Author Stacey Rourke

Sunday, December 19, 2010


After extensive rewrites THE CONDUIT has a new opening chapter. I hope you enjoy it and it leaves you wanting more.


I didn’t ask for any of this. There was no show of hands before he picked me to be his special ‘chosen one’. Given the choice I would’ve adamantly refused. If for no other reason than frat guys are a heck of a lot easier on the eyes than your average, run-of-the-mill demon. Believe me, I know. And that would’ve been my life; college, freedom, friends and the chance to finally be normal. After everything I’d been through I thought I deserved it. Apparently I was wrong. What awaited me instead was pain, violence and the stress of having the fate of the world literally resting on my shoulders.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Heck, I haven’t even bothered with an introduction. My name is Celeste Garrett. I’m only eighteen. But I happen to be the Conduit, a bona fide hero on earth. Only minus the spandex suit or cape—‘cause yikes.

Before I got the—ahem—call my life was already in a state of upheaval. After a series of break-ins in our otherwise family-friendly neighborhood, my mom made the decision to send me, my twenty year old brother, Gabe, and my sixteen year old sister, Kendall, to live with our paternal grandmother. Goodbye, Sterling Heights, Michigan. Hello, Gainesboro, Tennessee with the whopping population of 840 people. Seriously. Mom would join us in Hickville, USA just as soon as our house sold. From the very day we arrived in the Podunk town things got…weird.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ROUND THREE--ding, ding!

Soon THE CONDUIT will be sent out for a fresh round of submissions to literary agents. I won't lie, in a way it feels like I am taking a line from a Meatloaf song and "offering the wolves my throat." (Props to Meat. Love that dude.) I know my feelings have merit. It's a painful thing to pour your heart and soul into a project and have it so easily dismissed. Yet the stubborn, driven, slightly masochistic side of me says BRING IT ON!

"Gee, Stace." You may ask. "After being turned down time after-time after-time, how could you possibly be looking forward to that again? Are you really that eager for further pain? Cause if so I could just come over and kick you in the crotch to save you the cost of postage."

Well thanks, but I'll pass. My excitement comes not from a need to be an emotional whipping boy, but because I have learned something from every rejection and have wisely invested my time in educating myself on the market.

With my first round of submissions I received form rejection letters from agents that based their opinions solely on my query letter without reading one page of my manuscript. Feelings hurt, I wanted to assume they were jaded people whose parents didn't hug them enough. Then I got over myself and figured out the problem was my query letter. It was lacking in a major way. So I rewrote it. Guess what? Next round I got asked for partial or entire manuscript submissions. My writing was put to the test. While I didn't get picked up, I did get some wonderful feedback. I discovered what areas I needed to work on and have taken the steps needed to address the issues. In the meantime I continue to read as many YA novels as I can get my hands on. By familiarizing myself with the market I know where I fit in now, and that is a critical element in marketing a book. I have also picked up the book Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents. It's a big, menacing looking book but has vital information that every aspiring author can use.

So, my gloves are laced and my mouth guard is it. I'm bouncing off my toes and shaking out my arms. I'm ready to step back into the ring, prepped and ready to deliver the KO I know I'm capable of. (Rocky theme builds in the background--and fade to black.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


February 2007

I sat rocking my seven month old daughter as she drifted off to sleep after a bottle. Gazing down at her my heart ached from the magnitude of my love for her. She grew so fast, every day being a little less my "baby". I wanted nothing more than to take a mental snap shot of every single moment I spent with her so I wouldn't risk missing a thing. The road to her conception was such a tumultuous, painful one. But we beat the odds. According to the doctors we wouldn't get that lucky again.

Tears streaked down my cheeks. Once Ellie's baby phase ended I wouldn't experience it again. No more cherished moments with a sleeping baby nuzzled into the crook of my neck. No more chubby fingers tangled in my hair to draw me near. No more sweet infant serenades of "Ma-ma." But I would be okay with it, because I held in my arms my miracle baby. I would just have to grasp all my memories tight to prevent them from fluttering away like a feather on the wind. The tears flowed freely as I snuggled my sweet girl tight and thanked God wholeheartedly that He sought fit to bless me even once.

Six weeks later I found out I was pregnant again. Don't tell me miracles don't happen. I wake up to two of them every damn day.

Happy third birthday Madilyn Claire. You will ALWAYS be the most amazing surprise I have ever been given.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

HOUSE OF NIGHT- Friggin' Phenomenal Read

Books reviews are normally supposed to be an objective look at said work to evaluate the pros and cons of the content and material. They are not intended to be a gushing lovefest by a newly formed diehard fan. And yet, here we are. I'm going to gush. Be warned.

The HOUSE OF NIGHT series, written by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast, currently is made up of seven books and I read every single one of them in the last two weeks. (That should tell you something right there. I couldn't put them down.) Yes, this YA series has vampires and yes just the idea of that made me cringe. I mean really, how many different vampire stories can you tell?! But then I started book one; MARKED. The story is completely original and reinvents the myth behind vampires. The characters are captivating, the dialogue is witty, there's action, heat and intensity all working together in a way that doesn't just make readers want to know what happens next, but need to. Normally I find that passed book four series tend to get a little stale, but HON proved otherwise. Every book "kicks it up a notch" and takes the reader places you don't see coming and can't turn the pages fast enough to get more of.

The only, and I do mean ONLY criticism I have for this series is that as it is in the Young Adult section the material gets more than a little risque. If these books were movies and no content was edited they would be rated R. There is harsh language, violence and moderately explicit sexual content. So, parents keep that in mind.

For the teen and older crowd that enjoys Fantasy Fiction I say either ask Santa to put the HOUSE OF NIGHT series in your stocking or run out and treat yourself to it right now! Go ahead and splurge and buy the entire series at once because once you start you aren't going to want to stop.

As for me, I am giddy for the January 4th release of HOUSE OF NIGHT's eighth book; AWAKENING. January?! That's next year! As the main character Zoey Redbird would say, "Ah, hell."

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I won't lie, I have a mild panic attack every time I give my work to someone else to read. Every. Single. Time. I know literature is completely subjective and I am very well aware that not everyone will enjoy my style of writing. But that doesn't mean I don't want everyone to enjoy it. It's just human nature, everybody wants to be liked and accepted. And if you run into someone that argues that they are so cool and aloof that the acceptance of others is inconsequential to them then you just go ahead and tell them that I said they are a big, fat liar. When it comes to my writing, I put my heart and soul into it and I care how it is perceived by others.

As I have mentioned before THE CONDUIT is currently in the hands of author T.L. Cooper for further editing. When I first sent it to her my stomach was tied in knots about the feedback I would receive. What if she hates it? What if she tells me a preschooler with a crayon could pen a better novel?! What if I'm kidding myself and have no talent for writing what-so-ever?! Maybe I should just give up this whole dream and go live under a bridge somewhere to hide my shame! (Don't act surprised by my flair for the dramatic. Hello--fiction writer!)

However she recently sent me a short message that put my mind at ease. I was obsessing about ideas I have for further changes and was being a pest by giving her tips on what she should look for in my book. Translation; I was pointing out what I believe to be flaws in my own manuscript. How much sense does that make? That's like going on a first date and stating up front that you're high maintenance and a stage 5 clinger. It's just bad advertising.

So how did T.L. handle my outbreak of OCD? With a calm and understanding that I deeply appreciate. Her suggestion, "Put the manuscript down and step away" may seem simple, but from one writer to another we know EXACTLY how difficult that is. Once the wheels get turning with an idea it is next to impossible to stop them. It's the whole "an object in motion wants to stay in motion" theory. However by her saying that, my trust in her expanded exponentially (that my friends is a fifty cent word). I knew from the beginning that she was a talented writer, that's why I asked for her assistance. But now I feel a kinship of mutual understanding of just how stressful all of this can be. That being said, for now I am going to stop stresing and leave THE CONDUIT in her very capable hands. After all, I do have another manuscript I'm supposed to be editing...

To my peer and friend T.L. Cooper I say; thank you for your time and understanding and I appreciate the part you are playing in helping THE CONDUIT reach its full potential. (PS-I'm not a stage 5 clinger. At my worst I'm like a 3.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review-THE IMMORTALS series

As I mentioned before I recently became engrossed in THE IMMORTALS series by Alyson Noel. As with any series it has its good and bad points, but all in all I would definitely recommend it.

Beginning book one, EVERMORE, I had to battle my own preconceived notions. Taking the word "immortal" and combining it with a story in which an average girl is sought out and desired to an almost stalker-ish degree by an unattainable, Adonis of a guy had me thinking this was nothing but a TWILIGHT knock-off. Yet that is far from the case. Ms. Noel creates a captivating world where creatures like vampires or werewolves don't exist, but amazing, super-human abilities can be achieved through science. I have the utmost respect for any author that can write about the origins of energy and quantum physics in a way that engages the reader instead of causing them to get glassy eyed and drool on themselves.

With the second and third novels in this series, BLUE MOON and SHADOWLAND, I was hooked. I couldn't put these books down and was sneaking in any possible moments I could to delve back into Ever's world. The main character comes into her own and I couldn't wait to see where the author would take her next. Both of those books were wildly entertaining!

I'll be honest and say I was somewhat disappointed by the fourth book DARK FLAME. The premise behind it is good and a brave risk for any writer to take. However as the main characters, Ever and Damon, are supposed to have this wonderfully pure true love I couldn't for the life me understand why Ever couldn't reveal a simple truth, that was not entirely her fault, instead of risking their entire relationship. I still enjoyed the book, however that one detail had me wanting to grab the main character by the shoulders and shake her. (A bad idea considering she's an incredibly strong immortal and I'm,

If you were a fan of the TWILIGHT books I would definitely recommend THE IMMORTALS. The premise behind it is new and unique, but Damon and Ever hold a passion for each other very similar to that of Edward and Bella. The fifth book in the series, NIGHT STAR, comes out next month and without I doubt I will be reading it! Kudos to Ms. Noel!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I have been meaning to blog for days now, really I have. However life kept getting in the way--as it so enjoys doing. It has been hard to find time for much else in between dealing with my husband crashing not one but TWO of our cars in the course of a weekend, loved ones being rushed to the ER, my email being hacked, spontanously sick kids, running the preschooler here and there, etc, etc... It's been crazy. So much so that I am seriously considering going into hiding next October just in case it becomes an annual trend.

