Monday, April 4, 2011

Nicole O'Dell's Swept Away

She writes. She talks. She reads. She changes diapers. Nicole O'Dell is a mom of six--including a set of toddler triplets who may or may not be potty trained sometime in 2011. Jury's still out on that one.

She is the author of a bunch of YA books, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the upcoming Diamond Estates Series, 10/11. She's also the host of Teen Talk Radio at You can find her books and links to all the fun social stuff at

You can find her online at

Swept Away

In High Stakes, seniors and best friends, Amber and Brittany, are neck and neck in a good-natured competition for a car being given away by a local business.

In Essence of Lilly, sophomore Lilly Armstrong is always looking for ways to escape the confines of her unhappy home. She “invents” youth group activities just so she can hang out with her boyfriend, Jason—the only one in Lilly’s life who makes her feel special.

What happens when Amber and Lilly are faced with making difficult choices? How will they handle the risky business? Readers help Amber and Lilly make the difficult decisions and see how their choices create consequences with life-altering results.

Here's an excerpt of High Stakes:

“You might have to get out and push.”

Amber groaned and rolled her eyes. “Very funny, Dad. The scary thing is, one of these days, it’s going to be true.”

Dad chuckled. “Ah, she hasn’t failed us yet.” He rubbed the faded steering wheel.

“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” Amber sulked down in the cracked vinyl seat and covered her eyes with her forearm. Her friends all had fancy new SUVs or expensive sedans. But no, her parents never wanted a car payment or— gasp!—a lease payment. Nothing but a complete waste of money when they already had a perfectly reliable vehicle—or so they said. If she had a dollar for every time they’d explained the horrors of a lease agreement. . .

The brakes squealed as Dad pulled the twelve- year-old Toyota into the garage. He smiled and patted the dashboard. “You did it, girl.” He’d somehow ignored the putt. . .sputter. . .putt sounds the car had made all the way up the driveway.

“Yeah, Dad. We made it home. But what about tomorrow? What about the next day? When will we ever be able to get a new car now that you lost your job?” Amber squeezed her eyes shut, holding back the tears that threatened to spill.

“Now, Amber.”

Amber steeled herself against the coming speech that she knew by heart and caught the sigh before it escaped her mouth.

Dad’s lips moved in what looked like prayer for a few moments. He took a deep breath and turned her chin with his hand until she lifted her watery eyes to meet his. “God has always provided everything we’ve ever needed and much, much more. I have no reason to think He’s going to stop now.” He let go of her face and rubbed her arm. “Sweetie, give Him a chance.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Amber rolled her eyes and fought the urge to point out that God had provided that stuff—which wasn’t excessive, by any means—before He unprovided Dad’s job. She climbed out of the car and paused a moment to give the rusted hood a few little pats—like paying respects at a funeral.

Amber had one foot in the door when she heard three light honks. Brittany! She let her book bag slide off her shoulder. It landed on the garage floor with a thud. She jogged out to the driveway to greet her best friend.

The window on the driver’s side of the brand-new, silver Lexus SUV slid down and Mrs. Kim leaned her head out. “You girls be good and have fun. I will come to get you tomorrow afternoon.” She spoke in halting but precise English.

“Okay, Mom. Thanks.” Brittany waved her tiny hand as she came around from the other side and joined Amber on the driveway.

As the girls walked toward the house, Amber rested her forearm on Brittany’s shoulder.

Brittany shook her head and laughed. “You know, one of these days that’s going to get old.”

“Nah. You love it and you know it.” They walked through the garage toward the house, and Amber bent to pick up her schoolbag then opened the door to the dated kitchen.

“Don’t mind the cracked tile and stained countertops. I promise they’re clean.” Amber flicked away a crumb.

Brittany laughed. “You give me the same little speech every time I come here. You’d think after ten years, you’d know I don’t care about tile and countertops.”

“Easy for you to say. Your dad got promoted to Chief Something-or-Other the same week my dad got laid off from teaching. Your house is perfect. Mine. . .” Amber gestured expansively with her arm. “Well, not so much.” She slumped as she pulled open the refrigerator door to see what they could snack on. Ooh! Leftover frozen pizza.

