Category Archives: writer life

Slaying the Sequel Monster ~Abigayle Claire

I’m excited to share this article by Abigayle Claire– I found it full of useful information (just as I had hoped– I asked her specifically to write something on sequels)

About the Author: Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality. Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog theleft-handedytpist.blogspot.com … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.

 

I admire all of you who have ever written a sequel. In my mind it’s quite the feat (like slaying a dragon or sea monster). For those of who haven’t written a sequel, sequel-writers deserve to have all our inkwells poured out on their feet. Or maybe you’re like me and you fall in the middle: trying to write a sequel.

All writing has its ups and downs, of course. No draft is easy, but I’ve found sequels to be particularly challenging. So maybe this post can be your special armor or sneaky enchantment you need to slay the monster yourself.

Why I think sequels are hard

I published my first novel Martin Hospitality because I enjoyed writing it and it came together. (Again, not as easy as it sounds, but generally speaking.) I have a gazillion story ideas like the rest of you, but I’m going to spend the most time on the ones I think will come together.

Because I have other ideas for the characters and because my readers enjoy them, I intend for there to be one if not two more books in the series. So I’m currently working on the sequel to Martin Hospitality. Actually, I’ve been working on it off and on for the last year. *dies*

I thought writing a sequel might be easier, and for some of you it might be. After all, it’s the same world/universe and characters. It’s a lot less creating from scratch. But that’s exactly where I hit my main roadblock—I’ve already taken my characters so far, it’s hard for me to take them further still. Gotta love character arcs.

How to make it easier on yourself

I think I made some initial mistakes that stunted my writing initially and led to my burnout last year. Trust me, you want to avoid burnout if at all possible. I don’t typically have to do full rewrites, but I started completely over on draft one after setting it aside for awhile. You want to avoid starting over again and again too.

So here are some things to try to make writing a sequel easier:

1. Ask yourself if a sequel is necessary. I honestly don’t think Martin Hospitality needs a sequel anymore. It never did. People just want more, and I had some scene ideas, so I thought why not.

2. Don’t make promises. Had I not promised people a sequel, I might not be writing a sequel … Not that you can’t change your mind as a writer—plans do change. But it’s even harder to go back on what you have in print (front title page: MARTIN HOSPITALITY Martin Generations Book #1) than what you say online.

3. P-L-O-T. I am a genuine plantser (half planning, half winging it), but you have to plan a sequel. I am convinced there is no other option. I cannot plan out everything to a tee, but scene cards, character sheets, personality typing, etc. all saved my life. Scene cards especially. Find your thing that will help get the jumbled fluff in your head at least into chronological order.

4. Consider timing. This might not be a problem with everyone, but my timeline is killing me … more and more quickly with each passing day. How do you jump ahead 10 years if Book 1 was a contemporary? Is it OK to skip years twice in one book? Do the concurrent events even line up for people’s ages? Yeah, those kind of problems.

5. Read the first book! I really resisted reading my own published novel. I published it, people liked it … I never had to flip past the title page for signing copies. It was great. Until I needed to know what color so-and-so’s eyes were. Or what mannerisms I’d given someone. Did that scene make it into the final draft? The only way to answer those questions is to reread the book. Plus, you’ll find a wealth of tidbits to springboard off of—things you accidentally set up for a sequel. 😉

6. Maybe plan out the whole series to begin with. There really should be more than “accidentally setting things up for a sequel.” I feel like the only writer on earth who wrote Book 1 without really planning Book 2. (To my credit, I did plan Book 3.) I think most of my character arc problems would be solved if I’d written with a sequel more at the forefront of my mind.

7. Don’t resolve it all!* If everything ties up, it’s a standalone, not Book 1. I’m not saying you have to have a cliffhanger, but there needs to be some stakes on the table still—not just loveable characters. The ending to Martin Hospitality is open, but there’s not much you need to read on for.

*there are some series that cater to being individual stories in a single world or with connected characters—such series don’t require the same intense connectedness.

8. Learn as you go. Obviously this is what I’ve had to do, and I won’t be able to cut the learning curve completely short for you either. Contrary to what it might have sounded like earlier, I don’t regret sticking with writing a sequel. It’s been an amazing test of patience and writing when I simply don’t feel like it. A wonderful pain. And, yes, I still intend to write other series. I’m just going to approach them differently.