Thankfully though I have consistantly found time for my literary pursuits. I just finished further rewrites of THE CONDUIT and am very pleased with the results. Now it will be whisked off to the trusted hands of ALL SHE EVER WANTED author T.L. Cooper. The talented, and might I add very pretty, author/poet will be editing and critiqueing my manuscript to help me further perfect it. (That's right, I am trying to butter her up. If I'm kind, she will be too. Right?!)

With these rewrites complete I was then able to get back to EMBRACE OF THE CALL. I am having a riot with this manuscript! As I have mentioned before I am introducing some new characters this time around. One new addition is a darkly twisted bad boy that I am having a blast creating. I have found myself playing Jace Everett's BAD THINGS just to get myself in the right frame of mind for the character. Can't wait to share him with the world.

My quest into the current YA literary world continues. My stack of reading material has grown to an alarming level, but I will eventually work my way through it all. I am on the latest novel in THE IMMORTALS series and will be reviewing them all upon the complition. I am learning a great deal from these other authors. For example, what kinds of things YA authors can--ahem--get away with. That has been surprising for me. I found a YA novel that actually dropped the f-bomb repeatedly. That shocked me. Probably because my step-dad always told me that people swear when they aren't clever enough to articulate their emotions more effectively. While I am not opposed to some of the tamer curse words dotted in here and there, I can assure you I will not be dropping the f-bomb in any of my YA books. I will keep it at a PG-13 or less, that is my promise to parents who trust me to entertain their kids.

So that's the latest with me. 'Sup with you?

Monday, September 27, 2010


As if chasing two toddlers, controlling two St. Bernards, maintaining a house and editing not one but TWO novels wasn't enough I have dove into yet another task. My novels are in the Young Adult genre, therefore I have decided to learn all I can about the books that are out right now.

Not that I was unfamiliar with this genre before, mind you. Truthfully this is a genre I enjoy to begin with. (Duh. Why else would I write it?) Authors such as James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Pike and L.J. Smith were all inspirational in my decision to join them in the YA ranks. At a later date I will dissect their works and explain how each of them added to my creative spark.

For now I have taken to patrolling the bookstores. (I could literally spend hours there; soaking up the atmosphere, hunting for books, getting opinions from other readers, I just love it! Put me there with a Starbucks Venti Chai Latte' with extra whip in my hand and I am in euphoric bliss.) I have already acquired a stack of books to read. Once you trudge passed the whoas of teenage angst there are some incredibly creative stories that are beautifully written and edge of your seat compelling. I will report back with my findings of what the can't miss reads are.

Currently I am on the second book, BLUE MOON, in Alyson Noel's Immortals series. I will hold my opinions until I complete the series. However if the fact that I was up until one thirty in the morning last night reading is any kind of indicator you can bet Ms. Noel will be getting a favorable review!

Friday, September 24, 2010


I have recently learned of a disability I have. For those of you that know me it is not my inability to cook or my bladder failure every time I see a snake. Those disabilities I already knew about. It is a difficulty I have discovered when I edit.

There are some writers that can juggle numerous works in progress at the same time. They spend a little time on this poem, then jump over to this short story and then transition smoothly to the novel they are penning. I can't do that. Yes, I may have loads of story ideas floating around in my head but I can only concentrate on one of them at a time. I have to see one character's story through before I can start up with another. I'm loyal that way.

When it comes to writing this isn't a problem. With editing it is. Come to find out my one track mind also plays into my editing. If I am editing for content I can only see content issues. If I am editing for dialogue I can only see dialogue. That means editing that should only take three or four rounds of careful scouring is taking me about a dozen. Pain in the boo-tay!! Much like anything with writing I know it will just take practice, in the meantime I'm going cross-eyed from reading and rereading and rereading and rereading, etc, etc...

It'll all be worth it in the end. Now where's the Tylenol?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Think of a scene or snippet from a movie, book or television show that gave you goosebumps. Maybe it is a bible verse that really resonates with you. Perhaps it's a cliffhanger ending that had you literally perched on the edge of your seat. When I asked myself this question the very first image that popped into my head was from the movie TITANIC. The scene in particular is when Jack and Rose are clinging to the side of the boat and he tells her, "Hold your breath and kick for the surface. DO NOT let go of my hand." The reason this scene hit me so hard was because that is when things get real. Yes Jack and Rose were fictional characters, however what they were enduring was not. I thought of how many people went down with the ship. I am sure most of them had that moment of terrifying realization when it became clear that they were about to enter that frigid water and there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it but fight to survive and pray.

I believe it is the raw emotion behind moments like that create the goosebump paradox. Something in those moments resonate or speak to us so deeply on an almost primal level that they cause a physical reaction. As a writer causing that reaction is a goal of mine. (It beats another physical reaction of throwing the book across the room. I hope to avoid that.)

I have been told by numerous people that there is a certain scene in THE CONDUIT that gave them chills. I won't ruin it for those of you that haven't read it, but I will admit that on my first full read through even I got a little shiver and I knew what was coming! Now as I edit EMBRACE I wonder which moments will impact readers the most. I have a couple in mind, but I could be completely off base as opinions are subjective and based on each reader's tastes and experiences. One thing is for sure though; I will never let go of my desire to strike a cord with people. I'll never let go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


If you can read this it's because my laptop truly is a rebel in my war against technology. Operation T.I.G.G.E.R.S B.E.D.R.O.O.M, (Stands for: The Idiot Girl's Going Enormously Ragged Because Electronic Devices Regularly Out-smart & Outwit Me) has escalated. After scouring the terrain no sign has been found of my iPod. It's as if it grew legs. If that is in fact the case then I am actually fighting Decepticons instead of mere electronic devices and I am WAAAAY out of my league. If anyone has Optimus Prime's phone number I would greatly appreciate it.

Today a member of our camp that I thought was loyal turned on me. I tried to shut my printer off at 11am this morning. Since then it has been flashing the words "Shutting Down" but has failed to actually do so. Mind games. They are trying to get me to snap. I'm sure some of you think I already have. The printer has a connection to the laptop, because of that I don't know how much longer I will be able to communicate these updates. Hopefully it is devoted to our cause and won't turn on me. Time will tell. Good luck and God speed to all of you suffering a similar battle on your own front. Autobots roll out!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


First an update on the technology wars; my iPod has gone missing. Either it has deflected to the other side or is now a prisoner of war. Search efforts continue however I fear the very worst. It is now becoming obvious I severely underestimated the enemy. More to follow.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

I haven't been blogging much lately because I am deep in editing mode with book two; EMBRACE OF THE CALL. I must admit I am enjoying the entire process even more the second time around! Maybe it's because I have found my groove or maybe it's because I know the characters better. Whatever the reason I am over-the-top excited about this second installment of THE CONDUIT series. Book one was mandatory because it introduced the legend and the characters. Well now that story has been told and I am free to take them on all sorts of wild and crazy adventures! I am the first to admit that book two is definitely more fast paced than it's predecessor. And this steam engine isn't about to slow down! Spoiler Alert: EMBRACE has a cliffhanger ending leaving it open for a third! Truth be told I have story ideas laid out for two more books in this series. It is a personal pet peeve of mine when a book series regurgitates the same story over and over again. Rest assured that will not be the case for the Garrett kids. Just when you think you know what's in store for Celeste, I will find away to pull the rug out from under her! Can't wait to share the adventure with all of you!

Nothing new to report on the agent/publisher hunt. I have people reading and considering my work but no news yet. If I have learned one thing it's that the literary world is less than speedy. But perseverance pays off and I'm not goin' anywhere!

Monday, August 23, 2010


There is a war going on in my home. It's been an ugly, violate battle and there has been one reported casualty thus far. The lines have been firmly drawn in the fight of me versus every single flingin', flangin' electronic device I own.

The first shots were fired when my laptop refused to deliver my query letter to the publishing house that CYNTHIA'S ATTIC author Mary Cunningham referred me to. I tried four times to breech the stubborn machine's defenses to no avail. I countered by dropping my iPhone in a toilet I had just flushed. Take that technology! FYI- iPhone does NOT make an app that can withstand a swirly. Granted I took this loss harder than anyone, but I feel I made my point to the laptop that I could kill it and make it look like an "accident" if it continues not to cooperate. In retaliation the machines sent the new Blackberry Torch to replace the iPhone. Clearly this infuriating contraption is a spy. It's slow service and limited capabilities have been specially designed as a cruel torture to send me spiraling over the edge into madness. (At this point it would be a short fall. Like tripping over a curb.) I have yet to plan my next move. Better judgement is telling me seeing if the Blackberry Torch can fly if I whip it out the window is too crass for this strategic battle.

Lucky for me I have found allies along the way. The president/editor of Echelon Press gave me another email address to try that the laptop couldn't seem to hinder. My darling husband contacted the phone store and notified them that if they wanted their Blackberry to make it out alive they needed to get an iPhone back in my hands pronto. And the nice salesman at the store understood my unhappiness with the traitorous phone and vowed to give me a full refund when it's replacement arrives. With these brave people standing behind me I maybe victorious in my rage against the machines. Or, they could overcome me and turn me into a half-human, half-cyborg mutation that wears pitch black sunglasses and mutters menacing lines like, "I'll be back." It's all really up in the air right now. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In preparation for an upcoming family vacation, I made a countdown calender with my girls. It thrills them to no end to cross off each day knowing it brings them that much closer to the fun headed their way. This got me thinking; wouldn't it be nice if everyday life came with countdown calenders to the good stuff? Maybe your boss could stroll into your office and hang up a calender counting down the days until you finally get that corner office. (Shout out to my bud the Dancing Pickle.) Or a magical clock could appear ticking down the seconds until you meet that special someone. Or a certain aspiring author could open a mysterious package and find a note with the exact date her book would be picked up. We would know exactly when it was going to happen and could simmer in our own excitement until then.

