Blurb for Cornered (Ocean Mist Book Two):
Seventeen-year-old Courtney Phillips is striving to earn an internship to escape from her unhappy home. But when her mother becomes ill, Courtney is stuck caring for her rebellious sister, Tiffany, and her little brother—until Tiffany runs off to live with their dead-beat dad.
Track star Keegan Hank’s current girlfriend is cheating on him, but having fallen for him herself, Courtney is afraid to tell her best friend the truth. When Keegan discovers that Courtney withheld the facts about his girlfriend, he rejects her apologies.
Courtney finally lands an interview for her dream internship, but mysterious calls from Tiffany spell trouble. Courtney must now find a way to win Keegan’s love and rescue her sister without jeopardizing her own future.
Excerpt from Cornered:
The phone rang in Mrs. Johnson’s calculus class, and I sank into my chair with dread. She scuffled to answer it, clucked a few times into the receiver, and pressed it to her chest. Peering at us over her glasses, she zoned in on me.
“Courtney, please report to the office.”
A few of the kids snickered, probably with relief. I stood to leave and glanced over at Keegan.
He brushed a few strands of hair away from his deep brown eyes and offered me his sympathy face. I grimaced, shrugged, and pushed through the door into the empty hallway. My flats clacked out my progress with a hollow echo.
The secretary, Mrs. Pellan, waited for me in the office, perched behind the counter like a judgmental owl. “Courtney Phillips, this is getting to be a habit.”
“My mom again?” I asked, already knowing her answer.
“Yes, and we simply can’t have you interrupted at all hours with these calls. Mr. Anderson is not a happy camper, young lady.”
I sighed and held out my hand for the phone.
“Court? Are you there?” Mom’s whiny voice trembled through the line.
“I’m here, Mom. What’d she do this time?”
“The middle school just called, and Tiffy didn’t show up for school again. You know I count on you to get the kids off in the morning.” She paused for a huge gasping breath. “Didn’t you take her to school? She didn’t walk, did she? You and I both know…”
I held the phone away from my ear, letting her ramble into the air. Nosy Mrs. Pellan left her chair and inched closer, her eyebrows raised in a thin V across her forehead. I knew from experience Mrs. Pellan loved any hint of gossip. I pressed the phone back to my ear.
“…since she can’t do it alone.” Mom had finished her tirade.
“Yes, Mother,” I said.
“So you’ll do it then?”
“Give me a replay.”
Mom’s voice quacked an octave higher. “Courtney Phillips, have you listened to one word I’ve said? Now get over there to the middle school and find your sister.”
I handed the phone to Mrs. Pellan. “I have to go. Mom will explain. I’ll sign out, but I’m not sure I’ll be back.”
I scribbled my name and the time on the clipboard lying on the counter. I dashed out before Mrs. Pellan could return to lecture mode.
It wasn’t my fault.
But then it never was.
About Brenda Maxfield
My passion is writing! What could be more delicious than inventing new characters and seeing where they take you?
I'm a teacher so I spend most of my waking hours with young people. I love chatting with them and hearing their views on love and life. My students are magical, and I am honored to be part of their lives.
I've lived in Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Costa Rica. Presently, I live in Indiana with my husband, Paul. We have two grown children and three precious grandchildren, special delivery from Africa.
When not teaching, I love to hole up in our lake cabin and write -- often with a batch of popcorn nearby. (Oh, and did I mention dark chocolate?)
I enjoy getting to know my readers, so feel free to write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Join my Newsletter Gang and get the latest news, contests, releases: http://mad.ly/signups/85744/join. Visit me to learn about all my books and some smart and sassy, clean teen reads: www.brendamaxfield.com Happy Reading!
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/lfvnbzt
I have seen many authors on forums lately asking about ways to improve their writing. They are looking for writing exercises that they can do each day. There is one such exercise that I remember from my days at school which helped me with my descriptive writing and lead to my love of writing. It is easy to do and does not take much time.
To any authors that would like to work on their descriptive writing I suggest finding images online. Find any picture. Then, all you need to do is write about it. Describe what is happening and what people, objects and scenery appear in the picture. If you have a picture of the beach then write about how the waves roll, the colour of the sand, how it feels, the wind, the people sunbathing. They say that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and it is true, I could write paragraph upon paragraph all based on one picture.
