Pitcharama

Title: PLAN B

Author: Laura Haley

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 80,000

A mid-summer party, the perfect red sundress, and the attention of a college football hottie. Eighteen-year-old Sadie Howell has all the ingredients for a truly memorable night. But when she wakes up in a strange bed the next morning, she can’t remember most of it. Forced to put the pieces together, Sadie realizes that football demigod Derek Owens drugged and raped her. His pseudo-celebrity status is just one of the reasons Sadie decides not to tell anyone. Instead, she tries to pretend like nothing happened. Three weeks later, a positive pregnancy test makes her reconsider, and she reports the incident to the police. As word of her accusations spreads, the town that she grew up in turns their backs on her. Officer Sean Prescott soon becomes one of her only allies, and the two quickly become friends. Sadie is faced with criticism, harassment and all of the aches and pains that go along with a pregnancy she never asked for. When Derek decides to pursue custody of the baby conceived that night, Sadie is forced to ask herself how much she’s willing to risk to protect a baby she doesn’t even want.

Victory!

I did it. I have won the epic battle. It’s taken me seven years, more hours than I am willing to admit, and literal blood sweat and tears, but I finally accomplished a feat I once thought was impossible. A feat that an estimated less than one percent of the US population can lay claim to. I have slaved. I have toiled. And I have triumphed. I am unicyclist. Hear me roar.

Wait! You’re probably asking yourself if you read that right. Well, you did. I can finally say, without an ounce of trepidation, that I can ride a unicycle. Now to some of you, that may not be as exciting as say . . . getting a publishing contract. And maybe it’s not. But there is a lesson to be learned, and it’s all about perseverance.

I started falling off the unicycle around seven years ago when my husband got it into his head that he was going to learn to ride one. (I’m still not entirely sure of the thought process there.) He ordered one, and promptly left a grey streak of rubber across the living room carpet as he wobbled his way through our house (because naturally he decided to learn this skill in the winter.) It wasn’t long before we were making excursions to the park. He was riding further and further every day. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted me to learn with him.

So I indulged him. I grabbed a stepladder and started falling off the unicycle. Repeatedly. Again. And again. And again. And eventually I started to make some progress. But before long, life got in the way. Or I lost motivation. Either way, I quit trying.

That became a constant cycle over the next seven years. I would decide I wanted to try again. I’d work at it for an hour. I would make progress. Then it would get put away, and I wouldn’t try again for another six months. Or a year.

This year, the Moab Munifest (mountain unicycle festival) returned to Moab after a five year hiatus. My husband was thrilled and eagerly signed up to go ride some trails. I took their return as a sign that I finally needed to get my ass in the saddle (literally) and make it happen. So I did. I spent night after night outside, falling off the unicycle. Making progress and falling off again. And you know what? All that hard work paid off. I’m not a great rider. I still fall off more times than I don’t. And I can’t ride more than a couple hundred yards before my legs get tired, and I need a break. But I can ride a unicycle dammit! And that’s more than a lot of people can say.

Now what does this have to do with writing? You probably already figured it out, but I’m going to indulge myself and spell it out for you anyway. When you’re a writer, you’re going to fall. A lot. And there are going to be times where you’re going to walk away from it all because you’re tired of it. That’s okay. If you need a break, take it. But keep coming back. Keep fighting. When you fall off, dust yourself off and climb back on. You may not get it this time. Hell, you may not get it the next sixty-two times. But if you keep trying, eventually you will make it. 

Or you can give up writing, and learn to ride a unicycle with me.

 

Adopt a Writer

All across the world, millions of writers are struggling to put one word after the other. Many of those writers won’t make it past their first draft. Others will never make it past the editing process For those who manage to complete a novel, they are still faced with a world of uncertainty. When will they find an agent? Will they ever make a sale? How do I turn the damn computer on?

I’ve been asked if you ever get used to it. How could a human ever get used to the pain? The tweet of a writer receiving their first rejection. The status update of the writer who has just lost their entire novel due to hardware failure. Or the low moaning of someone who realizes the plot they’ve been slaving over for years has already been done . . . to death.

No. I can’t get used to this anymore than you can. But you can help. Yes you can!

For as little as a few supportive comments a month, you can support a writer. You can validate their latest plot. Breathe life into one of their characters. They may even name a character after you. All you have to do is let them know that you care. Take five minutes to comment on their blog. They’ll probably even write you a personalized comment back. Tell them that you believe in them. Even if you don’t. Read their stuff and share it.

Can you think of a better time to support the writer in your life? Don’t let them be dragged down by their own self-doubt. Find it in your heart to adopt a writer, and there’s only a small chance you’ll regret it.

