Blink Ch4 Wally

Chapter 4 Wally

Wally greets me when I open the door the next morning. His blond hair is spiked back up in the way I don’t like. He better not be using glue again to do it. He’s shorter than Valeria. If I grow another four inches, I could meet him at eye level when he pulls his expensive sunglasses down from his Himalayan mountain of a nose.

His blank eyes stare back at me and I see the cab he used to get here at the curb next to the driveway.

“Where is Valeria?” I ask. “I thought you were out of town.”

“Lets go, meter is running and with your school shot to hell we’re having a ‘take Helena to work day at my agency.’ Get your things.” I swear he is the only person in the world who hurries me.

I throw my sleep clothes into the overnight bag that Valeria brought me last night , grabbed my backpack, an extra slice of toast, and spread strawberry jam over it. I slow down just enough to say “thank you,” and wave to Ashley and we’re off.

“Courthouse,” Wally orders the driver. His wardrobe is a little jarring to me. Black shirt, leather jacket and slacks and he’s heading to the courthouse. Looking at my jeans and green shirt I realize he looks the part more than I do. It’s a long sleeve to hide the bandages healing the burn marks on my shoulder and elbow.

“Are we clearing Count Dracula of murder today?”

“You need to be more careful when you hurry like that. One of them could’ve seen you. How was it?”

“How was what Wally? The sleepover?” I wipe the remnants of sleepiness from my eyes.

“Never mind, I have it now,” Wally says. He reads minds. He can also see what others see in their eyes, which to a blind man is handy. For the rest of the trip I listen to “Yellow Submarine,” by the Beatles in my head on a loop, just to irritate him.

“We’re here,” he announces before I can look up to see the concrete steps that lead up the courthouse. He’s seeing through the driver’s vision. I’m never playing card games Ashley’s family taught me with Wally.

We twist and turn through the court entrance and undergo the metal detectors and identity inspection. The security guard boots echo through the marble hall when they pull us just off to the side. Aside from two other visitors, the lobby is empty.

“Alright, who is she Mr. Walker?”

“This is my girlfriend’s sister. Her school had an unfortunate accident yesterday.”

“The fire? I think I saw that on the news,” the guard said.

“The very one. So for today, she is the Walker Investigation Agency’s student intern.”

I roll my eyes. The security guard laughs and lets us through the stairs that lead to the elevators.

“If we get separated, stay away from that security guard,” he’s smiling when he turns inside the elevator.

“Why?”

“Because he is going to try and set you up on a date with his son. That is if his son stops pretending to slay dragons on the Internet.”

“You know, just because someone is thinking about a bad idea that has to do with me doesn’t mean you should share it.”

“Where is the fun in that?” He asks. Jerk, I think, making him smile. I cross my arms and wait for the ride to end. At some point I’ll think of a way to ask him about-

“If you want to ask me about your parents, now would be the best time,” he said.

I push him back towards the wall. At times, it can be annoying when he blurts out a thought I’m not ready to say.

“You remember the lab right?” Wally asks.

I nod but don’t look at him.

“And the explosion just after we got you out?”

I swallow the new found lump in my throat. I forgot that to get my answer, I’d have to revisit that place.

“I told you before, the records of how you got there and why went up with it. It was owned by Randall Corp. There is another facility like that near their headquarters, in this city.   That’s why we’re here and why Valeria wants you to wait.”

What?! Why didn’t-

“we tell you?” He only finishes like that when he’s anxious. “We don’t know what is at this facility.”

“I can already hear the thoughts of you wanting to go an investigate on your own Helena.”

The egg in his breath is strong, he leans closer to my face. “Don’t. It’s better guarded. I doubt a mind reader and a force-fielder would be able to pull you back out if you were caught.”

“But”

“They lost their research in that explosion. Whose to say that won’t start testing you again? They might even be invasive this time.” Anger swells in me. Not invasive?!

I’m not that much shorter. Wally has me when it comes to weight. Still, I move fast against him. His mind reading and the small space of the elevator make him able to dodge my hand. He grabs my arm and uses my momentum to slam me into the same wall I’d pushed him into. The elevator rocks a bit.

“What part of being run on a treadmill in your underwear till you die isn’t invasive?”

“Helena, calm down,” he puts his hands out.

“They stopped my heart. Twice!” Adrenaline is flowing throughout me. Veins pulse in my neck.

“And all that anger and hurt is being directed in the wrong direction. Valeria and I are trying to help.” Putting my hands on my knees, I nod.

“Sorry.”

