Saturday, July 31, 2010

Write on Con, WFMAD, YA Lit Conference

So I signed up/decided to do a couple cool things in the coming weeks.  Because I'm absolutely crap when it comes to time for writing lately, I'm jumping on board for the Third Annual Laurie Halse Anderson Write Fifteen Minutes a Day challenge.  Basically, it's like a mini-NaNoWriMo.  Write 15 minutes a day and check in with awesome author Laurie Halse Anderson, author of such books as Wintergirls and Speak, to commiserate with others and maybe win some prizes.

Being that I was going to start focusing on getting my current WIP done and was going to set aside 1 hour a day to writing, I figure I'll spend 45 minutes on Rising Sun and the 15 minutes for the WFMAD challenge writing a new YA contemporary that kept me up late into the night last night as the details flew around my brain.  I don't figure I'll finish anything in August, but I will at least put a nice dent into it.  I think I am really thrown by Rising Sun because I feel like I'm missing something, not having gone to New Orleans yet, but I just need to get over it, watch some New Orleans travel shows and movies, look at some pictures online and move on.  We can't always travel to our locations.  And maybe someday soon I will!!!

Another cool thing that everyone who writes YA should do is check out Write On Con, a free online YA/MG writers conference coming up August 10-12.  It's a place for YA writers to meet, get critiques and chat with authors, agents and editors.  There will be live chats to listen to what the experts have to say, and as they mention, the agents and editors will have access to your work/query and even work-in-progress.  It sounds like an awesome opportunity to rub elbows with those in the know, even if we're stuck at home.  Hope to see you all there!

And finally, for those of you more local, Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL is running a very cool YA Literature Conference September 25 regarding all things YA.  I've signed up and am looking forward to see what's new out there and meet some fellow YA writers!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Into the Shadows: Chapter 4 Part 1

Chapter 4 Part 1
Open Seas

Click here to read Chapter 3 Part 3

Paivi Anderson
Current Events p.6
Dr. Hasenpfeffer

For my assignment I read an article in the St. Andrew Herald by Jerome Knowles. It was called “Moira Kelly takes the lead in the polls.” He states that Kelly, a member of the Liberal party is ahead in the polls because Americans think she’s personable. That means she nice. He also says that her policies on the Righteous Front terrorist group are helping her. She hopes to solve the terrorist crisis by sitting down and talking to the members of the Righteous Front. The current administration has been fighting the RF with the military, but the RF keeps blowing up more restaurants and shopping malls. According to Knowles, Senator Stevens represents the same ideas as the current President who is also from the Conservative party and will not have much of a chance with the voters. I personally think it’s because he’s not very nice, but that’s just because he looks like a jerk when I see him on the news.

Paivi, interesting opinions, but try to keep them relevant to the facts. B-
Dr. H.

The full moon shone over the water creating a silver path on the waves that disappeared into the horizon, a road straight to the heavens. A yacht cut directly across the light and then in a moment, it was gone, returning to the shadows.

An older man sat in a leather chair next to the window looking out over the waves. In the distance he could see the city of Miami glittering like so many giant candles floating on the water. His gray hair had become a bit wavy due to the humidity. He had long ago given up on his tie and jacket: now his collar was unbuttoned, and the shirtsleeves on his hand-tailored dress shirt were rolled up to the elbows. The crisp white cotton had wilted in the steamy heat and large rings of sweat seeped from underneath his heavy arms. In his hand he nervously clinked the dwindling ice in his glass, pausing only to refill it from the decanter of bourbon sitting on the small table next to him.

Taking a swig of his drink, he jumped—startled—as the door at the end of the room popped open. A young man peered cautiously into the room.

“Senator Stevens, we are nearly there,” said the young man.

“Thank you Martin.” He spoke with a southern drawl. The Senator finished his drink and took one last look at the water.

The deckhands took no time in connecting the Senator’s yacht to a new, larger and more brilliantly lit one. The man and his party—consisting of Martin and a young woman by the name of Margaret— made their way across a metal bridge. Upon stepping onto the glossy wooden deck, they were met by two men. The one who greeted them was rather small. His companion, however, was quite an intimidating figure of substantial size, not to mention the two large handguns he wore in holsters strapped across his broad chest.

“Ahhh, Senator Stevens, how nice to see you again,” he smiled, revealing a toothy grin.

“Follow us, please.” He led the man and his companions along the glistening deck to the back of the yacht, where they climbed a staircase towards the ship’s rooftop. Each stair was lit with tiny twinkling lights.

As the first sight of the uppermost level came into view, torches danced along the railings, throwing brilliant light and dark shadows across the deck. A few young ladies in sparkling evening gowns lounged along the banks of seats under the torches. They leaned back, sipping champagne and chatting quietly.

At the far end of the deck a man rose from a lounge chair. He was fairly tall and wore a pair of white linen pants and a loose fitting white linen shirt. He was barefoot.

“Your friends can wait here—the girls will bring you a drink.” Their escort stopped them at the top of the stairs and waved Senator Stevens on alone. He walked across the deck, trying not to notice the men with machine guns standing on either side of his host.

“Senator Stevens,” greeted the man, sounding relaxed. He shook his guest’s hand briefly. “Please, sit. Here, have some champagne, you look like you could use it.”

Senator Stevens accepted the delicate crystal champagne flute, but just held it, as if not quite sure what he should to do with it.

“Mr. Lin, it’s truly my pleasure,” began the Senator, sounding as if it wasn’t a pleasure at all. “I take it you have the information you promised?”

“Ahh, right to the point, aren’t you? I thought we could at least share a drink first. But here is what you came for.” He gracefully placed a small, USB Flash drive into Senator Stevens’ plump and sweaty hand.

“This is it? This will help me win?” He stared at the little drive in disbelief.

“Please let us recall, you requested some information, something that no one else has, that could help you win your precious election. The information you seek is on that drive.”

“So what is it? Dirty photos? Information exposing bribes? What?”

“No. What you have in your hands is a list of names. These names will be worth more than gold to you.”

“Names? So what? Names alone won’t do me any good,” Senator Stevens was getting angry, and losing his already strained ability to be polite.

Lin smiled calmly and leaned forward.

