These Great Affects (Teen Book), Chapter 2 Continued

Most love stories are about two people who are completely different from one another. How different can you get than one being alive and the other being…well, not?…

Click here for Chapter 1

Click here for Chapter 2.1

Selected pieces from Chapter 2 continued…

I couldn’t stop myself. I swiped at the phone he was still holding up and knocked it onto the wet grass, now lost in the falling current. I began to storm off a second time but stopped when he threw another punch my way. “So first you ruin my car, then you try to break my phone. What are you, determined to completely destroy me?”

“ I’m not the one who tried to run you over with my car!” I yelled, my temper getting the better of me now. “In fact, speaking of phones…”—I dug into my wet jeans pocket for my own—“I’m calling the cops. You should never be allowed to drive again.”

I began swiping at the screen on my phone so I could dial 9-1-1, but it wasn’t coming on. It was drenched, so obviously broken. When I looked up in frustration, the guy was already digging around the flooded grass for his phone. It only took him a moment to find it and pull it out of the water.

“Here. Use mine,” he said, handing the sopping devise to me. “It’s waterproofed. Password is Elle Fanning, one word, no spaces.”

I glared hard at him before snatching it out of his hand, which I think almost made him laugh. “Elle Fanning, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. Big crush. It’s hopeless. But if you’re going to call the cops, you might want to step out of the water. I doubt they’ll be able to hear you if you’re standing right in it.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the torrential downpour.

At that moment I was struck by two simultaneous thoughts pulling me in two different directions. One was, What a hopeless jerk. And the other was, This guy is kind of cute. I was appalled at my own shallowness, but I gave in anyway. I stretched my arm out, offering his phone back.

“Why don’t you hold on to that for me for a while,” he insisted. “Your phone’s dead, so I’ll let you borrow mine.”

“I’ll get mine fixed, eventually,” I said, hating that the edge was dulling in my voice. “Besides, you need to call your parents so they can pick you up.”

“You think I’m in a hurry to tell them about this?” he waved his hand in the air as if shooing a fly. “I’ll be taking my time walking home so I can put together a well-rehearsed confession.”

“You’d rather tell them in person?” I asked, surprised.

“Why not? If I tell them over the phone, it’ll take away from the Affect.”

“The affect?” I asked, a little intrigued.

“Yeah. The Affect. That’s what I call the moments that you can capitalize on for future use to affect certain emotions. Sure, it’s gonna suck when I tell my parents that I crashed my car, but years from now, when I tell my kids about today, which I inevitably will because, let’s face it, this day will be pretty hard to forget. So when I tell about today, I want to be able to describe the looks on my parent’s faces. That’s the effect you can’t get over the phone; that’s the Affect that will make the story worth telling.”

“Wow.” I literally did not know how to follow up with that. “That’s gutsy.”

“Gotta do it for the kids,” he said with a smile that kind of affected my breathing.

“I do think your kids’ll be pretty impressed about the totaled car and the flooded street.”

“That’s certainly a good aside, but I was thinking the big Affect could be meeting their mother and talking to her in the falling sewer water.” I think by that point the mascara had leaked down far enough to reach my mouth because I think I choked on some. Thankfully the guy saved me from having to respond. “Anyway, I better get home so I can keep my story going to tell our kids. You’ve got my number. Gimme a call sometime.”

“Wait,” I managed, as he began to walk away, my voice more hoarse than it had ever been. “I have your phone, how would I call you?”

He held out my phone. He must have somehow gotten it from me while he was wooing me and I was being too taken to notice. “I’m gonna get this fixed for you. I expect to get a text or something from you. You know your number.”

He walked away toward his house and I didn’t bother to stop him this time except to say, “Mock bird 60. No spaces.” He raised my phone as though in salute and smiled, then continued on his way.

And that’s how I met my first love who would not live long enough to tell our story to anyone.

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These Great Affects: 501 Words From Chapter 1

You delivered. In my last post I promised I’d share an excerpt for every ten new fans I got for my new Facebook page. Keep spreading the word about my upcoming teen book and I’ll keep revealing more excerpts.

