Everything That Counts

Soundtrack to ‘Everything That Counts’

Some of you might not know this, but I spend a lot of time coming up for a playlist for each novel.  It could have been the beat, the title, lyrics, or just the way the song made me feel as I was writing ‘Everything That Counts’.

Granted some of them might not be my taste, but as a writer you have no control what’s going on in your head, nor what your characters like to listen to at a party. On the other hand I did majorly fall in love with Rivers Cuomo and Weezer.  At this point I’ve listened to so much of their music for such an extended amount of time that I know all the lyrics to pretty much every song (well from before 2005).  Needless to say I owe a huge thank you to Weezer who really helped shape Blake, when I first started writing him I couldn’t connect with him until I found a band that really encapsulated him.  I thought, ‘What would a geek listen to?’ and I thought of Weezer first.  After listening to their songs I noticed that their album ‘Make Believe’ really worked well with my story, and fatefully enough it was released in time to make sense for my novel which is set in 2004-2005.  It’s almost as if they wanted to be included in Blake’s story…

Many of the songs are now eternally linked to a specific scene in the book i.e. whenever I hear ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis I think of a specific party that Blake attended.  Ironically a pivotal point of the novel.  Those songs are denoted with a (+).

Some songs are mentioned by a character, or referenced in the prose.  Those songs are italicized.  A few have a location real or ficitous- the geography is in (parenthesis like this).

I highly recommend you check out all the music that influenced ‘Everything That Counts’ which will be released in August, 2017.  Stay tuned for more details.

 

‘Everything That Counts’ from award-winning author Melissa Algood

I’d been treating life like a chess game, forgetting to live in the moment when I had a chance. I had to change all that.

Blake Morgan is the biggest geek in all the graduating class of 2004, possibly in all of Annapolis, maybe even the entire world.
He decides that talking to a girl, doing something unexpected, getting something other than an A+, and do something brave during his senior year will make him into a whole other person. Maybe even cool.
Yet each time he checks something off the list he hurts the few people who love him just the way he is. A loser.
Is he able to repair the damage? Is changing who you are worth it? Can Blake be an astrophysicist and have a supermodel as a girlfriend?
He’s stupid enough to wreck his life, but is he smart enough to put it back together?

 

 

And now for the official playlist for  ‘Everything That Counts’

 

Chapter 1-August 2003

  •    Imitation of Life by R.E.M +
  •   Caring is Creepy by The Shins
  •    Green Grass of Tunnel by mum + (Magothy River)
  •   For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)[Remastered] by Pete Yorn
  •   Cause = Time by Broken Social Scene
  •   What You Waiting For? By Gwen Stefani
  •    The Way We Get By by Spoon
  •    Strict Machine by Goldfarp +
  •    Somewhere Only We Know by Keane + (a white oak in front of Blake’s house)

Chapter 2-September 2003

  •  Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet +
  •  Think I’m Paranoid by Garbage
  • Black Rooster by The Kills (Cape St. Claire High School)
  • We’re Going To Be Friends by The White Stripes+
  • Buddy Holly by Weezer +
  • Doin’ the Cockroach by Modest Mouse
  • Undone (The Sweater Song) by Weezer
  • Can’t Hold Us Down (feat. Lil’ Kim) by Christina Aguilera (Annapolis Mall
  • In Da Wind by Trick Daddy (Cape St. Claire High School)

Chapter 3- October 2003

  • A Lack of Color by Death Cab for Cutie
  • If You Find Yourself Caught In Love by Belle and Sebastian
  • Here I Dreamt I was an Architect by The Decemberists
  • Do You Realize?? By The Flaming Lips
  • The Scientist (Live) by Aimee Mann +
  • Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead +
  • Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz (St. Margrets)
  • Upward Over the Mountain by Iron & Wine +

 

Chapter 4-November 2003

  • Roses by Outkast
  • Stronger by Britney Spears + (Zoe’s favorite song)
  • 12:51 by The Strokes

 

Chapter 5-December 2003

  • Photobooth by Death Cab for Cutie +
  • Stay Together for The Kids by Blink-182
  • Hate It Here by Wilco +
  • Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty & The Heatbreakers (Ego Alley)
  • A Perfect Sonnet by Bright Eyes + (Magothy River)
  • Swan Lake composed by Tchaikovsky
  • Pyramid Song by Radiohead
  • Radio Number 1 by Air
  • Mad World (feat. Gary Jules) by Michael Andrews +

 

Chapter 6- January 2004

  • Gretchen Ross by Michael Andrews + (Sophie)
  • #1 Crush by Garbage+
  • The Sweat Descends by Les Savy Fav
  • You Were Meant for Me by Jewel
  • Poupée de cire, poupée de son by France Gall (Lily)

 

Chapter 7- February 2004

  • Weak and Powerless by A Perfect Circle
  • Dark Moon, High Tide by Afro Celt Sound System
  • Hey Jupiter by Tori Amos +
  • 2 + 2 = 5 by Radiohead
  • Teenage FBI by Guided By Voices

 

Chapter 8-March 2004

  • Come On Let’s Go by Broadcast +
  • Step to My Girl by Souls of Mischief
  • Change Your Mind by The Killers
  • Milkshake by Kelis +
  • Hate to Say I Told You So by The Hives
  • Porcelain by Moby
  • Save Me by Aimee Man (Sophie’s favorite song)
  • Get Over It by Ok Go

 

Chapter 9-April 2004

  • D.I.D.A.S. by Killer Mike & Big Boi
  • Star Guitar by The Chemical Brothers
  • The Way You Move (feat. Sleep Brown)[Club Mix] by Outkast
  • The Power Is On by The Go! Team
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 by The Flaming Lips
  • She’s Got Issues by The Offspring
  • Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney +
  • No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Lost Cause by Beck +
  • Just Because by Jane’s Addiction
  • Superstar by Sonic Youth

 

Chapter 10-May 2004

  • Can’t Get Used to Losing You by Andy Williams +
  • My Boo by Usher & Alicia Keys + (Downtown Annapolis)
  • Till Kingdom Come by Coldplay
  • We’re Going To Be Friends by The White Stripes
  • If She Wants Me by Belle and Sebastian
  • Creep by Radiohead
  • Only In Dreams by Weezer +
  • Crystal by New Order
  • Pictures of You by The Cure
  • Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams
  • In the Backseat by Arcade Fire
  • Beverly Hills by Weezer
  • Clocks by Coldplay
  • Simple Things, Pt. 2 by Dirty Vegas
  • Perfect Situation by Weezer
  • My Best Friend by Weezer
  • Falling Away from Me by Korn
  • Here Comes Your Man by Pixies
  • Pardon Me by Weezer
  • Wonderwall by Oasis

 

 

Chapter 11- June 2004

  • Something About Us by Daft Punk
  • The Damage In Your Heart by Weezer
  • Center of the Universe by Built to Spill
  • Uptight (Everything’s Alright) by Stevie Wonder
  • Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse
  • Haunt You Every Day by Weezer
  • Cherry Blossom Girl by Air
  • Everything Hits At Once by Spoon
  • Golden by My Morning Jacket
  • Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Such Great Heights by The Postal Service

Chapter 12-July 2004

  • Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (Blake’s House)
  • Just Like Heaven
  • Kissing the Lipless by The Shins

Chapter 13-August 2004

  • Susanne (Single Version) by Weezer
  • Hard to Explain by The Strokes
  • Cybele’s Reverie by Sterolab +
  • Fade Into You by Mazzy Star +
  • Sunrise by Pulp
  • (Girl We Got A) Good Thing by Weezer +*

 

 

 

Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

When setting ‘takes over’

IMG_1587My debut YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’ will be released this August.  It’s been a difficult but highly rewarding journey, but I know that the best is still yet to come.

