Monday, April 30, 2012

2 1st 5 Pages April Workshop Last Revisions and May Mentor Announcement

All right, ladies and gentlemen, the final revisions are up for the April First Five Pages Workshop. Comment away. These are much stronger, don't you think? I'm impressed with the work the participants have done.

Our new workshop will open for entries at noon on Saturday. As always, the details are here:


BUT... we have new information. We are going to be joined by guest mentors each month. These are published authors, or soon to be published authors, who are going to be generously providing their time to help workshop participants develop their best work.

Our May workshop will be mentored by Kat Zhang, so mark your calendar for noon on Saturday and get your entries ready!



WHAT'S LEFT OF ME

by Kat Zhang

Publication Date: September 18, 2012
HarperCollins

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else--two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren't they settling? Why isn't one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn't...

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she's still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet...for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Happy writing this week, everyone!

3 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - James Rev 3

Author: Robert James

Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Choices (Formerly Losing Robbie)

1. LAUREN

I stare at them both, the blade and the phone, trying to decide which to choose.

Two years ago, I’d never even have considered having to make a choice like this. Back then, I was a baby. I was in primary school, I had lots of friends, and I thought that my stepsister could solve any problem ever. I really want to give her one more chance to solve this one.

I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone. I put my hand on the right key to speed-dial her... Then change my mind. I put the phone down, pick up the blade carefully and lift it to my shoulder.

Then I chicken out and put that down.

Back to the phone. Just as I'm about to call her, I think about what Joanna said and lose my nerve. I throw the phone onto my bed, and pick up the blade once more.

I can't focus properly on either of them, so I keep this going for the next five minutes or so. Blade, phone, blade, phone. The repetition has a calming effect on me and I nearly walk away from them both. I know that's not the answer, though. The sensible thing to do is to phone Rachel and talk. But I’ve tried that twice already, and each time, I’m not brave enough to ask her the question I need to.

I’ve chosen the blade three times before. Every time, it’s worked. Just one little cut, and I’ll concentrate on the rush I get when I feel the pain, and not on Joanna’s smug face, taunting voice and stupid red hair. It’s so tempting, but I’m getting worried that the more often I choose it, the less of a choice it becomes. Could I give up now, even if I wanted to?

For a moment, I decide that I can. I throw the razor blade down on my desk, and taking a deep breath, I pick up the phone one more time. Finally, I press the button to call Rachel. She answers, and my words flood out.

"Rachel? It's Lauren. I really need to talk to someone. I think... I mean, I need... Can you come home? Please?"

I gasp the words out, nearly in tears as I finally ask her. I want to confront her face to face. For her to tell me it's not true.

But at the other end there's silence. Nothing. And then she laughs.

"Hey sweetie! Sorry, didn't hear a word of that. Robbie grabbed my phone!"

I hear the two of them messing about and it's clear she has much better things to do than come and talk to me about stuff that happened years ago. There's a bunch of giggles before she carries on speaking.

"Was it important, babes, or just phoning for a chat?" she questions me.

For only the third time in the eight years I've known her, I lie to her.

"Just a chat," I try to keep my voice light. "I'll let you get back to Robbie. Have fun!"

I think she thanks me, but I can barely hear her. Bursting into tears, I slam my head into the pillow. After sobbing for a few minutes, I get up and pick up the razor blade.

I place it against my shoulder and smile to myself. I look in the mirror and see the silver touch my pale skin. This time, there's no hesitation. This time, I push it in and draw it down, ever so slowly, wincing as I form a thin red line to go with the three pink scars already there. I smile to myself as the pain which is becoming increasingly familiar takes over my thoughts. For a few moments, I know that I'll forget about being Bingirl, Princess Pizza Face, or any of the other names people call me. The pain will be all I can focus on, and I will be happier than I've been all day.

Looking at my phone, and at the blade, which is now silver and red thanks to my blood, I don't know why it was such a difficult choice.

2. RACHEL

I love my stepsisters – I really do. And Lauren is my favourite. She's sweet, she's clever, and she looks at me as if I'm a goddess – she definitely has good taste in role models! She's just becoming so, so clingy. This is the third time she's phoned me over the past couple of weeks when I was out, and every time she just wants a chat. Still, I'll make sure I make some time for her over the weekend, just in case it's something important.

Looking out of the window of the Black Lion, I see a red-haired girl who looks a few years younger than me walking past. For a moment, I think I recognise her face. I tense up involuntarily, and Robbie raises his eyebrows at my sudden movement.

“You alright, cariad?” he asks me. He takes my hand, and I manage to pull myself together. Of course the girl isn't who I thought she was. Lydia has been dead three years.

“I'm fine,” I say to him, although I feel sure he can hear my heart beating loudly enough to know this isn't true. For an awful moment, I thought she'd somehow come back from the dead. I had visions of her walking in and telling everyone what had happened.

Once, this happened to me all of the time. The summer after she died, I practically stayed at home for six weeks because I convinced myself I'd seen her whenever a redhead passed me in the street. None of those looked anywhere near as similar to Lydia as this girl did, and that resemblance absolutely terrifies me. Because if there was a way that Lydia could tell everyone how we caused her death, I know that there's no possible chance that Oxford would want me.

I know I’m being stupid. I turn away from the window, and hold Robbie close. He kisses me, and for a few minutes, all other thoughts vanish from my mind as our hands roam across each other’s bodies. Then he whispers into my ear, “Maybe we should go somewhere more private? Looks like we’ve got an audience.”

For a moment, I can’t work out what he’s saying. He gently turns my head in the direction of the window, and across the street, I see the redhead again. She’s walking in the opposite direction this time, but she’s looking straight at me. She looks even more like Lydia than I thought originally, and a shiver runs down my spine. Turning, she walks away, and I stare after her, wondering who – or what – she is.

