Sunday, November 30, 2014

#SampleSunday excerpt from my latest Work In Progress

For lots of folks, today marks the end of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. For me, it's the end of the November Writing Challenge, which isn't really an ending because the work isn't done yet. It's "well begun" and well begun is half done, as Mary Poppins says.

I've spent November working on a project I call "Crawdad". I started it over the summer and worked on it ever since. I have a rough draft now that I'm piecing together, since I wrote the parts somewhat out of order. I'd like to share an excerpt with you for #Sample Sunday. :) If you're interested, read on down.

I've also been querying another project called The Color of Water. There are at least three pitch events on Twitter this month, so I plan to pitch it as much as I can. Aside from attending conferences, Twitter really is the best place to reach agents and editors you might not ever get to meet otherwise. Twitter is where my first two books found their homes, so it does work. If you follow me on Twitter, I'm apologizing now; my tweets early in December will consist of A LOT of repetitive pitching. Sorry. :)

I'll also be book blogging a lot in December. There's the Small Press and Indie Book Blog Hop coming up Dec. 5-12 and my book Hush Puppy will be hosted by Diverse Book Tours starting Dec. 8 . Diverse Book Tours was started by my favorite Twinjas book reviewers to help promote diversity in literature. If you follow this blog, you're sure to see several posts sponsored by Diverse Book Tours.  I also post Month 9 Books cover releases and book tours. Month 9 Books is publishing my book Vessel in 2015, so watch for that and add it to your Goodreads list. If there's another small press publisher that does more to promote their authors online, I sure haven't seen it. I'm so excited to be in the Month 9 Books family. :)

Whew! With all that going on, I'm sure glad I decided to finish my Christmas shopping in October! I hope you enjoy the upcoming holiday season peeps :)

~Crawdad Excerpt~

Sometimes people do the best they can, but it ain't no good. There's no shame in it. Well, maybe there is, but there's nothing you can do about it anyway. No use getting mad about it. 

The day my mama died I'd been sitting there, wondering what I was gonna do, just like I had for the last three days of mama's coma. The hospice lady said I should tell mama is was all right to let go, but I didn't want to. I wanted her to sit up in bed and tell me what the hell she was thinking when she said I wasn't really her son. Who else's son would I be? Hadn't she been with me every single day of my life? It was only seventeen years, but I remembered her in almost every one of them. She was my mom as sure as August in Alabama is miserable hot, as sure as honey sticks to your fingers, and then she had to go and ruin it all.

"Jamil," she whispered to me, cause the emphysema had stolen most of her raspy voice. "I need to tell you something."

"It's OK, Mama. I know you wished you'd never smoked."

She done told me that about a million times. Made me swear on my immortal soul I'd never do it. I couldn't tell her I already had.

"It's not that."

She raised a bony hand for me to hold, her nails like claws they'd gotten so long. I took her hand and leaned in close so she wouldn't have to talk loud.

"There ain't much time left, so I better tell you this while I still can."

"Aw Mama, you gonna get better."

"No, I ain't Jamil. No time left. I just want to meet my maker with a clear conscience."

I couldn't imagine what she was talking about. My mama always had a "strong moral compass" she called it. She taught me right from wrong with a switch so I'd have one too, whatever it was.

"Then what is it?" I asked.

"I ain't..." she paused, her face bunched up like something hurt her.

"You need a nurse?"

"No. I ain't your mama."

"What?" I was sure my ears heard her wrong.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I'm struck this week by all the emotions going through my head as hear about various events in the world. It's a world that seems very far away from my safe, quiet home, but it's one I care about very much. I hate to see people hurting any time, but especially at Thanksgiving. So here's my wish for you my friends, no matter where in the world you might be~

May you be safe from fear, from hunger, and from cold.

May you be with those you love and who love you.

And above all, may you know peace in your heart and in your world.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Pig Park Blog Tour

Welcome to the Pig Park Blog Tour, another Diverse Book Tours presentation. Enjoy!

~About the Book~

Pig Park
by Claudia Guadalupe
ISBN: 978-1935955764
Publisher: Cinco Punto Press
Pages: 256
Genre: YA Contemporary

Plot Summary:
It's crazy. Fifteen year old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family's bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. as a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls in this scheme in hopes of luring visitors.
Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something's not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. And then there's the new boy who came to help. The one with the softest of lips. Pig Park is a contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths people will go to in the name of community--and maybe love.
~About the Author~

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, author of the award-winning The Smell of Old Lady Perfume, has long been distressed about how the global economy is displacing workers and families. Claudia grew up in El Paso, Texas. She and her family now live in Chicago, Illinois.



