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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hyperventilation

Two more days left until the celebration starts. Starting Monday Taken by Storm goes on sale for $0.99 and Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer will be free. The contest prizes I ordered have been shipped. You can enter starting Monday. Ask Leesie or Michael a question for their Q&As Tuesday and Thursday and score an extra entry.

Now, on with "Storm's Story!"

The next exciting news I got from Lexa was a jpg of the final hardcover jacket.

This is how they print it --in one long sheet. I loved the inside flap blurb. And the storm cloud raining on Razorbill's Penguin on the back flap. 
















Just before Christmas, Lexa forwarded me a wonderful review from the kind and gracious, Uma Krishnaswami. She writes the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD).  I was so thankful to Uma for reading Taken by Storm, liking it and caring about it enough to give it that kind of exposure. Susan, from Bloggin' About Books, posted my first ever blog review.

About a month before Storm launched, I wrote this post. My first encounter with the Dark Side, otherwise known as Kirkus.

Hyperventilation
From "Storm's Story," Feb. 12, 2009, from my original website

I heard from my editor that Kirkus Reviews just sent Penguin their review of Taken by Storm, and it’s not good news.

I’m not too surprised. A few weeks back, while I was killing myself to get Sing Me to Sleep revised, I got an email from their children’s editor forwarded to me expressing great concern over the free diving passages and Michael’s other use of free dive breathing techniques in the book.

I portray Michael going through yoga-like, deep breathing sequences before he dives and later as an intuitive defense mechanism when he gets freaked by flashbacks.

Their reviewer, a former nurse, referred to this as “hyperventilating,” and the email cited links to Wikipedia articles proving how dangerous this practice is. They felt teens wouldn’t have a context to understand the risks.

I had the opportunity to write back and explain that I certainly agreed that hyperventilation, rapid breathing that fails to clear the lungs of carbon dioxide, is dangerous in any context. But that isn’t what Michael does.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about free, apnea, or breathhold diving. It is actually a fairly safe sport that tens of thousands across the world participate in, but it is something you need training to do, and like scuba or anything to do with water, can be dangerous if people try to do it without the proper training. So READER BEWARE! Don’t read my book and drown, okay?

I am fascinated by free divers. They are amazing athletes, but it is kind of crazy. I'd read about free diving before I wrote Taken by Storm, but never done it--give me that friendly tank of nitrox on my back, thank you. When I decided Michael would survive the accident because of his breathholding ability, I realized I needed to find out more about free diving. I talked my husband into taking a certification course in Grand Cayman at DiveTech--where they have huge freediving competitions and people break world records and crazy stuff like that.

That poor instructor. I was awful--the giant fins were just too big for me to kick up over my head, and I get nervous if I have to hold my breath. My husband, who didn't want to take the course in the first place, was great.

We did all our training and then we swam out to the reef. Our instructor dove first--effortless, a dancer in the water, he elegantly fell to the bottom, hung out a few moments, and then rejoined us on the surface. I made it down 25 feet so I passed the course. My husband, not to be outdone by the young fit instructor with impossibly long, dark eyelashes, dove all the way to the bottom, too. Fifty-five feet deep on his first real free dive. His lips were purple by the time he made it back to the surface! Ah, the things we do for love.

We spent hours in the classroom and on the water practicing the slow, deep breathing techniques. They pack your blood, brain, lungs and every available air passage with oxygen. A proper breathedown takes ten minutes and is incredibly relaxing.

If you think free diving sounds cool and want to try it--not just snorkeling, but strap weights to your waist and giant Sporasub fins to your feet and fall fifty feet through the water holding your breath diving--you need to get certified.

The certifying body is the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers.  Check out IANTD's site: http://www.iantd.com/FreeDiving/index.html for a dive shop near you that offers the course based on the innovative training I got in Grand Cayman at Dive Tech. You’ll learn and practice proper spotting, shallow water black out rescues, and all the skills critical to participating safely in this hot, new sport.

