Water’s Edge: Excerpt from Chap 1

A Little Context

For Serena, moving to a new town and a new school is only half the problem.  Left behind by her father to live with near-strangers, Serena must learn to live quietly and suppress her powerful gift.  If she can’t figure out how to do that, members of The Order might notice that things around Serena aren’t as “Normal” as they should be.  Making new friends and attracting the attention of an artistic young man with his own disturbing gifts only complicates matters.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Once in the hallway, I leaned against the row of lockers, taking deep breaths, trying to blink away the tears.  I hated my life right now.

I saw the girls’ restroom and escaped inside.

I checked each stall to make sure I was alone.  I turned back to the door and locked it.  Just a few minutes of privacy.

And the lovely things about bathrooms?  Always plenty of water.  I have a thing about water, did I mention that?  It’s kind of important.

Inhaling deeply, I tried to channel the power weighing like a brick in my chest, tried to shift the filter, imaging the breath flowing all the way to the bottoms of my feet, I felt the water pulling toward my call, answering, and grief swirled through my heart unexpectedly.

There were ten porcelain sinks in this restroom.  With a little flick of the power seated in my chest, I let the water pour.

Each of the ten faucets twisted on and water gushed, thundering.  I exhaled, pushed the air out, willing the negative feelings and hurt to flow down the drain with all the water.

Steam began to rise, the heat fogging the mirrors.

I breathed in and the air was heavier, damp, and soothed my heart some.

It took me a few minutes, but as I began to feel calmer, the water’s fury eased.  I breathed out and let the water’s power go until each faucet was only tinkling.

I swiped at a mirror, looking at my reflection.  Green eyes stared back, my dead mother’s mouth, my missing father’s straight nose.

But at least I didn’t look like I had cried.  Never let ‘em see you cry, I thought.

I walked down to each sink, turning the knobs manually with my hand, cutting off the flow of water.

I gathered up my bag from the floor where it had dropped.


My Nano ALL Finished–Woot Woot

Participant-180x180-2Yep. I actually did it. I wrote a 50,000 word CHUNK during November. I am actually impressed with myself. Was it any good? Heh. Would I have been able to accomplish that if I was teaching during Nanowrimo? We’ll find out next year, as I fully intend to try again. I’m also planning on wearing the cheesy tee-shirt every chance I get.

While I don’t care for it, I am at least a little familiar with the work required to edit. I thought I’d spend a little time, here and there, posting excerpts in an effort to motivate myself to make the novel into something actually workable. Here’s a scene, just for funsies…

a little background to help us all with context: Serena, our first-person narrator, has just left an unwanted therapy session with her high school counselor. Unfortunately, her life has gotten a little complicated: 1. Her power is out of control, so she’s trying to stay away from Travis. 2. Travis’ ex waterhasn’t quite figured out that she’s an ‘ex’ and takes great delight in harassing Serena. 3. Therapy isn’t really her thing. 4. She’s the new kid in her high school—is there really anything more to be said?

I suppose it was proof that the Fates have an evil sense of humor, because when I got back to my locker after my session with Ms. Nelson, Travis was waiting for me. The halls were busy as people headed out to lunch, some kids rushing out to the parking lot, others down to the cafeteria. At first I didn’t even see him, too lost in my own thoughts. But then I noticed the boots and looked up.

Oh God, I thought, he is so cute. He stood there, leaning back against my locker, his dark green shirt bringing out his eyes. He was staring at me, his head tilted down, his expression intense, and I felt my insides curling with warmth. Then I felt my gift shifting, moving beyond my body, and I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that things weren’t under control and that Travis Rue apparently had a girlfriend, one supremo preppy bitch of a girlfriend named Amy Duncan.

“Here,” Travis said, pushing something he was holding at me. I looked down, realizing he held my books, the books I had dropped with Amy’s help earlier.

“You been trying to avoid me, Serena,” he said with raised eyebrow. Sadly, now I had the perfect excuse.

“I see your girlfriend gave you my books.”

“My girlfriend?”

“You know, that blonde girl with the great attitude? I mean, what did she do, run straight to you?” I grabbed my stuff from him, trying to shoulder past him to get to my locker where I could just shove things away.

“Are you talking about Amy?” And I tried not to let myself be reassured by what sounded like his genuine perplexity. “Amy is not my girlfriend, hasn’t been for months.”

“Oh yeah? You might want to explain that a little better to her,” I mumbled. He had crowded in behind me and I could feel the warmth of his chest on my shoulders. He reached up past my head and put his hand on my locker door. Now his body was partially wrapped around mine and I could smell his cologne. I just wanted to turn around and bury my nose in his neck, just breathe him in. I tried to inch away.