~Book Excerpt~

Chapter One

I stuffed the letter from the bank back into the drawer and slipped into the kitchen to turn the vent out toward Pig Park. The smell of cinnamon and butter escaped into the street.
Living above Burciaga’s Bakery—and being a Burciaga—meant it was my job to keep the kitchen spotless and to do any other number of things from bringing in the mail to answering the phone.
I was sort of the Cinderella of crumbs—minus the ugly stepsisters and the singing mice.
The last thing we needed was mice.
“How are you doing over there, Masi?” my dad asked.
“All right,” I said.
I grabbed a crusty bowl, ran it under hot water and scrubbed hard, scratching at it like it had the kind of itch that requires a good dose of calamine lotion. I tried not to think about the letter.
It wasn’t so easy.
See, my dad started the bakery with nothing but an old box of recipes. He liked to say that the bakery, like most of Pig Park, sprouted in the boom and shadow
of the American Lard Company. The company had even donated land right in the middle of everything for the park our neighborhood was named after. That’s why our neighborhood got named Pig Park, because pig fat made lard and lard had more or less made our neighborhood.
As the company grew, so did we. Hundreds of company employees lived and worked here. They ate and shopped here. We baked twice a day just to keep up. That’s until the company closed down, and people left with the jobs.
“Economic downturn.” That’s how the big wigs at American Lard explained away how our good old Chicago neighborhood got left behind. My dad said that just meant they didn’t think they were making
enough money. So they packed up their jobs and took them some other place—like a whole other country.
Never mind the irony of American Lard made somewhere other than America.
I knew from that letter in that drawer that with no one to buy the bread, the bakery would close down
for good too. We would end up leaving Pig Park like everyone else.
This is what else I knew: I’d lived in Pig Park my whole entire life. I still had a few friends left. So—even after everything—I couldn’t wrap my head around the bakery closing and us leaving also. It kept me up at night, wondering about tomorrow and the day after. Maybe I would never see my friends again. My family lived upstairs now. Maybe we’d end up homeless.
My dad was always saying not to think like that, to leave the worrying to him and my mom, but—I just couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help it about as much as I couldn’t help breathing or just being me.
My dad tied an apron around his waist, rolled his sleeves up and grabbed hold of the masa resting on the counter. Sweat dampened his shirt across his thick broad back. He pounded down on dough the color of dirt clay. “How about some music?”
“Like what?” I grabbed a dish towel and dried my hands.
I switched on the radio. My dad sang along to that old song, “Amorcitoooo Corazon.” I imagined
him making his way down a cobblestone road on a bike—balancing a big basket of freshly baked rolls on his head—belting out the song like in one of those old black and white movies they used to play in the park to bring the neighborhood together.

Diverse Book Tours Presents!

Welcome to my first Diverse Blog Tours Book Post!
I'm excited to support diverse books for young people any way I can and I encourage you to do the same by buying and reading and supporting diverse books. Today, I'd like to introduce you to "The Secret Life of Jenny Liu" by Jean Ramsden. Enjoy~

~10 Random Notes About “The Secret Life of Jenny Liu”~
1. Inspiration: A quiet, diverse middle-grade heroine that secretly solves problems.
2. Time to Outline: five months
3. Time to Write: five months Book Events Based on My Experiences 
I moved frequently as a child.
When I lived in southern VA, I took part in a whipped cream party, except that we used pies!
When I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, math races were a stressful part of my day.When I lived in upstate New York, my fifth-grade teachers got married.
 5. Favorite Character: Jenny. She is caring, complex, brave, creative and unique.
6. Favorite Character to Write: Ms. Candy. Creating a great teacher who is eccentric was so fun!
7. Favorite Scene: When Aidan helps Nadia clean the classroom walls.
8. Funniest Scene: When Aidan explodes the volcano and covers the classroom in water.
9. Favorite Tag Team: Aidan & Nadia
10.Favorite Ms. Candy Saying: “Madder than pigs on stilts.” It creates such a fantastic visual!

~About the Book~

Title: The Secret Life of Jenny Liu
Publisher: Jabber & Jam Books
Pages: 262
Genre: Middle Grade/ Juvenile Fiction

Jenny Liu is on the move again. Except this time, she hasn’t landed at yet another Chinese-American School in California but at a public school in South Carolina. Shy, artistic Jenny wonders if she will ever figure out how to fit in amongst rowdy fifth graders and eccentric teachers with hard-to-understand southern accents. To make matters worse, the class thinks she is super smart and her piano teacher thinks she is a musical genius. With school activities that test her intelligence and an upcoming piano recital, it’s getting harder for Jenny to do what’s right—to tell the truth—especially since she knows that The Real Jenny Liu would be even more of an outsider. Or would she?