But wouldn't that take some of the magic out of those amazing moments? For example ladies, what if your boyfriend told you a month in advance the exact day and time he was going to propose? Your thought would be, "Way to kill the romance Romeo!" Because it's the surprise and the thrill of moments like those that make them special. It's the seemingly ordinary days transforming in the blink of an eye to something extraordinary that show what a brilliant choreographer God is. And even though waiting chaffs our fannies, in the end it really does make the prize that much sweeter.

So life doesn't come with a precise countdown calender. That doesn't mean we can't live it like it does. Those wonderful, amazing moments life has in store for us do happen. Maybe we could just think of the rough or mediocre days along the way as filler. Days we have to cross off to get us one step closer to the amazing days.

Although, if someone does know of that mysterious package with that date in it I would not be opposed to taking a peak at it...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Recently I asked two published authors to read my work in hopes that they would give me a referral to their publishing house if they found my work deserving. The first author, who will shall call Prof. Grumpypants, is a college professor that writes action books for grown-ups. His books are filled with lots of guns and violence. The other author is Mary Cunningham, she writes in the Young Adult genre and is the creator of the family friendly series CYNTHIA'S ATTIC. Her blog is linked to mine, so by all means check her out if you are looking for a nice, family friendly read.

Prof. Grumpypants read my entire book and the only feedback he gave me was that he found my writing weak and therefore wouldn't give me a referral. It seems as a teacher he would have been more inclined to give examples as to how I could improve upon this, but he did not. Had he I probably would have dubbed him Prof. Helpfulpants, but clearly that is not the case. Instead he just threw his negative response at me and left it at that.

I was justifiably crestfallen, but then I considered the source. Writers pen stories that appeal to them. If he enjoys creating stories about people getting their brains blown out then my young adult manuscript, in which everyone's brains stay firmly intact, is not going to appeal to him in the least. Because good writing, just like any other form of art, literature, film, etc, is completely subjective. If a lawyer wins numerous cases, he/she is a good lawyer. If a doctor saves lives, he/she is a good doctor. It's cut and dry. But that's not the case with writing. It's all a matter of opinion.

Case in point, we return to Mary Cunningham. (Side note--by her name I immediately thought of Richie and Joanie's mom. She would only say nice things, right?) As a young adult author herself I figured my style of writing would be more up her alley. I was right. She sent me an email yesterday saying she was BLOWN AWAY by my story. "Blown away", those were her exact words. Like I was a force of nature huffing and puffing and blowing her socks off with the words I had strung together. Now that may seem egotistical to say, but after the countless rejections I have received I'm going to go ahead and savor this rave review!! Judge me if you want, I'm gonna enjoy it!!

Mary did have a little bit of feedback of how I could tweek THE CONDUIT every so slightly, but said whether I choose to take her suggestions or not she is going to give me a referral to her publisher Echelon Press. Hopefully they will be as BLOWN AWAY as she was. To show my appreciation to Mary I am going to pick up a copy of all four of her CYNTHIA'S ATTIC and I hope you all do the same!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Well friends that literary agent passed on my manuscript. If you are wondering how I am feeling about this I can sum it up in one word; PPPPPHHHHHBBBBLLLLTTTTT!!!

Yes it is a big, fat bummer, but thus is the life of any aspiring artist. The message she sent was that it was a great concept and an enjoyable read but she just didn't "connect with it." I don't really think that is something I can fix. I think this was more a situation of my book not really appealing to her personal taste in literature. Other than that she had positive things to say which is definitely a great thing. Now it's just a matter of getting it in the right hands.

Meanwhile progress is being made on EMBRACE OF THE CALL. I am roughly a quarter of the way through the first round of editing. It is shaping up well. A bit of foreshadowing; it has new characters, a new even more twisted villain, and a new love interest--or two. Are you trembling with antici............pation?

Monday, July 19, 2010



As a young girl I never gave much thought to being a Momma and having babies. It was something I figured would happen someday;

In its own dear, sweet time.

The day your Dad and I married many family and friends asked when we would hear the pitter patter of little feet. We gave each other a knowing grin and answered that it would happen;

In its own dear, sweet time.

The time came that we wanted the blessing that is a new baby. It was a rough, tear-filled journey. Yet it ended with you coming into this world, you just took;

Your own dear, sweet time.

Before my very eyes I have watched you grow from a baby to a beautiful girl. As you continue to grow, I have a small favor to ask. For the sake of your Momma's heart;

Please take your own dear, sweet time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I know what you're thinking, "Two blogs in one day? What happened to warrant such a treat?" (If that's not what you were thinking or perhaps you substituted the word 'treat' for 'torture' then I have to ask, why are you reading this in the first place? But I digress.)

The second blog for today is because this afternoon I encountered a being that I was unaware existed; a kind, helpful literary agent!! (Insert your shocked gasps here.) Now, before I offend anyone out there, let me say that I am not stereotyping agents. I am merely admitting that many of the ones I have encountered thus far have not been willing to go above and beyond as she did. It has made me hopeful that there are others like her out there.

Her name is Katharine Sands and I contacted her in one of my seemingly endless networking attempts. Researching her online I quickly learned that her clients had amazing things to say about her, but sadly she does not represent my genre. As we shot short emails back and forth to each other I let her know that she could breath easy that I wasn't going to pressure her for representation because I knew she didn't represent YA books. She responded that she admired plucky authors (which I think translates to pain in the a*#) and then she took the time to compile a list for me of good YA agents. At the top of the list? Another agent AT HER AGENCY! (Dum, dumm, duuummmmmmm!!!)To quote a favorite wobbly-legged pirate of mine, "Thas' interesting."

I researched the agent she referred me to and like her already. In an interview she said something I deeply understand and completely respect, "write what you have to write, not what you think is going to sell." That is exactly how I feel about my novels.

So what does this all mean? What's going to happen next? Aye mateys that I can't be sayin'. We'll have to keep a weathered eye on that horizon and see where the winds be takin' us. (Sorry once I go pirate it's hard to stop.)

One thing I do know? I'm about to woo the heck out of a certain literary agent.


Recently I have acquired a few new followers. (Hi newbies!!) To summarize for the newcomers what they have missed I will simply say that if you want to be a writer and one of your parents DIDN'T go to finishing school with the president and CEO of Random House, be prepared for a rough journey to publication. Yep, that about sums it up!

Lately I have been spending a great deal of time on the "business" aspects of this quest into the literary world. Networking, editing to make book one more marketable, researching new contacts, blah, blah, blah. As I have nothing to show for these efforts yet the situation has been comparable to beating my head against a wall. Yes, I know if I want to get published it's mandatory but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Or that I shouldn't be brutally honest when I say on the fun scale it's right up there with a red hot poker in the eye. Truthfully if this was all there was to the business of books I would want no part of it.

But it's not.

Every author, every publisher, every editor, they are all in this industry for the love and admiration of the written word and the stories that can take our imaginations soaring to worlds that we never thought to imagine. I was reminded of this as I sat down to begin editing book two. I hadn't looked at my first draft since I finished it. Now that I have, my passion and enthusiasm for it has been refreshed. I honestly cannot wait to share it with all of you. THE CONDUIT sets the stage, but in EMBRACE OF THE CALL the "fun" begins. I am very proud of it and it reminded me that this is what I am working for, to share my stories with all of you. I'll jump through the hoops I have to for publication, but my real enjoyment and passion is creating stories that will make my readers laugh, cry or just stare in slack jawed astonishment. If I can accomplish that I have done my job and it will make all the hoop jumping worthwhile.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


- I am now three books into the James Patterson series of Max Ride books. They are FANTASTIC!! Mr. Patterson has created a fun, family-friendly series that has kept me on the edge of my seat with his action-packed scenes and witty dialogue. I highly recommend them and I will admit that I look up to his writing style immensely!!

- Bravo to every single individual involved in the LeBron James spectacle in Miami. You all had a hand in redefining the phrase "shameless self-promotion." That was surreal in a ridiculous, down-right nauseating way. I don't care if all you did was park cars at that event I still judge you for the role you played.

- As I watch "Finding Nemo" with my kids it occurs to me that Dory is actually quite wise. To quote her directly, "When life gets you down ya know what ya gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." That is very insightful for the memory deficient fish. Sometimes that really is all we can do; just keep swimming. And perhaps sing her little song too, if for no other reason than it would lighten the mood.

-The author that offered to read my book sent me an emailing saying he was going to take his time reading and "digesting it." Doing my best not to translate that to "chew it up and spit it out." And if he does in fact do that, know what I'll do? That's right! Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What will I do? I'll swim, swim, swim!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I decided I was going to take a new avenue to getting published. I did some networking and connected with an established author with numerous published works under his belt. On a whim I asked him to critique my work and if he found it worthy to recommend it to his publisher. Kind person he is, he agreed.

Now I am so nervous I maybe giving myself an ulcer. This gentleman teaches classes on writing! He has books on shelves and knows what it takes to appeal to readers. I have had agents, editors, friends and family read my book, but never an established author. I find it so daunt my lunch is threatening to make a second appearance. Which is ridiculous because much like every aspect of the literary world his opinion is completely subjective.

