Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Chapter Teaser

Thanks to a wonderful critique, I will be posting a revised teaser very soon.

***I've never posted anything I'm working on before, but I'm open to anything new.  What would it take for you to step in front of a car to end it all? This was my motivation***

She watched her feet as she stepped one foot in front of the next along the highway not noticing the perfectly clear sky and the birds singing in the breeze, but rather she laughed at the irony of it all before stepping in front of the traffic causing it all to go dark.  After what felt like forever, she opened her eyes to nothingness all around her confused it wasn’t all over.  She believed once she was gone, it was over and nothing more, but now she seemed awake but surrounded by darkness not quite gone but not anywhere either.  Although her eyes focused, she rubbed them anyway trying to see something, time standing still causing panic to rise in her stomach making her question her ultimate fate, and then the flowers appeared.

Colors seemed to explode before her eyes filling the vast emptiness with a beauty she could hardly imagine.  They were so vibrant she squinted her eyes to adjust to the richness of each shade presenting itself to her like a wonderful gift.  She stood in the nothing surrounded by a rainbow of snapdragons waving in a breeze coming in from her left side making her smile just a little and tickling her cheeks with a warmth she’d never felt before.  Not only was she experiencing sensory overload from their colors, but also she had a sensation of warmth like an afghan on a cold winter’s day wrapped around her shoulders.  Fear was replaced by comfort – a comfort she couldn’t explain, but deep within her soul she could feel that she wasn’t supposed to be afraid.  After blinking again and taking a few deep lingering breaths, a white gazebo sprang up from the ground from nowhere with a wooden bench sitting in its center inviting her over for a rest.  She did as the structure asked walking through the snapdragons over to the bench where she sat and looked around searching for something, anything else.  

Her seat was more comfortable than she could imagine with the down padding and wicker backing to the petite love seat positioned against the middle back of the gazebo’s frame.  It was new and inviting with no dents from others before her.  It was hers and hers alone allowing her to enjoy the flowers around her in silence and no interruptions. The clean crispness of its all white covering made the flowers even more brilliant assuring her that she was meant to be on that couch.  She was meant to be in that gazebo.  There was more to come, but she knew nothing of it.

            After slipping into a floral haze, Alicia returned to wherever she was by the emergence of a large flat viewing screen lowering from the ceiling of the gazebo. It made no sound as it descended, but its appearance was deafening.  Staring at it with no understanding of its origination or purpose, she found herself mesmerized by its existence.  Light flickered on the screen and an Adonis like voice sounded behind her forcing her to look around her location for the owner, but there was no one.  “Alicia, welcome.  Please watch before deciding your fate,” the voice informed before disappearing once again.  His words echoed in her mind.  She didn’t understand the meaning, but there was gravity to the words holding her captive on the sofa before the screen.  Still searching, she found nothing but more and more flowers filling the land around her.  Daisies springing up from the ground scattering large plots of white and yellow seeming to say hello along with scattered pink, purple, red, and yellow roses filled the air with an intoxicating aroma.  The aroma was welcoming easing her tension making her relaxed and open to whatever was to come next.

            Alicia tried to call out to the voice, but she had no words in her throat to form.  She attempted to speak, but there was nothing but silence bringing slight panic to her stomach making her realize for the first time that the one sense missing from the entire scenario was sound.  She wondered if she had lost her ability to hear, but when she opened her mouth once more, she had also lost the ability to speak. The silence was deafening and the notion that she was mute and deaf scared her witless.  Instead of further pursuing her own sounds, she did as the voice instructed and redirected her eyes to the screen with anticipation hoping some form of answers would provide an explanation for her location and situation.  The screen turned sky blue with simple white lettering: THIS IS YOUR LIFE, she read confused beyond compare, but followed along.  YOU MUST WATCH TO DISCOVER TRUTH.  The words filled the screen and held for what felt like an hour, but was really only about thirty seconds.  Alicia didn’t understand what was going on.  She wanted to go somewhere else, but in her mind, she didn’t know where. Fear began to rear its ugly head again, but the sofa and flowers seemed to come alive reassuring her that there was nothing to be afraid of.   She tried to remember where she was before arriving at this mysterious location, but her mind like her voice was absent. There was nothing but fog.  She knew who she was, where she was from, her age, her past, but she couldn’t remember the last 24 hours leading her to no other choice, but to sit and watch as the screen directed – discover the truth…what that means.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Reads for 2011

Well, I have read quite a few books this year, some of which, I can't even remember their names, but today's blog is going to celebrate those reads.  To start, I read the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
What can I say about Hunger Games? It was amazing! I read the entire trilogy in about one week, devouring each word and rushing to the store for each one.  I have since recommended it to dozens of students, teachers, family members, and friends.  Now, I can't wait to see the movie.
The next books I read were the Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine.  I've been reading about Vampires since I was a teenager starting with the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.  After reading the Twilight series, I still wanted more leading me to this series.  I recommend it to anyone who loves fangs and blood minus the glitter.  It's rough, fun, and suspenseful all wrapped into one (or 12, but who is counting?)