Last September I visited my parents in Annapolis, Maryland and was reminded of the beauty that is the city.  I attended high school there thus found it a natural place to set Blake’s story.  I found myself weaving a detailed tapestry of background when it came to the Maryland that Blake resides.  Hopefully when you read the novel you’ll also be transported to a place you might never would have envisioned would be beautifully mesmerizing, yet it is.

Until August I decided to share with you some pictures I took last September while in downtown Annapolis and Eastport.

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I’ll keep you updated on the novel and share the cover of ‘Everything That Counts’

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soon.

novel, pictures, Signing Events

Comicpalooza Part 1

As usual I had the best time at Comicpalooza, and not just because I met Felicia Day (that will be another blog post all together) but because I got to see old friends, dress up, and meet new readers.

I love meeting readers and I hope that they love reading my work as much as I loved creating it-be sure to leave a review on Amazon, and THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for supporting local/indie authors.

I also had the pleasure of picking up some reading material for myself including D.L. Young’s newest book ‘Indigo Dark Republic Book Two’  ‘Chrysalis and Clan’ by Jae Mazer (who I had the pleasure of sharing a table along with Chantell Renee and Jessica Raney) and ‘Soul Chambers’ by Paul Vader and Dominic Dames.

IMG_0969IMG_0947It was the most wonderful time of the year when I had the chance to go to Comicpalooza-I look forward to seeing you next year (I’m going to join a panel which I’ll talk more about later) until then here are some more pics of the amazing cosplay at Houston Comicpalooza 2017

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novel, pictures, Signing Events

Where I’ll be, and what to do until then.

First off I’m very happy to announce that I along with a few dear author friends will have a booth at Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas from May 12-17, 2017.  I would love for all of you to attend as I’ll have copies of my work that you can check out and even get me to sign it.

I always have a great time at Comicpalooza where I can meet up with friends, other authors, and fans all while were dressed as their ‘alter-ego’.  Speaking of which I will be meeting Felicia Day (Charlie from Supernatural) so if you see me on Saturday I will be cosplaying as her!

I really hope to see you there!

 

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Next I’m happy to announce that a fellow award winning author/horror fan Kreepy Keelay narrated my story ‘Hair Dying’.  He did a phenomenal job (it’s almost as if he crawled into my head…) and I implore you to listen to a story that is far more horrifying than brassy highlights-click here for Scary Story Time ‘Hair Dying’.

 

Finally I’d like to tell you how much I throughly enjoyed the novel ’13 Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher, so much in fact that I was worried the story would be ruined when brought to the small screen.  I was wrong-although the story is different, the show brought to you by Netflix has more characters, it holds true the theme that Asher wanted the audience to understand once they were done with Hannah and Clay’s life.

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I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times Bestselling author Jay Asher when he spoke at the HWG Spring Conference-he even signed my copy of his books.  I throughly enjoyed ’13 Reasons Why’ and think that everyone should read it (not just Madame Bijou who’s pictured with the novel).  Asher’s work along with ‘All The Rage’ by Courtney Summers should be mandatory reading especially for young adults.

So after you listen to the narration of my story ‘Hair Dying’, but before you see me at Comicpalooza be sure to read then watch ’13 Reasons Why’-it’s a story that deserves to stick with you forever.

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Contests, Flash Fiction, pictures, Signing Events

We can’t do it alone (women writers unite)

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As Women’s History Month is upon us I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve helped me through my writing career.

I’ll highlight some of them, but this by no means includes all of the powerful women that I’ve come across since I’ve joined the writing community.  They know who they are, even if I do carelessly forget to mention them, they will forever be a part of my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for you.

I’ll begin with ‘the dream team’ as we often call ourselves which includes Andrea BarbosaChantell Renee, and myself.  We’re all award winning authors, and have sometimes placed in the same contest thus giving us another opportunity to be together.  Throughout the years we’ve worked on anthologies together including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ that Chantell and I published together.

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Next of course would be Fern Brady who’s not only my publisher Inklings Publishing, sometime writing partner, but a dear friend.  Without her my debut romantic thriller Blood On The Potomac wouldn’t exist.  She helped shape me into the writer that has a fan page.

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Next is the amazingly talented Patricia Flaherty Pagan who founded Spider Road Press which has published work from all the before mentioned authors.  She’s a fantastic author in her own right, highly intelligent, and a highly dedicated mom.  Patty is not just a strong female writer, she’s a life goal achiever.

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Finally I’d like to highlight, Rebecca Nolan, an author I was a fan of before we worked together on my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’.  She’s been an amazing mentor to me and has given me the drive to work harder than I ever have before.

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Thank you to all the female authors I know and love including Gay YellenPamela Fagan HutchinsCourtney Summers, and Taylor Stevens (only two of which I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting.

Women everywhere need to stand together-that’s the only way we’ll make it in the end-if we support each other.  Let’s work on making this world better for the women of the future.

Don’t miss a chance to read these amazing women’s work-simply click on their name to check out some stories that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

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20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with Judy Penz Sheluk

Most of the time I’m jaded, at the very least internally jaded (thank God for kitten videos).  I feel as if we life in a society in which we don’t look out for each other.  Women specifically.  Thankfully this woman proves me wrong.

Judy Penz Sheluk has a weekly blog on Monday’s in which she spotlights a new or emerging author’s release.  She also has ‘author talks’ in which our peers share their experiences in the hopes that we’ll learn from them.

If you’re looking for a mystery look no further than one of the many titles from Judy Penz Sheluk including ‘The Hanged Man’s Noose’ which made her an International Amazon Best Selling Author.

