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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Teaser - Bettina post 6

This is the beginning of Chapter 3 from Bettina. You can go up to the top tab to look at the other teasers if you like. Important things to know - Erik has just stolen 50$ from a local cafe. Jessica watched him do it. Setting is 1962. And um, that's about it. I kept it kind of short today and it's pretty rough. As for yesterday's post - I'll reveal what the science photo is tomorrow so if you want to take a guess at it, go here. Cheers!

It normally takes five minutes to drive to Jessica’s house from the diner. I get there in two. I pull straight up to her house, park curbside and let the engine idle. Across the street is her father’s church. I’m quite certain he’s there, can hear my radio from his office and is likely to peer outside any minute. I shake another smoke out of my pack, roll it across my tongue and light it. I’m not gonna make this easy for her.

She leans across the center divide and snaps the radio off.

“You better get inside before your dad sees you,” I say.

“He’s never in at this time of day.”

Damn. I lean my arm across the car door and flick ashes onto the street. I glance around her neighborhood – so much cleaner than mine. The sidewalks are swept, the grass is cut, even the damn mailboxes look like they’ve been scrubbed. I settle my eyes on Jessica’s house with its pretty red shutters and flowerboxes. Her mother is quite the gardener – and spy.

“Your mother’s looking out window.”

Jessica inhales and scoots half a foot away from me. I fight the urge to laugh and wave at Mrs. Hughes – with the hand that’s holding my cigarette.

“Stop that,” Jessica protests. I can’t help it. I’m laughing now. Jessica’s so damn cute when she’s embarrassed. “You’re impossible,” she concludes. There’s a smile on her face, and somehow I think she doesn’t even care that she’s going to get the third degree when she goes in the house.

But she doesn’t plan on doing that until she gets what she wants.

“Come on, Erik,” she says. “You know it was wrong to take that money. If you give it to me now, then I’ll hand it over to Mel and your name won’t even be mentioned.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then…” She takes a deep breath. “Then I’ll have to tell him that you stole it.”

“If you could prove it, which you can’t. Besides, Mel likes me too much. He wouldn’t press charges.”

“He won’t like you once he knows you stole from him.”

“I never said he likes me for my honesty.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mondays, Mockingjays and Microscopes

So, this week I got stranded in Nebraska with a local grocery store check out girl while she drooled over her boss with the bodacious tooshy. Then I got transported through a time machine to a medieval world where princes are hot and their soul mates/wizarding students are more confused than I am about love. Next I encountered a very funny, special girl with Asperger's syndrome whose first love  made my heart literally stutter he was so damn sweet. On Friday, I got washed aboard a New England coastline where the wakeboarding is totally rad and girls are even radder. Finally on Sunday, I ended up in Pandem crossing my fingers that Katniss catches a break somewhere between running from lizard-mutts and molten black goo. As Erin Brokovich would say, I'm really quite tired!! Ok, I admit, I did most of that while sitting on my deck watching the kids play in the blow up swimming pool, but I bet for at least a second there I had you going.

Anyway, it's Monday which means back to work, back to reality and back to taking funky science pictures!! This is one that I shot recently on the giant, confusing, microscope from hell - that cost a million dollars (the microscope, not the picture) and still doesn't tell me what I need to know. Sometimes technology makes me do big headslams against my desk. Although the picture below is actually quite pretty. Can you guess what it is??

I have to say that I'm kind of on WIP withdrawal right now. I want desperately to look at NW even though I've told myself I wouldn't. I know the remedy is to probably get my arse moving on that query letter and synopsis, but it is so daunting to even think about that. Words of inspiration - or even just some butt kicking, please my dear friends?

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of one those adventures (ahem, books) that I mentioned at the top of this post. But seriously, take a guess on my science picture. If anyone gets it right (or in the ball park), I'll give you a bonus entry for my contest!! And if you haven't entered yet, clicky here. 

Ciao, babes!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real life guy things that will kill a crush worthy character

Giving your characters flaws is a good thing. It makes them more into people than fictional players in our imaginations, but some of us go too far. When trying to build a character that people (girls) will fall in love with, keep these real life guy things confined to real life.

* these are only my opinion, YMMV.

1. Nose picking or nose hair picking.
2. Al bundy impression - I don't care how cold he says his hand is, they make pockets for a reason.
3. Turning your guy into a poster boy for feminism - e.g. making him by tampons. seen it!
4. Showing him pulling the hoody up on his little buddy - we don't need it to be that realistic. seen it in adult lit
5. wiping his mouth with the bottom of his t-shirt
6. buying your main character flowers and bragging about what a good deal he got
7. spitting anywhere  *shivers*
8. drinking directly out of the milk/orange juice carton seen it!
9. letting your guy 'pick' from your mc's plate without asking seen it!
10. obnoxious chomping on chips or other snack food seen it!
11. cussing in front of little kids or senior citizens
12. wearing baggy pants that sit half way down the butt seen it!
13. If he notices that your mc is in a bad mood and automatically attributes it to PMS.
14. taking his gum out right before he kisses your mc. seen it!
15. laying on mc's bed with dirty/muddy shoes or any shoes for that matter. seen it!
16. farmer tan
17. constantly wearing a baseball cap and having permanent hair damage from it seen it!
18. complaining about the price of anything
19. shifting the nuts
20. the proverbial leaves the toilet seat up. I haven't seen this one, though I'm sure that someone out there would think that it'd be the perfect 'guy' thing to make their ms more authentic.

Suddenly I feel like I'm male bashing. Oh, all right, I'll post one for female crushes tomorrow.
If you can think of any that need to be added, let me know. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review - The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin

Was going to go with a Jaclyn Moriarty review for today, but this one had me up late last night, so I thought it deserved more attention. And, if you haven't entered my contest yet, go here for details.

Goodreads summary:
Acclaimed YA author C. K. Kelly Martin offers a sexy, soulful story of one confused boy, two girls, and all the complications that ensue in this romantic feel-good love story that celebrates friendship, first love, first lust, and second chances.

Sixteen-year-old Mason Rice is having the night of his life. He's just delivered an incredible performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year, and lost his virginity to one of his best friends—the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. His dreams are coming true, and the future looks golden.

Unfortunately, Kat sees things very differently. Crossing the friendship line was a big mistake, and all she wants is to forget it and move on, even if that means forgetting Mason altogether. What's a guy to do? Well, if you're Mason, you hang your hopes on the first attractive twenty-three-year-old you cross paths with. At first Mason wonders if he's imagining the chemistry . . . until Colette invites him over to her apartment. Suddenly Mason's living in a whole new world. 

