Month: December 2012

New Story: The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

 

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin, by De Kenyon

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

by De Kenyon

Astra knows what she’s good at: thieving, tricking, and hitting people with rocks. Especially the mayor’s bullying son, after he makes fun of her. She also knows what she’s not good at: being a girl. Not the kind of girl that lives in the tiny mountain village of Theornin, anyway.

So logically that means making Wizard Jorphen change her into a boy.

But the mayor’s already pushing Wizard Jorphen around to do something else: stopping a mountain from growing under the village and pushing everyone out. Except the only way to stop a mountain from growing might kill Astra’s only friend.

(For kids 8-12.)

“Now, what I want you to do is spell them off. Or just keep them from getting bigger.” Astra held her breath. Didn’t matter how good a plan was, if some adult didn’t approve of it.

Sure enough, Wizard Jorphen said, “No.”

She slammed her fist on the heavy, black-wood table, which made the dishes rattle but didn’t move the table one bit. He was looking up at her all steady and serious. His dirty, dark blue robe sparkled with stars; as she looked, she thought she saw one twinkle and slide over the skinny bone at the top of his shoulder. He had big blue eyes and yellow hair and a fake beard that was coming loose again.

“Then make me a boy so I can grow up to be a man, and they can all quit bothering me. I don’t want to learn how to cook or clean up after people. I don’t want to go out in the fields and dig and hoe and pull weeds and get the sun in my eyes and the bugs in my throat. I want to go to Newmarket and steal for a living. Why don’t anybody believe me when I say I’ll send money back?”

“No,” he said.

She hit the table again, but this time the whole house shook around them, and she had to grab the table to stay steady. They’d been having a lot of earthquakes lately, the first ever in the history of Theornin village. The old clay jar at the end of the Wizard Jorphen’s bookshelf started to tip off the side of the shelf, right over his head. She jumped up so her foot was on the table and hit the pot away from his head. The jar smashed against the stone wall, busted-up clay flying everywhere.
Astra stood on the table and braced the row of books before they could slide off. “I told you not to sit there. Now can we take the books down?”

Wizard Jorphen ignored her and crouched down on the floor next to where the jar had smashed. Astra started taking books off the shelf and dropping them on the one clear spot on the table, in a stack. He was just lucky his dirty dishes hadn’t slid off the table, was all. He was running out of dishes. At least she’d put all the jars in the cellar were on the floor, so they should be all right. She should of just said she wasn’t going to work for him anymore, last time she’d paid off all the favors he’d done her. He was so stubborn. He could find someone else to do chores for him. And be his friend.

“You could have just caught it.” He picked up a few of the larger pieces. “Now I’ll have to make time to fix it.”

“Why? There wasn’t anything in it, and it was ugly as a snake.”

He sighed. “I was going to put something in it. Someday.”

“Well, at least leave these books on the table ‘till the earthquakes are over, all right?”

He twisted around, a stack of jar pieces in one hand that he set on the table. He blinked and swayed on his dirty knees.

“Your eyes are real red,” she said. “Are you sick?”

“Just tired. The earthquakes aren’t going to stop, Astra. A mountain is growing under our village.”

She blinked. A mountain? Mountains grew? “When’ll it be over?”

“Never. Theornin will either have to move or slide down the mountain.”

Buy now at Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, and more to come.

New Story: The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

 

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin, by De Kenyon

The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

by De Kenyon

Astra knows what she’s good at: thieving, tricking, and hitting people with rocks. Especially the mayor’s bullying son, after he makes fun of her. She also knows what she’s not good at: being a girl. Not the kind of girl that lives in the tiny mountain village of Theornin, anyway.

So logically that means making Wizard Jorphen change her into a boy.

But the mayor’s already pushing Wizard Jorphen around to do something else: stopping a mountain from growing under the village and pushing everyone out. Except the only way to stop a mountain from growing might kill Astra’s only friend.

(For kids 8-12.)

“Now, what I want you to do is spell them off. Or just keep them from getting bigger.” Astra held her breath. Didn’t matter how good a plan was, if some adult didn’t approve of it.