Of course, several of these can be issues even in standalones. However, for me, these issues have all come out more prominently in sequel-writing. But I’ll survive and so can you! I hope this will help you on your way to writing sequels because I’ve learned one thing through all this: the only thing harder than writing a sequel is writing a standalone.

~~~~~

Have you ever written (or tried to write) a sequel? Do you think it would be harder or easier for you than writing a standalone?


Readers’ Favorite 2017 Christian Fiction Honorable Mention

Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she’s been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.

The Martins aren’t a typical family–even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.

When Gemma’s past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins’ trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins’ love and God’s forgiveness go?


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Filed under Inkling Chats, Inkling to Write, Uncategorized, writer life

TOP FIVE TIPS TO INDIE PUBLISH SUCCESSFULLY ~ Kara Swanson

Kara Swason _ Floral Headshot.jpg

About the Author: KARA SWANSON spent her first sixteen years overseas in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, as the daughter of missionaries. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the Fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.

Hello, there! It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this online Writers’ Conference.
My name is Kara Swanson—I’m the author of YA Fantasy novels, and last year at twenty years old I independently released the INSPY Award Finalist novella, The Girl Who Could See. I sold hundreds of copies in the first two months alone, and signed with an agent shortly after the release partly due to the success of my novella. It has since won several cover awards, and consistently sells well and brings in reviews.
So, I know a little about this Indie Publishing journey. 🙂 I thought I would share my top five tips for what you need to know in order to release a book successfully.
Really? Let’s get to it—
1. First off—let’s talk about what Independent Publishing even is.
Independently Publishing basically means that you are releasing a novel yourself, independently (shocker, right? 😉 ), without the help of a Traditional Publishing House (companies that pay you an advance and a royalty sum in order to publish your book and do all of the editing and cover design and some of the marketing in house). This also excludes using Vanity Presses (companies that you pay to release your book) and Small Presses (Companies that help you release your novel, but often times without a very large advance—if any—and not always with the best quality). Indie Publishing means that you become your own publishing company. You find the editors, hire a cover designer, do your own marketing, upload to Amazon or wherever else you plan on selling copies, etc. You do it all, like the boss you are :)

2. Secondly—let’s talk about what may be the single most important step besides writing the book: editing.
You can have a fantastic cover, sell your book online and in brick and mortar bookstores, you can market it like a pro and get endorsements from dozens of NYT Best-Selling authors…but if you don’t take the time to edit it well, and you don’t put out a quality product, your book is not going to do well. Having a well written, well edited, professional-level manuscript is one of the few things that will set your book apart from the billions of other novels popping up on Amazon. A good book makes an impact. If your book is not polished and well edited, no matter how wonderful of a writer you are, readers are going to put it down because they struggled to get through. Maybe there were errors, plot holes, it was hard to digest, or a host of other problems that can occur without an editor. Putting in the time and effort to hire a good editor (or several!) is an investment that will have a hugely positive impact on the rest of your publishing journey.

3. Third on our list—I want to remind you of the importance of planning out every step of your Indie Publishing journey well.
This is far more important than you’d think. If you are not careful about how much time and effort you invest into the process, you can end up hurting your release more than helping it.
Picture this—you decide to put your book through six rounds of edits, and then set it up to release in three months. But, what happens when it comes to the night before the launch and you are still working through those last few rounds of edits? And barely manage to get the correct copy uploaded to Amazon on time? Or not at all?
Being certain to plan out how much time each step of the process will take is such an important facet of the Indie Publishing journey. And when it comes to planning out the publishing process, be sure to include the behind-the-scenes aspects of getting your book set up online or for print. For example, when formatting your book for uploading to Amazon or any of the other mediums, it is good to consider if you have the time to teach yourself how to format, or if it is worth it to hire someone who can quickly get your book formatted for release. You want to be able to take the time to do every aspect of the Indie process well.