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An excerpt from Chapter 1:

I don’t think we were really supposed to meet. I was supposed to have died and he was supposed to have run away—or gone to jail, whichever he decided.

So one Saturday I was at home with Mom and Dad. Mom and I were fighting, which was kind of unusual. My mom was trying to get me to join some extracurricular activity at school, like track or drama or something. Being a hardcore introvert, I wasn’t too hot on the idea of staying at school any longer than I needed to; judging by the classes, school wasn’t doing much to sell their other activities.

“I’m just saying,” my mom was saying, making a mess flipping one of the pancakes in the skillet, “it’d be good for you to do something outside of school or writing.”

“So that’s my extracurricular activity—writing. If others want to join in, they’re more than welcome,” I said. I was warming the syrup up in the microwave and pulling the dishes out of the cupboard.

“So start a writing club on campus,” my mom suggested.

I laughed derisively. “Oh, yeah. That’ll go over real well with all the people that already think I’m a total geek.”

“Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it like the in thing to be a geek now?”

I sighed. “No, Mom. Being a nerd is cool, or even a dork is passable, but being a geek means you’re just a loser. I don’t want my pancake to be that big.”

“But isn’t it cool to be a loser now?” asked my dad, sitting at his Toshiba laptop. I hated these sort of patronizing talks with my parents almost more than anything.

“Mom, seriously. I don’t want that much.”

“You’re too skinny,” she said, turning the burner up. “You can stand to have a little more food than us.” Because clearly she still thought I was an infant who needed fattening up.

Maybe things weren’t like that for her in the fifties when she was in high school, but in today’s world, you can’t afford to just “fatten up.” I mean, sure there’s all sorts of Public Service Announcements and stuff about not bullying, and everyone seems to be on board with all that—except the bullies. Being an introvert was bad enough for my already-fragile self-esteem.

As far as my hardcore introversion goes, I spent most of my time reading Nicholas Sparks novels, writing poetry or short stories in preparation for being the next Harper Lee, and watching episodes of Gossip Girl when my parents weren’t looking.

My mom turned back to me and asked, “So what do you think you’ll sign up for?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Can you at least let it go for like one day?”

“Why is it such a big deal?” she asked, walking her plate to the sink. “Why are you so adamantly against doing anything outside of your comfort zone?”

“Because it’s uncomfortable!” I said. “Besides, it’s the principle of the idea.”

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A Sneak Peek at My New Teen Book

bookFLYING

So you know when you’re fifteen, you’re at that awkward stage where your parents still think you’re a kid and it seems like they’re prohibiting you from crossing over into adulthood? Or how about how you’re not quite old enough to hang out with sixteen-year-olds because they’re all out driving their cars with other licensed drivers? Well yeah, that was a terrible age. And it was an even worse age for me than other fifteen-year-olds because that was the year I killed my first love. Only, we didn’t fall in love until after that happened.

Meet Adelle Hitchens, the center of my upcoming teen book, These Great Affects. She’s an unambitious writer who is a “hardcore introvert” who watches Gossip Girl behind her parents’ backs. Like most adolescents, she thinks love isn’t for her.

Enter Trill Vikus. Self-obsorbed, handsome, unpredictable, and a terrible driver. He’s obsessed with the band Fun. and is convinced that if Elle Fanning ever met him she’d want to marry him, and he’d accept.

Most love stories are about two people who are completely different from one another. How different can you get than one being alive and the other being…well, not?

For every ten followers my new Facebook page gets, I will share 500 words of These Great Affects until it is complete and ready for publication. Happy sharing!

Click here to read an excerpt from chapter 1

On Writing: Read Less

ibooks-shelfSince 2011 I’ve kept a log of books I’ve read and the dates I read them. At the beginning of each year I go back and count the number of books I read that year.

So far my average has been about 30 books a year.

And then it dawned on me. I’ve got three books in development, two ofEditing_Red_Pen1-300x225 which are to be completed by the end of this year, and I’m only allotted so much time within the year to write them, then edit them, edit them, and edit them again.