If you're looking for a good male first person POV book to read, this one should definitely be on your list. I devoured this in one night. Ok, I admit it was also partly because it is so much sexier than anything I've been reading lately, and I miss that adult element in my literature. But the sex is also done very tastefully, and more importantly from a male perspective. There is a difference in how men and women view sex. I'm not saying that the MC takes it lightly - far from it - it's just different. And this story is a good illustration of that.

Mason's character was refreshing to me. I've read a handful of male-oriented books in the YA universe and in the majority of these, the MCs are a bit nerdy, a bit shy, and a bit maladjusted to the world around them and to girls in particular. Mason's not. He's confident (but not obnoxiously so), he's good looking (but not obsessed with his looks), he's got a positive attitude and most importantly he has focus in his life outside of girls and friends. All of this added up to a crush-worthy character that I admired. He reminds me a lot of one of my own MCs and so I felt really at home with him. 

Some other things that I really liked about this book:
1. The family element was well done and showed a unique side to Mason's character. During the early parts of the story you wonder why the author spends so much time developing this subplot, but then later you understand, and I think it really helped to develop Mason's character and show his positive attitude toward life - inviting new steps into your home is not an easy thing.

2. I loved the friendship dynamics that we see with Mason and Kat and his other best friend, Jamie. It felt very real and well, that's all I have to say about it.

Things about the writing that stand out:
1. The beginning could have been done better. There were too many characters introduced at once and along with them background info that was a turnoff for me. On top of this the author launches into a boring party scene where nothing really happens until the end. I felt Martin should have focused on the relationship between Kat and Mason in the first 1-4 pages because when she got to the part where they start talking (and eventually hooked up), I had to go back and read just to figure out who the hell she was. This was kind of strange considering how important she is throughout the rest of the story, and that Mason is so close to her and that he's had a crush on her for three years. Could have been much better done in my opinion.

2. The ending dragged a bit. I think the last three chapters could have been cut back to one with equal success. Or maybe I was just tired.

3. Dialogue was not really outstanding, there weren't any zingers the way you find in John Green's books, but it was authentic. The voice was there, but not really 'in your face' there. I think the story itself - wondering what was going to happen with the older chick was the thing that really motivated me to keep reading.

4. The cover. This could have been done so much better. I simply can't see a guy wanting to pick this book off the shelf. Can you? It gives the impression of something romantic and even a bit girly, but it's more a book about sex and relationships. While it would probably work for girls, I think it could be a turnoff for boys and that's kind of disappointing considering that it's written from the male perspective. What would have worked? I'm not sure, but the kissing isn't it. Second, I don't think the close up works very well except to remind us that some people have perfect skin. Third, I had to really look at it to tell which one is the boy and which the girl. Cover art gets a serious thumbs down from me.

My final score with this book is a 4. It definitely should be on your list if you're looking for more guy fiction. It's a page turner, but doesn't really get there until about 20 pages in, so be prepared.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Laughing at yourself - and resurrecting old friends

Being the youngest of four kids and having a near-death experience when I was young, my family pampered me a lot growing up. I always got my way, my parents always took my side, and I never got punished. I was also kind of whiny and well, a big crybaby.  This wasn't a very good situation when I started kindergarten. Every little thing that went wrong set me off and while the teachers were sympathetic, my classmates were not. Soon I wanted to get rid of the stigma of being the girl who cried at a broken crayon, and so I worked very hard at forcing myself not to cry. I eventually went from crying every day to maybe once a month, to just a couple times a year. But the thing that really helped, I discovered, was laughter. I remember it very distinctly, sitting in the bleachers in the second grade watching my classmates play basketball when the ball came flying straight at me and bonked me on the nose. It was a humdinger of a crying moment. People expected it - the coaches, my friends, and given how hard that ball hurt, it was certainly understandable that I would break into tears. But I didn't. You know what I did? I laughed. Yes, I laughed. I wanted to cry, I really did. The tears were threatening to break lose, but instead I made myself laugh good and hard. It lasted all of ten seconds, but in those ten seconds the pain subsided a bit. I realized that I wasn't really hurt that badly and the urge to drop those tears went away. What a life lesson! To laugh at yourself and completely change your emotions around. Now I'm not going to say that it changed everything in my life. I was still quite shy and for it change something so fundamental about my personality would have been expecting too much, but it did make me realize just how much we can control what goes on in our lives.

Flash forward to last night. I was feeling inspired to write up an outline for all the changes I want to make to an old WIP. I had some idea where I wanted to take it and I've even written out the first couple chapters of it (see Bettina teasers at the top of the page under Bettina), but I wasn't entirely sure about some things so I dug out my latest copy that I'd done about two years ago and read the first five pages. OMG!! Laughter, laughter, laughter. I could not believe I had written some of those sentences. There were so many grammar mistakes and some of it was so awkward and cliches! Ack! My main character does the whole waking up and getting ready for school thing - after coming off from a wet dream!!  I had even convince myself that the wet dream thing was original!! I'm laughing at myself even now thinking about it. So don't get me wrong here. The story line is sound and the revisions that I have in mind will make people sit up and take notice. It's a unique story with history and a fantastic twist at the end, and once I have it all revised I think it'll be great. But those first drafts *hahaha... still chuckling* But see what I'm doing here? I'm laughing at myself. And that's great because I know what I've done wrong with that story and I know how to fix it. Furthermore, I'm not afraid to fix it. I know that the majority of 400,000 words have to be slashed. Yes, that's not a typo - 400,000 words!! I may even take out a focal charcter, Bettina herself (and then I'll have to look for a new title). But I'm not afraid to start over because I've learned so much in the past 18 months that I know I can make this story right.

The point of this post?

1. You can control what goes on in your life. If you want to be a writer, then don't give up. Always keep ideas in your head and always strive to put something down on paper. Even if it's crap, who cares? You will grow by leaps and bounds and even though you may think you're never going to get the hang of this, you will. Persevere and it will come to you. Join sites like AW, get a critique group or partner, and read, read, read. I cannot stress that enough. READ!!

2. If you're in love with an idea don't be afraid to come back to it even if you know that what you've initally written isn't all that good. You may have to change a lot of things - plot, POV, you may even have to add or delete characters, but that's OK. It might not be the exact story you first imagined, but if the backbone is still there then you can make it into something that you'll enjoy, maybe even more than you first imagined - which I wholeheartedly believe is going to be the case here and I can't wait to get started on it.

