The Immortals of Westchester Prep #1
Publication date: May 15th, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
After years of battling leukemia, seventeen-year-old Sydney Long has made peace with her impending death. She expected pain, she expected tearful goodbyes, but she never expected to be turned into an immortal monster who can, with the slightest touch, control life and death.
Now, flowers are stirring when she walks by, she’s oddly drawn to death and the dying, and she must wear gloves to keep her living parents safe.
While her family toils with this supernatural nightmare and finding a way out of it, Sydney falls for magic and an equally as enticing boy who she can’t seem to stay away from.
But nothing comes without a price. When Sydney is targeted for her illegal magic, she’ll learn a whole new meaning of fighting for her life.
Dying hurt as much as I’d thought it would.
My burning lungs begged for relief as air hissed into my nose through a plastic tube. The shallow breaths wheezing out of my mouth somehow tasted like medicine and sweat.
They tasted like my life.
Instead of violins and the somber music that played on movies in moments like this, I was dying to the soundtrack of beeping monitors and the soft shuffling of my parents’ feet. They moved around our suite quietly, like ghosts, as they waited for me to become one and finally lose to leukemia.
I’d spent the last three weeks at an upscale ski resort in Lake Placid, just watching my health fade and my time on Earth dwindle to nothing. The view of the constant snow and the towering mountains in the distance usually distracted me from the pain. I needed that view more than ever tonight. Everything hurt, but in my mind, if I didn’t mention it, if I didn’t break, I would beat cancer in my own way.
We couldn’t afford to stay in this snowy paradise, but my parents didn’t want me to die in a sterile hospital. We’d moved to Lake Placid five months ago to chase another faint glimmer of hope, but the clinical trial had ended like all of the others—with me getting sicker. This time, we weren’t doing anything about it. After five years of giving cancer all we had, my parents had decided that we’d fought too much, cried too much, and hoped too much to do it again.
And that was okay. It had to be.
My final days were passing in a blur of tearful calls from my grandparents, long stares from my mom and dad, and smiles from my strangely exuberant hospice nurse. Sarah, with her endless energy and joy, was easily my favorite person on the planet. She supplied medicine that stopped me from feeling and long stories that kept me thinking, which made me feel alive.
Tonight, she was so busy gabbing about her ballerina days that she’d forgotten a dose of painkillers. I didn’t mention it. As she adjusted my oxygen tube, I stared at her beautiful, pixie-like face and the bright red hair framing it. Her tiny features and permanent smile made her a living fairy to me. My personal Tinkerbelle.
“It’s going to happen tonight, isn’t it?” She didn’t answer me. She draped another blanket over my legs without making eye contact. “They gave me a week to live … a week ago.”
“Sydney, I don’t want you to be concerned about death. Ever. Only focus on life and the living. Remember that, sweet girl.”
What a weird thing to say to an almost-corpse. I didn’t need to remember anything anymore. I laughed at her, and that disturbed my failing lungs. One cough turned into two, and soon Sarah had to hold me as my chest heaved relentlessly. The awful sound summoned my parents to my room.
They crept in with red eyes and rivers flowing down their cheeks, wearing yesterday’s clothes.
Nothing said that I was dying more than my dad being home. No matter where we moved, he worked, thanks to his special talent of finding a job within a day. He’d emigrated from China with his parents as a kid, and his entire family worked like one day off would mean certain death. So that was what he did—he spent his days toiling at dead-end jobs to barely keep us afloat. Except for today.
He squeezed my mom’s hand as they approached my bed. Her long dreads were down and wild tonight, and she looked beautiful despite her swollen face and runny nose. My mom had four piercings in each ear, an effortlessly cool hippy style, and a thick Trinidadian accent. Once, I’d wanted to be just like her, but now, I didn’t know what being like her meant other than crying a lot and receiving bad news.
“Mr. and Mrs. Long,” Sarah said, “I was just about to give Sydney her medicine. She’ll be asleep soon, and you don’t look like you’ve gotten much rest. I can watch her tonight.”
“Sarah,” I whispered, as my chest finally calmed. “Go home. Your shift is over.”
She pressed her warm hand to my cheek. I could’ve sworn, for a moment, I felt completely okay.
Xpresso Book Tours did a wonderful Q&A with M. Lathan, the author! 😀 Let’s see what she has to say?
Xpresso Book Tours (XBT): Tell us about your new book.
M. Lathan (ML): Everafter is about a seventeen year old girl who was sure of her own death. She’s battled cancer since age twelve, and we meet her at the end. But instead of dying, someone turns her into a powerful immortal who can control life and death with a touch. This is the beginning of a paranormal nightmare, and she’s not entirely sure if she wants it to end. It comes with perks like guys she can’t stay away from and the chance to never die again.
XBT: What does your writing process look like?