Sure enough, Wizard Jorphen said, “No.”

She slammed her fist on the heavy, black-wood table, which made the dishes rattle but didn’t move the table one bit. He was looking up at her all steady and serious. His dirty, dark blue robe sparkled with stars; as she looked, she thought she saw one twinkle and slide over the skinny bone at the top of his shoulder. He had big blue eyes and yellow hair and a fake beard that was coming loose again.

“Then make me a boy so I can grow up to be a man, and they can all quit bothering me. I don’t want to learn how to cook or clean up after people. I don’t want to go out in the fields and dig and hoe and pull weeds and get the sun in my eyes and the bugs in my throat. I want to go to Newmarket and steal for a living. Why don’t anybody believe me when I say I’ll send money back?”

“No,” he said.

She hit the table again, but this time the whole house shook around them, and she had to grab the table to stay steady. They’d been having a lot of earthquakes lately, the first ever in the history of Theornin village. The old clay jar at the end of the Wizard Jorphen’s bookshelf started to tip off the side of the shelf, right over his head. She jumped up so her foot was on the table and hit the pot away from his head. The jar smashed against the stone wall, busted-up clay flying everywhere.
Astra stood on the table and braced the row of books before they could slide off. “I told you not to sit there. Now can we take the books down?”

Wizard Jorphen ignored her and crouched down on the floor next to where the jar had smashed. Astra started taking books off the shelf and dropping them on the one clear spot on the table, in a stack. He was just lucky his dirty dishes hadn’t slid off the table, was all. He was running out of dishes. At least she’d put all the jars in the cellar were on the floor, so they should be all right. She should of just said she wasn’t going to work for him anymore, last time she’d paid off all the favors he’d done her. He was so stubborn. He could find someone else to do chores for him. And be his friend.

“You could have just caught it.” He picked up a few of the larger pieces. “Now I’ll have to make time to fix it.”

“Why? There wasn’t anything in it, and it was ugly as a snake.”

He sighed. “I was going to put something in it. Someday.”

“Well, at least leave these books on the table ‘till the earthquakes are over, all right?”

He twisted around, a stack of jar pieces in one hand that he set on the table. He blinked and swayed on his dirty knees.

“Your eyes are real red,” she said. “Are you sick?”

“Just tired. The earthquakes aren’t going to stop, Astra. A mountain is growing under our village.”

She blinked. A mountain? Mountains grew? “When’ll it be over?”

“Never. Theornin will either have to move or slide down the mountain.”

Buy now at Barnes and NobleSmashwordsAmazonKobo, and more to come.

 

New Story: The Mighty Mountain of Theornin

“The Mighty Mountain of Theornin” by Wonderland Press on Ganxy

Testing Ganxy…Test test…

“The Boy Who Would Not Sleep” by Wonderland Press on Ganxy

I’m testing a service that looks like it might be a solution to creating sales pages for ebooks.  Now, to make a sales catalog…

Learning to Learn More Easily

Okay, granted, it’s a crappy title for this blog post.  It kind of assumes that I know what I’m talking about, that I’ve got a bunch of answers, and that’s not what I mean.  What I mean is, I felt like writing an essay.  And this was the essay that was on my mind: when I gather facts, it’s different than when I learn something.

Wait, back up a second.

Essay.  What’s the word mean?  It implies a certain kind of structure: here’s my premise, here’s three to five main points, here’s my closing argument.  But that’s bullshit.  That’s not an essay.  That’s an argument: here’s what I’m going to try to convince you of, here are my arguments, and to sum up  (you blithering idiot), here’s my conclusion.  Blah blah blah.  An essay isn’t meant to be an argument.  It’s meant to be a trial, an essay.  An attempt.  An essay can fail.  It doesn’t have to be all in your face about what it wants to accomplish.  It can…be a lot of things.  A testing of ideas.  Blog post, sure, this is a blog post.  But it’s also an essay.

So, back to it.  A trial of ideas, on the subject of learning.

