Friday, July 20, 2012

10 Years from Today Michael Swam out of my Brain

Day 5!!! Exactly 10 years from this date Michael escaped the churning confusing that is my brain and found a voice on my page during the first free write I ever wrote. Read the whole story here. If you don't know the story of how he got trapped swimming in my subconscious, you can read that here. So hooray!! Dance and sing, "Happy Birthday to Michael!"

You have until August 31st to  enter the big giveaway and  download the new Kindle Taken by Storm ebook for only $0.99. Until midnight tonight get Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer free on Kindle. They will be on sale for $0.99 through August 31st.

This week well over 3,000 readers have downloaded Unbroken Connection and 2,000 downloaded Cayman Summer. Unbroken Connection broke into the top 100 free on Amazon and stayed at #1 on Kindle's Bestsellers in Children's Social Issues list. Taken by Storm made it onto the coveted Bestselling Books for Teens on Love and Romance list--and hit #12 at one point. Now that's something to celebrate. Lots of new readers to welcome to our family.

It's been so much fun to reminisce with old friends and meet new ones. Thanks to all of you who helped make this week happen. Today, I reveal why I love to write break-your-heart-coming-of-age teen romances at Imaginary Reads. Thanks, Kris for hosting me.

Plus, my favorite protege (I like to call her that because she is so brilliant), Jennifer Shaw Wolf, is hosting me on her blog. Stop by and read the interview and check out her fantastic debut release that everyone is talking about, Breaking Beautiful. I am so proud of her. She is a fantastic writer. Jen reaches out and nurtures everyone in her path. She is made of kindness. That comes through in her writing and makes you love her characters with unusual intensity. I am thrilled for her.

Leading up to this week of celebrating, I've republished "Storm's Story" that I wrote to chronicle Taken by Storm's journey on my original website. I saved this post to share with you today. I wrote it from Singapore.

Happy Birthday, Michael and Leesie. And thank you all for keeping them in your hearts. Sharing their story with you continues to be an amazing journey. Each new person who reads Taken by Storm feels like a sister. I treasure each one of you.

My husband took this picture of TAKEN BY STORM at the Times Square Barnes and Noble in NYC!
"Taken by Storm on Sale this Week"
from "Storm's Story," March 9, 2009

I thought this week would never arrive and all of the sudden it’s here. Lexa sent me this launch day present--the preliminary cover for my next Razorbill novel, SING ME TO SLEEP. What do you think? I’m loving it. Best present ever.
Actually, that's not what it looked like--but that's another story!
They are considering changing the cover for TAKEN BY STORM’s paperback to be consistent with this more understated tone. That could be good, too.

I celebrated this week putting together the final details for my launch tour. No time to party--yet!
The real celebrating starts in a couple of weeks when I hop on a plane and come flying home. The tour has been a ton of work to put together, but it will be a blast. I’m speaking at 31 schools across five states--Washington, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Arizona--and doing five bookstore events. I’ll be blogging about the tour on ChatSpot.

I’m in SINGAPORE, so I haven’t got to see TAKEN BY STORM actually on a bookstore shelf yet, but I heard from one of my dearest writer babe buds who moonlights at an upstate NY Barnes and Noble. She says they got FIVE copies in. That’s a lot for a debut author. YIPPEE!!!

And there is an e-version available. Amazon is hawking it for their new Kindle.

I have to confess to a naughty secret . . . I’ve become totally addicted to tracking my Amazon sales rank numbers. The realities of expat author-dom. The first time I looked at it back in February it was 1,070,448. The lower the number the better you book is selling--so over a million isn’t too hot. But then it jumped to 190K the very next day! After that it crept up slowly to 600K. Launch day, March 5, it was down to 140K. Yesterday it zoomed back up to 300K, but TODAY it’s 45,309 for all books and #47 for children’s fiction on death and dying--kind of a gloomy list, but I’ll take it. And, drum roll, this is big . . .  #91 on teen fiction that deals with dating and intimacy. I have no idea what all this means in terms of sales, but--as addictions go--it’s relatively harmless.

