Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Chapter of Your Novel Part 2: Focus, Focus, Focus

I went back and forth on whether or not to make this into a post, but I figured if it helped me, maybe it would help someone else too.

Before I begin, I need to give a little back-story. A few weeks ago, I sent the first 250 words of Spirit World to agent Mary Kole of She was hosting a workshop where she would take 8 entries and pick them apart, deciding what could be fixed. I was not one of the ones she had chosen. In fact, she sent me an email stating it was too good to be workshopped. The only note she offered me was she couldn’t figure out the plot. Well, she only read the first 250 words after all.

Forward to last week when I found out Spirit World had made it to the Quarterfinals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award. Everyone who made it to that round receives two reviews of the first chapter from Amazon as well as a Publisher’s Weekly review. While I haven’t received the Publisher’s Weekly review, the Amazon one is on display for the entire world to see here.

Let’s take a closer look at what the first reviewer had to say.

“I don't feel that the author clearly defined the goal or problem Reisa is trying to overcome. I vaguely put it together as ‘get over these internal voices I pretend not to have but which are nevertheless bringing havoc into my life’ or ‘overcoming her budding alcoholism.’”

Ouch! *

I wanted to scream out, “But it’s right there on page 4!” And also, “Chapter one is the only place in the entire novel where the character gets drunk”. But of course the reviewer doesn’t know that, because they only reviewed the first chapter. And after I got over my initial frustration and embarrassment, I began to think, “Hm, maybe there is something I can do to fix it.” I mean I know the plot is right there spelled out, and if I move a few paragraphs around, and tweak a few sentences here and there, maybe it will become clearer. So, that’s what I plan to do.

Now on to the examples. Off the top of my head I could name several novels that don’t get into the plot on the first page or even the first chapter, and I’m sure you can too. But that’s not what this post is about.

I want to examine a couple of novels that focus the plot from the beginning, and do it well.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Mary begins the story by telling us a fairy tale about the ocean, something she does not believe exists. But why doesn’t she believe it exists? Well, go on to page 2 and we learn all about the Unconsecrated, the zombies who live just outside her village in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. That’s when we know Mary is destined to travel outside of her village, through the forests of Unconsecrated, and meet the ocean.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
At the end of the first paragraph, Katniss tells us, “This is the day of the reaping.” Do we know what the reaping is? No. But we know it’s terrible because it gave her sister bad dreams. Throughout the first chapter Katniss gives us quite a bit of back-story and leads us right up to the reaping. After that, we have a pretty good idea of how it’s going to change her life forever.

Can you think of any more examples?

*The reviewers did have nice things to say as well. You can read them, as well as download the first chapter for free here. Or if you don’t have a Kindle, shoot me an email at belle5678 at yahoo dot com and I’ll send it to you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Short Story: Racing to the Beat the Night

My car will not go over 94 miles an hour. And that’s a damn shame because the fog of bloodsuckers is flying close enough to my tail to rip the bumper off.

“C’mon. C’mon!” I urge the speedometer. “Sure, you promise 120 but when it comes down to it, you just don’t have the guts.” Which Costa had assured me it did before allowing me to take the car out on a supply run.

See, here’s the thing. We live in a dome, the few humans who don’t have a death wish, or worship immortality. The problem is such living conditions tend to cut you off from the rest of the world, including sources of food and medication. So, every now and then one of us has to just suck it up, go for it, and hope to God that we make it back before dark when the fog rolls in. And by fog, I mean a herd of vamps very much like the one currently crawling up my tailpipe.

That’s how they travel, you know. They go all misty and join together into this gigantic cloud. And they are fast! I’m talking Go! Speed Racer! Go! Unfortunately, my car does not understand the current need for speed because the back window is now shrouded in fog and little starburst cracks are appearing in the glass.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Little girl, little girl, let us in.

I slam my foot down on the accelerator thinking if I can break it through the floorboards, maybe I can get another 5 mph out of this thing. That’s all I really need. The dome is so close. I can see the rounded top lifting up out of the horizon.