Looking at my track record of reading 30 books a year and having one book published every two years, you’d think I was striving to be a professional reader, not writer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I will never underestimate the power and benefit of reading, especially for writers. You can’t possibly write without constantly reading, so why am I resolving to read less?

Out of 365 days a year, there are a total of 8,760 hours.

I sleep on average seven hours a night, so that’s 1,251 hours I’m forced to disregard, which means I only have 7,509 waking hours.

mathWith 2,640 of those hours being spent at work (and commuting to work), I’m now brought down to 4,869 hours.

Additionally, I have a daughter to play with and a wife to adore, movies to watch, and walks to take, so averaging in three hours a day plus weekends, I’m now at 2,709 hours available to devote to writing.

But wait. There’s time spent doing errands, miscellaneous trips to Taco Bell and new pizza joints, social worker visits, time wasted scrolling through iTunes and surfing on IMDB… a rough estimate brings my writing time down to 1,1749 hours for the year 2015.

Compared to the 7,509 hours I’m awake, 1,749 hours seems kind of small. But it is what it is and as my daughter grows older, that number is going to go down even further.

So the question is, do I spend that thousand-plus hours out-reading my previous book totals, or do I spend that time working to achieve my sub-goal of becoming a bestselling author so I can quit my day job and earn an additional 2,640 hours to my schedule, traveling the country with my family, reading (and writing) all I want on a sunny beach?

FROZEN

So yeah, I’ll keep reading in order to keep improving my writing skills, but it is not going to be as big of a priority as it has been. For me, it’s a bigger accomplishment to write two books and read 15 than read 40 books and write nothing in a year.

On Writing: Force the Conversation

Calvin and Hobbes

No matter how good of a planner you are, no matter how much you outline your novel, you’re going to get stuck at some point.

Telling a writer that he’s/she’s going to inevitably hit a writer’s block is like telling a whale that it’s going to eventually get beached, no matter how hard it tries to avoid it.

But it’s reality. And you’ll find pages upon pages and articles upon articles on how to avoid (or get through) writer’s block, and I almost feel like I need to apologize for contributing to the cacophony of mixed and mingled suggestions.

But I won’t.

I also won’t claim that my way is the right answer or even the best way.

I believe everyone has a different way of getting through writer’s block, just like we all have a different way of accomplishing our writing.

I’m simply just going to share my way of getting through it. And bare in mind, I’m writing three books at once, so I run into it pretty frequently.

How do I get past it and go to bed each night with yet another couple of pages under my belt?

It’s simple: I write.

On my teen book which I’m working on, now titled, These Great Effects, I had my main character sitting on her bed, flipping through her crush’s phone to learn more about him. I needed another scene with her interacting with her mom, so I had her mom enter her room (“Knocking as she entered, of course”), and… I hit a wall.

But how did I get through it? I forced the conversation. Sure, there’s a lot of awkward silences and hesitant comments as I struggled through the scene, trying to decide why mom had come into her room.

But the more I wrote the scene out, stumbling along, finding my footing, learning about my characters, I hit on a line that will eventually turn the book into the direction I want it to go.

(Mom asks Adele, the main character, to attend one of her dad’s campaign gatherings with him, which is where the plot of the story will pick up.)

The point is, you’ve got to struggle through those scenes when you just don’t know where it’s going to lead you. It might take a few tries; you might change it tomorrow or you might change it a year from now. The point is, you just built in one more step to get the rest of your book completed.

And even if it’s a little wobbly, you can always go back and fix it.

Remember, it’s a writer’s block – intended for writers, and if my baby’s aiqddKkiMpresence has taught me anything, it’s that blocks are pretty easy to pick up.

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Last Day for Free E-Book!

Today is the last day to get my e-book, I Am the Lion, for free on your Kindle. I’ve pasted a new excerpt below. Enjoy!

Download your free copy here, a great read to usher in the holidays! And please don’t forget to write your review on Amazon and share it with friends!