 

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And now Judy Pens Sheluk answers my 20 Questions…

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

There are two: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read it when I was very young (about grade 4…resulted in me getting “accelerated to grade 6—thankfully schools don’t do that any longer) and thought…WOW, that’s how you paint a picture with words. Around the same time, I read the much-more age appropriate Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series). Emily was an aspiring journalist/writer in a time when women didn’t think of such things.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I’ve always written “in my head,” meaning as a kid I would walk to school and keep a story going in my head, and just keep adding to it every day. I thought everyone did that! Professionally, since 2003, which is when I left my day job as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator to become a freelance journalist. I started writing my first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve 2011, but I’d had a hundred or more magazine articles and a handful of short stories published by then.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

John Sandford, the absolute king of pacing. Stephen King, because, well…he’s Stephen King! Sue Grafton: I love her Kinsey Millhone series and have read every novel, A to X, plus her collection of short stories. Tana French, an Irish mystery writer who is just brilliant. I thought about inviting Truman Capote, but he’d get all sulky if it wasn’t all about him, and it couldn’t be, could it? Not with that cast of writers.

 

  1. What would you eat?

Pizza. My favorite food. It’s good for breakfast (cold), lunch or dinner. And everyone can get whatever toppings they’d want. I’d go straight cheese, no toppings.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Plot out? What’s that? Seriously…I’m a complete panster. I come up with a basic premise, and then “what if” my way to the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Mornings are best, but I do jot down notes on paper in the evening or whenever the ideas come to me (I even have an LED pen that lights up so I don’t have to turn the bedside lamp on…). But, I still have a couple of editing day jobs, so sometimes the deadlines for those take precedence over my writing preferred time. But I do try to write every day.

  1. Is there music on?

If I’m writing the answers to this, yes. Either Country or Classic Rock or 80’s/90’s type “oldies” depending on my mood. But if I’m writing fiction, it has to be talk radio. Maybe it’s a holdover from when I worked in a noisy office and snuck writing time in whenever I could without getting caught!

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I was in my lawyer’s office with my husband. We were there to update our wills, and he’d been delayed in court. I thought…what if I was hear to inherit …what if there were conditions to that inheritance…what if…and Skeletons was born.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Need any more titles???? I have lots of book envy!

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

TV

American Crime, a network series, is very clever, though I preferred Season 1 to Season 2.

Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul. What can I say? Vince Gilligan. Can I invite him for pizza too? Please?

The Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen every episode a dozen times. Love Lauren Graham.

Parenthood. Never got the recognition it deserved. Did I mention that I love Lauren Graham? But the entire ensemble cast was terrific, and the writing was beautifully layered.

Movies

Too many to mention, though I recently saw Brooklyn and really enjoyed it. My all-time favorite is Primal Fear. Brilliant.

Albums

Anything by Blue Rodeo or Jim Cuddy. Listen to the words to Bulletproof. Listen to Cuddy (who is also the lead singer in Blue Rodeo) and tell me you didn’t shed a tear.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Whatever actor Hollywood says would be a good fit works for me! But when I think of Callie Barnstable from Skeletons, I think of someone like Jennifer Lawrence. Strong, but with a mix of naïve and jaded. Alexis Bledel would make a great Emily Garland (from The Hanged Man’s Noose).

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I find short stories incredibly difficult to write. You’d think they’d be easier than a novel, but not for me. I started “Saturday with Bronwyn,” which is in The Whole She-Bang-3 (Sisters in Crime Toronto, Nov. 2016), about five years ago. After many stops and starts, I finally got it to gel. The fact that She-Bang was blind judged gave me hope…maybe some of my other stops and starts have a chance, too.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

Another short story, “Live Free or Die.” It was “inspired” by an event (or should I say a man) that happened to me when I was 21. When I finally sat down to write that story, the words just flowed.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’m hoping they get all of my stories…I actually don’t hear from a lot of readers. But Skeletons in the Attic seems to really resonate with folks. That said, some wish the ending were “tidier.” I deliberately left loose ends, not because I wanted to leave them for a sequel, but because life has loose ends.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

The sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose. The sequel to Skeletons in the Attic. A short story…I’m usually working on more than one thing at a time. That way, if I get distracted or bored, I have another project to go to. It beats color-separating my paper clips or other diversionary tactics.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

My mom died recently, and in her belongings were her and my father’s immigration papers from Nottingham, England to Canada. They came separately, arrived at different ports (Halifax and Quebec City), and married in Toronto. I want to write their love story. I’m not a romance writer, but I feel that Anneliese and Anton have a story to tell. I wish my mom had told me more…my dad died of cancer when I was quite young…but maybe it’s better this way.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I met a couple of women at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh. They had met Louise Penny when she was starting out. They told me they thought I’d be the next Louise Penny. A girl can dream…

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Authenticity matters. (Arabella Carpenter, The Hanged Man’s Noose)

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Every character has elements of people I have known and/or observed, but there are always detours along the way. I’m a people-watcher…if you have a habit of pulling your earlobe when you’re nervous, that might get folded into a story one day. If you take the meringue off your lemon meringue pie and eat it last, that might make it in. I’m always looking for believable quirks.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Arabella Carpenter. She’s the sidekick in Noose, and has a small role in Skeletons. She’s the protagonist in the sequel to Noose that I’m working on now. She’s feisty, flawed, passionate, and loves cognac, chardonnay and cookies. She’s probably the most like me of any of my characters. But I also really like Callie Barnstable in Skeletons. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on her blog http://www.judypenzsheluk.com and purchase her work from all the usual suspects, including Amazon: http://getbook.at/SkeletonsintheAttic. You can also find Judy on Facebook (https/www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk) and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk).

 

 

 

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An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 

 

 

20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with D. Marie Prokop

I do know a lot of authors, but this girl is one of my favorites.  I not only love her work, but like me she plays the guitar (although she is much more proficient and plays a myriad of instruments (and writes her own music)) and knits.

Basically I couldn’t wait for her to answer my 20 Questions.  You’ve seen pictures of her before on my blog not only because we’ve been to many of the same writing events supporting our peers, but we shared a booth at Amazing Comic Con.

She’s an amazing mother, writer, musician, friend, and has some great hair that I’ve had the pleasure of coloring before.  I hope that you enjoy her answers to my 20 Questions, check out her blog, and purchase one of her titles on Amazon including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ in which two of her pieces are included.

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Twenty Questions With…D. Marie Prokop

1.  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Um…mine? Seriously, I’ve read a lot of books. While I’ve loved many of them, none of them made me want to write a book. The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped me discover my love for writing. The experience of writing my first story, The Red String, during NaNoWriMo in 2011, made me want to be a writer. I’m hooked now.

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I kept a journal for years, and I started writing poems and songs in college. I jumped in headfirst and wrote my first novel in my late thirties. Now I’ve added short stories and flash fiction.

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Just four??? Okay, how about just women? Agatha Christie, Madeleine L’Engle, J. K. Rowling, and Pearl S. Buck

  1. What would you eat?

Eat? Yeah, right! I wouldn’t waste a minute talking with these authors. But if you would like to know my favorite foods, I’ll tell you. I have a weakness for Asian food (especially Korean and Indian), bubble tea, French fries, and cake.