My Writing Process- Blog Tour

Fellow writer Suzie Hunt tagged me to participate in a blog tour. Suzie’s blog is located at http://suziehunt.co.uk/blog . She’s currently working on her second book in the Smokey Days series. Her first, THE RISING WIND, is available for sale on Amazon. The series is about a world where humans are caught in a war between two supernatural races. In an effort to save themselves, the humans sacrifice the very things that make them human.

As part of the tour, I was asked to answer the following questions.

1. What am I working on?

Right now, the answer is a hodgepodge of everything. I’ve written a couple of short stories recently. I’ve been spending a lot of time polishing query letters and a synopsis of my finished manuscript PLAN B, and I have a couple works-in-progress that I’m in the process of rewriting. One of them is a romance, and the other is a New Adult contemporary. I’m also toying with a couple of ideas for new novels, so I’ll just have to see where I end up going from here.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Because it’s mine. Seriously though, New Adult is a relatively new genre, so in itself it’s covering a lot of new ground. The trend tends to be toward romance, and though PLAN B has a love story, it’s background noise compared to the rest of the story. I also like to take characters that people wouldn’t generally sympathize with and make them lovable.

3. Why do I write what I do?

That’s a hard question. I write what inspires me, no matter what the genre. So far the stories that have come to mind have all fallen into the New Adult category. It’s probably largely due to the fact that I went through a lot of major life changes during the period of my life that would fall into the New Adult genre: college, moving out, getting married, my first baby. Though many of those subjects might seem mundane, there’s a lot to work with when it comes to writing a novel.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m going to out myself as a pantser right now. I’ve tried sitting down and mapping out what is going to happen from one chapter to the next, but I just can’t feel it. For me, the easiest way to write a story is to sit down and write. I usually know where I’m going to start, and where I want to end up, but the journey in between is somewhat of a mystery.

I try to get as much writing done as I can during the beginning of the week. Being a stay-at-home mom, I only get a few precious hours while my youngest is at preschool. The rest of my time for really dedicating myself to writing comes in stolen moments here and there. Twenty minutes while they watch a TV show, an hour in the afternoon when they’re supposed to be upstairs playing quietly, and as long as I can stay awake after they go to bed.

The last two years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, which made a huge difference in my writing. I had written a couple of novels, but I was stuck in a rut. Participating in NaNo forced me to write. And now I’m addicted. I usually start with a scene or a character, and I just start to write what hits me. Later, I’ll go back and rewrite. Then probably rewrite again. After a few rounds of edits, I’ll send out to beta readers. Depending on what they say, I may do another rewrite, or I may just change a few scenes around here and there.

Other awesome blogs to check out:

Misa Yny writes over at http://www.nolongervulcan.com . She has a lot of great book reviews as well as really great links to articles with publishing advice. Check her out.

Robert Emmett is the mastermind behind Flip Top Headgear which you can find at http://irobert.me . His book MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE is available for purchase. And if the short stories in it are anything like his short story “Sparks”, it is a hilarious read. The blog has tons of fun art in addition to writing.

Colleen Halverson has just taken up blogging for the same reason I started this blog. She only has a few posts so far, but she talks a lot about what it’s like to be a writer. You can read her posts at http://colleenbhalverson.wordpress.com .

Black and White

I have a new short story for everyone today. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

 

Black and White

The dress. It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. The dress that my sister and mom had picked out for me. The one they’d spent hours squabbling over. I didn’t care. I would have shown up to the church in rags if they’d let me, but they wouldn’t have that. So that overpriced dress had been hanging in my bedroom for the last two days waiting for its turn.

There was nothing wrong with the dress in theory. It was beautiful. Maybe even elegant. But I had a feeling that once I put it on, I would never truly take it off. It would graft itself to my skin. My life. It would become part of who I was, and who I always would be. And I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

When the shriek of the alarm filled my quiet bedroom, I rolled over and willed it into silence with the press of a button. I hadn’t been sleeping. Wasn’t sure I’d slept at all. How could I? My stomach was a writhing mass of nerves. A live electric wire.

I crawled out of bed and headed into the kitchen. My mom and sister were already there. The smell of coffee permeated the house. But it wasn’t Brian’s. Mom had brought her own. She smiled at me, her eyes shining. She tried to convince me to eat, but I just shook my head. Not now. Maybe later. She furrowed her brow, but didn’t argue.

My mom and sister insisted on doing my hair and makeup. They wanted to pamper me. I wanted to escape. But I let them. While they tried to tease my matted rats nest into something beautiful, I closed my eyes and started checking items off the list. Flowers: check. Music: check. Priest: check.

I tried to picture Brian in the suit I’d picked out for him. I’d chosen black. He looked amazing in black. With a royal blue tie that he loved because it brought out his eyes. I wondered if he was already wearing it.

