Excerpt from my WIP – YA Novel

pink sunriseThe sunrise bathes the stadium in a pretty pink glow, but I just might puke.

Coach takes my jacket and looks me in the eye. “Jovi, there’s no need to be nervous. You can run three-point-two miles in your sleep. Forget that it’s Regionals. Use your mantra: Just another run. You got this.” He pats my back—three quick exclamation points on the end of his pep talk.

Easy-peasy.

“Yes sir.” I walk toward the starting line. Just another run. Just another run.

This is not just another run—if I don’t win today, and place at State in two weeks, I’ll never get a running scholarship and college will be out of the question. There’s zero money to help make my dream come true. If I’m going to be the first one in my family to go to college, I’ll have to find a way to pay for it myself, and a scholarship is at the top of the list.

The bleachers are packed. It’s a sea of colorful blankets and jackets pulled tight against the crisp dawn. Yet, none of my family is here. Just like every other day, Dad, Luke and Sassy are working in the pecan orchard, and GrandMary doesn’t drive. If Dad had his way, I’d never run another mile in my life, and I’d spend every spare moment working in the family’s pecan business: clearing branches, bagging pecans, shelling pecans, cleaning equipment, whatever needs doing. It’s Dad’s life. It was his father’s life. And he wants to make it my life.

My best friend, Morgan is here, but only because I bribed her with ice cream after the meet. Morgan has perfect skin the color I like my coffee—with three creamers—can sing like an angel, mixes plaids with prints, and doesn’t know right from left or north from south. She changes the color of her wild curls with her mood, and right now I’m glad I can spot her pink hair in the stands. Otherwise, I’d be here alone. Again.

Fifty-seven other long-legged, pony-tailed girls line up on the grass at the one-yard line. I wedge myself between green and gold, and purple and white. Somewhere in the pack, wearing black and gold, with matching size ten Nike’s, is last year’s state champ, Shianne Boggs. She may have big feet, but off the course, she’s the girl with the $100 blowout, designer jeans, and way too many trophies.

“Runners, take your marks.”

I crouch into position with one foot in front of the other, one hand on the ground. Eyes straight ahead. At least I know this course. It’s my third time at Wimberley Regionals. The next twenty minutes of my life will be fields, creeks, hills, and a wooded path wide enough for four fast feet.

“Set.”

Okay adrenaline, work your magic.

The shot cracks through the air, turning my tension into thunder. I bolt forward.

It doesn’t take long for me to pull out front, along with six or seven others. Shianne’s weird exhale whistling in my right ear helps me focus. My jitters are gone. I have one job to do—win this race—and it’s starting to feel do-able.

The first mile is fast. Maybe five-minute-mile fast. My heart is a machine in my chest. Elbows bump. Colorful running shoes slap the ground in comfortable rhythm. My body is slick with sweat.

Several minutes tick by in an instant. All I know is my breath and my heart and my desire to win. I can do this. I’ve won my share of races but this is the one that counts. Winning today would be an upset but Coach says it’s my time. He’s had me in the gym lifting weights and doing flexibility training for months and I feel stronger than ever. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. A win today would change everything.

With less than a mile to go, I’m one of four leaders packed in tight, and the pace is grueling. Quads on fire, lungs exploding. We splash across a creek—the cold water on my legs a refreshing surprise. I lean in and climb the last hill, giving it all I’ve got. One more turn and we’ll be back at the football field for the final 400 meters around the track.

It’s way too crowded in the turn. I’m on the inside. Not enough room.

Can’t find my footing.

My right elbow slams into another runner. Black and gold tumbles into my fall. Shianne Boggs. We’re a slow-motion collision of arms and legs and sweat.

Until our heads slam together.

And a dark explosion swallows me.

Why I’ve Been Neglecting my Blog

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting on my blog much in recent weeks. This is because I’ve been devoting all of my free time to writing a Young Adult (YA) novel – a contemporary coming of age story of family, friendship, and toxic love.

Here’s an excerpt. More later!

Couple

There was a quiet knock on Jovi’s bedroom door.

“I gotta go,” she whispered.

“No! You have to-”

Jovi disconnected with Opal, set down her phone, and minimized Twitter on her computer screen. “Come in,” she said as she turned in her swivel desk chair.

Vivian opened the door and stood at the threshold.

“Hi mom!” Jovi nervously glanced around her messy room. Clothes covered every surface, and she had not made the bed. She was just about to say something when Vivian stepped toward the dress hanging on the closet door.

“I love what you did with the skirt here,” Vivian said, running her fingers across the cloth. “Wait, is this fabric from one of your old Easter dresses?”

Jovi pulled her legs into the chair and sat cross-legged. “Yeah, and the lace at the top I got from one of your pageant dresses. You said I could use what I wanted from the trunks in the attic. I hope you don’t mind,” Jovi rambled. It had been so long since her mother was in her room, she found herself fidgety – worried she would say something to scare her away. She cleared her throat and calmed her voice. “I’m sorry it’s such a mess in here. I was going to straighten up but I need to finish my essay first. And I need to get outside to- ”

“You’ve got quite a flair, Jovi Joy. Quite a flair,” Vivian interrupted, still admiring the dress. “Aunt Dovie has taught you well. I think you may be a better seamstress than she is now.”

