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Saturday, October 10, 2020

RRR presents... WINTER LIGHT by Martha Engber - EXCERPT + GIVEAWAYS!

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Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.

Today, we're joining Rachel's Random Resources for a stop along their current tour featuring the work of author Martha Engber. We've got an exclusive excerpt ready to temp and tantalize, then your chance to win with THREE different giveaways! So, what are you waiting for? Get to reading my bookish friends! Today's title in the spotlight is...

Winter Light
Martha Engber

About the book...
Fifteen-year-old Mary Donahue of suburban Chicago is a kid on the cusp of failure during the brutal blizzard winter of 1978-79, the end of a hard luck, hard rock era sunk in the cynical aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Though a smart, beautiful kid, she’s a motherless girl raised by an uneducated, alcoholic father within an extended family of alcoholics and addicts. Aware that she’s sinking, she’s desperate to save herself and so reaches out to an unlikely source, Kathleen, a nice, normal kid from English class.

But when the real storm hits, the full force of a harsh adult world almost buries Mary. Only then does she learn that the only difference between life and death is knowing when to grasp an extended hand.



~~~  EXCERPT  ~~~

My Example
Intro to Excerpt

The book opens when events in Mary’s life force her to do what many of us don’t, reach across socioeconomic lines for help, in this case by forming a friendship with middle-class Kathleen. Though the two girls are physically near one another at school and live in the same town, they move within social groups and belong to families so different from one another, they don’t know one another’s language. They immediately get off on the wrong foot when Mary and her friends, who are hanging out at a deserted forest preserve on a cold winter day, make fun of Kathleen and her brother when they arrive to toboggan.

In this scene, a significant setback has pushed Mary to try and regain Kathleen’s trust in the hopes she’ll teach Mary how to do better in life. She’s managed to wrangle Kathleen into a toboganning outing, which Kathleen never would have agreed to had not her mom, Mrs. McCarthy, encouraged her to do a good deed. For the first time, Mary has to drop her shield of cool — her primary source of protection — in order to try a scary activity that may well make her look ridiculous.

Mrs. McCarthy and a grumpy Kathleen pick up Mary in front of her house and drive to the forest preserve.


The front passenger’s-side door of the car opened. Kathleen got out, limbs dragging. She stood with an arm on top of the car door, eyes half closed.
“Hi,” Mary said.
“Yeah,” Kathleen said.
Mary’s mother leaned across the front seat and peered up at through the open door.
“Hi, Mary. I’m Mrs. McCarthy,” she said. Then she smiled, this mom with the baseball-round face, dark blue eyes, and puff of short, brown hair. “You’ll have to sit up here with us.”
Since the toboggan took up the back end of the car, Mary slid into the middle of the front seat where the heater blew hot on her knees. Kathleen stared out the window.
As Mrs. McCarthy pulled away from the curb, she said, “What after-school activities do you do, Mary?”
“I work,” Mary said, “so I don’t really have time for that kind of stuff.”
“You work? Where?” Mrs. McCarthy said.
“Ben Franklin.”
“The one on Plainfield Avenue?”
“I shop there! It’s one of my favorite stores,” Mrs. McCarthy said. “How long have you been working there?”
If Mary said two years, since she was thirteen, Mrs. McCarthy would know Mary had lied on her application. So she said, “A while.”
“I think that’s just great,” and Mrs. McCarthy glanced sideways at Mary. “You must be a very independent young woman. Like me. I started cleaning houses when I was thirteen and paid for my own car when I was sixteen.”
Mary nodded. “That’s cool. What kind did you get?”
“A little blue Chevy convertible.”
Which was something to picture, a younger, slimmer Mrs. McCarthy tooling around town in her convertible. Audacious, as Mr. O’Brien might say.
Mrs. McCarthy drove the winding road to the empty parking lot by the toboggan chute. She parked and kept the engine running.
“Kathleen,” Mrs. McCarthy said, “see if there’s a hat on the floor of the backseat. I’m worried your ears are going to freeze off, Mary.”
“I’m okay.”
“I know, but I’d feel better.”
Mary got out of the car. After the heat of the car, the cold air sheathed her in ice. When Kathleen walked to the back to get the toboggan, Mary leaned down to talk to Mrs. McCarthy through the open door.
“I have to work today at one,” she said. “What time are you going to be back to pick us up?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Mrs. McCarthy said. “I’m going to sit and enjoy my book,” and she lifted a paperback from her lap. “I never get a chance to read, and by the time I get home I’d have to turn around and come back, anyway.” She smiled, one of joy and mischief so sincere that Mary under- stood. While Mrs. McCarthy might look like a chubby sucker of a suburban mom, she was sharp. A contender. A protector. An unsuspecting thug. She’d be cheerful, even hopeful, that all turned out for the best today, but if not, she’d be here this time to ward off those who meant Kathleen harm. That was what a mother was supposed to do, protect her kid, just like Mary’s mother had.
Mary smiled. “Thanks for… For bringing us.”
And again with the mischief in her eyes. “My pleasure.” My pleasure. And this time Mary believed Mrs. McCarthy’s sincerity. She closed the car door. She turned and got hit in the face by something soft that then fell to the ground.
Mary spit out the snow and started to say, “What the fu—”
“Your hat,” Kathleen said and pointed down at Mary’s feet where the blue-and-orange Chicago Bears hat had fallen.