“Your country lives in fear because of your constant battles with the terrorists. What do they call themselves? The Righteous Front? Ha! But all along you have had the answer to stopping them—you just didn’t know about it. You see these are names of people who live in your country. You will be surprised to find that they know more about these Righteous Front fellows than you could ever imagine. Your staff should be able to come up with a plan that will benefit you greatly.” He leaned back on his lounge chair and sipped his champagne, smiling at the elegance of his own actions.

Join me next Wednesday for the next installment of INTO THE SHADOWS!

Into the Shadows: Chapter 3 Part 3

Chapter 3 Part 3
Back to School

Click here to read Chapter 3 Part 2

“I wasn’t WITH a guy—he’s just some guy from my Current Events class.”

“What’s his deal? Does he have a girlfriend or what? What grade is he in?” Michaela demanded.

“I just met him today. I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get his life story. But I will keep you posted. Better yet, I can introduce you and you can question him yourself,” Paivi giggled. She scanned the room, just looking to see where Jason was sitting. She hoped the others didn’t notice. No luck. She leaned back in her seat, contemplating whether she should attempt the lunch line, when she saw him. He was just sitting four tables away and talking to some friends. Unfortunately it was not Jason—instead it was the boy she had seen earlier that morning. She couldn’t help but look. He wasn’t so creepy when he wasn’t staring her down. He must have felt her eyes, however, and turned his head slowly, his eyes meeting hers. They were as cold and icy as before and she could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She pulled her eyes away quickly, looking towards Michaela, hoping he would look away too. But he did not.

This is ridiculous! she thought to herself. How can I be afraid of someone I don’t even know? This is stupid.

She stood up, still avoiding his gaze. “Are you guys ready to get some food?”

The three girls headed to the front of the cafeteria and joined the line.

Due to the fact that this was such a short piece, I will also post the first part of Chapter 4! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Next round of submissions

In a fit of motivation, I finished revising my YA contemporary manuscript, The Green, AND revised my query letter as well.  I decided to submit to another 10 agents, to see if the new and improved novel gets me any closer to that elusive agent.  Before I left for my trip last weekend, I selected 10 great agents that I had researched and sent it out.

So far, I received one form rejection and one form/personal rejection where the agent mentioned that the plot didn't really stand out for her.  In my last round, the agent (who read a full) said she didn't connect with the main character all the way through.  I tried to address that in my revisions, which were also driven by an awesome critique session with some of my fellow writers.  There are still 8 queries out there, and most agents said they try to respond within 2 weeks, so we'll see what we hear back.

Into the Shadows: Chapter 3 Part 2

Chapter 3 Part 2
Back to School

Click here to read Chapter 3 Part 1

She took Jason’s hand and shook it strongly. His brown eyes sparkled in the fluorescent lights and she noticed how his dark hair complimented his smooth, cocoa skin.

“Paivi,” she said. She felt her heart flutter in her chest and hoped her face wasn’t turning a bright shade of pink.

“Paivi? Well that’s one I haven’t heard before. What does it mean?” He turned sideways in the desk to look at her.

“It means ‘day’ in Finnish,” she answered. “We still have some cousins that are like eight times removed that live there.”

“Finland? I heard Santa Claus lives there! Nice!” He laughed.

She looked away a bit shyly.

“So, why did you take this class?” he asked her, trying to draw her back into conversation.

She relaxed a bit.

“Last spring when we were picking classes, I decided that I wanted to take Intro to Law, but when I went to my guidance counselor, the girl in front of me beat me to it and took the last seat. This class was open, and it sounded kind of interesting.”

At that moment, Paivi’s friend Crystal bounded through the classroom door and plopped herself into the seat behind Paivi.

“Hey, P, do you think they’ll let us keep these seats?”

“I doubt it— most teachers make you sit alphabetically. Oh, Crystal, this is Jason.”
Crystal and Jason exchanged a polite hello.

At that moment an explosion of bright fabrics, wild hair and papers flew through the door.

“Hello, everyone, hello!” she shouted, sounding a bit flustered as she dropped the pile of books and papers onto the desk at the front of the room. The woman took a deep breath and looked around the room as she attempted to straighten her hair and her blouse at the same time with very little success. Little wisps of blond permed hair continued to float around her head, making her look like she had been struck by lightning. It almost seemed like her hair was frantically trying to escape her head. Her navy suit was a bit disheveled and her shoes were black. Paivi wondered if the woman had looked in the mirror before she left in the morning. Clearly not!

It took her a few moments before she realized she had failed to introduce herself.

“Oh! My name is Dr. Hasenpfeffer. Welcome to Current Events.”

The students said nothing.

“There is no text for this class,” the students perked up a bit, “I will supply all of the necessary materials. In this class we will look at our current world and domestic problems such as terrorism and poverty. We will learn about the media and also about other countries that affect us daily, though you may not realize it.”

The students were all waiting anxiously for Dr. Hasenpfeffer to move them into new seats. She said nothing about it and they were afraid to mention it. No one wanted to be responsible for giving her the idea. She spent the rest of the period discussing the outsourcing of jobs, terrorist attacks in the United States since 2001, and her cat, Clarence. Apparently he was suffering from a chronic hairball condition.

The bell rang, meaning it was finally time for lunch. The students filed out of the classroom. Crystal was shaking her head as they exited.

“Honestly, we aren’t supposed to remember any of that stuff, are we?” Crystal moaned.

“Well, I hope how many hairballs Clarence tosses in a normal week and how that effects global warming is not on the final,” quipped Jason, as they all laughed.

“I feel like my brain was just pulled in ten directions! I can’t possibly understand what she is a doctor of! Thank God it’s time for lunch. Anybody else have lunch this hour?”

“Not me! Later!” said Crystal as she headed off towards her Spanish class.

Paivi and Jason made their way through the crowded hallways down to the cafeteria, both being unfortunate enough to have the very last lunch hour of the day. But at least they could finally relax; it was nearly the end of the first day of classes.

“So, are you meeting any friends in lunch?” asked Jason, keeping the conversation going as they moved through the hallway.

“Yeah, luckily my best friend, Michaela, has it too. What about you?”

“I’ve got some friends in here too. Although I don’t know how easy it will be to find them.” He looked around the mayhem in the cafeteria. Hundreds of students wandered around aimlessly, looking for their friends. The smart ones headed straight for the lunch lines, deciding food was more important than friends. Paivi saw Michaela out of the corner of her eye. She was standing on her seat in the far corner of the cafeteria, waving her arms wildly in the air in order to get Paivi’s attention. A lunch monitor ran up and began scolding her to get down.