3. Being able to laugh at yourself is part of growing a thick skin, sooo... *drumroll* Here's a sample of the first 800 words of my original draft of Bettina. It's ok, you can laugh at me. I don't mind. :)

“Bettina, Bettina, Bettina,” I moaned. I laid back and closed my eyes, letting the sensation drift through my consciousness. Her silky blond hair tickled my belly. I reached down and touched her head. My stomach clenched, and I tried to hold back, to draw it out. “Think of something else, quick,” I told myself. 


She moved too fast, like the wings of hummingbird. I couldn’t keep up. 

“Erik, it’s time to get up honey.”

Wait, who was that?

I couldn’t contain it any longer. I grasped her head, pushed it down roughly and held it in place as my body shook.

“Erik!” somebody screamed.

I sprang up in bed, shaking from the dream. I tried to catch my breath as the pounding continued on my bedroom door.

“Erik, get your ass out of bed now!” Johnathan screamed. He opened the door.

“Geez, I’m up,” I said, and yanked the covers over my body. He didn’t notice the wetness that had already begun to seep through the bedsheet. The corner of his dark eye twitched.

“Your mother has been calling you for the last ten minutes. It’s 7:30. If you’re not downstairs in fifteen minutes you’ll miss your bus, and I am not driving you in again. I am far too busy this morning.”

I gazed on his grim face. Fuck if I cared.

“I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” I said.

He turned and left. My mom unexpectedly peeked her head in the doorway, and I pulled the sheet up further.

“Honey, I made you some breakfast. You should eat before you leave.”

“I don’t have time, mom.” I could feel a headache coming on. “I’ll get something between classes.”

“Erik, you need to have a good breakfast to get you through the day,” she rebutted.

“Damnit, Carol, just leave him alone so he can get dressed and get the hell out of here.”

Mom shrinked at the reprimand but still smiled at me before shutting the door.

I flopped back onto the bed and closed my eyes. Bettina, Bettina. Blond, voluptuous Bettina. She was so skilled she made me quiver just from the thought of those full red lips.

Feeling my excitement rise again, I shook my head, trying to throw off the images. I ran my fingers through my hair and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Then I threw the covers off grabbed a towel to wrap around my naked buttocks, ran to the bathroom.

I quickly squeezed out some toothpaste and stepped into the shower, simultaneously scrubbing at my teeth as I washed. I spat the minty waste at my feet, then quickly lathered and rinsed. I raced back to my room and grabbed my newest pair of khakis from the short stack on the chair. I slipped into a cotton shirt and quickly worked upwards with the buttons. Finally I stood in front of the mirror and inspected my face, brushing my hand across my jaw. Coarse, but not enough to shave. Disappointed, I slapped on some aftershave anyway.
I ran my fingers through my hair, not bothering to comb it. It never did what I wanted anyway, so what was the point? It was auburn brown and had a tendency to curl in the humidity of our Minnesota summers. I didn’t like it much, and that’s why I tended to keep it cut rather short, not that Johnathan would have tolerated me wearing it long anyway, but I told myself that this was the reason.

I’ve never really considered myself handsome, and no one has ever contradicted this idea. It didn’t bother me. My mother once said that I have the most expressive eyes of anyone she had ever met. They sparkled, she said, as if there were always something brewing in my mind. I liked this image of myself – being mysterious was far better than being handsome. Plus it made Johnathan nervous - an added bonus.

As for the rest of my body? Well, let’s just say that the words lanky weren’t too unfamiliar. I was about to turn 16 in two weeks, and I was already six feet tall. I had gained three inches over the summer and not too gracefully, I might add. A couple weeks ago I broke my mother’s favorite vase when I got out of my chair a bit too fast. Of course Johnathan said that I wasn’t being careful and yelled at me for half an hour. Mom cried. It was from her late grandmother. I felt terrible, and I’m still trying to find ways to make it up to her. That basically means not fighting with Johnathan as much. It’s difficult.

That's it for today.

EDIT - scratch that! That isn't it for today. I just wandered over to KO's blog and found another lovely contest for you to enter. The books she's giving away sound awesome - actually one is for sure cuz I've just read it. go on over and have a looksee.

Remember to enter my contest too. Details here!

Saturday, August 21, 2010



So, I did it. I finished with this round of revisions. I've sent it off to betas, and I'm glad to get it out of my hands for awhile. I know that I'm not DONE done, but it's getting pretty darn close now. The next three weeks will be vacation time for me - doing beta reads, reading books, researching agents and just general goofing off. And, I want you to join me for a contest!

First prize: A book of your choice from The Book Depository and a 50 page LBL critique from moi. Okay so I'm not published, but I think that I do tend to give pretty good feedback. Unless your work is already publication ready and in that case, I might be begging you for one. :)

Second prize: A book of your choice from The Book Depository.

Ways you can earn more entries:
+1 new follower
+2 old follower
+5 for blogging about the contest
+2 for adding a link on your sidebar
+5 for doing a Six degreess of Kevin Bacon for me.

What is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well, I'm sure you've all heard of this game where you can link any actress or actor to Kevin Bacon within six steps. For example: Julie Andrews was in The Princess Diaries 2 with Chris Pine who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Kevin Bacon. So all I'm asking is that you come up with one! Now this is pretty easy - there are even websites devoted to this, but see if you can do it without a cheat sheet. Why am I making you do this? Well, it took me over an hour to figure out how to make this form and post this entry and all, so I figure it's only fair to make you work too! And I'm sadistic. And I thought of this while I was making the form and I don't feel like going back to change it. And I have no other way to give you points, so this seemed creative. AND reading Joann's blog reminded me how much I loved the movie Flatliners which starred, guess who? Kevin Bacon. Ok, I'm done rambling now. :)

To enter: you must fill out this  FORM.

Contest is international and ends when I get back from vacation so we'll say that's three weeks from now, September 10th.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blog tip

So I'm not an expert blogger by any means, but I just came across a little something that I thought I'd share with everyone. It has to do with the follow button that you hit when you join someone's blog. Now you might not realize it, but if you click on those little icons showing your profile, your blog doesn't automatically get put on your page. This is bad!! If you've been posting comments to someone's page and they don't know who you are, then how will they connect with you? Sure they could send you an email (there is a little send a message thing that pops up), but how many people will actually take the time to write an email. asking who this stranger is posting on their blog? Hmmm? I probably wouldn't. But I would visit my follower's blogs without question. And they obviously want me to follow theirs.

So, to remedy this, when you join someone's blog, open the little options tab (make sure you're signed in) and click on site settings. This will bring up a page where you can add links (such as your blog or website) under your name. Now when anyone clicks on your picture, your profile will come up with a link to your blog. You can also sign in on blogs that you're already following and change your settings. I highly recommend to do this as part of that networking thing they talk about.

