My Words: A Young Adult Short Story

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and we see what we can find. On the first Wednesday of each month, I’m featuring some snippet of my words; that is, my writing.

In April of this year, ORANGE KAREN: TRIBUTE TO A WARRIOR was released. This anthology features more than 30 short stories from various genres. Among them is my young adult contemporary short story, Color Me Happy. Here’s an excerpt:

Orange Pompoms

Oh, how I wanted to be the girl-on-top.

I know what you’re thinking, but the term had nothing to do with sexual aggressiveness or sluthood. I’m not like that. I’m talking cheerleading pyramid.

Splits, back flips, herkies, toe-touch jumps, tumbling passes—I could do them in my sleep. I’d been tumbling since elementary school and a cheerleader since the first tryouts in junior high. I’d craved that top spot since I’d made the high school varsity squad, and finally the cheerleading coach had designated me to be “the girl-on-top.”

We came out in orange football jerseys with tight white shorts, shaking our orange-and-white pompoms. With my natural light red—okay, orange—hair, I looked like a striped traffic cone. The first part of our routine went smoothly—a choreographed dance to a pop and hip-hop medley. Then it was go time for our stunts. The lifts and jumps were as smooth as the satin ribbons in our hair, as three of us were hoisted up and thrown into flips and twists, each caught by three spotters below. The students clapped and yelled as we performed our daring feats . . . or showed off our legs—take your pick.

Then we gathered up into a bunch and started to form the final trick. I was lifted like before, but this time even higher. At the top, I raised one leg over my head and stood single-footed on the flattened hands of junior Tara Smith. The crowd erupted with cheers, and the stands rumbled with the feet of hundreds of students expressing their admiration. I was there—at the top to hear and see it all.

My heart thumped wildly, and my head floated further above my third-story location. The music ended on a boom, and the praise of our spectators washed over me anew. This was exactly where I’d wanted to be.

And then I felt it. A slight movement at the bottom of the pyramid, like the princess felt the pea or Yertle the Turtle burped at the bottom. Immediately, I lowered my leg, and Tara quickly responded by spreading out her hands to let me stand in a more stable position. But her hand faltered. Her balance wavered. Time slowed to a crawl, and I could see what was happening before I fell.

The cheerleaders’ hold gave way, and I went down like an ice cream scoop onto the sidewalk. Spotters scrambled beneath me. I had one last thought before I landed: “Please, no one put this on YouTube.”

ORANGE KAREN Book CoverTo read more, check out the book: ORANGE KAREN: TRIBUTE TO A WARRIOR. The current Kindle price is only $3.99, and Amazon Prime members can borrow it for free!

Do you enjoy short stories? Do you have any anthology recommendations? And have you ever been on the top of a cheerleading pyramid?

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My Published Words

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what fabulous fun we can discover together.

Normally it’s something about grammar, word play, etymology, famous quotes, etc. But today I got into the maze, turned a corner, and voila, there it was! The Goblin KingThe Goblet of Fire. Okay, actually it was this:

Orange Karen Cover

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve already mentioned the Orange Karen Tribute Anthology–oh, maybe three or twenty times. But tomorrow feels rather special to me because I finally get to share my wordsmy languagemy story with readers.

Tomorrow, April 11, is the official release day for this anthology featuring short stories from various genres. My YA contemporary short, COLOR ME HAPPY, is among them.

Karen DeLabar
“Orange Karen”

I began writing over four years ago, but this is the first fiction piece I’ve had published. And the cause is such a good one–supporting our marvelous writer friend, Karen DeLabar, as she continues to battle the fallout of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

But I thought I’d share some other words of mine today as well. Because while this is my first fiction piece in print, it isn’t the first thing I’ve had published.

You see, I made an appearance in the December/January 2001 issue of Child magazine. Was I giving parenting advice? Oh no. I was asking for it. I had read all of the What to Expect books, but the pregnancy/motherhood books that most helped me gain perspective were the Girlfriend’s Guide books written by Vicki Iovine. She had an advice column in the magazine, and I submitted a question. Yep, I was Sleepless in Texas.

Child Magazine page

And then there was the 2011 DFW Writers’ Conference. Penguin Promo had a booth in the exhibit hall. Several days beforehand, they ran a contest for t-shirt slogans. The prize was simply that your slogan would be chosen, sold at the conference, and you would receive a freebie. I submitted a few slogans, and one was chosen to grace the front of a shirt.

T-shirt: I'd grovel to publish my novel.
I’d grovel to publish my novel.

So having been “published” already, should I really be that exuberant about the release of my short story?

WELL, I AM.

I’m thrilled to start my fiction publications with a short story, in the YA genre, among a group of quality authors, and for the benefit of Karen. What better way to have a “debut”?!

If you would like to read my words–and/or those of the other 38 authors involved in this project–here’s where you can buy, starting Thursday, April 11.

