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Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Flashback: High School Heartache

I apologize in advance of you read this over on my LiveJournal account, but it got people talking there, and I wanted to share it with all of you too.

Imagine from: http://dontdatethatdude.files.wordpress.c

There’s one part if teen angst we probably all remember will acrid clarity: heartbreak. Whether it was unrequited love or the pain of having your heart stomped to pieces and ground into the sidewalk cracks, we’ve all been there. I have one of each, but the second story is far more interesting. (First story: My first high school crush – who I drooled over for about six months – turned out to be gay and I was the only one who couldn't see it coming. The end.)

After getting over crush #1, I fell hard for a junior (I was but a lowly freshman). To protect the names of the not-so-innocent, we’ll call him Donny. Donny was smart, funny, talented, marginally athletic, and liked Classic Rock. We dated for the next two years until he graduated. He told me he’d love me forever and I used to daydream in French class about marrying him in a white gown and carrying red roses. Blood and cream would be my colors. What the hell was wrong with me? Anyway…

When Donny went off to college, we “agreed” to see other people. My first “date” after that was with a guy who had been one of Donny’s friends. We’ll call him Mark. While on this most-platonic of dates ('cause it turns out Mark felt weird about taking out his friend's quasi-girlfriend), Mark lets it slip that Donny wasn’t a model boyfriend one night at a party he attended while I was out of town. Now, I wasn’t necessary shocked by this information since I’d always been jealous of the way this one girl acted around him. But I still called him and left him a teasing message on his dorm answering machine saying I thought he was scum. (He, he, I had such a mature sense of humor.  Clever, witty, subtle.  That's me.)

He calls me back around – oh, must have been roughly 2 am – and proceeds to apologize for cheating on me with some totally different girl.

“OMG! [Except back then I would've actually said the words "Oh my God" because we didn't speak in abbreviations.]  That’s not even who I was talking about."

“I know," he says.  "Let me finish."

He then proceeds to tell me about the SIX different girls he cheated on me with during the time we were together in high school. SIX!!! Tiger Woods had nothing on Donny (except Tiger actually picked attractive girls, where Donny did not, which I considered an even bigger insult.)

The thing I remember most about the next morning is having eyes so red and puffy that my history teacher asked me if I was okay. Just let me sink down farther in my chair and die of embarrassment.

In retrospect, the truly embarrassing part is that I took him back. It was like his confession rekindled his interest in me and we started exclusively dating again. Except for girl number SEVEN. I couldn’t expect him not to have just one more little relapse, right? So what if she was my friend and debate partner? And I was freakin' on my way to visit him when it happened?

Boy – I’m glad I typed this because it reminds me just how naive and love-struck teens are. And yet, it was the most real feelings I'd ever had for someone not related to me by blood.  The type of infatuation that threatens to drag you down into a whirlpool if anything goes wrong. That's the emotion we need to tap into as YA authors!

So that's me and my pathetic, deluded, naive, love-struck, forgiving heart.  What about you?  What's your heartbreak story?  Did anyone else think their first love would last forever?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Tales: The Flag (Part II)

Thank you for stopping by for the second installment of my female vampire short story. If you missed the first installment, you can read it here.

The Flag, Part II

     The rhythm of his pumping heart made me thirst. “You’re tempting me in ways you shouldn’t.”
     “I know.” His smile was apparent in the rumble of his voice. “But maybe I want you tempted.” His hands ran smoothly down my hips and circled up around my back. Like a snake charming me into an embrace, I raised my lips to his.
     Our lips and tongues met in perfect sync. I could have dissolved into him like the souls I gobbled. He rolled me on top of him again, then grabbed my face between his strong palms. “Drink, Lindsey. You’ll be stronger. We’ll be stronger.”
     Tears sprang to my eyes as I fought to hold back every instinct in my body. My teeth elongated as he touched me; a hunger fueled by more than appetite. He was the forbidden food. The apple I was never to eat. And I wanted him so badly I could barely breathe.
     “Make me yours, Lindsey,” he panted.
     “That’s not who I am. I wasn’t born to kill.”
     “Look at me.” His hands caught my face again and our eyes locked. “You won’t kill me. I know you won’t. You’ll drink enough to fight back against the souls. You’ll be stronger.”
     “It’s not worth the chance.”
     “Damn it. I need to be more than your Flag, Lindsey. I need to be part of your soul too. Take me in. Please.”
     My tongue flicked against the sharpened points of my fangs, unused for more than eight years. “I still remember how you taste.” He tilted back his head and his warm flesh called me like a siren’s song. Leaning in to his neck, my lips parted until he was almost close enough to bite.
     Then my heart seized, as if a soul was reaching up with a gnarled fist and squeezing. My eyes rolled back in my head as I fell off Brogan and screamed in agony. An attack; we were being attacked. I felt Brogan twist me in his arms, but had no idea what he was doing until the sweet crush of iron filled my mouth. Without thinking, I sank my fangs in deeper and gulped long, greedy pulls. With each swallow, the soul’s hold became weaker until I owned my body again.
     But the real danger hadn’t even started. “Catcher.” A Carth’s voice, like liquid night, circled around my head. He was close. And just as I’d warned Brogan, I hadn’t sensed him until he was upon us. “Come and catch me.”
     “Stay behind me,” I whispered, sitting up and clutching the sheet to my chest for cover. Brogan’s sweet blood coursed inside my veins, fueling me, making me strong enough to face our assassin. This time, Brogan wouldn’t have to make me drink the soul, I would do it on my own.
     A purple-black mist filtered under my bedroom door as the Carth wound his way inside. I felt suddenly very naked as the menacing vampire took shape before us.
     “Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey,” he chided. “Don’t you know better than to fall in love with your Flag?”
     I lunged forward, prepared to inhale the Carth’s soul away with a well-placed breath, but he sidestepped me. Unlike the others I’d taken – those who’d sought me out by some lustful pull to a female vampire - this one knew what he was up against. He was ready for my defenses, easily avoiding them.
     Once around me, the Carth snatched Brogan’s neck and sniffed. Then his eyes locked on mine. “Freshly bitten, Lindsey? Tisk, tisk. I didn’t think you ladies fed on your pets.” The Carth’s tongue darted out, licking away a trail of blood that leaked from Brogan’s still fresh wound.