“Is that what you think of me?” He asked, his voice now deepening by his distress, his mouth near my ear. “Is that the kind of guy you think I am? That I would just forget my girl and chase after some new tail?” He slammed my locker closed and I flinched.

No, I wanted to tell him, No, I don’t think you’re that kind of guy, but I didn’t. It was better this way. Then I didn’t have to explain anything else to him, didn’t have to make up some elaborate lie that would backfire on me later. But this hurt.

“You’re not who I thought you were either.” His disgust was plain. Abruptly I was cold as he backed up. I whirled, watching him as he walked away, biting my lip to keep from calling out to him.

“Wow. You really screwed that up,” said a voice near me. I turned to see Kimber looking at me like I was the lowest scum. “Find your key yet?” She asked even as she walked away.

NANOWRIMO or try to write 50,000 words with little-to-no planning, all while continuing to live the rest of your life

Ever start on a project and then lose some enthusiasm?  Look, I’m a great ‘ideas’ gal, but sometimes I’m not so great on the ‘follow through’ portion of the task.

The irony behind that statement is that I DO tend to finish most things I start… it just may take me a little longer than normal.  Take for example, my college ‘career’ (side note: I think we call it a career so that we can pretend longer that we are actually doing more than just learning how to brew beer).  Yes, I was in college, mostly full-time, from 1996 until 2006.  I even started college with about fifteen hours of credit. I was a “decader” and I certainly was not the only one around.  I did manage to graduate and get several degrees and certificates; I also changed my mind—and rather than finish what I had started, I changed horses mid-race.

I’m discussing all of this because two years ago, I got this idea.  My first group of middle-schoolers were entering their senior years of high school.  Like with many first-year teachers, that class remains special in my heart.  A number of them sent me graduation invitations and continue to keep in touch.  While that year was rigorous and full of many first-year mistakes, I treasure the thought of those students.  Since I had begun writing again, I decided maybe I would try writing a novel, one set right here in Wichita with a young adult audience in mind.

    What the hell was I thinking?  Upon reflection, I do have to cut myself some slack.  After all, I did complete a short story collection and have been writing fiction for a decade.  How hard could a novel be?

I never got passed the first 4,000 words.  I DID join an organization full of great novelists and I HAVE been listening to them and learning from them.  I’ve learned about outlines and plot; I’ve listened to special speakers discuss characterization and revision.  I even wrote an ‘elevator pitch’ for the novel that I NEVER ACTUALLY WROTE.  I even submitted the first chapter (the only part I ever finished) to a Kansas Writers Association contest.

In my defense, I did write a ton of poetry, did some local poetry readings, began to negotiate a contract for my first chapbook, gave birth to my second child, received a Good Apple teaching award, and helped hammer out a pacing guide for my district, AND I learned how to befuddle my way through WordPress [badly].  It’s not like I wasn’t ‘doing’ anything.

But a few months ago, I decided that I should finish that story and maybe NANOWRIMO was the way to do it.  For those of you uninitiated, this is the crazy time when thousands of idiots around the country attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  Did I say idiot?  Huh.  Where do I sign up??

So I spent several weeks really hammering out a plan, an actual outline (more on this later) and am giving it a real ‘go.’  I also let myself really rethink what I had originally imagined, acknowledging that perhaps I had lost enthusiasm for the project because it was boring even to me. I’ve given it a new title and even created a book cover–just for giggles.  I feel a little insane for taking this on, but I also know that I am in good company with a lot of great people and at least by the end of the month, I can say… DONE.  I actually FINISHED that project.

I’ll try to keep things posted here, updates and such, but the truth is that it’s going to be hard enough slinging out the material for the book.  Blogging won’t be the high priority.  If you are attempting NANOWRIMO too, feel free to look me up and be a ‘buddy.’  So on this eve for daylight savings… Happy writing all!


It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

I have had the most wonderful/busy/crazy week.  Though I could spend hours talking about the lovely Gillian Welch and her partner, I’ll let the video suffice.  Her music playing through the great hall of the Orpheum Theater has stayed with me for days.


On that note, I’ve had a story in my head for a month or two.  I’ll be sharing this first part with my fellow KWA members in my critique group tomorrow.  Though it’s silly and a tad cliche, This will develop into a Young Adult ghost story.

It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

             Madison Lake took a deep breath and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her Levis.  The chilly October air curled under her light jacket.  Should’ve worn a costume, she thought.  Could I possibly stand out more? Everyone else in line outside the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita had dressed to the max.  From the hobo clown a few feet away, to the man dressed as Voldemort further down, these people took Halloween seriously.  So far, she had seen a pregnant cheerleader, several terrorists with turbans made from towels, and a giant pack of cigarettes.  She had no idea how that guy was going to sit down.