We’re a floor away from our destination. I want to ask him so many other things. Why did he tell me now? Why not earlier? What has he found out in the six months we’ve lived here?”

“Be patient,” he pats me on the shoulder and I follow him off.

We walk through a cool hallway with spotted brown carpet. Each door is the same except for the letters and numbers changing. At the end of the hall are a two attorneys with briefcases.

The first hands Wally a fat white envelope. Wally inspects the money inside, he nods.

Turning to me, he says, “Wait here,” and closes the door behind him.

I didn’t bring anything to do. Waiting ten minutes, I start pacing. At twenty I sit on the floor, my legs stretched out. The two attorneys just stand there, busying themselves on their phones in conversations in a language that is English, but not a version I understand completely.

Finally, Wally steps out and the two attorney’s turn to face him.

“Plead not guilty.”

“And?”

“I’m sorry gentlemen, that’s all your money will get. If you would like me to re-examine witnesses for you, I can submit an hourly rate proposal and get back with you by the end of the week.”

Wally starts to leave without me. I think about the elevator crashing with only him inside.

“Come along, Miss Sunshine,” he waves without looking back.

Once in the elevator I try to stop appearing stunned.

“Wasn’t that fun?” He says thumbing through the envelope the attorneys had given him.

“Valeria said you were a consultant. Not a human lie detector. You’re using your ‘gift’ to tell attorneys if their clients are guilty?”

“Well, to some a clean conscience is worth four thousand dollars a case.”

“But, you keep telling me to lay low-”

“Attorneys are a superstitious lot. Much like criminals. They believe I can hear the lie in a persons voice.”

“What about hiding who we are?”

Putting the money back in his jacket, he takes both my hands in his own. “Helena, I never said to hide who you are. We should keep people from figuring out we have ‘gifts’ so we’re not persecuted. But never, ever make that hide who you are.”

How am I supposed to know who I am with all these unanswered questions hanging over me?

Wally doesn’t answer.

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Third World

Third world was my second MS I ever wrote. The first was fanfiction about Command and Conquer. Yeah, I was 13 and you’re NEVER seeing that. I don’t even think I have it. Anywho, I am working on Blink but knowing where Ch5 ends or ended is taking awhile. Also, I’m debating taking Blink down and just doing a writer advice/review thingy on my new site.

In the mean time, here is a very old MS that I spruce up here and there every other month or so.

Third World

Book One: Jeremiah of Juba

(speed 2.mph/day (14hrs.) 26 days to reach 750 m. (Juba))

Introduction: The men without faces.

I am both glad and regretful I wasn’t there that day. All I have are what they tell me. But it’s also one of those moments in time I wish never happened to Jeremiah. It had to happen. And there are only so many things that a journalist can bear witness to. I could not bear to see this one. -Simon Morgan

Jeremiah sighed and walked over to the last missing bull. Jeremiah got a better grip on his prodding stick. He was lucky the creek had stopped the bull, the only one in the herd afraid of water larger than a creek. Looking up the valley, he put a hand over his brow to shield himself from the falling sun. The tall grass tickled his feet as they stretched out in the wind. It was not a good day, but he’d had worse.

The first whack on its back did nothing to the bull.

Jeremiah sighed. He was tired, drenched in sweat down to his shorts, his only real possession. Weary from redirecting the entire herd, which had been jumpy since the thunderstorm the day before, Jeremiah looked to see if there was an older child like Isaac, a teenager, who could help him. The bull snorted and started walking away again.

Whack. The bull still didn’t move.

Jeremiah was furious at the stubborn bull.

He raised his tool again and lowered it on the bull’s backside.

Bang. And the bull was off on a sprint, never to be seen again.

Bang? Jeremiah looked at his stick. Bang was a new sound for it. And it wasn’t until he heard machine gun fire coming from the village that he realized the bang had not come from the stick at all.

He turned slowly around to look up the incline. Footsteps could be heard in the grass and dark blurs sped by in maddening speeds. Two of those blurs ran up to him and stopped. Nathanial and his older brother Isaac pulled at Jeremiah’s torn and much too small, shirt. They pleaded with him, told him it was hopeless as he took the first steps back towards the village.

He whispered the words, “not again,” and effortlessly shrugged both boys back, though Isaac was in his late teens and Jeremiah was thought to be only eight years old.

Through trembling legs and hands, he sneaked unnoticed to the corner of the village fence, then to the front. Peering into the breaks of the fence made of thick branches, he saw the slaughter, torture, and rape of people who had taken him in when his original home had befallen the same fate.