“You’d really make my mom’s day if you wore that,” Kathleen said from where she stood beside the chute, the toboggan lined up and ready for the run. Mary shook the hat against her leg, the pom-pom wobbling. She glanced right and left, and Jesus, no one was even around, and even if they were, why would she give a shit if they saw her wearing something that for once kept her ears warm? She pulled on the hat and walked to the chute.
Before getting on, she leaned forward for a better look at the slide, a slender hook that plunged almost straight down for fifty feet before curving to level ground. Mary’s arms flew out to the side, the feeling immediate, of dizziness and nausea.
She staggered back a step. “Shit!”
“It’s not that bad,” Kathleen said. “The hell it isn’t.”
“Could you not do that?”
“Do what?”
“Could you not curse all the time?”
Mary looked from the chute to Kathleen, then said, “It’s just, I once saw this picture, a photo in a magazine, and it took up like two pages and it was of Niagara Falls, and just looking at it, it was like you were hovering over the water where it dumped over the edge. The water’s all dark green and then it just goes over and there’s nothing there, and you think, oh my God, if I was in a little boat or something right at this spot, I’d have no chance. The current would be so strong you couldn’t swim or get rescued or anything. You’d just go over and bam! That’d be it. Shit.”
“Just sit down.”
“I’m not going in front.”
“Yeah, you are.”
Mary leaned toward Kathleen.
“No. I’m. Not.”
“Or I’ll tell my mom you smoke.”
“So, who gives a shit?”
Eyes half-closed, Kathleen bent her mouth in a little garter-snake curve of lip. A smile that said she knew that for some reason, Mary would care what Mrs. M. thought. That even though Mrs. M. probably knew plenty of adults who smoked, she’d want better for Mary. Mrs. M. who’d started to work when she was thirteen and who’d saved her money to buy a car and who worried about Mary’s ears and called her an independent young woman.
“Yeah, well, just hold onto this thing so it doesn’t slip,” Mary said.
“I am.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yeah, I am.”
Mary stepped onto the toboggan and inched forward. A moan slipped out her mouth. She clamped her lips shut. She lowered herself, heart beating hard enough she had to open her mouth to pant. She gripped the front of the toboggan and stared at the nothingness in front of her. A gust of wind ahhhed through the trees, blowing tufts of snow from waving limbs.
Kathleen shoved up behind Mary and lodged a leg under each thigh.
“What are you doing?” Mary said.
“Stop being a baby. I’ve got to anchor my legs under you. Now hold the reins.” Mary did, and Kathleen put her arms around Mary’s waist.
“You ready?” Kathleen said, her tone like the Grinch before he got all soft-hearted. Because she’d asked, but she had no intention of waiting for an answer, but instead heaved her hips forward once, twice. The toboggan inched toward the edge and tilted forward. Then came a moment of suspension, of the world teetering on its edge. The toboggan plunged down and the world shrank to a narrow strip of straight-down, head-long white. Cold air rushed into her screaming mouth as rushing air sucked tears from her eyes and tore her hair from its root. The toboggan hit the bottom curve, leveled out, and sailed across the snow for twenty yards before slowing to a stop.
She sat, mouth open. Kathleen jumped up and ran around to face Mary.
“You okay?” Kathleen said and put out a hand to help Mary up. But she could do nothing but sit for a moment. Then she grasped the hand and allowed herself to be pulled up. She stood a moment, dizzy. Her eyes wandered to the treetops and she felt the wind on her lips. A pressure rose fast in her throat and erupted.
“Woo-hoo!” she shrieked, arms shooting into the air. “Oh my god! I can’t believe I did that! Lucy would have puked. And James! He would have loved it.” Her boot heel caught on a chunk of snow and she fell over sideways. She rolled onto her back, her face to the blue sky and diamond sun. Kathleen’s face appeared above. She smiled down at Mary.
“That,” she said, “was fucking cool.” Kathleen winced around the eyes. “I mean, very cool.”
“Want to go again?”
Mary smacked the snow with an arm. “Hell, yes.” She jumped up and stumbled through the snow while helping Kathleen drag the toboggan up the wooden staircase. They went down fifteen more times, until her feet were frozen and her T-shirt and scalp soaked with sweat. Until she had to plod along, too winded to talk.
“You should stop smoking,” Kathleen said.
“Yeah, yeah.”
Mrs. McCarthy told them, “One more time,” and then, “Okay, girls, this is it,” and “I mean it.”


About the author...

Martha Engber’s next novel, WINTER LIGHT, will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. She’s also the author of THE WIND THIEF, a novel, and GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS FROM THE GROUND UP. A journalist by profession, she’s written hundreds of articles for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. She’s had a play produced in Hollywood and fiction and poetry published in the Aurorean, Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review and other journals. She’s also a freelance editor, workshop facilitator and speaker. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband, bike and surfboard.


*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Winter Light
 (Open INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway to Win a Book Club Chat from Martha Engber 
(Open INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway to Win a free hour book development consultation with Martha Engber
(Open INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Special thanks to Rachel at Rachel's Random Resources for the chance to bring this tour to you. (THANKS!) For more information on this title, the author, this promotion, or those on the horizon, feel free to click through the links provided above. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour for more bookish fun!

Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!

1 comment:

Martha Engber said...

Thank you so much for including my excerpt on your blog! I look forward to learning about the winners of the giveaway!

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