Mmm…now I want cake.

  1. How do you plot out your work?

I write my ideas, sometimes attempting to put them in order, and then all heck breaks loose. I have a lot of epiphanies, which include such profundities as, “Crap, these two characters’ names rhyme!” I do write outlines, but they’re fluid. My inspiration and research documents are more important. As a story progresses, I revise my plot outlines and keep a record of character traits. At the very least, my outlines become reference guides.

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Morning and afternoon. I save evenings and weekends for my real life.

  1. Is there music on?

No. I can write with music on, but it’s super distracting. Besides, I talk to myself. And I read aloud a lot. It’s pretty noisy with just me!

8. What inspired your last story?

I like challenges and goals. I found a YA short-story contest seeking fantasy stories—real fantasy, like with elves and dwarves—which I hadn’t tried yet, so I did. I created a story called The Spell Dragon. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kind of morality tale. All I really intended to do was successfully write a fantasy story with magic, dwarves, and a dragon.

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Harry Potter Series, A Christmas Carol, and A Wrinkle In Time

I’ve read them more than twice.

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

This could take a while… I’ll limit it to four each.

Television: Avatar—The Last Airbender, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who

Movies: Slingblade, Sixth Sense, Life Is Beautiful, The Princess Bride.

Albums: (This is the hardest one to keep short! I listen to a variety of music, and lyrical depth is very important to me as a songwriter and as a listener. Tastes and needs change, but these four albums will always remain in my top twenty.)

Over The Rhine- Meet Me At The Edge Of The World, Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell, The Essential Indigo Girls, Matisyahu- Light

I feature a different musical artist every Friday on my blog, Days of the Guardian. You can check out my eclectic taste there. If you want to hear my original music (and ukelele cover tunes), search for Diane Prokop on You Tube and Reverbnation.

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Hmmm…someone short? (Emerald is a teenaged dwarf.) How about Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things? She can wear a wig with yellow braids and eagle feathers.

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

It depends on your definition of “hard.” What’s hard for me are the choices.

For example, the last book of my Days of the Guardian Trilogy, The Red Knot, was the most difficult writing experience because ending a series presents many hard choices, even if you thought you already knew how it would end. It’s like going to buy groceries at the store. I’m from Pennsylvania and I always buy Heinz ketchup, but now there’s organic and spicy and original and whatever. Writing is an adventure of choices…like shopping for ketchup.

  1. Which was the easiest?

The beginning of writing Tigress, my new superhero short story, was like shopping for ketchup at a convenience store: there was only one bottle on the shelf. It was an easy write. Then I had an epiphany and the story presented me with harder choices. I went big-box-store-ketchup-shopping for the second half of the story.

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Folks who’ve read On The Outward Appearance seem to vibe with the main character and embrace the theme. Anne is snarky and confronted by her own cynicism. It’s a bit hard to watch. I’m always surprised when people say they enjoyed it. Compassion and acceptance are the themes. Everyone wants those, right?

  1. What are you working on now?

This. These 20 questions are kicking my butt!

When I’m not filtering lists of best albums for Mel’s blog as if the world depended on it, I’m working on a co-writing project with my older brother, who’s slightly autistic. He’s the brains and I’m the heart. It’s an epic sci-fi space adventure which may take years.

I found two fabulous critique groups to commiserate with. And I’m writing more short stories and flash pieces and submitting them to sharpen my skills and learn how to handle rejection. After a recent hurtful experience with an editor, I needed to set aside a story I loved, a socially introspective novella all my beta-readers enjoyed. But one bad experience can overshadow all the good and it was tainted.

I have a goal to publish one novel each year. I have until December 31, 2017, so I hope I can resume working on the beloved novella soon. I guess you could say that the biggest thing I’m working on now is healing.

On a side note, I’m also planning to record an album of original songs inspired by poetry and art so I can mesh my worlds together.

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

What an existential question! Which amazing story do I have to finish in order for my life to have meaning? Well, here’s the thing: I wrote a book. Then I wrote five more. I started them and I finished them. And I shared them with the world. I’m not still thinking about it or dreaming about it; I did it. It was fun and difficult, illuminating and painful. They’re me. So I suppose I could die happy right now. I’m kinda surprised I’m still alive anyway. I guess I’ll just keep writing!

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I have a cool fan story, but it’s about a music fan. I don’t have a stranger/cooler/funnier author fan story yet.

One night I played a set of original songs on the electric guitar at an intimate coffeehouse show in a church, sporting a brand new shoulder tattoo. I confess; I rocked out. The first person/fan to approach me and rave over my performance was an 85-year-old grandmother. (Not mine.) She was awesome. Best fan ever.

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

 

I’m going to share a poem from my first book, The Red String. This is me.

The days are dark, the ocean surrounds

My fate is unseen, my fate is not ground

For God orders all, I am just a mist

Hovering still, waiting for bliss

The dark hides me well, my heart longs for light

I live by this creed- it is all for the bright!

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Not completely. I may pull some characteristics from real life folks, but I don’t use everything. A character in my story, Going Home, (from the anthology Hair Raising Tales of Horror), Pop, shares some characteristics with my dad. Both are former boxing champions, widowers, smokers, live in small-town Pa., and are quiet until they’re pushed too far. But Pops is a farmer with a yappy dog and a dark, mysterious side and my dad is a retired engineer, a gentle soul who spends his evenings studying the Bible in his armchair. I probably shouldn’t tell him he inspired a character in a horror story! But since people seem to find Pop intriguing, maybe he’ll forgive me.

*There’s been one exception to my rule! But I asked permission to use this real life person in a story and I was prepared to change things about the character if necessary.

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

From my books—

The Guardian (Days of the Guardian) I can’t say why without spoiling the story! But this character was the most rewarding (and challenging) to write.

From another author—

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

She’s deep and overcomes, but not without lots of introspection and honest pain. I admire this character’s personal integrity and spiritual grit.

Samwise Gamgee (J.R.R. Tolkein)

He’s the unsung hero of Lord of the Rings. His commendable character traits and sincerity make Sam a great fictional person to emulate in real life.

D. Marie Prokop enjoys writing and reading stories with riveting adventures, spiritual insights, and enlightening cultural or social critiques. Her favorite authors include Madeline L’Engle, Pearl S. Buck, and C. S. Lewis.
The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped D. Marie discover her love for writing fiction. A member of WriteSpace Houston and the Houston Writer’s Guild, D. Marie gains both education and comradery from her local writing community. She’s written and published YA science fiction/adventure, YA fantasy, and middle-grade fiction.
Marie is also a singer-songwriter and avid fiber artist/knitter. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the former Yankee now resides in Houston, Texas, along with her loving family, their feisty cats, a beloved ukulele, and much, much yarn.

