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Excerpt from D.E. Atwood’s If We Shadows

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Cover Art for If We Shadows

In If We Shadows, Jordan is a transgender boy who wants to get through his senior year safely. However, he also wants to try out for the fall musical with his brother, and he wants the role of Puck in the musical mashup of two classic plays by Shakespeare. At this point in the story, he’s just found out that he will not be Puck. Instead, he will play Viola, a boy cast into a girl’s role, a possibility that he has been dreading since auditions.


My throat tightens; the light in the room seems to fade as things start to swirl around me. I grip the edge of the stage with my fingers, trying to force myself to stay upright. I could swear I hear James’s voice calling my name, and I push away, shoving at whoever is near me as I race for the door.

It closes with a thunk behind me, leaving me in a hallway that seems too dark, almost like a horror movie. I pause, struggling to breathe, then move with echoing quick steps down the hall to the bathroom. I go into the farthest stall and lock the door behind me. I climb up and perch on the toilet, toes on the edge, head bowed down by my knees as I crouch there, fighting for consciousness.

Because how fucking embarrassing would it be to pass out locked in a toilet stall, right?

Hours pass in a haze of warm breath and chills. I hear the door open and the water run, and I wait to hear the door again, for whoever it is to leave.

“Jordan?”

A girl’s voice. Am I in the wrong bathroom?

I open my eyes, blinking into the light which seems so much brighter than it was before, and look to my left and right for a telltale wastebasket on the wall of the stall. No, not the girls’ room. Thank God.

There’s a soft knock on the door to the stall. “Are you okay, Jordan? You didn’t look very well when you ran out. People are worried.”

I slowly unfold my body and stand. My hand shakes when I twist the lock and let the door swing open to find Pepper there, her brow furrowed and hand still raised to knock again.

She’s several inches shorter than me, built as tiny as her brother. The spray of freckles across her nose is scrunched together, slowly spreading out as her expression eases when she sees me. Her red hair is in her face, and I have an absurd idea to nudge it back. My hand half raises, then I remember: she cast me as a girl. She has somehow seen through the mask. “I can’t do this,” I say quietly, my voice hoarse and rough.

Disappointment shows in her jade eyes, but also resignation. “I was afraid you were going to say that,” she admits. She backs up, giving me room to come out, then hands me a paper towel soaked with cold water.

I press it to my eyes, feeling the cool on my forehead. The panic is fading, leaving me cold and empty. “I’m sorry.” I hate disappointing her. What a great second impression, huh? At least her first impression was of me helping save her brother. Maybe I earned enough points with that to counteract this mess.

She turns away from me, ratcheting out another long string of paper towels, and soaking those as well. She offers it to me silently. I give her the towel that was warmed by my skin, and put the new, fresh one over my closed eyes, not wanting to look at her right now.

“Your brother’s really worried about you.” Her voice is slow and cautious. “I told him I’d check up on you, because I wanted to talk to you. Maybe tell you why I cast you.”

Why she cast me. Not Dower. Did he tell her the truth about me? He wouldn’t do that. Would he? I shiver, and breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, struggling against the darkness again. This is ridiculous. I can’t let it take me over. “Go on,” I say.

“It’s your voice,” she says. “You have this amazing, rough, smoky voice that’s so perfect and haunting. You’ve got the low notes perfectly, and you nail the higher ones when you sing, but it’s not like you go into falsetto. I can believe you’re both female and male, and you don’t seem like you’re trying to be fake as Viola. And that’s hard for a guy, really hard. Your brother’s a good actor, but what he did—it’s what most guys do. They turn it into a farce, but you didn’t. You were uncomfortable, yeah, but you treated her like she was just anyone else.”

I drop my hands away from my face, blinking in the light. “She is just anyone else.”

Pepper smiles then. “Exactly. We’re not aliens, but most guys seem to think we are. Or like the only way to be a girl is to put on tight clothes and prance around in high heels. Viola’s just another human being, and she needs to be played straight like that. And I knew you could do it. And you and James are so perfect standing next to each other. Dower really wanted to give him Oberon, but I wanted him for Sebastian because of you.”

My laugh sounds a little strangled. “Don’t tell James that; he’ll be blaming me forever for his losing Oberon.”

Pepper touches my shoulder, squeezing lightly. “Come back in and do the read-through, please? And think about it over the weekend. You can tell me Monday if you really can’t do it. But I promise you, no one’s going to be laughing when they see you on stage. They’re just going to be thinking about how awesome an actor you are to pull it off.”