When I learn something, what happens?  I can tell you the symptoms of learning: I feel like a piece of shit, like I’m the world’s biggest idiot.  I get depressed.  I question my assumptions.  I hate myself.  I drive myself down into the mud, and then…I’m not sure how this works.  Things just…get better.  I call it “leveling,” because I’m a gamer, and gamers understand sudden jumps in abilities.  It’s not a smooth progression.  You don’t gradually get better at a task; it plateaus, you learn something, and then you suddenly get a lot better.  Over and over and over again.  There is no permanent state of “being good at X,” because if you’re not an idiot this cycle keeps happening.  The people who are actually good at something have less and less awareness of being good at it, I think, because they’ve gone through the learning cycle so often that they’re wary, like horror movie buffs.  “Oh, you think you’re good now, do you?  Just wait until the next time you go into that base–don’t split up!  Don’t split up!  Auuuuuugggghhhh!!!”  They know what’s coming, if not specificially, then that it will come, and that they’ll be torn up all over again.

So how do you make it easier on yourself?  How does anyone learn how to learn?

Well, one thing I’ve learned is that gathering a lot of facts helps.  With a lot of facts, you can spread out the leaning cycles in smaller, more frequent chunks.  “Ah…well, that assumption was wrong” is so much easier to take when you’re breaking it down into smaller bites.  Gather data.

Getting advice from people you respect is good, because it’s harder to go into denial about the advice.   You go, “I know you’re right, I just can’t cope with it yet.”  You can resist the learning, but you know it’s coming…it cycles around until it hits you again, but this time you’re ready for it (usually because you’ve been gathering facts).

Admitting that you need to keep learning and that, if you don’t want to learn something, as in you’re actively resisting it, actively resisting anyone who even comes close to talking about it, it’s time to say, “I lose, this is what I need to learn,” and start digging in.  It feels like you’re losing a conflict–the conflict between your ego and the universe, I guess.

Having a good goal.  If you want something more than you want your pride, it’s easier to learn.  It always helps me to go, “I want to be good at this more than I want to be right.”

But.  All those things having been noted, and probably some other tactics that other people use, it’s still hard to learn.  I have all these techniques to dull the pain, but it doesn’t seem any easier.  Faster, yes.  I spend less time recovering from the down cycle of learning. –There’s a thought.  How well do optimists adapt?  I wonder if there’s been a study.  The word I’m looking for isn’t optimist, it’s something else.  How well do people who never second guess themselves adapt?  Do they learn?  Is doubt a necessary condition of growth?  Is unassailable confidence a flaw?

I want to say yes, and maybe that’s what I’ll find out from this essay, that I just want to comfort myself because I have doubts.  Faith–faith isn’t the word I want, in contrast.  People with faith are full of doubt.  They walk across an abyss, one foot at a time.  People who don’t doubt don’t, in my opinion, really have faith.  They just have excellent being-brainwashed skills.  Like courage and fear.  You can’t have courage without fear; you can’t have faith without doubt.  They aren’t opposites.  Well, as the case may be: I’m sure this won’t be the first essay written to justify one’s own beliefs or actions.

You can’t have an essay without inspiration.  Somewhere in the middle of a true essay, you have to come up against a wall, and you have to jump.  You do jump, and you cross…for better or worse, if you finish the essay, you cross somewhere.  Maybe somewhere stupid.  Essays, despite what they teach in schools, aren’t truly made up from a perfect structure.  The structure comes out of the post-essay analysis, not out of the writing.  A good essay includes an element of chaos, not of disorder, but of unpredictable order.  One foot in front of the other, not knowing where you’ll end up, but knowing that you’ll end up somewhere, because you’re walking.

–I have a saying about writing science fiction, not really true, but true enough.  “All good lines of thought lead to Neal Stephenson.”  I’ll often start playing with an idea and end up with a couple of lines out of Diamond Age or something.  I feel frustrated, but at least I know it’s a good path.  I suspect a lot of people have something similar, in their lines of expertise or affection or taste.  “All good puns lead to…”  “All good cooking shows lead to…”  “All good Facebook posts lead to the front page of Reddit…”  Things like that.

Essays, learning, lines of thought.  Essays, learning, lines of thought.

Where do they go?