~About The Author~


Jean Ramsden is a writer, producer and educational consultant. She graduated from Cornell University and Harvard University, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and four children. Connect: @jean_ramsden

Check out her book!,%201

Interested in Diverse Book Tours, a tour company that celebrates diverse books? Click on their button to find out more!

Friday, November 21, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

The Perilous Journey

Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.

add to goodreads
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham


The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl
Leigh Statham
Chapter One
Marguerite held the brass cricket gingerly in her hands. She kept it tucked under the table while she turned it over, her fingers blindly memorizing every feature. She knew it was childish for a sixteen-year-old to have a favorite toy, but she couldn’t help it. The design fascinated her. Occasionally she would trip the mechanism and the cricket literally sprang to life, launching itself against the underside of the table with a loud knock.
“What was that?” Madame Pomphart cried.
Marguerite caught the little metal bug with one hand and tucked it into the folds of her skirts. “Nothing,” she lied.
“I heard a noise.” The sour-faced governess slapped the desk with her pointer and stepped closer. “What are you hiding?”
Marguerite didn’t flinch. “You must be hearing things again. You are getting rather old.”
Madame Pomphart swung her pointer, making sound contact with Marguerite's shoulder.
“Ah!” Marguerite grabbed her shoulder and jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. She quite forgot about the little toy cricket which launched right at the governess’s face.
“What? Oh!” Madame Pomphart batted the air and stumbled backward, dropping her stick as the cricket ricocheted off her nose and landed at Marguerite’s feet. “How dare you bring vermin into my classroom? Your father will hear about this. Lord Vadnay will not be pleased!”
Marguerite scooped up her prize and ran for the door, grateful for the chance to escape.
“Get back here or you’ll receive double lashings!”
It was too late. Marguerite ran much faster than her teacher and was already halfway down the wide corridor. Lined with portraits of long-dead relatives and her father’s collection of modern weaponry, each display tempted her with thoughts of challenging the governess to a duel. She could easily scoop up one of the automated cat-o-nine-tails and turn back to the classroom. She rather fancied the idea, actually. But it wasn't the right time or the right way to handle her heavy-handed caretaker, and honestly, she wasn't quite brave enough to do more than talk back—not yet.
Her fear began to lift as she lightly descended the grand curving stairway to the ballroom, sprinting over the marble tiles and through the large doors to the gardens. The French summer sun blinded her. Marguerite blinked as she continued to run around the fountain filled with automated koi. A servant perched on the edge of the large pool, brass fish in hand. Its tail clicked furiously back and forth as he tried to oil it. The late-summer roses bloomed bright with color all around her. Butterflies seemed to flit merrily on every blossom, cheering her on. Human and automaton servants worked side by side grooming the large hedges … They jumped out of her way and bowed. None of them seemed surprised to see the young lady of the house running out of doors and they all knew where she was headed.
She tried to slip away to the cool shelter of the small glen beyond the lavender fields every chance she could, but since her father came up with the idea that she needed to be a “real lady,” it had become more difficult to sneak away.
At this point, she could have stopped. Pomphart wouldn’t follow her now, but it felt so good to move quickly after being at a table all morning. Her heart beat like an auto-hammer in her chest by the time she reached the work fields. More automatons and human servants stopped and bowed to the master’s daughter. Marguerite paid them no attention.
Finally reaching the small grove of trees, she flopped merrily on the soft grass and took a deep breath, then giggled to herself. She was safe, for now. The wind picked up and tousled the leaves overhead, sending bits of sunlight swimming wildly around her. The grass outside the glen rustled under the heavy thud of work boots: Claude.
“Hullo!” His voice sounded merry as he peered through the low branches that poked and tickled at the earth, surprised to see her there so early. “How’d you manage to beat me?” His wavy, light brown hair was just shaggy enough to soften his strong jaw and angular nose. His cheek was smeared with gear oil, right up to the corner of his smiling blue eyes. He was too tall for his work trousers and his chest had grown too broad for his cotton shirt. The buttons tugged a bit, but he wasn’t the type to care about his clothes. He pulled his welding goggles off of his head and wiped the sweat on his brow with the arm of his shirt.
“I ran.” She smiled wickedly.
Claude flopped down in the grass beside her. “That’s not very ladylike, and Pomphart doesn’t usually let you out till half past.”
“I had to run after this marvelous toy you made for me attacked her.” She held up the cricket like a prize gem freshly plucked from the earth.
“Marguerite!” he cried. “I asked you to keep it safe, not use it to get yourself tossed out of ladyhood!”
“It was an accident. I swear. The lessons are just so boring. I needed something to do, so I had it under the table. She’s such a brute. You should have seen how she hit me with her blasted pointer.”
“She struck you again?” his face turned dark.
“Yes, but it's nothing, just a welt on the shoulder.” The last thing she wanted was to be the damsel in distress.
“Still.” Claude's brow furrowed. “It's not right. Ladies don't strike other ladies. Please keep good care of that little bug. It took me a long time to build and I didn’t record the plans. I may need to borrow it back someday.”
“All right.” Disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for her naughtiness, she carried on. “But you should have seen her face! If only I could have a portrait made of that. I’d hang it over my bed and have a miniature made to keep by my heart.”
A nasally voice attached to a pointy-faced, pale girl in bright pink skirts burst through the cool glen. “Whose miniature are you keeping by your heart? You haven’t even had your ball yet.”
“Hello, Vivienne.” Marguerite sighed without enthusiasm.