4. Alright, next, I want to touch on what I think is the most fun part of the Independent Publishing process—the book cover.
Book covers sell books. They truly do—and one of the best ways to market your book is to have a fantastic cover. Professional-looking covers will capture attention and hold it, as well as make your marketing that much easier. Great book covers will cause buzz, they’ll win awards, they’ll beg to be picked up off a shelf—and then will make your book memorable. Finding a really quality book cover designer can be expensive, but it is definitely worth the cost. There are many cover designers (Mine, for example. Seedlings Design Studio) that are more affordable and still do an incredible job. Be sure to do your research, ask around, study other covers in your genre, and decide on the best candidate. A great book cover will sell books and capture readers long after they reach ‘the end’.

5. For our final point, let’s talk about the aspect of publishing that connects your book to its readers—Marketing.
Now, the term marketing can be a bit scary to a lot of aspiring Indies, but it’s all a part of the process. At its core, marketing is simply the process of forming connections with potential readers and showing them why your story resonates with their needs. It’s seeing someone else’s desires and preferences and hopes so that you can communicate why you are able to fill their need. Marketing can look like building up a social media presence so you can connect with other readers who enjoy your genre. It may mean getting to know other authors or attending Writers’ Conferences. It can entail running ads and being intentional in how you word posts and spread the news about your novel. It can include planning a fun Facebook Party to celebrate the launch of your novel, doing giveaways and featuring guest authors in order to draw in a crossover of readers. It is not just seeing book sales as a number—but as friends and fans and hearts. Marketing is about making connections with a whole world of readers who will be touched by the story you’ve been given to tell.

Well, there you have it! A brief summary of what I think are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you pursue Independently Publishing your novel, and releasing your words and passions into the world.
Was this post helpful to you? Any questions? Please feel free to comment below! I will do my best to respond to every comment. If you want to connect with me further, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and on my Website! See you there, storytellers changing the world with your words!

TGWCS cover.jpgAll her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?
Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.
Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

You can order The Girl Who Could See here! 😀

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You’re Invited

Well, the time has come…

*rubs hands together*

*clears throat*

The 2nd Annual Inkling to Write Conference is coming! (to a blog near you 😉 )

I don’t know if any of you remember about my online conference, but I hosted one last year and am excited to share the second one with you too! I’m trying some different things this year, and I’m sure I’ll continue to keep trying new things (I mean, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?)

But before I get into that– maybe you don’t even know what I’m talking about…

Inkling to Write is an online conference– for writers! I know for pretty much any writer’s conference I hear about I want to go, but logically and financially that just hasn’t happened yet. (Maybe someone needs to work out that conferences count towards college credit…)

“How do I get around the fact that I’m one of those ‘poor starving college students’ but also want to further my writing journey….” I asked myself.

What if… someone hosted it online! No charge, no travel expenses, and from the comfort of wherever and whenever you want!

So Inkling to Write was born. I hosted the first one and couldn’t wait to start planning the second one. (How early is too early? I don’t think there is a ‘too early’– it just gives you extra time to come up with ideas.)

Inkling to Write will be right here, and last three days. We’ll get information on writing, and how to stay inspired, and on, and on. I’m excited about it, and I hope you are too because– you’re invited too!You're invited

Last year it happened in November, but that didn’t seem right to me. National Novel Writing Month (where you try to write 50,000 words in a month) happens in November and I felt people may tend to be distracted because of that, so I changed it to September! (What? It’s happening sooner than last year? YEAH I KNOW RIGHT! *throws confetti*) It’s going to be September 6th, 7th, and 8th, right here on my good little NaomiandBooks blog.

So feel free to stop by or tell a writer in your life to stop by! I hope you enjoy it just as much I do.

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Filed under Inkling Chats, Inkling to Write, life as a writer, writer life

Being a Writer… Or Not.

Whenever I get serious writer’s block, I always try to evaluate whether or not this means I just need to stop writing. I’m not trying to be a quitter by any means, but forcing something that God doesn’t have in your plan… doesn’t work well.

