difference. To us. And to everyone around us.

So if you're being bullied--hold on to him the way I have--know that you can come back from whatever is done to you. Yes, you may need help--there's nothing wrong with that--but don't give up. It matters that you keep fighting. It matters more than you can possibly know when you're hurting. But it does. It matters.

You will help make the world a better place in your own time, the way meeting him made me a better girl. And like he doesn't realize the impact he had on me--you may never fully realize the impact you have on others. But it doesn't mean you should quit trying.

Much love to you all,


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