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I sort of lost the plot for a while – too much to think about – but I’ll carry on with these posts of excerpts from the diary of a young lad living in the Eastern part of Texas in 1869.

The last bit was here where Joe decided he needed to be honest about himself as well as about everyone else.

Jan 28th [Thur]

I don’t think I’ll write every day. What would be the point? Got up ate grits, fed hogs, fed hens, saddled horses, waved Pa and Jacob and Isaac away. That’s every day. I’ll write things that I think are important, or funny, or I think people might want to know.
important, or funny, or I think people might want to know.

Like that we keep Dominie hens, or Old Grey hens some say. They are pale grey but each feather is striped with darker grey and if they sit still in a shadow the little critters are really hard to find. The cocks have bright red combs and the loudest crow to get us all up in the morning. We’d sleep all day if it weren’t for them.

Jan 29th [Fri]

Ma suggested a write a bit about me. So here goes. I’m Joseph Skidmore and I’m eighteen years old. I have brown hair and brown eyes and freckles. I went to school in Mr Dunlap’s parlour like all the other kids round here but I guess the learning stuck a bit more with me than it did with most. I had a sister once but she was killed by the same rattler that bit me and gave me this bum leg. Ma told me that the poison made my leg stop growing properly. I have to use a stick because walking far makes my back hurt, being all to one side and I can’t use stirrups so I can’t rope steers, or rope horses on foot. But I can ride and I drive the buckboard well. There are things I can do and if I’m somewhere where I’m going to stand still for a while I put a block down to put my short foot on that. I read and write better than anyone in the family but Ma and I wondered if I could get a job in town at the store or the undertakers, but the store keeper and the undertaker both have boys of their own. Ben, the undertaker’s son asked Pa if we could swap but Ben’s Pa wouldn’t have it. It’s a good business and Ben’s going to inherit. I don’t know what I’ll inherit. A third share of a ranch doesn’t seem like that much to look forward to to me. But I mustn’t be ungrateful. I could have ended up like my poor sister.

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Book Description:

When V’s life crumbles around her, she has two options: let it take her down with it or dive straight in

Virginia “V” Dunn is alone when her dog is hit by a car. Lucky’s back leg is shattered, and when she comforts him, his blood is wet on her hands. Suddenly, the monotony of V’s suburban life dissolves: Lucky is in a cast; her best friend, Eileen, is avoiding her; her mother’s drinking is getting worse; and her father is sick with a mysterious illness. Although V is surrounded by family, she is the loneliest girl in town.

As V begins to question everything—death, friendship, family, betrayal—she finds there are few easy answers. The people she thought she knew are strangers, and life’s meaning eludes her. Into this mystery walks the captivating Jane, and V soon realizes that the only way forward seems to break every rule, and go beyond all limitations.

Excerpt:

Sometimes the night never ends; it just breaks into light and we pretend. I am alive, though I tend to forget that when I’m pretending, and I’m fifteen. I have sweeping dark hair and hazel eyes that turn green when I cry. Sometimes I rub my hands together, maybe just to see if it’s really me. I wear the glasses I’m supposed to wear when I’m in the mood and when- ever I remember my sunglasses because the day hurts my eyes. Maybe the pretending has torn the edges of who I am, so the result is a frayed and sensitive me.

If the night never ends, who can see? The day boils down to pretending what is and is not there. Because she does not want me to, I do not see the black eye on my mother’s face as the bruise changes, fades a blotchy red to a tattered purple, then spreads to flat green.

Because he assumes nobody does, I do not see the increasingly bloodshot eyes of my brother as he stares past me at dinner. And I do not see the raised eyebrows on Baby Teeth’s face that settle more frequently into surprise as she watches and help-lessly learns this pretending game. I wish I could tell her she doesn’t have to play, though if she’s to survive life in this house, she will.

So I do not notice that on the days that we do not go to the hospital, she spends every afternoon at other people’s houses now. And I especially do not see the absence of my father at dawn when he does not kiss the sleeping Baby Teeth good-bye before he climbs down the stairs in his solid brown shoes and goes to work. And I do not see his absence as I pass his empty chair at night when I walk into the kitchen to feed my dog. The last thing I do not see is my tilting, limping Lucky as he waits by his empty bowl, or the image of the vile green VW that hit him.

So what do I see? That I have learned to pretend so well, I can do it with my eyes open. April has ended, and its cruelty too,   I hope, when we weren’t looking, or were busy pretending, or maybe while we slept.