Even if he doesn't choose to offer up the recommendation he may have some feedback to help improve upon my book, so it wouldn't be a total loss. I guess I should also find it reassuring that he's a writer so even if he hates it he will find an eloquent way to tell me so. Yet neither of these things are calming my frazzled nerves. I know this isn't the be-all, end-all but I still think I may drink an entire bottle of Pepto before the day is through.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Once again I am gathering up my submission materials to send out in my long and trying quest to get my novel published. At this point I am suppressing the urge to grab agents/publishers by the collar and threaten their physical well being if they reject me again. (I have their mailing addresses. I'm just saying, the option is there.) If that doesn't work I could then fall into a heap on the floor and throw the mother of all temper tantrums. I've watched my kids do it for four years; I could imitate it pretty darn convincingly. However better judgement tells me that may not be the impression I want to make. If I can get published without anyone filing for a restraining order I will consider that a major win for me.

Yet hope springs eternal and I am still hopeful for a favorable outcome. Maybe this round won't lead to publication, but it could lead to further feedback to improve upon my manuscript and that too is a wonderful thing. I think back to my first draft of THE CONDUIT; it was a very different story then. Time, editing and feedback are polishing it up to the sparkling jewel I knew it could be. When it shines enough on its own the right person will read it and doors will open. Until then I have to keep pushing on.

I will admit it's difficult because there is no set blue print for how long this journey will be. Stephanie Meyer sent out less than twenty query letters before being scooped up by Writer's House Literary Agency. Stephen King on the other hand received so many rejections for Carrie that he threw the manuscript away! It was his wife that pulled it out of the garbage and continued to submit it for him. But neither of those are Stacey Rourke's publication story. Hers is yet to be determined. I've already invested too much not to at least wait it out and see how it ends.

So I shall bite the bullet and send my materials out again. And don't worry, if I start to get the gnawing desire to physically persuade someone to come around to my way of thinking I'll put myself in timeout.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I hope none of you read this blog entry. I hope each and everyone of my blog followers are out living it up this fourth of July weekend. (Safely of course.) If any of you DO find your way onto the computer I hope that it is after a fun-filled day of summer time activities.

Yet as you are grilling out, playing in the water and watching fireworks please take a moment to pause and reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. This weekend we celebrate our independence. We wouldn't have that treasured freedom if it weren't for the men and women of the armed forces. On this my public platform I say from the bottom of my heart; thank you to all of you that have served, or are serving, our country. Your courage, strength and heroism are the backbone of this great nation of ours.

No one can say it as well as Mr. Lee Greenwood:

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I'd worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I'd thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can't take that away.

And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there's pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I'm proud to be and American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


As my family and friends know, I am a huge Disney fan. After watching Toy Story 3 last night I have once again reaffirmed myself as a steadfast member of the fan club. While children are the target market, the story is told in such a way that it is a fun and emotionally touching ride for people of all ages. (Two thumbs up, by the way.) The same can be said for almost all of the projects Disney takes on. The theme parks are another example. Before I had kids I LOVED to go ride the rides, see the shows and be a kid again.

But then I HAD kids. And the entire experience changed.

We took them to the Magic Kingdom and treated them to breakfast with Pooh and the gang. I saw my oldest daughter's eyes light up as she saw her cartoon friends come to life and I got choked up. She gave Piglet a kiss and I balled like a baby. The parks were a blast before my girls came along, with them there they suddenly became magical. They became a place where magic truly happens. Where elephants really CAN fly. Where princesses and princes aren't just on the pages of a book. Where mops dance across the floor and no one finds it odd. Where it's not only OKAY to act silly and be a kid, it's a requirement! I saw everything through their eyes and marveled at what a blessing it is to have wonderful venues like that to enjoy with them.

Kids grow up so fast anyway, entertainment doesn't need to encourage them to try to speed the process up. Seen Toddlers in Tiaras? I rest my case. Yikes. Granted my books target young adults as opposed to kids, but the logic is the same. I strive to write family friendly books that parents and kids alike can read and enjoy together. Maybe it would even prompt a conversation between parent and child about what their favorite part was or a line they thought was funny. It's a simple concept, but a sound one. Walt was definitely on to something, but just to confirm that I should probably ride Space Mountain a few more times. Strictly for research...

Monday, June 14, 2010


I admit I am a novice, but if I could offer up one shred of advice to aspiring authors like myself it would be network, network, NETWORK!! Get out of your comfort zone, ignore your mother's wishes and talk to strangers. Not the creepy guy on the subway in the trench coat, don't talk to him. As a matter of fact steer clear of him altogether. But get out there, meet new people and start making connections.

Between job hunting and trying to get published it seems all I do anymore is network. What amazes me is that in a day and age of technology and the ten million ways we now have to avoid face to face conversations with people the saying still holds true that it isn't what you know, but WHO you know. Putting myself out there on all sorts of networking sites I have met some interesting people with helpful tips. Progress is being made, even if it is at a snails pace.

I'll be honest, when I make connections I don't always use my best, most professional judgement. On Linkedin I connected with a Bavarian polka band and a guy that looks like a member of ZZ Top because I thought they were cool. Turns out the polka band had some helpful job leads to offer up! (The ZZ Top guy hasn't done anything more than bring a smile to my face when I look at his profile picture. Honestly if that's all he brings to the table it is still more than enough for me.) My point is you never know who has a connection or a lead that is going to help you out. And you will never know unless you try.

So go, talk to strangers and make connections. But don't run with scissors. Mom was totally right about that one.

Friday, June 11, 2010


We're going to do something a little different today. I got a barrage of fun questions sent to me, so today's blog is going to be a Q&A. If any of you have additional questions you want me to answer for a future round send them to me and I will try to get to them all!

1.) What are your plans for the weekend?

Plans? I've heard of those. I believe they involve prearranging events, right? Yeah, I don't make those anymore. We pretty much decide on the spot if and when we are going to do things.

2.) How did you name your CONDUIT characters?

Let's start with Celeste. Because the legend originates in Ireland I wanted a name that could tie right in with her ancestors. Celia is an Irish name and Celeste was an updated version of that. I picked Gabe's name because it is strong and masculine and his character is the embodiment of strength. Kendall's name hits closer to home for me. My Uncle Kenny passed away when I was a little girl and since then I have always thought of him as an angel looking out for me. Kendall, aka Keni, is an angelic character and was named in honor of my uncle. Two other characters were also named in honor of loved ones that have passed on; Bruce Garrett, the kids' father, was named after my my Uncle Bruce and Grams or Gladys Garrett was named after my husband's great grandmother.

3.) What is your favorite part of being a mom?

No way can I pick just one. Hearing my kids laugh. Watching them play together. When they wrap their arms around my neck and say "Love you Mommy." When they wow me with their knowledge, courage and strength. Watching them grow into happy, healthy people. The look in their eyes when they see something amazing for the first time. Watching them play and interact with other kids. I could go on and on. Long story short; they are a blessing I thank God for every single day.

4.) Which is your favorite Dwarf from Snow White?

Dopey. I have a theory about him. He plays dumb, but I think underneath it all he's a diabolical genius. Think about it; which dwarf gets more than one kiss from the pretty girl? That's right, Dopey. He plays the part of a dim-wit, however I'm betting he could give Doc a run for his money.

5.) What's your theory on JFK?

Well, I'm no history major but I believe he was shot. Then he found himself in an alternate reality where he reconnected with all the people he loved. They all gathered in a church and then went into the light together. (Yes, the ending of Lost is still plaguing me!!)

So there you have it, our first Q&A. Hope you enjoyed it! I know I did! Have an idea for a question you want answered? Contact me and I will get to it!

PS-I have 5 chapters of my revised book ready to be critiqued. Willing parties contact me on Facebook.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


As if trying to get a book published isn't a hard enough venture by itself, my husband and I are also both aggressively seeking employment in Central Florida. The job market and literary world both being what they are I feel all I have heard lately is No. No, nope, no thank you, don't call us we'll call you, nada, nuh-uh. I consider myself a reasonably optimistic person, but a non-stop stream of rejection is taxing and down right tough to take. It has led to a stressed out and irritable me.

In the middle of a particularly grouchy pity party I saw that a Facebook friend of mine had posted "Live everyday like it was your last" on her status. Immediately I scoffed at that. If it's my last day on Earth I'm not doing the laundry or dishes, I'm not writing out bills, basically responsibilities in general would completely go to the waste side. That's just not realistic in the real world. Then when the bug in my posterior eventually died I gave second thought to that saying. Sure, we all have responsibilities that have to be handled. Yet those shouldn't be the elements that steal all of our time and joy. Every single day we need to take some time to smell the roses. Doing so rekindles the enjoyment of living and reminds us what it is we are working so hard for.

This then turned into a challenge for myself. I have decided to keep a "Bliss" notebook. Everyday I am going to do something that makes me truly happy and I'm going to jot it down in my notebook. That way when the struggles of life weigh me down I can glance back at that and be rejuvenated by all the blissful blessings in my life. Today's entry? Blowing bubbles outside with my kids and preparing gifts for loved ones to celebrate their joyous new addition. Tomorrow's entry will be the pure joy of snuggling a newborn. What would your bliss be for today?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


As I type this a new member of my family is preparing to enter this crazy world of ours. My niece, who is very dear to me, is in labor with her first child. Ultrasounds have shown that the baby is a girl. That makes five little girls in my immediate family. All of these precious girls were a big motivator behind my writing.

It started when I read the Twilight series of books. Now before any of you Twi-hards grab your torches and pitchforks and storm my house let me explain. The series of books is an engaging story and is beautifully written. However now I don't just look at things for their entertainment value, I look at them through Mommy eyes. The main character in those books is a young woman that must constantly rely on big, strong boys to save and protect her. (Up until the last book.) As a mom this was not the kind of role model I wanted my girls to have. I looked around at the women in my own life; my mother in-law that serves God, my mother and aunt that are nurses and serve the well being of others, all the Mommies that devote themselves to their little ones, the hardworking career women, the college gals preparing for their futures, the list goes on and on. These are the women I want my girls to emulate. Yet I felt the literary and entertainment venues often overlooked strong female characters. (Except for Buffy. That girl kicked serious butt.) It was the desire to give not just my girls, but young girls everywhere a heroine that they could relate to that made me want to write again. That desire and a passing dream on a random night are the combination that resulted in THE CONDUIT.

