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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Spotlight on Saturday featuring Life First by RJ Crayton



Spotlight on Saturday 


Life First 


RJ Crayton


Published June 16, 2013

Book Blurb: 

Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The mentally ill are sterilized, abortions are illegal and those who refuse to donate an organ when told are sentenced to death.

Determined not to give up her kidney or die, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

~Life First is an Awesome Indies Approved book~

Buy Links: 

Books by RJ


Author Bio:

R.J. Crayton grew up in Illinois and now lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. She is a fiction writer by day and a ninja mom by night (What is a ninja mom, you ask? It's the same as a regular mom, only by adding the word ninja, it explicitly reveals the stealth and awesomeness required for the job of mom). Before having children, Crayton was a journalist. She's worked at big publications like the Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star, and little publications like Solid Waste Report and Education Technology News. Her first novels, Life First and Second Life, were published in 2013. The third novel in the series will be released in 2014.  

Author Links:


Book Excerpt:

As I walk down the hallway with my father, I stare at the Persian rug beneath my feet, wanting more than anything to be like it. Yes, a strange desire. But, well placed, as the rug is a fake. It is good at pretending to be something it is not. Tonight, my fate depends on me pretending.

The rug is better than me. Most people would think it is a hand-made Persian rug. It is pristinely woven with a medallion at center, surrounded by intricate flowers, and red and blue swirls spaced perfectly apart in a repeating pattern — a little too perfect. That is the telltale sign the rug is a fake. Machines are flawless. Real loom maidens who labor for hours by hand make mistakes. There’s a certain irony to it: the rug shows it’s imperfect by being too perfect.

I keep my head down, face hidden, in case I have a telltale sign. I stare at the rug, feel it squish softly beneath my feet and do not speak to my father. That seems easier than facing him.

No one needs to walk a 23-year-old to her bedroom, so I know he wants to talk. But I’m afraid if he gets a good look at me, he’ll realize what I’m planning. Even if I were as good as the rug, he’s the equivalent of a Persian rug expert. He’s hard to fool. So I stare at the swirls and watch one sock-clad foot step in front of the other.

The little white tassels appear. Rug is done. It ends at my room. I lift my gaze to the polished mahogany door. Centered a little lower than eye level is a nameplate made of baked dough decorated in pink and yellow flowers. KELSEY, it reads. It has held up well, considering I made it in fourth grade.

I focus on that nameplate, but from the corner of my eye I see my father turn toward me. Though I feel his stare, I don’t return his gaze. Not yet. I can’t.

“Kelsey,” he says, just above a whisper, but authoritatively. I turn and tilt my head up to meet his eyes. My father is a half-foot taller than me at 6 feet even. His face always appears accessible — a hazard of his job, I suppose. He is trying to look accessible now, in hopes that I will confide in him. He is using his most effective trait — his penetrating, soulful blue-gray eyes — to his advantage. Those eyes can either make you open up and pour out your most cherished thoughts or cower with fear.

 Tonight, he eyes me sympathetically. “Honey, I know you’re worried about tomorrow,” he says in the “I really care” tone perfected in his early career. I nod. It’s true. I am worried, but not for the reasons he thinks. “You’ll be fine,” he assures me. “This is a very safe procedure.”

I try not to move the muscles in my face — no twitching or grimaces — nothing to hint I’m being dishonest. I just nod again. Yes, the procedure is very safe. Incredibly safe, unless you’re in the five percent who suffer major complications.

His lips are pressed together tightly and his eyes stoic. Does he know I’m hiding the truth? I want a moment more to analyze him, to try to decipher all the body language he’s worked so hard to keep controlled so he presents only the information he wants out. But at that moment, he pulls me into a hug. I don’t expect it. My father is many things: strong, brave, courageous, stubborn, idealistic. Touchy-feely, not so much. Despite the shock of the embrace, I manage to lift my arms and wrap them around him. I try not to wrinkle his suit jacket too much. A wrinkled suit jacket won’t look good if a reporter snaps his picture.

“You’re doing the right thing,” he whispers in my ear.

“I know,” I whisper back. This is true. I know I am doing the right thing. Only, what I’m going to do isn’t what he wants me to do.