“Marguerite has just sealed her doom,” Claude chimed in. “She threw the cricket I made her at Pomphart’s face today, so there may not be a ball.”
“That’s rubbish! I did no such thing. It just got away from me and bounced right off her nose.” Marguerite laughed again while recalling the image, but Claude’s words made her a bit nervous.
“Oh dear,” cried Vivienne. “What are you going to do?”
Of course Vivienne would make a big deal out of it, Marguerite didn’t expect anything less from her childish neighbor.
“I’m not sure. That’s why I came straight here.” She turned pointedly to Claude. “I thought you’d want to celebrate my freedom and take the rest of the day off.”
Claude was quick to reply, “I’m afraid I can’t. Lots to be finished at the forge and I am on stall-mucking duty with the bots.”
“What do you possibly have to finish at the forge that’s so important?”
Claude raised his eyebrows at her. “A certain girl’s father has requested automatic serving dishes made of twenty-four-karat gold for her introduction to society.”
“Oh my!” Vivienne drew a dramatic breath. “How elegant. I so wish I were old enough to come.”
“Don’t worry,” Marguerite patted the girl’s knee, “I’m sure you can borrow them for your own ball.”
“Marguerite … ” Claude hissed at her.
It wasn’t a very kind thing to say, but Marguerite had never been very fond of Vivienne. She mostly endured her company because she was the only girl within a hundred miles that was close to the same age and station as Marguerite. That, and Claude had insisted she be kind to her.
“You’re right, Claude.” Marguerite smiled in repentance. “I’m sure your father will have loads of wonderful things for the guests to marvel at when your time comes, Vivienne. Still, it would be nice to have both of you there. I suppose I will be forced to talk to strangers.”
“I can’t believe you’re not excited!” Vivienne chattered. “New dresses! Handsome suitors!”
“I am excited,” Marguerite cut her off, “to have it over and done with! Dressing up might be fun, but dressing up to catch a man is not my idea of a good time.”
“Don’t be vulgar.” Vivienne blushed. “It’s not like that at all.”
Claude cut in, “I’d love to stay and discuss this matter with you girls, but I do have a few chafing dishes waiting for their motors in the shop.”
Marguerite tensed at the thought of not only being left alone with Vivienne, but also being without Claude’s protection should Pomphart come looking for her. “Do you think I could come help you at the forge today?”
“Not if you want me to get anything done.” Claude smiled merrily.
“Stop it! You know I’m a whiz with gear-work.”
“When you are actually interested in the work, yes, but I’m afraid that auto-spoons and brass tureens would bore you to death.”
Marguerite tried to make her eyes look large and beseeching, but she knew it was no use.
“No. But you can walk me there. I forgot my lunch anyway,” Claude said as he reached to help Marguerite up.
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab a snack as I fled the dungeons,” Marguerite quipped.
“Oh! I know!” Vivienne was bursting. “Let’s have lunch in town today. You’re not going back to your lessons are you? And Claude is busy with work. It will be such fun girl time!”
Marguerite sighed, but Vivienne was right. There was no way for her to return to the estate house without being trapped by Pomphart, and she had nothing to do if Claude insisted on finishing his chores. Still, she was uneasy about the idea of being on her own with Pomphart’s wrath hovering around an unknown corner waiting to pounce. The woman was ruthless when no one of importance was watching. She had a way of getting Marguerite off on her own and exacting whatever form of punishment she felt was suitable for the crime. Marguerite tried to complain to her father, but he wouldn’t listen, he thought Marguerite just didn’t want lessons anymore.
Claude knew all of this and sensed her fears in her quiet gaze.
“Come with me, both of you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Claude smiled.
Marguerite jumped up at his tug, tossed her wavy brown hair, and set her skirts aright, glad someone was helping her make up her mind. “Very well.”
“Hooray! Oh, I know just the place,” Vivienne said. “There is a new little patisserie I saw the other day I’ve been aching to try.” She skipped up the hill ahead of the other two, babbling on about buns and cakes and half sandwiches.
Claude reached for Marguerite’s arm and squeezed a bit. He used this gesture when he was about to chastise her, but she didn’t think she’d been that rude to Vivienne. The girl got on her nerves with every word, but her intentions were good and Marguerite wasn’t cruel by nature, just impatient.
“What?” she hissed.
“I have some news, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Relieved not to be in trouble, but also perplexed, Marguerite wished more now than ever that Vivienne would just skip into oblivion with her bouncy blonde curls and scattered thoughts.
“Yes. You know how we spoke a few weeks ago about my plans?”
“Did you find a position in Paris?” Marguerite could scarcely contain herself. Her friend was so talented, and she knew better than anyone that he was wasted working as a bondservant on her father’s estate. If he could secure an apprenticeship in Paris he could come back to La Rochelle as a master tradesman. Plus she could visit him there. Still, apprenticeships were hard to come by.
“No, I think it’s better than that.”
“What could be better than Paris?” In her mind, crowds of well-dressed ladies paraded down glittering avenues while the latest autocarts passed by in a blur of technology and innovation. Paris was the hub of all things Marguerite admired.
“I’ve signed into His Majesty’s service. As of next week, I’ll be an official member of the Royal Corp of Engineers.”
“You what?” She was stunned. It took her a moment to sort out her emotions. How could he have made this type of decision without consulting her? They had shared everything since they discovered each other as bored children on the estate a decade ago.
“I knew you’d be angry with me for not telling you beforehand, but an opportunity just presented itself and I knew it was right—I had to take it.”
“No, I’m not angry at all. Just shocked. You know how my father feels about the military.”
“But you see, that’s just it. I won’t have to worry about your father anymore, I won’t owe him anything. My first assignment is to New France.”
“Are you two coming or not? I’m starved!” Vivienne had doubled back when she realized she was talking to herself.
Marguerite wasn’t sure she could eat or talk at that moment. She wasn’t sure she could even take another step.


