Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dear Blog

While traipsing around on my paper route this morning I realized that I haven't updated my blog since January. Sure, there is the occasional post from me on a new blog started by a group of writers I joined in November for NaNoWriMo called Relentless Writers, and then there are posts about #Nestpitch where I'm going to be a slushie this year, but other than that there isn't really anything about me. And my writing.

I'm terrible at journaling. I always have been. My mom has bought me about three over the years, I myself have purchased one. I always start out strong, writing daily, then fizzle out somewhere around the fifth day. I'm not sure why it happens, but it does. My life simply isn't that interesting. Let's face it. I'm no Anne Frank,

Blogging, to me, is sort of the same thing. Things I have to say about craft I've been putting on the Relentless Writers blog, and really I'm still learning craft so I don't often feel comfortable telling other people how to write. I'm also behind in reading since editing has pretty much taken over my life, so I don't have any sparkling reviews to write. Plus, I don't like to write reviews on books I didn't like because I know how much effort the writer put in to the book and putting it down feels like such a bully move. So I didn't like it. Doesn't mean there aren't millions of people in the world who won't like it.
I am Sailor Pluto. I am the keeper of time.
When I imagine using my blog as some sort of writing diary, it comes out like this:

Dear Blog,

Today I didn't write because Vikings have taken over my life and let's face it. Ragnar...
Except for last night which went a bit like this:

Dear Blog,

Last night I got a total of three words down before Face Off came on the SyFy channel and I became absorbed with the process of creating a prosthetic creature except for this week, which didn't really impress me much at all. Of course, that was when I wasn't flipping back and forth with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills finale, because  honestly, do people really act like that?

In reality not all of my nights are like that. There are a few days where I love to watch TV shows. Face Off is a favorite of mine. I love watching the contestants create and I've come up with a few good ideas of my own from the show. Much like a gun system that is controlled by the nervous system. Some nights I really do get writing down, when I'm not gabbing with my writers group. Other nights my hubby is needy and I end up with him lying across my lap while I rub his back. In either case, none of it is truly that interesting. 

So I forget to blog. 

First, let me catch you up on what's been going on. For six months I worked on editing Summoner Battles. In January I realized that I had a second manuscript, really my first, that was out with a small press. I hadn't heard from them in about 6 months when I got an email updating me that they were still behind, but hoping to get to it before a year was up. My jaw sort of dropped to the floor. I'd completely forgotten about it when I signed with Cate, and this created a new problem. How do I handle this manuscript now that I have Cate?

So, I did what anyone would do in that situation. I told Cate what was going on. She loved the premise of the story so much that she felt like it would be a better debut for me and advised me to start editing Briar.  I'll admit, my heart sort of sunk a bit. I spent June-December of last year in a world where humans battle with avatar-like creatures only to have to switch gears to a Robin Hood/Sleeping Beauty role reversal. The thought bothered me. Cate signed me because of SB, and now she was asking me to push it aside and focus on my fairy tale retelling. As of January, I've been working on edits for Briar. This month I plan on entering both into the Rosemary Contest on the YARWA website. I've felt stuck for a while, and maybe this will help me get through my block. Plus, it helps to have awesome critique partners and friends who help me up when I'm down.

It also brought up a good point. How much do I trust Cate?

I adore Cate, and she hasn't been wrong on any of my editing this far. I know that she'll help me get through this and find the right home for both my manuscripts.

While I attempt to sort these things out, and participate in the Rosemary and #Nestpitch, I thought I'd give you all a treat. I'm going to post the first chapter of Summoner Battles on here, as it is right at this moment. Changes may happen, who knows, maybe even an editor will pick it up, but I want to let you all know where I'm at.

Summoner Battles: Evie Rattlesford can't wait for her own avatar, but when it's human instead of animal, she'll learn that the peaceful, weaponless government has a secret. And they want their human avatar back.