This is also a great exercise for any authors that are having difficulty coming up with a story idea. Find an image and then base a story on the characters within the picture or within the setting depicted. I have previously written a short story based on a painting of a young girl holding a dead goldfinch. It turned in to a story about an orphan during war whose only friend was a goldfinch who dies as it protects her from a soldier. It is quite easy for your inspiration to be spurred by a meaningful image.
What writing exercises do you use?
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
For most of the last 30 years, I’ve made a living as a professional Word Monkey for Hire.
I figure that means two things. 1) I am old, darn old and 2) I’m pretty sure I know more than a little bit about earning some folding green by writing. 2a) I like making lists, but I’m not sure that’s pertinent here.
For this column, I thought I’d focus mostly on point 2, seeing as how no one wants to read about the shooting pain in my knee when I do this. (Doctor’s reply: “Well, don’t do that.”)
Here, then, is the main thesis I’d like to get across. You don’t have to suffer the big, overwhelming feels just to become a paid writer.
Here I’ll pause to let a possible minority of you click out of your web browser in disgust, furious that some old fart (see 1) dares to disparage your big, deep feels that make it necessary for you to tear your story from the depths of your tortured soul.
I wish you’d stay, though, because you’re the ones I want to talk to. Seriously, folks, you don’t have to make yourself miserable just to write.
For one thing (more lists!), it’s been done. And done again. And again. And again. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. A breakup with a girl/boy does not automatically make for amazing literature just because it happened to you.
If it does, and you feel you must write about it? My main advice then is to go back through and lose 90 percent of the adjectives. (Sturgeon’s Law, from noted science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, states, in essence, that 90 percent of science fiction is crap. Of course, 90 percent of everything is crap. [especially adjectives]) And if the word dark is in there? Just go ahead and delete it.
Angst isn’t necessary for success. Oh, sure, you should definitely put your characters through Biblical levels of pain and agony and difficult Jobian levels of difficulties, but, please remember, just because it made you sad when it happened to you, that doesn’t make it automatically of interest to others or even all that dramatic.
Now, you might feel I’m picking on you, but I’m not. Well, I am, but not just you. I was as guilty of that as anyone else. It’s a difficult thing, learning to separate yourself from your words, from your work.
(Fortunately for me, I worked as a newspaper reporter for a while. Getting your sanity, mental proficiency and eyesight questioned on an hourly basis in appallingly inventive ways will definitely encourage the production of a thick enough skin to get you through most long, dark winters of the soul.)
Here’s the big point of all this blather, though. Writing doesn’t have to be a coping mechanism, a way for you to get the horribly heavy feels out of your system, to tell a tragic story. It can be a job. You can write because you enjoy it. You can write just because.
And if you want to avoid the crap end of Sturgeon’s Law, you’re going to have to treat it as a job. Write each and every day. Study what you’ve written and look for ways to make it better.
Read the masters and learn from them. When you read a book you like, try and understand why you like it. Does it have a snappy plot? Are the characters lifelike? Does the writer describe a place so vividly you actually see it? Does the author transition from scene to scene in a novel manner? Is the dialogue peppy? Does it seem like words a real live someone might actually utter in RL?
Then you take those lessons learned from published authors and apply it to your own writing. And therein lies one of the hardest lessons for the wannabe professional writer to learn.
If you’re story is not accepted for publication, it’s not because traditional publication houses are part of the vast conspiracy to keep your groundbreaking vision smothered to protect the hidebound authors they’re already publishing. Seriously.
I began writing years ago, as a hobby, after telling a group of young children my ‘Toby & Friends’ stories. After completing writing for children courses, with the London School of Journalism and The Academy of Children’s writers, I began my first young adult novel.
If you are interested in writing I would recommend courses for your particular genre. They are focussed and therefore much more helpful in your specific area rather than a general creative writing course which covers all genres.
While working on my first novel, ‘Family Secrets’, I posted my first three chapters on, British Art Council sponsored, www.youwriteon.com. This proved to be an excellent move. Other writers review your work and you review theirs. If you give this a try please bear in mind you may need thick skin. Some comments can be pretty brutal and not very accurate, however, when you weigh them up against the constructive reviewers you mainly find them extremely helpful and encouraging. Along with their comments you receive ratings on your plot, pace, characterisation, dialogue, settings, use of language, theme and narrative voice. Overall it can be extremely encouraging and fantastic for developing your own writing technique. I learned just as much from editing others as them editing mine.