You can find out more about the author

My Author Page on Amazon-
My Goodreads Author Dashboard- 
My Blog Address-
My Author Email-
My Twitter Address-
 My Days of the Guardian Book Trailer-
Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

A treat from ‘The Bakery Assistant’

A few days ago a friend came into the salon (I’m a hairstylist in ‘real’ life) and we were both discussing our works in progress.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the latest undertaking ‘Wintergull Lane‘ which I’ve been pecking away at for NaNoWritMo (you can check out my progress here).  But she reminded me of another piece which I call my albatross.  ‘The Bakery Assistant’ is the story of the tragically broken Claire Fischer who is doomed to be a perpetual teenager until she meets someone that shows her that living life is worth it.  That’s the elevator pitch, but in actuality I’m projecting there to be a book two, ‘The Fighter’, which will conclude Claire Fischer’s story as far as I can tell…

Either way now that I’m doing the finishing touches for ‘Everything That Counts’ (take a peek at the novel here) so ‘The Bakery Assistant‘ will be on deck.  Until then here’s a morsel from chapter two of

 

        After I pulled the fresh loaves and rolls from the ovens, and passed them off to the day shift, we trekked three blocks to a corner diner that had been a destination appreciated by locals who loved ‘kitsch’. The waitress set a glossy menu in front of me, and Aaron. The booth only had room for two, but apparently not for two people that each hovered around six feet tall. As we situated ourselves like acrobats in the booth his knee hit mine.

“Sorry,” Aaron mumbled.

“It’s okay.”

His lone dimple winked at me. “Are you blushing?”

“No!”

He chuckled. “Well if you weren’t before then you are now.”

I concentrated on the paisley pattern on the bench Aaron sat on in the hopes it would cause the blood to evacuate from my cheeks.

“I’m starving,” he flipped open the picture laden menu.

“I thought it was just coffee.”

“You don’t mind do you? I’ll pay for you if you want.”

I shook my head and pressed my hands into my lap. “I’d prefer to pay for myself.”

“Okay.” His curly black hair, strong Roman God-like features including a jaw carved from marble, and delicious looking lips hid behind the menu again. I tilted my head down, reading the options, but continued to hold my posture as if I were attending a luncheon for beauty queens.   Before I could get past the first page of artery clogging items, Aaron sighed, and set his menu back down. “So what do I have to do to take you out on a real date, Claire?”

Apparently I didn’t need to eat anything before my heart stopped pumping blood.

“I’m serious.” He leaned back into the booth upholstered in retro paisley fabrics. The dozen booths were either bright orange, or avocado green, and each had a jukebox that you could feed and hear your song of choice. He’d picked ‘I Fall to Pieces’ the second we sat down, but it had only begun to play now. It made me wonder how long he’d planned this dinner.

“Should I get formal stationery, and mail you my official wish to take you on a date?” He took off his flannel lined, corduroy jacket, squeezed it between him and the rust colored wall the booth bench was anchored to. Then he folded his hands together underneath his chin.

Instead of answering I stared at the edge of a rosebush tattooed from mid-forearm to above the elbow. I couldn’t see his shoulder through his t-shirt, but I assumed it was decorated in the same pattern of permanent ink. Each red petal was outlined in black, while each individual rose was the size of the coffee cup in front of me that the waitress filled before she hurried to the next table. I knew there had to be a story behind the blossoming flowers bound together with dark green vines and thorns that adorned his perfectly tanned olive skin, but it didn’t feel right to ask. He dressed like a hipster with dark jeans, a gray shirt with the word ‘RIOT’ printed in bold black along his chest. A knit beanie that matched the ebony color of his hair so perfectly it was hard to tell where the material began and his curls ended.

Aaron tilted his head to the side. “Maybe you could give me your father’s number and I can ask him?”

“That would be difficult.” I hadn’t realized I’d spoken until the words had already escaped my mouth.

He leaned forward, and furrowed his brow. “Why?”

I don’t know why I told him the truth, considering only Edie and Mario knew exactly what happened. For the remainder of the meal it was as if I watched us interact from above, or in a movie. But there wasn’t an actress willing to play the most boring woman in D.C., and Dylan O’Brien refused to take the part of her love interest because he was too homely to impersonate Aaron. Thankfully I didn’t go into explicit detail during my out of body experience when I confessed.

“My father’s dead.”

 

From ‘The Bakery Assistant’ by Melissa Algood 

pictures, short stories

‘The End’-short story

Yesterday at the salon I had the pleasure of meeting a middle school English teacher.  She told me that she spent most of her time reading books that were written for her students age group, but she found it difficult to find something that would enthrall them, yet every parent would find appropriate for their children.

I told her about my first YA short story, which coincidentally was my first take on sci-fi. I did remove a curse word, and a line about hookers before I sent it to her, but you can read the unaltered story in the anthology Eclectically Vegas, Baby from Inklings Publishing which you can find along with my other works here.

The email to the teacher, with some amazing blonde highlights, was just sent out.  But, if you don’t happen to be in her class you can read my story below.

 

 

The End

By Melissa Algood

I was ten when most of the human race was wiped from the planet. For a while it was just Dad and me. Then winter came, and never went away. We shared the last can of beef stew on my eleventh birthday, then left the southern shores of Washington.

Forever.

The frozen rain pounded our frail bodies, until we found an abandoned rust covered 2020 Chevy on the feeder of the highway. Dad said it would be good luck since it was made the same year I was born. He had me watch as he pulled some wires from under the steering wheel, twisted the red and yellow wires, and the truck started to roar. Dad smiled at me and headed south.   My voice turned into a howl as it was ravaged by the wind. Our powerful enemy, sleet, poured in through the window Dad broke.

“How much farther?”

Dad turned to me. Ice coated his auburn beard. “We’re heading to Mexico.”

“Yeah, but how far is that?”

“Didn’t you learn that in school?”

I recalled school. My buddies and I would sit in the back of class shooting spit balls at the teacher and have pizza eating contests at lunch. I didn’t remember what potato chips tasted like, much less what a map of Mexico looked like before everyone died. “Maybe?”

“Well, we’re in Oregon. So…” His gloved hands gripped the steering wheel of the truck we’d stolen. Maybe it wasn’t really stealing, since the owner had died. Dad cast his dark irises on the lonely road ahead of us. It was a look I’d never seen until it was only the two of us. I didn’t have a word to define his expression. The endless search for a way to describe the sadness in his eyes made me wish I’d paid more attention in language arts class.

A few weeks after the Chevy ran out of gas and we couldn’t find any more we started walking. According to Dad, we were atop Summer Lake when we met John who looked as haggard and worn as Dad’s cough. I couldn’t remember when Dad’s lungs started to expel a thick yellow substance with black dots intermingled with the phlem, but it had kept him from sleeping by the time we added to our family. As time went on I found out how important grown-ups jobs were before everything went away. John promised to get us across the mountains. After all he was a sports medicine major and avid rock climber. We should’ve made sure he meant both of us to Nevada alive.