“Oh well, I don’t know about that. It’s just fun. And I figure, why buy clothes when I can make something I really like, and that fits me,” Jovi said. She picked up an ink pen and clicked it up and down. “When I do buy something, I just end up ripping it apart anyway, you know? And making something else out of it.”

Vivian didn’t reply. She walked over to the window and parted the white muslin fabric draped over a tension rod. Unlike the view of the orchard from Vivian’s room on the back of the house, this window looked straight down Caddo Creek Road.

Jovi recognized the sudden gulf between them. It was as if her mother had walked through an invisible barrier into another world. A world where sadness, worry and fear swooped in heavy and hard threatening to never let go. With all the enthusiasm she could muster, she picked up the conversation. “Thank you again for giving me free reign of your old clothes.”

Silence.

“I’ve been wearing some of them as-is. Vintage is the new black!”

No reply.

“I can’t wait until it gets cold enough to wear your old suede jacket with the fringe. Opal is going to flip when she sees it!” Jovi could hear the sadness seeping into her own voice.

“If that jacket could talk…” Vivian said quietly as she let the makeshift curtain fall.

Relieved, Jovi got up from her desk and crossed the room. She wrapped her arms around an impossibly tiny waist and rested her cheek against the upper back of her mother’s cotton shirt. Vivian’s arms hung loose at her sides. Jovi tried hard to reconcile the person she held with the vibrant woman her mother had once been. High-school cheerleader. Beauty queen. Budding photographer.

“You and I will learn to surf next summer,” Vivian said.

Jovi didn’t know how to respond to the impossibly optimistic promises that often flew from her mother’s lips. They sprang from nowhere. Bright ideas. Daydreams, that when spoken aloud crashed into reality and shattered like broken glass. Last week Vivian had proposed they go skydiving.

“That’ll be fun Momma,” Jovi said as a single tear fell from her cheek.

The back door slammed. “Junebug,” her father yelled.

Jovi’s body went stiff.

“Go,” Vivian said as she turned to face her daughter.

“I love you Momma,” Jovi said, looking into her mother’s beautiful green eyes. Then she flew from the room and down the stairs.

After The Baby Rabbits Disappeared

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Excerpt from my book, More Than Everything

A year goes by.  A year of life in the fast lane with lots of money, and we finally move out of the rent house in town.  Shane’s paranoia has maxed out.  He is now convinced we are being watched and is sure the cops are listening to our calls, so he finds and leases some property out in the country.  Ten secluded acres in Wise County.  There is an old run-down trailer house, a big barn, a chicken coop, and a huge garden plot.  There is no phone line and Shane likes it that way.  Shane decides that it is secluded enough that we can live there and he can cook his speed there too every few months when we need to make more money.  He and his buddies buy a big, prefabricated barn and put it out there next to the trailer.  We store all of our furniture and boxed belongings in the barn for the time being and live in the old, furnished trailer with the ratty gold shag carpet, a gold crushed-velvet sofa and a heavy, Mexican-style wood coffee table in the living room.  In the kitchen there is a yellow Formica table and two matching chairs that is the spitting image of the one my parents had when I was growing up.  The one that mama would sit at, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone while she swatted me away like a fly.  One bare light bulb hangs over the center of the table.  One bedroom is empty and in the other one, we throw a double-size mattress on the floor and use a cardboard box for a nightstand.  We stack other cardboard boxes on their sides, so the openings face outward, forming a series of cubby holes, and use them as a dresser for our clothes.

It is great being out in the country, far away from the junkies.  Our dog, a black lab named Dino loves running wild.  A friend brings his dog out there too, also a black lab, and Dino is in heaven.  Those dogs play, run, swim, hunt and have the time of their lives.  For several months it is bliss; just me, Shane and the dogs living quietly, taking long walks in the woods and going fishing.  Shane and I have never spent so much quality time together.  It is nice.  We are relaxed out here away from the city.  Shane actually talks to me and hardly ever yells.  He tells me things I’ve never known about him and I fall in love all over again.  We sit in lawn chairs under the stars and listen to the crickets and the hoot of an owl.  We sleep soundly and make love loudly and shower together every day.  Shane finds an old tiller in the barn and after a day of tinkering on it, has it running like a top.  He tills up the huge half acre garden plot for days and the earth is rich and fragrant; I sit in the big middle of the loose dirt grabbing handfuls and letting it sift through my fingers like all-purpose flour.  We plant every kind of vegetable you can think of and revel at each tiny, green shoot that sprouts from the ground.  We buy rolls of chicken wire and patch up the pens and fill them with chickens, turkeys and geese.  We spend the spring mending fence, planting flowers, and sprucing up the place.

One day I am the only one home and I’m mowing the front lawn barefooted.  I decide to go inside and put on some shoes before I try to mow the backyard where the grass is six inches high.  I turn off the mower, run inside, grab a pair of socks out of the sock cubbyhole, and my tennis shoes from the closet and sit on the edge of the bed to put them on.  As I’m tying the last lace, a large plastic thermos suddenly tumbles down from a shelf in the closet and lands at my feet.  I jump up and look into the closet to see why the thermos would have fallen and I’m eye to eye with a huge chicken snake, as big around as a can of Coke, coiled and stacked on the shelf like a garden hose. Continue reading