And, yeah, this post was kind of bleh, but stay tuned cuz come friday or saturday I will be done revising and then there will be a big celebration!! Til then...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meter Monday - almost there!!

Hi friends! Just checking in with everyone. I didn't get a whole lot done this week. Re-read through my entire manuscript, highlighting things that I thought needed improvement. Then on Friday I started going though it once more and making those changes. I'm about a 1/3 of the way done now and I'm anticipating having this thing beta ready by Friday. Then its VACATION!!! Yes, I'm going to take 2-3 weeks off and not think about Nikki's Wish at all. I have a couple beta reads lined up and a whole pile of books to read.

On my list:
1.The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I'm actually half way through this and loving it

2.The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind by Kristin Conn Mills

3.Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

4.The Lighter Side of Light and Death by c.k. Kelly Martin. 

5.If I Stay by Gayle Forman

6.Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

7.Stolen by Lucy Christopher

8.and last by definitely not least MOCKINGJAY!! by Suzanne Collins. Yes, I pre-ordered, and yes everything else will probably get pushed aside when it arrives in my mailbox.

8.and last by definitely not least MOCKINGJAY!! by Suzanne Collins. Yes, I pre-ordered, and yes, everything else will probably get pushed aside when it arrives.

I think that should be plenty of reading to tide me over for two weeks, don't you? Since I'm so busy with revisions, I probably won't post a teaser tomorrow. Instead I'm going to give you another before and after snippet from my recent revisions. The new version is again a bit longer, but I think that it's more descriptive and tells something about Nikki's dad that the other version doesn't.


The walk down to the lake was pleasant. The birds chirped their mating songs while a frog croaked nearby. The wind chimes that hung from a nearby tree tinkled an accompaniment. Dad had already put out the dock and his canoe was tied up nearby. He had sold the large boat shortly after Shani’s funeral; I couldn’t have thanked him enough.


Nature beckoned to me as I walked down to the lake - birds chirped, frogs croaked, even the wind chimes that hung from a nearby tree tinkled an accompaniment. The air was moist and the sun kissed the grass as if drinking up its dew.

But further along by the water’s edge, Dad’s canoe was turned on its belly in a perpetual dead man’s float. Seeing it made my secret even harder to contain. I was grateful that Dad had sold the large boat after Shani’s funeral; but his canoe was something that I wanted to see brought back to life.

And thanks to Sam, I would.

So now my big question - how do you celebrate when you're done with revisions? I know I'm not completely done, but this round has been a long time in the making, and I was sort of thinking about including everyone in my celebration. Sooo... as soon as I'm done I'll be doing my first blog giveaway! So be sure to check back at the end of the week - hopefully not any later than that-  to see how you can enter.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Review - Holes by Louis Sachar

Summary: There is no lake at Camp Green Lake, but there are holes - lots of them. Digging holes is supposed to be a character building sentence for the camp's wayward boys, but what Stanley Yelnats discovers is that the boys are actually digging them for a very different reason.  But what?

So after watching this movie last night, I decided to do a mini-review to encourage everyone to read this book. It's middle grade and it's about 12 years old now, but it is such a great lesson in plot development that I think every writer ought to take a couple hours to devour it.

What really grabs me at first here is the premise - it is so simple. Digging holes? How can that turn into a story? But it does, and not only does it turn into a story, but multiple stories that somehow all become woven together. You really don't see it at first when you begin to read. You find out about the holes, and then a bit about Stanley's family history, and then a bit about the history of Green Lake. But how does it all connect together? As you're trying to figure that out, we've got Stanley, who's a bit of a wimp and he's trying to get along with the other, somewhat meaner boys who've been sentenced to Camp Green Lake. He manages to make a few friends - and enemies (tension people!) - and then something happens that propels the story to its ending. I won't tell you what, but once you get to that point, you come to realize that everything you were told prior to that was included for A REASON. Why do I stress that word? Because up until then, you're not really sure where all of this is going and you may even be questioning whether Sachar was just including these things for character development, but he wasn't. And that's the beauty of this book. Every element is connected. Every element is necessary and every scene moves the book forward to that pivotal point. And the fact that you don't see it coming just shows Sachar's brilliance as a writer.

I wish I could dig into Sachar's brain to figure out how he came up with such a plot. Where did he start, how did he plan it all out, or was there a plan? It's all just so brilliantly done, I WANT his brain! And then, THEN,  you add to this plot genius great character development. Stanley and his friends and his family are all unique - his father is an inventor who has been trying for the past few years to come up with a cure for foot odor! And even that little character element has consequences later on for the story. On top of character development you have simple but effective prose and a memorable voice. And just to make it even more beautiful, there's a great lesson buried in there that gives you that "feel good" moment at the end. Ok, I think I've raved enough. Obviously, I've given this book a score of 5 for both writing and reader's interest. 

Other little things that made me smile:

Stanley's last name is his first name spelled backwards!

There's a cute little song in there that also gives you that round robin, 'it's all connected' feeling at the end.

The screenplay is also written by Sachar and is an enjoyable family film though it is sort of boy-centered - which is a good thing. If you have boys, make them read the book first and then watch the movie. My son loved it!

The yellow spotted lizards freaked me out and had my daughter (5yrs old) covering her eyes. How can anyone stand to live in the dessert with such freaky creatures running around?

Ok, I'm done with exclamation points now. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nikki's Wish Chapter 1 tease

Nikki's Wish


I picked the wallet up and shook the mud off. Its owner was already halfway down the block. He looked tame enough - leather jacket, faded jeans, dark hair that played freeze tag with the wind. He sprinted across Nicollet Avenue, skipped up to the curb, and proceeded on his way without a sideways glance around him.

Forget about meeting Dad and catching a safe ride home. I had more important things to do. Like chase a stranger through downtown Minneapolis. On a Wednesday night. In the dark. Alone.

I could imagine what my sister would have said: You have no common sense, Nikki. He could be a drug dealer or... or a murderer. I mean, come on. Where's your head?

As always, I attributed her ‘the world is full of freaks who are out to kill you’ attitude to the fact that our father put those freaks in prison. But there was more to my carefree attitude than a need to show her wrong. I was like a wind-up toy springing back to life, and after so many months of feeling like shit, it was a welcome change. Besides, he looked pretty good in those jeans.

He entered the Foshay Tower, and I followed half a minute behind. I came to a full stop and blinked. Pink and blue neon lights shone off the walls and cascaded over a checkered floor. Sitting on a donut-shaped desk was a lighted “W”, and to the right was a lounge of sorts with black leather chairs, a wrap-around sofa, and a hot-pink beaded centerpiece that dropped straight from the ceiling.