I swear, my brain short-circuits as soon as she touches me, and I’m nodding before I really think about what I’m saying yes to.

Her smile is worth it.

I can’t resist this time and reach out, one finger hooking in a dark red curl, nudging it back behind her ear. She flushes, warm rose under the freckles, but she doesn’t pull away. I’m playing with fire even thinking anything about her, and my heart’s rushing so hard I’m starting to shake again. It’s the good kind of nervous, anxious and waiting for something to happen, like that moment before going downstairs on Christmas morning to see the packages under the tree.

The moment breaks as she lets go of my shoulder and takes a step back. “C’mon. Let’s go get that read-through done. There’s a script in there with your name on it.”

I stand there, looking at her. “Is there going to be a roster handed out? Your brother suggested that a bunch of us could get together and run lines. I know we all gave you our info when we signed up.” It seems like one way of subtly getting her number and e-mail.

Her smile sparks impish, and my heart trips over itself in a syncopated beat. She steps forward and picks my phone from where it peeks out of my pocket. She carefully taps for several moments, then holds it out at arm’s length to take a picture of herself. She hands it back to me, showing her name, phone and e-mail woven in with her smiling image. She curls my hands around it. “There.” She blinks innocently, adding, “You can use the home number to reach Paul, too, of course. You should text me soon, so I’ve got your number, too.”

“Of course.”

She steps to the door, and looks back at me as she opens it. I can see James standing down the hall. He walks toward us, and that jars me into motion. I shove the phone back in my pocket and walk through the door that Pepper’s opened for me.


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You can buy If We Shadows as an ebook or a trade paperback directly from Harmony Ink Press. It is also available on Amazon and B&N.

When D.E. Atwood was in second grade, she finally grew tall enough to see the shelf above the mysteries in the bookmobile. She discovered a rich landscape of alternate worlds, magic, and space and has never looked back from the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

When she was twelve, she declared that she was going to be a writer and share the stories that she saw happening all around her. She wanted to create characters that others would care about and that would touch their lives, like the books that she read had touched her own life.

Today she has combined her interests, creating genre stories about the people who live next door, bringing magic into the world around us.

When not writing, D.E. Atwood is a mother (to two children, a cat, and a dog), a wife, a reader, a knitter, a systems administrator, almost a black belt in tae kwon do, and a music aficionado. Sleep, she claims, is optional.

Find the author online via Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, Tumblr, and her blog. Please feel free to email her at deatwood.writes@gmail.com; she loves to talk

How Do You Measure Success?

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Ask this question to ten different people and you might very well get ten different answers.  Many may say success lies in the amount of money you make, while others will say it’s reaching your goals. Sometimes, it’s just not so easy a question to answer.

Is success selling a certain amount of books? I recently came across a quote that said: “The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime”.  I’m not sure how true it is or where it came from, but if I used that to measure success, I have no doubt I’d be considered successful by year’s end.

Is it in the money you make?  Considering most authors I know work another job in conjunction with writing, I don’t think most of us are in it for the money.  Not to say that wouldn’t be nice, but I think most of us aren’t expecting to be able to live off our book royalties.

If your book gets picked up for movie, does that mean you’re a success? Probably! Hah except that they typical have to change the story to fit the different medium, so it doesn’t always end up as powerful as your writing, but I would definitely rank it up there high on the success ladder.

I think, for me, success lies in the reviews, both good and bad.  I think writing something that moves the reader enough to want to review it means your writing has touched them in some way.  Of course the good reviews make you feel better about your writing and it’s lovely to see people enjoying your story, feeling for your characters, etc. but I’ll take the bad as well and use it to better myself and my writing.

How do you measure your own success?

Help is available…

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In Heavyweight, Ian and his friends deal with a lot of issues: eating disorders, bullying,prejudice and the stress that comes along with school life.  Sadly, these are issues that many teens are dealing with these days. They aren’t to be taken lightly as these kinds of issues  can lead to hospitalization, depression and even possibly suicide.

Having the internet at one’s fingertips can assist someone in finding the help or support to get through these situations.  The Web allows for an anonymity that can help a teen or young adult feel more comfortable opening up and seeking assistant for their problems.