Dad’s face had turned white as flour when we were halfway down. “How much longer, John?”

Our guide stopped and looked over his shoulder. “We’ll be there by nightfall, Hank.” His light eyes scanned Dad, “You need to take a break?”

“No. I can’t spend another night on this rock.”

John nodded and headed South East, but I held back with Dad. “You okay?”

“Don’t worry about me. It’ll all be over soon.”

The few beams of light that came from the sky were extinguished, and we still had a few more hours. “We gotta make camp,” John said.

“No, keep going.”

“But you can’t…”

Dad’s voice turned into a growl. “You have to keep going.” He turned to me. “Take this.” He unzipped his coat.

“No way, you need it.”

“No. I don’t.” He pulled what was once a bright yellow down coat over my own. “These too.” He opened up the knapsack that hung over his boney shoulder, and handed me three hardback novels that had been tied together with twine. They were all by George Orwell, my namesake. I could recall faintly my mother’s sing-song voice as she told me that only an English professor would name all his children after authors. I didn’t know what she meant. Maybe it’s because I never had the chance to read Ray Bradbury and Emily Brontë.

“Dad, you don’t have to…”

His index finger glided along the side of my face. It is still the coldest thing I’ve ever felt. A gust of wind filled the space between us and he clung to a rock on the side of the mountain. He buried his face in his hands. “George…”

“What?” I bent my knees so our faces were level. His empty eyes were glassy and half closed. “Dad?” I shook him by his shoulders. “Dad!” A thin line of red dripped from his nose.

“We need to go,” John said.

I shook my head. My brain shattered like glass. “We’ll go when he wakes up.”

John pulled me up by my arm, dark hair stuck to his forehead. “It’s what he wanted. You have to live, kid.”

Dad’s face was blue, or at least the color of the Pacific Ocean that I remembered as a kid. Maybe he could still hear me? I knew I’d never get to speak to him again, so I should take advantage of our last moments. I’d already said ‘goodbye’ to everyone I ever loved, I couldn’t do it again. My eyes were dry when I took the rope from my Dad’s hand. John unhooked him, and intertwined the rope with mine. John and I continued to repel down the mountain. We all knew it was the end.

John and I made it to Vegas three years later, shortly after I’d turned sixteen. At least, I thought I was sixteen. It had been impossible to gauge time since the sun had been blocked out by an endless haze all these years. Apparently Vegas used to be a pretty lively place. Now it was only the two of us.

John extended his left arm. His black leather-gloved hand pointed at a structure covered in snow, ice, and sludge. It had a square base and shot up into the gray sky like an arrow. “See that?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, not finding it entirely impressive.

He looked over at me and steam rushed out of his mouth with his words. “That’s as close as you’ll ever come to the Eiffel Tower.”

“What’s that?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “Seriously? You don’t know what that is, kid?”

“I was in the fourth grade…when it all…you know.”

More to the wind then to me, John said, “Forgot about that.”

“I didn’t get to graduate college like you.”

“Technically I was eighteen credits shy, but who’s counting anymore?”

“So, what was it anyway? The tower?”

“I don’t really know what it did, if anything, but that’s not even the real one. That’s a replica.”

I racked my limited vocabulary attempting to pinpoint the meaning of this new word. “What’s a replica?”

“It’s a copy of something. See the real Eiffel Tower is in Paris, but they built another one here. I guess it’s because only rich people come to Vegas or Paris.”

“Did you ever come here? Before?”

“When I was your age, with my parents, so I couldn’t have any fun.” He punched me in the arm which made me feel ten again. For a moment I was back with my friends, and I could feel the sun on my skin. “Maybe I was younger, I didn’t have a full beard like you, kid.”

I rubbed my own chin. My cotton gloves pulled on the coarse hairs that grew along my jaw. I wondered if it was the same color as my Dad’s. I had yet to find a mirror void of a thick film of ash and ice. It would be awkward to ask John. Besides Dad was pretty much dead already when they met, how could I ask him to compare us? “What do you mean you couldn’t have any fun?”

“It used to be a city built for adults, and all their vices.”

“Vices?”

He stopped in the middle of the road and rested his hands on my shoulders. “It’s like this, kid. We’re walking on something they called the strip. It had a bunch of casinos, and whatever else you wanted to help forget about the life you were living.”

My eyes crisscrossed the buildings blanketed in snow that had turned the same eerie color as the sky. They were so tall I didn’t know if we were still walking on the Earth, or if we were really dead, and walking in the atmosphere. My older sister once told me that hell was hot, but maybe she was wrong, and it was so cold that the blood in your body turned into icicles. If there was ever a time for escape, it was now. I would have given anything just to have another minute of life: belly full, showers in hot water, my parents kissing me goodnight. I couldn’t think of an instance when I would have chosen to avoid what I had, when all I could do now was hold on to the few memories left in my brain.

I’d do anything to see leaves rustling in the summer breeze above me. Instead I found myself surrounded by desolate gray, haunted by everything I’d never know, like love. All I’d ever know was death.

“Tell me what your girlfriend was like again.”

“Jessica….” He sighed and looked down at the ground before he turned his light eyes back to mine. “She was hilarious, and an amazing cook. She made like lasagna.” He licked his lips. “I promise you, right here, right now, I will find you a cute teenage girl if it’s the last thing I do.”

He’d made comments like this before. Yet in the years we’d traveled as a pair, we’d

never come across another soul. I’d lost hope that I’d never get another kiss from a girl like Jenna who snuck behind the gym with me. Her lips tasted better than strawberry ice cream and made my body feel like I was on a roller coaster. For some reason the lack of girls made me think of something my brother always said, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’ My gaze turned back to the buildings surrounding us. “Right now I’d be happy if I could get something to eat.”

John tilted his head to the nearest building with the least amount of ice covering the front. We each took the pick axes that hung from the sides of our packs and hammered the sheet of frozen water that encased our shelter. I don’t know if it took minutes, hours, or years; but I was exhausted once we broke through and hobbled inside.

The inside looked like every other building I’d broken into. Torn up. As I gazed about the still space I recalled when Mom would ask ‘Another tornado run through your room, George?’. I didn’t find it funny then- although it always made Dad laugh- I still didn’t. The only tornado I’d ever seen was the one in The Wizard of Oz. That had been so long ago I couldn’t tell you why she was walking down that yellow brick road, even if you offered me a bacon cheeseburger with French fries. But there was something in the room that made me forget all about Mom’s smile and fried food.

The ceiling.

John nudged me with his elbow and held up the kerosene lamp to cast more light above us. “Pretty cool, huh, kid?”