Now, there will be another sweet little girl in my life. I cannot wait to meet her. Therefore I dedicate this blog entry to Emma Rose; welcome to the world baby girl. You are so deeply loved. It is my wish for you that you grow to be the hero of your own story. With more love than you can imagine. --Aunt Stacey

Friday, May 28, 2010


It's been almost a week since my last blog. The reason for that is three-fold;

1.) I have been in deep mourning over the finale of Lost. I know that show wasn't for everyone. Some people were put off by all the twists and turns and mysteries that made it was it was. I, for one, adored it. I feel the writers were geniouses that kept us guessing right up until the end. And even the finale left quite a bit open to interpretation. I look up to both of the writer/ creators. Bravo sirs! I still whell up thinking about the Sawyer/ Juliet, Son/ Jin scenes. I plan to own the complete DVD collection so I can relive the magic of the island and sob all over again when it ends.

2.) It has been so gorgeous outside I have had no desire to be inside writing! Wow what a wonderful summer this is shaping up to be!

3.) Any free time I haven't been playing outside with my kids or sobbing over the loss of Lost I have been editing, editing, editing and then more editing. It is nearly complete. Only three more chapters to go. What started at 110,000 words is down to 81,000. Phew! I am very happy with how it is progressing. Unfortunatetly some fun scenes that I really enjoyed had to go, but the story flows better. I hope the agent that asked for revisions and resubmission will see that.

That being said I have to attach a small note here to a friend:


I am deeply sorry but the scenes with the Volkswagen Thing got cut. While you and I, and I am sure others, enjoy the juvenile jokes that go along with a car with that name it slowed down the scene. Celeste is suffering from head trauma then and wouldn't be coherent enough to be cracking jokes about his ride. I am so sorry to have to break this to you. Please don't cry. If it makes you feel better you can come over and watch the Lost collection with me and we will crack jokes between ourselves about the Thing.

Lots of Love,

Friday, May 21, 2010


As I mentioned before I am knee deep in some serious rewrite/revisions on book one. I am Freddy Kruegering the heck out of this thing. Only in a positive way and not a gory, brutal, shield-your-eyes kind of way. In it's original form THE CONDUIT was 110,000 words, now it is down to 89,000 and I'm only half way through it. As I am going through this time I am taking the agent's advise and removing anything that doesn't help move the story along. I have come to realize that I have a tendency to go off on tangents. (Those of you who know me know this is not a news bulletin.) While I might think these little side stories are funny, they slow the book down. So they gots to go!

That brings me to the audience participation part. Upon completing this round of editing I will have my tried and true helpers read THE CONDUIT for the 100th time and offer up their opinions. While I appreciate their opinions IMMENSELY I would also like to get a fresh perspective from someone that has never read it before. Therefore I am looking for one or two people to volunteer to give it a read through. Said volunteers need to be fans of Young Adult sci-fi genre, must have time to read the book within the next couple weeks, must be willing to offer feedback on the finished product and must solemnly swear that they will still buy a copy of the book when it's published. Interested parties for this job that pays nothing but my gratitude, please let me know!! Thanks gang!!

PS-Yep, couldn't figure out how to post a picture of the art work. It is AMAZING!!! I am hoping my dear, sweet hubby will show me how to show it to you all soon!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Ya know those three chapters I shared with you all on here? Only one of them, the prologue, is actually still in my book. The agent that requested sample chapters pointed out that it was taking way too long to get to the action and I completely agree. Therefore I am going through the entire thing with a fine tooth comb and taking out anything that isn't crucial to moving the story line along. Aren't you guys lucky that you were privy to the deleted scenes? An elite group, my blog!

The literary agent requested I resubmit after further editing, which shows she is still interested. To be honest 97,000 words for a young adult novel is a bit hefty anyway. My delete key and I will take care of that!

Tomorrow I am picking up my artwork, so stay tuned for a sneak preview of that!! Cannot wait to see what the brilliant Mrs. Strange has concocted! I will posted it here...just as soon as I figure out how to do that. Copying and pasting proved challenging so I can imagine what should be a simple task will result in a migraine.

Until tomorrow friends!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This morning I received some wonderful feedback from an agent. A REAL agent!! (Yes, I already googled her.) She had very positive things to say as well as pointing out some areas I could work on. There was no offer of representation, but she did request to see a few more chapters. Her interest is definitely a good sign.

In no way am I egoistical enough to think my book is perfection, far from it actually. I invite and welcome feedback that will help me to get it to the polished finished product I know it could be. I basically explained that to the agent in my email to her. My hope is that she will see enough potential in my plot, characters and style of writing to take a chance on me. (Anyone else just start singing the ABBA song? If not, I bet you are now!)

I'm not going to get my hopes up, the literary world is far too subjective for me to do so this early on. I will admit though that it would be a really, really nice change of pace to be able to post some actual good news and signs of progress here. We shall see...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Takes More Than That to Keep Me Down

I have picked myself up and brushed myself off after yesterday's startling revelation. Further investigation revealed that the "publisher/agent" team had not one, not two, but THREE different law suits against them right now. Thank God I researched before I bought into the bull they were selling me.

Of course being back to square one means that my little brain is just a ticking away with new ideas and plans. I queried more agents today; proof that I really am a glutton for punishment. I am considering revising Ch 2 of THE CONDUIT to sharpen the lead in and thin down my slightly plump novel. Plus I am doing some mental yoga stretches to prepare myself for the lengthy process of delving into editing EMBRACE OF THE CALL.

I got thrown off the horse yesterday, no doubt about that. But I've picked myself up by the bootstraps, dusted off my bum and now I'm back in the saddle.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Well gang, I thought I was going to have really good news to share today. Yesterday I had a publishing company AND a literary agent that expressed interest in my book. They were sister companies that wanted to work with me to help me get my book out to the public. They sent me contracts to read over and everything. I was thrilled to say the very least.

And then I did a google search.

Turns out there are warnings all over the internet about these very companies. They take on any willing aspiring author, drain their money on nickle and dime scams that are designed to "sell more books" and never actually help them. Thank goodness I had the sense to look a little deeper. For those of you that have expressed interest in writing your own books, please BEWARE! When all else fails Google the company. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The last thing you want to do is lose rights to your own story.

Yesterday I had visions of my book being on bookshelves everywhere. Today I am back to square one. It sucks, but it could have ended much, much worse. I am thankful I researched before signing anything.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Today I put the final #### to mark the completion of the first draft of my second book. It is the sequel to my first book and as of yet the working title is THE CONDUIT: Embrace of the Call. Before certain people, and you know who you are, come bust down my door for the continuing adventures of Celeste and her gang please note that the book is still no where near done. There is a rigorous editing process it must endure before I let eyes other than my own gaze upon it. I haven't even let my dear husband sneak a peak. I close my laptop if he comes in the room. Seriously. I'm crazy strict about that. However I still feel this is a huge accomplishment and one that I believe deserves a celebratory WOOHOO!!

Writing the first book, like running the first mile, was the hardest part. Now I have established my grove and can go with it. EMBRACE OF THE CALL is a little darker than it's predecessor, a little saucier, but still holds true to the humor of the series. I am very proud of how it is coming together. Can't wait to share it with you all...eventually.

In fact I am so happy I have decided to be generous and attach the next chapter of my original novel THE CONDUIT for your reading pleasure. (My decision to add another sneak peak was only mildly effected by a certain mother of six threatening to "beat the rest of the story out of me." She juggles six kids!! I'm not messing with her!! So here you go Kel, enjoy!!)


​For the most part the trip was uneventful. We all seemed to be absorbed in our own thoughts. There was of course the inevitable fight over the radio between my brother and sister that ended with me turning it off and telling them both to shut up. We sat in an uncomfortable silence for a while until I relented and turned it back on. I settled on a talk radio station that none of us really wanted to listen to. It was noise to sulk by.

​Gabe and Kendall got into it once more, when he could stand it no longer and had to ask her about earlier comment.

​“Did Abby really see Laura with Brian?” He abruptly blurted out. Obviously he had been stewing over it.

​“You broke up with her, what does it matter?“ Kendall antagonized.

​“It doesn’t matter, I’m just curious.”

​“Do you still love her?” Kendall asked casually.

​My brother’s face turned beat red. “What?! I don’t know!”

​“Then why did you end things?” She pushed. I was sending her subconscious ‘shut up’ vibes that she clearly was not getting. The throbbing vein in Gabe’s temple had me worried.

​“Because.” He snorted, feeling that was answer enough.

​“Because why?”

​“None of your business.”

​“Because why? Because why? Because why? Because why?”

​Gabe spun in his seat. “Because she’s at MSU! Embracing the life of the Spartans and making something of herself! And I’m on my way to middle-of-no-where Tennessee to do exactly nothing! We’re on different paths! Now drop it!” Gabe turned back around and crossed his arms firmly over his chest to punctuate that the conversation was definitely over.

​A moment passed before Kendall piped up again. “Laura was at the movies with a group of people. Brian was just part of the group.”

​With wide eyes I glanced over at my brother, fully expecting him to reach into the backseat and pummel our sister. To my surprise all I saw there was acceptance and relief.

The elevated tension caused us to lapse back into silence after that. Until what appeared to be a big, glowing orb whizzed past my driver’s side window.

“Whoa! Holy crap! Did you see that?!” I exclaimed.

“What?” Gabe asked with little interest.

“It was like a giant, mutant lightening bug! Just flew by!”

“Or it was the headlight of a car passing you because you drive like a little old lady.” He grumbled. “You could let me drive you know.”

“I’m not letting you drive and I did see something.” Didn’t I?