L. Statham

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.

Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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The book will be sent upon the titles release.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Symbols and Meaning in Fiction

When I hear the word symbolism, I’m reminded of my anthropology training. There’s a theory in anthropology called symbolism that basically says human beings ascribe meanings to symbols in their cultures that reflect their values and life ways. In the same way, an author might assign meaning to symbols in their fiction, and a reader could assign yet another meaning that’s very different. Each reader brings their own set of experiences to the fiction they read, just as each writer brings theirs. That’s part of the magic of fiction – that it can speak to various people in many different ways.

Now, I’m guessing most authors don’t plan their fiction with symbols in mind. These things tend to emerge organically as the writer writes. It’s just innate in us as humans. It happens whether it’s intended or not. I recently read that people used to ask Shel Silverstein what the meaning of The Giving Tree was all the time and he said there wasn’t one. It’s an excellent example of an author’s intent being vastly different than all the meanings the readers want to ascribe to the work.

In Hush Puppy, there’s a secret notebook shared between the two main characters that becomes a symbol of the trust between them. The notebook becomes pivotal at the climax of the story, when the trust has been destroyed. I assure you it wasn’t planned that way when I wrote it, but there it is, plain as day, when I look back at it now.

Think back to the last book you read. What symbols spoke to you and what did they say?

~Visit UncommonYA for more articles on YA writing~

Friday, November 7, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Dez is finally hitting her afterlife stride. She hasn’t missed a meeting or session in forty-two days, and she’s put the adventures and danger of her first days at Atman behind her. Life after death is becoming tolerable, yet nothing is quite what she’d hoped. Confusion over her feelings for Charlie, residual resentment over losing Hannah, and a continuous stream of unwanted assignments leave Dez restless and argumentative.
In a missed encounter with Crosby, her prying gaze lands upon a single entry in the datebook on his unoccupied desk. These few, hastily scribbled words reveal an enormous secret he’s keeping from her. Possessed by a painful sense of betrayal, she once again sneaks off to Atman City, determined to find answers to an unresolved piece of her life.
It begins as all their adventures do, but as light falls into darkness, a stop in an unfamiliar neighborhood sets forth a chaotic series of events. Dez will have to fight for her very existence, and will face painful, irreparable loss in an afterlife teeming with demons wielding ancient powers.
In M.I.A.: Missing in Atman, the second book in the Atman City series, Michelle E. Reed continues the story of Dez Donnelly, pushing her to her limits and surprising readers at every twist and turn of the vast world that is Atman.
Death was only the beginning.

add to goodreads
Title: Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Michelle E. Reed


