Born in England, moved to Texas and resides there still. Author of several children’s books including picture books, middle-grade chapter books, YA and a reader’s theater titled What If… A Story of Shattered Lives. Amanda conducts workshops, writes a blog, contributes to an online magazine and shares her writing process and what she has learned as a publisher with people of all ages. As Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, she assists authors with their work. A Multiple Gold recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards she continues to write.
Like most authors, before one project heads to layout, the next novel I’m going to tackle is already being planned in my head. Sometimes it’s even wholly mapped out, storyline, characters, and plot twist, the works; while others are merely ideas written down. Either way, the next project or two are well defined. Most writers pride themselves in knowing what they’re next WIP is going to be (work in progress). But what happens when a new WIP sits before you, outlined, the characters all named and in place, timeline set, the first couple of chapters started, and all of a sudden another idea consumes your thoughts? Well, when inspiration strikes, you have no choice but to write. The question is, how? Many writers, when faced with such a situation, do one of two things: 1) abandon their first novel and set it aside for a later date. 2) write two pieces at the same time.
Now, I’m not opposed to writing two books at once, but I have to be conscious of my time and mindset. Time is limited, and one’s mindset, while you write, is an important factor or at least it is to me. Writing two different genres can be an issue. For me, do I lose myself in a fantasy piece, which is absolutely a wonderful thing to do, and still have enough time to pull my mind back into the throes of an emotional reality piece?
Who doesn’t love to escape, if only in their minds, to a timeless world hidden deep in Lafayette forest, explicitly created for Lilly, Boris, and Jack, and all of their friends? The colony, filled with beautiful fairies, who continually watch over each other all the while having exciting adventures. Sound sweet and fun? It’s designed to be that way – The Mischief series. A fantasy series developed for young chapter book readers.
While the fantasy world is quite delightful, often a fast and fun ‘write,’ it is the other novel that I believe would present a problem for me. It’s an NA (New Adult 18-30 +) bracket; the storyline emotional. With time continually an issue, pulling myself from a fantasy world mindest into a dramatic/emotional state of mind to write the scenes, dialog, and narration, that the characters and stories would demand can often take me a little while to transition. I find it necessary to dive into my head and become a part of the story to visualize what I’m about to write down to ‘see’ the emotion that my characters need. From fairies to where I’m going, serious NA, it could take more than a minute to get there. Do I have that kind of time to prepare my mind?
I know some authors do this all the time, write multiple novels at once, without any issues. I’d love to be one of those talented authors. But I know my limitations regarding time, and what it takes for me to prepare my mind to write the way that I do. Add the research required for the project that is currently consuming my mind, and trust me, I’m not sure I could pull off my best work. Again, due to busy work and life schedule, time is not on my side. Every author wants to produce quality work. To me, the quality of my work will always be more important than the quantity or amount of books I produce at one time. It’s only natural that writers evolve and the work improves with each novel, and I get that, but I do not want to sacrifice quality for speed of content.
So what will I do? Believe it or not, chatting about it here with you has really helped. I can’t get the current storyline out of my head for the NA, and the only way to alieve that issue is to start writing it. I do have more than one project outlined, and even have one started, but like most writers, I love them all. Will the other projects get written? The answer is yes! What will the timeline be on those? The answer is when they’re completed. One WIP is not more important than the other; it just happens that one is nagging to be written more so than the other in this particular moment.
As much as I would love to whip out novels as fast as other writers, I know that I can’t. Family and work are real factors that take up the vast majority of my time. My writing schedule is vital to me, and I continue to write and share what I do, but my family will always come first. My books will get written. They’ll still be available, and maybe I will challenge myself to write both pieces this go-round. For now, it looks like the NA will come first, but perhaps I’ll dabble with both projects and try for the fun of it to write them both. The key is to write them well! The greatest thing about being an author – doing what you want in regards to the work that you produce, and that is always fun! Thanks for reading this if you do, and allowing me to chat this over with you. Keep writing your way, and everything else will eventually come to fruition.
I think it’s safe to say we all want our kids to read more than they probably do – to love reading, well that would be a bonus. Teaching your child to pick up a book over their devices may sound like a stretch these days, but encouraging children to read can be fun. Creating a space where kids can enjoy their favorite books, it doesn’t have to take up a lot of room, is a great place to start. A small corner in your child’s room will do, turned into an inviting area that becomes a place to escape where they can curl up with their favorite books, kind of like their own mini-library.
When you set up a reading space, especially one of their own, you send a message that reading is an integral part of their lives and isn’t reserved exclusively for schools and libraries. All you need is a designated small space, a mini bookcase, books, and a hint of creativity.
Choose the Right Spot
A place in your child’s room or in a part of the house that has easy access to curl up or sit down and read a book. Make it inviting, cozy even, a space that makes reading a relaxing activity. Soft pillows work just as well as stools or chairs. If possible, add a small lamp. You can even build a tent. My kids had a reading corner with a bookshelf, and a princess bed complete with a pink tent. We used both places to read.
Your child’s favorite books; let them help pick them out to place in the new space. Put shelves at their height, not yours. If your child is a climber, do not stack the shelves too high, if at all. Crates work really well for storage to prevent stacking and climbing issues.
Add new books to your child’s collection.
Put new books in full view to encourage your child to visit their space. Instead of candy or toy treats, purchase a new book instead. Favorite books are great, but there’s nothing wrong with adding to a collection.
Find books with topics about things your child likes
Fill your child’s space with books that cover topics that interest your child. If they like animals, animal books, sports, their favorite teams. These books will help hold the child’s interest while they read. They may even want to tell you all about what they’ve read before you even ask them to tell you all about it.
Ask your child what they read
Ask your child to discuss the books they’ve read each day. Maybe have them draw a picture. Showing interest, plus having them retell the stories, teaches them to retain the information that they’ve read. It also has the added wonderful bonus of spending precious time, which is often so limited these days, with your child.
As parents, time never seems to be on our side. I read with my kids in their reading corner, miss it so much, but I’m now doing it with my grandkids. Maybe a mini library in the corner of your kids’ room will be something your kids can enjoy as well. It’s the little things that seemed to help the most.
Writers and authors are often seeking advice regarding marketing their work. As an author, I’m no exception to that rule. After all, in today’s world, who doesn’t need a little extra help? Most authors realize that marketing their work is no longer a choice; it is a mandatory part of the sales process. Also, most authors have read or heard it all before, but sometimes hearing the same tips from a different voice clicks in a different way, and those tips become useful tools. I’m not sure there are any secrets out there; most techniques seem to be a combination of common sense and consistency. Yes, there are fads, but like most fads, the same goes for author tricks, they come and go. I’m sure every author is familiar with or already does the things I’m about to share. For you, we’re on the same page, but if you’re a writer starting out, don’t be afraid of marketing, we’re all dealing with it.
Many authors that I work with aren’t comfortable with marketing as a whole. They cringe at the word or immediately fear marketing means additional dollars have to be thrown down on the table. Sometimes useful marketing tools are expensive, such as hiring PR firms or purchasing advertisements in popular trade magazines. Add space is always costly. However, authors typically find ways to spread the word about their work without spending horrendous amounts of cash. The most important thing any writer or author can do is something – something each day that keeps their name or title out there in the universe and keeps them moving forward or provides some kind of social media exposure.
Everyone knows that building a social media platform or fanbase is crucial, but we also know that followers that engage do not always purchase the authors work. You can have a large fanbase, lots of followers, likes, and engagement with your fans, but have limited sales. Connecting with your fans is crucial whether they purchase your work right away or not. You are building relationships that readers enjoy, and this costs zero dollars if you’re doing it on social media. There are several platforms out there, and at least one should fit your lifestyle. I’m old-school and stick to the three basics FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Of course, writers these days already have websites, write a blog, have a YouTube channel (I don’t, I lack in that area), book trailers, swag, speak as much as possible, attend as many events as they can, and they do put out press releases from time to time, often paid. I like to use a company called 24/7 Press Release. They have many price tiers available. I’ve found, and I’ve used all of them, that the mid-tier press release is received well by the media outlets during distribution. However, there are multiple services out there that you can choose to use.