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From Chapter 2:

“I’m sorry to call you in again, sir,” said Norman Hill, flipping his long brown hair out of his eyes. How a man in his mid-thirties who had taught the fourth grade for ten years could still sport such thick hair was beyond Henry, who, in contrast had been balding since he was twenty-five, and the trauma of the last few months certainly did nothing to make him look any younger at thirty-six.

“Not a problem. Always a pleasure to see you, Norman,” said Henry somewhat sardonically, planting himself on one of the student’s desks. “What’s the, uh, update?” 

Norman inhaled and said, “I know how hard it was for Lydia when her mom died”—he studied Henry’s face for permission to proceed—“and for you, as well. But by this point, the shock ought to be wearing off. Not the sadness, but you know, the shock. We ought to be seeing her engage once again by now. We’ve all tried coaxing her and bribing her and none of that’s working. I need to hear it from you sir, without any counselors or administrative staff around. What can I do to help?”

“Wait  a minute. So what’s the difference between sadness and shock?” asked Henry, looking as though he were working really hard at showing interest in what Norman was saying.

The exaggeration didn’t seem to be lost on Norman, but he remained glued to his agenda nonetheless. “Well, you know, the sadness will always be there—that’s normal. But it’s like she’s still acting like she just heard the news yesterday.”

Henry nodded as though he were following along closely and taking him very seriously. “I see. And the sadness—you say that’s always going to be there?” He was leaning forward now, his hands folded between his jutted knees, purposefully acting like a small child who was extremely caught up in some all-important life lesson. “So, will I always be sad, too?”

Norman could not hide that he was growing more and more uncomfortable with Henry’s playacting. He shifted in his seat, trying to dismiss the awkwardness by giving a little laugh, but it only ended up making it worse. He was visibly struggling with an angle to keep up with Henry’s sarcasm. “Well, in time, it’ll lessen, but yes, I expect you’ll always be upset.”

Henry eagerly nodded some more as though this information was hitting home and it was a revolution to him. Then he said, “Now back to Lydia being shocked. What’s that look like again?”

Norman looked at Henry for a long time with his chin in his hand, studying his face as though trying to decipher what Henry was trying to get across. “You think she’s hopeless, don’t you?” he said. It was a bold question.

“Yeah, Norman, I do,” Henry snapped with sarcasm. “There’s nothing that can help my daughter, so there’s no point in trying. She’s a psycho now. An absolute freaking nut-case because she doesn’t talk to the kids in her class. We should just lock her up before she goes on a shooting rampage.”

“I don’t think she’s a lost cause, sir. I just don’t think that what we’ve been doing is working,” Norman said as he looked at Henry, studying his face. Then he asked another very bold question, one he hoped he’d never have to ask a parent in his entire teaching career. “What’s it like at home?”         

Henry sighed in frustration, leaning back on the desk and casting his gaze up toward the ceiling. “I don’t abuse her,” said Henry bluntly.

“I never suggested that,” assured Norman. “I just want to know what your daily routine’s like. Do you enjoy any activities together? Do you share the same interests? Do you help her with her homework?”

Henry laughed out of agitation as though he couldn’t believe he had been called in to be grilled by this hotshot. “What is this, a counseling session? How much am I being billed for this?”

Norman smiled uncomfortably, in spite of himself. “I’m sorry. I just want to help Lydia.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Henry spat. “I also understood it when every other counselor the school threw at her said the same thing. But, like you alluded to, nothing came of it.”

“Why did you end her sessions with Mrs. Dreggs?” asked Norman, leaning forward. “I’ve heard she’s very good.” 

“She wasn’t making any more progress than the others,” said Henry, straightening up, suddenly seeming to warm up to the challenge of this battle of wills.

“These things take time,” informed Norman, assuredly. “You can’t just keep switching counselors on her; it’s not healthy. Lydia’s world has been shaken and what she needs now is some stability. Requesting a new counselor every other week is counter-productive.” He seemed uncomfortable about having to inform Henry of this, as though he had been working up to tell him this the whole time and now he was in the thick of it.