It seemed dumb to ask mom for money for a costume, and her own savings was blown.  Her house was full of barely unpacked boxes, and her mom seemed totally stressed out enough as it was.  Besides, she thought, dressing up for Halloween is for little kids.  She snorted.  Tell that to these people.  She’d never seen so many grown folk acting like freaks. 

Maddy flinched away from the tall guy in the full-on Pin-Head costume, the needles stuck in the face of his mask casting long shadows.  She tried to stand as close to the brick wall of the old theater as she could get.  The flashing marquee cast blinking splashes across the painted and masked faces. The eerie effect made even the Tinkerbell a few people down the line look ghastly.

A shadowy figure loomed near and she clutched at her jacket.  The figure bumped into Maddy’s hip, and she realized it was Stephanie, even as the girl squealed, “Maddy!”  She was a little dazed, and the next few words were lost in Steph’s giggling enthusiasm.  “… made it! This is gonna’ be so much fun! I can’t wait for you to meet Chris!”

            Chris?!  Christopher Ryan? The guy from Maddy’s geometry class? Tall, dark, and way out of her league?  With the deep brown eyes and the smile that lit up the whole room?  That guy was the hottest thing since Edward Cullen!!  How could Stephanie NOT tell me HE was coming? she thought frantically.  Would she look stupid without a costume?  Stephanie clearly had on a costume, although Maddy couldn’t figure it out. 

            Stephanie continued to babble, pulling her toward the back of the line, gushing on so fast that Maddy had a hard time following her words.

            “… and you like my costume, don’t you?”  She looked at Stephanie, considering the purple dress straight out of 70s polyester heaven, the purple tights and a neon green scarf.  It all seemed vaguely familiar.  The hair was the best part, teased and feathered into a strange bouf tied back with a headband.  Stephanie posed for her.  “So, what do you think?  Pretty good, huh?”

            “Uhhh,” Maddy struggled. 

            “Oh come ON, Maddy! You don’t get it?”  Stephanie’s impatience was palpable and she tried not to squirm.  Finally, Stephanie just shrugged.  “Don’t worry.  You’ll figure it out.”  She hooked Maddy’s arm and pulled her on toward the art deco stained-glass doors. 

            From behind them, they heard a voice: “Hey, new girl.”  The tone had Maddy hunching her shoulders even as she turned around in line.  She sighed.  She was sure that every high school across the country had at least a few Page McElroys sprinkled in.  These girls always had the latest hair styles, the most expensive clothes, and the snottiest attitudes.  Maddy hated clichés and stereotypes, but if the shoe fit? she thought philosophically. 

            For once, though, Page wasn’t dressed in the latest fashion.  In fact, that sweater she was wearing had to be the ugliest color orange Maddy had ever seen.  The wool skirt wasn’t much better for the coolness factor, although it was definitely short and skimpy.  And her sweater certainly had a deep V down the front!

Too bad Page was draped all over Christopher, and she was clearly making sure he had a view.  But he didn’t seem to notice.  He wasn’t even looking at her.

“Hi,” he said, looking straight at Maddy.  He had this little half-smile, and his eyes seemed to be crinkled up with humor, and Maddy forgot about everything else.  It was like she’d hit the world’s mute button.  She noticed his olive green tee-shirt, the brown corduroy pants, his mussed-up hair.  She sighed, answering “Hi,” back.

“Great,” said Page, her grating voice breaking the spell.  She thrust a bag at Maddy.  “Here.  You can be our ‘Scooby.”

With dawning horror, Maddy realized the paper bag now in her hands was clearly marked SCOOBY SNACKS in black Sharpe marker.  They were all dressed as characters from the cartoon: Stephanie as ‘Daphne’, Chris as ‘Shaggy,’ and Page as the sluttiest ‘Velma’ Maddy had ever seen.  And apparently she had been invited on this little outing for a very specific reason.  The gang just wouldn’t be the same without the dog.  She wanted to die.

Before she even had time to react, before she needed to blink the tears out of her eyes, Chris snatched the bag out of her hands.  “You’re such a bitch, Page.”  He shifted his body away from hers and she immediately pouted.

“Come on, Chris, where’s your sense of humor?  I was only kidding!”

His muttered, “whatever,” was drowned out by Stephanie’s scream of excitement, “Blake’s here! Blake’s here!  He’s Fred, you know,” she said to Maddy, clapping.  “The gang’s all here.” 

His costume was the best.  He even had on a silk Ascot.  And in his arms, he carried a stuffed animal.  “Brought your Scooby,” he said, passing the toy to Chris.  Page rolled her eyes at me and then smiled a little, like she was saying, “A joke’s a joke. No hard feelings?”  I stared at her.  But Chris was suddenly beside me and I could feel his warmth through my thin jacket.  I shrugged, following Stephanie and Blake into the theater.

*          *          *          *