People covered the dome that my eyes scanned the ceiling above us. I assumed it was paint since I couldn’t touch it, but it had every color I remembered from before the sky clouded over forever. And more. Babies with rosy cheeks, wings, and harps. Women in pastel flowing robes, their long wavy hair floating behind them. Men with long beards that reminded me of Dad. The robins egg blue was a beautiful contrast against the puffy white clouds that resembled whip cream.

“It’s…it’s…” Again I couldn’t find the appropriate word, and just for a moment I felt a loosening in my chest. As if I’d been holding my breath ever since my family, along with everyone else I ever knew, had died.

John’s face sagged. It was like he’d aged twenty years since I’d met him.   “It’s nice to see, but I don’t even know if there’s a point anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, that’s not gonna feed us.” He nodded his head up at the mural. “Or start a fire. I don’t even know who they’re supposed to be. Maybe they were once really famous people, but no one knows who they are anymore. So, what’s the point of even seeing it?”

I thought about the fact that John might die before me, and then I’d really be alone. As a kid I dreamed that I was the only person left and had the opportunity to eat all the candy I wanted, drive any car throughout the streets, and of course no school. Once John was gone I’d be living a nightmare. He never talked about his time alone before he met Dad and me, which made me believe that it wasn’t great. “We don’t know who they are, but it is still important. I’m glad I saw it.”

“Why?”

“It means we’re still alive.”

John shot a smile at me. “You know the girls aren’t gonna come to life when you’re asleep, kid.”

Maybe I blushed. I used to do that whenever I was embarrassed, but I hadn’t thawed yet. “I’ll take anything that will keep my mind off…all this.” I gazed about the wreckage of the hotel lobby.

“You know the drill, kid.”

I nodded. He started pulling all the wooden furniture to the center of the lobby and broke it down with his axe. I filled the pot that I retrieved from my backpack with snow, then took out my own axe, and helped John. The hotel bar took up a whole wall, to the left of a reception desk, which held a half dozen useless computers. Several dozen match books, which were akin to diamonds in the apocalypse, filled up a fishbowl atop the bar. But not a drop of alcohol.

“Agh!” John slammed his hand against a lever that once dispensed beer. “I guess he figured if he was going out, he’d go out wasted.” His boot kicked the lone skeleton with frayed rags clingling to its bones. They must have been the last person alive since it hadn’t been dragged to the edge of town and burned with the rest of the charred bodies.

“Maybe there’s some in one of those little fridges.”

“Little, what?”

“You know, the ones that are in each room, with all the really good candy in them?” Whenever my family went to a hotel us kids were expressly forbidden to open them, much less consume its contents. But the idea of dying without ever having a beer depressed me. I’d already missed so much of what many teenagers experienced; didn’t want to miss out on what adults did too.

“You’re smarter than you look, kid. Let’s eat first, though.”

After the snow came to a boil I held a cloth over our thermoses. John slowly poured the liquid, over the cloth, as we both attempted to keep our faces free from the steam. It felt great letting it surround your whole face, but steam could burn worse than boiling water. At least according to John. He took the thinnest rabbit in existence out of his pack, and I skinned it. We each took our share and let it cook in our thermos before we indulged in rabbit stew.

In my sixteen years it was the best thing I’d ever cooked.

After John gulped his last bit of rabbit he said, “You wanna check out the rooms now, kid?”

I nodded and threw my bag over my shoulders. I never left it alone. Not only because I might find something that I’d want to take with me, like food, but because it held the books Dad gave to me before he died. I had yet to untie them from the twine Dad had wrapped around them, but they never left my side.

“Where should we start, kid?”

“The bottom floors are probably already cleaned out.”

“Wanna try 27? Since that’s how old I am. I think.”

I nodded. Happy to know that I wasn’t the only man left on Earth who didn’t know what year it was anymore. “Then we gotta try 16 too.”

“Anything you want. Just stick by my side.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. At least that’s what it felt like even though the sound was deep and raw. “Don’t want to lose your only friend in the world.”

John’s large sea glass colored eyes faltered. He gazed at me, but then again his eyes were blank. It was as if he saw everyone that he’d lost in me, just like I saw everyone who died in him. “I’ll never lose you, George. Never.”

He’d only ever called me my real name a few times. When he said ‘George’ it took away all my pain and replaced it with something else I couldn’t name. I didn’t know how to answer, so I just nodded.

After tearing our lungs apart climbing up all those stairs, we were both pretty pissed when there wasn’t anything to drink on the twenty seventh floor. The sixteenth floor held more luck. The third room we came to had the wine.

John handed me a bottle the length of my hand. “Would have preferred vodka, but you know what they say about beggars, kid?”

I twisted it open, sniffed it, and threw my head back. It tasted thick, like syrup, but it didn’t taste sweet at all.

“Whoa, kid. Take it slow. You’re not used to the stuff.”

I swallowed the last drop from my bottle and shrugged.

“Want another?” I nodded and he handed me a bottle. “Let’s save the last couple, you think?”

“I bet we can find more.”

“I’ll take that bet.”

It was four more rooms before we cheered with joy again.

We returned downstairs to the lobby because we could build another fire, and we knew where the exit was. I leaned against my backpack and finished off another tiny bottle of wine. Head spun. Body numb. Like when I would go on a roller coaster with my brother. “I feel…weird…”

John laughed. “That’s called drunk, kid.”

“Feels pretty good.”

“Try and remember that tomorrow morning.”

“What happens tomorrow?”

The light from the fire brought a lively glow to John’s face. “You’ll see.”

It wasn’t long after that my eyelids became heavier than stone. With my backpack as a pillow I curled up and fell asleep. But I didn’t dream. I saw nothing but endless darkness whenever I closed my eyes.

That night I felt something on my hand though. It was warm and wet. The sensation made me slowly open my eyes. Its coat was jet black and shone against the light behind it. The light was bright, almost like the sun, and it nearly blinded me. When my eyes came into focus and saw the creature next to me I screamed. The animal’s eyes were black as coal, tongue pink like my sister’s ballet costume, and a tail that wagged quickly. I didn’t scream because it was scary, but because it had been so long since I’d seen one.

John bolted upright. He pulled me up off the floor with him as I screamed. He pulled me back against the reception desk we’d dismembered earlier, my leg caught on my bag, and scattered the contents in front of the dog. John stood in front of me and raised the kerosene lamp when he called out, “Are you alone?”

A woman’s voice came from one of the flashlight beams. “Are you?”

“Asked you first.”

I could hear the girl breathing. It was quick and harsh as if she’d just ran a mile. “Yes.”

“How long?” John asked.

“Few years. What about you?”

John’s hand gripped tighter around my shoulder before he said. “Been the two of us, for a while now.”

“What did you do with our dog?”

“Nothing, he’s here,” John said.

“I heard a scream.”

“Your dog woke us up. Call him if you don’t believe me.”

Another softer voice sang out from another flashlight, “Lucky!” The black lab turned back toward the girls and darted off toward them.