The one thing I really liked about free diving was the deep breathing techniques. I started using them a lot. I get nasty migraines and have to fight down the panic and rapid breathing at the onset of an aura. I know tons about hyperventilation! Free dive breathe down techniques help me stay calm and in control--even alleviate some of the pain.

Wonder if it will work on nasty reviews?

My editor doesn’t think I should read it. Instead, she sent me this beautiful list of all the great things writers, bloggers, teens, and reviewers have said about TBS.

“Passion, pace, pizzazz and a perfect finish—What more can you ask for?”—Tim Wynne-Joes (Rex Zero)

“A debut novel that is satisfying on every level.”—Ron Koertge (Stoner & Spaz)

“As compelling and romantic as Twilight.”—Cathy Berner, (YA Specialist, Blue Willow Bookshop)

“There are moments of yearning and transcendence that took my breath away.”—Susan Fletcher (Alphabet of Dreams)

“An amazing story written with a clear, refreshing and creative voice.”—Jack Weyland (Charly)

“Fans of Meyer's TWILIGHT will enjoy this non-vampiric tale with similar romantic chords.”—Amber Gibson (TeensReadToo)

“RUN to the stores and get this book it is probably one of the most breathtaking and romantic-to-the-point-you-cry books I've ever read.”—The Reader

“Unflinching, honest, and sometimes sorrowful, Taken by Storm is a novel that is not only romantic and entertaining, but thoughtful and moving. Morrison is a bold and talented author to watch.”—The Compulsive Reader

“Angela's writing is stunning.”—Kathi Baron (Shattered—Westside Books, Fall ‘09)

“A beautiful, heartwrenching, romantic story. It made me laugh and cry. I couldn’t put it down!”—Chan (Always Something to Read)

“Engrossing, honest and edgy.”—Susan (Bloggin ‘Bout Books)

“Taken By Storm reads easily and showcases characters both realistic and larger than life, their fervent hopes and desperate needs heading for inevitable collision in its pages.”—Uma Krishnaswami (Writing with a Broken Tusk)

“I started reading, and I simply could not stop. A moving and poetic novel, Taken by Storm is a must read for any teenager entering the dating world—Mormon and non-Mormon alike.” –Abby (North Thurston High School, Olympia, WA)

“I would read this book and discuss it with my daughters. . . . I was blown away.”—Rachelle Lynch (Lausanne, Switzerland)

With this wealth of praise to insulate me, I guess I need to take a series of long deep breaths, and ask Lexa to send that review. At least, I can blog about my sorrows here!

I’m getting Sing me to Sleep ready to go to the copy editor and finalizing my launch tour plans, so I need all my creative energy for that, but I will update you on the Kirkus saga soon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Steaminess Issues

Three more days until the party starts. Remember, Taken by Storm goes on sale for $0.99 and Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer will be free. The contest post will go live Monday morning. I'm gathering questions for Michael and Leesie's Q&A sessions Tuesday and Thursday. I've got some good ones already. Every one who asks a question will get an extra contest entry. Feel free to leave yours in the comments below.

This post became my mantra! We were getting settled in Singapore when I wrote it.

Steaminess Issues
from "Storm's Story," July 25, 2008


Rachel called me this morning--last night her time. A box of books landed on her dorm apartment step yesterday. Her today. Oh, the international date line is going to do me in.

My advance reader copies are done. I’m still waiting for mine, but I had Lexa send most of them to Rachel at BYU. She says they look great--just like a real book. She sat down and read it straight for four hours, and then had to hurry and get ready to go to a Bollywood movie with friends. I’m so offended. She put down my book for Bollywood? She has read it before, and she spent most of her 24th of July holiday reading it. I suppose I can forgive her.
Here's the original cover. The ARCs looked just like this except they had a big pink "advanced readers copy not for sale" square plastered on it. I've got a PDF of the ARC cover, but I need a JPG to load it here. 