You’re probably wondering how I got myself into such a fine mess, out after dark in a race against evil incarnate. Well, let me tell you if there had been any choice in the matter, I would be sweet dreaming in my bunk right now. But I’m the best runner they got, and I wasn’t about to let any of those little ones die if I could help it.

See, a few years ago, we noticed some of the vamps getting sick, and not with your run of the mill cold either. I’m talking eating away at your flesh from both the in and outside sick.

Fortunately, humans seemed immune to it. At least at first. But then our little ones started getting sick. Not the teenagers or adults, no. Just the little ones. As if there weren’t enough reasons for hating the bloodsuckers.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, one of the under fives started showing the symptoms. We thought she would make it til the next supply run, but this afternoon she took a turn for the worst. She needed antibiotics, and she needed them yesterday.

So with one hour left before sunset, I went to Costa, and had him prep me a car.

“Hey,” he said right before I took off. “I don’t wanna have to come rescue you.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “When have you ever had to come rescue me?”

He shrugged. “There’s always a first time.”

I laughed, and stomped on the gas.

My first stop was the field where we grow anything that doesn’t fit in the dome. The vamps even help us maintain it. That’s a smart move on their part, if you think about it. It’s sort of like fattening the cow before the slaughter.

I filled the backseat to overflowing, and sped off to my next stop, The Wastelands. Maybe it once passed as a trailer park, but now it was a glorified dump whose inhabitants played both sides of the field, vamp and human. It was the only place in a 500-mile radius where you could buy necessary things; you know gas, medicinal supplies, and bags of blood for those nights when you just can’t catch enough humans.

With twenty minutes remaining, I bagged every bit of food from the back seat, and hauled it over to the Hospital Quarter, really just a couple of Airstreams filled with supplies. I dropped my bags in their “donation” pile, and received one small vial of antibiotics in return.

Then, I turned and made my way back through the towering piles of junk. That’s when I felt it, that inky, oh crap feeling that tells you a vamp is near. But I comforted myself with the knowledge that I still had five minutes of sunlight left, and my car wasn’t that far away.

Of course there were shadows, long ones. I guess I should have been more careful, but I had never seen a vamp desperate enough to rise before sunset. I didn’t even know shadow walking was possible until he materialized right in front of me, only a bite away.

Disease raked his throat as he whispered, “You have something I want.”

I clutched the tiny vile to my chest like it contained the elixir of life, which in a way, it did.

“Little girl,” he rasped. “Please don’t be difficult. I only want the one thing. Then you can be on your way, safe as sunlight.”

Why didn’t I bring a stake? I chided myself. First rule of survival -- always bring a stake.

I pocketed the medicine and said, “Eat wood.”

His scarred face contorted into a sad sort of grimace. “It’s a shame you said that. It didn’t have to be this way.”

My heart hammered in my throat, but I held my ground. Against a healthy vamp, I wouldn’t stand a chance unarmed, but against a sick one…maybe. I balled up my fists, and waited. Scarface was just your typical vamp, right? I was pretty sure I could guess his next move.

And I was right. Fast as lightening, his hand flew to my pocket.

I took the only shot I knew I’d get, and punched him smack across the jaw, tearing his face in the ragged fashion typical of a reanimated corpse.

And I ran.

Oh God, did I run. Scarface had wasted four of my precious minutes and I still had to make it to the car. When I was only feet away, the last rays of sun dropped in to the night. I dove into the driver’s seat, and slammed the door, tearing the inside handle off in the process.

With the sun gone, the mist of a dozen vamps formed in the distance and headed toward me. I had no idea if Scarface was one of them, but I didn’t care. I shoved the keys in the ignition, and tore out of there as if hell itself was bearing down on me.

Because it was.

And that’s how I got in this predicament, with the mist still gaining ground, and both sides of the car shrouded in that crap. Any second now, they’ll be creeping in through the vents.