Summoner Battles
A fireball charged at me, crackling and spitting as it grew in size. It sounded like a freight train tornado, sucking air and whistling forward. Instincts took over and I ducked, placing my hands over my head. The crowd around me wasn’t bothered by the fire as I peeked out at them from behind my fingers. Dressed in gray t-shirts and blue gym shorts, some chuckled and chatted, others played with their phones.
Ship, ship, ship. I’d spent so many years watching my language around my younger siblings that “ship” became a natural reaction, even in my head.
“It’s not real, Evie. Stand up,” Takeshi, my student trainer, shouted. He went from the calm British accent of my best friend to a thick, almost unrecognizable Japanese in his agitation. He couldn’t enter the lines of tape on the basketball court without risking an automatic loss. Takeshi didn’t like to lose.
 “Don’t baby her, Tak.” My opponent, Tawny, sneered, hands waving in an intricate dance that I couldn’t emulate no matter how hard I tried. It was times like these when I wasn’t sure if she was my best friend or not.
The fireball barreled into an inky black wolf the size of a horse. The audience cheered. Energy from Tawny’s ball pushed my wolf into the wall where it yelped, fur smoking. The bird in front of Tawny soared up to the ceiling and spread its wings, giving a caw that shook the building. That it was a hawk of some sort, the size of a pteranodon, wasn’t surprising. Tawny always picked birds.
“Point Miss Saunders.” Mrs. Lemonds, the gym teacher, lifted her hand on Tawny’s side. The glass scoreboard pinged as the numbers changed, the only new object in the old gym.
“Evie, you can’t leave your Avatar defenseless like that.” Takeshi raked his hands through his hair making it stand up in spikes.
“I need something with two legs, not four,” I said, struggling to read the words and movements on the visor that appeared when the Avatars were called. I couldn’t remember the difference between offensive and defensive attacks. I was more of a button-masher when it came to video games. “Animals require more movements. More body parts.”
“There are no human Avatars, Evie. Since swords and guns are illegal, you have to get used to fighting animal style.” Takeshi frowned. His head cocked the way it did when he was in thought. “It’s why we have Avatars. For protection.”
“Or to win tournaments and earn money,” I muttered, considering the idea. Avatars were once used for protection in place of weapons that the world had given up after signing the peace treaty before World War III. Now they were games, toys that could earn money if you were a good enough strategist or had enough money to create an unbeatable Avatar.
I turned back to the virtual battle. A shimmery silver aura stretched from me to the wolf, a physical connection to the metallic cuff on my wrist. Words continued to shuffle on the visor and the lack of knowledge made me antsy. I wiped my hands off on my shorts.
“Firebird,” Tawny screamed.
Crap. I wasn’t ready for another attack. “Silver Screen.”
The wolf jumped up and skid to a stop in front of me. Its claws appeared to dig into the wood flooring of the gym and it barked, the sound echoing through the gym. The markings on its sides glowed and spread forming a ball around it. Tawny shouted as the hawk hovered near the large windows where it burst into flames—a phoenix, casting a shadow over the arena. The crowd oohed and ahhed at the sight. It screeched and started its descent, diving toward the silver bubbled wolf.
“Follow with an attack. The hawk will be low enough. Attack,” Takeshi ordered, pacing with his hands behind his back.
The hawk bounced off the silver bubble and dropped to the ground, disoriented.
“Sonic Howl,” I cried, struggling to follow the intricate moves on the visor. I wasn’t good at dance-styled video games and the moves on the visor weren’t much different. The silver bubble popped and the wolf sat, its fur bristling. My heart sank. It was clear I wasn’t doing something right.
Before I could complain the wolf howled. The sound rattled the building, reverberating until it filled the space and blanketed the noise from the students gathered around us. As the hawk struggled to fly upward, the window panes shook. Waves in the air kept the hawk grounded and pushed it into the wall. Even updated for Avatar battles with raised platforms and stronger structures, the gym was still an old building like most of the school, so it creaked and rattled with the echoes. The wolf jumped up and charged forward, digging its claws into the bird before ripping at its throat.
The hawk dropped to the ground with a thud and a bloody squish before disappearing back into the cuff around Tawny’s wrist.
“Knock out. Miss Rattelsford wins,” Mrs. Lemonds announced. “Alright, dismissed. Get changed. Today was the last day to use the practice cuffs before your Personality Compatibility Test tomorrow.”
An excited murmur circled the room and I let out a relived breath of air before starting for the girl’s locker room. The TA for gym stood behind the barn–styled door of the storage room, the top half propped open. She took the cuffs and scratched the linked names off a piece of paper. I stood behind Tawny, waiting to change and sniffing at the gray t-shirt I wore.
“What? You don’t like the CVHS Cougar?” She pointed to the cougar head scrunched in my hand.
I shrugged. The cougar didn’t bother me, nor did the words Chino Valley High that wrapped around its snarling face. What bothered me was that mine was almost a rag, the face of the cougar faded amongst patches of near-white where the gray color lightened. The other girls’ shirts were newer.
“You did good,” I told Tawny, handing the cuff over.