Rachel read me Lexa’s editor’s note from the front. These are paperback review copies so there isn’t a dedication or acknowledgements. But there is a note from the editor. I’ll post that as soon as I get it. Lexa describes Taken by Storm in a way I never could. She makes it sound sooo steamy.

This is Lexa's letter that was published inside the ARC. Can you read it?

Down at the bottom on the back of the galley cover, it says the age range for Taken by Storm is "12 and up." I’ll let you in on an industry secret. In the United States, books that are shelved in the 14 and up section have, what the industry calls, “content.” That usually means explicit sex scenes, drug use, and/or vulgar language. Twelve and up is for the same age group, but no content--well, considerably less content. The age range labels don’t always make it onto the back of the books sold to the general public, but your booksellers shelve them that way. If you aren’t sure, ask them if you need help. And every publisher’s online catalog includes the age ranges. If you are looking for books that don’t have explicit content and gross language, don’t shop in the fourteen and up section. You never know what you’ll get on the next page.

Even though Taken by Storm, is probably as steamy as Lexa says it is, I’m proud of that 12 and up “rating.” (A lot of people in the industry would faint to hear me call it that, but in essence, that’s what it is. Movie and video game people don’t throw a hissy over ratings, but book people, even in the children’s and YA field, are sensitive to anything that approaches censorship, no doubt for good cause. Good books are banned and challenged regularly.)

In my novel, readers will get a frank depiction and discussion of teen sexuality--from Leesie’s abstinence to Michael’s experience. There are lots of great kissing scenes. I love to write romantic kissing scenes. And Michael challenges Leesie. Those scenes are as authentic as I could make them. But they aren’t explicit. I’ve drawn a line that I won’t cross. You won’t have to skip pages when you read my novel, but you won’t be patronized, either.

I want my readers to know that if my name is on the front cover of a book--no matter what age range is on the back--you are safe. You won’t be bombarded with an explicit sex scene you weren’t expecting and didn’t want to read. There are plenty of authors who write that material. Some do it well. Some slip into something that verges on porn. I offer something different.

There are intimate moments in Taken by Storm. My characters have hormones like everyone else. I hope and pray that I handle those moments with taste and decency. My characters deserve their privacy, deserve to hang onto their dignity, deserve our respect. They are sharing a personal, intimate journey with us. We can at least give them that.

That said, can you take that rating literally? Is this a novel for twelve-year-olds? That depends on the twelve-year-old.

I didn’t write Taken by Storm with younger teens in mind. But when I think about the messages our beautiful, impressionable junior high age girls are getting these days about what to wear, what to do, what to sacrifice, what to risk--all in the name of getting attention from guys, I say, sure, why not.

Please, honey. Absorb some of Leesie’s strength, taste her spirit. Appreciate Michael’s honesty and sensitivity.  Acknowledge his pain. Think again before you get caught up in the storm of dangerous, demeaning behavior that’s raging out there in your high school--in your junior high. Don’t sacrifice who you are, who you are destined to become. Don’t threaten the mature relationship that will last a life time chasing popularity that will not last to the morning.

Don’t buy the lie. As women and girls, we lose if all feminism ends up bringing us is a sexual revolution that demeans the sacredness of our bodies and turns the intimate acts of committed love into sport and recreation that can damage our very ability to become mothers.

I cheer when I see how well girls are doing. How smart you are. How hard you work. You will change the world. You already are.

But some of you out there are breaking my heart. Leesie and Michael’s story is my special gift to you.

I promise I don’t preach like this in the book. That’s not allowed in fiction. But it sure feels good to get it off my chest.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Phone Call

I left you hanging yesterday. Sorry. Suspense trick I learned in the trade. Here it is. The moment of truth. Lexa's phone call.

The Phone Call
from "Storm's Story," July 10, 2008, my original website


I finally got Lexa on the phone. We talked weather for an uncomfortable couple of minutes, and then she said, “Well, I have good news. We want to offer you a two book contract. We’d like to buy TAKEN BY STORM and a second book.”