The conclusion will be posted next Tuesday. Please join me then!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome Your Dreams

Art by CameoFX on DeviantART

My Tuesday post is the start of a short story I wrote, called The Flag.  The concept came to me in a dream.  All I remembered in the morning was that this young vampire girl "flagged" her first human when she was ten.  I wrote down the dream memories and moved on.  But over time, I wanted to know more... what did it mean to "flag" a human?  What happens between a vampire and her flagged mortal?  So I pondered, stretched, and created.

It seems funny to me that so many of us seem to think it's silly or an imitation to say we got our story ideas from a dream. What, just because Stephanie Meyer dreamed about Edward and Bella, she cornered the market on using her nighttime subconscious?  That's ridiculous.

IMO, we authors ought to be embracing our dreams as often as we can.  Dreams are our creative playgrounds - the place where our subconscious minds can romp and roam without any distractions.  If you keep a dream journal, you can train yourself to remember what you dreamed of the night before.  And why not?  Maybe the story, plot twist, or writer's block moment you've been waiting for is there, lurking beneath a surface you can only crack while asleep...

How many of you have gotten a story idea from your dreams?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Tales: A vampire short story (The Flag - Part I)

So yes, I did post this short story on my Live Journal blog back in what feels like another lifetime.  But I hadn't met all of YOU then. Since I (a) wanted to share and (b) am so busy writing another novel that I haven't written any more shorts to share, I'm going to re-post this one.  Hope you enjoy.
Photo artfully acquired from jessmarie on Deviant Art

    I flagged my human when I was ten. As my teeth sank into his wrist, supple and juicy like a peach, my mother had warned me: "trust him, depend on him, but never love him. Love makes you weak."
    When your heritage leaves you destined to fight off the darker of your kind, weakness is a luxury you can’t afford. At the time, I’d had no worries about listening to my mother’s words. The gawky thirteen year old, holding his wrist out to me so I could drink, held no appeal. He would be my protector as we grew, but nothing more.
    Since flagging him, I’d been able to track Brogan’s every move. His presence called to me like a banner snapping in the wind. I could always find him, no matter how far away.
     But tonight, I didn’t need a flag to find Brogan.
     I rolled off his still-heaving chest, sticky with our commingled sweat. “This is a mistake,” I panted.
     He pulled my fingertips to his lips, kissing them. “Not for me. Never for me.”
     “We’re dooming ourselves,” I protested.
     “So be it,” he said. “Lindsey, I lo--”
     I silenced him with a kiss, sucking away his words before they could fill my head with promises I couldn’t bear to hear.
     “You can’t say that,” I told him. “We can’t afford to be weak. Not now. Not with the Carths growing their numbers.”
     “Whether I say it or not, it doesn’t change how I feel.”
      Our foreheads pressed together as we lay there in silence. I started Catching two years ago, when I was sixteen. With every captured soul, I became stronger; blacked out for shorter periods of time. But I was still in the minor leagues. Brogan had to guard me when I was under; my body absorbing a soul of the damned before he could drink again. If a Carpathian found me when I was like that, he’d snap the cord of my life with a click of his fangs.
     I needed Brogan with me while the souls digested too. Although I absorbed their strength and powers, the souls clawed at me from the inside until they were more mine than not. They particularly liked to reach up and snatch me when another Carpathian was near; as if they could weaken me so their brother could succeed where they had failed. Only Brogan could make me ingest another soul when I was weakened.
     “I just can’t, Brogan. I want this more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. But I won’t put you in danger.”
     “I’m never in danger so long as we’re together.”
     “You’re wrong,” I argued, even as his arm wrapped around my shoulders and pulled me back. “If I’m distracted – like this – I won’t sense one coming.”
     “I’ll take care of you,” he said. His kisses sprinkled over my eyes and nose.
     “It’s not me I’m worried about. What if a soul pulls me under and a Carth goes for you first? What then?”
    “Then we die together.”
    “No. That’s not okay.” I shook my head, unwilling to imagine a Carth with his fangs in Brogan’s neck. Even I had only tasted his wrist. If anyone drank from Brogan’s most tender flesh, it should be me. But Catchers only drank to flag, to create an alliance. Not even in pleasure could I taste my mortal again. That’s what they did. And I wasn’t one of them.
     Brogan pulled me in even closer, guiding my ear against his pounding heart. “Would you rather live to save the world, or die knowing you’d tasted love?”