3 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Billingsley Rev 3

Author: DiNae’ Billingsley
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance
Title: Livid Shift
Chapter 1: The Best Story Ever
I followed Adrien’s rusty, old Chevy into this rusty, old neighborhood. It was known to most Norcross Georgians as The Strip. It was dark, about 11 pm on a school night. Dressed in all black, my muscled rippled through my fitted jacket. I looked like a cool ass ninja, or a drug dealer, which is what I was going for. My old 2002 black Nissan sputtered and I turned it off, before it died on me, again.
The street was shady and trashy, just like Principal Sal. The houses on both sides were decrepit colors of white, yellow, and pink. White-picket fences and crisp cut grass with garden gnomes did not pertain to its particular qualities. Adrien’s car door opened and he jumped out with a huge black back pack that he carried whenever he was at school, a skate board, and a lit cigarette. Adrien, who was five inches taller than me at 6’4, had “Beiber Cut” and was usually tan. Today he looked like his paler identical twin brother, Andrew.
I took out my camera and started taking pictures.
He walked into a pink house festooned with a ran-over gate and scattered trash on the lawn. Loud music rattled my car windows. I snapped a few more pictures, got out of the car, and started to walk up the street. I looked at the spot I wanted to land and shifted to it in a flash.
I collided into the side of the house.
“Crap.” I said in a hushed voice.
I should have practiced before I came; I hadn’t felt that tug on my abdomen in three years. If I had a sensei, someone, anyone that could have taught me how to master my extra ability of instantaneously transporting from one place to another, there would be no accidents. No horrible, tragically sad accidents that would ruin my life forever and keep me from shifting every again. Until now. I knew I had to use it some day. I still should have practiced.
The house became silent. There was a cock of a gun.
I turned and shifted back into my car. My fingertips started to tingle. The door opened and a tall, slinky, severe looking man with thin hair and a leather jacket came out with a gun. He swiftly pointed the barrel at the spot where I just escaped. His eyes traced the street; he even walked a few feet up and down the street before he went back inside.
A few minutes later my car windows started to rattle again. I inhaled.
“Don’t fuck this up Simon. Your story’s right here. Kye was right here.” I said and pushed my sweaty dark hair out my eyes.
Kye, the reason I’m here. Kye, my brightly dyed, red haired best friend, disappeared three and a half years ago. This is the last place Andrew told me she was.
I checked my camera and, one shift at a time, advanced to the side of the house. I crept to the front window and peeked in. The smell of cigars and booze preceded the picture inside. Heavy smoke intoxicated the air. About eight men of various sizes laughed and played cards. The room was styled with Mitch-match saggy furniture. Principal Sal, the literal definition of “the elephant in the room”, was in the midst of it all. He was a large, bald man, with stubble around his face that I never saw at school. He constantly wore a tie.
“Hey boy, come here.” The tall, slinky man said to Adrien.
Adrien peeled himself off the wall and stood next to him gripping his backpack. The man told Adrien to put it on the table, he complied.
Principle Sal opened the backpack and took out stacks of money.
“It’s all there. My brother Andrew, you know the one that’s good with money, double counted it.” Adrien said, sweaty and nervous.
“Did I ask you anything?” Sal said.
Adrien shook his head and looked down.
I picked up my camera and took a few snaps of Sal, the money, dime bags of white stuff, and a few men.
“Brandy! Get your ass in here.” Sal yelled, clearly agitated.
A woman came out of a dark room. It was Ms. Valentini, the soft spoken, fragile, secretary from school. She was like North Central’s hot fairy god mother. If you asked, she would give you the world if. Or an inspiring pep talk. She could make anything seem possible. Like my parents loving each other again.
“Go count this.” Sal yanked her arm down so that they were eye to eye. “Carefully.”
He tossed her the bag and she left. One of the shorter men slapped her butt. She was about to object but walked off. Adrien’s face mirrored my awed shock. This would explain the black eye she had at the cancer fundraiser she orchestrated, and the busted lip at the annual Honors Banquet. Principal Sal was known for his “tactful” disciplinary techniques. Ms. Valentini would be free after I expose Principal Sal.
To Everyone.
I walked around the house to find a better view. There were two windows on one side of the house. The first was a window for the kitchen. Next was a dark bedroom.

Chapter 2: Interview with a Prostitute
The room a mess except for the bed, which had a woman passed out across it. Her revealing blue dress looked like someone had painted it on. She might be the seasoned prostitute Andrew told me about. She knew the ins and outs of Principal Sal’s correspondences, a right hand woman. If she didn’t buy this I was fucked. I knocked on the window till she stirred. Then, upon seeing me, stumbled to the window.
“How you doing honey?” She said as her lids drooped. The smell of alcohol was strong on her breath. Her pupils were dilated.
“Fine. Can I come in?” I asked.
“Who are you?” She demanded. I flipped on my tape recorder.
“Simon. I’m employed by Principal Sal, and a student. You must be Star?” I said.
“Yea, who told you?”
“Andrew. He’s an old friend. He’s the one who set me up with Principal Sal.”
“Ha Andrew. For such a tall boy he is very small.” She smiled.
“I know. He couldn’t impregnate a guppy.” We laughed. “So, can I?”
“Sure, sure babe. Couldn’t reject those beautiful blue eyes.”
She turned to move something. I shifted in and she was started by my sudden appearance. But she shrugged, clearly too drunk or drugged up to care about what I just did. She started to undress.
“No, don’t do that, I would never do that, even though you are very… attractive.” She wasn’t, but the complement wouldn’t hurt. She rolled her eyes and left her right shoulder bare. I eased myself on the front edge of bed. “I wanted to ask you some questions.”
“Oh really? You look nervous. ” She went over to a dresser and came back with something small and shiny. “Here, hit this and you’ll feel better. Hell I know I do.” She stood over me trying to hand me a small mirror with a line of white powder on it.
“No, I’m not here for that, or anything else. I just wanted to ask you some questions.”
“Trying not to mess up that bod huh?” She looked me up and down like a piece of cake at a Weight Watchers convention. “Why did you come through the window?”
“Sal, I didn’t want, well you know.” I said.
“Oh yeah, that bastard.” She laid the mirror on the bed, and then purposely stood in a position that put her lady lumps right in my face. I had no choice but to look .They were her only redeeming quality.
“I swear he has one hell of a men supply. Did you just start? You look new and you’re a cutie.” She smiled and pushed my hair back.
“Yeah, just started a few weeks ago.” I felt my body heating up.
“Nice.” She said as she sat down next to me. “So what did you wanna ask me?”
“Well how long have you been, um, working for Sal?”
“A few years. How old are you?” She started to caress my thigh.
I cleared my throat. “I’m 17.”
“17? You sure you want to get into this? When Sal takes you he has you for life. We’re your ‘new family’.” She rolled her eyes.
“Yes, I need the money. I have things I need to take care of.”
“Ha, we all need easy money. What’s your excuse? Mommy got in an accident? Can’t afford college? Need a new car?”
I heard a laugh that was closer than I wanted it to be. My heart stuttered. Come on Simon, ask her.
“I wanted to know if you knew Kye, Kye Limia.” I said abruptly.
She stilled and her eyes enlarged. “You’re so tense, lay down a sec-“
I grabbed her arms. “Only if you tell me about what happened to her. I know Sal did something to her. Maybe worse than what he has done to you.” I said as I stared into her baggy eyes.
She looked away. “Sal, no he liked her, but she just vanished and-“
We both snapped are heads toward the door as the sound of lagged foot steps approached.
She pushed me down on the bed and mounted me. “Do you know how many men came to visit me everyday since I started?”
“No but-“
“59. Do you wanna be number 60?” She ripped my jacket open and forced her lips on to mine.
I pushed her off and jumped up. My pants got a little tighter.
“Hey babe, bring your ass in-” the tall, slinky man busted through the door. “Who the hell are you?” He pulled out a silver gun and pointed it at me.
“I’m nobody I’m I’m…” My heart plunged into the ground.
“He’s new; I’m just making him apart of the family, Sunday.” She said, edgy.
“Sal! There’s a kid in here, is he ours?” He yelled.
There were a few quick thuds that unnaturally match my pulse, before Principal Sal came into view. His reddened eyes became large then focused.
“It’s Danforth. Shoot him.” Sal spit.
Star and I looked at the man called Sunday. Sunday raised an eyebrow at Principal Sal, which highlighted the long scar above the same eye brow. My life and time seemed to suspend for a little while longer.
Sal’s grubby hands reached for the gun.
I spun and shifted out the window as a rain of bullets pursued me. But like an idiot, I turned around to see where Ms. Valentini was in all the chaos. Another hail of bullets from the front of the house condemned me. I ran, and then shifted into my car.
“Holy shit.” I wheezed.
I turned the key. It didn’t start.
“Come on, come on!” The shots got closer, my hand started to slip.
More gun shots. Glass shattered, shards flew.
“God Dammit START!” I screeched. It started. I whirled around and sped off. Someone cursed.
“Woo hell yeah!” Adrenaline coursed through my body.
I was on the high way, and no one appeared to be chasing me. My hands shook as I checked my camera. It was unharmed. Then I reached inside my pocket for the tape recorder. I pulled it out. It and my hand were covered in blood. My blood. The sensation of numbness twisted into nerve altering pain. An unimaginable, searing pain, pounded in my lower abdomen and back. I searched for where the wound was and applied pressure.
“Holy sh-.” Tears clouded my vision.
Gwinnett Medical Center was 5 miles away. I got into the HOV lane and pushed the petal. The speedometer hit 130. My stomach hit the back of the seat.
I reached the hospital in what seemed like an eternity and parked. As soon as I stood up my consciousness swayed. Colorful dots started to swim around in front of my eyes. I crumbled to the floor. My body felt like a ton of US history books. But still I drug myself farther. Death was just a breath away. I flopped to the floor as my world spun and turned into blackness.