Another fantastic series is the Immortals by Alyson Noel.  When I first opened Evermore, I was expecting yet another vampire series, but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't.  Quite frankly, I needed a break for a bit.  The six book series questioned morality in a way that I found refreshing for the Young Adult genre.  When I finished the final book, Everlasting, I was pleased with the ending and the ultimate choice made. These are certainly must reads.

Even after all of these, I had time for yet another series.  I started reading the House of Night series in 2010, and have continued to the present time.  These are also about Vampires, but with a bit of a Harry Potter feel in the sense that it takes place in a school.  I've enjoyed these books as well and look forward to the conclusion of the series.

In my nonseries spare time, I read He Loves Me, He Loves You Not by Lauren Hammond.  It was a quick yet shocking read.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It's not often I am able to find a book that portrays teens in a truly real light. She captured the voice of the youth of today nicely, which is extremely refreshing in its own right.  I have found that the majority of my YA reads romanticize what it means to be a teenager, but as many of you know from reading my blogs, I work with teenagers daily.  He Love Me...is more real than anything else I have read in quite a long time. I will certainly recommend this to my students who are looking for a more realistic read in the future.

Finally, my most recent read, which I finished last night was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  This was certainly not YA, but it piqued my interest, so I took a break from my norm and branched out.  It took me quite some time to get through it, but in the end, it was a satisfying read. There were some rather graphic scenes I could have done without, but I can't imagine the book any other way.  I look forward to beginning yet another series.

While I am sure there are other books I have read and not mentioned, I have been pleased with each one.  I have also had the privilege of reading a few WIPs for some fellow writers I hope to see on the shelves in the next couple of years.  I also have written some of my own as well, so we will see what happens with them.  I do look forward to another year of fabulous reads.  Send your suggestions my way. I'm always looking for something new to read and spread the word about.  With 2500 students at an arm's reach, I certainly can convince a few to read with me.  Have a wonderful night! I'm going to go read.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us and you can practically hear the bustle in the air of the shoppers, decorators, and travelers moving about all with one thing one their minds...Christmas.  Thanksgiving proved to be yet another wonderful meal, this time we entertained my in-laws for the first time in 13 years and my best friend with her two sons.  When we sat down for dinner, we went around the table saying what we were grateful for.  I'm so grateful for my husband and children along with the rest of my family.  We are in good health and extremely blessed to have a warm home with clothes and beds to sleep in.  The sentiments were similar all the way around.

 We had a great time watching football while eating turkey and pumpkin cheesecake.  My husband, best friend, and I stayed up and went shopping last night at 10pm first braving one major store (which didn't end up well), and then we stood with hundreds of other shoppers outside Target for over an hour in the cold waiting for the main doors to open.  Once inside, we followed the crowd like fish swimming upstream.  It was madness making our way to the toy and electronics departments hoping to get everything we had on the mental list.  We were for the most part successful.  I am confident that my children are shopped for and will be elated on Christmas morning.  We crawled into bed at 2:30 this morning and were up with the sun to meet the painter at our rental house arranging for the entire inside to be painted with hopes of getting a renter in before Christmas.  I was exhausted.

I thought for sure I would make it through the day with a mere nap midway through, but I crashed at 9am until noon.  It's funny because my father-in-law doesn't think the shopping is worth it because it ruins "two days".  I almost agree, but then I look at my receipt grateful I managed to save a couple hundred dollars allowing me to purchase more for my children.

Now, I'm sitting here reflecting on my extremely long day and can't help but smile.  It's been a good year.  With only one month left, I have one more goal for the year.  I may or may not reach it, but I believe that everything happens for a reason either way.