Paivi laughed and pointed to Michaela. “I am sad to say I found my friend. I better get over there before she gets herself thrown out! See you tomorrow!”

“Later!” Jason headed off in the other direction.

Paivi made her way through the maze of tables where Michaela and Aimee had saved her a seat. Michaela was promising the lunch monitor that she would never misuse school property again in such a fashion. She sat back down out of breath.

“Getting in trouble already? It’s only the first day!” laughed Paivi.

“Just be glad you didn’t have to wander around like some idiot to find us in this mess!” She sounded mad, but Paivi knew better. Michaela suddenly brightened. “And who, may I ask, was the cute guy you were with?”

Join me on Friday for the next installment of INTO THE SHADOWS.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This just in...

I was excited to see that this week I am #5 in the Networked Blogs Top 50 Blogs in Publishing AND I have finally broken into the Top 50 Blogs in Writing, where I am currently hanging out at #50!  Thanks to all the kind people that read, follow, and put up with all my crazy blog posts!  I love you guys!

Three Years!

Three years ago this week, on a long drive up to Tomahawk, Wisconsin for the family summer trip, I started writing.  Really, I guess, I've always been writing, but nothing complete, always just ideas.  This was the first time I started out with purpose.  I started a story in the car, writing feverishly in my little black Moleskin notebook.  One year later, I had finished my first book.

Since I completed the first book, my life has changed a lot.  I still haven't found an agent or gotten published, but no matter.  Despite 80-90 rejections, I'm still positive that I can make it.  There will be a book in the bookstore with my name on the cover.  I've written a second book.  And have started a third, without a thought in my head that the whole effort is futile.  I love writing and now couldn't imagine my life without it.

I have to say though, that the best part of my new writing career, what's made it so worthwhile, is all the awesome people I've had the opportunity to meet.  First, I have to give props to all of the people I've met through SCBWI.  If you write PBs or YA and you aren't a member of SCBWI, you are really missing out.  I highly recommend it and I still haven't been able to fully take advantage of everything my membership offers.

Through SCBWI, I've met some great writers at the Geneva and Dundee critique groups who have really made my writing so much better.  Especially Sarah Barthel, Natalie Rompella, Laura Crawford, and Linda McReynolds.  Their thoughtful critiques have made such a difference in the work I do.  I've had the opportunity to meet and learn from great writers like Kristin Walker, Cynthea Liu, and Trina Sotira.  Through the SCBWI-IL conference I met two great writers, Michelle Sussman and Hilary Wagner.  Without Michelle, I would've never gotten YA Flash Death Match off the ground.  I owe her a ton!  Not to mention how much I appreciate all of the commiserating on the long road to getting published. 

I've also learned a lot about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.  I think it's all quite fascinating and I'm really glad to be part of it, even if it's only a little bit.

I'm also lucky to have a very supportive husband and family.  They are great cheerleaders!

So on my ride up to Tomahawk this weekend, I'll be thinking about all the awesome things I've learned, all of the great people I've met, and all of the work I've created in the last three years.  And I'll probably be writing some more!

Wylie vs. Random House

I just happened to see an article regarding this situation in my local newspaper and thought I would share a couple online articles with you.  Apparently, Wylie Agency, a literary agency, is taking books that were published prior to ebook publishing and releasing them in ebook format, bypassing the major publishing houses and taking them straight to Amazon.  Since there was never anything in these contracts regarding ebooks (being that they didn't exist yet), they are legally doing nothing wrong.  They are getting ebooks published for their authors and trying to get them a much better royalty.  There are, of course, a few different opinions on this sitch, check out J.A. Konrath's article as well. 

I'm very interested to see what happens as the ebook phenomenon continues to unfold.  It seems like it's really throwing the traditional publishing industry for a curve.  It's definitely fascinating to watch!  What are your thoughts???

J.A. Konrath

Publishers Weekly

Into the Shadows - Chapter 3 Part 1

Chapter 3 Part 1
Back to School

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 4

The first day of school arrived shortly after Paivi’s birthday celebrations came to an end. Paivi was so excited that it took her forever to fall asleep the night before. But she felt ready. She had her new outfit all laid out, the one she had bought with some of her birthday money. The jeans fit perfectly and the green top set off the color of her eyes. Her favorite sandals were all she needed to complete the ensemble, along with her new purple polka-dot backpack.

Paivi was up before her alarm. She got ready quickly and made her way down to grab a bowl of cereal before heading out to the bus stop. The bus was crowded. Being the first day back, everyone hadn’t found older kids to ride to school with just yet. There was no air conditioning on the bus, just a hot, humid rush of air through all of the open windows, which caused Paivi to rethink her wardrobe choice. The jeans were sticking to her legs. Ugh. She just kept reminding herself that the school would be like a meat locker, so it would pay off in the end.

The bus joined the queue in the driveway in front of the school, pulling slowly forward, opening the doors to allow their passengers to exit. Paivi took the steps slowly. It would be extremely embarrassing to fall down the stairs in front of the whole school. Not quite the impression she was going for. She stepped off the bus into a throng of students and was shuffled towards the courtyard, where everyone split off into their own groups. Some students continued on, filtering through the front door and into the cafeteria. Students were not permitted past the cafeteria until the first bell at seven thirty.

Paivi decided to stay outside to see if she could find Michaela or any of the other girls. They had all come on different buses. She waved and greeted a few kids she remembered from junior high, but kept walking. She found a spot to sit along the concrete wall and sat for a minute, taking in her surroundings.

St. Andrew High School was a very uninteresting looking building. The original school had been built in 1872, an imposing building of brick and stone, it quite resembled a castle. As St. Andrew grew, the building became too small, and the new St. Andrew High School was built down the street. It opened in 1971, apparently when no one had any sort of creativity regarding architecture and design. The school was large and boxy, like someone had just gone and glued some rectangles together. The building was covered in red brick and the only good thing about it was the fact that it had large windows that looked out onto a forest preserve.

“Hey P!” Paivi heard a familiar voice behind her. She spun around and saw Michaela and Paulina walking towards her. She could tell they were wearing new outfits too. Everything looked perfect.

“Can you believe it’s our first day!” squealed Michaela rubbing her hands together. “Just think of all the new boys. And OLDER boys! Nice!”