2 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Edwards Rev 3

Author: Dana Edwards
Genre: MG, contemporary
Title: Harold--The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day

“Any kid would be lucky to have a friend like Harold,” is what Mom always said when I complained about something Harold had done. But no matter how hard I’d tried, I couldn’t convince her that Harold was bad for my social life.

Every time I’d met a new kid, somehow Harold was there to ruin it. And every baseball game since T ball, Harold had been there in the stands to witness and later remind me of each error and loss. But I’d finally found my answer—a way to put some distance between me and Harold—middle school.

On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I figured Harold’s mom would drive him to school on the first day.

The coast was clear so I walked to the bus stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Jake! Wait up, Jake! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will arrive at 8:07.”

“Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:30 am, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”

Great. Where was that bus?

“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?”

“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

I didn’t have a clue. I’d never even heard of Harvey Haddix, but I thought just this one time, Harold would buy it and not go into his never-ending monologue about one more major league ballplayer I ‘d never heard of.

He was quiet—this was good.

“You have? Because I just learned about him this summer when I was in Ohio visiting my grandma.”

Maybe if I didn’t look his way and stayed real quiet…

“Did you know that in 1959, Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game?”

Rats!

“Sure, Harold, I remember that. What time did you say the bus was coming?”

“8:07 am. Harvey Haddix played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he pitched twelve straight perfect innings! Do you know who the Pirates were playing that night?”

“Let’s see, it was the…”

“It was the Braves.”

“That’s right. Harvey pitched a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. Now, if we stop talking, I bet we can hear if the bus is nearby.”

Harold laughed like I had said the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “The Atlanta Braves! Don’t you know anything? They were the Milwaukee Braves back then! It’s a good thing you’ve got me as your friend, Jake. I can teach you stuff.”

Then Harold dug in his book bag and took out the green notebook.

Each year before school started, he’d add one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook Harold kept track of the times he beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down baseball stats.

Harold collected little known baseball facts like the Smithsonian collected dead things—the more obscure the better. And thanks to Harold, whatever he knew, I knew it too.

In a situation like this, it was best not to appear too interested, but I was pretty sure the newest entry in the notebook was going to be: August 12, 2012, Jake Thomas doesn’t know that the Atlanta Braves used to be the Milwaukee Braves.

We heard the bus’s brakes one street over.

Harold stuffed the notebook back in his book bag and asked, “Want to sit together on the bus, Jake? Just like in elementary school? Make it seven straight years?”

I hadn’t thought about that. I didn’t have a plan to avoid sitting with Harold on the bus in middle school. The problem was, once you started something with Harold, it was like it was etched in stone. If I sat with Harold today, I’d be sitting with him the rest of my middle school career.

Think, Jake, think.

Just then the bus rounded the corner and stopped right in front of us. The door opened and there sat the meanest looking bus driver I’d ever seen in my entire life. She had crazy curly hair that stuck out from under an Atlanta Braves cap. I looked closer and I’m pretty sure she had a mustache. I would have thought she was a man if it weren’t for the pink and purple striped socks she was wearing with her sandals.

She snarled like the neighbor’s Dobermans as she gave a look to me and Harold, and then she said the best words I’d ever heard, “Shorty, you sit up front with all the other sixth graders and you with the Star Wars lunchbox, sit in Row Ten through Fifteen.” I couldn’t believe my luck—for once it paid off to be, as my sister called it, “physically immature.” The bus driver recognized me as a sixth grader, but because Harold was a good two feet taller than me, she mistook him for a 7th or 8th grader.

I was going to like the Braves fan driving bus 6.

I looked at Harold and shrugged my shoulders, then climbed aboard to find a seat on the second row.

Because Row Two was right behind the bus driver, I could see the sign, Hello, My name is Ms. Woodmore and I am your bus driver, and I could see her face in her mirror. It wasn’t a happy face. In fact, it was looking angrier by the second. I turned around to see what was making her so mad and I saw Harold. He was standing in the isle, touching each row and counting out loud as he passed each one.

“Row Four. Row Five, Row Six.” The kids on the bus laughed. When Harold got to Row Ten, he froze.

The bus driver shouted, “Young Man! You with the Star Wars lunchbox, we can’t leave until everyone is seated. And that includes YOU!”

I sank down in my seat. Why? Why did it have to start already? We weren’t even at school yet.

I knew what the problem was. See, Harold can’t handle choices. It was the “Row Ten through Fifteen” that was throwing him. Mom says Harold is “special”, but kids just think he’s weird.

An eighth grader sitting in the back shouted, “Hey, Star Wars, sit down already!”

It felt like an hour had passed since the time I’d found my seat next to fellow sixth grader, Lucy Thayer. She looked at me and said, “Jake do something.” I looked back at her and said, “You do something!”

Then Lucy said, “Harold’s your friend—plus, you’re sitting on the outside.”

I hated moments like this. I’d been put in situations like this since kindergarten, and it just wasn’t fair! Why did I have to be in charge of Harold? But, I got up, walked back to him and said, “Harold, here’s a seat. Your seat will be on Row Twelve next to this kid here.” Just as Harold sat down, his “almost seat partner” moved to Row Fifteen.

When I got back to my seat, I looked at Ms. Woodmore’s mirror and by the look on her face, I could tell we weren’t going to be friends after all.

The first day of school was perfect and when I boarded the bus at the end of the day, I sat beside Lucy—who had her nose in a book as usual—and I let out a big sigh. She looked up from her book and asked, “What?”

“What what?”

“What’s the matter with you? You act like you’ve been holding your breath all day and you’re finally able to let it out.”

“It was just—just such a great day!”

“It’s only the first day of middle school, Jake.” Then she looked back down at her book and said, “It’s likely to go downhill from here.”

I didn’t care. Today was the best day of my life. It was good-bye baby elementary school and hello middle school, where you were treated like a real human being.

First, I had homeroom, next was Math, and then Social Studies. Then Science, Health and lunch. Lunch was awesome! The food was horrible, but the seating arrangement was fantastic!