I focused on the lighted sign. W? What does that mean?

Try W Hotel, numbskull.


You mean eerie. Where is everyone?

She had a point. The place was deserted. No desk clerk, no guests, no bellhop. One glitzy brass elevator was moving – the only thing alive in the entire place. I watched the numbers creep higher and higher, all the way to the observation deck without stopping. I stepped into the second elevator and jammed my thumb on the number 32.

So what are you going to say to him? Shani’s voice rose to a creaky falsetto. ‘Hi, my name is Nikki, and I thought your ass was so smokin’ hot, I just had to follow you up here.

I was thinking more along the lines of, ‘hey, you dropped your wallet’.

Ah, the art of simplicity. No wonder you got all the guys.

Before I could ask her what she meant by that, the elevator stopped and the door slid open. I glanced at the empty desk where a night guard should have been sitting. I walked towards the doorway to the observation deck, anxiety carving a nook in my gut. I grabbed the door handle, turned and pushed.

The boy was standing on top of the four-foot high cement wall that surrounded the observation deck, behind the metal fence built to deter people from climbing it. He was 450 feet in the air, grasping a cold metal bar, his feet teetering on the edge.

Anxiety escalated to panic. If not for Shani, I would have passed out.

Don't just stand there, Nikki. Do something.

“Don’t do it!” I shouted.

He lifted his head and cocked it to one side.

Now what?

Keep talking.

“You um… you dropped your wallet.” I held up the sad little piece of leather.

Nice, Nikki. Real nice. You never were one for crisis situations, were you?

Yeah, what was your first clue?

“Thanks,” the boy said, “but I don’t think I’ll be needing it.”

He wouldn’t be needing it. Of course. What was I thinking? I peered down at the wallet. It fluttered as though it had grown wings. Or maybe my hand was trembling.

Calm down, Nikki. Breathe. This time I decided to trust my sister. I didn't need to add hyperventilation to my problems.

Inhale... exhale...

The wind snatched his hair, tossing it around like a feather. He balanced his weight forward and crossed one ankle over the other.

Inha... ex... in... in...

He chuckled. “What’s your name?”

“M-my name? It’s um... Nikki. My name is Nikki.” This was good, right? Isn’t this what you were supposed to do to keep lunatics from jumping off skyscrapers? Keep them talking? “So uh… what’s your name?”

The corner of his lip tilted upward as his eyes roved over my chest. I couldn’t believe his nerve. Of all the places to be checking someone out.

“Sam,” he said. “My name is Sam. Like your friend Yosemite there."

I cringed at my favorite t- shirt. Yosemite Sam had his arms crossed, aiming two guns, while the words SAY YOUR PRAYERS glittered in gold letters. I’d never be able to look at the ornery little prospector the same again.

“Look, Nikki,” Sam said, clasping his hands together. “I’ve got some business to take care of, and I can tell you don't want to witness it, so if you don’t mind…”

“You expect me to leave?”

“Actually, I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate you using me as a guinea pig for your 'Good Samaritan' campaign, but trust me. I’m not the kind of guy you want to save.”

“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.” Dr. Katherty’s words. He had said them to me so many times over the past six months I’d lost count. Though they never worked in my case.

“You wouldn’t say that if you knew why I was planning to jump,” he said.

I breathed more deeply, gaining confidence. “Try me.”

He laughed and ran both hands through his hair, not even noticing that he’d let go of the fence in the process. His fearlessness was making me ten times more nervous. “Trust me. You don’t want to know, and besides, I don’t have the time to tell you. Like I said, I’m on a tight schedule.”

“What, so it’s dinner at 9:00, jump from the Foshay Tower at 9:15? How insane is that?”

Baaad, Nikki. Bad. Bad. Bad. You don't call someone who's contemplating suicide insane - even if they are.

Again, Shani was right. My confidence waned.

Inhale... exhale...

“I-I didn’t mean you were crazy,” I said. “Lots of people think about…” I swallowed on the word that had come to my lips, “but it’s not an answer.”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Um… yes, it is.”

His eyes twinkled and a huge smile spread over his face. I bit my tongue. The trickster was baiting me.

“You know, Nikki,” he said, “you’re really something. Do you think you could do me a favor? Grant a guy one last, dying wish?”

“Grant you a wish? I-I don’t know that I have anything I could give you and besides, what would you want, being that you’re so gung-ho about doing this?”

He tilted his head, his eyebrows making flirtatious little dances. “Oh, I can think of something.”

Incredible! The balls he had. The nerve. The –

“I was talking about a kiss,” he said, laughing and holding up his hands. “Nothing more. I’d just like to get a kiss from a pretty girl before I crack my skull open.”

This settled me. Well, it would have settled me if he hadn't added the visual.

“You want me to kiss you?”

“Or I could kiss you. I’m good either way.”

At least he wasn’t afraid of rejection. Then again, he probably didn’t expect rejection. Because what was I suppose to do? Say no?

“Well, I suppose,” I said, “but I’m not going up there. You have to come back down here.”

Ha! Take that! I’d get him down from there yet.

He shrugged once and hopped over the fence. Seeing his feet fly through the air, my own had trouble staying firm. I set a hand against the wall. My teeth chattered.

Sam sat on the ledge, peeled off his jacket and held it out. “You’re shivering.”

“D-don’t you need it?”

“Not where I’m going.”

“Enough with the dead jokes already.” I snatched the jacket and slipped it on.

“Let’s get this over with.”

“A woman who knows what she wants. I like it.”

I tried to smile, but it was difficult. His whole attitude was perplexing. It was all a joke to him. Like, “hello, Death. Here I am.” The thought made me shake and I hugged his jacket closer.

“Looks good on you,” Sam said.

“Uh… thanks, but if you want your kiss, you’re going to have to come down further.”

“Nah,” he replied. Bending over, he slipped an arm around my middle and lifted me onto the wall. I shrieked, but Sam just grinned and pulled me closer. Disgruntled, I scooted back and hugged one of the metal fence posts.

Don’t look down. Look at Sam, Shani instructed.

Oh, bad idea, sis. Bad.

Being this close to the crazy boy, my own sanity hit the skids. Nothing seemed as it was. Shapes lost their edges, his face seemed both wider and thinner, and his skin appeared translucent. Then I noticed his tattoo.