Is it possible to make it easier to learn?  Is it the human condition, or am I so patterned as a writer now that it’s impossible for me to imagine a real learning that doesn’t involve depression, destruction, redemption?  A thought that’s been haunting my freewriting is that a good story is just…the learning process.  Something happens you can’t understand.  You feel bad about it, try to solve the problem, fail, try to solve the problem, fail…gathering facts and friends and advice along the way…screwing things up right and left until…that black moment when you can’t pretend to be right anymore, you can’t pretend to understand.  Once you hit that, you despair.

And then…there’s a leap.  You try something else, something completely different, you have no idea whether it will work (you can’t possibly believe it will, it probably won’t, but what have you got left to lose?), and, finally…it just does.

There’s one story: someone learned something.  Or, in a tragedy, ultimately didn’t.  –Some tragedies, like Kafka or Brazil, are about the value of not learning, not adapting.  Why on earth would you want Gregor Samsa to learn how to support his family…as a giant beetle?  They never gave a shit about him anyway.

Sure, a lot of stories don’t look like they’re about learning.  “Oh, I need to find the X, fall in love with the Y, and save the Z.”  But–every story is just someone’s made up, imaginary world.  Every problem is self-manufactured.  Every drama is a made-up drama, written by someone addicted to the stuff.  They might be more or less realistic, but realistically most people’s dramas are made up.  “How would a Buddha handle this?” usually ends up with, “With an eyeroll, a hug, and a plate of cookies.”  Wait, that’s Grandma, but you get the point.  A lot of things that look dreadfully important, worth all kinds of throwing yourself on the floor and having a tantrum over, aren’t.  We just aren’t wise enough to know ourselves, or to do it the right way the first time.

So: that takes me back to the beginning.  It’s not quite Neal Stephenson, but it does make me realize that I’m at the end of this.

How do you learn more easily?

By being wiser.

How do you become wiser?

By making mistakes and learning from them (presumably painfully).

Ugh, I already knew that.  I guess that’s what you get sometimes.  “I already knew that.”  I just wasn’t wise enough to remember.

New story: The Boy Who Would Not Fall Asleep

This story’s exclusive to Amazon for now.  Click here to check it out; it’s free for now if you have Amazon Prime.

The Boy Who Would Not Sleep

by De Kenyon

In the woods, Nickolas’s father tells him stories to pass the time as they cut down trees…but one story, he won’t tell. Not until Nickolas grows old enough to hear it. Finally, the time comes: the men in Nickolas’s family were always good at cutting things, but in older times, they were too good, and did monstrous things, eventually angering a local dragon.

The dragon cursed the men of their family to fall into a deep sleep that lasts from fall to spring, like a bear’s. And in their dreams, they must serve the dragon.

More than that, Nickolas’s father will not say.

Now, Nickolas is eating enough for many men…and getting sleepier with every step. The townswomen think it’s funny, but Nickolas has made up his mind: he will not sleep.

No matter what the cost.

(Ages 11-13.)

When Nickolas was a young boy following his father into the woods in order to carry his water while his father cut trees, his father would tell all kinds of stories of dragons and knights and fighting, and Nickolas enjoyed those stories very much. However, there was one story that his father would not tell him.

Nickolas would beg for a new story, and his father would say that he only had one story that he hadn’t told him yet. “But Nickolas, I am saving this story for you, and when it is time I will tell you.”

Nickolas grew older and older, and his father showed him how to use the ax to strip off branches, to cut away bark.

But he would not let him cut down a tree, not by himself. “There will be time,” his father said. “After you hear the story.”
“Soon?” Nickolas asked.

At first, his father had laughed and said, “Not so soon,” and told him the old stories again.

But then it changed to “soon,” and then “very soon now,” until finally his father said, “Now it is time to hear the last story, Nickolas, during the noon meal.”

They worked all morning, until finally it was time to eat. Every mouthful felt like it was going to choke Nickolas, for he could barely swallow.

“Once upon a time,” his father said, because that was the way he started his stories, “our family was cursed by a dragon.”

“A dragon!” Nickolas said. “I don’t believe it.”