The three of them turned to see a large group of boys looking in their direction. When the boys noticed they had been caught, they quickly looked away, shouting at each other and laughing. There was one boy that caught Paivi’s eye. He looked right at her, unblinking. His cold stare made her slightly uncomfortable. He held her gaze a moment longer and then broke it, turning back to his friends.

“Oooo!” said Michaela, teasing Paivi as she nudged her in the ribs with her elbow. “It looks like somebody’s got a thing for you, P! Nice job! The first bell hasn’t even rung yet!”

Paivi let out a nervous laugh as the bell rang and the throng of students moved in a giant wave, carrying them all towards the door.

The day was a mixture of feelings. It was exciting to see old friends not seen over the summer, which resulted in large groups of screaming and hugging girls. There was also tension as they checked out the new students, possible friends and enemies that they hadn’t met yet. They attempted to size each other up without appearing obvious. The classes themselves were the dullest part of the day, more so for the fact that every teacher spent the period ‘getting to know’ their new students by playing cheesy ice-breaker games and going over never-ending lists of classroom rules. In each class they collected book after book until they were teetering precariously through the hallways, hoping to make it to their lockers before their backs gave out.

Paivi stumbled into her sixth period class balancing a pile of books and notebooks and collapsed into the nearest open seat. The desk was old and not quite level, and when she dropped her pile onto the desk, it proceeded to slide onto the floor with a loud crash.

She looked at the heap of books and paper, put her hand to her head and sighed loudly. She bent down, stacking the items one by one on the desk.

“Looks like you might want to invest in a backpack, unless you happen to turn into the Incredible Hulk during passing periods,” said an unfamiliar voice dryly, as a hand reached down from the desk across the aisle and began picking up a few of her books.

“Uh, yeah, thanks. I left it in my locker. I just didn’t think we would get so much stuff already!” She slammed the last book onto the pile, and finally looked up. The owner of the voice across the aisle handed Paivi her things stacked neatly, which she set next to her sloppy pile, hoping to avoid a repeat performance.

“Thanks for your help,” Paivi said, smiling at him.

“Oh, yeah, well, just try to keep those books under control!” He held out his hand. “I’m Jason, by the way.”

Join me for the next installment of INTO THE SHADOWS next Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 2 Part 4

Chapter 2 Part 4
Birthday Surprise

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 3

“This rule goes back to ancient times,” replied Mrs. Anderson.  “This is what my mother told me.  Let’s say in Mrs. Brown’s case that you had told her to stay home that day.  The event may have still occurred, but then it could affect someone else’s life in turn.  Someone may have taken Mrs. Brown’s place that day, maybe a young girl riding with her parents or someone’s grandfather.  It is not for us to choose who lives and dies.  That is way too much responsibility for one person to have.  Besides, if you did get involved, you would begin to obsess over your visions, frantically trying to save everyone you know.  Everyone’s story has a different ending and unfortunately we are not the writers, just the readers.  There are some visions that can change.  The event may not occur because the people involved alter the outcome of the situation— they make different choices.  It’s not that the vision you had was wrong; it could be that it was just one option.  If we were to get involved, we could disrupt it somehow, upset the balance.”

“So, Dad, if you can do this too, do you use it to catch bad guys while you are at work?” asked Paivi. 

“It may help to know who I’m looking for, but we still have to have evidence.  I can’t just run around rounding up criminals with no case against them.  People would get suspicious.  They would wonder where I had gotten my information,” Mr. Anderson said. 

“Why would anyone care?” asked Paivi.  “You are just trying to help people.” 

“That comes to the most important part of the discussion.  People who don’t have this ability wouldn’t understand that we are special and not just a bunch of freaks.  For centuries our ancestors had to carry the knowledge of these gifts in complete secrecy.  Before the Middle Ages people with special abilities were respected and trusted,” said Mr. Anderson.  “There were magicians, sorcerers or viziers on every royal court.  You know, Grandpa Anderson did a family tree a few years back and found that we had some very interesting relatives.  He claims that Merlin Ambrosius, the Sorcerer of King Arthur’s court was a second cousin, twice removed.  He also discovered relatives who lost their lives during the Spanish Inquisition and even a great-great-great aunt that died in the Salem Witch Trials here in the U.S.  If they didn’t agree that they were receiving visions from God, they were put to death as witches.  Those with special abilities who believed God spoke through them became powerful within the church.  Many of them are saints we know today.”

“Huh, so saints were really just people like me.  Interesting,” Paivi said. “But how awful for the others; why didn’t these people get together and do something about it?” 

“Well, we aren’t superheroes honey!” chuckled Mrs. Anderson.  “And there are not huge numbers of people like us.  They were split up pretty far and wide back then, it was nearly impossible for them to contact each other.  They were forced to keep their secrets in order to survive.  Some families moved near others they knew, but that was dangerous as well.  It was difficult to trust anyone.  Now, times are different.  We might still keep a distance from others, but they make themselves known to us, and us to them.” 

“Wait!” shouted Torsten.  “There are more people like this in St. Andrew?  Who are they?  Do we know them?” 

“That is our secret to keep,” said Mrs. Anderson.  “We can’t allow information like that to be passed to children.  It’s our choice to tell you about all of this, but it’s not fair for us to put others into jeopardy by naming names.” 

“Well, how do you know who they are then?  I thought you all tried to keep separated from each other,” asked Paivi. 

“There is a way to tell about the others, a sign, but you can only see it if you know what you are looking for.  When you are eighteen and an adult, we will explain it to you.  But until then, mum’s the word,” said Mrs. Anderson. 

“And the others, can we all do the same things?”  Paivi had a million different things running through her mind. 

“Some, but it’s possible that there are abilities out there that we have never seen or heard of yet.  Being that we have to keep it all to ourselves, we can never be sure what others are capable of, or for that matter, what they are doing with it,” answered Mr. Anderson, laying his empty cake plate on the wooden coffee table. 

“We chose to make use of our abilities only for good things, but others may not make the same choices.  These things can be dangerous.  For instance, those ‘Illusionists’ that perform in Las Vegas and make those television shows doing their street magic are putting us all in jeopardy.  They think they have everyone convinced that it is just entertainment.  All so they can make a quick buck and hang out with their Hollywood friends.  It’s such a great risk to us all,” said Mrs. Anderson with a hint of disapproval.   

Paivi thought of the locket in its velvet-lined box.  She had an urge to put it on.  “And the locket?  I know everyone was here earlier, so you couldn’t really say much, but do you know any more about it, really?” 

