Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A "Thank you" and an Excerpt

May I just say “thank you” to everyone who’s encouraged their friends and family to read Hoodie?  As I mentioned on my Facebook page, I received over 700 downloads during my free promotional weekend.  People added it to their goodreads shelves and rated it.  Some have purchased it since the promotion ended.  And some have borrowed it from the Kindle library.  Slowly but surely the word is getting out, and I have all of you to thank for it.

I also wanted to say that I really appreciate the reviews on Amazon and goodreads.  Those mean so much.  I just can’t stress enough how important they are in getting people to purchase my work and making the book more visible on Amazon.  So thank you for taking the time to write your reviews.

In other news, I’m nearly finished with Honeysuckle Love.  I have two more chapters to finish.  That’s it.  I confess I cried a little yesterday for fear of nearing the completion of this novel.  I didn’t write Hoodie nearly this fast, so I had more time to spend with it.  It was the central part of my life for around a year and a half.  I had time.  The panic of sharing something so personal didn’t set in until a month or so before publication.  But HSL has been completely different.  I didn’t know I could even write a novel this quickly, and it’s longer—much longer—than Hoodie, too. 

I guess I should be grateful that the book is almost finished.  That means I can get it to you more quickly, and to speak frankly from a business perspective, start making a profit.  But all it makes me feel is . . . empty.  It’s different from Hoodie where I simply freaked out about sharing my work.  I knew to expect good reception and bad.  Some people were going to love it.  Some were going to hate it.  Some indifferent or unaffected.  (Those are the worst reactions.)  Regardless, I wanted it out there.  But with HSL I feel selfish.  I’m reluctant to let go because I don’t want the intimacy of creating this story, forming these characters to be shared with anyone quite yet.  I want to keep my secret time with it.  It’s almost like having a lover.  You’re fiercely loyal and protective and jealous.  You don’t want to share.  You feel like it would be wrong to share, but then what’s the point of writing stories if you don’t?

And then I have the worst guilt for feeling so selfish because I think about my fans, I think about all the people I’ve heard from or talked to who’ve said they can’t wait to read my next novel.  I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and just give it up.  Let it go.  Another story will come.  Maybe that’s my problem.  I’m fearful that it won’t.  That I’ll dry up.  Out of ideas.  Out of characters to build.  Out of stories to tell.  I think I may go through this cycle every single time I’m finished with a book.  Reluctance.  A hurt heart.  And fear for the next story that I can’t quite grasp.  Do other writers feel this?  You complete a work and then you’re just hanging there in Writer’s Limbo.  Where do you go?  Where is the next story?

So I think the only way to get over my issues with HSL is to share bits of it with you.  I’m not ready to do the weekly excerpts I told you about in a previous post (it’s still too early), but I wanted to give you a little something now so that I can cry over the fact that it's out there and then get the hell over it.  I truly love this story.  It’s close to my heart for a variety of reasons, and I hope to be able to have the guts to share them with you some day.  


   “Hi Clara,” he said approaching her the following Monday.  She looked from left to right.  “You’re the only Clara I’m talking to,” he said, and then chuckled.  She shrugged and gave him a noncommittal smile.

   “Hi,” she managed.  She wanted to leave.

   “I was wondering what you’re doing this weekend,” Evan said.  “I thought if you weren’t busy, maybe we could go for frozen yogurt or something.  That seems to be the thing right now— yogurt.  Fancy yogurt.  I don’t know.  Those frozen yogurt bars with all the flavors and toppings and everything.”  He suddenly felt nervous.  She wasn’t saying anything but instead looking at him like he was an idiot.  “You know what I’m talking about?”

   “I don’t eat fancy yogurt,” Clara said flatly.  Her heart tightened as the words came out.  She didn’t mean to be nasty about it, but she was sure she came across that way.

   Evan knew what she meant.  He also decided that he wouldn’t be deterred. 

   “I know you don’t eat fancy yogurt,” he said matter-of-factly.  “I’m asking if you’d like to.” 

   He held her gaze unwilling to allow her to make him feel foolish for his offer.

   “Why?” she asked.  She started feeling angry.

   Evan thought that any boy in his situation would have simply said “Whatever” and left, but he also understood her resistance.  He knew where it was coming from.  He knew she was angry that he saw where she lived, but it wasn’t intentional.  He did charity runs all of the time.  How was he to know that he would be delivering food to her house over the weekend?

   “I thought it would be fun,” he said.

   “I have to babysit my sister,” Clara answered.  She wished he would tell her to piss off and then walk away.

   “Well, Beatrice can come too,” Evan offered.

   Jesus with this guy, Clara thought exasperated.  Why can’t he just leave me alone?

   “I’m not sure,” Clara said.  She shifted her book bag to the other shoulder.

   “I can come and pick you up,” Evan offered.  He saw the abrupt change on her face.  It went from uncertainty to deep embarrassment in a second.

   “I’d rather you not,” Clara said quietly.  “I’m going to be busy.  I don’t think I can go.”

    She turned to leave and he caught her arm.  It was surprising, and she jumped.  He’d never touched her before—not deliberately—not like when he accidentally ran into her at Beatrice’s Open House.  She felt trapped between wanting desperately for him to let go and hold onto her at the same time.
   “I’d really like you to go, Clara,” Evan said.  “You can bring along your little sister.  It’s okay.”

   Clara wouldn’t look at him as she said it.  “I don’t need you to feel sorry for me,” she said softly.  “Please let me go.”  But she didn’t think she believed it.  She thought she wanted him to go on holding her.

   Evan tightened his grip on her arm and forced her to turn around and look at him.  Now she did want him to let go.  She felt the deep red stain on her cheeks, a tingling burning, and she knew he saw it.