(Missing in Atman)
Michelle E. Reed
Chapter One
“Thinking about her again?”
The grass prickles me through my thin cotton shirt as I roll onto my back and take in the sky’s churning array of blues peeking through the treetops. My thoughts drift back over a span of months, coming to rest on a farewell still tugging at my heart.
“Of course I am.”
“What do you suppose she’s doing right now?” Charlie asks. His fingers trace a meandering trail up and down my arm.
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s probably amazing.”
Three months. That’s how long Hannah has been missing from my life.
Well, my afterlife.
She was my first friend, and my first goodbye. Our worlds intersected for just a week, but that’s all it takes. Bonds form fast and strong here, and when you’re stranded in limbo, never quite sure who will be the next to leave, you have a steady reminder that the end of life does not mean the end of loss.
My bracelet taunts me, an unwanted reminder of exactly how long I’ve been here and how far I am from leaving. LEVEL 02-068-098.
I scroll through the menu to the time and groan. “I have to go.”
“Want me to walk you to Admin?” Charlie sits up, chivalry at the ready.
“You’d better try and find Pip before work.” I point to the bag of grapes sitting next to him. “He’s going to want those.”
“He’s just a bird, Dez.”
“But he’s Hannah’s bird. And we promised to take care of him.”
“That was before I knew how high maintenance he is.” He holds up his hand for inspection. “My finger still hurts.”
“You’re the one who was teasing him with that banana. Besides, if you can jump out a ninety-five story window without a scratch, I don’t think a toucan is going to hurt you.”
The day I met Charlie, he set our relationship in motion by plummeting from a library window in an ill-conceived attempt at humor. It was then I learned of his early, dark days at Atman when he tried in every conceivable way to kill himself, from hanging to stepping in front of high-speed trains. Through this terrible process, he learned the physical pain we feel and injuries we sustain in this transitional existence are all in our heads. Charlie is the only underage soul I know of who is immune to pain.
“Still, his beak is really sharp,” he says.
“Poor baby.” I kiss his fingertip. “Well, I’ve got to hurry up and get to my meeting before work. I’m running late as it is.”
“At least you get a short work day.”
“I’d rather scrub dishes than deal with Kay.” I stand. “See you at open rec?”
“Count on it.”
A receptionist sits at a small desk before the only other door in the room where I sit, impatient. Drab, run-of-the-mill d├ęcor adorns the walls, which are painted in a revolting shade of dull. As I survey the clean lines of the minimalist furniture, I can't help but wonder how gigantic the afterlife’s IKEA must be.
I chuckle, just loud enough to attract the attention of the new receptionist.
She’s a plump woman with graying hair and a shockingly pink pantsuit. She looks up from a small stack of paperwork to give me a polite smile.
“Don’t worry, Desiree, she’ll be with you shortly.”
“Dez. No one calls me Desiree,” I say for what seems like the millionth time. My mood is in rapid decline. This looming therapy session allows no happiness to overlap from my picnic lunch with Charlie.
“What’s that, dear?”
I hate pink.
She returns her attention to the stack of paper on her desk. Her smile becomes a small but noticeable frown. My attention turns to the task of identifying the familiar melody piped in from a speaker overhead.
What’s the point in not letting me remember? It’s a love-hate relationship I have with this existence. Mostly hate. My fingernails tick tick tick against the slim metal arms of my chair.
Pink Pantsuit looks up again from her collating. “Can I help you with something?”
“Depends. Can you get me on the next train out of here?” I plaster an angelic smile and hopeful look on my face.
She scowls and returns her attention to her paperwork.
“That’s what I thought.”
The door behind Pink Pantsuit opens, and Kay Robinson’s tall, lithe frame breezes into the waiting area.
“Hi, Dez. Come on back.” Her voice is warm and soothing.
A feeling of serenity washes over me, and I don’t bother fighting it. Her greetings always have this effect on me. It’s what follows that sends my mood plummeting.
She leads me down a narrow corridor to her cramped office, where I plunk down in my usual spot, facing her desk.
“You know, Dez, you’re actually one of the lucky ones.”
My reply comes out as a single, disgusted snort. I grab a stress ball from her desk and toss it in the air. It sails up, arcing slightly, and lands back in my hand.
The corners of Kay’s mouth curl up just a bit, and she does a poor job hiding the amusement dancing in her eyes. This is how our relationship goes. Mutually aloof, but secretly friendly. I can’t say I really get her, but I guess that’s not the point. She’s my Station Guidance and Assistance rep, so she’s here for me.
“Lucky? Yeah, sure. Lucky me,” I say.
“Grumpy again?”
“Is that the clinical term? And what do you mean, ‘again?’”
“I’ll take that as a yes. You’re going to love what’s on the agenda for today.”
“We’ll start with something easy. Tell me about adoption.”
“I thought I was here for your ‘guidance and assistance,’ Kay.”
“Yes, that’s exactly why you’re here. You know that. Now, if you don’t mind, allow me to guide and assist you.”
I shrug. “Adoption in general, foster adoption, multi-racial adoption, or my multi-racial adoption? There are lots of choices.”
“Whatever you feel like. Just go for it.”
“Fine. You’re getting my sophomore year Honors English informative speech.”
“You remember a speech from a class you took two years before you died? You’re good.”
“You want to hear this or not?”
Kay raises her hands in surrender.