It was hard not to. Etched all the way from his wrist to his bicep was a cobra, one that seemed to have sprung from a hole in his flesh. I guessed it was supposed to represent some sort of inner demon. And yet, the snake’s eyes were closed as though it were asleep. Weird right? But then, the snake moved! Or at least I thought it had. It seemed to have opened its eyes and flicked its tongue out. I blinked, but then it appeared to be sleeping again.

It’s a trick of the eye, Nikki. Like one of those dancing girl tattoos that moves when the guy flexes his muscle.

Only Sam wasn’t flexing.

He was smiling though, and damn if that smile wasn’t bewitching. I mean what was I doing, sitting on a wall 32 floors above the ground, getting ready to kiss a guy who was going to kill himself afterwards?

I tore my eyes away from Sam’s tattoo and focused on the view. The tower itself was dwarfed by the nearby, taller buildings; its lighted reflection danced on the windows across the street. The sky was midnight blue, the moon a crescent wedge suspended from a string. As I watched the tiny, flickering lights of a passing airplane, everything fell into place. I knew what I was doing there. This boy had crossed my path for a reason. Whether Sam lived or died, at least I could say that I had tried to save him. And that was something.

Self-serving much?

You don’t think it’ll make a difference?

The wind carried her sigh. We'll see.

Sam leaned forward enough so I could make out a pink cut on his chin. Staring at it, I didn’t realize how close he had advanced – until our lips met.

I know how crazy it sounds to say that was the best kiss of my life. But it was. Thoughts of lost wallets, skyscrapers, death and the deceased slipped away. All that existed was the two of us, coupled by fate and secured by the wind. With his lips pressed against mine, I let my fingertips graze his face, memorizing the sharp angle of his jaw, the prickly hairs that sprouted along his cheek. He was soft and rough, boy and man, dream and reality, all rolled into one being who seemed to dangle just beyond my reach.

A noise echoed from inside the building, and as quickly as it had begun, the magic ended.

Sam pulled away, eyes staring past me to the door.

“Tick tock,” he whispered.

Seconds later I found myself back behind the safety of the wall. Sam stood again, a silhouette against the Minneapolis skyline.

“Sam, please. Don’t.”

“I’m sorry, Nikki. I never would have involved you in this, but now you are and…” He seemed distracted again, and for the first time, his arms shook. He tightened his grip on the metal bar.

“Sam, you don’t have to do this.”

“Actually, I do have to do this.”

“But we can figure it out. We can –“

“The only thing you have to do is close your eyes. Or better yet, leave. There’s still time. You should get out of here while you can.”

“No. I won’t leave.” I would have gotten down on my knees and begged if I thought it would help, but I already knew. It wouldn’t. “Tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll… I’ll help you.”

Tears I’d been holding back fell loose. His face softened.

“That’s sweet, Nikki, but you can’t help me. It’s hard to explain, and I wish I could, but…” Suddenly his arms were moving so fast they made the fence rattle. The sleeping snake swayed back and forth, hissing. I wanted to believe I was imagining it, but Sam's expression told me I wasn’t. “You have to go. Now,” he said.

“I’m not going anywhere!”

His face twisted and he looked away. “I’m sorry, then. Tell him… tell him that a kiss from Nikki is worth a thousand wishes.”

I blinked, his weird poetry startling me, tickling me, and then confusing the heck out of me.

“Huh? Tell who? What?”

But it was too late for explanations. Sam leaned back - and let go of the bar.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meteor Monday - astrologically speaking

Cool play on words, eh? Actually that was a typo, but since I tend to kind of go with the flow, here's my horoscope for today from

Things seem to be going quite well for you in many respects, Aquarius. Your thinking is clear, your emotions are under control, and the puzzle pieces are fitting into place. This is your time to take advantage of these pockets of good fortune and turn them into something huge. You have the power to make anything happen - especially now.

Hmm.... sounds pretty darn good. Too bad I'm not actually to the point of querying today - maybe I'll stick this one in my pocket and pretend that's what my horoscope said on the day that I do sound out those query letters. Speaking of which, I re-wrote my query last week - it's slightly different and I hope that I got out all of those cliche phrases, but there's still one sentence that doesn't seem to flow right so I'm going to wait a while before posting it. Tomorrow however, be on the lookout. I've decided to post Chapter 1 of Nikki's Wish (again) and do a call out for Beta readers.

Til then, here's the run-down of what I accomplished this week:
1. Did a fair bit of revising different scenes. Took out one whole section and a bit of another which managed to let me cut about 2K words. I got most of the changes with Nikki's mother done, and I changed up a few things in the beginning 3 chapters that I thought made Nikki look too young.
2. Did some tightening by searching for overused words: my focus was on had, just and adverbs. Funny thing about the adverbs is that there were few pages where I had more than 2 per page and those that I did have  tended to be in sections of dialogue. Since people do throw in more adverbs while they're talking, I didn't fuss too much over those. The ones that I did fuss over were the ones that I had in description sections. The two adverbs I came across most often: actually, probably and only (which sometimes isn't an adverb). A lot of these I just tossed out the window.
3. I finished one book - yeah, I know not my typical pace, but this was a rather thick book - Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty. I really enjoyed it and I'll be doing a review soon.
4. Read way too many blogs. :)

My manuscript is starting to tire me out at this point. I've done too many revisions over the past few weeks and every sentence I read sounds blahhhhh!! Or it could just be that I just have Jaclyn Moriarty envy - man does that girl know how to turn a phrase. At any rate, I'm only going to allow myself to do revisions for one more week and then I'm going to take a break while I put it into some more beta reader's hands (and yes, my sisters).

Now for contests: yeah, I've become addicted to these.
1. From choco at in which a girl reads - choco does really cool reviews and I encourage you to join her site even if you don't intend to enter the contest.
2. a newbie blogger, sparkling reviews that I just came across is doing another cool contest.

Cheers guys!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Revision tip/s

So I was going to post a book review, but those always take me a while so I thought that I'd post a couple of quick revision tips instead.

First up is something I recently read off someone's blog and I sincerely apologize to the original poster but I can't remember who it was (I searched my dashboard and couldn't find it, so if you posted this let me know so I can give you credit). Addendum: Yay! She read my post. Here's the link to Meredith's original tip. The writer suggests that you type your story in Courier New font until it's as polished as it can be, then change everything to Times New Roman. She says that she always, always finds little errors that she missed. Well, I tried this and even though my manuscript is not done, I can tell you that it works. I think it comes from the idea that your eye is trained to see things a certain way so when you've been looking at your manuscript in a particular font for so long errors fade into the background. When you switch font, suddenly your eye picks those things up. I found so many mistakes and little errors. So now I'm training my eye in Courier and when its ready for querying I'll change it back to TNR and see what I missed. I think the trick works for any font combination, but I've kind of gotten used to courier now. A little corollary that I'd like to add to this is to view your document in double pages - full screen reading for you Word users - it makes it that much easier to see your work in full and you can pick out paragraphs that are too long, snippets of dialogue that run on without any breaks, etc. etc.