So it’s May. And what does it bring? April showers bring May flowers. Well, really. I try to remember, uncertainly, if there was a lot of rain last month. No. But please flower anyway, all over me. I’ll keep my eyes open. Maybe it won’t happen all at once, the way change seems to. Now that’s something. Change blooms.

Bio:

Stacey Donovan is a critically acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction for adults and young adults. She is the founder of Donovan Edits, and has edited or ghostwritten more than twenty-five books, including three New York Times bestsellers and several nonfiction titles that have become leading works in their respective fields. Donovan lives in New York, where she continues to write and edit.

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My guest today is John Goode. Now resident in Texas, he was once in the Navy, but currently spends a lot of his time writing. He has been a professional author for about a year and is best known for his beloved stories about the students and staff of Foster High and his Lords of Arcadia series.

John is with us today to celebrate the release of his new Foster High book, 151 Days, which is OUT TODAY.

###

Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

John : Yes I work graveyards at a security company so it gives me all night to write which is nice. I’m a night owl so writing at night is natural.

Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

John : I love music though I can’t sing. I just really love listening to it, the way a song can be crafted to invoke emotions fascinates me

Elin: What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

John : I am reading a book that is about the first season of Star Trek TOS that is incredibly detailed. That is the nerd in me showing. I think everyone should read Jasper Fforde’s Next Thursday series. If you are a reader those books are made for you.

Elin: In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

John : Usually for me character though most of the time it is actually theme that does it. I like writing in themes or what is the book for? What message does it have when all is said and done. I start there and then begin tolling together a story from that meta message.

Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

John : They are far more real than I care for that’s for sure. I think fully developed characters are the only kind that should make it to page so I spend a lot of time getting to know them as well as I can.

Elin: Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake? What inspired you to write about teenagers in high school?

John : I have a couple of Sci fi stories that I need to get to quickly. I would say just straight up erotics, porn with no plot would send me running into the hills. I wrote Foster High because I wanted to write the books I wish I had when I was a teenager. I don’t think there are enough positive role models for gay teens so I wanted to see if I could make some.

Elin: Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

John : Well there are no villains in Foster High. There are people who seem to have sinister intentions but honestly they have their own reasons for what they are doing. I don’t think there are people out there who wake up and say I am going to be the bad guy today or I am going to do evil. I think they have their own reasons and think them as valid as any one else’s.

Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

John : Well I finished the new Lords of Arcadia book, and now I am about halfway through a story about a gay teen that has to decide between being out or being a basketball player. It’s called Fadeaway and is a character that is in the new Foster book 151 Days,

Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?

John : Here’s an excerpt from 151 Days

Change is a bitch.

I am using the term here to mean a difficult task and not a derogatory name for women or the scientific term for a female dog, just in case there are any who might take offense to the word. Change is a bitch, and that’s because it isn’t always easy to know it when it happens. I mean, sure, sometimes it’s obvious. I go over to Brad’s and end up kissing him, and my whole world turns upside down. Hard to miss that change. I decide to tell the world I like guys. Colossal change that is still affecting crap today. Kelly shoots himself. A change that brings the town to a standstill like an earthquake, and the aftershocks of it keep coming and coming.

Take race discrimination. After being considered property for far too long, African Americans were finally considered free people in the United States. That was a big change. But what went unnoticed, or at least unspoken, was the way people changed because of that decision. Some people thought the fight was done. The slaves wanted to be free—they were free, so that’s taken care of. Other people resented the fact that these people who were always second-class citizens to them were now supposed to be treated as equals, and they got angry. And their anger motivated a lot of ugly things, and the country changed while no one was looking.

Now, over a hundred years later, we elected a black president, and some people say, “Well that’s done.” What’s next? Other people reacted to that event in a rather unpopular way. They said the country was being taken over, they said he wasn’t an American, and some even said he wasn’t their president. And the world changed again.

Big change, little changes.

When Kelly killed himself, Foster, as a whole, reacted. Since no one thinks a teenage boy putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger is a good thing, the majority of the reactions were sympathetic, with a desire to make sure it could never happen again. People spoke out, said that the way kids were being treated was wrong, and that things had to get better. That was the bulk of the reaction, but there were others.

Some wanted to place blame on someone for why Kelly did what he did. Some blamed his parents, others blamed the kids on Facebook, and some blamed me. They said none of this stuff happened in Foster before I came out. There were arguments made that things were fine the way they had always been and that by rocking the boat, I had caused this to happen.