Maybe being a writer isn’t what I’m supposed to do, and you know, that’s okay. I used to treat writing as way more important than it actually is, and so whenever I get strong writer’s block I try to pay attention. I take breaks, I pray, I try to read more…

I’ve thought about this a lot, and while I (think, haha) I’m a writer, it really is only a small part of me. I am actually so many things. I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. I’m a student. An employee. A sister. AN AUNT!!! (ahem. Sorry, that’s still kind of new, but let’s be honest, I’ll never not be excited). A friend (at least to my mom’s dog. 😉 )

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So, yes, even though I haven’t finished a project in a long time, and even though writing is like pulling teeth, I think I’m still a writer. I still understand writer quirks (and probably still do some of them). I still sort of have a grasp of grammar. 😉 I still think books are beautiful and I try to recognize the ton of hard work that goes into them (I don’t know if I can until I go through it myself.)

But I’m not just a writer and I think sometimes writers can be very exclusive. I’m a writer, but I’m a writer that takes breaks (if you don’t believe me, when was the last time I blogged??) I’m a writer but I don’t need just writer friends. I’m a writer, but my sister still pays attention and understands the writing side of me really well.

I guess just like you shouldn’t label other people, you shouldn’t label yourself either. Labels can be limiting, and as a writer who tries to stretch the imagination, shouldn’t limiting be something I’m trying not to be?

Whether I am a writer or not, the only label that really matters is what God labels me as. As long as I’m His nothing else matters. (and if I’m not writing for Him, I don’t need to be writing anyway right? 🙂 )

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Filed under life as a writer, Open Letter, reader, test, writer life, Writer Wednesday

Writer Wednesday: The Beginning

If you are a writer, then you have probably heard about how important it is to have a good beginning. A good first sentence/paragraph/chapter… the beginning is the chance you have to hook your reader… and you want to do that so they will read your whole book! Right? Right (ish). (A problem many writers struggle with, myself included, is not wanting others to read you book. *sigh* It’s a rough life, let me tell you. 😉 )

The first sentence can be tricky because I try to capture my main character’s personality, and the overall feeling of the story. So, it takes me approximately 50,000 words to write a novel (and that is just approximately) but I’m supposed to give my book a good first impression, capture the overall feeling of the story, and my main character’s personality? Without it being a run-on sentence?

Uuuggghhh.

Do you ever write and think, “This is really hard, why do I do this to myself?” But at the same time you think, “I LOVE WRITING”. That’s basically me every time I write…

For fun I figured I’d share some of my first lines. Not because I think I know everything, but because they are mine and maybe I’ll learn how I need to change them. 🙂

1. From my story Pieces of My Heart: Most of the time, I prefer to be alone, but every now and then I long to be with someone who truly cares about me.

In this story, Rindy has been hurt and is very shy. So I tried to convey that with the first line “prefers to be alone” and it’s not that she hates all people, but she wants to be with someone who cares about. Not someone that is just forced to care about her because they are family, but “truly cares”. She does also have a sarcastic and silly streak, but compared to being shy and lonely, those are lesser personality traits to her.

2. From This Very Moment: We had one photograph of my mother when I was growing up.

Marilyn, the main character, was raised by her grandparents and had no contact with her mother. That picture was the only connection she had to her mother, and it was important to her. I think it helped emphasize the gap in her life that a mother would have filled? I don’t know, I just write the story. The characters don’t ask my opinion of stuff. 😉

3. This next one is from an unfinished, and unnamed project about a girl who worked in a hotel that her parents owned:  Whichever way you turn it, it wasn’t exactly a glamorous life I led.

I kind of wanted to compare it to Cinderella’s life and how always cleaning doesn’t equal a happily ever after. She was a little disappointed in her life because her parents were busy and didn’t always understand what she was going through.

4. Okay this last one I’m sort of working on off and on, tentatively calling it The Voice for now. It’s about a girl who has supernatural abilities and can kind of read people’s mind. It’s not exactly mind reading, though, it’s just like if she gets close to someone she suddenly knows things about them (she explains it as ‘getting a feeling’ about someone). The better she knows a person, the better she can read them, but the only person she is really close to is her brother. Anyway. More info then you needed, but here is the first sentence:  I’ve always had feelings… or just plain talent.