“I’ll just nutshell it for you.” I clear my throat and begin reciting. “My mom was always certain it was fate that brought us together as a family. The infertility treatments, miscarriages, tests, and endless months spent as a human pincushion were all for a reason. Adoption wasn’t a distant second choice—that’s just how things shake out. You decide you want a baby, and you try to have one the way most people do. When it doesn’t work out, you find yourself consulting specialists, going to appointment after appointment, trying all sorts of crazy medical procedures in order to—”
Kay holds up a traffic cop hand. “I was hoping you’d share your feelings on adoption.”
“You said, ‘whatever you feel like.’” I toss the stress ball to her.
“Speaking of a deeply personal matter in a detached, sterile way does neither of us any good.” She tosses the ball back to me. “You tend to de-personalize the deeply personal, Miss Donnelly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And what’s this ‘Miss Donnelly’ crap?”
“You balk at sharing feelings and experiences in a personal way. You detach in what I believe is an attempt to avoid the risk of being exposed to painful emotions.”
I glance around her small office. “You’d think that for an eternity, they could spring for better digs.”
“You’re also a master of deflection.”
“So are you,” I retort. “You called me lucky.” I throw the stress ball at her, a little harder than necessary. She catches it with ease, her coordination matching her graceful, willowy frame. “Last I checked, I’ve been attacked by a madwoman, stalked and assaulted by a murderer, had some mystery staff member linked to my brain without my consent, and had my roommate unceremoniously snatched from this limbo-verse a week after I got here. How, exactly, am I lucky?”
“Because you’re not as complicated as you think you are.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“What I mean is you’re not going to be at Atman so terribly long. Moving on is really up to you, and you have an uncanny ability to make things far more difficult than they need be.” She raises her eyebrows, daring me to challenge her.
“That’s comforting. Glad to know it’s my fault I’m stuck here, because, you know, it’s not bad enough just being stuck here. It’s not enough to die at seventeen and never really get a chance to live. I need guilt, too.”
“You’ve found yourself a great support system. In your short time with us, you have developed strong bonds with several floormates and a particular member of our staff.”
“Fine, you’ve got me. I’m lucky. Charlie’s awesome. Bobby’s a genius. Crosby’s the best mother hen a girl could ask for. Hannah, however, is gone, and thanks so much for that. Can we move on, please?”
“What has you in such a mood today, Dez?”
“Do I have to have a reason? Isn’t being dead enough?”
Kay lets me sit in silence and stew in my anger. I focus on a granite plaque on her desk. Each time I’ve been here, it has displayed a different quote.
“That’s helpful, as usual. Last time it was some Confucius crap.”
“It was good advice. ‘It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.’ Haven’t you found that to be true since you’ve gotten here? Be honest.” She narrows her gaze and leans forward in her chair. It squeaks, marking another entry in the long, long list of things here that make no sense.
A chair in need of a blast of WD-40 in the afterlife?
“You remind me of my mom,” I blurt out.
Kay waits a moment before responding. “You’re changing the subject again, but let’s go with it. I think this could be important.” She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and leans forward to rest her elbows on her desk.
It’s not just those left behind who grieve; the dead feel the agony of loss as well. We worry about the living and how they’re coping, how they’re getting along without us. We feel the sharp, raw pain. The same suffocating fear crushes us. Those we leave behind suffer a single loss, but the dead? We lose everything and everyone who ever mattered to us.
“Do we really have to get into this right now? I think I need to go partake of some chaotic action.”
“I think you’ve had your fill.” She glances out her small window toward the skyline of Atman City. “Enough to last quite some time, even in the span of eternity.”
An immediate longing pulls at me as I take in the off-limits city I’d snuck into three times during my first week here. The final visit nearly cost me my freedom in a dangerous confrontation with a lunatic. Despite the pointed lesson, I know I’d go back in a second if I could get away with it.
“Never going to let that go, huh?” I ask, drawn from my daydream of adventures never to be.
“Let’s not get off track.” She clicks the top of her pen. “Have you seen your mom in DSR lately?”
In the days following my funeral, my mom’s sorrow and pain left her contemplating suicide, a scene played out for me in Dream-State Reflection. Fearing the worst, I made that fateful third trip to Atman City, hoping to use the communication pods at Nero’s Tavern to contact her.
“It seems like she’s doing a bit better, from what little they show me. She’s been working on her garden. I think it’s therapeutic.”
Kay nods as she takes notes. “Returning to activities she enjoys is a good sign, and I’m glad to hear she’s progressing through her grief.” She looks up from my file. “I want to get back to what you said, though—that I remind you of her. Can you tell me what it is about me that lends itself to that comparison?”
“I … maybe nothing. Maybe I’m just grasping.” I pick at my fingernails and focus on my cuticles to avoid her gaze. “Is it ever going to stop hurting so much?”
“Think of how far you’ve already come, and you’ll find your answer.”
My hands drop into my lap. “Talk about clinical.”
“You’re in a much better place than you were upon arrival, are you not?”
“I suppose.”
“Of course you are. Don’t be afraid of progress, Dez, and don’t be afraid to feel. Own the pain. Allow yourself to experience the loss you’ve suffered. It is the only way to move forward.”
“Could you be more vague?”
Kay smiles. “Well, now you’ve stepped in it. You want specifics? I have a perfect assignment for you.”