I sat two kids down from Tommy Wilbanks. Then next to him, sat Jonathan Mitchell, and right across him, was Steven Joiner. I was surrounded by three Southside Comets. With any luck, I’d find a way onto their baseball team.

After lunch, came Language Arts and the payload of all classes—Physical Education. Several guys from my baseball team were in PE with me, along with two more Comets. I was hoping that even though the PE unit was volleyball, I could find a way to demonstrate my superb athletic ability…or just avoid looking stupid.

But the best part of the past eight hours was that I didn’t see or even hear Harold McGee the entire day. Not once!

Harold was on the “accelerated track” and I was on the “regular track.” Accelerated meant you were pretty smart—and on the second floor—and regular meant, well, you were regular. Regular was fine by me, especially if it meant I’d get to meet new kids without Harold ruining it for me.

I turned to find Harold and I saw him sitting in his same spot from this morning reading his favorite book, The World Series of Baseball Trivia: Stats, Facts, and Fun. It was Harold’s favorite book. He’d gotten it for his seventh birthday. I know, because I gave it to him. It was Mom’s idea. She knew how much he loved baseball and how he could remember things from every game he’d ever watched. That kind of thing impressed a seven-year-old—but a twelve-year-old, not so much.

Reading, especially about baseball, always seemed to calm Harold down. If he was feeling stressed or anxious over something—which was often—he’d read a book and it seemed to snap him out of whatever was bugging him.

I turned back around, hoping he hadn’t seen me looking. He was fine. I was great. And this was going to be one fantastic year.



2 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - AlvaradoFrazier Rev 3

Author: Mona AlvaradoFrazier
Genre: YA
Title: Strong Women Grow Here

Chapter 1

In my first life, in Mexico, I traveled on bright colored buses,
decorated with sunflowers and vines. In my second life, my daughter
Katrina and I rode the graffiti spotted buses in Los Angeles, to and
from the baby doctor. Now I am seventeen years old and my journey is
inside a small brown van with two girls and two Officers, driving into
my third life.

My friend in Center Juvenile Hall said the girls in San Bueno are
older—nineteen, twenty but not as old as in the women prisons. You
better watch yourself, you’re too small to fight, she told me. I have
never been in a fight and don’t want to be, so I will stay out of the
way. That is the best way to survive these times. Now that my husband
is gone, my daughter Katrina has only me and I her. No matter what
happens, I have to stay strong.

The van swerves out of the fast lane and throws me sideways until the
handcuff on my wrist yanks me back making the nervousness in my
stomach leap to my throat. My hand flies up to cover my mouth, a
movement that alarms the girl next to me. The one with the neck
tattoo.

“Hey, she’s gonna barf.”

The oatmeal I ate for breakfast rushes into my throat where the taste
of iron floods my mouth until a retch escapes. I want to spit, but
press my hand tighter against my dry lips. The officer in the front
passenger seat pushes a paper towel through the square opening in the
screen.

“Ivanov, stop looking out the window, it’s making you sick,” he says.

I try to nod my head but the effort makes me dizzy.

“No vomito,” the girl with the neck tattoos says. She crowds against
the other side of the seat.

I pray that I don’t make a mess on the girl who looks like a boy with
her short brown hair combed back, shiny with pomade. The blue-black
letters on her neck spell WF 13. I don’t understand what that means
but I have seen these letters on the walls of buildings from my seat
on the LA city buses.

The driver has unblinking yellow brown eyes like the iguanas near the
river in my hometown. His eyes watch me in his rear view mirror before
they dart to the girl with the neck tattoo. She says something to him
and mentions my name. I don’t understand because my English is not too
good, but she sounds angry. My free hand begins to shake and I put it
under my thigh.

“You okay?” A soft voice floats from behind. I turn to see the girl
who we picked up from the last juvenile hall. Her eyes and skin are
the color of piloncillo, the raw sugar cones my mother used to make
Mexican chocolate. There are no tattoos on her face, arms, or neck.
She wears a small smile, crooked with fright. “She says if you get
sick on her you'll be washing her clothes for the next year,"she says
in Spanish. “Me llamo Belinda.”

“Me llamo Juana.”

She nods her head and closes her eyes. She doesn’t want to talk. I understand.

“Hunh,” the girl with the tattoos makes a sound like disgust. I don’t
need enemies. I speak to her in the English I learned in the past
three years.

“No worry, I no get sick. What is you name?” She looks at me up and
down, with a squint in her eyes like those I have seen many times in
Center Juvenile Hall.

“Jester.”

“Jess-tor?”

She blows air out of her mouth and turns away. Maybe if I close my
eyes my nausea will go away, but before my head touches the window,
the van jerks and throws me forward. My wrist pulls against the
handcuff while my other hand slams up against the screen divider in
front of me, keeping my face from smashing into it.

“What the hell?” Jester says, sliding back into her seat with a thump.

Through the screen on the window, I see a large sign, "San Bueno
Youth Correctional Facility." Towering chain link fences surround
groups of red brick buildings.This place is so much bigger than Center
Juvenile Hall. There must be hundreds of girls in there. My stomach
squeezes tight under my ribs cutting off my breath. I want to get out
of here. The van turns onto another road where the tires dip and bump
over the path. The smell of dirt floods my nose. There is not enough
air in here. My breakfast bubbles up in my throat again. I can’t hold
it in anymore. Spoiled milk and oatmeal splash onto the floor.

“Fuck,” Jester yells and pulls her legs up on the seat.

The paper towel, now damp and torn from my clenched hand, does little
to stop the bitter smell from saturating the air. Jester pinches her
nose and gives me the squinty look. Ay Dios. The van stops in front of
a tall steel gate. Silver coils like thin ropes of a lariata curl
across the top. Their sharp edges flash through the gloomy sky. I feel
dizzy looking up and shut my eyes tight while I beg God to take me
back to my first life.

Chapter 2

Iguana Eyes, jumps out of the van and slams the door. I can hear
voices laughing before the side door slides open. He stands watching
us with his arms crossed in front of his thick chest.

“Montes, guess who’s back? Gonzales thought it was time for another
state paid vacation,” he says.

A lady with a purple headband holding back her wild frizzy hair
laughs. She has on a thick belt, like his, around a long blouse that
drapes over her black pants. Several keys dangle from a black strap
attached to it.

Jester tells the lady something and makes a loud smacking sound with
her mouth. This girl acts very familiar with the staff lady and
officer. Why isn’t she afraid of them? Maybe the girls at Center
Juvenile Hall exaggerated about this place, maybe my time here won’t
be so bad. Iguana Eyes reaches in with his big hands and unlocks
Jester's handcuffs then pulls her off the van. “Watch it,” she yells
and walks across the driveway the way the gangbangers at the park
walk, slow and unafraid. “What’s up Ms. Montes?” The staff lady shakes
her head and smirks.

The other officer unlocks my handcuffs, leaving marks around my wrists
like red splotchy bracelets. When I step out of the van the scent from
the fields surrounds me. It’s apio, celery, sending me it’s cool waves
of moist green. For one brief moment, I feel like I’m back in my
mother’s garden, back in Santa Isabel. The familiar smell brings me
some comfort until tears begin to flood my eyes. It may be years
before I can return to Santa Isabel, before I can see my baby, my
family. I close them tight, to push them back.

