Monday, April 1, 2013

UGLY STICK: An Exclusive Sneak Peek!

Greetings, net friends!

It is now officially the month of April, both in the traditional sense and in the sense that Ugly Stick, my debut novel starring a teenager named April, will be released in a mere ten days! It's almost like it was planned that way...

I am so excited to share this story with readers far and wide--it's well worth every crick in my neck, every hour of lost sleep, and every headache from writing myself into corners to know that Ugly Stick will be a real book, published by our own Tributaries Press and available on, as of April 10!

To kick off the ten-day countdown to the book's release, I am sharing the first chapter of Ugly Stick with you here. Please do share this link with anyone you like: your BFF, your sister-in-law, that person sitting next to you on the bus, your second cousin who also happens to be a major studio film producer... (hey, it could happen!) And if you like what you read, please "like" Ugly Stick's official Facebook page to stay up-to-date with the rest of the countdown to April 10!

Happy Reading!


Chapter 1

Blackwell1600:   Sophie H, we’ve been over this. The bus is NOT the place 2 apply make-up unless you’re on your way 2 a party. As the hired clown. #WhatADrag
11:31am                  16 Sep                     11 retweets                             7 favorites

KarrotStix:           @Blackwell1600 Good one! Tip for Sophie: get Jeffrey B out of the prop closet to help. He can fix that eyeliner—if anyone can! #Guyliner
11:44am                  16 Sep                     3 retweets                               2 favorites

Blackwell1600:   @KarrotStix Tell Jeffrey we're all counting on him.
11:53am                  16 Sep                     8 retweets                               5 favorites