Then it was time. I headed back to my bedroom where my mom and sister helped me pull down the dress and climb into it. Their incessant chatter was giving me a headache. I could have done this alone, but they’d flown a thousand miles to be there with me. So I kept my mouth shut and let myself disappear into the deep folds of fabric.

We headed out front to wait for the car to pick us up. It pulled up to the driveway, and my dad opened the door. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready. I knew everyone expected me to be there, but it was too much. That damn dress was making it hard to breathe. I bent over, trying to catch my breath, the electric wire in my stomach shocking everything it touched.

My parents crouched beside me whispering encouragement, but I couldn’t move. What if I just didn’t go? What if I tore the dress off and ran away? Never looked back? People would understand, wouldn’t they? 

But Brian deserved better than that.

“We’re going to be late,” Mom whispered, her voice urgent. She didn’t want to push. Didn’t want to scare me away. But we couldn’t be late.

I finally stood up, carefully wiping tears from my eyes, and Dad helped me climb into the back of the long, black car.

The church was already full when we arrived. Brian was at the front. Waiting. But the tie was wrong. Where was the one I had picked? Where was the royal blue tie? I took a deep shuddering breath. It didn’t matter what tie he had on. The blue one wasn’t going to make this any easier.

Dad took one of my arms; his touch soft and comforting. He offered a small smile, that flitted across his lips so quickly I wondered if I’d imagined it. Unrecognized tears sparkled in his eyes. I’d never seen my father cry.

He opened his mouth to say something, and my breath caught. It hung open for a moment, the words hiding inside a cavernous abyss. Then he snapped it shut and patted my hand. Sometimes silence was better than words.

He walked me through the door into the church. Everyone fell silent, twisting in their pews to get a glimpse of me. Women were already dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs. The familiar strains of a string quartet followed my halting steps to the spot where Brian was waiting.

The priest smiled gently at me, but Brian’s face was fixed. As still as stone. I placed the single rose I’d brought beside him in the casket. “Til death do us part,” I whispered, a tear tracing its way down my cheek.

First Time

After talking with an online writing group, I was inspired to try my hand at a short story, something I haven’t done since I was in college. And those were terrible. So here is the result of my first short story attempt in a decade.

*Trigger Warning*

Potentially abusive, explicit sexual content.

The First Time

Janie lowered herself onto the thin, lumpy pieces of fabric that served as a mattress and wondered how the hell anyone ever slept on these things. Her back was straight, and her hands were folded tightly in her lap. Fear nibbled at the back of her brain. She shouldn’t have sneaked out of the house. If her parents found out, she’d be grounded until she died. But it was worth it to see him.

Gage sat down next to her, smiling. “I missed you.”

Her heart ached. “I missed you too.” It had been almost a week since his dad had grounded him for being five minutes late for curfew. It was so unfair. She leaned into him, kissing him. The pressure of his lips on hers made her heart race. She never wanted it to end, but she couldn’t ignore the way her hands were shaking.

“You okay?” Gage asked. He threaded his fingers through her hair, then ran his thumbs lightly along her cheeks.

Janie nodded. She couldn’t tell him she was nervous. She knew what he wanted. Why she was there. But she wasn’t sure she was ready.

Gage’s mouth found hers again, and suddenly he was pushing her down onto the mattress. Caught up in the moment, Janie let his hands explore her skin, touching places that had never felt a stranger’s touch. His mouth broke away as he moved lower, trailing kisses down her neck and along her collarbone.

He pulled her shirt down, moving lower until his tongue was touching her nipple. She sat up, nearly knocking him backward.

“Jesus Janie. What the hell?”

“I’m sorry. I just . . .” What was she supposed to say? She’d told him dozens of times that she wasn’t ready. She loved him. She wanted him. But she wanted to wait. She was too young.

“Did I do something wrong?”

A nervous feeling rumbled in her stomach. “No. Of course not. I’m just scared.”

He leaned in close so that his lips were right beside her ear. “You don’t have to be scared. I would never hurt you.”

But she was. She was scared that if he kept pushing, she’d give in.

She pushed herself off the mattress and paced the floor of the small cabin that stood at the edge of the property Gage’s family owned. The floorboards squeaked under her feet, and moonlight shone through the dirty windows. It was the only light they had, making everything blend into hues of blue. And purple. And black.

She bent down and looked out the window. There were no lights on in any of the houses.

“I should go home.”

“C’mon Janie. Don’t be like that.”

She turned to look at him. There was just enough light to make out the way his lips turned down. The creases in his forehead. She’d upset him.

“I’m sorry.”

He stood up and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her in that one spot on her neck that always drove her crazy.

“If you don’t want to, we won’t. Okay? I’m sorry. I just got caught up.”

