Saturday, March 17, 2012

A World of Wonderful Women with Guest Blogger: Paige Cuccaro

Welcome to a special weekend edition
@the Book Boost Paige Cuccaro!
Win a copy of Hellsbane!

She's here to chat about the meaningful women in her life and here's what she had to say...

It’s Woman’s History Month and that got me thinking which women in my life really influence me. The question is easy. My girls. I’m lucky to be the mother of three beautiful young women.

My oldest is about to turn 21. She has such an amazing spirit and kind heart. She’s incredibly compassionate and open minded, often teaching me by example to be more tolerant and patient.

My middle daughter is almost 19 and is one of the bravest, independent people I know. It’s not that she’s without fear, she’s just able to control her fear and use it to push her to achieve her goals. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by insecurities or hesitant to try something new, I look to her as an example of how to live life to the fullest.

My youngest just turned 16 and not a day goes by that she doesn’t make me laugh out loud. There’s just no being sad or angry around her. She’s able to see the humor in almost any situation and from her I’ve learned how to laugh at life and not take everything, including myself, so seriously.

All three are beautiful, but more than that, they are truly remarkable souls. I feel blessed to not just to be their mother, but to know them and to be counted among the people they love.

However, when it comes writing, there is one more woman who has deeply touched and influenced my life.

Author Anne Rice has had such a profound influence on, not just my writing, but my reading as well. It was her books, The Vampire Chronicles, the Witching Hour series, and the countless single titles that sparked my imagination as a teenager and young adult. Her skill with the written word made me fall in love with a vampire. I visited New Orleans for the first time and realized I wanted become a writer myself in the pages of her books.

Maybe it was because of my age, and that I was open to every possibility, but while I have found many, many stunningly talented authors since, none have had as great an effect on my life as Anne Rice. She showed me a kind of magic I didn’t know was possible. And like the kid on the edge of her seat watching the magician hired for her friend’s birthday party, I wanted to know how the tricks were done.

After reading her books, I knew I wanted to cast the same kind of spell she’d cast on me, transporting me to another place, setting my feet so firmly in Louie and Lestat’s New Orleans apartment I could hear Claudia’s little fingers tapping the piano keys. I could taste the soot in the air from oil lamps burning in the parlor, as surely as I could smell the dank old dirt in the catacombs under the Theatre des Vampires. When I opened the pages of her book, my world fell away and I was there, right where she wanted me to be and I willingly followed wherever she led.

I wanted to do that. The story itself didn’t matter. I wanted to make the magic, to weave the spell of words and story and transport readers to the worlds I’ve created. It is thanks to Anne Rice that I write, that I love to read, that I aspire to entertain each time I sit down at my computer.

So now it’s your turn. It’s women’s history month. What woman in your life has influenced you most? I’d love to hear about her!

A Note from the Book Boost: Paige, thanks for sharing your inspiring women with us. I have quite a few of my own, including my 94 year old grandmother (the English major and proofreader extraordinaire); my mother (still married to her first love & high school sweetheart); and my 2 daughters (who still look at me as if I'm the most beautiful thing in the world). So many wonderful women and such a blessing to have them in my life. Please tell us more about your book.


Twenty-three-year-old Emma Jane Hellsbane just found out she’s not human—or, at least, not only human. She’s half angel, too, and now Heaven’s got a job for her: round up all the Fallen angels and their red-skinned, horned devil-demon minions and boot their butts back into the abyss.

Only problem?

The demons and their Fallen masters fight back…and they don’t fight fair.

Luckily for Emma, she can put a stop to the constant threat of having her head hacked off if she figures out which Fallen angel is her father—and then kill him before he kills her.

Of course, in the meantime, she’ll have to avoid accidentally seducing her angelic mentor, help an old friend conquer his own Fallen sperm donor, and basically save the world from a cataclysmic divine smack down.

No one said being Heaven’s bounty hunter would be easy. But with a name like Hellsbane, Emma Jane was born for the job.


“Perhaps you’ve mistaken my statement for a request,” he said. “It wasn’t.”

“Ah. So it’s like that, is it?”

He snaked an arm around my waist, jerked me to him so our bodies were flush against each other. I gasped, my hands going to his chest on reflex.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s like that.”