As he craned his neck around the corner towards the front gate of the village, he could see three trucks and two men guarding the gate. He looked at their uniforms, camouflage with an ivory green at the neck and sleeve collars. A terrifying thought occurred to him, these men were acting more organized than last time. “They aren’t militia…” he whispered to himself.

Thoughts? Opinions? Have I gotten better with Blink or is this OMG-why aren’t you working on this instead?

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There will be blood

No, this isn’t a post about editing or blood donations.
I was having a conversation earlier today about the relationships writers have with their partners. Be them a publisher, an editor, or an agent. The part I contested was the idea that this relationship must be good, mutually beneficial, or else why bother?

When I was in college, I worked for a travel magazine. I wrote up a large portion of what became the restaurant guide for it. It was a difficult assignment. The way it worked was I called up family-style non-chain restaurants and asked what was special about them. After the first 20 or so, it’s hard to come up with new phrases to say, “We’re a family-style restaurant family owned and operated for three generations.”

I didn’t do it because I planned to go into travel writing or anything like that. It PAID really well. I liked the publisher. We had a good relationship. Unfortunately, not long after that, their budget had a few issues, and I didn’t see any assignments for awhile. A new magazine at that time took about 2.5 years to get profitable. Around 6-8 months, one of the financial backers thought it would be a good idea to fire the publisher and his editorial staff and replace them with people he liked at a cheaper price.

Suddenly, I went from, “Oh, that’s Keith. Yeah, his pitch could work for the fall issue, ” to “Who are you?” and not being given the time of day. They had no interest in working with anyone part of the “old guard.”

We all can’t write books for a living. It’d be nice, but sometimes I have to write other kinds of content to pay the bills. And sometimes that leads to disappointment. I co-created a magazine for a church a year after the travel magazine. Things were great. The communications pastor did graphics and layout, I planned the content, gave out assignments and was paid for whatever pieces I wrote myself.

My wife wasn’t immune to these kind of setbacks. In college she worked for a magazine that focused on life on college campuses. She wrote two great features and they called her up to do a brainstorming retreat with the editorial staff. She thought, “Great, I can meet with all these editors, make a name for myself, and prepare for my exit from college with some serious bylines.”

At the retreat, they asked the writers to come up with story ideas for the next year’s editorial calendar. Upon returning home, she wrote about one of her four ideas. Then a few months later, she found an editor had written about one of the ideas herself and assigned the other two ideas to another writer completely. In a sense, it was theft,  but those ideas were given freely with the assumption the writer given them was doing good and would be given good back in return.

It was a young-and-inexperienced writer mistake. It’s not bad to want to expect the best in people. Not everyone you encounter will meet your expectations.

I say all this to say that sometimes, you take the crap job. Sometimes the editor, the publisher, or even the agent you find isn’t your ideal. Sometimes you have to play the best hand you get from the deck. Because asking for different cards is a luxury you can’t afford if you’re a little on the desperate-for-money side of things.

I say this because if you write, you will be treated like garbage by someone. It can be a reader, a publisher, or an editor. And the worst part will be that you may either have to take your lumps or find a different line of work.

Sometimes, yeah, you’ll be able to take the high ground. But what if you can’t? The other day I received a melancholic email from a writer friend. A book she wrote was just published. Great, right? Well, not if you’re a ghost writer and you get no by-line. She was paid and everything, but she said it was heartbreaking seeing another person’s name on that baby’s birth certificate.

I guess the point of this entry is to warn the newer writers that when the writers who have been around talk of taking their lumps, paying their dues, and enduring afterwards, take them at their word. You will go through similar experiences regardless of your early fortune, your natural talent, and your likability. And, no this isn’t pessimism talking. I have had more good experiences than bad when it comes to working with clients.

Some of the print publications I worked for don’t exist anymore. I can’t go back to them and ask for work. That frustrates me, but that’s the nature of the beast right now. Dot-com sites come and go even faster! One day you may be pulling a paycheck from a great site and the next day they may no longer be there without warning. This happens!

My other point is this: Don’t burn bridges. If I ever speak of an experience at a publication in a bad light, I never use people’s names, and I rarely ever speak of bad experiences. It’s not worth the cost in building materials to me. I also have better things to do than dwell on bad relationships and rejections.

My advice to you, if you want to keep yourself from being put in a position where you may take a hit or feel like you compromised yourself: diversify. Do short stories, fiction, essays, opinion columns, news, features, blogs, and whatever else people will pay you to write. Be as diverse in your portfolio as you possibly can and always look for new clients. Never stop expanding and never have just one job in the works. If you have other clients, you have other options.