“You better watch out for what you believe and what you don’t believe, young man,” said his father, who smiled until the tips of his teeth showed. “It will only get you in trouble. If I tell you our family was cursed by a dragon, then that’s what happened.”

“Yes, Father,” Nickolas said.

“Our family was cursed by a dragon for being…more than a little rambunctious. Wild. You see, when our family was young, we had no patience, no love of family, nothing but a desire to cut trees, to cut and cut and cut. Our family was so mad about cutting trees that we cut down the whole forest.”

Nickolas was surrounded by trees, trees so tall and thick that it seemed like the sun set hours early and rose hours late, it was so shaded and dim. Yet he knew better than to argue with his father that day.

“This was many, many hundreds of years ago,” his father added. “And the trees have all grown back.”

“Obviously,” said Nickolas, which earned him a pinch on the ear from his father. “Ow!”

Read more here.

New story: The Boy Who Would Not Fall Asleep

This story’s exclusive to Amazon for now.  Click here to check it out; it’s free for now if you have Amazon Prime.

The Boy Who Would Not Sleep

by De Kenyon

In the woods, Nickolas’s father tells him stories to pass the time as they cut down trees…but one story, he won’t tell. Not until Nickolas grows old enough to hear it. Finally, the time comes: the men in Nickolas’s family were always good at cutting things, but in older times, they were too good, and did monstrous things, eventually angering a local dragon.

The dragon cursed the men of their family to fall into a deep sleep that lasts from fall to spring, like a bear’s. And in their dreams, they must serve the dragon.

More than that, Nickolas’s father will not say.

Now, Nickolas is eating enough for many men…and getting sleepier with every step. The townswomen think it’s funny, but Nickolas has made up his mind: he will not sleep.

No matter what the cost.

(Ages 11-13.)

When Nickolas was a young boy following his father into the woods in order to carry his water while his father cut trees, his father would tell all kinds of stories of dragons and knights and fighting, and Nickolas enjoyed those stories very much. However, there was one story that his father would not tell him.

Nickolas would beg for a new story, and his father would say that he only had one story that he hadn’t told him yet. “But Nickolas, I am saving this story for you, and when it is time I will tell you.”

Nickolas grew older and older, and his father showed him how to use the ax to strip off branches, to cut away bark.

But he would not let him cut down a tree, not by himself. “There will be time,” his father said. “After you hear the story.”
“Soon?” Nickolas asked.

At first, his father had laughed and said, “Not so soon,” and told him the old stories again.

But then it changed to “soon,” and then “very soon now,” until finally his father said, “Now it is time to hear the last story, Nickolas, during the noon meal.”

They worked all morning, until finally it was time to eat. Every mouthful felt like it was going to choke Nickolas, for he could barely swallow.

“Once upon a time,” his father said, because that was the way he started his stories, “our family was cursed by a dragon.”

“A dragon!” Nickolas said. “I don’t believe it.”

“You better watch out for what you believe and what you don’t believe, young man,” said his father, who smiled until the tips of his teeth showed. “It will only get you in trouble. If I tell you our family was cursed by a dragon, then that’s what happened.”

“Yes, Father,” Nickolas said.

“Our family was cursed by a dragon for being…more than a little rambunctious. Wild. You see, when our family was young, we had no patience, no love of family, nothing but a desire to cut trees, to cut and cut and cut. Our family was so mad about cutting trees that we cut down the whole forest.”

Nickolas was surrounded by trees, trees so tall and thick that it seemed like the sun set hours early and rose hours late, it was so shaded and dim. Yet he knew better than to argue with his father that day.

“This was many, many hundreds of years ago,” his father added. “And the trees have all grown back.”

“Obviously,” said Nickolas, which earned him a pinch on the ear from his father. “Ow!”

Read more here.

 

New story: The Boy Who Would Not Fall Asleep

This story’s exclusive to Amazon for now.  Click here to check it out; it’s free for now if you have Amazon Prime.