That can’t happen.

The dome is so near. The gate’s closed, but I got my remote. The problem is, I can’t go in there with my little hitchhikers hanging on. See, the rule that says “vamps can’t come in without an invitation” only applies to individuals trying to break in. If they come in attached to me or my car, well that’s as good as inviting them over for tea. So, I’ve got to figure out how to lose them.

Only one thing comes to mind, and yeah it’s crazy, but it’s all I got. I stick the remote in my teeth, slam the brakes, and yank the steering wheel hard enough to send my car skidding sideways, lifting up on one side and teetering over to the next. It flips again and again while high-pitched, shriek-y, wail-y, screams fill the night, and the parasites are trashed into oblivion.

When the car finally comes to a rest down in the ravine running parallel to the road, I climb out the best available window and stumble to the dome, stabbing the entry code into the remote along the way. It’s not far, but due to the glass embedded in my skin and what I’m sure are multiple fractures, I can’t go very fast.

Which is why, just before I stagger through the threshold, a freshly materialized Scarface is able to grab onto my neck and cross through with me, sending me crashing to the ground, with him landing on top of me.

And that’s a damn shame, because I’m not in a position to do anything about it. I just close my eyes, and wait for the bite.

But it doesn’t come. Instead, I feel his tense body turn into dead weight and I risk a peek.

Costa is standing there with a stake in his hand, and a grin on his face. “What was that about you never needing to be rescued?” he asks.

I push Scarface’s body off me, sit up, and shrug. “There’s always a first time.”

He laughs, and helps me up, so he can accompany both my precious vial and me to the infirmary.

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Chapter of Your Novel Part 1: The First Line

The first page of your manuscript is often the only thing an agent sees when deciding whether to ask for more of your book. It needs to give a lot of information, and entice the reader to want to read further. I’ve searched the Internet and my library of books for techniques that have helped me, and figured I would share them with you. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about different aspects of the all-important first page, as well as giving examples of each.

Today, I’ll be starting with the first line, the hook. Here is a list, by no means complete, of books that reeled me in from the first line.

1. “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
From those few words, we’ve learned the name of the MC, and the fact that she is sneaking around. Why? Is she doing something dangerous, or something that’s simply forbidden? The use of the word “daemon” also suggests that we’re not dealing with our world as we know it.

2. “I felt her fear before I heard her screams.” Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
This book takes us right into the action. Someone is terrified, and I’m pretty sure we’re about to find out why.

3. “My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.” Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
I love this opening. Once again, it gives us the MC’s name. We also get a sense of her age because she uses the word “daddy” instead of “dad”. We know a little bit about her family, and we know that this adventure she’s about to embark on most likely involves a dog. So, we have details about the MC, her family, and the plot all in one sentence.

4. “They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before you, but that’s not how it happened for me.” Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A lot of books have the “this is how I die” opening, but this one grips me. Possibly because I know that the character actually does die in the book. And no, that’s not a spoiler. It’s the main plot of the book.

5. “I’d seen weirder things than a haunted shoe, but not many.” Storm Born by Richelle Mead
Okay, this one tells us that the book is headed is a supernatural direction. Yay. And that the MC is well immersed in that world. What is she going to do with the haunted shoe? How did it get that way? I certainly want to know more.

6. “In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.” Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In this line, we again get the MC’s name, and the fact that she is resourceful. There’s also a location, the dungeons. The author uses the sense of sight, or lack thereof, to ground us in this location. Why is Katsa there? We don’t know. But I, for one, am curious.

7. 24/7/365 “It’s like she can’t breathe anymore, no matter what she does.” Gone by Lisa McMann
This doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the MC, but it does give a sense of physicality. This being the third book in the trilogy, I already know and care about Janie’s plight, but this line tells me that things have gotten much, much worse.

8. “I didn’t tell dad about Granmama’s white owl.” Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
Only 8 words, but we know a little about the MC’s age and family. And we know she’s keeping a secret. Why?