Less is more, and keeping things simple works best for me. Each author has to devise a strategic plan that works for them and their lifestyle. Lifestyle is an important factor. I’m a wife, mom, nana, author, CEO, and my teens are active. It’s ridiculous for me to pick a marketing platform that requires hours of attention. It will not work. Less and simple is best for my lifestyle.
If you’re uncomfortable with marketing as a whole, being comfortable with your work automatically gives you something to talk about on any platform that is available to you. Sharing what you know, the content of your book provides awareness about the subject matter or title of the book that you wrote. Confidence in your work offers ways to introduce your book to multiple niches. You don’t have to start fishing for content to promote your book or try to create catchy sales pitches; you already know everything about the topic that you need. Again, keeping it simple with something you already know.
I often write YA’s that provide gentle life-lessons throughout the pages. I’m grateful that teens do like the work, but the books could also appeal to the tweens and teens parents, educators, youth group leaders, book clubs, and even homeschool providers. It’s not unusual for me to bypass the tweens and teens, my target niche, and gear my marketing efforts toward the other niche groups. For example, my YA The Greenlee Project, which focuses on bullying, I actually target adults. “Bullying can affect any kid anywhere at any time; would your child tell you if they were a bully victim? Greenlee Lynn Granger is about to find out how easily social media can be used as a malicious tool: a normal teen one day and ruined the next! Parents, teachers, educators, and youth group leaders, The Greenlee Project, a multiple award-winning book, is a must-read for your tweens and teens. Pick up here: link.” I could have easily changed the verbiage to address tweens and teens, but the impact of the message hits the adults harder than the kids.
Regarding sales and making sales, it’s always tricky, but the first step is believing that your book is worth the dollars that you’re charging. Don’t be afraid to announce that your books are for sale, and to include a buy link. I use a simple bitly link, and it works well. When you run adds, add a where to purchase the book, and if you put promo videos together (I do love these), always include buy links.
I do offer discounts, but I do not give my books away on retail sites for free, this is a personal choice. It costs thousands of dollars, plus my time, to produce these novels and I always ask myself, “Would you walk into a store and expect to walk out of it with that item for free?” Of course, the answer is always no. Or, “Would you order a meal and expect not to pay for it?” Same thing. Services and products aren’t free. Why should your book be? The exception to this rule, for me, is during the Texas Librarian Association Conference. TLA is a large trade conference, five to seven thousand librarians, teachers, and buyers are present. Putting titles into their hands is imperative. By and large, they do not purchase books while at TLA but look for fresh new titles. At this event, I sign and put books into their hands by the hundreds per title. It is one marketing expense that I save for and value the experience every year.
A significant part of ensuring a title is successful occurs behind the scenes. Setting up the title correctly in the first place — metadata, including author name, bio, keywords, book description, and selecting Bisac codes for your categories, keeping them specific. Most platforms today will walk you through it, but the more information you can list about your book behind the scenes is for the best. Even if you set up the title correctly, ask for a purchase, contain a sales link, and promote daily, there still aren’t any guarantees.
I’ve witnessed authors do everything right: produce professionally edited and designed books, hire PR firms, spend money on advertisements, hire social media experts, enter and win prestigious award competitions, write articles for popular large magazine circulations, and still sell minimal units. I’ve also seen authors with poorly written work sell thousands upon thousands of books. Fair has nothing to do with it, and neither does the experience of the author. Luck no doubt, if you believe in that, seems to have a hand in it.
One can never tell which story or book an audience will connect with, but it doesn’t matter. Writers are going to write; it’s what we do. It takes one person to tell the right person about your work. The spark that starts a fire, and you have no idea who that one person is, and again, it doesn’t matter because you’re going to continue to produce work that you love to write regardless. Marketing budgets are helpful, but in truth, most people do not have a very extensive one. You can still market relatively well on a limited budget. It’s not the size of your budget that counts; it’s how you use your time, the platforms at your disposal, and most importantly, how often you market yourself – consistency. So forge ahead. Write and produce professionally edited and designed books, and love every second doing it. Otherwise, well, what’s the point?
Feel free to visit my site and take a peek around. Please let me know if you have any questions, thanks so much! – Amanda M. Thrasher
Like most authors, I receive emails from aspiring writers asking about my writing process. Most are referring to being a Panster or a Plotter, and admittedly, I have been both over the years, and some want to know about the writing process as a whole.
Early in my writing career, I took the Panster path. Starting with an idea and simply running with it to see where it would eventually take me. I had a general idea of where I was going, but somehow, my characters always seemed to lead me exactly where I needed to go to finish the story. Writing off the top of my head, having no idea which direction the story would take or end up, did work for me for a few years.
As my writing evolved, that process changed for me. Why? Honestly, I have no idea. I found my self Plotting instead of just running with a storyline. Each time I came up with a potential story, I’d spend time contemplating my beginning, middle, end, plot twist, the how’s and if’s, the main character, secondary characters, and auxiliary characters. As soon as I could, I’d outline the entire story on paper, making adjustments as the scenes shifted and changed in my mind. Once I started writing the book, I continually referred back to my notes and outline, and have been doing this now for years. I’m comfortable with it, do make changes along the way, and though I’ve been known to add to it as I write (the outline), it is now the preferred way of doing things.
I don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way to write your manuscript, Panster or Plotter. I think you need to find a method that works for you; that keeps you focused, on track, and allows you to finish the project. So to answer the Panster or Plotter question, for me, I’m a Plotter.
Writers are also often asked about their rough drafts. I’m sure we all have quirky things we may or may not do, but here’s what I do. I work my manuscripts a minimum of four times before edit, and it seems like a dozen times after that between the two rounds of the edit, accepting or declining the changes and applying recommendations, reread it again, add an outside set of eyes for proofing after layout and last but not least proofing again via my editor once completed. Of course, I’m reading it over and over.
The first draft is the obvious, the rough draft. It’s super important, it’s the story, and getting it out of your head and down on paper, which can be fun, can also be an eye-opener when you read it for the second time. For this reason, I reread and correct every chapter prior to writing a new chapter. The second time that I go through the entire draft is where I add any emotion that I may have missed the first time around, and I also double check my narration for cadence and flow during this time. It’s essential to keep the story moving. Often during the first draft these things can be flat. When I’m reading the manuscript in its entirety for the third time, I’m searching for holes in the story or the timeline that may have been inadvertently missed. Did the character leave the kitchen in one scene only to find herself speaking to her boyfriend in the driveway in the next scene? What? How did she get there? When did she leave the kitchen? Usually, a simple sentence corrects the issue. Example: Sophie walked outside to greet Clay. By the fourth read, I practically know my manuscript by heart and anything that I may have missed, repetitiveness, holes, flow, anything, should jump out as I apply the final polish. At this point, the author’s eyes and mind can predetermine what is supposed to be there, and we rely heavily on our editing teams.
Once I’ve completed the above, the work is sent to my editor, who edits the work and sends it back to me to accept or decline her changes and/or recommendations. It is then sent back to her for a second round. The same process is applied, and once I approve or reject for the second time, we hit layout and proofing all over again. Things appear different once the text has been laid-out in book format and it isn’t unusual for editors and proofers to catch different things that might have been missed. Everyone involved is human, have seen the files dozens of times, and our eyes and minds already ‘know’ what is supposed to be there, and it’s amazing how many times we’ll correct something automatically in our heads and therefore it is missed on paper. To avoid this, I read the entire thing out loud. Trust me, people walk past my office and I look quite crazy talking/reading away!