Who knew I could be this crass and commercial about my art? Writing is a business, too, though. If I want my art to continue--especially Michael and Leesie’s story--TAKEN BY STORM must sell well. In the realities of today’s market, AMAZON can make or break that. I kind of have to pay attention.
My Michael and Leesie bulletin board. It's pieces are now in BYU's Special Manuscript Collection.  I tore that magazine cover off a Scottsdale tourist magazine. Doesn't that couple look like Michael and Leesie grown up?

Oh, how young and naive I was as an author. What I didn't know then was how much I'd have to overcome to continue Michael and Leesie's story and how many amazing readers and bloggers would be there to help me do it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Leesie Q&A LIVE

Day 4 in our celebration! We welcome Leesie for questions.  Don't forget to enter the big giveaway!  Download the new Kindle Taken by Storm ebook for only $0.99. And through Friday, July 20th at midnight get Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer free. They will be on sale for $0.99 after the promo.

Today I'm featured on Rachellewrite's as her Thursday Thought guest blogger. Thanks, Rachelle for hosting me! Stop by and read my thought, "Take Joy in the Miracle of Creation."

Margaret, the founder of Writer's Unite to Fight Cancer also helped publicize this week's party on her blog. WUFC is sponsoring a writing contest this summer. I'm judging the YA entries along with some other fantastic authors. This is your chance to receive critiques from professional authors and win some recognition, too. If you write, please enter. Deadline is August 15th.

Now, here's. Leesie. Welcome!

Leesie: Thanks, its good to be here. Sorry Michael was so grumpy. He's so into privacy these days.
Angela: What did you think that first day when you walked into physics and there he was sitting in the back row? Were you attracted to him? Love at first sight?
Leesie: Every girl within a fifty-mile radius was attracted to him. Physics wasn't the first time I saw him. Tekoa High School has less than a hundred students. He was in all my classes. So beautiful. So wounded. You know that Kelly Clarkson song, "Beautiful Disaster?" That was Michael. I tried not to stare, but my eyes betrayed me. They searched for him and stuck every time they found him. DeeDee was the first person to talk to him. Poor guy. When he told her to, "get the hell away" from him and caught me staring again, my face flushed hot. At least I had my big, fat physics book to hide behind. My heart raced. I could barely breathe. Yes, I was attracted to him. And when I had to put my book down when class started, he was staring at me.
Angela: A reader wants to know what you favorite line in Taken by Storm is.
Leesie: "I'm much better online than in person." It's so true!
Angela: Michael says you like the new cover.
Leesie: Yeah, it's great. I can imagine myself more in that picture. No faces. Michael complains about the pink sky, but I love it. Have you told them about the posters? They look great.
Angela: Are you writing any new poetry?
Leesie: I wrote a ton on my mission. We had an hour every day to journal, so I wrote every day. I've been too busy lately. I'm taking creative writing, though. That will force me to write.
Angela: Another reader asked how your faith has been tested over the years. Has you faith made things easier or more difficult?
Leesie: Good question. My faith is an integral part of who I am. It caused problems between Michael and me at first, but it made me the girl he fell in love with. If I hadn't been shaped all my life by going to church, praying, and listening for the answers, would I have had anything to offer him in his darkest days just after the hurricane? He didn't know it, but it was my faith that offered him the peace he felt when he was with me. I had the hardest challenges when I felt I was no longer worthy of my faith. When I felt I wasn't good enough to pray anymore. To evil to be forgiven. That was a lie. Michael, who didn't believe, saw that before I did. No matter what happens you can always turn to the Father of us all. His love is constant.
Angela: Okay, this one is a SPOILER ALERT. Readers, if you haven't read all three books, skip this question and ask your own in the comments. Ready, Leesie? Michael filled us in on your immediate future plans. A reader asked how many kids you guys want to have. Michael said you want 20! True?
Leesie: If they all look like Michael, I'd have twenty kids in a heartbeat. My Mom had a hard time getting pregnant after me and Phil. I don't know if I'll have the same problem later. So far--that hasn't been an issue for us.
Angela: Are you making an announcement?
Leesie: No. It's too soon to go public--but feel free to read between the lines. I'll just say I recently dropped my 8:00 a.m. class. Mornings are yucky.
Angela: So this is way to early for you. We'll leave it at that then. Go back to bed and get some rest. Eat soda crackers.
Leesie: Okay, thanks. I'll stop by later if anyone has more questions.
Angela: Thanks so much for being here, Leesie. Everyone here loves you and wants to wish you and Michael a long and happy forever together.
Leesie: Now you're going to make me cry. I'm so emotional these days. Bye!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cut Scenes from TAKEN BY STORM!