A few moments passed filled with girl-whispers before John asked. “How’d you get here?”

“Walked. Hoping it would be warmer. You?”

“Same, from Seattle.”

“We’re from Detroit.”

“So what’s your name?”

The older girl lowered her flashlight from our faces and cast the light on her own. Her dark hair hung past her shoulders. She wore a scarf and hat tucked into her parka and hood. Her lips were pale and matched the rest of her face, as if she’d been drained of life. When they parted she said, “Anne.”

He lowered the kerosene lamp to the side and said, “John.”

“Who’s your friend?”

John looked over at me and nodded. I turned to the first girl I’d seen in five years, “George.”

Anne had already maneuvered around the remains of our fire with Lucky on her heel. “This is my sister Brenda.”

Her long brown hair was in a single braid that lay on her right shoulder. The coat she wore was once red, it’s crimson glow still obvious underneath ash. She wasn’t close enough for me to be sure, but Brenda was just a few inches shorter than me. “How old are you, George?”

“Sixteen. You?”

“Fourteen.”

On our side John and Anne asked questions and answered in rapid succession. That’s how I found out that they were in a group, but their group had starved to death. Anne had just rushed a sorority when the Earth died along with the rest of her dreams. Lucky moved in circles around the four of us sniffing, and digging randomly at the floor.

Brenda’s gaze followed Lucky and stopped at my backpack. “Are those books?”

“Yeah.”

“Can you read them to me?” She gazed at me with eyes brighter than the Moon. “It’s been so long since anyone has.”

I turned to John who was telling Anne about his time in college. I figured if he felt safe, then I should too; I leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. Brenda handed the books to me. I took a deep breath and unwrapped the twine. “Which one did you want to read?”

“Which one is your favorite?”

I looked at the titles and not a single memory came forward. “I don’t…”

“How about this one?” She sat, legs crossed, on the other side of Lucky. “I always wanted to see a farm.”

I ran my finger along the skinny battered spine. “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t end happy. It’s just like everything else that’s left.”

“Well,” Brenda leaned in closer to me. “Let’s hope it does this time.”

The books weight in my hands calmed me. It reminded me of when Dad would read to me before I fell asleep. Brenda rested her head on my shoulder as I flipped past the title page and started from the beginning.

 

 

 

 

Everything That Counts, pictures, Uncategorized

What’s going on with ‘Everything That Counts’?

I’m proud to announce that my debut novel-a romanic thriller- ‘Blood On The Potomac will be released on May 21 through Inklings Publishing and will be available for purchase on Amazon.com.

But right now I’d like to talk about another novel-my debut Young Adult novel-‘Everything That Counts’.  In the novel you meet Blake Morgan the biggest loser in all of Annapolis, Maryland; maybe even the world.  We follow him throughout his senior year of high school as he makes the decision to finally live life rather than plan out every detail as he has with his future plans to become an astrophysicist.

I met with Kimberly Morris who offered her professional advice as a manuscript consultant.  Her feedback (the best of which I’ve included in this blog) was invaluable and thus I will re-work the novel to make sure the voice is consistent throughout before I hire an editor and eventually self-publish it.

At this moment in time I believe I can have it ready for you guys to read by late 2018, but until then here is a scene that really gets to the ‘core’ of Blake, through his conversation with classmate and crush Zoe Malone-the hottest girl in school.

 

 

That Saturday, Zoe and I were in my Dad’s car driving to the illustrious Annapolis Mall when she said. “I like you, Blake.”

My breathing stopped. No girl had said those exact words to me. I knew Sophie liked me but it wasn’t as if she liked me. She just enjoyed my company for some strange reason. But, Zoe was different. Zoe was free. Everything was an option for her, and that concept was highly intriguing to me. I let my eyes wander from the road toward her.

“I like you too, Zoe.”

She bit her lip briefly. “It’s just I got my heart broken by my last boyfriend which really sucked.”

“Sorry about that.” But I wasn’t really. I mean, since he dumped her she was available for me to date.

“Thanks. You know, when I told my Mom, she was like,” Zoe whined and puckered up her face as if she’d swallowed a lemon, “‘that’s what you get for being stupid enough to go out with an asshole.’” Then reverted to herself. “Which wasn’t helpful, like, at all. So, when I saw you I knew you’d be different, because you looked really smart.”

We’d been in the car a few miles and already the conversation had taken me to uncharted territories far beyond imagination. “Thanks?”

She leaned close enough that I could smell her perfume. It smelled like cotton candy. “I don’t mean for it to sound bad. It’s just that I don’t do well in school all the time, and feel so frazzled about it. But, you seem to know what you’re doing. It’s like you’re going somewhere, Blake. And that’s what makes me like you. You’re gonna be something when we grow up, and I want to be something too. I want to be remembered as something more than the blonde airhead that giggles all the time, you know?”

“I know exactly how you feel. I think that a lot of people feel like that, it’s just that not everyone says it.”

She giggled. “I can’t believe I make sense to someone as smart as you.”

“You’re smart, too. I mean we have English together, so you’re just as intelligent as me.”

“Maybe you’re just bad in English. I mean I bet you get that poem we were supposed to read. You know the one about the heart inside the heart, which totally grossed me out. I mean who carries around a heart, of like, someone they love?”

She was right. I didn’t understand language and the way it would evoke emotion when one might read or say a word. Much less why writing so incorrectly would ever be appropriate. Phrases held no power; it was only how they might be interpreted by others that gave them any meaning. And who’s to say that what someone wrote would ever be read? And who did e.e. cummings think he was to write so oddly thus making it impossible to understand his work and therefore get me a ‘B-’ on a test?

Although, my stomach turned into a tangle of knots the moment Zoe started this dialogue. I mean our plan was merely to grab something to eat, and watch a movie not divulge our deepest secrets. It was the same feeling I got the first time that I heard ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’. When I opened my mouth next I put to rest all my preconceived beliefs about a well chosen sentence, the hierarchy of high school, and that the loser never got the girl, because I’d never felt more confident. “We’re not as different as you think, Zoe, about poetry especially. And that’s only one of the reasons you’re the most amazing girl I know.”

Her smile was wider than I’d seen it before and her dark eyes glittered like the night sky. “You really mean that don’t you?”

“I will never lie to you.”

“You know, if I was ready for another boyfriend, it would totally be you.”
Zoe saved me the unending embarrassment of responding like a geek by leaning over the gearshift, and kissing me. It was just long enough for me to get the taste of cotton candy on my lips before the slender fingers of her right hand turned the radio dial. She made a noise I thought might shatter the windows. “Oh I love Christina Aguilera!”

For a moment I contemplated the lengths a man would go to be in the company of a pretty girl, and the possibilities that her acquaintance might entail.

 

Her mouth on mine for the majority of the day seemed well worth listening to a pop star.

 

 

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