It’s a process, and it does take time, but if you’re currently writing a book, forge ahead. It can be nervewracking, fun, overwhelming, exciting, intimidating, all at once. However, it’s all worth it if you have a story to tell or something to say. Eventually, you’ll find a process that works best for you; it might take a minute, it took me a while, but you’ll get there. Keep writing, have fun, and feel free to keep sending your questions. For those that aren’t aware there’s a contact page on my website. I may not always have the answers, but I’m sure I know someone who does, and I’ll just ask them. 🙂 Have a great day and continue writing!
Just about every author that I know, including my self, becomes jittery right before the release of a new book. As authors, we hope the world will receive our work the way that we had intended. If it’s to make one laugh, we hope you laugh out loud, to think or feel, we hope you walk away and wonder all day why a particular character did a specific thing or made such a decision? If it’s intended to touch your heart and make you cry, well, I promise any tears you shed were likely matched by tears we shed as we wrote the words on the page. I hope you like my latest novel; it’s about loss, betrayal, discovery, love, and hope.
Here’ s an excerpt; it will go on pre-sale within the next few days and will launch May 1st. Enjoy!
A Novel by Amanda M. Thrasher based on a screenplay by Kevin James O’Neill
Hannah Gunner, once a carefree child, is faced with secrets, lies, and betrayal. A life-changing event during her adolescent years forces her to confront a past that she no longer recognizes. Now, questioning everything she thought she knew, Hannah struggles with the person she is supposed to be! With the help of her boyfriend, Grayson Parks, nicknamed Cash, and her closest friend, Lindsey, they discover several clues that may hold the missing links to her life.
A tattered box filled with worn-out letters holds some of the answers that she needs, but not all of them! With an assist from her aunt and a visitor from her past, Hannah manages to track down the only person in the world who can answer her questions—the Captain! Why did those closest to her lie in the first place? Will Hannah ever find the answers that she needs to bring her peace? Suspenseful, engaging, and with twists and turns that make it impossible to put down, this is a book filled with surprises!
A Past Revealed
Out of Grasp
A Father’s Heart
~ Hannah Gunner ~
“That’s it, then!” Hannah whispered in a raspy voice. “She’s really gone?”
Lindsey stared down at her lap, avoiding eye contact, not knowing what to say to her best friend, who was still in shock and so much pain. Tears had welled up in Hannah’s eyes, and though she’d been fighting to hold them back, they threatened to flow uncontrollably down her cheeks. Hannah couldn’t allow that, not yet, knowing that once the tears fell she’d lose it completely. The air had chilled, and she stood shivering, but Hannah didn’t seem to notice. The oversized black sweatshirt she’d picked that day drowned out her petite frame. She looked like a little kid instead of a teen. Every now and then her arm reached up and swiped away escaped tears from her face, as if denying they were ever there.
Lindsey had been Hannah’s best friend since they’d been paired together junior year for a chemistry project. It was a good match. They had more in common than the pair realized. Gossip, boys, music, both lacked fashion skills, which didn’t seem to bother either of them at all, neither wore much makeup, and they both loved to write, especially poetry, and constantly carried a journal or had one close by. They practically lived in Vans, jeans, sweatshirts, Nike shorts and, of course, T-shirts. This day, this terrible day, was the hardest day they’d ever experienced together as friends. Lindsey opened the door of her gently used gold Toyota Corolla, affectionately named Silver. A joke, agreed upon by the two girls, which made them laugh every time they referred to her—except for today.
“Silver awaits. Climb in; it’s freezing. I’m taking you home.”
Ridden with guilt, Hannah felt conflicted. On the one hand, she didn’t want to be with anyone, including her best friend or her boyfriend, and on the other hand, she didn’t want to be alone. Reluctantly, she climbed into the car. As soon as the door shut, face buried in her hands, she sobbed without taking a breath. Within minutes a full-fledged panic attack set in, and she couldn’t breathe. Lindsey pulled the car over to the edge of the road and opened the windows. The fresh cold air blew across the back of Hannah’s neck, but it didn’t seem to help. Gently rubbing her friend’s back, Lindsey whispered words to help calm her down.
“Breathe. Calm down and breathe, in and out, slowly, but just breathe.”
“I can’t, can’t breathe.”
“Just calm down and take a deep breath.”
Hannah’s heart was racing and it felt like her chest was about to cave in. Lindsey continued to talk her down. Finally, Hannah’s breathing returned to normal. Struggling to hold back tears of her own, Lindsey dabbed her friend’s tear-stained face with her sleeve. Sitting in silence for a few moments, the two huddled together inside the car. No words of comfort were offered, none needed—they’d already been said, and Hannah knew that Lindsey was grieving as well.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes. And I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize.”
Lost in thought as she drove, a slight smile crossed Lindsey’s face.
“What is it?” Hannah asked. “Could do with a smile myself.”
Lindsey proceeded with caution. “It was a memory.” Glancing at Hannah, she continued. “Of the first time I met Gloria. Do you remember?”
Thankfully, Hannah smiled.
“How could I forget? My mom told us, even that day, we were bound to be double trouble.” Hannah laughed, the first time she’d laughed in a while. “She also said we were going to be thick as thieves.”
“Cause we are!” Lindsey grinned. “I’m so glad she moved you back here.”
Hannah remembered the day her mom had asked her to move back to their hometown of San Francisco. After relocating more than a few times over the years, it made absolutely no difference to Hannah where they went next, which thrilled Gloria.
“You have no idea how much this means to me! We’ll be with your Aunt Kathy again, and I can’t wait for you to have a relationship with her, and we’ll all be a family again,” said Gloria.
Gloria had smiled and hugged Hannah longer than usual that day because she was so happy.
“Nothing wrong with just you!” Hannah had grinned.
“Thanks! But you know what I mean, right?”
“No,” Hannah had smirked. “But I don’t care; that’s fine by me if we go back to San Francisco.”
Rolling to a stop at a red light, the cool breeze blew through the open windows. Hannah caught wind of a terrible smell, her shirt. As the air shifted, the stench of the hospital, which was sticking to her like glue, made her gag. Hospital smells, so specific—sick people, bedpans, disinfectant, hospital food, body odors—all together a terrible combination. Hannah had been barely able to walk into the hospital lately without feeling violently ill herself, and now the stench was all over her.
Struggling with what had just transpired and the realization that half of her life had been a lie, Hannah sat in the passenger seat, shaking in absolute shock. There’d been a lot of lies floating around, apparently for the past, say, most of her life! In those few moments, she tried to process three things: what in the hell was she supposed to do now, what exactly was her mom thinking, and last, but not least, could she find the Captain? She pulled a tattered yellow piece of paper out of her sweatshirt pocket and stared at it.
“What is that?” Lindsey asked softly.
“Something I need, but not sure I want.”
Hands trembling, she moved the worn-out paper, a faded handwritten letter, quickly to one side, so a massive teardrop didn’t splatter it and ruin the letters that were hard enough to read already. The words that were faded and worn weren’t the problem; the problem was that as she read them to herself, Hannah didn’t recognize who had written them. The sound of the voice that reverberated back to her as she read the words from the letter in her hand seemed foreign to her; this man from the letter was a stranger. His voice didn’t match the sound of the gruff but comforting, familiar voice of the Captain’s in her head that had held her together for years—the man who had taken the time to read to her night after night and turned her bed sheets into sails so they could reenact her favorite story. And the man who had created make-believe ships and sailed them to Treasure Island, taught her that treasure could be found anywhere, even in the real world, but that she was his most important treasure. That man, the Captain, who lived in her head—he was dead!