9. “My arm rises toward my face and the pincer touch of cold steel rubs against my jaw.” Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
This is an excellent example of showing, not telling. The author could have simply said, “I scratch my jaw with my hook for a hand,” but she uses the MC’s sense of touch to show us instead. We also know that this hook must be a recent development. Otherwise, the MC wouldn’t be thinking about it so vividly. What happened to him? There’s part of the plot right there.

10. “Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.” Coraline by Neil Gaiman
We get the MC’s name, the fact that she has a sense of adventure, that she just moved to a new place, and the beginning of the plot all there in 13 words.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head. What about you? If you have any examples of good opening lines, I’d love to hear them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Twilight the Graphic Novel

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have to say I definitely prefer reading the novel, but the drawings are gorgeous. Some of the techniques are quite interesting, such as only using color in certain places, like the meadow scene.

I understand that graphic novels are generally a bit more expensive, but it's frustrating to pay $20 for something, to only get the first half of the book. I'd rather get it all at once.

That said, the adaptation was generally good. I enjoyed seeing some of the scenes realized, and the dialogue was accurate. I just wish there had been more.

View all my reviews >>

Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone (Gone #1) Gone by Michael Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a lot of fun. Michael Grant switches back and forth between multiple points of view, and does it well. All of the main characters are thoroughly realized and interesting. The plot itself kept me guessing right up until the very end, and I'm interested to read the next book in this series.

View all my reviews >>

Winter Wonderland

Today is the last day of the
Spring Break Reading Challenge
The topic for today is to create a list of 5 books that are either about or take place in a winter wonderland.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Book 2 in the Vampire Academy series. During winter break, the entire student body of St. Vladmir's Academy take refuge from the Strigoi in a posh Idaho ski resort. But the glittering winter landscape and the resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human ... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Kids are disappearing, including Lyra's best friend Roger. She must travel to the frozen north to solve the mystery, aided only by a magical device known as The Golden Compass to guide her. Along the way she befriends the witches, the Gyptians, and an armored polar bear. But in the end it is Lyra alone who must make the decisions that lead to the fulfillment of a prophecy and the betrayal her best friend.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London
London's epic of the great outdoors from 1903 tells the story of Buck, a dog taken from his safe home and thrust into the brutal Arctic north of the Yukon wilderness.

Most descriptions taken from

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's my Line

Quick reminder: Monday, I will be returning to my normal blogging with an article about beginning a novel. And a little bit later in the week I will be posting a vampire story from yours truly.

But for now, I return you to the
Spring Break Reading Challenge

Today, the challenge is simply to blog about what I love to read. Yay.

I prefer young adult titles. Within that world, I like pretty much everything, paranormal, fantasy, romance, sci fi, dystopian, etc. Some of my favorites include:

The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
Vampire Academy (series) by Richelle Mead
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Harry Potter by J K Rowling
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Middle Grade:
Blubber by Judy Blume
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
Bel Air Bambi and the Mall Rats by Richard Peck

Adult books:
The Ender Books by Orson Scott Card (I know Ender's Game is now usually under YA, but the sequels are adult, so that's why I classified them here.)
The Georgina Series by Richelle Mead
Dark Swan Series by Richelle Mead

There are so many more. But that's a start.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Create a Book Cover

Next week I will return to my regularly scheduled program of talking about reading and writing. Topics for next week include Techniques on Beginning a Novel, and a vampire short story by yours truly.

But as for this week, I present the most entertaining

Spring Break Reading Challenge
yet...Creating a book cover.

Here are the rules:

1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click
The name that appears is your author name.
2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click
The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.
3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click
Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.
4 – Use Picnik, or something similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.
5 - Write a short synopsis of the book.

So without further ado, here is my creation.

Locked deep within Asha's mind are memories of the past. Not just her past, but those of every female in the Hoffman family for the past seven generations. When her family moves into Great Gramma's old mansion, she learns of her gift when she meets the ghost of a distant ancestor. With the help of the ghost, Asha must find a way to access those hidden memories in order to solve her ancestor's murder from over a century ago, and finally put her to rest.