Welcome to day three of the Tenth Anniversary Celebration! Today is the epic 50 Blogs in a Day Promo Blast sponsored by Reading Addiction Blog Tours. I'm incredibly excited. A big, warm, howdy, to any new friends who've found our party today. Don't be shy. Make yourself at home. Be sure to enter the big giveaway!  Download the new Kindle Taken by Storm ebook for only $0.99. And through Friday, July 20th at midnight get Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer free. They will be on sale for $0.99 after the promo.

I'd like to thank all the bloggers who've celebrated with me this week on their blogs and helped promote the contest and Kindle deals. You are marvelous. Today I want to send you to Blkosiner's Book Blog! Brandi has been such an incredible support. She's promo'd the celebration and posted a letter I wrote to my teen self. You must, must, must go find out how that letter connects with Taken by Storm. (And get a peak at what I'll be working on this fall.)

Thanks to those of you who stopped by and chatted with Michael yesterday. He's a guy, so he said he hated it, but I think he's lying. He promised to answer questions all week so keep them coming. Leesie will be here tomorrow. Today, I'm posting my favorite cut scenes from Taken by Storm.

When I sold Taken by Storm to Penguin, it was 87,000 words. They wanted 60,000. My editor's letter was a roadmap of cuts. Some of the scenes found a new life in Unbroken Connection. But some ended up shelved on my hard drive. Here are a few of my favorites.

Cut Scene #1: "The Porch Swing"
At my grandmother’s house in Tekoa (that I loaned to Michael’s gram for the duration of the Michael/Leesie saga), there was an old porch swing on the breezeway between the back door and the garage. My sister and her boyfriend were always hanging out on it. I loved to sit there, too. The soft sway and cushy seats brought immediate peace and comfort. After creating such a nightmare for Michael, I was desperate to comfort him. He needed to grieve, so I let him in the following scene. I love this scene, but it had to go because it came way too early in the novel. Those tears had to wait. His inability to shed them added to the tension in his relationship with Leesie and within himself. When he finally does sob in Leesie’s arms, it has way more power.

This scene took place the day after Michael goes free diving in the town’s swimming pool, and Leesie gets soaked saving him. It would fit in between Chapter 13 and 14.

Michael’s Dive Log – Volume #8
Dive Buddy:  Leesie Date:  10/7 Dive #:  4 with her
Location:  Teacup
Dive Site:  Gram’s porch swing
Weather Condition: sunny Water Condition: heavy
Depth: drowning Visibility: too clear Water Temp.: cold
Bottom Time: 41 minutes