“I know. You wouldn’t have won without Takeshi.” Tawny smirked. She knew I wasn’t much for battles or even competing within the Summoner Arena or outside it. The only draw for me would be money.
“He’s smart. He would make a good trainer someday,” I said, heading toward my locker on the far side of the room. I tried to avoid the other girls at all costs. Most of them teased me all through middle school.
“He’s not just smart.” Tawny took a seat on the pale wood bench that lined the walls. She leaned back with a sigh. “I want him.”  
This wasn’t a new revelation. Freshman year he’d walked through the door of my first class and introduced himself as a Japanese foreign exchange student. Tawny laid claim to him then. Most of the time he was unaware of the girls who followed him around like lost puppies. I liked that about him. It kept him from being cocky like some of the football players.
“I’m going to ask him out,” Tawny said, determination glinting in her half-lidded eyes. She’d changed out of the blue and gray gym clothes and into the blue/silver plaid that made up our school uniforms. A black indie band t-shirt poked out from the opening of her jacket. Her dark hair hung in loose, uncombed waves down her back and she moved to the mirrors to reline her eyes with a black pencil. “I don’t want random dates anymore when all I’m thinking about is Tak.”
Her vow made my heart sink, even though Tawny had told me she liked him before I could form the words in my head after his first day of school. “You said you wouldn’t do that. It would ruin our friendships.”
“I think our friendship would survive.” Tawny shrugged. “It’s been almost two years. I’m tired of waiting for him to make the first move.”
So was I. “Better snatch him up before someone else asks him to prom.” That someone being me, if I wasn’t afraid of ruining my friendship with Tawny. Takeshi and I spent more time together than he and Tawny. Whenever I wasn’t at his host family’s house playing video games, he was at mine studying.
Tawny gave me a look that I couldn’t read. “Maybe we can find you a boy and go together.”
My eyebrows quirked at the thought. I’d been joking. “You? Prom? I can’t picture it.” I couldn’t even form the full sentence in my head.
She frowned, her brows lowering over jade green eyes. “What? I can make a duct-tape dress or find something in black. I’d go, if it meant finally going on a date with Tak.”
“A dress with lots of holes, accessorized by combat boots, right?” I chuckled, ignoring the finally dating Takeshi thing.
She snorted. “Combat boots are a must if I’m going to force myself into a school ritual.”
We hefted our backpacks over our shoulders and started for a separate door that opened from the locker room into the cafeteria. The smell of gravy and meatloaf filtered inside. My stomach growled, but not in a good way, and my nose wrinkled as I decided to buy a sub sandwich and Reese’s from the snack bar instead.
“Miss Saunders, I’d like a word about your practice time this afternoon,” Mrs. Lemonds called to Tawny from her office.
I pushed the door open; Takeshi waited on the other side. Back pressed against the wall, he had his hands in his pockets staring off into space. His sleeves, rolled up to his elbows, revealed his tanned forearms, veins raised and muscles flexed. His tie hung loose and crooked; and the top few buttons of his shirt were undone revealing a triangle of skin and a hint of the definition of his chest. I paused and swallowed, the door swinging back and almost hitting me in the face. Takeshi caught it and pulled it back with a shy smile. A puff of his musky, woody scent hit my nose.
“Save me a seat, Tak?” Tawny gave him a meaningful look, still on my heels though Mrs. Lemonds called to her. He suppressed a cringe at the nick-name.
“As always,” he said with a tight smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
Tawny’s cheeks pinked as she turned away, heading for Mrs. Lemonds office. Takeshi reached for my hand and pulled me out of the locker room. Once the door clicked into place he released me.
“What are you eating today?” I moved toward the lines that snaked around almost-full circular tables, ignoring the butterflies in my stomach and the awkwardness in the air. “I think I’m going to get a sub sandwich and—”
Before I could finish, Takehsi took my hand again and dragged me out of the cafeteria, through the gym, and into the bright afternoon light. The Arizona summer was in full swing, the forecasts calling for ninety to one hundred degree weather in the upcoming weeks, but I couldn’t focus on the heat. My mind drifted to the warm, calloused hand around mine. I wondered where the roughness came from. Dirt-biking with his host family, or some sort of work he did that I didn’t know about? Even after two years Takeshi was still a mystery.
“I have something to show you.” He led me past the outdoor picnic tables and the band room. The empty football field was ahead of us, but he turned away from the field toward the lower parking lot.
“We can’t leave. The security guard is on patrol.” Even as I spoke I noticed he wasn’t.
“We aren’t leaving.” He pointed to the parking lot where several semi-trucks sat. On each of their trailers was a metal box the size of a walk-in closet.
“What are they?” I wondered aloud. Takeshi dropped my hand as if it were on fire and feeling a slight twinge of disappointment, I raised it to grasp the diamonds of the chain-link fence.
He smiled, this one stretching across his face and crinkling the corners of his eyes—the kind of smile I imagined he saved for me. “They’re the Personality Compatibility Test.”
My head cocked in confusion. “The PCT? A box?”
“A room,” he corrected, heading for the lot. “They use them for the tests. I read an article about it online. They work off your personality. It’s how you receive your Avatar.”