Michelle E. Reed

Michelle was born in a small Midwestern town, to which she has returned to raise her own family. Her imagination and love of literature were fueled by a childhood of late nights, hidden under the covers and reading by flashlight. She is a passionate adoption advocate who lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and their yellow lab, Sully.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Sixth Sense: Breathing Life into Fiction with Sensory Details

Repeat after me: My book is a book. It is not a movie. It doesn’t have music and flashy lights. I must give my book life through my language with sensory details.

So often, new authors get caught up in the visual details and lose sight of all the other sensations human beings experience. It’s natural. Our vision is the primary sense we rely on, unless we’re blind.

Visual details are great and you have to put those descriptions in your story, but there are four other senses that bring a fictional world to life that you don’t want to leave out.

Sounds have implication all their own. They can set a mood or a scene beautifully. Is it calm, like birds calling in a quiet forest? Or chaotic, like a crowd of a thousand people screaming in a riot? Describing the sounds “show” the reader your setting without just “telling” them “It was calm”.

Tastes might be a good sense to use sparingly, but don’t disregard it. You don’t need to describe the taste of every food item a character eats unless it’s pertinent in some way. Taste is very primal, tied to our very sustenance and survival. It can be very powerful. Think about it. What taste is in your mouth right now? Morning breath? Garlic from your Caesar salad at lunch? What if it was blood? A particularly distinctive taste might serve as a metaphor for other feelings or themes you want to convey. In Hush Puppy, Jaime gives Corrine a wild blackberry to eat. The berry represents their relationship – sweet, slightly tart, and crushed.

Smells can also set the scene when used properly. Is it the comforting, homey smell of Thanksgiving dinner or burning diesel gasoline your character smells? Tied closely to taste, smells are a primal sense too. Each individual human being has a smell all their own, which can be alluring or repellant. And smells are strongly tied to memories. Whenever I smell perfume and cigarette smoke together, my grandmother instantly comes to mind. That’s her smell and it always will be for me.

Last, but not least, is touch – most basic of all. A human can lose their sense of sight, smell, hearing, and even taste, but I don’t think anyone could entirely lose their sense of touch. Science tells us just how critical touch is to human child development. We need it and it’s just as important in your fiction.