A soft wind shifted through my hair, and the world around us blurred as if in motion. But our feet hadn’t moved. The overlook, the cars, the townhouses, the sky, everything raced past us.
Then it was gone. Darkness engulfed us, with only the distant stars twinkling in the vast emptiness. My hands leached around Eli’s neck, brought us cheek to cheek.

“You’re safe in my arms, Emma Jane. Always,” he said, his lips brushing my ear. A shudder traveled straight down to my center with the sweet sound of his words. The man had an orgasmic voice. What a waste.

His embrace loosened, and I leaned back enough to see his face. A soft glow lightened the shadows from behind me, just enough to cast a silvery glow over his expression. Time and space suddenly rushed in on me, and my brain spun like I’d been twirling around on my toes for an hour.

I let go of him with one hand, pressing it to my forehead to stop the spin and to keep my brain from coming out of my ears. “What was that?”

“Your mind is struggling to match speed with your body. May I help?”

I’d told him once never to use his power to give me false rapture, but it was like asking a fish not to swim. I nodded and he rested his hand over mine, the warmth of his skin heating through me. The nauseating twirling stopped.

“I hoped moving slower would help lessen the shock, but it seems the effect allowed your vision too much time to try and compensate,” he said.

“We moved at angelic speed?” I asked, guessing.

“No. I am able to travel at the speed of thought. We moved an increment slower.”

“Um, thanks.” I tried to see over his shoulder, to get my bearings, but I couldn’t push up on my toes. I moved the muscles, and nothing happened. I looked at my feet—there was nothing beneath us. No floor, no ground, no...anything, just more blackness and millions and millions of distant twinkly lights.

An icy bolt of panic shot up my spine and I clutched at Eli. My gut twisted and a scream caught in the back of my throat. Eli hugged me tight.

“Where are we?”

“Look behind you,” he said.

It took a few seconds of internal argument, but eventually my courage rallied, and I glanced over my shoulder. “Is that...”

“Earth,” he said.

Sheer awe loosened my grip. I shifted my feet to his—I had to stand on something—and turned, holding his hands to my hips to anchor me, my back to his chest.

The world looked exactly the way it does in all the pictures...but so much more. More beautiful, more breathtaking than any picture could capture.

There was a storm swirling over one of the oceans, and night was quickly approaching for half the world. A thick line of darkness crept over land and water as the planet spun. On the other side, brilliant light ate away the darkness at exactly the same pace.

“This can’t be real. How?” I asked, my brain fighting reason and everything I knew about space and time and reality.

His hands slipped over my belly, his embrace enveloping me. “In the arms of an angel, Emma Jane, all things are possible.”

My eyes closed, and I leaned back into his chest. I tried not to enjoy the feel of him around me, but the heat of his body, the comforting strength of his muscles, and the sweet, summery scent of his skin decimated my willpower.

“Behold what your birthright has brought you, Emma Jane,” he said. “No mortal human could claim as much.”

I opened my eyes and felt that rush of awe all over again at the view. “It’s amazing, Eli. Thank you.”

“This is only the beginning. You have been chosen to battle creatures far more powerful than mere mortals. You are not like other humans; you cannot be. Your task requires much of you, and for it, much has been given. Time and space unravel for you to traverse with the same intrinsic understanding as those you hunt. The world is quite literally at your feet.”

Before I could take a breath, I found myself staring out over a large valley and an ocean beyond. Gone was the great global marble spinning in the endless black of space. Suddenly, I was blinking at a waking cityscape miles below with large water inlets and busy harbors.

There was blue sky above me and green land below. We were back on Earth.

Hard, unrelenting wind whipped my hair, making it hard to see. But I could make out the white sand-lined shores and the short mountain ranges that blocked sections of the city from the ocean.

“Where are we?” I yelled, but my voice was lost on the roaring wind.

Eli tucked me under his arm, and silence descended over us like he’d closed a door. My hair floated back against my head and I could stand on my own. I shoved at the strands over my face and tried to clue in my brain. “Brazil.” Eli pointed at the city. “Rio de Janeiro.”

“It’s beautiful.” My gaze followed the landscape below to the base of the mountain, then to the long winding staircase tracing up the side until they disappeared far below the edge of the outcropping we stood on. It’d been nearly six a.m. in Pittsburgh by the time Eli and I left Earth, which made it nearly seven a.m. in Rio, and the city was already bustling.