The Boy Who Would Not Sleep

by De Kenyon

In the woods, Nickolas’s father tells him stories to pass the time as they cut down trees…but one story, he won’t tell. Not until Nickolas grows old enough to hear it. Finally, the time comes: the men in Nickolas’s family were always good at cutting things, but in older times, they were too good, and did monstrous things, eventually angering a local dragon.

The dragon cursed the men of their family to fall into a deep sleep that lasts from fall to spring, like a bear’s. And in their dreams, they must serve the dragon.

More than that, Nickolas’s father will not say.

Now, Nickolas is eating enough for many men…and getting sleepier with every step. The townswomen think it’s funny, but Nickolas has made up his mind: he will not sleep.

No matter what the cost.

(Ages 11-13.)

When Nickolas was a young boy following his father into the woods in order to carry his water while his father cut trees, his father would tell all kinds of stories of dragons and knights and fighting, and Nickolas enjoyed those stories very much. However, there was one story that his father would not tell him.

Nickolas would beg for a new story, and his father would say that he only had one story that he hadn’t told him yet. “But Nickolas, I am saving this story for you, and when it is time I will tell you.”

Nickolas grew older and older, and his father showed him how to use the ax to strip off branches, to cut away bark.

But he would not let him cut down a tree, not by himself. “There will be time,” his father said. “After you hear the story.”
“Soon?” Nickolas asked.

At first, his father had laughed and said, “Not so soon,” and told him the old stories again.

But then it changed to “soon,” and then “very soon now,” until finally his father said, “Now it is time to hear the last story, Nickolas, during the noon meal.”

They worked all morning, until finally it was time to eat. Every mouthful felt like it was going to choke Nickolas, for he could barely swallow.

“Once upon a time,” his father said, because that was the way he started his stories, “our family was cursed by a dragon.”

“A dragon!” Nickolas said. “I don’t believe it.”

“You better watch out for what you believe and what you don’t believe, young man,” said his father, who smiled until the tips of his teeth showed. “It will only get you in trouble. If I tell you our family was cursed by a dragon, then that’s what happened.”

“Yes, Father,” Nickolas said.

“Our family was cursed by a dragon for being…more than a little rambunctious. Wild. You see, when our family was young, we had no patience, no love of family, nothing but a desire to cut trees, to cut and cut and cut. Our family was so mad about cutting trees that we cut down the whole forest.”

Nickolas was surrounded by trees, trees so tall and thick that it seemed like the sun set hours early and rose hours late, it was so shaded and dim. Yet he knew better than to argue with his father that day.

“This was many, many hundreds of years ago,” his father added. “And the trees have all grown back.”

“Obviously,” said Nickolas, which earned him a pinch on the ear from his father. “Ow!”

Read more here.

Interview with Elizabeth Barone

I just finished Elizabeth Barone’s first novel, ABNA Quarterfinalist Sade on the Wall, a few days ago, and I’m still trying to put it in enough of a framework to write an intelligent review of it.

In short, it’s about a teen, Sade (sha-day), who has to find a way to deal with her best friend becoming a drug addict–navigating the Scylla and Charibdis of misplaced loyalties and teenage identity crises.  I’ve known Liz for a couple of years now–well, known, in the Internet sense of the word–and I’ve loved watching her put the pieces of her writing life together, though all kinds of challenges.

1) You started Sade on the Wall as a NaNoWriMo project in 2010, posting each chapter on your blog as you wrote it.  Which seems incredible right now.  I can’t believe how much time has passed since then.  How much did you know about your story before you started?  What was the most interesting thing you discovered as you wrote, in plot terms?  What was the most interesting thing you discovered, as a writer?

I knew some key things before I started—like the girls’ theme song for their friendship, that Sade has two moms rather than a mother and father, and a basic idea of how the story would end—and had a rough chapter-by-chapter outline ready before November 1st, but much of what I outlined changed as I wrote (which almost always happens to me). I also knew that I desperately needed to write this story.

Writing Sade on the Wall for all the world to see as the story unfolded was a really weird, unnerving experience. If it sucked, I had to deal with it. If I didn’t post a new chapter right away, I knew I had readers who would be disappointed. I literally had people tweeting and emailing me, asking when the next chapter would be up. Initially, I thought this would freak me out and send me into a dead end for the novel, but it actually kept me going.