“No, my mother told me when she gave it to me that if I ever needed something, it would be there for me.  But in thirty years, I’ve never noticed it do anything.  I think she was just trying to give me a romantic story to make the locket more special.  Anyways, it’s pretty.”  The carved wooden clock on the mantel chimed once. “Oh, I didn’t realize how late it was getting!”   

Mrs. Anderson jumped up from the couch, grabbing her plate and an empty glass from the coffee table.  She put her things in the kitchen and turned back to her children, giving them both a big hug as they rose from the couch.  “Now don’t forget to put your dishes in the dishwasher!  Let’s get to bed!” 

It took Paivi a long time to fall asleep that night.  Her mind felt full, and trying to close her eyes felt like trying to shut the doors on an over-stuffed garage.  She pulled back the curtain, staring out the window at the full moon floating in the starry sky.  The moonlight turned the street in front of the house into a river of silver.  She begged sleep to come, and as dawn brightened on the horizon, with Mr. Teddy Bear in her arms, Paivi finally drifted off to sleep.

Join me on Friday for Chapter 3 Part 1, the next installment of INTO THE SHADOWS, your free online YA novel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 2 Part 3

Chapter 2 Part 3
Birthday Surprise

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 2

“Paivi,” started her mother, pulling her out of her birthday bliss. “And Torsten,” she continued. “Don’t go upstairs just yet, your father and I would like to have a word with you both.”

“Did we do something wrong?” Paivi asked, trying to think if she had done anything punishable in the recent past. She glanced at Torsten, who appeared to be thinking the same thing.

“Do either of you want a piece of cake?” asked Mr. Anderson. He cut a huge piece of cake for himself and dumped it on a plate.

“Oooo yes please!” answered Paivi. Cake was always good.

Torsten took a piece as well and they carried their plates to the family room, where they settled into the couches.

The family room was large, with two tall windows flanking the stone fireplace. Along the wooden mantel was a collection of family photos, showing Paivi and Torsten posing in uniform with a basketball alongside pictures of them as chubby little babies. The room was filled with overstuffed leather furniture that looked like it belonged in an English pub.

Mr. and Mrs. Anderson sank into the couch across from Paivi and Torsten. Paivi looked at her parents and could see something on their faces, but she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. She glanced at Torsten to see if he had noticed anything, but he only had eyes for his chocolate cake. He was shoveling large chunks of it into his mouth so quickly that he didn’t notice the large smear of chocolate frosting on his cheek.

“Well, we have something to tell you, and we know you will have a lot of questions,” began Mrs. Anderson.

“Are you getting a divorce?” asked Torsten, wiping the frosting off his cheek with the back of his hand, which he then licked clean. Between licks, he continued. “Because if I have to pick someone to live with—well I just can’t do it. I will have to split it evenly because I like you both equally,” he hesitated for one second, “okay, well maybe I would pick Mom. Sorry Dad, but she’s much cleaner.”

“No Tor, we are not getting a divorce. But it’s nice to know who’s side you’re on, just in case!” laughed Mr. Anderson.

It seemed to lighten the mood a little bit, and when Mrs. Anderson began again, she sounded less nervous.

“Okay, well you both are aware that Paivi has sometimes had dreams where she can see things that later happen,” she paused.

“Oh yeah!” interrupted Torsten. “Like the time she had that dream that I was going to fall off the slide at the park and break my arm and then I did! That was crazy!”

“Not only that, we later learned that Paivi can move things without touching them. However, that has only happened once, as far as we know. You remember that night a few years ago when your room was, well… a bit destroyed?” she asked, looking at Paivi.

Paivi looked a bit sheepish.

“Well, it does still happen sometimes,” she said quietly.

“Why didn’t you tell us honey?” asked Mrs. Anderson, sounding concerned.

“That’s why, that tone in your voice. I didn’t want to worry you.” She played with her piece of cake, not quite able to take another bite. “You were so worried and upset when I trashed my room, I just didn’t want to make it worse. And besides, it was just little things that moved around, not like the time you’re talking about.”

“Wait a minute!” sputtered Torsten, sitting forward in his chair and nearly dropping his plate and fork onto the dark hardwood floor. “Let me get this straight. That time when your room was destroyed and everything was smashed to bits, you, YOU did that?!!”

“Yes Tor, you have to understand, you were so young, we couldn’t just tell you the truth. We had trouble with it, and we were grownups!” responded Mrs. Anderson.

“You told me it was a crazed squirrel that came in through the window!” he said sulkily, setting down his plate and folding his arms as he sank back into the couch, pouting.

“That’s right,” Mr. Anderson chuckled. “I forgot about the crazed squirrel!”

“I was always afraid he’d come back and attack me in my sleep!” Torsten softened a little, letting out a giggle.

The memory even brought a laugh out of Paivi and her mother.

“Okay, so here’s my first question,” said Paivi. “Can Tor do anything, I mean, do you have dreams or can you move stuff?”

“Not that I know of! I wish!” said Torsten. “Why can’t I do the same things as Paivi, Mom and Dad?”

“You might someday,” began Mr. Anderson. “Our families have a long history of these special abilities. Both of our families have what are called Seers. A Seer is someone who receives visions of the future. As far as we know, they can’t be controlled. Your mother and I see things in our dreams also. As for you, Tor, some people take a little longer to discover their abilities. But it is also possible that you will never develop any.”

“Nice. Figures, Paivi gets all of the cool stuff,” whined Torsten.

“Look, it’s not like I wanted this stuff,” Paivi sounded slightly bitter. “Some of the things I’ve seen,” she paused, seeing the image of Mrs. Brown and the burning car, “I wish I never had—they were awful.”

Paivi shivered, a chill spilling down her spine. She set down what was left of her cake and pulled her knees in, wrapping her arms around them.

“So what,” said Torsten, irritated. “Then you can just do something about it if you don’t like what you see.”

“No,” said Mr. Anderson. “As a Seer, you have to follow one rule – you cannot interfere with what you see.”

“Well, that’s stupid!” said Torsten. “What’s the point of being able to see the future if you can’t do anything about it?”

Join me next Wednesday for the conclusion of Chapter 2!

Contest WInner!