Check back next week for part II...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Flashback: Bad Habits

Summer has found me establishing some really bad habits.  I used to have my girls across town for school at 8 a.m. (well, by 8:15 at least).  I now only have to drop them at camp by 9 a.m., and it's literally across the street from my house.  But I've taken sleeping in to a whole new level.  In fact, when I drop the kiddos of at camp carpool, I haven't even showered yet.


I come home after carpool, get ready, and don't find myself rolling into work until 10.  Thank God I'm part time at a flexible job, right?  Somewhere in the back of mind, I know I'm going to seriously pay for this when school starts again in August.  Cause it's not just the sleeping later, it's the corresponding staying up later.  My whole sleep cycle seems to be shifting, much like... being a teenager again.

Aww... the sweet bliss of sleeping until noon or 1 p.m. on the weekends.  Remember that?  Staying up till all hours of the night talking to your BFF, or boyfriend, or sneaking out from your flute-girl slumber party to tee-pee another kid's house?  (I'm guessing that last one was just me.)  Our sleep cycles were totally whacked and we loved it, or just didn't care.

And another bad habit of my teen years? Being a total, freaking slob.  My mom finally gave up and just made me keep my door closed.  She couldn't stand to look at my mess.  (See what happens to you OCD-cleaning parents - you get a kid like me.)  The floor was literally covered in clothes, with one half of the room being clean clothes, and the other being dirty, and the bed serving as the dividing line. *shivers*

I think the biggest bad habit of teens these days has to be texting, particularly while driving.  And boy, those teens sure are careless.  I would never do such a thing.  Unless I'm at a red light.  Or waiting in the carpool line.  Or... (No - I haven't been watching Oprah.  So sue me.)

So, those were/are my teen-like bad habits.  What bad habits did you have as a teen?  What ones drive you nuts today?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Tales: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

So I'm a little slow on the uptake, because this book came out in February 2009 and I'm just now reading it. Here's the premise:

At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.
Meanwhile, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as the princess’s personal assistant, has his work cut out for him trying to save his girl’s soul and plan the Master’s fast-approaching Death Day gala.  
The book trailer (below) is pretty awesome.
Eternal Trailer

So, any vampire or angel lover has to read this book, cause wow - cool premise, huh? I enjoyed the way this book was told from alternating points of view - first Miranda, then Zachary and back again. Smith handled this seamlessly and without overlap. I have to admit to loving the start more than the ending. I don't want to give away too many spoilers in case you haven't read it yet, but it ends the way it "should," and not the way we romance lovers would hope.

Throughout the book, we see a glimpse of the gruesome side of vampires (or eternals) as they refer to themselves, that's been lacking in YA. They're vicious, unforgiving, cruel. They keep prisoners (food) locked away in a dungeon and treat their human servants little better than slaves. The royalty shows no mercy even to others of their kind, regularly executing them for even minor offenses. Something about this darkness was inviting and stood in stark opposition to the light of the angels. And it truly made Zachary's mission "impossible."

I didn't fly through the pages, per se, but I did stay up reading too late on a couple of nights, if that tells you anything. Overall, I give it 3 out of 4 Greek Coins: a URA* rating.

And the author gets extra brownie points because I DM-ed her on twitter to tell her I enjoyed the book and she responded that same day with her thanks. Got to love the accessible author. You can find out more about Cynthia Leitich Smith on her webpage, or you too can follow her on twitter.  Smith is also the author of TANTALIZE (2007) and the forthcoming sequel to ETERNAL, called BLESSED (2011).