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.
I think I may have told this story a hundred times, but it never gets old, and there’s always someone that hasn’t heard it. It revolves around one of my characters, a tiny beautiful fairy by the name of Pearle that lives in the mushroom patch, which of course, centers around my Mischief series and how she came into existence.
If you’re not familiar with my fairy series, the mischief series, it’s an early reader chapter book series, independent reading level second to fourth grade for both girls and boys. The characters and setting are timeless, purposely written that way, so that kids of all generations can enjoy the stories. There are currently three books, and I’m writing the fourth book right now. The main characters are Lilly, Boris, and Jack. They’re delightful, mischievous at times but in the nicest way, kind, and helpful. I wrote Mischief in the Mushroom Patch for my mom, and I credit her for changing my path from writer to author.
My mom loved fairies. We lost her too soon, and when she was ill, I wrote her Mischief in the Mushroom Patch. The main character, Lilly, was inspired by a fairy that she had sitting by the bed that was given to her from her sister, my Aunt Nancy. I have Lilly sitting on my shelf to this day. My mom, Irene Yvonne Mulroy, was one of the most beautiful, funniest, people I have ever known. She was incredibly important to me, and not just because she was my mom. We were very close. When I wrote the story, she was unable to read the ending before she passed; I hadn’t written it. But I was able to sit with her, in her own bedroom, and tell her the conclusion.
It was then that she made me promise to finish the manuscript, send it out, and see what happened. When I lost my mom, it is safe to say I was absolutely devastated. My heart shattered that day. I couldn’t look at the manuscript, and so against my mom’s wishes, I put it away. A year later, almost to the date of the first anniversary of her death, I woke up in the middle of the night. I could have sworn I heard her voice. “It’s time.” That’s all I heard, but it was the manuscript that popped into my head. Needless to say, I pulled out that manuscript, reworked it, finished it, and sent it off. It was picked up and published, which brings me to beautiful little Pearle.
During one of my book signings at Barnes and Nobles, I spoke to a lady about my book. She purchased it, and as I was signing the copy, I asked her to share with me her thoughts after she’d read it. The lady, Beverly Hutton, took my card but little did I know that exchange would change the course of the series forever. I received an email from Beverly, which I still have, and in short, it stated the following. “Amanda, I was wondering if I might make a suggestion. Could you possibly create a fairy character or write a book with a fairy that has a disability? My daughter, Jeni, would have loved this book, and she always asked me where are the fairies for me?”
I was stunned and flattered when I read the email, and several things ran through my mind. I emailed Beverly back and asked her if she’d give me a minute to think. I might be able to do that…but I need a minute to think – there were things to consider, and I needed time. 1) I was thrilled she’d read it and loved it (Mischief in the Mushroom Patch). 2) I didn’t know her daughter and didn’t want to be disrespectful to her or her family. 3) This was my mom’s book, and I didn’t want to be disrespectful to my mom and the story I had written for her. Shortly after that, I wrote to Beverly back again. This time I introduced beautiful little Pearle. I sent her a sample chapter and said, “Meet beautiful little Pearle. Though she can not walk, she can fly with ease, and if you approve, I will continue. I created a chariot for Pearle instead of a wheelchair, and her personality is always pleasant. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s any different, and never complains. Everyone loves her, and she is a joy to be around.” Beverly wrote me back, and said, “I love her, and approve!”
The story continues. 🙂 I continued to write, finished the book, and invited Beverly to the book launch at Barnes and Noble. This was the first time I had met her in person, though we had exchanged emails, and talked on the phone. She purchased dozens of books that day, and being with my other publisher at the time, they were all hardcovers and quite expensive. As I signed each copy, I asked her why on earth she was purchasing so many books. Her response was heartbreaking and wonderful, all at the same time. “I’m donating them to the Scottish Rite Hospital,” she said. “Jeni had nearly fifty-four surgeries there before she passed.” I was speechless for a minute, but found my voice and said, “I’m going with you.”
Needless to say, that’s where our friendship and work together really started. I went with Beverly to the Scottish Rite Hospital. My publisher-donated books, Barnes and Noble, donated books and gift cards, Build-a-Bear donated bears in wheelchairs, and clothes for the bears, and we took the books and gifts and spent all day with the children reading, and making fairy wings, arts and crafts. Our work didn’t stop there; Beverly raised funds, and we spent the weekend teaching writing workshops and donated books to the kids at the Texas Lion’s Camp in Kerrville. Why there? Because that was Jeni’s favorite summer camp. The kids were terrific; had never had an author visit the camp or participated in a writing workshop, and were incredibly creative! We also went to the children’s Pythian Home, and in addition to that, schools, and most recently I signed hundreds of books for a literacy program which she was a part of.
Jeni will forever live on through Pearle in the Mischief series. Some of the things that Pearle, Lilly, Boris, and Jack, get up to, Jeni would have or actually did. Spin a fairling green, was actually a spinning game that Jeni used to play in her wheelchair. Of course, now it has a ‘fairy’ name. Racing down the corridor or through the dormitory, well, Jeni would race down the hallway in her wheelchair, and when Lilly, Rosie, Boris, Jack, and Ivy, pile onto her chair, her friends would do that as well.
Beverly and I continue to work together, and I’ll always include Pearle in this series. But I can’t help but wonder if Pearle wasn’t just meant to be there the whole time…sometimes it seems as if she was always supposed to have been there, in the mushroom patch, with all of the little fairies, giggling and playing their precious fairy games. Fate? Maybe, I don’t know, but I do know that the Mischief series is a series that represents all kinds of beautiful kids, that just happen to be in a sweet fairy version.
I’ve been working on a novel for what seems too long now, but in my defense time hasn’t always been on my side. The story CAPTAIN FIN is based on a screenplay written by the talented actor, writer, movie producer, and director, Kevin James O’Neill.
When Kevin approached me about writing this novel and I read the script, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was, thrilled doesn’t cover the joy that I felt. I immediately fell in love with one of the characters, Hannah. Oddly it wasn’t at all from an angle or perspective that was presented in the script that he had handed me. But I could envision so clearly the direction that I felt he wanted to go; thus the reason he sought out a writer like me, a children’s author.
I was so worried about my time commitments. Already in the midst of writing BITTER BETRAYAL and working every day at a company that I am a partner, owner, and as the CEO am obligated to be committed to running every single day.
At one point I even told him, “Kevin, as saddened as I am, I don’t believe I have the time to finish Captain Fin. I love this piece, and if you want to take my ideas, chapters, and give them to another writer, I completely understand.” To my surprise, Kevin did not accept my offer but gave me a call instead. His words not only humbled me, but I felt as if he handed me a gift instead. I don’t think I will ever forget his words.
“Amanda, I can’t really see anyone else writing this novel. I love your ideas, what you’ve written so far, and I understand how busy you are. I’ll wait. I’ll wait until you have the time to write it.” I can’t tell you the shock I felt. To hear someone had that much faith in my work was amazing to me. #humbled #grateful
I was worried that the flow of the work would be jeopardized by the amount of time that it was taking me to write the story, again, time wasn’t on my side due to work and family commitments. But I recently went back and reread my early chapters as I’m polishing off the manuscript before sending it to my editor. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. I fell in love with Hannah all over again!!!! Her spirit, strong will, the sadness that reflects through her eyes, and the way that she eventually withdraws from others due to the hand that life has dealt her with her gentle spirit still intact, kills me! LOVE HER!