The winner of my first contest is author Meredith Shea Wood!  Thanks to everyone who participated and Meredith, your $15 Barnes & Noble gift card will be in the mail!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 2 Part 2

Chapter 2 Part 2
Birthday Surprise

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 1

Torsten and Paivi were complete opposites, aside from height. Paivi, with her blond hair, green eyes and fair skin was a stark contrast to her brother, with his dark brown hair, matching eyes and olive skin.

“Anyways, you know what we are doing tonight. Mom said you were supposed to leave us alone.” She felt sorry as soon as she said it, it sounded so mean. “But if you want to go to the movie, I guess that would be alright.”

“Yeah, but what are you going to see?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant, even thought he was clearly excited at the prospect of spending time with Aimee.

“Well, I want to see ‘Sweet Pete’, that new romantic comedy,” she said.

“Seriously? That’s what you want to go see? God, anything is better than that! I would rather get punched in the stomach than see that movie”

“Well, it’s MY birthday. No one said you had to go!” she sputtered.

“Well, it’s going to be terrible, I hope you know that,” he said condescendingly.

“Look, we are GIRLS. We like romantic comedies. If you ever want to get a girlfriend, you better get used to it, quick!” she shouted at him. As she stormed upstairs to her room, she heard a picture frame crash to the floor behind her. She cringed, but didn’t turn around.

“God, you walk like such an elephant! The picture just fell off the wall!” Torsten shouted behind her. “I’m telling Mom!”

She’d rather her mom think her heavy feet had caused the picture to fall, but Paivi knew it had nothing to do her stomping. After demolishing her room so many years ago, she had tried very hard to control her anger. Many times she could feel the energy well up in her, and with a few deep breaths it would subside. She didn’t want her friends or anyone at school to know her secret. What would they say? She didn’t want to be seen as a grade-A freak. The whole seeing-the-future-thing was much easier to hide, though it ate at her every time she thought of Michaela. Could she ever understand that Paivi couldn’t help her mother? It was something Paivi hoped she would never have to find out. The pain of what she had seen seemed bearable compared to the thought of losing her best friend.

The girls arrived not long after their argument. Michaela and Aimee Watson arrived first, followed by Crystal Harris, Jenn Hernandez and Paulina Kaminski. Paivi was thrilled when they commented on how nice her teeth looked.

After a few thick slices of Chicago-style pizza and an impromptu burping contest, which the surprisingly tiny Crystal won, Mrs. Anderson brought out the thickest, fudgiest, chocolate cake Paivi had ever seen. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Paivi very loudly and off key.

“Make a wish!” shouted Paulina.

A wish. Paivi stopped and looked at the candles.

Normal, she thought. I wish for a nice, normal freshman year. Oh, and maybe a boyfriend. Yeah, that would be nice!

She closed her eyes and blew on the cake, the tiny flames flickering and then going out.

Brightly wrapped birthday presents were then passed to Paivi, which she happily tore open. Picture frame, silver necklace, photo album, clothes and CDs; overall it wasn’t a bad haul.

The last gift was in a small and wrapped in bright pink paper with a silver bow. She picked up the box and shook it, trying to hear what was inside, but it made no noise. She tore off the wrapping to reveal a delicate mahogany box. The wood looked old but was still shiny and dark. The lid displayed an expertly carved design. There were some words in a strange language engraved in a circle around the edges and a metal closure on the front. Paivi pressed what looked to be a tiny button and the clasp popped open. She lifted the lid, revealing the most beautiful locket she had ever seen.

It was small and round, a little larger than a quarter. Around the edges it was finely polished silver, which surrounded a circle of gold. In the center was a Celtic knot shaped like a triangle, inlaid beautifully in silver. She turned the locket over, and saw some more unfamiliar writing engraved around the edge. The chain that hung from the locket was of thick silver and looked heavy, but it was surprisingly light. It resembled a metal chain, only in miniature. She ran the chain through her fingers, turning the locket over and over in her hands. She pulled the locket open to find it empty on one half. The other half contained a mirror.

“Wow Mom,” said Paivi. “Where did you get this?”

“The locket has been in our family for generations,” she started, “and now I am passing it on to you.”

“How cool,” said Michaela. “Ooh, pass it around, I want to see it!”

“Sure, here.” Paivi passed the locket to Jenn, who paused to give it a look before passing it around the table.

“Mrs. A.,” started Paulina, as she turned the locket over in her hands, “what does the writing say here? What language is this anyways?”

“It’s Gaelic. My relatives back in Ireland used to speak it, but sadly it’s not something they passed on to us after moving to America. Unfortunately I’m not quite sure what it says.”

“That’s too bad,” said Paulina. “Well, whatever it says, it’s really pretty!”

“Thanks, everyone, for the best birthday ever!” said Paivi. She glanced at the clock on the wall. “Oh! It’s getting late! We’ve gotta go if we’re going to make the movie!”

The rest of the evening passed by in a blur and the Anderson’s arrived home just before midnight after a late ride around St. Andrew to drop off the party guests.

“I am so tired,” said Paivi. She walked through the kitchen, basking in the pink and purple streamers, balloons and presents strewn across the table.

I love my birthday! she thought to herself with a sigh. I wish I could have more than one birthday in a year!

Join me Friday for the continuation of INTO THE SHADOWS! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Share Your Stuff!

Today is all about you!  Stop by the blog and share about anything you've got going...a great blog, a great book that you've written, links to your artwork, etc.  Shamelessly plug, plug, plug away!  It's important to recognize the awesome people that stop by to share my work.  Thanks so much for reading and participating!

Monday, July 12, 2010

My First Contest! Wanna win???

In honor of July being my birthday month and also the third anniversary of the beginning of my 'official' writing career (three years ago, I started my first book, Into the Shadows, which you can read right here for free!).  I am offering the fabulous prize of a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble, so you can go pick out a great book for your summer reading!  So here is how it works...

Starting today through Thursday, July 15th at 12 noon CST, you have to do the following and leave a comment below.  Make sure to give me links to your Twitter/Blog/Facebook so I can double check.

You HAVE to follow my blog here through Blogger or through Networked Blogs to be eligible.

You can then earn an entry by doing one or all of the following:

- Posting about my free YA novel, INTO THE SHADOWS, on your Blog.
- Tweeting about my free YA novel, INTO THE SHADOWS, on Twitter.
- Posting a link or status update about my free YA novel, INTO THE SHADOWS, on Facebook. 

So do all three, get three entries!  At noon on July 15th (my actual birthday) I will take all the entries and literally put them in a hat.  I'll draw one winner and announce it later that day!  Good luck!