Iguana Eyes says something, points at me and then the van. My stomach
twists. Ms. Montes looks back and forth at Belinda and then me.

“Which one of you is Ivanov?

I slowly lift my hand.

Ms. Montes tells Jester something and points to the building. Jester
looks at me with anger, then walks into the building and comes back
with a bucket of soapy water. She pushes a rag into my hand and
points to the van. I am embarrassed that I threw up. Everyone must
think I’m a scared baby. I bite my lip so I won't cry, take the rag
and clean up the mess.

Friday, April 27, 2012

13 YA Books In Stores Next Week 4/27/12 Plus Giveaway

THIS WEEK'S GIVEAWAY

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.


To win, complete the form at the bottom of this post by midnight Thursday 5/3/12. We'll announce the winner on 5/4. Sorry, U.S. and Canadian entries only.

LAST WEEK'S WINNER

The winner of last week's giveaway of A PLAGUE YEAR is Diana Meli.

A Plague Year by Edward Bloor

It's 2001 and zombies have taken over Tom's town. Meth zombies. The drug rips through Blackwater, PA, with a ferocity and a velocity that overwhelms everyone.

It starts small, with petty thefts of cleaning supplies and Sudafed from the supermarket where Tom works. But by year's end there will be ruined, hollow people on every street corner. Meth will unmake the lives of friends and teachers and parents. It will fill the prisons, and the morgues.

Tom's always been focused on getting out of his depressing coal mining town, on planning his escape to a college somewhere sunny and far away. But as bits of his childhood erode around him, he finds it's not so easy to let go. With the selfless heroism of the passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed nearby fresh in his mind and in his heart, Tom begins to see some reasons to stay, to see that even lost causes can be worth fighting for.

Edward Bloor has created a searing portrait of a place and a family and a boy who survive a harrowing plague year, and become stronger than before.

YA BOOKS IN STORES NEXT WEEK
Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
After her brother’s death, a teen struggles to rediscover love and find redemption in this gripping novel.

Growing up in Africa and Latin America as the children of missionaries, London and Zach were as close as could be. And then Zach dies, and the family is gutted. London’s father is distant. Her mother won’t speak. The days are filled with what-ifs and whispers: Did Zach take his own life? Was it London’s fault?

Alone and adrift, London finds herself torn between her brother’s best friend and the handsome new boy in town as she struggles to find herself—and ultimately redemption—in this authentic and affecting novel from award-winning novelist Carol Lynch Williams.




Destined (Wings) by Aprilynne Pike

Laurel now knows the truth: Yuki is a rare Winter faerie, the most powerful—and deadly—of all, and she is working with Klea to conquer and destroy Avalon. With Tamani, David, and Chelsea by her side, Laurel prepares for a fight she never thought she would have to face.

Filled with heart-pounding action, sweeping romance, and higher stakes at every turn, Destined is the series conclusion that readers have been clamoring for—with a twist that will leave them breathless/

Tamani looked at her gravely, and reached up to touch her hair behind her ear. He hesitated for an instant, then his hands found the sides of her face, pulling her to him. He didn't kiss her, just held her face to his, their foreheads resting together, their noses almost touching.

She hated how much it felt like good-bye.

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi


Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.

In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.



Wrecked by Anna Davies

Secrets of the sea have never been sexier than this.

Ever since the death of her parents, Miranda has lived on Whym Island, taking comfort in the local folklore, which claims a mysterious sea witch controls the fate of all on the island and in its surrounding waters. Sometimes it’s just easier to believe things are out of your control.

But then a terrible boating accident takes the lives of several of her friends, and Miranda is rescued by a mysterious boy who haunts her dreams. Consumed by guilt from the accident, she finds refuge in late-night swims—and meets Christian, a boy who seems eerily familiar, but who is full of mystery: He won’t tell her where he is from, or why they can only meet at the beach. But Miranda falls for him anyway…and discovers that Christian’s secrets, though meant to protect her, may bring her nothing but harm.    



Seductive and compelling, Wrecked brings a contemporary, paranormal twist to a classic enchanting tale.


Infinity (Numbers) by Rachel Ward

Post-Chaos 2029. Adam, Sarah and Mia are living together, struggling with the fame of seeing numbers - the dates when people will die. But something is about to tear them apart. During The Chaos Mia swapped her number for another. Suddenly her powerful new ability makes her a terrifying target. Everyone wants to live forever.


Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe

A one-word text message: That's all Michal "Mike" Garcia needs to gather a crowd. Mike is a seventeen-year-old bookie, and Sanctuary is where she takes bets for anyone at Carson High with enough cash. Her only rule: Never participate, never place a bet for herself.

Then Josh Ellison moves to town. He pushes Mike to live her life, to feel a rush of something -- play the game, he urgest, stop being a spectator.

So Mike breaks her one rule. She places a bet, feels the rush.
And loses.

In an act of desperation, she and Josh -- who has a sordid past of his own -- concoct a plan: The pair will steal from Carson City's elite to pay back Mike's debt. Then they'll give the rest of their haul to those who need it most. How can burglary be wrong if they are making things right?

WANTED will thrust readers into the gritty underbelly of Carson City, where worth is determined by a score, power is derived from threat, and the greatest feat is surviving it all.



The Serpent's Shadow (The Kane Chronicles) by Rick Riordan

He's b-a-a-ack! Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sade Kane can’t seem to keep Apophis, the chaos snake, down. Now Apophis is threatening to plunge the world into eternal darkness, and the Kanes are faced with the impossible task of having to destroy him once and for all. Unfortunately, the magicians of the House of Life are on the brink of civil war, the gods are divided, and the young initiates of Brooklyn House stand almost alone against the forces of chaos.

To find the answer they need, the Kanes must rely on the murderous ghost of a powerful magician who might be able to lead them to the serpent’s shadow... or might lead them to their deaths in the depths of the underworld...



When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything. Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance. Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….


Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences? This is life for sons and daughters of fallen angels in Sweet Evil.

Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

A cross-country trip to meet her father forces Anna to face the reality that hope and love are not options for her kind. When she confronts her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?




Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.



The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry


This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance. On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.

It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed fa├žade rapidly comes undone.

Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long

Body and Soul (Ghost and the Goth) by Stacey Kade


The final book in The Ghost and the Goth Trilogy!

The Ghost
I’ve been trapped in the body of Lily “Ally” Turner for a month now. Talk about a fashion crisis on an epic scale. What worries me more, though, is sometimes I catch Will looking at me like he thinks I’m Lily...or that he wishes I were. Without the good looks of my former self, I don’t know who I am, or if who that is is good enough. I need out of this mess. Now.

Will and I have been looking for a solution, one that would separate me from Lily without killing her. But it’s not going well. Then, when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, we run into Misty, my former best friend and boyfriend-stealer extraordinaire, who claims she’s being haunted...by me. Seriously?

I’m determined to get to the bottom of who’s pretending to be the spirit of Alona Dare (while I’m pretending to be someone else) and then get the heck out of this body. Or die trying...

The Goth
I’ll admit it. It’s really weird to look at Alona but see Lily. I do know the difference, though, contrary to what Alona might be saying. And Alona is more than a pretty face to me, not that she would believe that.