My second editing tip is searching for over used words. There are lots of them, but I'm going to focus on the word had. First of all it doesn't sound good when you have a lot of these strung together in a paragraph and second, you can often pinpoint parts that are too backstory heavy when you see three or more of these together. A quick tip is to use the find feature, type in had and then click on the 'highlight all' button. That way you can quickly flip through the pages hunting for paragraphs where had is overused (3 or more times). Now you certainly don't have to delete or reword all of them, but often times just some slight variations can make the paragraph sound better - and even help you to delete extra words. The only thing that's slightly annoying is when you go into the paragraph to make changes it removes all of the highlights so you have to re-click it. There may be a way around this but I haven't found it yet. You can do the same thing to quickly hunt for adverbs by typing in ly. Now you might say, but Angie, that will highlight so many things!! Actually if you're writing is sound then it won't, (I tried it and yes it does highlight some things besides adverbs, but not that many) and if you're an adverb junkie then that would be one way to rid yourself of the habit. My recommendation is to limit yourself to 1 maybe 2 adverbs per page.

Those are my tips for the day. If you have a quick tip you'd like to share, let me know!!

I made a quick revision to this post after reading the link that Joann provided and making a wordle picture of my manuscript. I also copied all of my words into Excel so now I'll have a working list. Thanks Joann!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pulling weeds

So I was ranting to my good friend, Mel, yesterday about all the frustrating things that were going on that day - from cell disrupters not working, to bosses being kind of slack, to toddlers not eating, and in the end I mentioned how therapeutic it is to pull weeds. What? You say? Pull weeds? Yes, pull weeds. If you've never benefited from this stress reliever you don't know what you're missing. First there's the satisfying physical exhaustion of your back aching and your arms feeling like they're getting going to burst, then there's the sweet sound of ripping earth. And then... then presto! Your yard/garden looks so much more bee-u-tee-ful without all those ugly eyesores of nature. Sure, you get a bit of dirt thrown in your face, and once in a while a spider will land on you, but that sound.... oh, it's so comforting. Hitting a punching bag or pillow cannot compare. Pulling weeds. Yes, that's where it's at.

Writing. Oh right. I forgot this was a writing blog. Well, I suppose that pulling weeds is a bit like doing revisions. We all have a few weeds in our manuscripts, those paragraphs or descriptions that just don't need to be there and are suffocating the rest of the beautiful words around them. And, most often our finished work looks much better after we pull a few of those out. The sound - well, no. You don't get the satisfying crunch of roots disentangling themselves from the ground. Really, all you get is a little click as you hit that delete button. And of course, not all of our writing weeds are big ugly patches of crabgrass. There are a few flowers, often prettier than dandelions, that have to be snipped/ripped now and then, and that's never fun. So, the satisfaction is not quite complete. But, in the end it has to be done. How extensively is of course up to you to you the gardener... er, writer. Yeah, whatever.

So my big question of the day is  how many weeds... um, words did you rip today? In the past 24 hours - I've pulled 1700!!  Yep 1700. I'm going to need some hedge clippers soon. And that's my random rambling for today.

Now on to some contests: (my real reason for blogging today). :)

First up is a contest for some awesome books from the folks at YA highway.

Second is a contest from Roni and Julies contest where they are giving away some awesome prizes including query letter or first 5 pages critiques from Agent Suzie Townsend, Editor Brendan Deenan, Janet Reed's assistant Meredith Barnes and Fine Print Lit's intern Gemma Cooper. This is a super cool contest that all inspiring writers should enter. *I'm keeping my fingers crossed*

Thursday's addendum - looky, I got a new blog award from Jen at unedited. Go check out her blog.

And that's all folks,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bettina post 5

So, for those who've been reading weekly, this is the conclusion of chapter 2 of Bettina. Not sure if I'll be posting next week. I need to think about what direction this is going in and do some revisions, but we'll see. I included a little bit from last week since it left off in kind of a strange place. Enjoy, tuesday peeps.

With the money still in my hand, I grab the drawer and slide it back into place. I don’t walk to the kitchen to show Mel what we’ve found. Rather, I turn in the opposite direction and walk back to my booth, collect my books and newspaper, and throw a quarter on the table. I head towards the door with the fifty-dollar bill wadded in my fist.

“Erik, aren’t you forgetting something?” Jessica asks.

“Nope.” I stuff the bill into my pocket. “See you around, Jess.”

“Erik, you can’t just...but that’s stealing!”

She’s horrified. Innocence shattered, crush gone.

Good riddance.

“It’s not stealing,” I argue as we continue out the door. “Like they say, finders keepers, losers weepers.”

“But you found it in the drawer!”

“No, I found it under the drawer.”

“In Mel’s diner!”

“So what? It would have stayed lost forever if it hadn’t been for me. Mel already considered it gone, a loss, never to be seen again. Besides, he owes me.”

This was true. With only waitresses on staff and Mel having a bad back, he needed someone to unload the trucks and wash out the grease trap and fix the jukebox once in a while. I’d done a ton of shit for him over the past year, but all the thanks I’d ever gotten was a ten percent discount on my meals. At 25 cents a cup, I’d have to drink that sludge he called coffee for a good decade before he paid me back. And in truth, this is why I didn’t feel guilty about the little heist I’d been planning. This fifty-dollar bill had my name on it, and using it to get Jessica off my balls - icing on the cake.

I walk out the door just as the parking lot erupts in a cacophony of screeching tires and bellowing teenagers. Studebakers, and T-birds, Clippers and Desotos, one after the other, enter the cafĂ©’s south entrance - all with the same song blaring from the radio. It’s telling that everyone is tuned into KJ102; it’s the only station our small town gets.

I head for the green Cadillac convertible that’s parked across the way. Some guys say hi to me as I pass, others nod. A group of girls look my way. I get to the car and throw my books in the back seat. Just as I reach for the door, Jessica pulls open the other one and climbs inside.

I stare.

“Don’t do this, Jess,” I say.

“I’m not leaving until we talk about this.”

I glance around the parking lot, at two dozen of our classmates and friends who are just as shocked as I am.
Let me reiterate. Jessica’s father is a minister, very well respected in our town and very much in control of who, when, why and how Jessica interacts with a boy. Any boy. This girl isn’t allowed to have a boy carry her books home for her much less give her a ride in his car. The idea that someone like me should drive her home is preposterous. Insane. It’’s...