   “I don’t feel sorry for you,” he said firmly.

   “Oh really?  I saw that smile you gave me the other day outside of my house.  It was full of pity. You felt sorry for me,” she replied hotly.

    “I smiled at you to be friendly,” Evan replied releasing her arm.  She breathed relief.

    “Friendly?  You don’t even know me.  You’ve talked to me a handful of times,” Clara snapped.

    “I don’t think it’s fair to say I don’t know you,” Evan said.  “I do know some things about you.”

    “Yeah.  Like the fact that I’m poor,” she spat.

    Evan took a deep breath.  “I was going to say that I know you love to read.”

    “Uh huh,” Clara replied.  “And where’s my bookmark, by the way?” she asked angrily.

    Evan ignored her.  “But I’d like to learn more things about you, Clara.  I want to talk to you more, but you won’t even give me the chance.”

    “Because it’s weird, okay?” she said defensively.

    “What’s weird?”

    Clara didn’t want to say it out loud—that she felt inferior and would always feel inferior around him because he had money and she could barely afford soap.  She felt she shouldn’t have to explain it to him, that he should understand intuitively and be a gentleman and leave her alone.

    “Just forget it,” she mumbled.  “I have to go to work.”

   “Okay,” Evan said.  “I’ll come over to your house Saturday around two.”

   Clara was already walking away when she froze.

   “No,” she said not looking behind her.  “I’ll be busy.”

   “You can take a frozen yogurt break,” Evan said.  “It doesn’t take long to eat frozen yogurt.”

   She turned around and looked at him.  She heard the sound of his cell phone buzzing in his pants pocket.

   “Your phone is ringing,” she said.

   “It’s unimportant,” he replied smiling.  “Right now I’m talking with you.”

    As much as she tried to push it down, the overwhelming rush of giddiness filled her heart to bursting.  How?  How could her emotions change so abruptly—that she could go from feeling ashamed and angry to exhilarated in an instant?  She knew she shouldn’t let him in.  She still couldn’t understand why he was so insistent on being let in.  But she couldn’t deny the way her heart felt in that moment, like her mother had come home and her sister had cute clothes to wear to school.
   “Okay,” she said quietly.

   “Okay?” he asked hopefully.  “You’ll let me take you?”

   She nodded as she watched the grin break out on his face.

   “I really do have to go now,” she said.  “I can’t be late for work.”

   “I’ll walk you to your car,” Evan offered.

   “Alright,” Clara said.  She didn’t have the strength to fight him.  The giddiness in her heart also made her weak, and she thought that if he asked to pick her up and carry her to her car she wouldn’t resist.

   They walked together out of the school building.  They passed by several students who stood staring, a few waving at Evan once he addressed them.

  “People think it’s weird that you talk to me,” Clara said.  She couldn’t believe her boldness in being so honest.

   “I can’t imagine why,” Evan replied.  He waved to his friend Chris who was sitting at a picnic table with some girls.

   “I can,” Clara said.

   “Well, I really don’t care about those other people, Clara,” Evan replied once they reached her car.  “And neither should you.”

   “Brittany started a nasty rumor,” Clara blurted.  She wanted it out in the open.

   “I know,” Evan replied.  “And no one cares.”

   “Right,” she said unconvinced.

   “It’s true, Clara,” Evan insisted.  “No one pays any attention to her.  She’s just mean and hateful.  No one cares what she says.”

   “She likes you,” Clara said quietly.

   Evan thought for a moment.  “Well, that’s just too bad because I don’t like her.”

   Clara wanted to ask him if he liked her.  If that was the reason he kept coming around to talk, to sit with her.  If that was the reason he asked her to go get yogurt with him.  But she couldn’t.  Instead, she climbed into her car and shut the door.  She started the ignition, wound down her window, then looked up at him.  He was smiling down at her.

   “I’m not giving back your bookmark, Clara,” he said firmly.

   She wanted to cry for feeling so frustrated.  It was anger at having no control over the way he made her feel.  It was embarrassment for her poverty.  It was giddiness for the attention he paid her.  It was . . . sexual.  She wanted him to say it again.  “I’m not giving back your bookmark, Clara.”  She felt her heart pumping overtime underneath of her breast and feared that he could see it.  She had to get out of there, afraid of what she would say or do if she stayed.  As though he sensed it, he leaned in, resting his forearms on the car door, inches from her face.  She tensed at the closeness.

   “Is it alright that I keep your bookmark, Clara?” he asked quietly.

   He was teasing her, and she knew it.  She searched frantically for some witty reply, but she had none.  All she could think about was his body hovering over her, his face so near, and she wanted to at once smack him and draw him close to her to kiss him.

   “I’m taking care of it,” he went on, tormenting her gently.  “It’s right in the middle of my physics book.  I just opened my book wide and placed it right in.”

   He grinned, knowing what he was doing to her, knowing he was being completely inappropriate, wanting to kiss her right then for the deep red he painted over her soft cheeks.

   She couldn’t stand it.  “It’s just a stupid bookmark!”

   Evan stood up again and she let out all of the air she didn’t know she was holding.

   “It’s not stupid to me,” he said thoughtfully.

   What the hell are we talking about? Clara wondered.  She didn’t think it was about a bookmark anymore, and she knew it was time to leave.

   “I have to go,” she said softly.

   “I know,” Evan replied.  He watched as she put the car in drive.  “I’ll be seeing you, Clara,” he said as she wound up her window.  He looked on as she drove off grinning at his success in rattling her completely.  He wanted to give her something to think about, and he knew she would think about it all night.  Good, he thought.  It’s about damn time she knows it.

© S. Walden, 2012

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