She caught me way off guard. “Two books?”

“Yeah. We want you to know we believe in your prose.”

“My what?”

“And the Mormon angle. We don’t find it a problem. We actually think its a big plus.”

We went on to discuss details of the contract. Lexa warned me we’d have to cut a lot. They wanted it down to 60K words. Within a few days, we had an agreement. A few weeks later I had my first editorial letter.

Leesie’s relationship with Michael challenges her spirituality in a way that nothing has before. Lexa wanted me to make that more accessible for the reader. The first thing she asked me to do was add a Leesie poem prologue that expresses her faith.

I cried.

And then I wrote this:

Leesie’s Most Private Chapbook
Poem # 24,  What does it matter?

What does it matter if
another jock pinches me
as I walk down the hall to Physics
and high fives Troy, celebrating
like he just scored
the season’s first touchdown?

As I stalk past
the architect of my torture,
I’m frozen, a block of ice—
not a single drop melts.

All hail the Mormon Ice Queen.

What does it matter?

I know the commandment,
but I don’t even consider
turning the other cheek.

And, yes, it hurts, but
life without pain
isn’t much of a test.

This feeling can’t be lonely—
I’m not alone.

I walk with His hand on my shoulder,
His voice whispering in my soul,
His love soaring in my heart,
His suffering
my
salvation.

What else could possibly matter?


And then Leesie meets Michael. Hang on, girl, it’s going to get rough.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reading With Great Interest

I still need questions for Michael and Leesie's Q&A next week. Let's see. Monday I announce the big contest, Taken by Storm goes on sale for $0.99 and Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer will be free. Tuesday Michael chats. Wednesday is the Epic Promo 50 Blog Blitz! Don't you love the banner? Thursday, Leesie visits, and Friday is Michael's Birthday party! Who is bringing the balloons?

Now, onto the next chapter from "Storm's Story."

Reading with Great Interest
originally posted July 3, 2008, on my original website


So where were we? I was living in Lausanne, Switzerland and had requests from Lexa and another editor for Taken by Storm.

I sent my sweet novel, weighing in at 87K words, off to Lexa and the other editor and then tried not to think about it. I immersed myself in revising my historical novel, My Only Love. I figured maybe I’d hear back by early February. Razorbill had actually read this novel before when another team managed the imprint. That time it took nine months for a definitive, “not right for our list,” to get back to me.

Lexa wrote me a few days before Christmas. I saw her email in my inbox, and my stomach knotted up. It’d just been two weeks. Rejected for sure. I know the signs.

But no. Phew. She just wrote to say she and her boss were reading it “with great interest,” and could they have an exclusive until they decide. She said she’d be in touch after the holidays.

Of course. And after the holidays,  January 9th, 2008, to be exact, Lexa e-mailed me that she wanted to call me. Editors don’t call you to reject you. They don’t even call when they are willing to look at your novel again if you make changes they suggest. They only call to make an offer.

I was busy the next day, didn’t check e-mail until late in the afternoon, freaked out, wrote her right back. Waited up late (I was in Switzerland--six hours ahead of Eastern time) until I knew she’d left the office. The next day was Friday, the minutes ticked by so slowly. Finally it was 3:00 PM. She’d be in the office. I hung out by the phone. No call. Then it was time to go get the kids. I was dying. Rushed right home. No call.

Shoot. It was 6:30 PM, and I had to go with my husband to lovely evening at the home of one of the senior Swiss church members in Lausanne. I left the phone with Rachel, my daughter, and told her exactly what to say if Lexa phoned and to call me right away.

The gathering  was lovely. Lots of charming Swiss Mormons to visit with, delicious food, wonderful countryside setting--it was all lost on me. Jumpy. Nervous. Totally unable to focus.

We finished eating, and my cell phone rang.