I can only hope that I delivered the novel the way Kevin had envisioned; I know it is exactly how I imagined it to be. It was challenging and exhilarating at times, but writing this piece was such a blessing. The images that you see are components of my cover. The design will be released soon. I am looking so forward to sharing this beautiful story of loss, discovery, love, friendship, and hope with the world. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it! CAPTAIN FIN, coming soon. #TLA19
Every year I would receive a book and pen, loved those things and still do, sweets (candy), along with a special item that we had asked for as kids do today. One thing that never changed was what was put in our special stockings. We always have our stockings filled with fruit and sweets (candy). An apple, orange, and tangerine just about filled the entire thing, leaving a tad of room for a bag of sweets.
“Father Christmas left me an orange!” I said every year. When I was little my mum, Irene Yvonne Mulroy, used to say it was such a treat to receive such beautiful piece of fruit. Holding the fruit in my hand, though I did think it was quite ‘orange’ I wasn’t convinced it was beautiful, though I must admit I quite enjoyed the tangerines which honestly were a treat for us.
When I was older, I asked my mum about the fruit again. She told me it served two purposes. 1) It filled the stockings to make sure they had enough money to buy what we’d asked Father Christmas for on our list. 2) It served as a reminder from their childhood, what they had then vs. now. They were children when the war had ended, still on rations, and receiving oranges (hard to come by) in England or Europe during my parent’s childhood was indeed a gift.
My mum, who I absolutely adore to this day, said when she received her first orange after the war she held onto it for almost two weeks. Once the skin became loose and dull, she was forced to eat it. I asked her. “Why didn’t you just eat it while it was fresh?” I will never forget the look on her face as she described it or the words that she said. “It was almost too beautiful to eat, and every day I would put it up to my nose and smell it. It smelled so good, and I would tell myself how what a lucky girl I was to have an orange to eat.”
My parents pulled those stockings out every Christmas, every move, from England to the US. We lost my mom too soon, but to this day my dad still pulls out our stockings and hangs them on his mantle each year. I have a family and grandkids, (tells you how old I am) but my stocking is still hung on dad’s mantle. Every time I see it my mind is flooded with memories, wonderful memories, of my childhood. I still think mine is the prettiest because my name sparkles and Santa is visible :-), and I’m grateful how something as simple as Christmas stockings can produce such beautiful memories. Those stockings are part of our family. Every time I see them, I swear, I hear my mom’s voice and have flashbacks our Christmas mornings as a child, and remember how happy she was.
Dad joins us each year, as he should, and we still talk about stuffing the stockings. Oranges in stockings, I put them in my sons stocking for years, I even told him my mum’s story. Those stockings, mine, and my sisters continue to bring my mum home to us through her own memories each and every year. I find that to be a perfect Christmas gift. “Stockings, who knew!”
Like many women, I’m a mom with kids of both genders, one son and two daughters. And like most moms, there’s nothing in this entire world that I wouldn’t do for them, nor is there anything in this world that they could do or say that would ever change my love or devotion toward them. I think by and large though there are monsters that live amongst us, most parents feel this way, and we worry about things we can’t control all of the time. We want to protect our children from the horrors and dangers of this world, and of course, we want to protect them from any negative things that we know as kids, young people, teens, they could face as they grow into adulthood. Once they reach adulthood, we tend to breathe a little easier, but sometimes life can throw hardships at them during adulthood as well.
Time for me, like everyone else, flew by too quickly as my children grew. I don’t believe they will ever realize what a joy they were to me, and my husband, but since I had the luxury of working from home especially to me! Now, if you were to ask my girls they would say, “My mom worked all the time, she was always busy.” To the degree that statement is true, my kids like others forget the good stuff and often focus on anything negative. They have forgotten the days that I played hooky to take them to the local zoo, up the street to the park, a movie, or just to have a tea party in their bedroom. We had so many tea parties and trips to the zoo; great memories!
I knew the time would come when my gorgeous little girls would turn into beautiful young ladies, teenagers. In a world that revolves around social media and kids growing up too fast, that thought terrified me. What scared me more than that was knowing that someday they would, like most girls, experience their first real heartbreak. My son, the oldest, experienced his first real heartbreak later in life, a marriage dissolved, though devastating to witness he continues to amaze me. A fantastic father, hard worker, and he defines courage and strength.
Some would say teenage heartbreaks are a rite of passage; it’s going to happen, and every girl at some point will experience it. I agree. It does seem that way, and I suppose most girls do have their hearts broken during their teen years. Both of my girls eventually went through the broken heart experience. I can honestly say even though I knew my teens would recover, bounce back, date again, get over it, at the time the breakups were occurring, to them, it was the most devastating thing that had ever happened to them in their lives.
As their mom, my heart broke for them. I couldn’t fix it. Take away their pain. Stop them from feeling awful about themselves, questioning what had gone wrong with the relationship or searching for answers they were never going to find. I couldn’t stop them from trying to reach out to the person that had hurt them, even though I felt it was the best thing for them that the relationships were over. There wasn’t enough ice-cream, movie days, cuddles on the couch or tears shed to make them feel better. It was a crushing blow to them; even though as a parent and adult, one knew it was going to happen.
Did they get over it? Yes, they did. Did they move on with other people? Yes, they did. Will they likely be hurt again? I’m sure at some point they will. But as a mom of two beautiful girls and one handsome son, I’d give anything in this entire world if they could avoid not only that pain again but what that kind of hurt does to them. It’s the kind of pain that causes them to question themselves and the beautiful people that they are growing into and will turn out to be as individuals. The type of heartbreak that suddenly makes these beautiful people of all things insecure. The kind of pain that forces them to change who they are or to try and fit into someone else’s mold or an idea of who others think they’re supposed to be????? That’s what breakups sometimes do; make people of all things question themselves instead of the other person, and that can take a toll on impressionable teens.
I believe my kids learned from their breakups. The types of people that had caused them such pain are people that they will choose not to associate with again. But as a parent, if I could do anything in this world to spare them such pain, I’d do it without hesitation and never look back. One of my daughter’s, great big beautiful eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks, looked at me and said, “I am so sad, mom. My heart literally hurts.”…Looking at her, watching her in pain and knowing I couldn’t help, well that hurt MY heart.
I’m a mom of a grown son and two teen daughters. This has provided valuable information over the years for the research often needed to complete a few of my YA novels. Between them, their friends, events that they’re involved with, and kids in and out of my house, I’ve been exposed to tons of teens. However, the research does not stop with the information gathered around the family or my hometown.
Between speaking with hundreds of teens, girls, and boys, attending multiple teen events, talking with doctors, teachers, parents, librarians, counselors, police officers, the research compiled over the years confirms what most parents already knew. Many kids, though great kids, can often make ridiculous life-changing decisions during those times when ‘teens are going to be teens.’
After listening to several heart-breaking accounts of girls that had made decisions based on being ‘in love’ or ‘impaired’ and having their reputations ruined by social media, not to mention the flip side of that, boys, who have had their futures threatened by lawsuits and threats of being labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives, I decided to write BITTER BETRAYAL. This book portrays both sides of a teen relationship, girls’ point of view versus the boys’ point of view, and shows the different perspectives of what happens to them during their relationship, how it affects their families, and the community when things go horribly wrong.
Decisions, consequences, and the healing process of all involved are exposed.
My intent with the book was to allow teens to read it through the eyes of a character that they understand, hoping they could possibly avoid the same type of situation as the characters in the book. The story, unfortunately, is based on every-day life events.