Our one lead for some help in this messed up situation might be a page torn from the yellow pages-—the “Psychics” section-—I found in my dad’s stuff. One of the “fakes” seems a bit more real-—and odd-—than the others. Before I can investigate further, though, Alona is off and chasing a ghost that’s probably nothing more than a figment of Misty’s guilty imagination. Now Lily’s family is freaking out because she didn’t come home, my mom is ordering me to stay out of it, and something is definitely wrong with the person formerly known as Lily “Ally” Turner...(


Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy) by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.


The Golden Lily (Bloodlines) by Richelle Mead


The second thrilling installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy spinoff series

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.(


Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.


This Is So Not Happening (He's So/She's So) by Kieran Scott


After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again. — It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.

But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?



Black Dawn (Morganville Vampires) by Rachel Caine

The hotly-anticipated twelfth instalment in the Morganville Vampires series

In Last Breath, the rain brought a new and dire threat to Morganville and its vampires... their ancient enemies, the draug. Now, the vampires are fighting a losing war, and it will fall to the residents of the Glass House: Michael, Eve, Shane and Claire, to take the fight to an enemy who threatens to destroy the town, forever.

Lovers of Morganville, rejoice: Black Dawn takes the intrigue, romance and nail-biting suspense of the series to its highest level yet!




Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready


In this dramatic conclusion to the Shade trilogy, Aura and Zachary’s relationship sizzles as the secrets of the Shift are revealed.

Life can change in an instant, and no one understands that better than Aura. It’s been almost a year since her boyfriend tragically died. She’s finally letting go of Logan’s violet-hued ghost, but not her search to uncover the truth about her past.

As the first in a generation that can see ghosts, Aura is convinced she has a connection to the Shift. She’s trusted Zachary, ever patient and ever by her side, with all that she knows. But when the government threatens his life in an attempt to learn Aura’s secrets, she will stop at nothing to protect herself and the one she loves...even if that means betraying her own heart.


Crossing the Line (Border Town) by Malin Alegria

In Dos Rios, Texas, life is all about borders -- and what happens when you cross the line.

Nothing is simple in a border town like Dos Rios, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Even for high school students Fabiola Garza and her younger sister Alexis, whose parents run a local Tex-Mex restaurant, Dos Rios is full of borders -- where you should go, who your friends should be, which boy you should date.

Dos Rios is also full of opportunities, but it's a town divided, between the haves and the have-nots, the Whites and the Mexicans-Americans, the Texans and the Mexicans, the legal and illegal. But through it all, the Garza sisters have each other. Water can be crossed, but blood is the ultimate borderline -- no matter what.



Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy


Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more.

When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

15 WOW Wednesday: Sarvenaz Tash on the Magic Author Formula




Today's guest, Sarvenaz Tash, was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY where all the streets are laid out in a delightfully simple grid system. Her book, The Mapmaker and the Ghost came out from Bloomsbury/Walker. Find her on her website, on Twitter, or on her blog


Sarvenaz Tash on the Magic Author Formula


I’m always a little hesitant to talk about my “writer journey,” mainly because I’m not sure where the line is between interesting/informative and boring/stop talking about yourself! I will say this, the writer journey and the author journey have one big thing in common: there is a lot of waiting involved. A LOT. I really think more than anyone who’s not in the publishing business can possibly understand (“Wait, when does your book come out?” is probably my #1 FAQ as a soon-to-be-published author).

If I had to break down “what it takes” to be an author, I’d probably do it like this:

20% Talent/Natural Affinity: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old and I’ve been doing it since then too. Obviously, it’s something I love to do and have a passion and a knack for.

30% Luck: I met my agent because she was teaching a children’s writing class I was taking (this was before she was an agent). That was luck. When she took me on, she shopped around a different manuscript that didn’t sell, although one editor liked my blog enough to ask if I had anything more similar (read: funnier) to that. It was luck that I even had a blog (which was about how ridiculous Times Square was because my office was in that area). It was luck that she saw something in my voice to edit my way-too-short manuscript with me on spec.

And somewhere in South America, a butterfly flaps its wings…

50% Hard Work/Determination/Perseverance: I’d come home from my 50+-hour work week and I’d write. I quit one day job—because it was getting too intense to let me write—for another. I still came home and wrote. I took classes, I got critiqued. I rewrote everything I wrote. My debut book has 26 drafts. I queried and got rejected, rejected, and rejected. I still wrote.

It’s true that I’m not telling the whole story. In between the writing and the rewriting and the rejections, there was sometimes crying. There was sometimes exhaustion. And there were often times where I wondered if it wouldn’t be better for my mental well-being if I didn’t just quit the writing and put my entire focus on my office job. So that when I was done at the office, I could come home and relax, or hang out with friends, or watch TV. I tried this for about a year. It didn’t work.

It didn’t work for two reasons: one, no matter how hard I tried, stories and characters and bits of dialogue kept swirling around in my head. They were just there and they were begging me to write them. Two, I kept thinking about the diary I kept when I was in elementary school, the one that said, in my 7-year-old handwriting, that I wanted to be an author when I grew up (it actually said I wanted to be a children’s book author when I grew up). The thought of letting down that little girl broke my heart.

So I began to write again. There is a percentage within this “hard work” percentage that goes to something else: faith. I had to believe I could succeed, really believe it.

I have really, really great close friends and family who believed with me too. But the truth is, most people you meet in your daily life, if you tell them you’re trying to publish a novel, or become an actress, or produce a musical, they’ll probably dismiss it. I’m not saying they’ll do this out of unkindness or anything, just, usually, out of logic. They’ll think, “There are many people who want to do what you do, but most people do not.”

Yes, logically, they’re right. If you thought about it logically (and sometimes you will as I did—see above), you’d probably come to the same conclusion.

But the opposite side of the coin is that there are some people who accomplish exactly what you want to accomplish. And you know their names. Maybe, someday, they’ll know yours.

I wanted it. I went for it. I worked hard. And I believed. There’s my magic author formula right there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5 An Interview with Liz Norris -- Happy Book Birthday to UNRAVELING!


Happy book birthday to Elizabeth Norris! We're lucky to have an interview with her today, so read on to hear how this former high school English and history teacher wrote her first novel. As for the rest? She traded in the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. UNRAVELING, out today from Balzer & Bray, is the story of one girl's fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming. Find her at liznorris.blogspot.com or on twitter @liz_norris.

Q. How long have you been writing and what was your journey to publication like?

A. I wrote my first picture books when I was three years old. Actually I drew the pictures and my mom helped me write the story. Then I wrote my first novel when I was in ninth grade. It took me all year, and it was pretty terrible. But when I finished, I wrote another book and another and another. During my senior year, after I'd finished a fantasy novel, I went to a writing conference and pitched an agent. But I was too sensitive and I didn't really know anything about the industry, and it didn't go well. I left the conference thinking that publishing wasn't for me. I knew I would always write, but I figured I wouldn't really pursue being published. I wrote consistently after that but never really showed my writing to anyone. Then a year and a half ago I started writing Unraveling and joined a writing group for fun. They really loved it and encouraged me to let an agent take a look.

Q. What inspired you to write this book?

A. I was in a long distance relationship and thinking a little dramatically about people who fell in love despite being from different worlds. I spent a weekend watching reruns of The X-Files, and listening to Paramore, and I started plotting Unraveling.