He releases me, takes a step back and smiles — a genuine one. As a politician, my father smiles a lot. Most smiles are for show, because no one wants to see a grim man kissing babies or shaking hands. The public smile means nothing. Pulling his lips into that friendly curl is as easy as breathing to my father. Seeing the public smile is about as endearing as seeing him scratch his forehead. The genuine smile, the one my mother showed me the hallmarks of, is the one I love. If he blesses you with it, it means you truly have his heart.

I pray my actions tonight won’t break that heart. Part of me wants to tell him I’m sorry, so sorry, for what I’m about to do. To make amends before I leave. The other part of me, the part that knows I can’t let him find out, not prematurely, not when he can still stop me, just wants him to leave. I smile back, but this time it’s my public smile.

I wonder if he can tell. If so, he doesn’t let on. He looks down at the thin black watch wrapped around his wrist. “It’s eight o’clock. That means nothing else to eat tonight, though you can have a few sips of water if you’re thirsty.”

I nod, relaxing the muscles in my face to look calm. I lean back against the hallway wall, trying to look like someone ready to do what Dad wants.


Author Interview:

Hi RJ and thanks so much for joining us today

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in the midwest, in an All-American city (literally, Peoria is a four-time All-America City award winner; most recently in 2013). I knew I wanted to write for a career, so I became a journalist and wrote for the Kansas City Star, as well as smaller publications like Education Technology News. I love rollerskating, hate spiders and have a less-than-healthy cupcake addiction.

Can you tell us a little about your latest novel/release?

My most recent release is the sequel to Life First, aptly titled Second Life.  It’s the story of what happens to Kelsey, the protagonist of the first book, and Susan, who is Kelsey’s best friend. It’s a really great follow-up to the story, in that it’s very exciting, but has a bit more of a romantic bent to it than the first book. The great thing about it, is it puts all the pieces in place for the third book in the series, while still being a completely satisfying story on it’s own. In fact, you could pick up Second Life without having read Life First (though, I think you’d be happier if you’d read them both, in order.)

How long does it take you to typically write a novel?

I can complete a first draft in about three months, maybe a little less. But, first drafts are always awful, so I usually spend a fair amount of time revising and rewriting. If you want to include editing and rewrites, I’d be looking at a nine- to 12-month process, probably.

Do you have a playlist that you write to?

I find it so weird when writers  say they listen to music while they write. I have to be 100 percent into the scene, into what’s happening in the book in order to write, so I could never listen to music while I write. My playlist is the normal background noise of life, and generally I’m tuning that out while I write. So, short answer: No, I don't have a playlist.

Do you have any advice for newbie authors just starting out?

I think the best advice is also a Nike slogan: just do it. The main part of writing is sitting down and doing it. The next biggest hurdles is accepting valid criticism and improving. And finally, just read good books. When you read good books, you begin to see the patterns that emerge to make them good, and you’ll begin incorporating those types of things in your own writing. If you can do those three things, you’ll put out good books.

What was the best book you have read in the last few months and why did you love it?

Tough question, as I’ve read some really great books recently. In terms of nonfiction, I really loved Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. It was really thought-provoking and really well done. I read Harlan Coben's Six Years, and loved that. I also liked the Silent Wife by ASA Harrison (and was so sad to learn she'd died shortly after the book was published; it's one of those books that you read and say, I can't wait until her next book comes out, but obviously, that's not going to happen now. So, so sad. Great book, great accolades, and she's passed away and won't be able to hear all the wonderful praise.)

 Out of the following places to get inspiration, which one would you choose & why:

a.    Deserted Island

b.    Sprawling Megatroplis

c.    Magical Forest

d.    Outer Space

C. Obviously a magical forest. Reading is a type of magic, one that transports you wherever you want to go. So, a magical forest is the perfect place to get inspired.

Are you a pre-planning plotter or a go with flow writer?

Definitely go with the flow. I like to sit and just write. Now, I generally have an idea where I want the novel to ultimately end, but that’s about it. I don’t plan way ahead, but I also like to ponder before sitting down to write. Often times, during various points in the day, I’ll think about what I want to happen in the book, and then when I do sit down to write, I’ve got something in mind for that next scene or two. I usually don’t sit and actively plot the entire book. If I have an idea about something I want to happen much later in the book, I’ll drop a note to myself at the top of the file (so I don’t forget; because I will forget if I don’t write it down).