It’s asking for trouble.

“Jessica, get out of the car.”


“It’s my car, I said get out.”

“Actually, it’s your father’s car.”

Well, yeah, it is, but that’s beside the point.

“Jess, for the last time, leave me alone.”

“Not until we talk. Of course you could always try to force me out. You’re much bigger and stronger than I am, but I hope you wouldn’t resort to such...violence.”

My eye twitches. I’m angry. I’m seething. I am P.O.’d and that’s when my best friend Tommy jumps into the backseat.

“Hey man, what’cha doing with the caddy? Johnathan lost his marbles or something?”

I get into the driver’s seat and slam the door shut. “I have to take it to Carl’s for an oil change.”

“I thought Johnathan hated Carl.”

“He does, but Carl will do it for free so he let me drive it in today.”

“Cool. I need a little R and R.” He drums the seat cushion, as if to say ‘let’s go!’

I know exactly what Tommy means by R and R. Carl is…was, my Uncle Joe’s best friend. They served together during The War, but unlike Joe, Carl doesn’t have a stack of medals to his name. He’s been in some trouble, served time once and when Tommy and I go to visit him, our recreation activities usually consist of looking though girly mags and getting drunk. It’s no wonder Johnathan hates him. But then, I hate Johnathan.

“You can’t go, Tommy,” I say.

“What the fuck?”

I snap my head in his direction. Did he not see the beautiful reverend’s daughter sitting next to me?

“Watch the tongue, Jack.”

He backs off, like I’ve slapped him across the face. Tommy is a good guy. He’s been my best friend since I was six years old, but I swear sometimes the guy’s got grass growing in his ears. He reminds me of Babyface Nelson. A trustworthy bloke, but so thick in the head you could have sliced him with a meat cleaver. He was dangerous. That was Nelson. That is Tommy.

“Jess and I have something we need to discuss,” I say. “I’ll catch you later.”

Tommy looks from me to Jessica and back to me. He knows something is up. He smirks in the way that only Tommy can.

“Later,” I snarl.

“Alright, alright,” he says. He climbs out of the car as if he’s constipated. Maybe he is. My own stomach is coiling up like a snake, and as I drive out of the parking lot, hot, unavailable, hands-off, ‘daddy’s gonna boot your ass back to hell where you came from’ girl sitting next to me, I know…I’m going to regret this.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Snip, snip, snip.

So revisions continue. I feel a little proud of myself, without really intending to I managed to cut 2K words from my WIP - AND I found a couple more scenes that can be cut back quite a bit, though I haven't exactly decided what parts of them are going to be cut. The big thing that happened this week though, is that I went back on my decision to change a plot arc. I tried it, honestly I did, but as I was making revisions, I felt like the main character was changing too much in relation to how her mother was interacting with her. Along with that I was having to cut too many scenes that I really liked and it actually started to make me depressed. So, I decided to go back to my original story arc. But, I did manage to get something out of the process. My main character's mother now has more personality (at least I think so), and I switched a few things in the main body of the story that will hopefully drive the plot arc with her mother forward a bit more. I know I'm being kind of vague here, but to give you a hint, it involves Nikki stealing her mother's divorce papers. Overall, it was a good lesson in how to treat your story - as your own. Some ideas are good and you can and should try them out, but if they don't feel right and you find yourself not liking the story as much then you shouldn't force it. It is your story after all.

I also thought that today I'd share a bit of my revisions. So here is the original scene that introduces Nikki's mother, followed by the revision. In the revision, which is a bit longer, I tried to show the differences in their respective personalities while still maintaining that Mom is sensitive to Nikki's predicament, having lost her sister 9 months ago. The words in italics come from Nikki's sister, who Nikki occasionally imagines is talking to her.


“I know you’re awake, pumpkin,” she said. “You’re too much of a restless sleeper to fool your mother.”

I remained perfectly still.

“But, if you want to sleep in today that’s fine. I can’t imagine why a young girl would want to go to school when she has a secret admirer.”

Secret admirer? What was she talking about?

“If he’s anything like his friend… but then I’m not an expert when it comes to handsome men with French accents.”

“French accent?” I ripped the covers off.

“So you are awake?”

“What are you talking about? A guy with a French accent?”

“He came to the door just now to deliver these to you.” She handed me a long white box with a red ribbon tied around the center. “Tall, well built, with the nicest manners. He called me Madame. Just like that, Maa-daam.”


“He said these were from Sam.”



My hand floated to the back of my head, but before I could feel for a bump, a soft knock on the door flew me into a panic. Knowing it was my mother, I flopped backwards and pulled the covers over my head. She knocked again, louder.

“I’m coming in, Nikki.”

I pretended to sleep as she padded across the floor. There was a squeak and then a splash of light filtered through my blanket. I pulled the quilt down just enough to make a peephole.

Suddenly her face was in my field of vision. “Time to wake up, Nik.” She grabbed the quilt and ripped it off.

“God, you’re rude,” I said and wrestled for the blanket. “I’m cold and that light is too bright. Shut the curtain.”

“Of course you’re cold.” Her brow puckered with disapproval. “Look what you’re wearing.”

“It’s a t-shirt.”

“I’m not sure that counts as a t-shirt. But as long as you don’t wear it to school, I’m not going to argue. As for the curtain, you need more light in here.” To prove her point she went to the other window, stepping over a pile of clothes and nearly knocking down a tower of CDs along the way. She opened that curtain as well and turned around. Seeing an empty cereal bowl on my desk, she held it up for inspection.

“What? It was dry.”

She sighed. “Nikki, you have to clean this up. Or at least…” Her eyes swept over Shani’s neater half of the room, and then back at mine. Her nose crinkled. “This room is so off-balance,” she finished.

She’s talking Feng Shui again, isn’t she?

Well, you’ve got to admit this room sort of resembles that old Batman character, what was his name? Two Face?

“Maybe we should move you into the other room,” Mom added. “It’s too dark in here.”

“No! I like the attic. It’s roomy.”

“For two people it made sense, but now that…” Her voice trailed off as she picked up one of Shani’s books. She swiped her hand across it as if to lift the dust off. But it came back clean. She looked at it and then back at me. “Well, you think about it,” she said and replaced the book on its shelf. She walked to the chair in the corner and grabbed a long white box. “A boy delivered these this morning. They’re for you.”

“For me?”

“Tall guy, well built, with a French accent.”


“He said these were from Sam.”




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