My second piece of advice is to keep records. Store your clips in a secure place (and a cloud) and write off your tax deductions (they add up).

Lastly, never stop networking. Keep building those bridges. Branch out beyond just writers and see where you can meet the needs of other professionals. And let non-writers help you. Do you have a beta-reader who isn’t that into books? It’s not a bad idea to keep one in the bullpen; provided you can keep their attention.

Take what I say here as a grain of salt. Not every writer will have as many disappointments as I have. I share mine because I hope you see similar disappointments coming and can avoid them. I hope that’s the case, but this is a business that requires very thick skin. Thick skin is something you get better at having with age and experience. So when I say “There will be blood” on this journey, you may want to stock up on helmets. Just in case.

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I love this blog post. I never reblog, but this one deserves it!

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So there’s this guy…

In reading YA lately, or trying to while job hunting, caring for a 13 month old, and writing my own YA, I’ve noticed a problem. I don’t like how guys are portrayed. Particularly love-interest guys for female main characters (FMC for the rest of the post.) For the rest of the post I will refer to male love-interests as Hunky Man Flesh (HMF).

I’d like to thank Allie for giving me the idea to write this article.

Team I don’t Care!

I read some of the more romantic stuff so I can have a better idea what exactly ladies look for in good YA books. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

So there’s this guy. He swoops in out of nowhere saving FMC from some kind of disaster, only to disappear. He is one nice piece of HMF. But he won’t talk to FMC. He’s dark, mysterious, and under some evil curse or something. Or worse, yet HMF is another species/being. HMF should stay away,  but he’s drawn to FMC.

I think I’ve described four books I’ve started in the past few weeks. Also, nothing in the beginning half of that description is a problem for me. There are three problems I have with these kind of stories.

1. The girl needs saving. In many good books, someone will eventually need saving. But it becomes a problem when the FMC is dependent upon HMF for this saving feature repeatedly. I have a daughter, I don’t want her reading a story that makes her believe she needs a Hunky Man Flesh person to complete her. I think if more romance stories were about how to love than about being in love, they would do a better service to young women everywhere.

2. The HMF is unrealistic from a male perspective. If the only mistake your male protagonist makes is falling in love with FMC, your story has a problem. Boys can be stupid, insecure, and inconsiderate jerks. We don’t think how women think, or feel the same way. In particular, we don’t have the same attitudes about smells women do, whether the smell is ourselves or something else. YA authors, let your boys make mistakes. Let them stink.

3. There’s only one flavor of HMF. Dark. Tall. Handsome. Muscular. Is it just me, or does no one in YA suffer from acne? Particularly a guy? Rarely does a young man come fully equipped like an SUV. My early-to-mid teen years, I was looking up to make eye contact with 90% of the girls in my class. I was bookish, quiet, and was half proud and half embarrassed to be on the swim team. I was proud because it was hard work and embarrassed because I knew that a picture of me in a rather revealing bathing suit would wind up in year book. (Yes, boys have body images, too, ladies!)

A friend of mine, John (@aboredauthor), put it this way: “The key to writing a good male teen character is having a mostly carefree exterior, but a vulnerable, compassionate interior. We all feel vulnerable and compassionate on the inside, but not many show it; when writing a male teen, especially in romance, it’s important to show the inside as well as the outside.”

So, YA writers, remember: teen guys are not just for eye candy. Please stop staring at our sparkly chests (our eyes are up here, not down there!) and look at the person outside of our physical features and bravado.

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Letter to the Mrs.

My Dearest Dea,

It seems so long ago that we took a trip to New York City with our mission group of college.  I was excited, I had never been to NYC before that trip. We had met before, at editing meetings for the school paper where you kept asking me to turn in articles I was a week l

ate in delivering. But we hadn’t really met.

I forget where, but I think the day that I took notice we were in one of our city mission tours and a gentleman who had been a veteran of WW2 tried speaking a little Croatian to you. I remember because when the group prodded you as to what you two had said, you blushed red. Not from being embarrassed about your culture, but because you suddenly stood out. And I wanted to pay attention to every word you said, whether I could understand them or not.

Perhaps there was a hint of excitement about meeting someone exotic, but hearing you speak in a language I’d never heard before made me realize there was a person I didn’t know underneath your white wool hat and marshmallow shaped white coat.