I also learned that knowing your ending is more important than knowing your beginning before you start writing.

2) As a writer, I know that the inspriration for a story is rarely something that can be answered with a “Where do you get your ideas” kind of question.  However, watching you blossom as a writer over the last couple of years has been really fascinating.  Do you feel the theme of using creativity as a way to handle the difficult side of life in Sade on the Wall reflected more of your high-school self as a creative person, or does that story reflect more of what you were feeling in 2010-ish?

Sade’s poetry came from my own teenage self. Between the ages of thirteen and like sixteen, I wrote more poetry and songs than I’ve written novels and short stories. Most of them were terrible, angsty things, but I think I learned a lot about writing and how to figure out my own problems through it.

Strangely enough, I don’t really write poetry anymore (though my writers’ group mate and mentor likes to bust my chops and tell me I’m a closet poet).

[DeAnna–wow, that sounds familiar :)]

3) For those who haven’t read the book yet, Sade’s best friend, Jackie, has become a drug addict.  Liz, weird question for you.  I know you continually struggle with chronic illness situations, trying out different drugs, treatments, etc., and have been through all kinds of tests, diagnoses, and general harassment from people who don’t get what you have to deal with on a daily basis.  When you wrote Jackie, did you draw on your chronic illness experiences at all?  I felt more sympathy for Jackie than I would have expected, even though you don’t especially throw in a lot of sympathetic details about the character, and wondering where that came from.  You can tell me to bugger off if that’s too personal a question 🙂

I actually based Jackie on a few people I knew in high school. Writing from Sade’s point of view was somewhat easy, because throughout high school I watched several friends struggle with drug abuse—including someone I was really close to. I kept seeing the same pattern with these people: they spiraled deeper and deeper, and I kept feeling completely helpless to save them.

Even though I put Jackie through the ringer, I really sympathized with her, too. She had a hard life, and I’ve seen firsthand what can happen if you’re in those shoes.

4) I liked the subplot with Sade’s brother Corey exploring Islam–why did you include it?  I think I can guess, but I want to hear your take on it.

Corey’s exploration of Islam came from an interest I’ve always had in the religion. I’ve always been fascinated by the etymology of many religions, and there was a period in my life where I explored as many as I could. (For some reason, though, I still remained a devout atheist. I’m weird, I guess.) I think it’s a beautiful religion, and often misunderstood—as most religions are.

I was baptized and raised Protestant, but my parents never forced me to stay with it. I was pretty free to explore, so long as I didn’t do harm to anyone. Corey has a voracious appetite for information, and even though he’s pretty misinformed in the beginning, he continues to stick to his path—something Sade really admires, and kind of envies.

5) So years have gone by for Sade; she’s your age and looking back at her life.  She sits down in the morning with a notebook and writes something to Jackie.  What does she write?

(Slight spoilers!)

Jackie,

Some of my best and worst memories revolve around you, floating through my mind and wrapping around each other. It’s been nearly ten years and yet I can’t forgive you, still grieve for what you lost. I still find myself dialing your phone number sometimes, when I’ve had an especially good or bad day. I’ve even texted you once; that number isn’t yours anymore, so I got a really ghetto “Who dis?” instead of a “What’s up, girl?”

For years I wondered what I could have done differently to get you back on the path you were on before the raves. I blamed myself for not being stronger. I finally forgave myself, though, because at fifteen, no one is strong—we’re all sailors on a ship, headed toward the same land but once the ship is docked, we have different destinations. We gain our strength in our early adult years, as we fight through our transformations from childhood and discover ourselves. I’ve learned that in the last couple of years.

I hope, wherever you are, you’ve come to peace with yourself and have found your way again. If I close my eyes and reach out far enough, I can almost believe you have.

-Sade

Elizabeth Barone is the author of the weekly drama for busy women, Sandpaper Fidelity. She lives in Waterbury, CT with her family. Sade on the Wall is her first novel. Check out her website at http://elizabethbarone.net. You can find Sade on the Wall at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more.

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