Once my book was complete, I debated whether to approach main stream publishers or self-publish. In the midst of this I received an email from YouWriteOn. They were introducing a publishing arm and asked whether I would like to apply. I did and was thrilled when they accepted my book. Although it is still technically self-publishing my book was published free and available to be ordered from the site on a print-on-demand basis. I chose the additional option of making my book available to order through major bookstores and Amazon and paid £40. Five years later it is now £88 which is still a very reasonable price. Royalties are paid twice yearly but publicity is down to me, the author.
Since then I have published the rest of my trilogy with them: ‘Family Fear’ and ‘Family Missing’.
The venture has been so successful that the publishing arm is now based on its own website www.FeadARead.com and authors no longer have to apply they can just upload their books. I have my own covers designed but there is a selection on the site for anyone who can’t. It is still British Art Council sponsored and the paperbacks are great quality and reasonably priced for my readers. I can also buy copies myself, if I like, at reduced prices but I don’t tend to do that much. I find it’s much better for readers to order through bookstores.
I intend to publish my new young adult book, ‘Witness’, later this year through FeedARead and already have the cover.
I’ve also uploaded my books onto Amazon for kindle. This is totally free and, depending on the price of the book, I get either 35% or 75% of the sale price.
Over the last twelve months I have released three picture books. These take me right back to my work with the children as they are the original stories which starting me writing. ‘Toby is Lost’, ‘Thief’ and ‘Beaut’ are only in kindle format at the moment, I am hoping to release them in paperback when there are a few more of them and worth producing the book. This last year, writing has become an official part-time job alongside my other part-time job in I.T. I’ve therefore been able to spend more time on my writing and do an art course. ‘Beaut’, about an unfriendly peacock, is the first one fully illustrated by me and I can tell you, painting a peacock is not easy!
Advertising is a whole other issue and I’m sure others will blog about that at some point. I hope my experience can help someone else along the road to being a successfully published author.
About Gail Jones
Part-time author and I.T. Officer
Gail has worked with children since her late teens and began her career as an author by inventing stories for the children in her care.
After undertaking two writing for children courses, Gail’s first book ‘Family Secrets’ was published by YouWriteOn.com in 2008, ‘Family Fear’ followed in 2010 and Family Missing in 2012. Since then Gail has published three picture books, ‘Toby is Lost’, ‘Thief’ and ‘Beaut’, illustrating the latter herself.
Gail lives in South Yorkshire, England and loves to walk, takes photographs of the countryside and write outside whenever the weather permits. She loves children, games and fun and visits local schools in her capacity as an author.
An important lesson I have had to learn as I have progressed with my writing is the notion that perfection is boring. People like to believe that their favourite characters are perfect, sure, but when looking closely at those characters it can be seen that this is not so. Every memorable character, each one that has captured our hearts, has indeed turned out to be imperfect in numerous ways.
Skills and Power
Firstly, visualise whatever skills or special powers your favourite characters have. Are they a magic wielder, elementalist, swordsman, or something else entirely? Whatever they can do I bet there are a number of way those abilities can be rebuffed. There is likely a vital flaw to those abilities. A trap that I, and likely many other writers, have fallen into is making our main characters too adept. We create them in such a way that they can hold off any attack that is thrown at them. I came to realize, painfully, that characters such as this are boring to readers. No matter how interesting and exciting a role these characters play in the writer's imaginations, they will not be seen the same way in the reader's.
Mentally and Emotionally
Secondly, nobody is perfect. Everyone has flaws of personality, bad habits, emotional strains and fuses. Characters that don't have imperfections are unbelievable and, hence, not relatable. Even when writing in the fantasy genre, writing about impossibilities, the human nature must remain. Each character will have a past which may have led to some of these flaws being formed. It is impossible for a character to be happy constantly, strong of will, kind, understanding, compassionate, and all round likeable. Who wants to read about a character like that?
So when creating a character make sure to add flaws. A perfect character is boring to read about and impossible to relate to. It may help to plan out your character on paper before you begin writing. Read my 'Guide to Fantasy Writing- Characters' for ideas on where to start.
I hope this post has helped many of my fellow writers out there. Happy writing all!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I made the move from women’s fiction to contemporary YA novels, it felt a bit like starting my writing career from scratch all over again. Although I was the published author of 17 novels, no one outside of romance readers had heard of me, so I had no reputation preceding me as I ventured into the YA world. Scary stuff.
Competitions proved to be a good way in. For the organisers to fulfil their side of the agreement, your submission has to be read, or at least skimmed, so your work does get seen.