In this first sentence I tried to convey that there was something different about my main character. She wasn’t a… normal person. She was special, and she had been her whole life, in an unexplainable way.

I’d love to hear some of your first sentences! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by on this week’s post of Writer Wednesday!

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An Exciting Announcement!!!

Late last week, a writing friend of mine, Taylor Bennett (you can check out her website here!), and I were planning a (REALLY COOL) secret project. If you follow either of us on social media, you may have seen us talking about it…

And today… WE GET TO TELL YOU WHAT IT IS!

Inkling Chats photo

Inkling Chats! Once a month, on the last Sunday of every month, Taylor Bennett and I will be hosting a chat, for writers! We’ll be talking about things every writer faces, every month, for thirty minutes!

You can follow us, and the hashtag to keep up with what is going on. Any topics you want us to cover? Do you plan to join in? We look forward to having you!

Also, you should look on the super awesome Go Teen Writers Website… they may or may not be posting about this soon! 😀

So this isn’t what I had planned for Writer Wednesday (and I actually had a writer Wednesday post written and scheduled! Can you believe it?) but this is pretty important too. 🙂

I’m so happy that I just happened to open up a document on my computer, saw that it said, “Inkling Chats” and opened it to see what it was all about. I had completely forgotten about it! I’m so thankful that Taylor was so onboard and excited about this (she made the super cool graphic!!!!) and that we were able to set it up so quickly so we could get this thing going to kick off in January!

Keep following along and you’ll keep seeing updates!

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Book Birthday!

Three years ago today I finished one of my stories! Usually a “book birthday” is the day the book was released, but I’m considering this my book birthday, marking the finish of one of my stories. 🙂

In celebration of this, I decided to post the first chapter of the story on my blog! 🙂 (It’s not going to look formatted correctly going from a Word Document to my blog, but just pretend… ;))

(In other exciting news I’m done with my finals and have completed my first year of college! I was about to write high school… my brain has been dead for, like, two weeks, but I’m hoping it’ll come back to me during break…)

Chapter 1

 

Most of the time, I prefer to be alone, but every now and then I long to be with someone who truly cares about me.
Obviously Dad and Margie, my stepmother, must care somewhat, at least in a Florinda is still alive, right? Because I’m pretty sure accidentally killing her would look really bad way.
All I can say is when you’re alone, warm showers can act like the hug no one else is willing to give you.
A sigh escapes as the shower beats down on my back, relaxing my muscles. Taking a deep breath of the steamy air, I turn around and turn off the water. For a moment, I rest my forehead on the shower wall… just breathing. There is only ten minutes left for me to eat breakfast and get ready for school, but sometimes being in a rush is somehow reassuring, like it tells me, “You have some place to be. You’re here for a reason.”
The extra mile I jogged took more time than I thought it would. Training for a Suicide Awareness Marathon takes work- there is no way I’d be able to do that if I didn’t push myself. I dry off quickly and pull my hair in a messy ponytail.
When I get to the kitchen, Margie’s pouring herself a glass of orange juice and Bobby is in his highchair babbling something as he bangs his fists on his tray in front of him. My fingers run through his soft brown-red hair as I pass him on my way to the cabinet.
“Remember to look people in the eye.” Margie goes the fridge. She gets the milk and hands it to me. I nod and get a bowl out of the cabinet. She chews her lip for a moment, going over the same words she said to me every morning this week before school.
Here it goes. The speech she thinks is helpful. The speech I’ll smile and nod too and then completely disregard as soon as I get to school. At school I’ll have one goal—be invisible.
“Smile, and walk confidently.”
My head bobs up and down as I pour my cereal and milk, and get a spoon from the drawer. I continue my nodding, even though now that I’m crunching on my cereal I can’t hear a word she says.
Margie always nags me about going too fast, running too fast or eating too fast, and as I look down at the empty bowl I know—this time at least—she’s right. With nothing to give me an excuse not to listen I hear her rattle off her last few tips.
“Work hard, but try to make friends.” Her eyes plead with me. Plead that I’d give this place a chance, try to be happy. Sure I can try to be happy– I can even pretend, but I doubt I’d ever actually make it to being happy. With her in place of my mom? Yeah, I doubt it.
She smiles and reaches up to brush some of my corn-silk blonde hair behind my ear, but stops and pulls her hand back. “How has your first week at school been going?”
“Fine.” Surrounded by strangers and getting lost at least once a day. But how did she think I’d respond?
She nods. “Good.”
I shift from one foot to the other. I should probably tell her something. Thank you, maybe? Instead, I put the empty bowl into the sink and say, “I’ve got to go, or I’m going to miss my bus.”