Amazon print book: ORANGE KAREN: TRIBUTE TO A WARRIOR

Amazon ebook: ORANGE KAREN: TRIBUTE TO A WARRIOR

Also be sure to mark this a “Want to Read” on Goodreads and post a review (if you do that sort of thing).

Remember that all proceeds go toward helping Karen pay her medical and rehabilitation expenses. And a massive thanks to Christina Esdon, the leader of this project, who has been gracious at every turn and a delightful person to work with.

So what were the first words you ever had published? Have you ever written in to a magazine or newspaper? Have you ever come up with a slogan? Which of your words are you particularly proud of?

First Impressions, Cover Reveal, and ROW80

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

Today’s topic is first impressions. The whole reason for the popular saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is because that’s exactly what we’re inclined to do. And that’s not all bad either.

Some years back, I read a book called You’ve Only Got Three Seconds. The author is/was a communications consultant for executives looking to enhance their image. Her proposition is that you have an extremely limited time–like three seconds–to make a positive first impression.

I cringed a little at that theory because I wanted to believe in my NF temperament heart that what’s deep down inside is what matters and that people are willing to spend time, get to know you, dig down, and discover how wonderful you are. But the book convinced me that no matter how much I dream for such a utopia, that’s not the real world.

In the real world, we size each other up all the time. Not because we’re all heartless jerks who can’t be bothered to avoid prejudice, but because our snap judgments save time and are often correct. Take for instance the guy with his pants hanging down to show off half of his boxers, numerous piercings through his skin, and a skull-and-crossbones t-shirt. He’s telling us something about himself, and as such we assume that this guy is not headed for elected office or a yacht club. Or the carefully crafted woman with perfectly coiffed hair, a fresh manicure/pedicure, pricey garments, and expensive jewelry hanging off her. She’s making a statement with that look, and it isn’t punk-rocks-my-world.

Such messages are not about our worth or our goodness, but rather glances at our personality and priorities. In how we choose to dress, groom, carry ourselves, and approach people, we communicate a message. If you don’t think it does, may I replace your wardrobe with what your least favorite relative thinks you should wear? Probably not. We would balk at letting anyone else choose our look because we know that our choices convey a message about us.

Perhaps your message is that appearance isn’t that important to you. That’s okay. Or maybe you are sending the message with yoga pants, a large t-shirt, and spit-up on your shoulder that you are lucky to have gotten dressed today with twin babies at home. You might dress fancy daily because that makes you feel more confident and presentable to the world around you. But however you do it–and like it or not–you are making a first impression.

It matters to us personally . . . and it matters to writers when they choose book covers. A cover is a book’s first impression, and it sends a message. It gives a potential reader a sense of what’s within the pages.

So when the Orange Karen Anthology team revealed the cover for its upcoming short story anthology–in which my YA story Color Me Happy will be published–I was nervous to take a look. BUT Y’ALL, I LOVE IT!

Orange Karen Cover

The Orange Karen anthology features short stories by more than 30 authors with a range of genres. The profits from book sales will go toward lessening the burden of medical expenses incurred by Karen DeLabar in her bout with toxic shock syndrome. I am thrilled to be a part of this project, and I think this cover gives a marvelous first impression.

And now on to last impressions . . . as in my final ROW80 check-in for 2013 Round 1.

ROW80 Update

My goals were fluid this time, as they often are. I’ve listed them below with the original goals in blue and added goals in red. This is a wrap-up, with a summary of my progress for the whole round.

Editing

  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. I did some rewriting during the round, but I was not pleased with the resultsLast week, I admitted that I have set this project aside for the time being.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen Anthology. Finished! The book’s release date is April 11, 2013.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of editsI edited some but did not finish. This mystery and its follow-ups may have to wait until the second half of the year.

Writing

  • Fast Draft new project – YA mystery. I have 56k words on this new project, more than half of them written in the last two weeks. The book’s working title is Breaking the Commandments and features a preacher’s daughter as the protagonist.
  • Write one full short storyCompleted.
  • Edit first short story. Edited once, needs a final polish.
  • Write second short story. Written and will edit next round.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. I happily blogged twice a week, and I like the move from 3 to 2 times a week. It suits my schedule and my sense of having something worth saying.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES). I outlined a portion of the novel but soon realized that I needed to research life in jail to get the story right. I am watching documentaries and reading relevant books as I have time. Also, this is part of the series that may need to wait for the second half of the year.

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Besides SHARING HUNTER, this was the goal I struggled with. I need to do some soul-searching about why I resist exercise so much and what will increase my willpower. I did, however, exercise 3 times last week.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. love this new habit.

So what do you think about first impressions? Any thoughts on the Orange Karen cover? And if you participated in ROW80, how did your round go? Were you pleased with your overall progress?