I hope you all can reflect in the same way being equally as blessed as I.  I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

11-11-11

Tomorrow is 11-11-11 and according to my students, if you make a wish, it's supposed to come true.  So I started to think about what wishes I would make.  Of course, there is the obvious wish: win the lottery, if everyone won the lottery, it'd be like that movie Bruce Almighty when everyone wins the lottery meaning each person gets like a penny, so I hope that doesn't happen.  That would be a bit of a waste.  So other wishes: get an agent, publish a book, become an assistant principal, kids behave 100% of the time, house elf arrives and cleans my house for me, lose weight, etc. There are so many to choose from.  This once in a life time wish seems to be pretty huge.  I'm not sure I can handle it on my own.  So which will it be?  I'll have to think about it a little longer.  Let me ponder.  The thing about wishes is once they come true, what do you wish for next?  If I get an agent, it would become get a publisher.  Publish a book becomes sell thousands. Become an assistant principal - more time with kids.  Kids behave - not sure (that would be pretty cool). House elf cleaning my house - house elf cooks my meals.  Lose weight - lose more weight and possible enhancement.  There are just so many possible outcomes.  That being said, I still don't know what I'd wish for and I only have a few hours left to decide.  Yikes. The pressure is on.  My question to you is what would you wish for?  Share in the comments.  Let's see what the possibilities are... :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nano update

Before talking about myself, I must brag that I have 25 amazing high school seniors attempting NaNoWriMo this year.  We have a list of their names posted up on the wall and each day we check in with their progress. I'm so proud to have such aspiring young authors in my classes.

For me, I wasn't planning on doing NaNo, but I feel like I need to set the example in my classroom, so I am writing.  It feels great.  Day 1, I plotted out the entire story on my dry erase board in my office.  My husband and daughter were huge contributors in the brainstorming process and now I feel like I've got a very solid plan.  Day 2, I began writing chapter summaries.  I got through the first three, but family time got in the way a bit, so I had to stop there. Day 3, I started writing.  My first time hammering away at a key board in months on a new project and it was awesome.  I wrote about 1350 words that night all the while thinking ahead.  Day 4 was a bit slower.  I wrote my chapter 4 summary during the day and at night I wrote about 800 words.  Today is Day 5 and I haven't written yet, but tonight will be productive if it kills me.  As much as I want to say that the November challenge is what's pushing me along, it's not.  In reality, I don't want to let my kids down.  If they're doing it, then so am I.  What kind of teacher would I be if I quit and just watched from the sidelines?  So I'm writing.  Maybe this is what I need all the time...25 cheerleaders in the same shoes writing to meet a deadline.  We'll see.  Afterall, it's only Day 5.

Are any of you writing for NaNo? Let me know how it's going. I'd love to cheer you on as well.  Good luck and I'll check in in a few days.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

My classes are writing a literary analysis on Finding Nemo and to be honest, I'm not sure what they think about the assignment just yet.  I've given this task for years and ultimately, they all enjoy it, but we're still in the beginning stages.  Today, though, we talked about the characters and how they "change" throughout the movie.  I walk the classes through the character development of Marlin, Dory, and Nemo, and at the end it all comes back to the theme "Just Keep Swimming." I ask them which characters they relate to and then explain who I am in relationship to the triumvirate, yet leave out the writer in me.  I explain to them that I am Marlin because I'm a control freak and sometimes need to just let go.  I am completely out of sorts if my house/classroom/desk/kitchen table/etc. are messy or disorganized.  With my children, I hesitate to let them try new things out of fear of how they will react. I am a bit of a nervous nelly when it comes to them.  But at the same time what parent isn't?  I then explain that I'm a lot like Dory because I want to see the positive in life and not focus on the negative.  I have to write everything down or I will forget almost instantaneously. 

At any given time I have three calendars on my desk with varying appointments, lesson plans, or important events.  But I'm also like Dory because I try my hardest to stay optimistic and not let rejection or failure get me down.  Of course, it's human nature to notice it occasionally and be a little sad, but at the end of the day, I need to bounce back or my family is affected and that is just not ok.  Finally, we discussed Nemo.  We talked about how he just wants a little bit of freedom in the world is begging his father for it. I can't relate there, but I can with the fact that Nemo is disabled by his "lucky fin". I pointed out that we are all disabled by something in life whether it be our vision (me) or a learning disability or even an issue with self-confidence (me again at times with writing).  Nemo is constantly told by Marlin, "You think you can do these things, but you just can't, Nemo!" I can relate because there are so many times that I feel like as a writer, I'm always up against the odds.  When Nemo figures out how to push himself to get out of the tube in the fish tank, he learns that "can't" is no longer a word in his vocabulary.  He CAN and so CAN I.  I can write a novel. I can write poetry. I can write a short story.  The issue isn't can't it's will I let myself go enough to try. 
So some of you may be wondering the point of this blog, and I am getting there, I swear.  The point is not only me sharing a little bit more about myself, but it's a lesson in self-exploration courtesy of Disney.  Finding Nemo has so many lessons to offer, and I'm incredibly lucky to be able to share them with others, whether it be with 60 teenagers or the few who might read my blog.  Just keep swimming and never give up.  We can all relate with these lovable characters at some point in our lives as people and writers.  It's up to us to figure it out and make the most of it.  For me, I'm all of the above. Which fish are you?