Excerpt – BITTER BETRAYAL – Mom’s Choice Gold Recipient & New Apple Literary Award Recipient for YA and General Fiction
It took nearly two-and-a-half hours to get to the lake. Nice and secluded, no locals to worry about. Everyone invited knew that they had to stay for the night, no exceptions, and upon arrival Stacie had decided that Trevor or Cody would stand with a bucket and all keys would have to be turned in as soon as vehicles were parked. Safety measures: ensuring that once they arrived, they didn’t drive. The girls had stuck to their plan, providing food and sodas, but hadn’t provided alcohol. However, they weren’t stupid, knowing kids would show up with alcohol all by themselves. Private invitations on social media with the rules and directions had been axed at the last minute. If they were leaked, she’d be busted for sure; a paper trail wasn’t worth the risk. Everyone relied on word of mouth, coded texts, and phone calls. They climbed higher and higher as they drove up the long, twisted driveway to the cabin. Between the trees, the height of the location, and the lake below them, the view was spectacular. The lake house, a massive stone-and-log cabin, was two stories, complete with a wraparound porch that extended all the way around the house. Picnic areas were located on the east and west sides of the cabin, complete with fire pit and grills, and both sides had views overlooking the lake. A rock path led down the bluff to the dock and boat ramp. A covered area housed the boats and water toys, too many to count, and a boathouse sat to the left of it. Impressive to say the least, especially for a secondary home; most people never lived in anything as beautiful in their whole lives, let alone vacationed at home in such luxury.
“It’s beautiful up here,” Sophie said as they pulled up to the house. “Absolutely beautiful.”
“Thanks.” Stacie knew it was a one-in-a-million location. It was her dad’s future retirement home. “This is my dad’s dream place. Not so much my mom’s.”
“She doesn’t like this place?” Sophie asked, shocked. “Really?”
“She likes to vacation here, but not so much live. Too far away from town, she says.”
As soon as she entered the house, Stacie disarmed the security system. Unlike their main residence, her parents couldn’t access the system from their devices. Nor were they notified if something was amiss. Just an old-style, regular system had come with the property when they had purchased it. Advanced for then, it had cameras, but not like the ones at their main house, where when the alarm went off the security company was notified, and they received the call. Her dad had said on numerous occasions that he’d like to have the alarm system at the lake house updated. Fortunately for Stacie, he hadn’t done it yet. Once the alarm was dismantled, Stacie opened the wooden shutters and the windows, and cool air immediately rushed through the house. For the first time, Stacie was glad she hadn’t listened to her nerves and bailed on the party.
“Surely they’ll stay out of here, right?” It wasn’t a real question. Stacie was praying people wouldn’t trash her parents’ cabin.
“We know these guys, they’re our friends,” Sophie reassured her. “There’s really no reason for them to come in the house.”
“Well, let’s put our stuff in our rooms.” Stacie smiled. “I’m taking the master, but you can pick any other room you like.”
Each room had a fireplace and its own bathroom. It didn’t matter which room Sophie picked; she would be more than comfortable. Both girls sent random texts to their parental units. They each waited for responses. Once they received them, breathing easier, they cranked up the music and started to prepare for the party. Sheets pulled off the furniture, counters wiped down, sodas iced, and extra chests filled with ice for whatever people brought with them to drink. Snacks were ready to be put into bowls, wood placed in the fire pits outside, and chairs set out around sitting areas. It was safe to say that things were coming together nicely. A truck pulled into the driveway, startling both girls. Trevor and Cody had shown up early to help. Stacie had never been happier to see that face. Somehow he made her feel safe.
“Wow! You can’t hide money,” Cody joked.
“Hey babe, looks great, what can we do to help?” Trevor asked.
Trevor picked her up, held her at eye level and kissed her on the lips before setting her back down again. Cody, still shocked that Trevor had a girl like that, shook his head and walked over to the top of the bluff to look at the view. Sophie joined him.
“Bet there’s some good fishing out there!”
“Yeah. That’s what Stacie says,” Sophie agreed.
“Now I wish Ryan or Reece were here already, but they’ll be here later.” He smirked. “You know we love to fish.”
Cody took his cap off and scratched his head. “How long have you and Ryan been dating, anyway?”
“Almost a year.” Sophie grinned. “And yes, I do, the fishing part. You? Bringing someone or meeting someone?”
A smile crossed Cody’s face. “Meeting someone here. Aubrey. Do you know her?”
Sophie nodded. She had met Aubrey several times and liked her. Aubrey was easy to get along with and was cute. Trevor and Stacie joined them. Trevor also made a comment about the fishing. Stacie offered to have them over when her dad was there, take them out on the boat and fish to their hearts’ content.
“How did you get this girl?” Cody joked. “Hot. Likes football, Dad’s the Coach, and she’s a dudes’ dude. Too good to be true.”
“Well, he won’t have me for long if I’m dead!” Stacie flopped down in Trevor’s lap. “We’ve got to pull this off with no hitches. None!”
Getting back to work, they finished setting up. Stereo outside worked. Didn’t matter anyway, they’d pull a truck over and attach an aux cord to play their own music. The ice chests were placed by the fire pits and outside sitting areas. Stacie hoped this would help keep people out of the house. Trevor and Cody set up two tents in the area to show everyone where to start setting up their tents. It was going so well; nothing could go wrong!
“Grab that bucket over there, the big one from under the outside faucet on the left,” Stacie instructed. “It’s for everyone’s keys. No exceptions.”
“How are we going to do that?” Sophie asked.
“I’ll do it,” Trevor offered. “As soon as they park, I’ll take their keys. Have them put them in the bowl themselves.”
Perfect. They were all on the same page. They went through the cabin with a checklist and confirmed everything had been done. It was about that time, party time, and everything was ready. The boys picked a bedroom and hit the shower, and the girls went to their rooms and did the same. Casual attire, yes, but hair and makeup still needed to be perfect; after all, girls will still be girls. A call from her mom couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Stacie was as calm as could be. Small talk and lots of questions about the game, complete with a request for her dad to text the final score, sealed the conversation as a success. No nerves to be found. Excitement and adrenaline rushed through Stacie’s body. Now ready, she couldn’t wait for the party to begin!
Pouring food into the bowls, Sophie placed the snacks on the tables outside, another deterrent from the house. Texts were coming in left and right. Were they on the right track? Did they miss the turn? Should they bring anything special? Stacie finally handed her phone to Sophie.
“Unless my dad or mom texts, please handle these.”
Cody set up by the main gate. As cars pulled in, he directed them over to Trevor and the parking area. Once parked, Trevor stuck out the bowl. Keys in the bowl or don’t stay, that was the rule. Surprisingly, no one seemed to object. Once parked, most put up tents or makeshift tents. Some more like windbreakers for ball games, but once a sleeping bag was thrown inside, all looked like they were functional. Others set up pallets in the beds of their trucks, and some said they’d sleep in the back seat of their cars. It was coming together better than Stacie had even imagined. It was starting to look like a camping resort by eight p.m. By nine p.m. it was hard to find a parking place. It was apparent that more people than had been invited had shown up. Payton, Aubrey, and Maddie, had followed Reece. Reece had a cab full of guys, Dustin, Gavin, Larry, Dolton, Ryan, and Mick; they all played football together. London and Zoe arrived shortly after Payton and Reece. Gavin was waiting nervously for her. Needless to say, they all arrived safely.
“I thought you got lost. Scared me.” Gavin leaned into her window and kissed her cheek.
“You are the sweetest!” London grabbed his face and placed a kiss on his lips.
Gavin jumped into the back seat of her car and rode with her over to the parking area. Stacie checked her watch. Surely arrivals would start to slow down. Trevor jumped up on the tailgate of Reece’s truck and made an announcement.
“Guys, find a tree.”
“Girls. You can use the bathroom, lower level, by the kitchen on the right, in the house. That’s the visitors’ or guests’ powder room.” He raised his hands in the air and quieted everyone down. “Seriously. Have a good time, but don’t do anything stupid. You break it, you pay for it and you’ll have answer to her dad for damages and we all know who that is . . . Coach.” Trevor took a breath. “My advice, stay out of the house.”