But the worst part actually was the silence that followed. Henry just stared at Norman, almost with contempt in his eyes. For a long moment, neither was willing to break the silence. Then, “You’re right,” came from Henry’s lips. He said this with great effort, but then the next words came out more freely. “I came to that conclusion myself. That’s why she’s not going to receive any more counseling. She’s just got to have to figure this out on her own. I’m gonna let her find her own way.”

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From Chapter 3…

As usual, the dinner table was devoid of any conversation. The only sounds that could be heard in the 1.6 million-dollar 6,700 square-foot home was their forks clinking on their plates as they scooped bites into their mouths and Alex Trebek reading off clues to something about Berlin on the TV. 

“You’re reorganizing your room again,” said Lydia’s dad out of nowhere.

Lydia rolled her eyes as though he had just made the most obvious statement in the world, which went unnoticed by him.

“Your teacher doesn’t want me taking you out of counseling, but I told him you’re just fine and don’t need any more. Nothing’s wrong with you, Lydia.” Her dad said this blankly, staring at the television screen.

When he took his last bite, he went through the stack of mail he had brought to the table, routinely separating each item into a junk pile and a priority pile. He cursed under his breath when he came across one envelope. Lydia didn’t need to look, but she did. It was some credit card ad addressed to her mother. Her dad buried it under another envelope as quickly as he could to get it out of sight.

Lydia just kept eating and looked back at the TV as if she hadn’t seen a thing. To mention it, if she could have, would have been detrimental.

“Do you want dessert?” asked her dad, which usually meant some Skittles from a bag.

Lydia shook her head no. She much preferred to be back in her room finishing her new arrangements. It’s not that she didn’t want to be with her dad; she didn’t want to be with this version of him. Before her mother died, the stone-cold man sitting with her at the table was warm and funny and engaging. He seemed to have no shortage of generosity of his self and his time. It was a time when laughter frequently echoed through the walls of the house. Music was either sung, whistled, or coming from the stereo; the curtains were almost always open, letting in the sunlight; Lydia was known to both of her parents as Lydi-bug; life was almost perfect. And it looked even better through the eyes of the damp and dark present to which there seemed to be no end.

“Okay. Go on up. I’ll do the dishes,” her dad said. And even though Lydia hadn’t cooked dinner, he added in a flat voice, “You worked hard on dinner and it was very good. You just go take your shower and we’ll have dessert when you’re done.”

Lydia froze. She had already showered. This only meant one thing: another episode was upon her dad. It had to have been the misaddressed credit card ad that threw him off guard.

No matter how many times she saw this behavior in him, she could never quite get used to it. But still, deep down, she was intrigued. It was the only time she got to relive having her mother around, if only through her dad’s mind. He continued talking while staring at nothing in particular, except maybe an imaginary ghost of her mother sitting in the empty chair next to him.

“No, it’s fine,” he continued. “Just let me do the dishes. Lydia’ll join us for dessert. Right, Lydia?”

She didn’t bother to nod or shake her head; he wasn’t talking to her anyway. He was addressing a little girl from the past who had a mother to hug.

Henry grabbed the dirty dishes and circled them around to the kitchen where he threw hot water on them and started scrubbing away. Lydia sat in her seat just staring at him. She knew what would happen next. She sat as she watched him try to hold back his tears as he slowly came out of his delusion. He swapped at his eyes, trying to force back the moistness, but his face couldn’t stay in control, and before she knew it, he was weeping bitterly as he scrubbed the plates in the sink well past their cleanliness.

If she were to gesture to him to see if she could do anything to help he would just yell at her because he didn’t want her to ever see him talk about her mother or see him crying over her. But he was in such a stage of confusion that he wouldn’t even know Lydia was there if she slapped him in the face. It seemed as though he considered it his mission to keep any trace of her mother out of her life, but this, these episodes, he could not control. These relapses into memories long past he couldn’t keep from her.

Lydia had seen enough. She stood from the table and returned to her room. She marched to her nightstand still idling in the center of her room and pushed it up against the door. At least here, in the safety of her room, she had a say in her surroundings, and she was able to take control.

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