Q. What advice do you think most made the difference to you to push you from a writer to a publishable author?

A. I really can't take credit for it. I had given up on that. I'd have to say that the difference for me was having some great friends who continued to tell me how great the story was.


Q. What advice would you like to pass on to other writers working toward publication?

A. I've heard a lot of great advice like "write every day" and "don't ever give up" but that advice didn't stick with me. I'd say for me, the best thing to learn was that there are highs and lows when writing a book and even more on the road to publication and you have to savor the highs and let them inspire you, and let the lows roll off your back.


Q. How has your life changed since your got a book deal? What do you love and what would you have done differently in hindsight?

A. I'm busier. I have less time to watch TV and more time that's spent sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop. But otherwise, it's pretty much the same. I suppose if I looked back I could list a lot of things that I might have done differently, but I don't really know how things would have turned out if I changed it up. So I don't think I'd change anything. I'm just really grateful to be where I am.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

Elizabeth is generously letting us give away a signed copy of UNRAVELING on Friday 4/27. So stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2012

2 First Five Pages Workshop Mentor Announcement and 2nd Round Revisions

The next round of our First Five Pages Workshop is up! Please comment on the revised entries posted below. Are you hooked? Would you keep reading? Why, why not? Do you love the voice? The characters? The mood and tone of the story? Does the action intrigue you? How's the writing, generally? Is there too much dialogue, description, or action? Not enough? Comment on whatever strikes you.

Lisa Gail Green and I also have a wonderful announcement. Starting next month, we will be introducing guest mentors for these monthly workshops. Kat Zhang, whose first book WHAT'S LEFT OF ME will release this September from HarperCollins, will be working along with us to help the May participants get their manuscripts shined up. We also have a stellar lineup of published authors coming in future months, and our goal is to really be able to get new writers the kind of help and support that will make a lasting difference. (If you're an author interested in participating in future workshops, please get in touch!)

Mark your calendars, everyone! The May workshop will open for entries on May 5th at noon. And in the meantime, here's a a little bit about Kat's book. For the record? I've read it, and it is ah-maze-ing. Seriously.


Publication Date: September 18, 2012
HarperCollins

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else--two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren't they settling? Why isn't one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn't...

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she's still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet...for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Happy writing this week, everyone!

Martina

6 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Edwards Rev 2

Author: Dana Edwards
Genre: MG, contemporary
Title : Harold--the Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day

I had almost forgotten about Harold, but as I walked to the bus stop on the first day of sixth grade, I heard, “Hey Jake! Jake! Wait up, Jake! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will arrive at 8:07.”

“Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:30 am, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”

Great. Where is that bus?

“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?”

“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

I didn’t have a clue. I’d never even heard of Harvey Haddix, but I thought just this one time, Harold would buy it and not go into his never-ending monologue about one more major league ballplayer I ‘d never heard of.

He’s quiet—this is good.

“You have? Because I just learned about him this summer when I was in Ohio visiting my grandma.”

Maybe if I don’t look his way and stay real quiet…

“Did you know that in 1959, Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game?”

Rats!

“Sure, Harold, I remember that. What time did you say the bus was coming?”

“8:07 am. Harvey Haddix played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he pitched twelve straight perfect innings! Do you know who the Pirates were playing that night?”

“Let’s see, it was the…”

“It was the Braves.”

“That’s right. Harvey pitched a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. Now, if we stop talking, I bet we can hear if the bus is nearby.”

Harold laughed like I had said the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “The Atlanta Braves! Don’t you know anything? They were the Milwaukee Braves back then! It’s a good thing you’ve got me as your friend, Jake. I can teach you stuff.”

Then Harold dug in his book bag and took out the green notebook.

Each year before school started, he’d add one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook Harold kept track of the times he'd beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down all sorts of baseball stats.

Harold collects little known baseball facts like the Smithsonian collects dead things—the more obscure the better. And thanks to Harold, whatever he knows, I know it too.

In a situation like this, it’s best not to appear too interested, but I was pretty sure the newest entry in the notebook was going to be, August 12, 2012. Jake Thomas doesn’t know that the Atlanta Braves used to be the Milwaukee Braves.

We heard the bus’s brakes one street over.

Harold stuffed the notebook back in his book bag and asked, “Want to sit together on the bus, Jake? Just like in elementary school? Make it seven straight years?”

I hadn’t thought about that. I didn’t have a plan to avoid sitting with Harold on the bus in middle school. The problem was, once you started something with Harold, it was like it was etched in stone. If I sat with Harold today, I’d be sitting with him the rest of my middle school career.

Think, Jake, think.

Just then the bus rounded the corner and stopped right in front of us. The door opened and there sat the meanest looking bus driver I’d ever seen in my entire life. She had crazy curly hair that stuck out from under an Atlanta Braves cap. I looked closer and I’m pretty sure she had a mustache. I would have thought she was a man if it weren’t for the pink and purple striped socks she was wearing with her sandals.

She snarled like the neighbor’s Dobermans as she looked at me and Harold, and then she said the best words I’d ever heard, “Shorty, you sit up front with all the other sixth graders and you with the Star Wars lunchbox, sit in Row Ten through Fifteen.” I couldn’t believe my luck—for once it paid off to be, as my sister called it, “physically immature.” The bus driver recognized me as a sixth grader, but because Harold was a good two feet taller than me, she mistook him for a 7th or 8th grader.

I think I’m going to like the Braves fan driving bus 6.

I looked at Harold and shrugged my shoulders, then climbed aboard to find a seat on the second row.

Because Row Two was right behind the bus driver, I could see the sign, Hello, My name is Ms. Woodmore and I am your bus driver, and I could see her face in her mirror. It wasn’t a happy face. In fact, it was looking angrier by the second. I turned around to see what was making her so mad and I saw Harold. He was standing in the isle, touching each row and counting out loud as he passed each one.

“Row Four. Row Five, Row Six.” The kids on the bus started laughing. When Harold got to Row Ten, he froze.

The bus driver shouted, “Young Man! You with the Star Wars lunchbox, we can’t leave until everyone is seated. And that includes YOU!”

I sank down in my seat. Why? Why did it have to start already? We aren’t even at school yet.

I knew what the problem was. It was the “Row Ten through Fifteen” that was throwing him. See, Harold can’t handle choices. Mom says Harold's “special”, but kids just think he’s weird.

An eighth grader sitting in the back shouted, “Hey, Star Wars, sit down already!”

It felt like an hour had passed since I’d found my seat next to fellow sixth grader, Lucy Thayer. She looked at me and said, “Jake do something.” I looked back at her and said, “You do something!”

Then Lucy said, “Harold’s your friend—plus, you’re sitting on the outside.”

I hated moments like this. I’d been put in situations like this since kindergarten, and it just wasn’t fair! Why did I have to be in charge of Harold? But, I got up, walked back to him and said, “Harold, here’s a seat. Your seat will be on Row Twelve next to this kid here.” Just as Harold sat down, his “almost seat partner” moved to Row Fifteen.

When I got back to my seat, I looked at Ms. Woodmore’s mirror and by the look on her face, I could tell we weren’t going to be friends after all.