If YA presents challenges, it also offers freedoms. No more formula writing. I can be as elliptical or edgy as a story requires. Happy endings aren’t obligatory, although I do try for upbeat together with open-ended. Again, no subject is taboo – it’s your treatment of it that is crucial.
One of the main challenges is the language used in dialogue. Young adults are constantly reinventing themselves and their language. Words or phrases currently in use will be laughably passé by the time your book is published and being read, yet your characters need to sound real. One thing that doesn’t change much is the way in which young people use humour – for camouflage, for courage, for a whole variety of reasons. I do a lot of listening to the way teens talk, not so much for the actual language as for what it reveals about their attitudes and thinking.
Another big change was switching from third person to first person narrative. Many YA writers choose first person, and suggest that it reflects a certain self-centredness or self-involvement typical of the young – they are at the centre of everything, everything is about them. I’ve never looked at it in those terms. For me, writing YA, first person has been instinctive; it brings me right into my protagonists’ hearts and heads.
Setting has been another radical departure. My romance publishers liked exotic, glamorous, sophisticated (read affluent) or simply beautiful settings. With my YA novels, I’ve so far chosen to write about young South Africans living very much in the here and now, their stories firmly rooted in reality, as they face the same daily challenges as real teenagers. Many of their issues are universal – peer pressure, poverty, love, sex, class, race, xenophobia, substance abuse, crime, exploitation – but the legacy of South Africa’s past does somtimes have a certain impact on all these things.
It has also been refreshing to be able to write from a male point of view if a story seems to call for it.
The role of adults in my novels varies. Some may be exploitive or abusive, others are a source of inspiration or even help, once a protagonist learns that seeking help in an intolerable situation is not weakness but an affirmation of his value as a unique human being. Young readers clearly like characters who overcome such challenges as oppression or persecution to take control of their own lives, in however small a way, and this involves changing and growing, but all this can only arise from the foundation of a good, gripping story that will draw the reader in. Everything else is just a bonus.
About Jayne Bauling
Jayne Bauling’s first three YA novels, E Eights, Stepping Solo and Dreaming of Light have been awarded the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award and the Sanlam Gold Prize for Youth Literature respectively. She is also the author of 17 romance novels published by Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her short stories, for both adults and young people, have been included in a number of anthologies. She has been a regular contributor of short stories and poems to the Breaking the Silence anthology brought out annually in South Africa by the NGO People Opposing Women Abuse, and in 2013 served as a mentor for POWA’s women’s writing project workshops. She lives in Mpumalanga. E Eights and Dreaming of Light (including the ebook) are both available from Amazon (UK). See link below for more about Stepping Solo.
Follow Jayne Bauling on Twitter @JayneBauling,
visit her Facebook page Jayne Bauling Writer https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jayne-Bauling-Writer/165514616870712,
or see her Goodreads author blog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/247156.Jayne_Bauling/blog
Stepping Solo http://www.mml.co.za/book/9780636118249
Currently I am reading the final book from the incredible epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, written by Robert Jordan. As I sit back and bask in what I have read so far I realise something that I have previously noticed with other books that I have read. The styles of writing that I have read are adopted somewhat as I write my own novels. Previously I disliked this concept, thinking that my writing should be completely my own, original, and with my own unique style. However, I now realise with the more books I have read, and hence their styles, the better my own writing has developed.
The first time I recognised this was back in high school while studying Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'. Her flowery, old school English tone seemed to weave itself into my own writing. I even noticed this change in the essays of my school mates. With each different author whose books I read, I noticed my writing take on a slightly different tone of voice. Over time that voice would dissipate so that it no longer was so pronounced but each book left with me a new style to add to my mental catalogue. I could now write with that voice if need be. Hence, reading books allows me to vary how I write.
Robert Jordan has had one of the biggest impacts on my writing. This could be due to the sheer number of books that make up The Wheel of Time series but I also believe he is the best author that I have read to date. I have seen people criticise his writing as being overly descriptive but, as a reader, my personal opinion is that I love lots of description (in the right places). I like to sit back and form an image in my mind based on what the author planned. I like to feel as the author intended me to feel as I read. Robert Jordan has taught me a lot about description and my writing has benefited greatly. Of course, every writer favours different styles of writing and will learn different things from reading than myself or another fellow author.
And so I am adding another New Year’s resolution to my list. I am going to attempt to read more often and read books by different authors. I encourage all my fellow authors out there to do the same. Sure, your writing will improve if you write more often but don't overlook the value of reading. Put some time aside to sit down with a good book just like you hope your own readers will do.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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