Also, don't forget to stop by my other site, YA Flash Death Match, if you are a YA reader or writer and sign up for our first Death Match contest by Wednesday! There are tons of great prizes!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 2 Part 1

Chapter 2 - Part 1
Birthday Surprise

Click here to read Chapter 1 - Part 3

Paivi couldn’t have been more excited. Friday, the fifteenth of August, was a special day. It was not just her fourteenth birthday. She was also finally getting her braces off. In all honesty, she was more excited about getting the metal contraption removed than she was about the birthday. As far as she was concerned, birthdays come around every year, but it’s not every day that you get a new face.

She considered briefly that her new gleaming smile would attract a few boys, maybe a boyfriend? Okay, she didn’t want to get too carried away. There were more obstacles to getting a boyfriend that a mouthful of beautiful teeth couldn’t solve. At six feet tall, Paivi had to hope there were some taller boys at St. Andrew High School than there had been at Riverview Junior High. Otherwise she would be out of luck.

Paivi didn’t look much like a girl anymore, more like a woman with a baby face. Being tall was not only a problem with the boys, but also with clothes shopping. She had difficulty finding pants that didn’t make it look like she was preparing for a flood. And she had huge feet. Well, they really weren’t huge for her. Mrs. Anderson always told her if her feet were any smaller, she would fall flat on her face. Mr. Anderson would add jokingly that if they didn’t have shoes in her size, not to worry, at least the boxes would fit.

The morning of the fifteenth dawned bright and cool, as if recognizing the setting of Sirius, the Dog Star, signifying the end of the Dog Days of summer. Paivi woke to the light tinkle of wind chimes that hung from the porch below her bedroom window. The sun filtered through the purple curtains that fluttered in the light breeze.

She couldn’t help but feel happy knowing what a great day was in store for her.  The smell of fresh waffles wafted up from the kitchen. She didn’t waste any time getting down to breakfast.

“Happy birthday, my love!” said her mom as Paivi entered the sunny kitchen. There was a large stack of steaming golden brown waffles covered with powdered sugar sitting in the middle of the table. “Don’t bother looking at the newspaper this morning,” she added hurriedly.

“Why? Did that terrorist group blow someone else up? What else is new?” Paivi added flippantly, grabbing the front page and reading the headline ‘7 Dead in McDonald’s Playground Attack: Righteous Front claims responsibility.’

“Righteous Front.” she snorted. “I hope that makes them feel better about what they do. I mean, seriously, what’s righteous about killing innocent people?”

Mrs. Anderson sighed at her daughter’s nonchalant response. Attacks by the domestic terrorist group Righteous Front were so commonplace that everyone under the age of twenty thought weekly terrorist attacks were a normal fact of life.

“I just don’t know what’s going on anymore. I wish the government could get a handle on the situation. Maybe one of these presidential candidates can get it right, although that Senator Stevens seems to have no new ideas. Maybe Moira Kelly. She seems to have her head on right. Those Righteous Front members are just a bunch of right-wing loonies. I know the economy is bad, but wanting to get rid of immigrants, legal or not, isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s not their fault! And the RF keep killing citizens too, so what are they really trying to prove? I suppose we should just be glad we haven’t had any attacks by those monsters here in St. Andrew,” nodded Mrs. Anderson.

“Yet,” added Paivi cautiously. “Don’t say that too loud, they might hear you!”

“Well, anyways, I think we are all set for today,” said Mrs. Anderson as handed Paivi a plate and a fork and knife, happy to change the subject. “We have to be at Dr. Summers by noon. It’ll probably take some time there, maybe an hour or two. And then the girls are coming over for pizza at five thirty. The movie is at eight over at the Cineplex and I think that just about covers it! So what are you excited most about today?”

“I have to say—getting my braces off! I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present!” answered Paivi.

“Well, great, that solves the problem of having to buy you a present!” said Mrs. Anderson brightly.

“Now finish your birthday waffles while I go drag your brother out of bed. I swear, if I didn’t get him up, he’d sleep the whole day away!”

Five thirty arrived quickly. Paivi paced back and forth in the living room, watching anxiously out the front windows, awaiting the arrival of her friends. She kept running her tongue across her smooth teeth. She couldn’t stop looking at them in the mirror. Not that she was vain—she just couldn’t believe those awful braces were finally gone. And she just so happened to be having a really good hair day. Double bonus! So far so good, she thought. Things could only get better!

As she was looking out the front window for the tenth time, looking for any sign of an approaching car, she heard a noise behind her and jumped.

“Jeez! You scared me!” she said as she wheeled around, clutching her hand to her heart.

“Gotcha!” shouted her younger brother Torsten as he hopped down the last few steps. His curly, dark hair was neatly combed and he was wearing khaki shorts and a button-down shirt. This was quite dressy compared to his normal wardrobe of basketball shorts and a T-shirt.

“Wait a minute, why are you so dressed up anyways? Got a hot date or something?”

“What, this?” he asked, fidgeting with his shirt collar. “I dress like this all the time. So, uh, what are you guys doing tonight? Is Aimee coming over?”

“Oh, I see! Yeah, Aimee’s coming over. Only don’t get your hopes up. Aimee will NOT go out with an eighth grader!” snorted Paivi.

Check back next Wednesday for the next installment of INTO THE SHADOWS.  On Monday, join me again for my very first contest!  You could be the winner of a fine Barnes and Noble gift card!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 1 Part 3

Chapter 1 - Part 3
Sweet Dreams

Click here to read Chapter 1 - Part 2

Paivi returned home after Mrs. Brown’s funeral, ran straight up the stairs to her room and threw herself down on the bed. Curled up into a ball, she rocked back and forth, holding her knees and told herself from that point on she didn’t want to have any more dreams. She swore that she would do everything to block them out—there was nothing worth the pain of seeing a loved one hurt. She couldn’t imagine what would happen if Michaela ever found out that she had known what would happen to her mother. Losing her best friend was not a risk she was willing to take, if she could help it.

And so she tried. Every night before she went to sleep, she would clear her mind. If she had a dream, she would try to forget it the minute she woke up, drowning the images in everyday things and pushing them into the farthest corners of her mind. Every day she would remember less and less. She was winning the battle.

Sometimes she would be concentrating so hard on chasing the images away, with her eyes scrunched closed and her hands balled up in fists at her sides, that she wouldn’t notice the odd things that were happening around her.