ML: A rollercoaster. I get this cool idea and I start writing like crazy. Everything’s great until I stop to read and see how all over the place I am. That’s when I stop to outline. That keeps me in line and helps me with pacing as well. When the draft is done, the real work begins. I have about four complete and total overhauls in me before the story is ready.
XBT: Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
ML: Yes. I do my best writing when I’m walking, which presents a problem. So I may take my phone on a walk around my neighborhood. When I was in college, I would walk around the creepy part of the library to get my thoughts flowing.
XBT: What book do you wish you could have written?
ML: For nostalgic reasons, The Baby-sitter’s Club. I lived and breathed those books.
XBT: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
ML: I think names are extremely important. I always start with baby name websites, and I look for something that sounds like who they are. And I think about what their parents would’ve named them and why. In addition to all of those deep thoughts, I also explore options for nicknames. I never call anyone in my life by their full name, so a character’s name, in my head, has to shorten nicely.
XBT: Do you ever get freaked out when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
ML: All the time. These people live in my head. Sometimes, when my husband asks what I’m doing today, I’ll say, “Oh, Sydney’s starting school so I need to get her there, think about what she’ll wear, and … I stop when he looks at me like I’ve lost it and I remember all of this will occur in my head.
XBT: What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
ML: Write. I read that when I first decided I wanted to go for it and write a story that I would actually let someone read. I purchased three how-to books from Barnes & Noble, and each of them basically just told me to write. Of course, I rolled my eyes and asked … how? But the truth is, you just put a pen in your hand or your fingers to the keys and try. Write something awful. Write something beautiful. It doesn’t matter. Just write until you’re used to doing it.
XBT: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
ML: Yes, I read them, but I never respond. I don’t think readers are talking to me, so I don’t feel the need to. Also, it’s not a good idea to say something. Reviewers are just expressing their honest reaction to my work, and that needs to be true to what they feel. I don’t read every review, but in the beginning or when they are coming in slowly, I tend to see most of them. A lot of them are actually helpful and gives me things to work on, and some are just flat out entertaining.
Of course it’s sad when someone hates this thing you’ve poured so much time and love into, but I never expect every reader to like my story. That’s impossible. A review can pop up at 1:00 that says, “Characters are too sappy”. And at 1:30, someone could say, “Characters weren’t sappy enough”. Until you can find a way to write specifically for robots—good, meh, and bad reviews are just a reality. Somewhere after your twentieth bad review or so, the sting should fade. It helps to find your favorite book on Goodreads, the one you think is a flipping masterpiece, and read the bad reviews. You won’t agree, and that’s how it is for everyone. One opinion, or even a percentage of all opinions captured online, doesn’t determine if the work is good or bad. It means … it wasn’t for them. Hang in there.
XBT: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
ML: Editing. I change my stories a lot. There is a good chance that right now as you read, I’m thinking about this one thing in Chapter 23, paragraph four, and how it should be said like this … which leads to me deleting the whole thing. I’m the worst. Editing brings that monster out of me, and my MacBook Pro sees a lot of tears and nearly collides into walls every day during this time.
XBT: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others?
ML: Sad scenes. True scenes. I find a way to add my major life moments to every book I write, and even if readers don’t feel it, odds are, I was bawling when I wrote it. I have to get through it though. If I leave something true out, the editing monster in me will add it later (after chopping up the rest of the story).
XBT: Is this your first book?
ML: I have four other books, all a part of the Hidden Series. It’s about Leah Grant—an orphan who believes that she is the last witch on Earth after a magical extinction. Needless to say, she finds it hard to get along with humans, and her heart-wrenching story of blossoming from a bullied outcast to who she was meant to be is inspiring and easily my best accomplishment to date. Check out the Hidden Series. All books are available wherever eBooks are sold. The first book is free J
XBT: What are you working on now? What is your next project?
ML: Everafter is the first book in the Immortals of Westchester Prep trilogy. I am currently working on Book Two. It has a working title of Nightfall, but I am not to be trusted this early in the process. I’m working on it as fast as I can so readers who fall in love with Sydney’s story can continue it soon.
Thanks for letting me stop by your blog today. Everafter will be released May 15th on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it, and good luck in the giveaway 🙂
It was my pleasure to have you here today, Lathan! 😀 May 15th won’t be here soon enough, haha! Good luck with the release, I bet Everafter will be a blast! ❤
M. Lathan lives in San Antonio with her husband and mini-schnauzer. She enjoys writing and has a B.S. in Psych and a Masters in Counseling. Her passion is a blend of her two interests – creating new worlds and stocking them with crazy people. She enjoys reading anything with interesting characters and writing in front of a window while asking rhetorical questions … like her idol Carrie Bradshaw.
That’s it, thanks for reading and thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for the lovely Q&A!!