“Thank you, babe, appreciate you looking out for me,” Stacie whispered. “Glad you handled that.”
“No problem. It’s what I do.” Trevor pecked her on the lips, popped a can, and handed it to her. “Here ya go. Ladies first.”
Stacie reached out and took the beer. She didn’t ask where it had come from or if Trevor had brought it with him. The truth was, she didn’t want to know. She hadn’t brought it, right? She was only going to sip it. Payton and Reece walked over to where Trevor, Stacie, Sophie, Ryan, Gavin, and London had gathered around one of the fire pits by the bluff. Aubrey and Cody soon joined them. Teens were in small groups all over the property, having fun and talking among themselves. Music was blasting, but no one cared. There were no neighbors to be had. Sophie was right. People managed to bring their own liquor and beer in, and no one said a word. That wasn’t her problem; she didn’t bring it, buy it, suggest it, or even say it was OK. Drinks of all kinds were flowing and despite having soda available, the only time they seemed to drink it was with the liquor. Some of the boys had made a drinking game out of throwing horseshoes, and a round of beer pong was next. A team of girls, including Payton and her friends, challenged them to a round. Drinking. Laughing. Seemed like fun, at first.
“Every time we’re supposed to drink, let’s not,” Payton giggled.
“Sounds like a deal to me.” Stacie laughed, enjoying the challenge and the thought of tricking the guys.
Beers were opened, and Gavin explained the rules. The boys allowed the girls to go first. It didn’t go as planned. They couldn’t fake taking the sips of drinks; they got caught up in the fun, and the boys had marked the cans with sharpies. Time was flying by. And after a while Stacie had no idea who was outside, who was in the cabin, or what was going on at her own party anymore. A drinking game consumed the whole group, which turned into a game of truth or dare. Laughter, sometimes bitterness, and the occasional temper flared. Payton didn’t care. It was late, she was feeling ecstatic, and Reece hadn’t left her side. He slipped his arm around her waist and kissed the back of her neck. Nestling into him, she felt the warmth of his body on hers. She’d been sipping more than she’d realized. Between the laugher and the fun, she hadn’t been keeping track of how easily it could go down. Reece sat down in a chair and pulled her into his lap. Payton didn’t question it, automatically sitting down on his knee. The music blared out across the bluff, and the louder it got, the more fun they seemed to have, as the kids’ voices echoed the words of all the rappers and the artists that they played. The no-pic rule didn’t last; but looking back, why had Stacie thought that it would? Teens and their phones; inevitable they’d start pulling out their phones and snapping pics for their streaks and social media favorites. #litparty #beerdoesabodygood #litnight #whereru #bestnightever
A trash can full of party punch had finally surfaced. A concoction of whatever liquor, juices or sodas they could find, a bad deal for everyone. No one really knew what was in it; they never did. Disguised with anything to make the flavor doable, most of them downed it. Sophie poured plastic cups and left them on the table, but soon Zeke was handing them out. Payton’s hand reached for one of the infamous plastic red cups. It tasted like cotton candy and went down like Kool-Aid. She had never felt so happy and in love in her life. Invincible. Guilt—what’s that? No adult supervision. Feeling intoxicated without knowing it. Sitting in her hot boyfriend’s lap, while he whispered how much he loved her and wanted her, all at a party she was invited to with him. The Coach’s daughter’s party at that . . . Payton never wanted to go home. Stacie’s favorite song came on, and a group of girls jumped up and started dancing in a big circle. Reece and the others were watching and hollering, egging them on. Some of the guys joined them, but most just watched. Payton stood up to join in, but Reece pulled her back onto his lap.
“No. Stay here with me,” he said. “I want to do this.”
She never asked what. He slipped his hand up inside of her shirt and rubbed her back. Payton smiled and leaned back into him, glad she’d sat back down. The air was nice and cool, feeling good on her skin as he rubbed her back. Happy, Payton turned around and kissed Reece. He kissed her back just as hard. Their mouths locked together as they kissed in sync with each other effortlessly, barely able to breathe. Reece’s hands started to roam. Payton grabbed his hand, stopped him, and whispered in his ear.
“A lot of PDA. Not right here.”
Reece kissed her again and then checked his watch. It was still a tad early to disappear unnoticed. Holding her face in his hands and staring into her beautiful brown eyes, he took a deep breath and pushed her out of his lap. Puzzled, she stood up. He ran his fingers through her hair, kissed the back of her neck, and whispered in her ear.
“In a bit, we’ll disappear and do whatever we want. OK?”
Payton, not thinking about the words he was actually saying, immediately nodded. She couldn’t wait to spend alone time with Reece, but wasn’t thinking literally about a thing. Here they were, only an hour away from her usual curfew, and she still had all night. Any nervousness she had about breaking rules had long disappeared. Blissfully in love, she couldn’t wait to slip away.
Cody cracked open another beer, and everyone gathered around their host. Laughter and voices continued to echo around the bluff, but no one cared, no noise violation to worry about that night. Trevor lifted his cup and kissed his girl.
“Can I have your attention please?” He laughed. “Hey, for just a second,” he yelled again when no one seemed to stop talking the first time.
Reece offered his assistance. “He’s trying to say something here, shut up!”
One by one the voices lowered, and all eyes were upon Trevor.
“I just want to thank my girl for pulling off this amazing night. Is this fun or what?”
Everyone hollered and cheered, and applause broke out for Stacie. People were truly enjoying themselves, and for the most part, no one seemed to be acting like an idiot; no fights to be had. Drinking, yeah, they were doing that, but Stacie had convinced herself they were doing that responsibly. She was wrong. Not one of them thought twice about being a minor and breaking the law, deceiving people, let alone the effects of the alcohol itself. The party, in her mind and everyone else’s, was a huge success. They’d gotten away with it; pulled it off. If only they’d known.
Stay Out of the House
No matter how hard Stacie, Trevor, Sophie, or Ryan tried to keep people from lingering in the house, it wasn’t working. Kids were everywhere, and that included upstairs. Most were just talking and hanging out, but some were looking for areas of the house where they could hook up; hardly unusual for teen gatherings, but even Stacie didn’t want to deal with any of that in her parents’ cabin. Something inside her allowed her to block out what they might be doing if she knew they were outside and she didn’t have to deal with it. But in her parents’ house, different story, get out. Things out of place or damages were constantly on her mind, knowing she couldn’t possibly duplicate everything in time the way her mom had left it. The housekeeper wouldn’t be back until her mom called her, and if she noticed too many things out of order, Stacie’s mom could expect a call from her. Stacie needed them out of the house. She went from room to room and told them they had to go outside; some listened, some couldn’t care less. It seemed that every time teens gathered, there were always people who brought people. Those were the ones who didn’t care; they didn’t really know anyone anyway, except the person they tagged along with in the first place.
Payton didn’t have to worry about hooking up or hanging out with guys or finding a boyfriend; she was with her boyfriend, and her best friend Aubrey had Cody by her side. Maddie was hanging with them as well, talking to Dustin. The fire pits were awesome since the air had chilled, perfect for a camp night, and another round of truth or dare had been started. Stacie was freaking out as she tried to monitor the house. The thought of locking it up crossed her mind, but the girls were running in and out of the bathroom, and the kitchen and her bedroom were in there, and she decided against it.
“I wish they’d at least stay the hell out of the house, that’s all!” she snapped. “It’s not a lot to ask!”
Cody handed her a drink of something in a cup. Lifting the cup to her nose, she drew in a big whiff of something sweet: trash-can punch.
“Relax. It’s your party. Remember?” He laughed.
Stacie threw her head back and downed the sweet-tasting punch. It went down with ease.
Cody pulled Aubrey closer and asked if she’d like some as well.