Wow. This exercise sent my creative wheels spinning. If you try this yourself, please leave the link in the comments. I would love to read it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Does anyone remember that game show, Distraction, where you had to answer trivia questions while pinning clothes pins to your face? Yeah, it's kindof like that.

The topic for today's
Spring Break Reading Challenge
is what keeps you from meeting your goals? Specifically, mine are reading the library books I have checked out and writing.

Distraction #1 -- Small Child. He climbs everything he can get his little leg up on. He eats everything he can get his little mouth around. And he falls. A lot. So, in order to still get my "me" time in while watching him, I have learned to read while rocking him to sleep, and write while he actually sleeps. I try to get 500 words in during naptime, and another 500 after he goes to bed. It usually works pretty well, as long as I can keep myself off the Internet. Which brings me to

Distraction #2 -- The Interwebs. I try to limit myself. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes I win cool stuff. So sometimes it's worth it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Author Appreciation Week -- Judy Blume

Judy Blume is one of those authors who has helped form who I am today. She taught me to face my fears in Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, made me laugh with her Fudge books, got eerily close to my own life in Blubber, and talked to me honestly about the things my parents were too embarassed to talk about in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and Forever. And I am positive that she has done the same for countless other readers for over a generation. The fact that she has been the target of so much censorship only tells me that she got everything right. And you know what the best thing of all is? Her favorite color is purple. Just like me. =)

Thank you, Judy Blume, for being such an important part of my childhood.

Check out her website here.

Spring Break Reading Challenge

Today's topic for the
Spring Break Reading Challenge
is "What would you like to do with your blog?"

Well, in case you haven't noticed, I have a generic Blogger background. What I'd like to do if I were handy with a crayon and paper, is to create one of those fun cartoony title graphics as well as a background for my blog. In my dream world, it would be a wondrous drawing of the moon from my current WIP, since the title from my blog is derived from the first line of said novel. Now, I could create something in Photoshop using photographs and what not, and probably will at a later date once I get a handle on my current MS and have more time. But it's just not the same.

I'd also like to create a side bar with my favorite links. I do know how to do that, but once again, taking the time while my 1yo chews up a chair just isn't viable.

Until tomorrow,
cheers and ice cream

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What I am Reading

Day 3 in the

Spring Break Reading Challenge

The challenge today was to share the book I am currently reading. Well, that poses a bit of a problem since I am always in the middle of about 4 or 5 books. For my purposes today, I have narrowed it down to the one I've spent the most time reading in the past few days, Gone by Michael Grant.

It tells the story of a small town of children who suddenly find themselves without a single person over the age of 14. Oh, and lets add the fact that they appear to be trapped inside a dome (nicknamed The Fayz), and many of the children are developing supernatural abilities.

I read the first hundred pages or so online on the Harper Teen website, and was intrigued enough to reserve a copy from my library. It's told from multiple points of view from several children within The Fayz, each with a unique voice and perspective. Each chapter is titled with a countdown clock, and while I know there are sequels so the children most likely don't get out of The Fayz within this book, I can't help but wonder what the clock is counting down to, and am excited to keep reading.

Want to learn more? Check out these websites.
The Fayz is a blog written from someone inside the dome.
Micheal Grant's Harper Teen website and blog

Saturday, March 13, 2010

To Be Read

It's Day #2 in the
Spring Break Reading Challenge

1. First off, the challenge was to find a brand new blog to read. I chose Confessions of the Unpublished by Sarah Darlington. It's a site with books reviews, contests, and info for wannabe writers like myself. =)

2. Link the author of a book in my To Be Read pile. I chose Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves, both of which I am sqeeing for joy over reading.

3. A book releasing this month that I want to read. Succubus Shadows by Richelle Mead. It's book 5 in her Georgina series and I've been saving up the last of my Books a Million gift cards from Christmas to purchase it.