It was ten o’clock when I found our exit to Gainesboro. Gabe and Kendall had both dozed off, so I was free to take in all the town had to offer in solitude. Not much to see. Gainesboro, Tennessee; blink and you’ll miss it. Kendall would probably hate it; she thrived on crowds. But as I drove down Gore Avenue, the main street through town, I had to admit that the miniature town really was cute.

​The hub of the city only took up about a mile and a half. Two story red brick buildings lined the street, filled with Ma and Pa style businesses. The library was the crown jewel of Gore Avenue. Standing three stories tall, it was sunshine yellow stucco with elaborate white moldings. It had obviously been built and maintained with painstaking detail. Since my last visit they had added a Victorian style clock tower to the top of it. It was the cherry on top, a perfect fit.

​The ornate building might have looked out of place in this minute town if it wasn’t for the scenery around it. Even at night I could see the shadowed outlines of the peaks and valleys. The tiny community was nestled into the mountains, completely surrounded by their splendor. No matter where you stood in town, the view was breathtaking. No wonder Grams loved it here.

​I found the side street that lead to our grandmother’s house and turned. It was easy to spot her house. She had every light on in anticipation of our arrival. With a story and a half, it wasn’t a huge house. But the robin’s egg blue siding and gingerbread style white trim made it extra homey and inviting.

​I parked the truck and nudged my brother to let him know we were there. I stepped out of the truck and stretched up on to my toes arching my arms up over my head. I had let Kendall drive for all of two hours. That lasted until I got tired of white knuckling the dash board because of her lead foot. Then I demanded she pull into a rest area and give me back the seat of power.

​ I took a deep breath of the rich mountain air. It smelled clean and fresh. Hints of pine trees and wild flowers mingled in the breeze. Gabe stretched in his seat and then reached over to gently shake Keni awake.

​She had fallen asleep with her face pressed up against the angular side window. As her heavy lids struggled open, she sat up. Her body ready to move before her brain had caught up. “What? We…here?”

​“Yeah, we’re here. I think Grams waited up.”

​ As I finished my sentence the door opened and my grandmother bounded out on to the covered porch clad in her fuzzy blue robe and slippers. She had looked exactly the same for as long as I could remember. Her wavy grey hair was worn in the short, standard old lady ‘do. I got my petite stature from her, she measured in at about 4’11 and probably weighed about 90 lbs soaking wet. But she was a feisty little fire cracker. My dad once told me a story of her standing on a chair just so she could smack him in the head.

​“Hey kids!” She shouted. “Celeste pull the truck into the garage, we’ll unload all that in the morning! Gabe,Kendall get your butts in here and kiss your Grams!” Even my brother had to smile at Grandma’s barked orders. They both climbed out and scurried inside.

​I walked over to the old garage, grabbed the handle and tried to slide the door up. It scoffed at my attempt by moving about an inch.

​No problem, I’ll just put a little muscle behind it.

​I squatted down and hooked my fingers underneath the door. Grunting and straining, I put all my strength into the effort. The rusted rollers squealed their disapproval and reluctantly slid open…a grand total of a foot.

​If only my truck had a limbo feature.

​I tried again. Heaving, pulling, cursing and just trying to wrench the uncooperative object into submission. Nothing.

​“How’s it going, Supergirl?” My brother teased from behind me. “Grams said you might need some help. Apparently the door sticks.”

​“No kidding.” I said bitterly. “It won’t budge. We need to talk her into getting a new garage door, complete with one of those new fangled door openers.”

​He gave me one of his infuriating token smirks. “Well, before we book the contractor, how about if I give it a try?” Gabe stepped around me and with one hand yanked the door open. “Wow, that was tough! I think I may need to lie down.”

​“I still need to pull the truck in. Why don’t you stay right here, in front of the door? I think it would do the world a lot of good.”

​He grinned widely. “I’ll pass. Thanks.”


​“I’m gonna head inside. Grams ordered a pizza. Think you can handle things from here?”

​“I got it, thanks.” Someday someone was going to knock that grin off his face and I really hoped I’d be there to see it.

​The pizza arrived just as I was heading inside. My brother, sister and I all swarmed to the tasty treat. We didn’t bothering grabbing plates or taking it to the kitchen table, just ate it from the box where we stood. Mom would never have let us get away with that, Grams was another matter. She’s cool like that. She just hung back, a safe distance from the feeding frenzy.

​“Want a slice Grams?” I asked.

​“No thanks, I already ate.”

​“More for us.” My brother muttered between mouthfuls.

​We were well on our way to consuming our individual body weights in the cheesy goodness, when Grams rose from her recliner. The determined look in her eye should have been our first clue something was up. It probably would have been, had she not lured us into a false sense of security with food. Wiley minx.

​“While you’re busy stuffing your faces, and therefore can’t argue, let’s go over some ground rules for while you’re here.” She began. Our chewing slowed tentatively. Rules? At Grandma’s house? What kind of backward, twisted dimension had we slipped into? “First of all, I am not your maid. So, as long as you are here, you will pick up after yourselves. Are we clear on that?” We nodded dumbly. “Secondly, Grandma has a life. I have lots of activities that I’m involved in. Like tonight, I had to skip my Salsa class so I could be here when you arrived.”

​Grandma doing Salsa? Brain, if you would please skip visualizing that traumatizing image, I would appreciate it.

​Beside me, my brother gagged on his pizza. The image must have crept in. Poor guy.

​“I am telling you this because it means I will not be here constantly to entertain you. I expect each of you to keep yourselves busy and out of trouble. That brings me to you, young man.” Grandma focused on Gabe with a disapproving gaze. “Julia tells me that you have made no plans to go back to college after your little incident last year.”

​My sister and I both froze. The incident she mentioned was a taboo topic with Gabe. It normally made him go from annoying jokester to snorting buffalo in the blink of an eye.

​ Gabe had been on the road to success before our Dad died. He was at Michigan State, right alongside Laura. There on a full ride football scholarship. He was living his dream. Then Dad had his accident. Not even six months later Gabe decided to cope with his mourning by indulging in a little underage drinking. The result was a DUI, the loss of his scholarship, his license getting revoked and him getting kicked out of school. He moved back home, and had refused to think or talk about his future since then. No job, no school, nothing.

​He became unbearable to live with. Grumbling, huffing and throwing temper tantrums like an overgrown two year old. Frustrated with his constant state of grouchiness, I suggested that he get involved in some local athletic leagues. He had always loved playing sports. Football, baseball, swimming, wrestling, rugby, soccer, he had tried and excelled at all of them. I figured doing something he enjoyed would at least get him out of the house for a while.

​Sports became his escape. He signed up for whatever he could, and completely submersed himself in all of them. And for a while he was tolerable again. Unfortunately, in preparation for our move, he had quit all the teams he was on. He went right back to being a fish out of water. It was like he needed someone to beat the snot out of him on a daily basis to keep him mellow.

​So, when Grams dared to mention the unmentionable, Kendall and I braced ourselves for yet another blow up.

​To our surprise, “Not yet” was his only response.

​“Do you plan to get a job?” Grams pressed.

​“Don’t know.” He shrugged.

​Grams pursed her lips, clearly not happy with how this conversation was progressing. “Well, how did you occupy your time back in Michigan?”

​“Sports, mostly.”

​“I see. And did you become a professional athlete with one of those million dollar contracts?”


​“Hmmmm. Guess you should probably get a job then, huh?” She raised her eyebrows, daring him to argue. Or even to attempt an excuse. Surprisingly, he did neither.

​“Probably.” He answered.

​“If you want, I can talk to Will Burke for you.” She stated. “He’s the athletic director at Gainesboro High. Maybe there’s a coach or assistant coach position he could set you up with.”

​Gabe seemed genuinely interested. “Really? Wow, Grams that’s great. I think I would really like that.”

​We’d been there less than an hour and Grams had already succeeded where the rest of us had failed for a full year. This lady was good.

​Satisfied with her work on Gabe, Grams turned to Kendall. “I had no problem figuring out how to keep you busy Missy.” She grabbed a fluorescent pink piece of paper off the coffee table and handed it to Kendall.

​I watched as Keni’s eyes scanned the sheet, widening the further she read. “Auditions for the community players production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!” Her voice bubbled with enthusiasm. “I would looooooove the chance to play Maggie the Cat!” She hugged the paper to her chest.

​A community play in a town of eight hundred people? How does that even work? I pictured a performance in someone’s garage with a guy in the back shining a flashlight on them. It would undoubtedly be a far cry from the big, spacious stage complete with light and sound boards that my sister was accustomed to. But she seemed so excited it would be cruel to burst her bubble.

​“Now then, Celeste.” Grams turned to me with narrowed, pondering eyes. “I know you have a hard time even chewing gum and walking. So what the heck do you do for fun?”

​Ahh, nothing like the loving banter of family. Just gives me warm fuzzy feelings.

​“Until fall I thought I’d just help you around the house.” I shrugged. “I’m sure there are things you need to get done. Fixing the garage door for example.”

​“Oh- pish!” Grandma scoffed, her hand flipping side to side as if to bat my words away. “The Johnson boy takes care of odds and ends around here for me. Don’t you worry about that. Your mother put me under strict orders to make sure you have some fun before school starts. So, what would you like to do? If I wasn’t worried about you tripping over your own feet and breaking your neck, I’d drag you to Salsa with me!”

​Occasionally, being known as a klutz has its advantages.

​However, Grams comment did get me thinking. What did I do for fun? It had been so long since I had even thought about my own likes and dislikes, an idea didn’t immediately pop into my head. A sad statement in itself. I had to think back to when I was the shy girl in school, content to blend into the background with my few close knit friends. I vaguely remembered being that girl. If I recall she had liked to read, listen to music, and dabble in art.

​“I guess I like to draw.” I said sheepishly. Both Gabe and Kendall whipped their heads in my direction. Slow smiles spread across their faces that made me instantly self-conscious. “What?”