Shortly after that, the poking started. Isn’t it funny how our fingers did most of the flirting? Trying to see who could get the other to laugh the loudest at the worst possible moment. In cathedrals, on the van rides between sites, and it caused others to see what was happening before we even noticed.

You often ask me if I remember our new york trip and to be honest, I really don’t. I didn’t even notice it, but a few days in, I was just infatuated with taking in as much information, spending as much time with you as possible.

My one regret: not kissing you during that night walk on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Eternally yours,

Fuzzy

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All A Bullied Kid Needs: A Paul

Sometimes I wonder about why writing young adult fiction has so much appeal to me. Is it setting stories in high school? Is it the scars? The exuberance and idealism? Here’s one reason:

In my first year of high school, I was bullied. I wasn’t taken out behind the dumpsters and beaten up or had an embarrassing video of me leaked on YouTube. Thankfully YouTube wasn’t around yet.

No, a guy I will name Grant gave me my woes.

A bully only has to push in one way to hurt anyone. It can be saying something about you that isn’t true or cutting you down in an area you have strength. For me, it was stealing half of my lunch. Not the sandwich, just the good parts and whatever I had to drink that day. And no, it didn’t matter if I bagged it or not.

I did what any kid does in that situation. First: avoided Grant. I moved to the other side of the cafeteria. He found me.

I asked him to leave me alone. He laughed. Which, strangely, is every parent’s first and worst suggestion. “Just tell him to leave you alone, it’s that simple Keith!” (HA!)

I even asked him once why he was treating me the way he did.

“Because I can,” he said. I felt so much better knowing that.

One day I had enough and stood up and took back whatever he stole that day. An apple, I think. It was then that Grant’s teammates on the football team, four linemen, stood up around me. I handed the apple back, defeated. I couldn’t take Grant, but I was willing to make a stand for my dignity. There’s no dignity in being pummeled 5 vs 1.

And people wonder why the bullied use bullets sometimes. I’m not saying that’s okay. What I am saying is that I understand the attraction a bullied kid has to a gun. Why give your tormentor a chance to fight back when you feel like you never had one?

Obviously, I never went the Columbine route. I did start thinking about using a gun. Not to use on someone else, but myself. I even went downstairs, to the place where dad kept his shotguns and looked at them. I started planning, how I would do it, would I leave a note?

Then I started to wonder who would find me first. My mom? That’s what made me stop, I think. I still wanted it all to be over, but I didn’t want her to find me after work as a mess on the floor.

Things got worse. But I was too chicken to just end my own life, and I couldn’t get away in the cafeteria. So I took my lunch into the halls, found a dark spot in a stairwell, or an unlocked classroom that was empty and ate by myself. Sometimes a hall monitor would catch me and send me back into the arena. Largely, I was left to myself.

I ate alone for a few weeks when I ran into Paul. A junior. I was around 5’4″ and he stood at least 6’2″. He was eating pizza and going into a computer lab that taught networking.

“Wanna play some Quake 2 and have a slice?” he asked. (Quake 2 shows my age, doesn’t it?)

I didn’t say much that first week. Or month. Paul and I started hanging out after school. My parents kept pushing me out the door to do more with him at church and around town. I argued with them about it. When you’ve been pushed around like I had been, you don’t want to be pushed into any direction. Good or bad. Why give Paul a chance to turn on me? I thought.

Paul never asked me about the bullying. I never told him about it or the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t need to worry about those things with him. So it didn’t matter. We just had good clean fun together. Going to movies, playing ultimate Frisbee, and just hanging out. Paul’s friends were equally warm and friendly. And not long after, his friends were my friends.

As for the Bully. Well, after being around Paul, I felt better about myself. Maybe Grant saw that in me as well.  All I know is that when I finally did return to the cafeteria, Grant didn’t bother me.

I don’t think the answer isn’t always a therapist, anti-bullying seminars, better parents, or more money in prevention measures. Paul never fought my bullies or stood up to them for me, but I didn’t need that. I just needed someone to give a crap about me. 

Paul and I didn’t stay connected after high school. Some people are only with you for the season we need them. Paul was in my life for such a season.  I survived that season because of him.

Paul, if you ever read this: thank you.

I write about these kinds of things, because people who experience bullying have difficulty remembering they are not alone. I felt alone. If I write a few books about it, the next person who experiences it will feel less lonely.

Note: If you don’t have a Paul, lifting you out of the darkness of depression and suicide, here are some resources.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp

http://www.stopbullying.gov/

covenant house for homeless youth

1-800-999-9999

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