         “And now for everyone’s favorite part of Honors English,” Ms. Kearns said with a grin, “example reading!”
            I glanced around the classroom, and judging by the apathetic classroom reaction, “favorite part” was a bit of a misnomer. Ms. Kearns was a brand new teacher, fresh out of college, and she did have a remarkable way of pulling our class into discussions of Shakespeare, Voltaire, and even Tolstoy with a fair amount of enthusiasm. But nobody really liked example reading, the Russian roulette of criticism, especially on a Friday afternoon.
Not to mention that, even though the example readings were anonymous, whenever the other two dozen students in my class looked over a work, they criticized it without mercy. I usually remained silent, observing and jotting down notes. Invisibility was a trait I had perfected in my first year at Prescott High, and tenth grade would be no different.
          Ms. Kearns passed printouts of the example around the classroom. “This was one of the prompts from last week about different storytelling lenses—imagining you were writing the introduction to your memoir.”
My ribs seized as I recognized the first few lines on the page. She’d chosen mine. Why?
            I had known it would happen sooner or later—Ms. Kearns always gave me high grades on my essays and papers. She was my favorite teacher, sharing my affinity for Dickens and C.S. Lewis. However, I had never gotten up the nerve to tell her that having my own work critiqued would be the emotional equivalent of trimming my toenails with a paper shredder. I inched lower in my seat, praying that my face wasn’t as red as it felt.
            “Can I get a volunteer to read aloud?” Ms. Kearns asked. “Marcus, go ahead.”
            The redheaded boy to my right nodded and began with the title, The Growing Shadow.
       “Around the turn of the nineteenth century, a painter named Leili lived in the Duchy of Oldenburg. During a visit to Leili’s village, the Grand Duke was thoroughly enchanted by her talent and invited her to serve as Oldenburg’s court artist. Leili painted for the royal family for the rest of her life.”
            I stared at my hands, focusing on my pathologically nibbled nails. Why were my words coming out of Marcus’s mouth? How were the other students going to react? What had I done to deserve this?
            “Leili’s daughter Zora immigrated to America with her husband and infant daughter. Zora had been educated in the court of the Grand Duke, and she resolved to spread her love of learning throughout her new country. Zora founded Elmira Women’s College, and a statue of her still graces Elmira’s main courtyard in western New York.
            “Zora’s daughter Hilda moved farther west, to the plains of Iowa. Hilda bore a daughter and seven sons, and in 1881 she was elected as the founding mayor of the town of Thimble, Iowa—the first female mayor in the United States.”
            The words that had sounded simple and oh-so-poignant as I wrote them now sounded trite and clunky, about as clever as a knock-knock joke. I gave up merely staring at my mutilated nails and clamped down on my pinky, trying to gnaw away the panic. I wished I hadn’t written so much. I wished I hadn’t turned in this assignment at all. Just taking a zero would have been much less painful.
            “Hilda’s only daughter Kirsten was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her compilation of interviews with German-American immigrants. Kirsten’s daughter Daphne became a silent film star, the Jennifer Lawrence of her generation. Daphne’s daughter Geraldine won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in figure skating, and Geraldine’s daughter Josephine served three terms in the United States Senate. Josephine’s daughter Diane is the Senior Editor of Deerstalker Publishing House, credited with discovering ‘the next Stephen King.’
            “And then there’s Diane’s daughter… me. If you focus your eyes and stare into the deepest corner of this growing shadow, you just might see me.” Marcus leaned back in his seat.
            I withdrew my pinky from my mouth, pursed my lips, and looked surreptitiously around. Did anyone suspect? Some of the overachieving students were still taking notes in the margins. Notes. On my work. I felt ill. A light knock at the classroom door startled me.
            “Colleen?” a male teacher called through the doorway. “Can I have a quick word?”
            “Sure, Ron,” Ms. Kearns replied. “Everyone, please wrap up your notes on the example—I’ll be back in just a moment.”
            She looked at me for the barest instant, before slipping out and shutting the door behind her. Did my face clue her in? I probably looked more or less like I was about to be dragged into the Coliseum.
            “Who wrote this?” whispered one of the overachievers, tucking her pencil back into her perfectly messy bun.
            “It’s anonymous,” retorted Zoe Chin, my chemistry lab partner. “Nobody has to own up to writing anything.”
            “Yeah, but why wouldn’t you?” asked a heavyset guy next to Marcus. “I mean, if that’s your family, that’s pretty awesome, right?”
            “Hold on, I’m Googling Deerstalker Publishing,” a girl in the back said. She kept an eye on the door as her fingers flew over her touch screen phone. I slumped in my seat. Google would seal my fate.
            “The Senior Editor at Deerstalker is… Diane Somerfield. April’s mom,” she finished.
            “Wait, who’s April, again?” Marcus asked me.
            “Seriously?” a girl by the window blurted. “That’s April, idiot!” She pointed at me.
            My face heated up like a cheap tanning bed as my classmates’ eyes zeroed in on me. Yes, Diane Somerfield’s daughter, the latest in a line of brilliantly successful, beautiful women, was April Somerfield. April the Invisible. April the Talentless. April, the terminally awkward, self-loathing misfit who would blend in with the wallpaper, if only the wallpaper were a little less attractive.
            “Oh—sorry,” Marcus tried to say, but he could barely get the words out without laughing. Giggles rippled over the desks like waves around me, and I slouched as low as possible in my seat. I wished I could melt into the floor.
            “Guys, guys, cut it out,” Mikayla, another overachiever, chided everyone else, with a flip of her perfect blonde hair. “Can’t you see she doesn’t think it’s funny?”
I bit my cheek to prevent tears from welling up and got my face under control. This part was almost worse than the laughter. I knew Mikayla was trying to be nice, but now we would all just sit in awkward, pitying silence until Ms. Kearns returned. Being invisible, as frustrating as it could be, was better than being observed like a lab rat.
“It’s fine,” I muttered, forcing an awkward grimace that hopefully passed as a smile.
“Did your family really do all those things?” asked the first overachiever, leaning forward in her chair.
Feeling the flush creep into my scalp and down my neck, I nodded.
“Some family tree. So, what are you going to be famous for?”
“That’s rude!” Mikayla hissed, but the others were already waiting for a response.
“Hey, maybe she’s Blackwell,” the girl in the back row suggested.
Another wave of laughter rippled across the room. The idea that someone as unattractive as me could be behind Blackwell1600, our high school’s knife-tongued style critic and most-followed Twitter handle, was clearly hilarious to everyone. Blackwell1600 had lambasted me plenty of times over the past year—“April: a poncho. Really? Are you a llama farmer? A human parachute? There’s no other excuse for a wearable tent.”—and I wanted few things more than for his or her identity to be revealed.
“Sorry about that, everybody,” Ms. Kearns said as she hurried back into the room, rescuing me from having to reply.
“Now, where were we? I chose this piece as today’s example for several reasons…”
I tuned her out and stared at the page, until my photocopied words swam before my eyes. When I was little, Mom used to read to me. My favorite story was “The Ugly Duckling,” because of the way the duckling turned into a beautiful swan at the end. The only problem was that I hadn’t turned into a swan. I was just shy of sixteen, and I had only grown into an ugly duck.


And in honor of April officially starting, click here for even more exclusive content!


Please note that "April officially starting" means that today is April 1st, which means I couldn't resist a classic #RickRoll! Thanks for playing, and Happy April Fool's Day! =)

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