Are you working on anything new right now, if so, can you share the details with us?

Absolutely. I am finishing the third book in the Life First series. I’m about 50,000 words in. I just decided I want to end the book slightly differently than I’d planned to. The good news is that I’m probably going to take the rest of December and deal with personal stuff (holiday letter must be written; gifts must be purchased), and will jump back into the writing fray in January. I think I’ll have time to work out in my mind how the changes I thought up will impact those last few chapters. I like it when things percolate in the brain a bit before I write them.

Which method of writing do you prefer for your first draft?

a.    Handwrite the first draft

b.    Laptop

c.    Desktop

d.    The walls in your office! LOL

I love answer D. It’s not true, but I love it so much, I’m going with it. For those who care, I do a lot of my writing on a laptop. I’ll often edit the doc (for minor revisions) from my phone while I’m waiting for my kids to finish a class or afterschool activity.

Which would you prefer if your novel was selected by a TV/Film Company:- A TV Series or a Movie deal?

Definitely a movie. I’ve read some of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels and seen some of the episodes of True Blood. I also watched the Lying Game [now cancelled :( ] on TV and loved it so much that I thought I’d pick up the book it was based on. And from seeing the drastic changes between what the books did and the tv shows did, I know I’d prefer a film. TV shows based on books seem to be just that: based on. The writers are writers and they want to be inspired by your characters, not necessarily follow the book. The movie adaptations--at least with popular books--tend to be more true to the happenings of the novel.

In these hectic times and endless multi-tasking, how do you make time to write?

I think that’s one of the things I struggle with. When you’re expected to blog and tweet and Facebook and pin, it’s hard to find time to write, too. I think on the days that I’m committed to writing my novels, I just do less in the social media world. You have to carve that time out, otherwise it won’t happen.

What’s the one thing – ok two things - you can’t live without?

It’s funny because I know with certainty right now that it’s the Internet. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that her kids asked her, "Would you rather have your foot cut off or go the rest of your life without the Internet." And when she said it, I thought, well, prosthetics are pretty good these days. I mean, if push came to shove, and someone was holding a blade near my foot, I would probably rethink my prospects, as I really don’t want to lose any limbs. But the Internet is a really big part of my life nowadays. It would be a hard thing to go without.  Probably food and drink should have been number one on the list, right? Oh,  well, I'll get 7 days of the 'net before I die of dehydration, right?

What’s your personal take on E-Books, and do you prefer reading them over a traditional hard copy?

Personally, I love ebooks. I think they’re a fabulous way for readers to get information and pay less than they’d have to pay for that hard tree-killing copy. That said, I think ebooks are best for adults and maybe teens. I look at my kids and I think there’s something wonderful about the tactile sensation that comes with holding a book and turning it’s pages. I think young kids really need that, and wouldn’t advocate e-readers for small children. In terms of my own reading, I probably do about half and half. It’s convenient to read on a device (usually my phone) because I have it with me all the time. But, when your battery is low, it’s great to crack open something that doesn’t require a charge (if my battery is low, and I’m out waiting, I have to remind myself I can’t open up a book on an app and read it because it’s more important that the 7 percent battery left be around in case  I need to make an emergency phone call).  Also, with paper books (especially hard backs), you can slam them down on your desk to quiet a room/get people's attention. I wouldn't try that with an e-reader on an ipad. You'd heare sounds of sizzling, cracking and dying machinery. Books are also good for hurling at people during arguments (not that I know from first-hand experience; I've just heard). Again, wouldn't recommend hurling e-readers at anyone or anything. That's a first and last time experience for a functioning device.

Are there any little secrets that you’d like to share?

I’m a cupcake addict. OK. Maybe that’s not a secret. Then, no, I don’t think there are any secrets I’d like to share. Whenever I share secrets, the people whose secrets they were get angry.

If your house was about to be obliterated, as in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, what would be the one thing you would have to save and why?

Well, presuming all the living things have already fled the house (if my kids are in the house, obviously I’m getting them), I’d get the hard drives. With everything being digital, that’s where all the photos are.


 Many thanks to RJ for joining us today and I'm back on Monday for Blog Tour.


  1. Very informative post. Thanks for letting us know more about 'Life First' and RJ Crayton through the interview.

    1. So glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting :)


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