She nodded, chewing on her lip. He’d gotten caught up a lot recently. It was her fault though. “It’s okay.”

He tugged her hand so she was sitting beside him on the mattress again. His kisses deepened, increasing in speed and intensity. “Let’s take our pants off.”

“I don’t think . . .”

“I won’t let anything happen. I just want to feel your skin against mine.”

A lump formed in her throat making it impossible to say anything, but she nodded. It didn’t matter. He was already tugging at the button of her jeans, sliding them down her legs. Then he was straddling her again, kissing her.

A shock ran through her as his thickening bulge pushed against her, only separated by a few thin layers of cotton. Despite her nerves, a part of her was almost proud that her body, with her thick thighs, her unnaturally pale skin, and her face covered in acne, was able to make him respond like that.

“I want you Janie. I want to be your first.” His voice was a low, guttural growl

Her lip trembled. “I want that too, but I don’t think . . .”

“It’ll be okay. I promise.” Janie didn’t respond. “Please baby. I want you so bad.” He hesitated. “I love you.”

Her breath caught in her throat. She loved him too. She loved him in a way she had never known existed until that moment, but . . .

“Let’s just try. If you change your mind, we can stop. For me?”

She nodded her head, just enough for him to see. Then they were lying next to each other naked. Janie shivered and tried to cover her chest with her arms.

“You’re so beautiful,” he told her, and some of the fear ebbed away.

“Be gentle.”

“I will.” He moved over her, forcing his way between her legs that she couldn’t seem to move. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, but she inhaled sharply when she felt him press against her.

“Stop.” Her voice was barely a whisper. Maybe he didn’t hear her because he kept pushing, and pain radiated through her body. “It hurts. Please stop.”

“It only hurts at first. Once it’s in, it won’t be as bad.” She didn’t want it to stop hurting because it was in. She wanted it to stop.

Before she could say anything, he pushed forward one more time. And that was it. There was nothing left to fight for. She took a shuddering breath and bit her lip, waiting for it to be over.

When Gage was done, he rolled over and kissed her tenderly. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“It hurt.” The area between Janie’s legs was throbbing. Why did anyone ever do that? It had been miserable.

“It won’t hurt as much next time. I promise.”

Next time? She hadn’t even had a chance to process this one. How was she supposed to think about next time?

Gage yawned, stretching his arms up high. Then he gathered up his clothes. “I’ve gotta get to work early. I should probably head in.”

Janie wanted to say no. To tell him they needed to talk. To say she didn’t want to be alone. “Okay.”

He kissed her goodbye and headed into the house where his parents were sleeping. Janie walked alone across the open field, her head hanging, her hands shoved deep in her pockets. There were no streetlights. Just the moon and the stars shining down to light her way.

It’ll be okay, Janie told herself, trying to ignore the pain. He loves me. We’ll always be together. The night air was filled with the sound of a thousand crickets laughing.

Measure of Success

 

 

 

For a lot of people, a parking spot with your name on it is a measure of success. If that’s the case, strike up the band, pop open a bottle of champagne and let’s celebrate. Because I have officially arrived!

Image

Amy Glass has recently been stirring up a firestorm with her comments that women shouldn’t aim to get married and have children (I won’t repost her blog here, because I don’t want to send anymore traffic her direction.) Her theory is that anyone can do that, so it’s not an accomplishment. “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.” Ouch!

Six years ago, I chose to become a stay-at-home mom. That decision was partially because of the ridiculous cost of daycare for an infant, but it was also largely because I wanted to raise my own kid. I didn’t want to pay someone to spend time with my child that I could have been spending. I made the choice to put a possible career on hold so that I could concentrate on raising my kids the way I wanted them to be raised. It was a tough decision to make, and sometimes I still wonder if it was the right one. But when my daughter sits down with her pretend laptop and works on writing an article, or my son reads his own fortune cookie, I know it was the right one for us.

My mom raised three kids. She is an exceptional midwife, as well as an exceptional mother. I know moms who are teachers, counselors, nurses, doctors and lawyers. I also know moms who, like me, devote their time to taking care of their kids. Whether they work or stay at home, the world NEEDS exceptional mothers. If every halfway intelligent woman decided not to have children because she wanted to concentrate on her career, where would society end up? Mothers are not just brainless incubators that are responsible just for making sure that the human race continues to exist. They are responsible for raising the next generation to be exceptional. 

What it really comes down to is the fact that everyone should be allowed to make their own choices in life without being criticized. There is nothing wrong with a person who chooses not to get married or have kids so they can concentrate on their career. But there is also nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to spend her hours cleaning up toys, washing laundry and wiping snotty noses.

So for me, I’ll take my name on my parking spot, which has now been decorated by my children, and I’ll keep doing what I do. Because these are the choices I make, and that’s all that matters.