The first day of school was perfect and when I boarded the bus at the end of the day, I sat beside Lucy—who had her nose in a book as usual—and I let out a big sigh. She looked up from her book and asked, “What?”

“What what?”

“What’s the matter with you? You act like you’ve been holding your breath all day and you’re finally able to let it out.”

“It was just—just such a great day!”

“It’s only the first day of middle school, Jake.” Then she looked back down at her book and said, “It’s likely to go downhill from here.”

I didn’t care. Today was the best day of my life. It was good-bye baby elementary school and hello middle school, where you were treated like a real human being.

First, I had homeroom, next was Math, and then Social Studies. Then Science, Health and lunch. Lunch was awesome! The food was horrible, but the seating arrangement was fantastic!

I sat two kids down from Tommy Wilbanks. Then next to him, sat Jonathan Mitchell, and right across him, was Steven Joiner. I was surrounded by three Southside Comets. With any luck, I’d find a way onto their baseball team.

After lunch, came Language Arts and the payload of all classes—Physical Education. Several guys from my baseball team were in PE with me, along with two more Comets. I was hoping that even though the PE unit was volleyball, I could find a way to demonstrate my superb athletic ability…or just avoid looking stupid.

But the best part of the past eight hours was that I didn’t see or even hear Harold McGee the entire day. Not once!

Harold was on the “accelerated track” and I was on the “regular track.” Accelerated meant you were pretty smart—and on the second floor—and regular meant, well, you were regular. Regular was fine by me, especially if it meant I’d get to meet new kids without Harold ruining it for me.

I turned to find Harold and I saw him sitting in his same spot from this morning reading his favorite book, The World Series of Baseball Trivia: Stats, Facts, and Fun. It was Harold’s favorite book. He’d gotten it for his seventh birthday. I know, because I gave it to him. It was Mom’s idea. She knew how much he loved baseball and how he could remember things from every game he’d ever watched. That kind of thing impressed a seven-year-old—but a twelve-year-old, not so much.

Reading, especially about baseball, always seemed to calm Harold down. If he was feeling stressed or anxious over something—which was often—he’d read a book and it seemed to snap him out of whatever was bugging him.

I turned back around, hoping he hadn’t seen me looking. He was fine. I was great. And this was going to be one fantastic year.


5 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - James, Rev 2

Author: Robert James
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Choices (Formerly Losing Robbie)

1. LAUREN

I stare at them both, the blade and the phone, trying to decide which to choose.

Two years ago, the choice would have been easy. Although two years ago, it wouldn't have been a choice I'd even have considered having to make.

Back then, I was a baby. I was in primary school, I had lots of friends, and I thought that my stepsister could solve any problem ever. I really want to give her one more chance to solve this one.

I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone. I put my hand on the right key to speed-dial her... Then change my mind. I put the phone down, pick up the blade carefully - wouldn't want to cut my fingers, too many awkward questions people could ask - and lift it to my shoulder.

Then I chicken out and put that down.

Back to the phone. Just as I'm about to call her, I think about what Joanna said and lose my nerve. I throw the phone onto my bed, and pick up the blade once more.

I can't focus properly on either of them, so I keep this going for the next five minutes or so. Blade, phone, blade, phone. The repetition has a calming effect on me and I nearly walk away from them both. I know that's not the answer, though.

Taking a deep breath, I pick up the phone one more time and finally press the button to call Rachel. She answers, and my words flood out.

"Rachel? It's Lauren. I really need to talk to someone. I think... I mean, I need... Can you come home? Please?"

I gasp the words out, nearly in tears as I finally ask her. I want to confront her face to face. For her to tell me it's not true.

But at the other end there's silence. Nothing. And then she laughs.

"Hey sweetie! Sorry, didn't hear a word of that. Robbie grabbed my phone!"

I hear the two of them messing about and it's clear she has much better things to do than come and talk to me about stuff that happened years ago. There's a bunch of giggles before she carries on speaking.

"Was it important, babes, or just phoning for a chat?" she questions me.

For only the third time in the eight years I've known her, I lie to her.

"Just a chat," I try to keep my voice light. "I'll let you get back to Robbie. Have fun!"

I think she thanks me, but I can barely hear her. Bursting into tears, I slam my head into the pillow. After sobbing for a few minutes, I get up and pick up the razor blade.

I place it against my shoulder and smile to myself. I look in the mirror and see the silver touch my pale skin. This time, there's no hesitation. This time, I push it in and draw it down, ever so slowly, wincing as I form a thin red line to go with the three pink scars already there. I smile to myself as the pain which is becoming increasingly familiar takes over my thoughts. For a few moments, I know that I'll forget about being Bingirl, Princess Pizza Face, or any of the other names people call me. The pain will be all I can focus on, and I will be happier than I've been all day.

Looking at my phone, and at the blade, which is now silver and red thanks to my blood, I don't know why it was such a difficult choice.

2. RACHEL
I love my stepsisters – I really do. And Lauren is my favourite. She's sweet, she's clever, and she looks at me as if I'm a goddess – she definitely has good taste in role models! She's just becoming so, so clingy. This is the third time she's phoned me over the past couple of weeks when I was out, and every time she just wants a chat. Still, I'll make sure I make some time for her over the weekend, just in case it's something important.

Robbie reaches over and grabs my phone again as soon as I've hung up. He turns it off, smiling at me as he does so, and slides it into the pocket of his jeans.

“Let's forget everyone else, princess. Tonight's about you and me.”

It's a terrible line, but it makes me laugh. As he says it, however, I hear someone call my name. Turning, I see my mum's friend Gary walking across to greet me.

“Congratulations, Rachel. I hear that you got an offer from Oxford.”

I still feel like I need to pinch myself every time someone mentions this. For three years, a place at Oxford has been nearly all I could dream about. Getting the letter a few weeks ago with an offer – as long as I achieve the grades I'm fully expecting to get in my A levels - was the happiest moment of my life.

Smiling, I tell him how pleased I am, and we talk for a couple of minutes until he goes to join his friends. Robbie glares after him and I nearly burst out laughing. “Robbie, he's a mate of my mum's. He's older than she is, at least 35. Nothing for you to worry about!

He still looks unhappy, though, and I glance out of the window, hoping to avoid an argument. We normally sit somewhere at the back of the pub – my 6'3 height generally obscures the fact that I'm technically a few months away from legal drinking age, but better safe than sorry – but today the place is packed and we grabbed the only table I can find. As I look out, I see a red-haired girl who looks a few years younger than me walking past. For a moment, I think I recognise her face.

“You alright, cariad?” Robbie asks me. He takes my hand, and I manage to pull myself together. Of course the girl isn't who I thought she was. Lydia has been dead three years.

“I'm fine,” I say to him, although I feel sure he can hear my heart beating loudly enough to know this isn't true. For an awful moment, I thought she'd somehow come back from the dead. I had visions of her walking in and telling everyone what had happened.

Once, this happened to me all of the time. The summer after she died, I practically stayed at home for six weeks because I convinced myself I'd seen her whenever a redhead passed me in the street. None of those looked anywhere near as similar to Lydia as this girl did, and that resemblance absolutely terrifies me. Because if there was a way that Lydia could tell everyone how we caused her death, I know that there's no possible chance that Oxford would want me.