​“You haven’t even mentioned your drawing since, like, FOREVER.” My sister grinned warmly.

​“Yeah, but I don’t have any supplies.”

​“Not a problem!” Grams interjected. “There’s a hobby shop in town that will have everything that you need. And, if you like to sketch nature scenes, I even know of the perfect spot.”

​“Well, that’s…convenient.” Looked like I was going to be drawing again, whether I actually wanted to or not. Truth be told, outdoor drawings had been my favorite. Smelling the fresh air always seemed to whisper subtle nuances about my surroundings that I felt made my sketches more authentic. Of course, seeing as I had never showed them to another living soul, I couldn’t be sure if that was true or some crap I had convinced myself of.

​“Where?” I asked, warily gaining enthusiasm about the prospect.

​“Just outside of town there is a public walking trail that leads into the mountains. It’s a nice cleared path, so if you stay on it you won’t get lost. But along the way you will see some of the most beautiful sights! There is one spot in particular, right next to a little brook that I just love to go. If I had any kind of artistic abilities, that’s what I would draw.”

​ It did sound tempting. Plus, I liked the idea of giving Grams a portrait of her ‘favorite spot’. A small token of our appreciation for letting us stay with her. It had been a while since I had dusted off my canvas so I would be pretty rusty. But it couldn’t hurt to try. Heck, she used to put our crayon drawings on her fridge, so she couldn’t be that hard to please.

​Before the sun had set on our first day in Gainesboro we each had plans or ideas for what our summer would hold. But like even the best laid plans, they often go awry.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Can't talk, but I can type!!

I have fallen by a formidable foe. An unseen foe that has invaded my body and overcome me. I have been holed up in bed for two days now, throat so sore I can't swallow anything more than liquids. I can't even talk for very long without it hurting. (My husband is trying to hide his enjoyment of that.) But I can type! So here I am!

Right now I have three different parties checking out my work. One publishing house and two literary agents. One of the literary agent's name is Louise, which is my mother's name. I immediately made her swear it wasn't her messing with me. I pointed out that I am taking Tylenol 3 right now and if this was her idea of a practical joke the timing made it downright mean. She swore it wasn't her and didn't laugh or anything, so I believe her. A dear friend of mine recently told me that if you want good things to happen, you have to believe that they will. Well, I do indeed believe good things are headed this way for me and my humble little book. And I am 75% sure that isn't the codeine talking...

On another note, a brilliant local tattoo artist, Lisa Strange, is painting a picture for me based on my book. My goal is to implement it as my cover art. I have seen the sketches and she is an amazing artist. Cannot wait to see the finished product. She is insanely talented! I will post a picture of it here as soon as I get it in my hot little hands.

Well, my medicine head is kicking in pretty good so I will sign off here before I begin describing the polka dotted unicorns flying around in my head...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I recieved an email from an agency today that was quite literally 36 pages long. At the top it said they were referring me to their sister company who may or may not be interested, beneath that they said they themselves may or may not be interested and want to see more of my work to decide. Ummm...what?!

It would be nice to be excited about it. I probably would be if my brain didn't hurt from trying to decipher their email. Was that a yes? No? Maybe? No idea. As members of the literary community one would think that they would be a bit better at conveying a message.

I went ahead and sent them my manuscript. I think they wanted it. Again, not completely sure. Whatever the case maybe this seems to be a Yeay-ish type moment.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chapter 1

Chapter One brings us back to the present time where we meet three teenage siblings who will soon learn that an adventure of epic proportions lies before them. I love feedback, so please let me know what you think!



The dream came again. I had it often enough that it had become a comfort to me. Every time it was the same. I was running through the thick vegetation of a forest. The branches lashing out at my skin, but not slowing me. Instead they spurred me on. With each step I gained speed, the urgency I felt driving me on. The trees whipping past at a blinding rate. My speed so intense I felt I was no longer making contact with the ground. I risked a glance down and found that I was no longer running through the forest, but soaring above it. This revelation warmed me, filled me with purpose. I cast my eyes forward and blazed a trail through the sky in the direction of the horizon.

​My eyes fluttered open to the menacing sight of a mountain of boxes. Ugh. Dream time was over and in its place was the day I had been dreading; moving day. Personally I was ready for the actual move, excited about it even. The downside and unbearable part would be my traveling companions. My muscle-bound jock older brother and my drama queen baby sister who were polar opposites and fought relentlessly. I rolled over and draped my arm over my eyes. A headache was already threatening at the mere idea of being trapped in a car with them.

​Okay, I internally reasoned. Finish loading the truck and then it’s a twelve hour ride to Grams‘. I can do this. If they fight the whole time I’m just going to leave them at a rest stop and explain it to Mom later.

​Satisfied with my plan I took a deep calming breath and heaved myself out of bed. I bee lined down the stairs in pursuit of a much needed caffeine fix. At the kitchen table, hunched over his bowl of cereal like he was protecting it from bothersome Applejack thieves, was my brother Gabe.

​“What’s Laura think of the new haircut?” I questioned, racking my hand over his recently buzzed chestnut hair.

​“Not really an issue any more, is it?” he grumbled.

​“Wow, you broke up with your girlfriend and your hair in the same week…bummer.”

​He glared in response.

​Despite the early hour, the phone rang. “And so it begins.” I mused.

​“That’s not the first one. It started even before sunrise.” Gabe replied. Neither of us made any effort to reach for the phone. There was no point. It wasn’t for us.

​“I’m not surprised. Everybody loves Kendall…” I muttered, pouring myself a cup of life-giving coffee.

​“…and Kendall loves everyone. “ Gabe finished.

​ The sound of shouting and stomping headed our way, warned us the show was about to begin. “I got it! I got it! It‘s for me!” Our baby sister yelled as she dashed into the room.

​ Instead of sipping my coffee I slammed it down in one gulp. It burnt my throat, but honestly I needed the jolt to brace me for what was to come.

​“Hello? “ She chirped into the phone. “HI!! I’m so glad you called! I’m going to miss you too! No! No way! I’m going to miss you more! No, I’m going to miss you more!!”

​“Yeah. That’s just way too much chipperness for this early in the morning.” I griped, flopping down in my chair.

​Gabe grunted his agreement.

​“How do her and her friends wake up that irritatingly peppy?”

​“They don’t sleep.” My big brother corrected, milk dribbling down his chin from the insanely large bite he had just shoved in his mouth. “Their parents just blow into their ears to recharge them.”

​I snorted with laughter.

​“Hold on a sec.” Kendall said sweetly into the phone. Covering the receiver she hissed at us, “You two are just jealous because no one cares you’re leaving.” Her chastisement of us complete, she marched into the other room to finish her conversation.

​“Guess she told us.”

​“She’s right you know.” Gabe said, a mock look of concern on his face. “No one really seems to care that you’re leaving.”

​“Nice. That’s nice. I don’t exactly see them lining up at the door to bid a fond farewell to you either.” I shot back.

​“Well, there’s a good reason for that.”

​“Oh? What’s that?” I asked, pouring myself a bowl of cereal.

​He put his spoon down, folded his hands on the table and stared at me with a look of sorrowful resignation. “Because… I’m a jackass.”

​I burst out laughing, thankful I hadn’t yet taken a bite. Shooting a crispy cereal O out my nose didn’t seem like a good way to start the day.

​“No, seriously.” He continued, struggling to keep a straight face. “People do not care for me. It’s a personality flaw. So what’s your excuse?”

​We both knew quite well why I wouldn’t be having any tearful goodbyes with friends today. But that conversation bordered on the deep and meaningful side and Gabe didn’t handle those well, so I kept my response light. “Well, I would have to say, it’s because my brother’s a jackass. Scared them all away.”

​“Aw, that’s too bad.”

​“Yeah.” I said, assuming a poor, pitiful me pout.

​Finished with his breakfast, he rose to deposit his bowl in the sink. “Did you get everything packed up?”

​“Everything but my desk.”

​“I’m sorry, did you say ‘desk’ or ‘mess’.” He asked. I was not the most organized person.

​“Ha, ha. It’s not that bad. I just have to empty out the drawers and I’m good to go.”

​“Well finish eating, then get on it.” He said, reverting to his bossy older brother tone. “We need to get on the road.”

​“Yes, sir.” I saluted.

​“I’m going to go help Mom finish loading the truck.” He called over his shoulder. “I’ll let you tell Keni to hurry.”

​“Chicken!” I shouted after him. A loud clucking echoed from the hallway.

​I scarfed down my breakfast then headed back up to my bedroom. In its current boxed up state, my former sanctuary looked completely foreign to me. Everything I owned was packed way. There were two separate piles; those I was taking with me now and the rest that Mom would bring when she joined us in Tennessee. I hated the fact that she was staying behind by herself. I wasn’t sure she would do well with the solitude. But her concern for our well being had made up her mind and that was that. The topic was not up for debate.

​The subdivision we lived in, in Sterling Heights,Michigan was a nice, family friendly one. There were no problems with crime…until recently. Three different homes on our street had been broken into within the last month. Nothing had been taken, but the homes had been ransacked. Mom was rightfully concerned, but wrote it off to rowdy kids. She was optimistic that we had seen the last of it. Then our next door neighbors house got broken into. That was the final straw, it was just way too close for comfort. My mom immediately listed our house with a real estate agent. She called our Grandma in Gainesboro, Tennessee and told her she was shipping all of us down. Mom would follow as soon as the house sold.

​So we were off to the teeny, tiny town of Gainesboro. Population a whopping 849 people. Seriously. The scenery there was gorgeous, vast mountainous ranges as far as the eye could see. But if you actually wanted to do anything, you had to drive about thirty miles. Not that it really mattered to me. I was only going to be there for a couple of months. Just until the fall semester started at Rhodes College in the heart of Memphis. Then I would be able to get back to civilization. That was the part I was really looking forward to. Staying with my somewhat wacky Grams was just a nice little stop along the way.