“How…” I started, chasing after him, but he shrugged in response.
“I don’t know. They don’t give out that information. All I know is that the choices you make in the PCT determines the Avatar you’ll have for the rest of your life.”
Takeshi walked with a casual air while I glanced around, waiting for someone to catch us sneaking off campus. He led me around the front of a semi to the trailer where the box sat, and I crept forward, awed by the idea of what was inside the metallic structure in front of me. There were no windows to allow a view of the interior. Takeshi stood close behind me, his breath warm on the back of my neck. My heart stuttered.
From nowhere a glimmering figure appeared in front of me. Shaped like an hourglass with long hair, the female ghost reached forward. The majority of her body was nothing more than shimmer. A ghost. Her eyes met mine, her mouth moving though I couldn’t make out the words. The air tensed, fear coursing through me though I wasn’t sure why. Takeshi placed a protective hand on my shoulder as the glimmer moved forward, passing through me and disappearing before hitting him. I gasped at the chill, the hairs rising on my arms.  Takeshi wrapped his arms protectively around my shoulders, drawing me into him though the glimmer was gone.
“Hey!” The call came from the opposite end of the trailer and the security guard appeared.
We jumped, Takeshi dragging my dazed body toward the gate.
“Come back down here again and I’ll make sure you can’t take your PCTs,” the guard yelled after us.
I struggled to keep up with Takeshi’s longer legs, his frame a good five or six inches taller than mine. When I stumbled he turned and caught me, pulling me close. The smell of his cologne wrapped around me like a warm blanket, his body lean, sinewy like a runners and tense before he let me go and the cozy feeling disappeared. We’d returned to the patio area outside the cafeteria.
“Are you all right?” He looked me over, checking for injury.
I turned away, blushing and nodding.
“What was that?” I wondered aloud.
Takeshi shook his head.
He led me to an empty table outside the boy’s locker room. It smelt like sweat and too much cologne, but I sat down on the chair he pulled out for me. Goosebumps still rose on my arms and Takeshi ran his hand down my skin.
“Let me give you some money, Takeshi.” I bent over to pull my wallet out of my bag, wondering how much change I had and knowing it wouldn’t be enough.
“Don’t worry about it. You can pay me back later.” He winked.
“But…” I started, but he set his bag on the ground and disappeared back into the crowd. I tried to suppress a smile. My parents didn’t always have enough to money for me to buy or make lunch. There were times I could only afford a small bag of chips which was usually better than whatever leftovers Mom threw together for lunches.
“They’re making me practice with different cuffs tonight,” Tawny whined, dropping her bag onto the floor next to Takeshi’s with a heavy thud.
“We always practice with different cuffs. It makes sense.” I pulled a book from my messenger bag, shaking from the chill left behind by the figure that passed through me. Takeshi’s warm hug had only managed to take the edge off, but with him gone I was cold again.
“No. They won’t let me use any birds tonight,” Tawny huffed as she flopped into a blue chair.
My mouth opened, but I wasn’t sure what to tell her. Tawny hadn’t practiced with anything other than birds since we came back from winter break.
“Reese’s and a club sandwich.” Takeshi set the food down in front of me, a grin on his lips. His face fell slightly when he noted Tawny’s presence. She glanced up in surprise, her eyebrows raised. “Ah, Tawny. I thought you might want to talk to Evie alone.”
Tawny’s face softened, but not by much. “That’s so sweet. You’re amazing Tak.”
He swallowed, steadily meeting her gaze. “It’s what any friend would do.”
The emphasis of the word ‘friend’ didn’t go unnoticed.
“Right.” Tawny’s eyes turned toward the table. “Friend.”
“I forgot a drink. Would you like anything, Tawny?” Takeshi stood, hands in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.
“Oh, um, a soda. You know what I like.” The corner of her mouth curled up in half a smile. Takeshi nodded and walked off, the air around the table immediately less tense.
“I thought you wanted to ask him out.” I knew it was too soon to tease her, but I didn’t like the feeling of contention between us.
She smirked. “I’m biding my time, although it’s tough to gather courage when he keeps referring to me as a friend.”
“You’d better hurry.” I nudged her shoulder with mine while my stomach churned. I hated this part of friendship—encouraging her to do something I dreamed of doing myself.
Her eyes narrowed. “Like you? Would you ask him?”
“What?” My voice came out in a screech that I immediately regretted. “No. Of course not. I don’t like Takeshi like that.” I hoped the lie sounded convincing.
She eyed me, but didn’t say anything else. Takeshi returned to dead silence at the table. There was a look of confusion on his face as he handed me a root beer and Tawny her normal Dr. Pepper. I wasn’t sure what I could say to alleviate her worries since I did like Takeshi. Saying nothing was better than digging myself deeper into the hole. Fortunately, Takeshi had a knack for changing the subject in awkward situations. The conversation returned to Summoner Battles and our PCT tests in the morning.
That wasn’t much better. My stomach curled in knots as I considered the possibilities the PCT test would hold—and wonder again what had caused that icy glimmer that passed through me. Did the ghost have something to do with the PCT? 

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