What are we standing on? I fisted my hand around Eli’s jacket and leaned over for a better look. “No way. Christ the Redeemer? Seriously?” We were on his arm and I looked to the left at the huge, white, carved face of Jesus.

“Remarkable, isn’t it?” Eli said. “And yet it pales in comparison to the miracle that is you and those like you.”

He smiled wide, so pleased with himself, and I could almost forgive him for not warning me one wrong step could send me tumbling over a hundred feet to the very, very hard landing below.

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Roxanne Rhoads said...

Women have been the primary influence in my life as well. My grandmother never went to school but taught herself how to read and write and ended up writing songs and poetry. My mother instilled in me the love of reading by sharing books with me- reading a bedtime story to me every night until I could read them to her :-)

I also had quite a few teachers who inspired me and encouraged my creativity.

And authors- like you, Anne Rice left an impression. I was only 10 or 11 when I discovered Interview with a Vampire at a yard sale- and it made me fall completely and totally in love with vampires and steered me in the direction of what I write and read today.

Debby said...

Great excerpt. Ann Rice does write amazing stories. Did you ever get to meet her?>
debby236 at gmail dot com

books4me said...

My mom has probably had the greatest influence in my life. She raised my brother and I alone after my parents divorced. She never asked for anything, wore the same clothes till I was in college (kept resewing her pants...took me YEARS to get her out of polyester pants...EEEWWW), and made sure my brother and I never went without. If I can be half the person she is, I've succeeded in being a great example for my daughter!

books4me67 at ymail dot com

Paige Cuccaro said...

Roxanne, I think reading to kids is so important. I've always wondered how many kids & adults would be avid readers if they'd only been read to when they were little. For a lot of people their first experience with books are the ones their teachers force them to read and the experience leaves them thinking all books are boring and reading is a chore. Thanks so much for posting!

Paige Cuccaro said...

Debby, I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. No, I've never met her. I think I would be a total fan-girl and freak her out with my squealing. LOL I did meet Charlaine Harris (True Blood author) though. Huge thrill! Very nice lady. Authors are my rock stars.

Paige Cuccaro said...

Books4me, your mother sounds like an amazing woman. I had stretchy polyester pants when I was a kid. Hated them! They came in all different colors (including stripes AND checkers) and had elastic waistbands. Ugh... Thanks for stopping by!

Carl Scott said...

What a nice tribute your daughters, the two photos were great together. I get that he first one is at home but where was the second one taken. I'm guessing a family vacation, somewhere tropical, on a bit of a rainy day.
My email is: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

Paulette said...

The woman I most admire is someone who's name I don't know. At the age of ten I read about her in the book, "The First Lady of the Seeing Eye" about the first seeing-eye dog in America. (Pyramid Books 1965)
In the 1930's women had few opportunities for work outside the home, and if they were blind even less of a chance. The woman I admire lived in the 1930s and was blind. She did hold down a job, and she was a single parent with a small child in a stroller. Every day she walked to a bus stop, with the child in the stroller, a diaper bag, her purse, and her seeing-eye dog. Can you imagine this, a woman with one hand guiding the stroller and the other hand on her dog's harness? When the bus arrived she had to get the baby, the stroller, her dog, and herself all on the bus, and she did this blind! The bus would arrive at the stop for the babysitter; she'd get everyone off, go to the sitter, and drop off the child. Then she and the dog made their way back to the bus stop, grab another bus that took her to work.
I can't remember what she did for a living, sorry. At quitting time she and her guide dog would repeat the process in reverse. She'd do this Monday through Friday, and she did this blind, the only help she had was her wonderful guide dog.
I couldn't imagine doing this as a sighted person, let along blind. Every time I think my life is difficult I think of this single independent mom, real fast I suck it up and count my blessings. All because of a woman of an unknown woman I read about.

Paige Cuccaro said...

Hi Carl, You're right, the first one was taken twelve years ago in our home. That second photo was taken on the Boardwalk in Ocean City NJ last summer. It seems like just yesterday they were those sweet little girls at our kitchen table. Thanks for stopping, by and commenting!

Paige Cuccaro said...

Paulette, what a great story! I can see why she would inspire you. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!