Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Query to Lexa

I got carried away today buying all kinds of great swag for our big 10th Anniversary Contest next Monday. It's less than seven days away now. I bought T-shirts, posters, key chains--even a tote bag. Nothing that will melt (like last year and my beautiful M&Ms for the Michael + Leesie Forever Contest). You're going to love it all.

On Tuesday, I'm holding a Q&A with Michael. On Thursday, Leesie will stop by to answer questions. I'm taking questions now! Just pop one in the comments of a post this week, and I'll get it to him.

I wrote this the night before I met with Lexa and her boss at Penguin in New York City. We were in transit from Switzerland to Singapore. What a meeting that was.

My Query to Lexa
from "Storm's Story," Sunday, June 15, 2008

We said farewell to Switzerland yesterday. Our lives are packed in a container, sitting on ship in Hamburg, Germany--waiting to sail to Singapore. I’m in Manhattan and up in the middle of the night with jetlag, despite Marriott’s marvelous bed, staring out the window at Times Square. The gigantic screen is literally in my face. What a change. We’ve got one day here, and then on Utah to get my daughter settled at BYU. She’s psyched. I am, too. I’m meeting with Lexa and her boss in a few hours. I hope I make sense.

So back to my story. Sorry to leave you hanging. I was home from Paris, full of revisionary direction and hope. All the editors who spoke emphasized they wanted to fall in love with our character, fall in love with our story from the first page.

That’s quite a shift. I’ve heard so many lectures on naughty characters, characters with problems. YA literature is full of lost souls with chips on their shoulders. And, all that still has a place, but in the post-Harry Potter world we’re living in that’s reeling from the impact Edward Cullen is still having on YA readers (and every other female in existence), more than anything else, reader’s want to fall in love.

I thought about Lexa while I revised my first chapter. She was the reader I wanted to woo. So I rewrote Michael’s opening dive log with her in mind.

Here’s a taste of Michael.

The dive starts perfect. Perfect water. Perfect sky. Perfect wall. The ocean, warm, flat, perfect. I leave my wetsuit drying on the Festiva’s dive deck. Saltwater slips silky over my skin like Carolina’s caress.

Geeze, I miss her. Caroleena. She insisted on Spanish pronunciation. I thought this trip would help, but I can’t forget lying in the sun, curled together, my face lost in her thick black hair, holding on. Three months. Every day. More when she felt like it. I always felt like it, but I didn’t want to use her.

She dumped me on my butt when I took off to dive all summer at the condo. I wanted to bring her to Florida. Keep her close. Keep her safe. But she had to stay in Phoenix and work. Her family’s got nothing. And Mom flipped when I mentioned it was a shame the sofa bed in the living room would be empty. Dad was cool with it. He’s cool with everything. It should have been Carolina and me all summer, diving.

The creep b-ball jock she’s with now is after one thing, as much as he can get. Possessive, too. Freaked when I called her from the Keys. And when we were all back at school, she wouldn’t even look at me.
Dad knew something was up, let me cut a week for the club’s annual “hot deal” hurricane season trip.

So, I’m scuba diving my brains out, free diving whenever I can get a spotter, trying not to think about that jock pawing my Carolina.

Love. Makes me crazy. All of it. You get so close, like she’s part of you. And then she’s gone. You ogle the smiling waitress on the boat, who has your girl’s hair and wears a loaded bikini top and a sarong slung dangerously low. You appreciate the view while she serves you a virgin pina colada, but you still ache inside because now you’ve got a hole in your ribcage that won’t fill, a gash that heals way too slow.

Salt water’s my therapy of choice.

I gave Michael more and more romantic troubles. Then revised the free dive scene at the end of the chapter until it was as vivid as I could get it. Here it is. He's free diving with his mom spotting him.

Here he is again:

I grin and give her a saltwater kiss on the cheek before I move out along the line stretched between the buoy and raft, positioned so I can dive straight down the wall. I float on my stomach, blow through my nose to clear my mask, shoot a spout of water out of my snorkel, and inhale—fill my gut, hold it a few beats, then blow it out nice and slow, expelling CO2, the waitress, Carolina, Mandy, even Mom, through that handy tube stuck in my mouth.

“Take it easy, this morning.” Mom treads water instead of taking up her spotting position. “Don’t go too deep.”

I keep venting, soaking up the blue world under me, eager to immerse myself in it again.

“No black out today, okay?” She says that every dive. I was ten that one time. Get over it.

A pair of painted angels drift over the top of the wall, their fins waving in time to my slowing heart beat. I blow up my chest and gut, nine more mesmerizing cycles.

Mom maneuvers into position, face down on the other side of the line.

I advance to super vents, stretch my head back so I can drive air into every chamber of my skull and torso, filling my throat and nasal passages, again and again until my fingers tingle perfect breathe-down. O2 maxed, totally zoned.

I inhale one last time, packing every crevice, and then pack more air, and more. Mom bumps my leg. Doesn’t matter. I’m Mr. Zen of the Deep. Nothing can penetrate this lean mean free diving machine.

I slip the snorkel out of my mouth, bend at the waist, kick my massive free dive fins skyward and shoot down through the water. One kick, two. My buoyancy slides negative at fifteen feet. I streamline it, conserving my hoard of O2. Don’t need to kick now. Pinch my nose and clear my ears—easy. I zoom past the top of the wall, equalize my mask, glance at the dive computer strapped to my wrist, seventy feet, clear again, eighty. The deeper I go, the faster I fall. I blow past ninety. Hit a hundred before I know it.  The water’s so kicking clear.

I pull up hard, flip so my head points skyward, and work my fins to stop sinking. I want to celebrate.

Kind of a deadly idea. A massive crab, all blued-out, sits in a crevice sliced into the wall. He waves his claws in my direction. It took less than a minute to get down there. I have plenty of oxygen packed in my body, but I need it all for the ascent. No time for underwater fans.

I begin kicking for real, powering my giant fins back and forth. Don’t go anywhere. Freak. Ditch my weights? No way. Dive won’t count. My depth gauge reads 99 feet. Good. I’m moving—just doesn’t seem like it. I paste my eyes to the blaring pink triangle that is Mom and kick harder. Ninety feet, eighty.

I make the top of the wall with upward momentum. Acid scalds my leg muscles. My lungs weep for air. Still, I don’t chuck the weights. I keep eye contact with Mom so she won’t think she has to save me and wreck this dive. My chest vibrates with the effort of holding onto the last dredge of O2. My legs get stiff. I force them to keep wafting my heavy fins back and forth.

The drowsy warmth of blackout creeps over me at fifteen feet, but I don’t give it any room. I blow my CO2. Positive buoyancy propels me to the surface. I blast through, plastering Mom. She squeals.

My starving lungs kick back mounds of fresh salt air.

“Your lips are blue, baby.”  Her eyebrows draw together.

I suck O2 to my brain and stick my computer strapped wrist in her face.

107 feet. Perfect.

Then Michael and his mom have a big fight. She's freaked that he dove that deep and refuses to keep spotting. He wants to dive again. Then the warning siren on the dive boat rings and the chapter ends with his mom saying, "They don't blow that thing for nothing."

I got a query put together by mid-November, fired it off to Lexa, and started praying. Seriously praying.

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