“She called, Mom. She called. She’s going to be at her office for another two hours.”

We couldn’t just rudely walk out. We waited until nine--forty excruciating minutes, and then made our excuses and thanked our hostess and RAN!

Here's some photos of our neighborhood in Lausanne. We lived in the village of Paudex. I can't find a shot that has a photo of our actual villa jumelle (translation: duplex). These were all taken on a walk around the neighborhood! Yes, it was beautiful there.














Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Mormon Angle May Pose a Problem

Questions, questions! I need questions for Michael and Leesie's Q&A next week. Of course, Michael and Leesie will answer questions if you ask them Tuesday, July 17 and Thursday, July 19 when they visit, but they would love to have a few ahead of time. Just leave them in the comments below.

Now on to the next chapter of how Michael and Leesie made it onto the shelves and into your hearts. It sort of amazes me that a mere seven months after I sent the manuscript to Lexa, I was writing about my visit to New York and the ARCs going to press. 

"The Mormon Angle May Pose a Problem"

from "Storm's Story," Jun 27, 2008, my original website


I feel like I was in NYC a thousand years ago, instead of just a couple of weeks. We’re still in transit. Last week I got to go to BYU’s Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. Excellent. Check it out. They hold it every June. [It's no longer held at BYU, but it is still excellent.]

It’s was a lot of fun to visit Penguin, meet Lexa’s publisher, Ben Shrank, and talk to their publicist. And Lexa and I got to go to lunch and have a good chat. [This was the famous chat where Lexa told me they wanted me to write Unbroken Connection for different characters. I refused. And that led to Sing me to Sleep. Blessing in disguise?] The galley copies, officially titled, “advance reader copies,” have gone to press. [See? I'd never even heard of an ARC!] Now all I have to do is write my dedication and acknowledgements. Such a miracle.

This whole thing has been a miracle.

Miracle that I wrote this novel. Miracle that I didn’t give up on it. Miracle that I found Lexa in Paris. Miracle that she bought it. Oops. I’m wrecking the story. But you know she bought it.      

She fell for Michael just like I’d hoped. I sent her the query and then settled down to finish the revision. I queried a few other likely prospects I dug up, too. It usually takes a couple months to hear back. Often times, much longer. I heard from Lexa the very next week. Here’s her e-mail:

Hey Angela!

I really enjoyed reading this sample.  Your writing is terrific--
evocative, rich and accessible too.  I showed it to my boss and he also
liked it.  I should warn you: I worry the Mormon angle may pose a
problem here.  But that said, we definitely want to read the whole
thing-- so could you please send?

Thanks, and happy Friday!
Lexa

Terrific!!!!  Worry??  But, still TERRIFIC! And those magic words the unagented, unpublished author lives for, “read the whole thing.”

I wrote back:

Dear Lexa,

Happy Friday indeed!  Thanks so much for your kind words. I'll have this revision slicked up by the end of next week and will fire it off to you then.

I understand your hesitation re the Mormon stuff.  I appreciate your honesty. I know it is a tightrope. That's why Michael is the main character and handles the bulk of the narration. (I have a version completely in his voice.) All my mentors at Vermont College and critique buddies were not Mormons. I had a lot of valuable guidance on how to write this so it entices rather than turns off readers. All Mormon girls outside of Utah end up dating non-Mormon guys. I've tried to make my depiction of a relationship between a bereaved atheist guy and a Mormon girl who thrives on divine guidance as honest and realistic as possible. I ruthlessly cut anything that sounds preachy. I want Mormon and non-Mormon girls, alike, to fall in love with Michael and relate to Leesie.

But, I can talk about this forever. (I wrote my VC critical thesis on the subject.) Far better to show you. I'll send you my "Lexa-ized" revision ASAP.

Bisous,
Angela

Against all odds, I got a second request for TAKEN BY STORM from another editor that same day. I finished the revision and on December 6, 2007, sent my precious baby out there to face the storm.





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.