Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 is going out with a bang!

This year may have started off slowly, but the pace sure picked up this fall. Things seem to be happening at lightning speed these days. First, the good folks at Dundurn signed on my new middle-grade novel, Chasing the White Witch (fall, 2011)! Next, the Ontario Library Association nominated Ghost Ride for the Red Maple Award! And now, I'm beyond excited to announce that my personal bullying story will appear in the amazing anthology, Dear Bully, published by HarperCollins US!

Stellar YA authors Carrie Jones and Meghan Kelley Hall are co-editors of this most awesome anthology that will hopefully touch many kids/teen lives by letting them know they are not alone in their struggles. Read how these two amazing writers came up with the idea here. Anyone who has experienced bullying (and, honestly, not too many people haven't!) knows just how painful and just how devastating to ones self-esteem it can be. The list of authors appearing in this anthology is incredible: Heather Brewer, Mo Willems, Ellen Hopkins, Cecil Castellucci, Eric Luper, Carolyn Mackler, R.L Stine, Alyson Noël, Lauren Kate, Lisa McMann, Lauren Oliver, Nancy Werlin, Jon Scieszka, Nancy Garden and Deborah Kerbel--to name but a few.

Once again, I'm not quite sure how I found my little old self on such an amazing list. I only hope my story will give strength to those who read it.

Here's looking forward to 2011! May it be filled with good health and much happiness for all of you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

There's a Gap in my Mind...

Ah, but, sadly, most of you know that already. Actually, it's more of a leak--so be sure to remind me of any important stuff and often! (every five seconds should do it!)

One thing I don't need to to be reminded of is that MIND GAP will be released soon! Yay. I know it's only mid December and I have all the way until the end of January to go, but I'm getting super excited. Can't wait to hold it in my hot little hands. The first review for it just came out in CM Magazine--you can read it here (but, really, don't because it tells too much about the plot--bit of a spoiler.) Hey, how about read the first chapter instead?! Here is the blurb:

Fourteen year-old Jake MacRae’s life is spinning out of control. He is making all the wrong choices—gambling, drinking, hanging around gang members—and now he has been asked to make a special delivery. What should he do? Jake knows either way, his decision will seal his fate, but what he doesn’t realize is that this decision could not only destroy his life but the lives of those close to him. Before Jake makes up his mind, he receives a mysterious text message inviting him to a flash party on a midnight subway train. As Jake steps off the platform he has no idea he has just boarded a train bound for his worst nightmare. And what’s more—he can’t get off.

And here's chapter one (let me know what you think! I can take it. Well, maybe.)

Chapter One

“In or out?”

Jake shaded his cards with his left hand. He peeled up the corners with his right. Two of clubs. Ace of spades. He glanced at the cafeteria table. Face up, in a neat row, lay the seven of diamonds, the two of hearts and the jack of clubs. Deuces, he thought. Story of my life.
“Come on, man—in or out?”

Over the hum of gossip, the shuffling of feet, and the grinding of chairs, Jake heard a twinge in Cole’s voice. He looked up and their eyes locked for a second. Jake could read his best friend like cheap magazine. Cole had a big mouth, but he got nervous quickly. He was bluffing.

“In,” said Jake, tossing his second dollar into the pile. He shifted his gaze to the dealer.

Damon was more difficult to read. From his greasy hair, to the tattoo of a crown dripping blood emblazoned across his knuckles, all the way down to his brand new Nikes; the guy was stone-cold.

Damon threw a buck into the pile. He kept his gray eyes trained on Jake as he slowly flipped over another card and placed it next to the jack. Queen of clubs.

Cole checked and began chewing his lip.

Too obvious, thought Jake, battling the urge to smile. He pushed a stack of four quarters into the growing mound. He had a lousy hand, but at this point, he had nothing left to lose.
Damon answered.

Cole shook his head and swore. He threw down in his cards and began shoveling fries into his mouth. He seemed to be taking his losses much harder these days.

Damon flipped over the final card dragging Jake’s attention back to the game: Ace of diamonds.