​Eager to get on the road, I got to work clearing out my cluttered desk. I shoved absolutely everything into those drawers. If I wasn’t in a rush I probably would have taken the time to sort it out and throw away the junk I didn’t really need. What was left over probably would have fit in a shoebox. As it was I just pulled the drawers out and shook them into an empty box. Sort it out later. I was dumping the very last drawer when a stray piece of paper fluttered to the ground.

​Upon first glance I thought the faded piece of paper was just some random scrap I had held onto. But when I turned it over, my breath caught in my throat. Funny how something so small could stop me dead in my tracks. It was a section of newspaper that announced to the world, a year and a half ago, that a hero had died and my family had been ripped apart.

​I rubbed by finger over the headline; Local EMT Killed While Saving Accident Victim. Beneath that was the picture my mother had given them to print. My father, Bruce, in his EMT uniform. Smiling his huge warm grin that put everyone who knew him at ease. With his olive complexion and dark hair my brother was the spitting image of him. But I was the only one of us three kids that had his eyes. I glanced up at my reflection in the mirror. Deep brown, with flecks of gold, just like his. They were the only thing about myself I considered a real attribute and I thanked him for them. Every time I looked in the mirror it made me feel close to him.

​I lowered my eyes back to the paper. The memory was still fresh of the day I had been forced to pry this article from Kendall’s hands. She hadn’t slept or ate in days. She just clung to it like a life line. Reading it over and over like she expected the words to change and our father to be back.

Bruce Garrett, a local EMT, was called to the scene of an accident on I-75, Friday. Mr. Garrett pulled a driver from the wreckage and was administering CPR when he was struck by a passing vehicle. The man he revived is in stable condition at Genesys Regional Medical Center, however Mr. Garrett died at the scene. He leaves behind his wife of 21 years, Julia, along with their three children; Gabe, 19, Celeste, 18, and Kendall, 15.

​Left behind. That’s what we were. Shattered and broken and left behind. I wasn’t even half way through my senior year when it happened. It was an added tragic coincidence that it was just one week after my 18th birthday. It was as if the universe had said; Happy Birthday Celeste! In honor of the day you were born we are going to rip a chunk of your heart out.

​All of us were devastated, but none more so than my mother. He was the love of her life. She was absolutely destroyed, unable to function for the longest time. I took on as many of her burdens as I could, to give her time to heal. I maintained the house, paid the bills, ran my sister places, whatever needed to be done, I did.

​Of course I still had to go to school. But outside of that, I put my entire life on hold. Friends, hobbies, normal teenager stuff, it all took a back seat. My priority became preventing what was left of my family from falling apart.

​My mom was doing better now. Good enough to be left alone? That I was still really iffy about. But she was insisting on this, so my hands were tied. I was trying to focus my energies on being excited at the prospect of having an actual life again. Unfortunately there was no side stepping the fact that I worried about her.

​I tossed around the idea of just throwing the article away. After all, my life was a constant reminder of what happened. What did I need the paper for? A nagging wave of emotion made me reconsidered. Instead I put it in the box and closed the lid. A soft knock on the door snapped me out of my painful trip down memory lane.

​“Come in.” I called.

​The knob turned, however the door only opened a few inches. A bright blue eye framed by golden blonde bangs peaked through the crack.

​“Does that invitation still stand for me?” Kendall whispered, her voice full of regret.

​“Yes.” I smiled.

​Ever the performer, she threw the door open, leapt into the room, turned a perfect pirouette and then collapsed in the chair beside me.

​“Show-off.” I grumbled. It seemed she had gotten all the grace and elegance genes. If I ever tried something like that I would end up tripping over my own feet and landing flat on my face. A fact I knew first hand because that’s what happened freshmen year, when I got the bright idea to try out for the cheerleading squad.

​She grinned up at me. “I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry for what I said downstairs. I do think people are going to miss you.” I had to laugh at her chosen emphasis. Clearly she thought the other party that comment had been directed at had it coming. “Or, at least they would miss you. If you told any of them you were leaving. Are you sure you don’t want to call any of your friends from school?”

​I heaved a deep sigh. “Are we really going to have this conversation again? They’ve all moved on with their lives. I’m not going to call them out of the blue just to say I’m leaving.”

​“They might like the chance to say goodbye!”

​“Leave it alone, Keni. What’s done is done.” Flustered and annoyed, I snatched my hairbrush out of my toiletries bag. I vented my frustration by raking it viciously through my hair. My hair never cooperated anyway, it deserved a bit of abuse.

​“Okay, I won’t mention it again.” she relented, wincing at the way I was wielding my brush. “Geez, Cee, you’re going to rip your hair out. Give me that thing.” She stood and reached for the brush. I slapped it into her palm and sat in a huff.

​Glancing in the mirror, I couldn’t help but curse genetics yet again. Kendall was a vision with her fair skin, waist length flaxen locks and ocean blue eyes. My self-esteem took a hit every time I stood next to her. My board straight, shoulder length brown hair seemed mousy compared to her golden locks. I was the girl next door, easily overlooked. She could pass for a super model. I could pass for…her personal assistant. If she wasn’t my sister, I would have to hate her.

​The phone rang yet again. “Hmmm…” I said sarcastically. “I wonder who that could be? Perhaps another charter member of the Kendall Garrett fan club?”

​She rolled her eyes, but didn’t deny it. “I’ll take it in my room this time.” She murmured meekly.

​“Make it fast. We’ve got to help Mom and Gabe finish loading the truck!” I reminded her.

​“Sure thing!”

​Yeah, right.

​True to form, Kendall didn’t reappear until we were sliding the last box into the back of my white, extended cab, Chevy S-10.

​“So sorry!“ She cried as she flitted out of the house. “The phone was ringing none stop! Every time I started for the door another one of my friends would call!”

​“Oh, poor little popular girl!” Gabe taunted. “We should have a telethon for you.”

​“Abby Henry called earlier, Gabe.” Kendall said. Her face was the picture of innocence. However the malicious undertone in her voice gave away that this story wasn’t going to end well. “She said she saw Laura at the movies last night with Brian Madison. Didn’t you play football with him? Weird that a buddy of yours would be out with your very recent ex.”

​My brother was doing a slow burn, probably weighing the repercussions of throttling his baby sister in front of our Mother. Their eyes were locked, daring one another to be the first break the stare.

​Oh, joy! We’re not even on the road yet and they’re already starting. I thought, closing my eyes and squeezing the bridge of my nose. Someone was definitely going to get left at a rest stop.

​“That’s enough you two.” Mom intervened. “You have a long drive ahead of you. Please, try to get along.”

​They both backed down, realizing that the moment had come to say our goodbyes and start our journey. I hate goodbyes and love my mom. This wasn’t going to be pretty. Suddenly it seemed very important to me that I concentrate all of my attention on tearing the console of my truck apart in search of my sunglasses.

​Gabe was the first to swoop in and squeeze our mother. Big, tough guy that he is, he probably just wanted to get the emotional stuff over with quickly. “Love you.” He mumbled.

​“I love you, too, honey. Please don’t give your Grandma a hard time.”

​“Mom, I don’t harass little old ladies.”

​“Good, because I’m pretty sure she could take you.” My mother joked.

​“Wouldn‘t doubt that.” Gabe agreed with a grin. “No way would that lady fight fair.” He gave Mom a peck on the cheek, then climbed into the passenger seat.

​Kendall was next and the water works started as if on cue. “Mommy, come with us! Throw some stuff in a bag and come! We’ll get the rest of our stuff later!” She balled.

​“I can’t baby. I’m sorry.”

​“But… I’m…I’m….gonna…miss…you!” Keni blubbered.

​I glanced over at the spectacle to see my mother hugging her and rocking her side to side just like she had since Keni was born.

​“Shhhhh…we’ll see each other soon enough.” My mother soothed. Seeing them together they looked more like sisters than Keni and I did. Their blonde hair was the same hue. The only difference being that my mother’s was cut into a stylish bob. They had the same blue eyes and the same ivory skin. My mother’s extensive use of sunblock had helped her retain a youthful look. She looked nowhere near her 42 years of age.

​“All right. Wrap it up Keni. We need to get on the road sometime today.” I didn’t want to be rude, but my sister could make a moment like this last all day. Kendall pulled away from my mom and looked up at me. Her red rimmed eyes somehow managing to be an even brighter blue from her crying jag.

​“Sorry.” she said, then climbed into the backseat.

​My mother turned her affectionate gaze my way. “Celeste. My little Celeste.” That wasn’t a condescending remark. I’m only 5’1. Six inches shorter than her and my sister and a full foot shorter than my brother. I‘m a runt. “What am I going to do without you?” She asked, pulling me in for a tight squeeze.

​“I don’t know and that’s what worries me.”

​My mother pulled me back and looked me square in the eye. “I need you to make me a promise. That you will not spend all your time worrying about me. Okay? Just be a kid. Do silly, spontaneous, crazy things, okay?”

​Well, that didn’t sound like me at all. “I can promise to try.”

​“Fair enough.”

​“But you have to promise something too.” I bargained. “Promise you’ll go out for a girls night now and then. Be among the living.”

​“I will if you will.” We pinkie swore to seal the deal. Then she grabbed me in another tight embrace and kissed the top of my head. “I love you sweetheart.”

​“I love you, too.” I kissed her cheek then turned on my heel to climb in the truck. Tears sprang to my eyes that I quickly wiped away with the back of my hand. I turned the key in the ignition then rolled down my window.

​“Drive safe kids. Call me when you get to Grandma’s.”

​“We will.” We chorused. I put the car in gear and began to back out of the driveway.

​My mother waved, then shouted out her parting thoughts, “Keep each other safe! And DO NOT let your brother drive!”

​My brother huffed in the seat beside me.