“Yeah, I’m really sorry about your dad’s job.” Brittany picked a few pieces of nonexistent lint from her sleeve.

“It’s pretty bad timing with college next year and all.” Tears burned at her eyelids again. Amber blinked them away before Brittany could notice.

“But your grades are perfect. You’ll probably get a scholarship. I thought that was the plan anyway.” Brittany threw her hands up. “We’ve talked about getting scholarships and going to college together since we were little—we’ve got to get out of small-town Gwinett.”

“Yeah, I know. But if I don’t get one, I probably won’t be going away to school. I’ll have to get a job and go to the community college part time.” Amber shrugged.

“It’ll be fine. Right?” She finally turned around to look at Brittany.

“Fine? That would not be fine. Not at all. You can’t stay trapped in this valley dungeon forever, surrounded by nothing but mountains. And you will get a scholarship. You’ll see.”

Here's an excerpt of Essence of Lilly:

Lilly pressed the pillow over her ears, trying to drown out the shouting. You can’t hear them. Nothing’s happening. You’re safe in your room.

No use. The voices coming from down the hall grew louder.

“You need to get a real job. You’re getting fat and dumb sitting behind a desk all day, fetching coffee for middle managers.” Stan’s voice held an edge, taunting Mom to fight back—which she usually did.

“That’s not what I do, and you know it. How can you even say that?” Mom’s voice rose with each word. “I make more money than you. You’re just lazy.”

Didn’t they care that Lilly could hear everything they said? She squeezed the pillow harder. Fights between Mom and Stan headed downhill fast—faster each time. She pondered the few moments of peace that had peppered the past few years. Those times used to be more frequent but were a rarity lately.

Still covering her ears, Lilly strained to hear sounds of the fight. Silence. She slowly let go of one side of the pillow and waited a few more seconds—no yelling. Releasing the other side, she sat up on her bed, letting the pillow fall to the floor, then leaned toward the door to listen.

Lilly’s West Highland white terrier jumped up on the bed, nails plucking at the crocheted afghan, and started licking her hand. “Not now, Paisley. Shh.” She moved the fluffy little dog to the floor and leaned even closer to the door.

A thick blanket of blond hair hung over her eye. She brushed the hair away and tucked it behind her ear, but it fell right back. Irritated, Lilly pulled the hair tie from around her wrist and gathered all of her thick, straight hair into her hands, twisted it into a bun, and slipped the band around the whole thing, securing it behind her head, out of her way.

There it was. Sigh. Muffled crying. The familiar sound of Mom’s soft sobs. Lilly looked up at the ceiling and shook her head. Why did Mom always let it come to this? What kind of person allowed herself to get pushed and worked up to the point of tears so often? What a way to live.

She waited a few minutes to make sure the fight didn’t start up again. It rarely did after Mom dissolved, but she could never be sure. No loud bangs, no yelling, no dangerous crashes. All she heard was the sound of her mom crying.

Unwilling to let Mom suffer alone, Lilly stood up. She tugged her sweater down to cover her midriff and stepped over her pillow on the way to the door. One hand on the knob, she took a deep breath. Blowing the air from her lungs, Lilly opened the door swiftly to keep the hinges from squealing, then stepped out into the hallway.

She crept toward her mom’s bedroom, trying to step over the floorboards that creaked—no sense alerting Stan to her presence. Peering around the corner and through the doorway, Lilly’s breath caught at the scene. Mom sat on the floor, her back against the wall with her knees drawn to her chest and poking out through the slit in her once-pink fuzzy bathrobe. A faded pink slipper covered one foot, but the other was bare. Lilly’s eyes located the missing shoe on the floor across the room where it had most likely been thrown.

Why, Mom? Didn’t she believe she was worth more than this? Paisley snuck into the room, went right to Mom, and started licking the pink toenail polish on her naked foot.

No light shone from the bathroom, and except for the sobs, the room stood silent. Stan must have left the house. Had the garage door gone up? Lilly couldn’t remember hearing it, but it was possible she just hadn’t noticed. What should she do? If Stan was in there, she sure didn’t want to draw any attention to herself. Go to Mom? Wait?