Two pair, thought Jake, ace high. Nice.

Jake willed his pulse to slow. His mouth was a thin line. He ran a hand through his thick hair. Then he picked up his last stack of coins and tossed them casually into the heap. Nine bucks. Ten if Damon continued. Not what you’d call a fortune, but hey, it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Jake slipped his hand into the pocket of his jeans. He shifted his cell phone. Stray nickels and dimes danced between his fingers. If he lost this hand, he could kiss next week’s lunches goodbye. Like he’d done this week. And last.

“Call,” said Damon. He placed his two cards onto the pile of money as though he were claiming it. He had a pair of aces.

Jake let out his breath. The deuces came in handy after all. He turned his cards over one by one. Jake watched Damon’s eyes darken. Suddenly they reminded Jake of shark eyes—cold and lifeless. Jake stretched out his arms to rake in his winnings.

“Why gentlemen,” said a deep voice. “You wouldn’t happen to be partaking in the quite illegal and most suspendable act of gambling, would you?”

Jake peered over his shoulder at the towering six-foot-six figure of his English teacher, Mr. Dean.

“At the very least it would mean a week’s worth of detentions for each of you.”

Cole could wriggle his way out of a clogged pipe. Trouble was, his mouth was quicker than his brain. “Gambling? Us? Course not, Sir. We’re just having an enjoyable game of Fish. And this money here?” he motioned his chin toward the pile, “Why, it just happens to be sitting on the table, doing nothing.” He sat back looking pretty proud of himself.

“Nothing?” Mr. Dean frowned. “Hmm, I see.” He scratched his chin. He volleyed glances from Damon to Cole finally settling on Jake. “Well, if this money is just doing nothing, then I’m sure you gentlemen wouldn’t mind if I donate it to the Salvation Army where it can do something?”

Jake rolled his eyes and scowled, but he kept his mouth shut.

Mr. Dean patted Jake on the shoulder. “Life is an endless series of choices, Mr. McRae.” He leaned in, scooped up the loot and strolled off humming Amazing Grace.

Jake gave Cole a shove. “You idiot.”

“What’d I do?”

This money just happens to be sitting here doing nothing…” Jake mocked. “Couldn’t you have come up with something better?”

I didn’t hear anything brilliant shooting out of your mouth. And I guess you’d a wanted a pile of detentions instead?”

Jake picked up his cards and threw them across the table.

Cole sneered. “Think of it as bail.”

Damon was leaning back in his chair. “Forget it. It’s chump change. Let’s talk real business.”

Business. Right. Jake had avoided thinking about it all day. He reached over and grabbed a few fries from Cole’s plate. They were cold and tasted like cardboard.

“My brother says you guys have been hanging around the coffee shop long enough. He wants you to do a favour for him.”

Vlad was what you’d call king of the 5 King Tribe. He was the kind of guy you did not want to disappoint.

“We’re in,” said Cole all too eagerly. He glanced at Jake, but Jake didn’t say a word.

“Good,” said Damon. “Vlad will be happy.”

“So, um, what exactly does he want us to do?” asked Jake.

Damon was eyeing him like they were playing poker again. Only this time, Jake felt his cheeks flush.

“Meet at the coffee shop at one o’clock on Sunday. Pick up a package and take it to where Vlad tells you. A simple delivery.”

Simple, thought Jake. But what if simple gets complicated?

“Delivery. Sure,” said Cole. He flashed Jake another look. This one said: Be cool.

The bell rang ending second lunch. Damon grabbed the cards, shoved them into his pocket and swaggered off into the stream of students heading toward their lockers. “Sunday,” he called over his shoulder. He didn’t look back.

“What’s your problem?” asked Cole once Damon had disappeared. “Don’t you get it? When Vlad asks you to do something, you do it.”

Jake didn’t respond. His thoughts were doing back-flips

“It’s just a delivery,” said Cole. “Like Damon said—simple.”

“Simple,” echoed Jake. He was nodding, but his expression betrayed his uncertainty.

Cole sighed. “Make up your mind, man—in or out…”