Question: has anyone read TANTALIZE? It, too, sounds "tantalizing," but was wondering about the general consensus on it. There's so much good stuff out there!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Flashback: Verbal Tics

So I was, like, thinking about how I, like, talked back in the day.  (OK, I'll stop that now.)  But seriously?  How many of you have said: "Like, oh my god!" followed promptly by a hair flip or the blowing of a big pick Bubblicious bubble.  I remember being in my mom's bedroom and not being able to get through a sentence because she stopped me every time I said "like."  It was almost impossible to, like, finish. *damn it, I did it again*

Here's what I want to know though.  How did Valspeak become an acceptable part of the English language?  Don't believe me?
Just find me a teen who hadn't texted this three-letter acronym yet.
Or even better: LIKE
I hear my baby sitter say it, and I'm still guilty of using the word as a verbal tic.  Like those times when I'm driving and my brain's only half into the conversation and I'm trying to remember what I was going to say next.  Do you still catch yourself doing this?
And don't even get me started on my college prof Beta reader.  She went nuts when she thought I had my MC using a "like" phrase because she hears so many kids talking like this and didn't want me perpetuating the bad grammar.  (In my defense, I had forgotten a word, so it was a typo, not a grammo.)

In a twisted, not-so-good way, it's kind of funny that kids are still using the bad slang we used in high school yet think they have nothing in common with us.  Whatever.  We are, like, so totally cooler than they give us credit for. *insert major eye roll*  As if!

What verbal tics do you hear being passed around the teen crowds these days?

P.S.  Be sure to follow us over at Oasis for YA if you don't already.  When we reach 100 followers, we're giving away LOADS of fun prizes.  You won't want to miss out!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Describe the Ordinary

Sometimes, I like to force myself to write creatively.  To exercise the often-under-used left side of my brain.  So I'll stop what I'm doing, look around, and pick something to describe.  When I do this, I come up with just one sentence that I hope would make a reader feel like they were right there with me: seeing, feeling, sensing, the same thing I am.  I've done this with the gentle kneading of a massage or the way too-hot coffee leaves your tongue all prickly.
My favorite one so far: 
Flames lapped at the once-solid logs, reducing them to brittle, glowing bones.
I wrote this as I stared into a waning fire on a cold, north Florida night (yes, we do have cold here).  And hopefully it - or something like it - will find it's way into one of my WIPs one of these days.

Maybe it's time to challenge yourself today too.  Describe something ordinary.  It could be something sitting right next to you on your desk.  It could be the way it feels when your children throw their sweaty, sticky arms around your neck when you pick them up from camp.  But if you do this -- really push yourself to find the essence of what you want to say -- I promise you the exercise won't be a waste of time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Flashback: First Kiss

My cohort, Nikki Katz, at Oasis for YA wrote a wonderful post on Wednesday about how to really pull a reader in when you're writing that all-important first kiss scene. Which got me thinking about my own first - oh so less than glamorous - kiss.  This post is probably more appropriate for the MG authors, since my kiss, and its repercussions, are decidedly immature and too young for YA.  But I thought I'd share anyway.  (Why do I do this to myself?)
Image borrowed from
Grade: 6th (please don't judge)
Boy: Carl something, he had a twin named Eric that I actually liked better, but he was "seeing" my cousin and Carl was the one brave enough to ask me to dance in the middle school cafeteria during our big dance
Place: movie theater
How it went down: Now, I can't be eloquent like Nikki suggests because my brain is a little foggy (thank God!) on the details.  I just remember him sweating as he held my hand in the theater. At some point in the movie, he leaned over and asked me if I wanted to kiss. I suspect I probably nodded rather than answering with words.  The next thing I remember is a big, slobbery, tongue-down-my-throat kiss with neither of us knowing what the heck we were doing.  It was awkward and not at all romantic. But dang it, we had our first kiss.
The fall out: This was pretty much inevitable since I don't think we liked each other all that much and the kiss, well... yeah, it sucked.  (For you authors - I recommend a nice, delicious kiss on the LIPS for your first time kissers.  Tongue for the inexperienced is just going to mess things up.)  Later that week, I was on the phone at my cousin's house and Carl & I traded rather hateful barbs back and forth for what felt like an hour.  He commented on things like my less-than-perfect technique; I commented on things like his small winkie.  (Now, I honestly would have had NO WAY to know about the size of his wanker, but I knew how to hit him where it hurt.) And with that, we "broke up."  Shocking.  The first kiss that ended my first "relationship."

And that, my friends, is the sad and embarrassing tale of my first kiss.  I don't recommend it and I hope you all have much more enjoyable experiences that were memorable for the right reasons.

So now that you're in the mood to kiss & tell - I invite you to share your first kiss story (either your personal one or one from your book). Who doesn't love to hear about a good smooch?