Here are some some websites and phone numbers that offer support:

Eating Disorders

  • Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention 1-800-931-2237
  • Eating Disorders Center 1-888-236-1188
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 1-847-831-3438
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Eating Disorders  630-577-1330, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday http://www.anad.org
  • Thursday’s Child National Youth Advocacy Hotline 800-USA-KIDS (800-872-5437) Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week http://www.thursdayschild.org

Bullying

Depression 

  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  • National Hopeline Network 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE) http://www.hopeline.com/
  • The Trevor Project , 866-488-7386 (24/7) Live Chat  with the Trevor Project (Fridays 4pm- 5pm EST)
  • Crisis Call Center 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
    Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week http://crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices.html

Stress and Anxiety

  • National Institute of Mental Health Information Center 866-615-6464
    8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
  • National Mental Health Association Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255)
    Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week http://www.nmha.org

LGBT Support

These are just a few of the many options out there.  Individual states also seem to have their own sites dedicated to school violence and bullying.

If you’re a parent, consider printing the list and hanging it somewhere your teen will see.  It could help them knowing the information is readily available and to know that you understand they may be going through difficult times.

If you’re a teen who is in over their heads, needs help but feel they have no where to turn, who is worried for a friend or wants to do something to help those suffering from any of these issues, do your research, join a forum, make a call or send an email.  You are not alone and there are others who understand what you’re going through and there is help out there.  Love yourself and know that you’re important and worthwhile.

And so it begins…

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Firstly, thanks to everyone who helped make Heavyweight‘s release so successful! Whether you shared a link, liked a post, re-tweeted a tweet or purchased the book, every little bit helps and I’m extremely grateful to you all!  If you did purchase a book (thank you!) please consider leaving a review when you’ve finished it.  I’d love to know what you thought of it, but also, it’s helpful for prospective buyers to see if other readers enjoyed it.

Secondly, I just want to put out there, that if you’re interested in reading my book but don’t have the money to spend on it (trust me, I know how that goes) go to your local library and speak with the librarian to see if they can get it.  My publisher, Harmony Ink Press, is very interested in getting their books into libraries so please, don’t hesitate to ask!

The reason I bring it up is because while Googling myself and the book title (like you guys don’t do it! Hah), I found a request for the book on a pirate site. The book hasn’t even been out for a week yet and already someone is trying  to get (and got!) a free copy.  The person asking was from Venezuela,so perhaps they couldn’t purchase it there, but it’s still hard to see, especially when the e-book version is so affordable.  I hope, at least, that person will review it somewhere.

On one hand, it’s a compliment that they were interested enough in reading it to try and hunt down a copy, but on the other hand unless an author is named Stephen King or JK Rowling, they are not typically making very much money.  Every sale counts and a lot of people put time and effort into the production of the book, not just the author, so please keep that in mind if you’re considering hunting for a freebie.

What are your thoughts on pirate sites and would you be forgiving if everyone who got a freebie gave you a review?

2014 Writing Goals

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It’s that time of year where people are thinking about the new year and making resolutions. For some reason, I don’t like the word resolution. I feel like resolutions are strict, that if you veer off the path once during the year, then you’ve failed. A resolution is an absolute. Goals, on the other hand, are something to strive for. You make a plan and work towards it. To me, that means there are a variety of paths you can take to reach your goals, so if something isn’t working, you can change it and still make it to the finish line. Because of this, I’m going to list my writing goals for the new year, rather than make a writing resolution, because life is crazy and gets in the way sometimes and I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed if I didn’t get to the end the way I “resolved” to.

So here goes, my goals for 2014:

1) Make more time to write. Between a new job and a new man, life has gotten busy, especially over the holidays. I feel like my time to write has dwindled and I still have projects to finish and ideas brewing!

2) Work on promo.  With Heavyweight coming out on January 23rd, I’ve got to get back to my Twitter-ing and other self promo things. I’ve started by looking into ideas like using Notegraphy and Instagram to hit a new audience.  It looks like it’s generating some interest, but who knows if it will translate into sales. Only time will tell!

3) Finish at least one outstanding project.  I have to admit, I have several unfinished projects that need finishing. Staying Alive, the sequel to Near Death is so close to being done. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to wrap it up this year. Maybe in the coming year, or maybe the last story in the Errand Girl of the Undead series.  I’ve got options!

4) Read outside my comfort zone.  While I find it very important to read within your genre so you know what’s out there and what the trends are, I find I haven’t been expanding my horizons with new things, so I’m going to look to pick up and get through some books I wouldn’t normally gravitate to. I think I may be pleasantly surprised!

5) Get more involved.  This kind of goes hand in hand with working on promo, to get more involved with other authors, whether it’s in my writing group, participating in blog hops and contests,  doing more cover reveals and reviews for folks.  I feel like I had a bigger support system and because I got busy, some of those connections slipped through my fingers.

 

What are your writing goals for the New Year?