And as for my goal, well I'm on page 161 of 558 of Gone by Michael Grant. My 5k will go into full swing when hubby goes back to work tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reading Challenge

For the next week, I will be participating in the
Spring Break Reading Challenge

Check it out.

Anyway, the first challenge is to set goals for the week. My goals are to finish at least one book I have started (not an easy task with an 11 month old), and to write at least 5,000 words on my current WIP. Ordinarily, I aim for 1,000 words a day, but inevitably, there are setbacks where I end up deleting nearly everything I wrote. I want 5,000 words that stick.

What about you? What are your goals?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Writing Links

I thought I'd share a few pages on writing that I like to frequent. They often help give me a jump start if the story isn't coming, or if the outline fails, or just for general tips and guidelines.

Ten Rules for Query Letters by Maggie Stievater hosted a Novel Beginnings contest and critiques what works and doesn't work in the opening pages of a novel.
Grand Prize
Check out the rest of the blog for the other critiques as well as agent advice at
Confessions of a Contest Judge - General writing advice
Part 1
Part 2 - Point of View
Part 3 - Thinking Like a Point of View Character
Part 4 - The Dreaded Head Hop
Part 5 - Walk Like John Wayne
Part 6 - And How Does that Make You Feel?
Part 7 - (Don't) Name that Emotion!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Meeting Lisa McMann

Last weekend, I got the chance to go a book signing/reading by Lisa McMann. Now, I've blogged before about how awesome her Wake series is. I even utilized the style used in the books to create a character sketch for Spirit World. You can read Mars's Story here. So, you can imagine how excited I was to go this signing.

It was held in the Vero Beach Book Center which is an adorable store with the bottom half dedicated to children's fare, including a small theatre area, and the top half with new and used books. And since I drove all the way from Orlando to go to the signing, they gave me a free tote bag. Win!

Lisa started off with a few stories about her road to publication with the Wake series, including how she came to be the photographer for the chair image on Gone. Then, she opened up the floor to questions, of which there were many interesting answers. My favorite tale was how she used to work at a book store and ended up going to dinner with Madeline L'Engle, one of my personal heroes.

When it came time for her to read, she allowed us to choose the excerpts. In the end, she decided she had enough time for two readings, one from her upcoming YA novel and one from her upcoming MG novel. I am excited about reading both, but the later, a story where children are branded as wanted, necessary, or unwanted, sounded truly fascinating.

It was also Lisa's birthday, and the book store treated us all to Gone cupcakes. And yes, the book was edible, and turned my mouth blue. =)

Finally, she met with us all and signed our books, at which point I was possibly a little too giddy, but that's okay. I had a great time and that's all that matters.

FYI, this was Small Child's second book signing, and he did pretty well. I've got a future reader on my hands. But right now, he's still working on not eating the books after he's finished with them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hi, everyone. I run a blog over at and am creating a mirror site here simply because there are so many Blogger blogs I'd like to follow. I generally post book reviews, short stories and selections from novels that I've written, and other random things. Enjoy.

Short Story: Being Beth Lochman

I woke up in Beth Lochman’s body.

I know. It sounds crazy. But when I opened my eyes this morning, I was in her room, enveloped in her pukariffic pink gingham comforter.

Knowing I hadn’t spent the night at her house, I got up to see what was going on, and accidentally got a look in her mirror. I had to stifle a scream when I saw her round eyes staring back at me.

Beth Lochman…the meanest girl in school.

Seeing that evil reflecting back almost killed me right then and there. And maybe it would have, if it hadn’t been for her mother pounding furiously on her/my door, yelling for her/me to get dressed.

I ignored her and crawled back into bed. I was in the middle of some nightmare. That was the only explanation.

“Beth!” her mother bellowed again.

Ugh! I had no desire to be Beth, so why was I dreaming I was her? She never let a day pass when she didn’t torture someone. I guess being pretty and popular means you get away with more stuff.