The door to Stan’s walk-in closet flew open and banged against the wall. He barged out with his coat on and keys in his hand, then stormed across the room and blustered through the doorway Lilly leaned against. Stan didn’t say a word—didn’t even glance at her. Invisible— which she preferred at times like this.

Lilly heard the garage door go up. She waited. A few seconds later, it went down. Mom used to beg him not to drive when he got like that—now she just let him leave.

With Stan finally gone for sure, Lilly hurried across the room, stepping over a lamp and several books strewn across the floor. Crouching beside her mom on the floor, Lilly put her arms around her. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

Mom shrugged her shoulders and shook Lilly’s hands off her arms. “I’m fine. We only had a little argument.” She wiped her nose with her sleeve. “He didn’t mean anything by all of this. Stan’s been working two part-time jobs, and now he’s feeling pressure to get a different one. He’ll be okay.”

Sigh. Same old excuses. Stan’s under pressure. Stan didn’t mean it. Stan means well. It had been four years. When would it end? When would Mom get some self-respect? She still seemed to hope Lilly would grow to like, even love, Stan. Not a chance.

Lord, please help her. “Okay, Mom. You want to be alone?”

Mom ran her fingers through her mop of curly hair—dyed to her original honey blond, which matched her daughter’s—then blew her red, puffy nose into a crumpled tissue.

“Yeah. I’ll pull myself together and be downstairs in a few minutes.” Lilly knew what came next—it always happened the same way. She’d leave and Mom would start bawling again—might even turn on the tub faucet to drown out the sounds of her sobs. Eventually, she’d take a shower, trying to wash away the tears. After about an hour, Mom would emerge from her bedroom with makeup on, fresh clothes, perfume trailing behind her—the works. All in an effort to prove she had it together. The next day, Stan and Mom would be all lovey-dovey. They’d spend the day together and pretend they were newlyweds. Then, on Sunday, they’d sit beside each other at church, hold hands, smile, and nod along with the sermon. Monday? It would start all over.

Lilly walked from the room and pulled the door toward her. Right before it closed, she tilted her head and waited. On cue, the faucet came on in a loud gush, but not before the crying resumed.

You can purchase Swept Away from Amazon.

Nicole is giving away a copy of Swept Away. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


CarlybirdK said...

This sounds like a very good book. Please enter me. Thank you.

Mona said...

Please enter me. I enjoy YA fiction and both books sound great.

cjajsmommy said...

This is a book I could definitely give to a certain young lady I know. From what I read so far, it is perfect for her. Please enter my name in the giveaway.

Charity said...

Please enter me:) I have two younger sisters. Thanks!


noseinanovel said...

I'm always interested in Christian YA - I've never heard of this author and I would love to read this! Please enter me :)


Courtney said...

Sounds like a really great book!! Thanks for a chance to win it!

Cara Putman said...

My daughter loves these books and can't wait to read the new ones!

windycindy said...

My mom was one of triplets and they all lived to be 80+ years old...
Sound like a fun book to read!
Many thanks, Cindi

lgm52 said...

Sounds great...please enter me.

Linda Kish said...

I would love to read this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Nicole O'Dell said...

Thanks everyone! I appreciate you having me here, Esther! Love it!!!

Marianne said...

Triplets! Names, Sex and age PLEASE
Oh, and where to you live? i got to know a family of triplet girls - they were 18 months when i got to know them, and they are 7 and a half years old now. Please enter my name in the draw, Esther and Nicole. Thanks for the chance to win. mitzi_wanham[at]yahoo[dot]com

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to win this book!

amber said...

I want to win this!! The main reason is that I share the name (Amber) of one of the main characters :-)


Charlotte Kay said...

I would love to win this book!
Thanks for the chance!
Charlotte Kay
charlovesmark at gmail dot com

Katy said...

Thanks for entering me!

~ Katy

Youth Group Names said...

I think that Nicole O'dell is a great author. Swept Away is, to date, one of my favorites. Blessings!

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