Margie follows me to the back door and gives me a hug before I can prepare– before I can move away. “Bye, have a good day.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you later.” I pat Bobby on his head. “Bye, Bobby.” Grabbing my backpack I force a smile at them both. I go out the back door, but walk to the front porch to wait for the school bus.
A few minutes later the bus stops in front of the house. I pick up my backpack and start walking towards the bus. After slinking near the back of the bus, I slide into a window seat. I put my backpack on the seat next to me in hopes that no one will ask to sit there.
Chances are no one would ask to sit there anyway since I’m still new and haven’t gotten to know anyone, but just in case, I’m prepared. I hope.
I put on my headphones and listen to my mp3 player the entire trip to school.
When the school bus finally pulls into the parking lot, I grind my teeth together. It’s so big, and with so many people. Maybe one day I’d get used to it, but I guess it isn’t going to happen in the first week.
As I get off of the bus, I remind myself over and over, I will get through today and I will be fine. Just breathe and smile, I tell myself. It will be okay.
But…. if I was going to draw this school, what would it look like? The looming one story brick buildings don’t look all that scary, so why do they fill me with fear? To do these buildings justice with how it’s making me feel, I’d have to draw bars on the windows and cobwebs in the door frames.
“Come on, be positive,” I mumble under my breath.
In reality, the pearly white pillars in the front of the building seem to make it stand tall and proud. I stand behind a tree to block myself from the slight wind, but also to take a moment to prepare myself for going in.
Life is so much easier when I can bury my face in my sketchbook and block out the world with the music. Unfortunately, things like school often get in the way.
Several people glance at me as I weave between them to my locker. The hallway echoes the voices of every talking student.
All week Margie would ask me what my locker combination is—making sure I had it memorized. Not that I’m comfortable with Margie, but it’s so much easier to recall it when I’m not surrounded by strangers. Fortunately, it’s getting easier to remember. It had been much harder to remember on Monday, but it’s easier today. Hopefully I won’t forget it over the weekend.
A few minutes later, I have everything I need and I turn to the exit. The school is larger than I thought it would be when we first moved here—small town, small school, right? I guess not. Apparently every teenager from all of the neighboring small towns collaborates into this gigantic high school. I head out the main building that contains the gym, cafeteria, office rooms and lockers. Outside, as I stand under the covered walkway, I glance at the other buildings. Which one is my first class in?
It was the same questions every day. What’s my locker combination? Where is my next class? As far as first weeks go mine was fine, but next week should go even better. Pretty soon, I would automatically remember….
Pretty soon this all would be normal.
I start my best guess and start walking with my heart pounding as if I just went running. As I walk towards where I hope my first class is, I watch my fellow students. Some of them notice me, but too others I’m invisible, just the way I prefer it.
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Somehow I get my homework finished fairly soon, even though I keep doodling in the notebooks I’m supposed to using for school. A glance at the clock makes me smile. I have time for a walk before dinner. I grab my cell phone and mp3 player and hurry down the stairs where Margie is chopping up onions for dinner.
“Hey, Flo,” She greets me.
Flo. The nickname makes me want to gag. When Margie found out Mom made a special nickname for me, Rindy, I guess she thought I’d be all for having another nickname. “Hi. I’m going to go for a walk, ok?” I hold up my phone so she knows I can contact them if I need them. “I’ll be gone thirty minutes at the most.”
“Ok, I’ll see you later.”
Once I get on the road I put one of my ear buds in my ear and start a slow walk. Whenever I went for a ‘walk’ I never end up walking the whole time. Maybe Margie is right about me moving too fast, I always have to be going. My feet were made to run. I just can’t help it. The thrill of having the ground pass under my feet and the labored breathing is a strange, comforting reminder that I’m alive, that there is something to this life… or there seems to be.
Ten minutes later I get to a small park surrounded by houses. I sit down near a tree and pull put my mp3 player to switch to a different album. This would be a beautiful place to draw… maybe I could draw myself well here.
Whenever I sit down to draw myself, I always do it wrong. Somehow, no matter how big I drew the smile, it looks fake, no matter how I drew the eyes they always look like they were holding back tears. Obviously that can’t be how I look in real life or more people would notice me and ask me how I am… so why did I always see myself like that?