I’ll be honest, a lot of other things were said about me as well, but they were mostly hateful things, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t repeat them.

Things were changing in Foster, big and small, and most of it seemed to be centered on me.
Some for the better, some for the worse. The problem was, there was no way for any of us to know which was which until it was far too late. It is impossible for anyone to know what effect our plans will have until they already happen, and by then, there is no going back. I swore the day they put Kelly in the ground that I would change Foster before I left for college. It was a change, and none of us knew what would come of it.

There are 151 days until graduation. Roughly five months before I plan on running out of this town as fast as I can and never looking back. A lot of things can happen in 151 days. A lot of things that people might not be ready for.

So I’m telling you now, hold on. This might get a little bumpy.

###

Many thanks to John for answering my questions so kindly. If you would like to follow John and the students of Foster High his links are below.

The Foster High Facebook

The @fosterhigh Twitter account

email: fosterhigh88@gmail.com

Cover art by Paul Richmond

151 Days by John Goode

Sequel to End of the Innocence
Tales from Foster High: Book Three

With just 151 days left until the school year ends, Kyle Stilleno is running out of time to fulfill the promise he made and change Foster, Texas, for the better. But Kyle and his boyfriend, Brad Graymark, have more than just intolerance to deal with. Life, college, love, and sex have a way of distracting them, and they’re realizing Foster is a bigger place than they thought. When someone from their past returns at the worst possible moment, graduation becomes the least of their worries.

Order here.

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Description:
One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

With a foreword by C. Kennedy

Book Links:
Dreamspinner ~ Goodreads

Excerpt:

I’D NEVER hidden in the high school boys’ bathroom, or any other bathroom, come to think of it, before. Not even once—from anybody or anything. I guess already being six foot two, and sharing no resemblance to a rack of bones, in my freshman year had kind of relieved me of the burden most ninth graders suffered of needing to hide from the terrible seniors—I’d already towered over most of them. But in more general terms, I didn’t hide because: A) I was too big to find any sort of a decent hiding spot in a men’s room, and B) everybody else was too busy hiding from me so all possible hiding spots were occupied. Nonetheless, here I was, cowering in a bathroom stall.
I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I needed to figure out what the fuck was happening in my life. I’ll put it this way: I was starting to get a sneaking suspicion that this weird personality change that had come over me went well beyond a desire for a red cape. Yeah, this was something far more complicated.
Inside the stall, the toilet had no lid to sit on, so sitting down on the toilet seat in a dignified manner, with my pants up, did not seem to be an option. On TV, I’d seen plenty of crafty characters hide in bathroom stalls by standing on top of the toilet seat so that if anyone looked under the stall to see if somebody was in there, no feet would be dangling down. But if I was to try that tack, I’d put my head right through the ceiling, as I’d grown at least two inches since freshman year. I guess six foot four wasn’t always an advantage. So I went with sitting cross-legged in front of the toilet. Unsanitary? Yes. Pathetic? Quite possibly. But it was the best I could come up with in the heat of the moment.
Strangely, when I finally got my long body folded into that bent-up position on the floor in front of the toilet, I could see that there was already someone curled up on the floor in the stall next to mine. So much for my solitary thinking time.
I directed my question to the lifeless body. “Excuse me… um… are you feeling okay?” I had no choice. I was called to respond to an insatiable drive within me to help those in need. And this guy had to be in major need or he wouldn’t be crumpled up into a fetal ball on the filthy bathroom floor. “Like… dude, want me to go get the nurse or something?”
I couldn’t see his face, as it was covered up by his arms. He didn’t make a sound.
“Is it your stomach? There’s a lot going around right now, I’d say. My mom is a nurse at County General Hospital and she told me that….” I let my words trail off, suspecting the guy wasn’t listening to me anyways.
“Just leave me alone.”
Well, that was a start, wasn’t it? I mean, we were communicating now.
Positive thinking, Bry.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” I was afraid too. I was afraid the new chivalrous part of me wasn’t gonna let me leave the bathroom until I had gotten this guy onto his feet and smiling up at me. And class started in ten minutes, which didn’t leave me a hell of a lot of time to accomplish my lofty goal. “At least tell me what’s wrong.”
“Like you don’t already know.” His response was both muffled and pissed-off sounding, but, again, it was communication, so I felt thankful.
Thankful to whom? I had no idea. I was just thankful, period. (Try to hold off on the fucking analysis at this point, okay, reader?)
“Call me clueless, but I have no idea what is troubling you.”
He slid to the edge of my stall and stuck his head in. I saw a flash of blond hair and wire-rimmed glasses perched on an adorable nose—it was Scott Beckett, the kid from the cafeteria.
“It’s you.”
“Yeah, asshole, it’s me. So, go ahead, do what you came here to do. You going to give me a swirly? Make me lick the urinals…. What’s it going to be this time, Dennison?”
I had no idea how to respond. I’d never so much as laid eyes on this kid before, and he was acting like I’d been in on some kind of a bullying brigade directed solely at him. Either I had missed something major, or he had a very vivid imagination. “Refresh my memory, Beckett. Tell me what I did… uh, the last time.”
Still sprawled out flat on the floor beside me, directly underneath the stall divider, his pretty face screwed up into a tight knot, he squealed, “Fuck you, Dennison! Acting like you forgot is even more insulting than what you did to me in the first place. Like, I can believe that you and your buddy torture any kid who looks like an easy target, so you can’t remember all the evil details of each individual case, but what you did to me? Saturday night? Just… just fuck you!”
I nodded and then shook my head. I was clueless and confused… and starting to feel guilty. For what, I didn’t know.
Plus, Scott Beckett was just so… so interesting. So appealing.
Why would I ever try to hurt him?
“God, you’re an even bigger asshole than I thought you were… and that’s sure saying something.” Scott dragged himself up off the floor. Once he was standing in the stall beside mine, he asked me, “So, other than last Saturday night, you usually play the role of the evil sidekick when you’re out in public. Where’s your buddy Wilson—the instigator?”
“Brandon Wilson?”
“Ya think? Let me guess… five, four, three, two, one… looks like he’s late, isn’t he? But I know he’s going to burst in here, conveniently, at any second now, right? Or maybe he’s waiting outside the door for an audio cue or something?”
I stood up too. What this dude was implying about my personal character was highly disturbing.
“Should I scream? Is that the signal—or are you going for the tears again, you fuckwad-asswipe?”
Signal?
Tears? Again?
Fuckwad-asswipe? Me?
“No, Brandon’s back in the cafeteria. Now listen, buddy, just do me a favor—”
“Did you just call me ‘buddy’?” He asked me so loudly that his voice echoed in the tiny stall.
“Just tell me what I did to you.”
His stall door slammed, indicating he was now out in the main part of the bathroom. So I came out of my stall as well. And Scott Beckett was just standing there in front of the sink, glasses in hand, looking up at me with round bright eyes, his pretty pink-skinned face saturated with the purest fury I’d ever seen, and it was all directed my way. I mean, this kid fucking hated me… and I didn’t know him from Adam. “I’m not about to do you any favors, Dennison.” His thin top lip curled up in disgust, and then he added in a low voice, “Besides, we both know what went down.”
With one last scathing look, he fled the bathroom. And I was even more flabbergasted than I had been five minutes before when I’d come into the men’s room to think.
That kid is completely full of bull.
Yeah, that had to be it: Scott Beckett was messing with my head. Right? But… but back in the caf, hadn’t Brandon suggested that we had done something to this kid… and that he seemed to be looking forward to the two of us finishing the job we’d started on him? And, for that matter, Jack had referred to the fact that Brandon and me had made more than one trip to the principal’s office in regard to bullying this kid.
I grabbed a hold on the sink, because the entire bathroom was suddenly spinning all around me. I was dizzy, but I was sure it wasn’t because of the shocking realization that I may have done something seriously nasty to Scott Beckett (that I somehow couldn’t remember) to make him hate me this way. No, it wasn’t that at all… convenient memory lapses don’t just happen. Most probably, I was dizzy because I was exhausted. I guessed that maybe I’d drunk more than my fair share on Saturday night, because, in truth, Sunday was mostly a blur too. Or maybe somebody had slipped me a roofie, which could definitely be the reason I was sick and dizzy and I couldn’t remember shit. All I had to do was just make it through the rest of the day, and then serve my detention, go home, and get a good night’s sleep. I’d tell Mom I was sick… that I wasn’t up for a big dinner. That was the truth too—I really wasn’t up for food or conversation.
Rest was all I needed… and tomorrow when I woke up, things would be crystal clear again.
But, shit, I hope Mom brings home those sheets.

Book Links:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4726

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.

Author Links:

http://miakerick.com/
https://www.facebook.com/mia.kerick
http://www.amazon.com/Mia-Kerick/e/B009KSTG9E/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1389575652&sr=1-1

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