It started slowly at first⎯it was hardly noticeable. Paivi was so focused on getting rid of the dreams that she didn’t notice a small horse figurine move just slightly across the top of her dresser. She didn’t see the book sliding ever so gently towards the edge of the bookshelf, where it stopped before falling.

One day, however, as she was concentrating ever so hard on pushing a particularly happy vision from her mind, she noticed.

Maybe, she thought to herself, it wasn’t so bad to have these dreams. After all, most of the time they were good, sometimes even fun!

Paivi then thought back to Mrs. Brown’s funeral. Trees with budding leaves framed the scene in the cemetery, softening the harsh gray of the gravestones. Bright sunlight reflected off of the pearly casket as it sat over the large hole dug in the fresh earth. The scene was almost beautiful, if it wasn’t for the tragedy that lay beneath the mountain of blood-red roses.

Paivi felt a surge of anger push through all of her anguish. Her brain was on fire from the heat of the emotion that coursed through her. She clenched her fists and squeezed her eyes shut. She gave out a cry, unable to keep the rush of energy inside her body. It burst out through her fingertips, whipping around her. The sound of a loud crash brought her back into the room. She opened her eyes to see books flying across the room from the shelves and slamming into the wall opposite. They fell to the floor in a heap, open with pages and covers bent. Figurines of horses and unicorns as well as dolls were flying from the top of her dresser and smashing into the walls. Shards of porcelain rained down on the floor.

She stood up, looking around in amazement. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Posters had fallen to the floor and others clung to the wall in tatters. A flying hairbrush had shattered a mirror and the walls were chipped and dented from the force of the collisions. Her parents thundered up the stairs and threw open the door. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson stood in the doorway, stunned, their jaws dropped so that their chins almost touched their chests. They looked at each other with wide eyes and then at Paivi, bewildered by the destruction that surrounded their little girl and stunned that she stood in the middle of the chaos and was completely unscathed.

Join us on Friday for the first part of Chapter 2 of INTO THE SHADOWS!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Taking a Risk: Update

So I have some interesting numbers/facts for you regarding the first week of posting my YA novel online.

So far, I haven't posted any new followers as a result of posting the novel.

I've had my first email from a fan!

It's difficult to tell how many people are reading it as no one has left any comments.  However, I do have a site monitor which keeps track of visits:

The traffic report for the week of June 26 stated that I had 67 visits and 105 page views that week.  An average visit lasted 1 minute 24 seconds.

For the week ending July 3, which includes the first two days of posting the novel, I had 118 visits and 269 page views.  An average visit lasted 3 minutes 49 seconds.

To be honest, not sure what the difference is between a visit and a view.  I'll have to check that out.  It'll be interesting to see if the numbers hold steady and if readers are invested enough to keep following the story.  I'm going to post portions every Wednesday and Friday for the time being and see how it goes from there.  If demand rises, I can always post on Mondays as well, but we'll see if we get requests for it.

I'm happy to know that people are reading my work, which is really my main goal here.  Again, someone mentioned on my last post the thought of publishing for the Kindle.  I've very much considered that and I am using this to test the waters.  If it can garner an audience online for free, it's possible that some might consider shelling out a couple bucks for it on Amazon. 

I'll be having my first contest next week as well, so maybe that will get the word out there a little more. Be sure to drop by and check that out!  I'll post the details next Monday!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 1 Part 2

Chapter 1 - Part 2
Sweet Dreams

Click here to read Chapter 1 - Part 1

Mrs. Anderson called her out of school the next day and stayed home from her job at the St. Andrew Public Library. She made Paivi’s favorite chocolate chip cookies and put on her favorite movie. Paivi pushed them away, uninterested.

Every thing in the house reminded her of Michaela and Mrs. Brown. Commercials showing a mother and daughter running together in the park and the plot of her mother’s soap opera wouldn’t allow her to block the thoughts from her mind. She spent most of the day curled up next to her mother on the couch as her mother stroked her long blond hair and held her close.

In the afternoon she asked her mom calmly, her green eyes shining with hope, “Mom, are you sure there anything we can do? Can’t we call someone?”

“Honey, I promise you, if there was any way to change what you saw, I would do it for you and for Mrs. Brown. But sometimes there are things we can’t change. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand this better.” She attempted a bitter half-smile, which was meant more for herself than for Paivi. Dark circles floated under her sky blue eyes. “Not that it makes it any easier. Just know that you are special and we love you very much.”

She kissed Paivi on the head.

And so they waited. Paivi’s stomach churned as she thought about having to face Michaela. She was able to dodge her phone call after school but she knew there would be no escaping her the next day.

The phone call came that evening, from Mr. Anderson himself. Mrs. Anderson answered, her voice muted. She turned back to Paivi, who sat anxiously at the kitchen table.

“That was your Daddy. Mrs. Brown had an accident today. She was taken to St. Andrew Medical. She is still alive, but very badly injured,” Mrs. Anderson paused, wiping away a tear as it trickled down her cheek, “they’re not sure if she’ll make it.”

This time Paivi did not cry. Mrs. Brown was alive, and for right now that was enough for her.

The next few weeks went by in a blur. Mrs. Brown wasn’t getting any better. She had been badly burned in the explosion and was forced to endure numerous surgeries. Paivi was unable to avoid Michaela for long, as the Andersons had kindly offered to take care of Michaela and her little sister Marissa while Mr. Brown tended to his ailing wife. At first, things were awkward. Paivi worried that Michaela would somehow figure out the truth—that she had known about the accident. She felt like it was written in red letters across her forehead.

Paivi tried to put it out of her head and did her best to keep Michaela happy. She enjoyed having her best friend around all the time. Michaela and Marissa slept over often, turning boring weeknights into a fun sleepover. They would giggle and talk late into the night, pretending to be asleep when Mr. and Mrs. Anderson checked in.

On a beautiful spring day, Mrs. Brown passed away. Guilt oozed out of every pore as Paivi trudged across the graveyard towards the waiting crowd dressed in black. She clasped her mom’s hand, hoping that it would be over quickly. She couldn’t bear looking at the life, now over, sitting on the dais in front of them. Michaela had taken it better than Paivi, something that she struggled to comprehend. She wondered how her friend could be so strong.

Catch the final part of Chapter 1 of INTO THE SHADOWS next Wednesday, July 7th! Have a great 4th of July!