Closing my eyes, I lean against the tree, concentrating on the music and trying to ignore the nipping cold air. To draw this place properly takes more than a look at it. You need to get the feel of the place to draw it correctly. Maybe that’s why I always drew myself wrong, because on the inside I’m–
Beyond the soft music, I can hear someone coming, walking on the rocks by the swing set.
As soon as he is in view he stops in surprise. He smiles a little in a ‘I didn’t know anyone was here, but don’t worry—I’m not a killer’ kind of way.
So I smile back.
“I’m Sam Hamilton,” He moves his book from one hand to the other and sticks out his hand.
With my heart flipping, I reply in a wobbly voice, “Rindy.” I shook his hand. Why, why did I have to tell him my name is Rindy? Florinda, or even Flo like Margie calls me would’ve been so much better. No, though, I had to say Rindy. And with the nickname comes a flood of memories of Mom calling me that.
“You’re new around here?” His blue eyes meet mine.
His book is probably far more interesting than me… so why did he stop to chat?
“Yeah, just moved in. Have you lived here long?” Even if my heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in my chest, if a cute boy like him wants to talk to me, I should be polite.
“Yeah, almost two years.” Sam sits on the ground about two feet away and leans against his own tree.
I put my phone in my pocket.“What’s the book you’ve got?”
“Oh,Lord of the Rings.” He shifts his hold on the book so I can see the cover. “I was told by a friend to read it. Have you read it?
“No, I haven’t.” I start to stand. “I should go.” How can I just sit there and talk to a stranger like that? Just because he is an attractive stranger doesn’t mean I should just have a chat with him.
“Oh, no problem.” He stood also and steps closer to shake my hand. “It was nice to meet you. Rindy… right?”
I nod, looking up a few inches to meet his eyes. “It was nice to meet you too, Sam.”
As soon as I am a few steps away from Sam, I put my headphones back in and press play.
Dad is getting out of the car when I get home. He waits for me by his car, his jacket in one hand and his tie hanging loose around his neck. “Hi, Dad.” I give him a hug, my arms wrap around his waist. Maybe if I close my eyes hard enough or maybe if I hug him tight enough I can forget everything that happened in the last year.
He hugs me back, tightly. “How are you, Flo?”
I pull back with a sigh and shrug. “Fine.” The typical lie he doesn’t see through.
It isn’t his fault. Well, not exactly. Okay, so it is, but I can try to pretend it isn’t—he is pretty good at pretending after all.
“Let’s go see what Margie’s made for dinner.”
So maybe Margie’s only five years older than me, but if she makes Dad happy… I could live with her. Unfortunately I have no choice to live with her until my eighteenth birthday… which is coming right up at the end of June.
Dinner is pretty silent. Daddy tries to get conversation going, ‘How was your day’ ‘What did you do’, but Margie looks tired and I already said everything I want too.
“I bought chocolate pie today,” Margie smiles. She pats Dad’s hand. “I know it’s your favorite.”
Well, no, it’s Mom’s—specifically Mom’s– homemade apple pie, but I don’t say that.
“I’ll take a shower first, I think.” He stood up from the table, kisses Margie and leaves the kitchen.
Margie picks up Bobby and starts to coo, “Come on, Bobby, let’s read a story.”
I look at the empty seats at the table. If Mom were here… Nope. Not going there. I clear the table and fill the dish washer. I finish just as Margie and Dad come back to the kitchen.
“You going to have some pie, Flo?” Dad asks as he starts to get a few plates.
“No, thanks.” I dry my hands on the hand towel, and take a couple of small steps away from them. Enough so that it will be easier to make my escape, but not enough to be noticeable.
Dad and Margie sit at the table and get absorbed in chocolate pie and a conversation of their own, so I slip away upstairs to my room.
By habit, I pull out my sketchbook and a sharpened pencil. Ten minutes later my pencil marks are taking a shape of their own. With each line drawn on the paper, I try to push the events of today away. When I finish a picture of my high school, though looking dramatically more evil than it really does, stares up at me.
It’s getting late fast, so I prepare for bed and grab a book. Outside my bedroom window, I see raindrops soaring past and the dead Christmas lights decorating the house across the street. Who knew people left their Christmas lights up past December twenty-fifth? Dad is always adamant that they come off the day after Christmas. It was a little weird last Christmas. Margie expected the lights to stay up for a little bit afterwards, ‘just a week’ she said with a shrug. Down they came though, because what Dad wants, he works until he gets. Yet our neighbor has them up still, halfway through February.
I crawl into bed and cover up with my favorite red blanket. The sounds of the house might be different, my bedroom walls might be a different color, but there is something nice about having the same mattress under me, the same blankets over me, and the same familiar clean smelling sheets wrapped around me.
This is home, not chocolate pie, and forced conversation over spaghetti, not pretending we were a real family when we weren’t, but comfortable, wrapped up and warm

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