“What is it?” Aubrey asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know. Some concoction that Justin threw together—trash-can punch. You know, anything they were able to get their hands on. Taste it, it’s good.”
Aubrey shook her head and pointed to the half drank, warm beer in her hand. She’d made that one last for over an hour. Not liking the taste, but trying to fit in, she hung on to it. She knew better. Trash-can punch: good going in, nasty coming out and that was only one-way—puking.
“No thanks, still drinking,” she held up her beer.
Cody didn’t pressure her to try it, and she was grateful for that. But he didn’t slow down on his, either. Between the kids who had snuck alcohol or paid older friends with fake IDs to buy them alcohol, they’d combined quite an assortment of liquor and beer. No one was concerned about how much they’d consumed. No need. There wasn’t a single threat of anyone coming home or breaking up the party. The party was lit, all that, that’s for sure, everyone on social media said so!
It didn’t take long before one of the beer pong games was interrupted. Josh fell onto the makeshift table and knocked all the drinks over. Should have been their first clue to shut it down, but it wasn’t. The boys were getting rowdy and the girls were getting crazy. The partying and laughter didn’t seem to slow down. A game of hide-and-seek broke out, but as soon as Stacie realized they weren’t listening to the rules and going too close to the bluff, she ended it. Too bad, because that was fun!
Reece grabbed Payton’s hand and led her toward the tent that he had put up for them to crash in that night. Cody and Aubrey were sitting outside the tent, but that didn’t stop Reece and Payton from moving past them and crawling inside. Neither one of them had been keeping track of how much they’d drank. Consumed with the party and hanging out with their friends, with zero supervision or the worry of a curfew, they both had more than they thought they’d had. Reece pulled open the canopy, letting the breeze flow through the mesh netting of the roof. The air was cool, which felt good on Payton’s face as she lay down on the makeshift pallet he’d made out of sleeping bags. Muffled voices outside could be heard, but they suddenly sounded so distant. Reece lay next to her and moved her long dark hair that had fallen over her face to one side. Grasping her face in his hands, he leaned forward and kissed her. She kissed him back just as eagerly.
Within minutes they both forgot that they were at a party at all, lost in each other. Hands roaming, mouths barely breaking apart from each other’s, the two teens found themselves in a position they had never been in before. They were alone, in love, and worst of all, without understanding it, totally impaired. Neither one of them was thinking clearly; intoxicated, having the time of their lives, they felt invincible. Feelings, emotions, and being wrapped up in each other, they had no reason to stop a single thing that they were doing; every touch felt amazing to both of them as their hormones raged. Zero threat of anyone walking through a door, and in that moment, if they had, they wouldn’t have heard them anyway. Payton’s heart was pounding as she continued to reciprocate each and every move that Reece made. Between the two it was a disastrous, heated, unstoppable situation, until Payton finally gasped for air.
A glimpse of the dark blue sky through the window of the tent above her, the stars scattered as if just for her, the muffled voices, the smell of the fire, and then all of a sudden the alcohol that she had consumed hit her like a freight train. It was like an oven in the tent; no longer cool. So hot that condensation had formed on the sides. Her head was spinning, and she couldn’t breathe. Nauseous, she felt as if she might throw up right then and there on Reece. She tried to push him off her body, but her arms felt like jelly; no strength in them at all. Reece’s mouth clamped once again over hers, still in the moment and unaware she now felt ill. He kept touching her and kissing her. She tried to push the nauseous feeling deep down inside, and moved her head to one side to avoid Reece’s kisses. Reece kissed her neck, as Payton tried to locate any cool air that might blow through the tent. Unaware of what was going on, his hands continued to roam her body. Uninhibited, she no longer knew where her safe zones were. Pushing the limits without thinking, Reece tested the waters with his wandering hands and Payton didn’t think to stop him. Spinning out of control, both of them, faster and faster with no time to think. When the cool air finally hit her leg, Payton realized her clothes were half on and half off. Shouldn’t she have felt her buttons being undone or her zipper go down? But she didn’t remember them being undone. She did remember trying not to puke. Reece’s pants were about the same, half on and half off. Had she done that, taken off his clothes, or had he assisted? Suddenly embarrassed, not knowing what she’d done, fear and panic swept over her. She turned her head, but he turned his with hers, thinking they were merely changing positions, not knowing for a single second that she wasn’t prepared for the unexpected situation that they both found themselves caught up in. Turning her head again, this time with force, she muttered the words she thought would make it all OK.
“I need some air,” Payton mumbled. “Not yet.”
Her voice so faint, he didn’t hear her. The weight of his body, suddenly like a ton of bricks on top of her, no longer felt loving but suffocating, and the cozy comfort of the tent became confining, as it seemingly spun around and around as she gasped for air. Trying with all her might to push him off her chest was impossible; she was tiny, and all of a sudden he seemed like dead weight. Continuing to kiss her and softly whisper kind things to her, including how much he loved her, she tried to swallow the vomit that was crawling up her throat. Swallowing, she pushed it back down into her stomach and hoped that she wouldn’t puke on him. For some bizarre reason, her eyes caught sight of a drop of condensation on the side of the tent, and she watched it drip down the wall. Feeling violently ill, trying to talk, but realizing he couldn’t hear her, she felt helpless. He couldn’t hear her, and she could barely talk anyway.
“I need some air,” she repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time.
He loved her, he said. She knew that, but in that moment, she didn’t care. She felt sick, incredibly ill, and needed some cool, fresh air. Where was the cool air? And why weren’t the words that she wanted to say forming in her mouth and coming out?
“I love you, baby,” he said again.
She couldn’t say them back and she didn’t care right then. “I’m going to puke.”
He hadn’t heard her; her voice was barely a whisper. For all he knew, she’d said she loved him too. She had no idea her voice was so muffled. Slurring her words due to the amount of alcohol she’d consumed, she was making no sense at all. Looking down, Payton could tell by the way they were positioned what they were about to do. Panicking, she kicked her legs, but they barely moved. Why didn’t her body respond to what her brain was telling it to do? She was scared and her arms pushed Reece as hard as she could, but she had no idea her strength wasn’t there, and Reece, impaired as well, didn’t pay the attention that he normally would have to her petition to stay away from areas that she was uncomfortable with at that time.
“I’m not ready,” she thought she’d said out loud. “Not yet.”
“I’m not ready,” she said again and again. “Not yet.”
But he hadn’t heard her earnest pleas. Fumbling with their clothing and lost in clouded judgment, her voice was truly muffled and barely audible. Both slurring words, in love, he kissed her again, and didn’t even notice that she hadn’t kissed him back. Barely able to breathe, as she concentrated on not throwing up, Payton wasn’t prepared for what happened next. What started out as the best night of her life was turning into a horrific nightmare. It felt like an eternity, but within seconds the entire situation had gotten away from her. Reece looked her in the eye before kissing her lips, and that’s when the excruciating pain that she felt told her that they had done it; pain, penetration, they’d done it. IT! Between the pain, fear, and panic, Payton let out a gasp that sounded like a scream. Reece, fearing she’d startle others, placed his hand momentarily over her mouth and whispered words that she couldn’t remember saying.
“It’s OK, baby, it’s what we wanted. Remember?”
But not yet, Payton thought, but didn’t have the energy to say. Her head was spinning around and around and so was the tent. The sound of Reece’s voice and the words he usually said brought her no comfort at all. His hot breath hit her face as his muffled words poured out of his mouth, but she didn’t care. She wanted him off her, as the vomit traveled up her throat and pooled in her mouth, she could hold it in no longer.
“I love you, you know that, right?”
Frozen. In shock, sick to her stomach, and blaming herself, Payton didn’t know what she was supposed to do. What had just happened? Images flashed through her mind, but she couldn’t process the horrific scene. A familiar voice brought her back to reality.