Regardless, I was much happier being me.

And being me meant I got out of bed, determined to make the best of things. It was just a dream, and I was still Jules Camden. I just looked different, that’s all.

I rummaged through Beth’s closet, uncovering a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans that still had the non-designer tags on them. Not her style, but certainly mine.

In the kitchen, I grabbed a powdered donut just in time to hear her mother yell again. “Hurry up! Ben’s here.”

I choked, and powdered sugar sprayed all over my shirt.

Ben? As in Beth’s boyfriend Ben? The same Ben who stops my breath every time he speaks to me? So that’s why I was dreaming I was her!

And because dreams have impeccable timing, Ben appeared at just that moment, laughing as I dusted off my shirt.

Reclaiming my dignity, I proudly said something I would never say to him in real life. “Didn’t you hear? Powdered sugar is the new black.”

He laughed again and slipped his hand into mine. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. Dream or not, he wasn’t actually my boyfriend. But that didn’t stop my insides from turning all warm and squishy.

When we got to school, my happiness completely evaporated. Peering at us from behind a corner, was me. I mean Jules. Who I was sure was actually Beth, due to the cranky look on her face when she saw me with Ben.

I got distracted helping some kid who had dropped his books, and when I stood back up, she was gone. But Ben was there, staring at me with the strangest look on his face.

“What?” I asked suspiciously.

“Nothing. You just seem different today.”

He didn’t know the half of it. “Good different or bad different?”

His face lit up with a smile. “Good different.”

Realizing a little dream flirting wouldn’t hurt, I smiled back.

Ben’s glow continued at lunch when I gave money to some girl who had lost hers. And he looked like he was ready to kiss me when I told off one of Beth’s friends for purposely tripping a trumpet player.

Once or twice, I caught Jules/Beth scowling at me, but I didn’t care. It was about time Beth was nice to someone, even if it was only in a dream.

At the end of the day I was heading toward the parking lot, and my face appeared out of the shadows. “Unfreakinbelievable. I switch bodies with you and Ben still likes you better than me.”

“You know what’s unbelievable?” I shot back. “Even in my dreams you’re a jerk.”

“This ain’t a dream, babe.” She held up an ornate gold box. “You remember yesterday when I bumped into you? The electric shock?”

I did remember. And terror slithered down my spine in response. Sure, part of me wanted to call her crazy, but seeing as I was staring at her from her own body, I had to believe her. Plus, if I were dreaming, wouldn’t I have woken up by now?

“What is that?” I asked.

“A Spirit Shifter. My dad bought it off some voodoo priestess in Brazil.”

“But why would you-”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

“Noticed what?” Maybe she was crazy after all.

“The way Ben stares at you in the hallways. The way he should be staring at me. I heard he was going to dump me and ask you to the dance. So I thought -”

“That you’d switch places with me, and he’d come running to you? You’re an idiot you know that? Newsflash. He’s probably sick of you being such a-”

“Whatever. Just give me your hand so we can switch back.”

I did, happy to end this waking nightmare. She pressed a button on the device. A shock flew through my body, but I was still looking at myself through Beth’s eyes.

“Nothing happened.”

“Who’s the idiot now? We switched when we were asleep remember? It’ll happen tonight.”

And it did.

I went back to myself, and unfortunately, so did Beth, with Ben standing quietly at her side. Then one day, he sat at my lunch table instead of hers.

After school, he offered me a ride home. And in my driveway, he said the most surprising thing. “I’ve had a crush on you for a while.”


“Yeah. There was this day a few weeks ago where Beth did all the stuff you usually do. It’s like she was channeling you.” He looked at me, embarrassed for saying it. “I know. It sounds weird.”

“Actually, it doesn’t.”

“Well anyway, that was the day I realized I wanted someone who was like that all the time. I wanted you.” He laced his fingers with mine, and the warm, squishy feeling returned with fireworks and explosions. And this time, I knew it wasn’t a dream.