    By morning, i can’t keep my eyes open. i stumble to Dad’s old room, fall into his bed, wrap in the pants quilt. i sleep with sunlight warm on my eyelids and dream Mom and Dad  diving Bloody Bay wall.
    They fin along the wall with sun beaming down in shafts through a hundred feet of clear water. They find a crevice in the coral and swim through a shady tunnel pierced with Caribbean  sunshine that filters down from the top of the reef. Dad has his yellow dive light out, flashing it in all the dark corners. He finds a crab and a sleepy eel. They break through onto the top of the wall, in about thirty feet of water, where the reef, red, orange, yellow, green, flapping and wavering, shimmers vivid. Bright. Nothing masked in deep water bluing. Angels and parrots. Tiny blue chromis. Mom’s favorites. A massive lobster, brilliant orange and red, camouflaged in the lush coral garden. Remembered joy of being there with them trickles into my bruised soul. i wake up, my face wet.
    i’m not there.
    In the dream.
    i’m not with them anymore.
    Late afternoon, the doorbell rings. i hear it from my room.
    “Why, Leesie, it’s lovely to see you again.”
    She’s standing right outside the door. i roll out of bed, dizzy, slide pants on, grab my fleece, stumble into the kitchen.
    “I made this for you. And, Michael.” She pushes something at Gram. Leaving. No—
    “Leesie?” i step around Gram.
    “Hey.” Her eyes take in my greasy, matted hair, the stubble on my cheeks. i probably have dried spit on my chin.
     “I brought you an apple pie.” She gives me her grin that makes her gorgeous. “Made it myself.” Her eyes look watery.
    “You make pies?” Her hand holding the edge of the pie plate wears four scabs that fit my fingernails.
    “My church is like homemaker boot camp.” The smile fades.
    i swallow the thickness that starts in my throat. “Can you stay?”
    “Gee, I’m supposed to—”
    “Never mind.” i don’t blame her. i’m psycho—reek like an entire locker room of guys.
    “Just let me make a call.”
    i stand there dull-witted, waiting for her to pull a cell out of her backpack, takes me a minute to realize she doesn’t have one. i open the door wider, point to the phone on the table in the living room. She dials, cradles the phone between her head and shoulder, picks up the photo of me and my parents. “Can you have Phil pick me up on the way? I’m at Mrs. Walden’s. Thanks. Bye.” She puts the picture down.
    Gram pounces. “What can I get you, dear?”
    “I’m fine, thank you.” Her eyes dart from me to Gram, back to me. “It’s sunny out.  Want to sit on the porch?”
    More thawing? i hold the door open, catch a whiff of Leesie’s leather jacket and tropical fruit scented hair as she drifts by me and perches on Gram’s porch swing. i ease down beside her like a broken old man. Leesie doesn’t say anything, just takes my hand, holds it in both of hers again. Her short fingers, pale and chapped, contrast with my long, tan ones.
    i touch the thin scabs on the back of her right hand. “Does it hurt?”
    “Kind of sore.”
    “Might leave scars.”
    “I don’t mind.”
    “Hands are like that.” i show her the scar on my thumb. “i broke a glass and cut myself when i was four. Really deep. Needed stitches. i kept sucking on it. Got all infected. i remember my mom soaking it in salt water. Ancient Mayan remedy.”
    “Maybe I should try that.”
    “Might help.” Makes me sad to think my brand won’t last. That she’ll get over it. Heal. i wish i could soak in salt water. Maybe i could dump a box in Gram’s pink bathtub, get the taste of salt on my skin again.
    i put my head back on the swing’s seventies green floral cushions and close my eyes. “Did you ever see your grandmother again?”
    “Just that once. It was enough.”
    “Could you make her come back?”
    “No.” Leesie shakes her head. “Stuff like that—the Lord sends it when you need it and then you have to remember.”
    i keep the swing going, pushing off with my feet every once in awhile. The scent of her cradles me. i open my eyes, look down at her. “Did you do some voodoo on me?”
    “No. Just plain old, every day prayers.”
    Did i want her praying at me? Did she make me dream my parents like that?
    “Have you seen a doctor?”
    “Gram tried to arrange something.” i put my foot down, stop the swing. “They gave me drugs in Belize. Wish i had more.”
    “Drugs?” Leesie sits up straighter. “Maybe you could just try getting out of bed each morning, going to school.”
    “What’s the point? Will going to school bring them back? i need the water, need to go under again.”
    “The pool’s covered now.”
    “Let’s go back to your lake. i’ll bring the seven mil.”
    “The storm washed out the road.”
    “Do you think there’s a scuba shop in Spokane? They’ll know about indoor pools. Deep ones.”
    “Stop it.” Leesie gives my hand a shake. “You’re scaring me.”
    “i should be dead. Everybody else is.”
    “Don’t.” She rests her head on my shoulder.
    “i’m trained to go without breathing so i survived. My body was used to it. My mom drowned. My dad didn’t have a chance, but my mom—” My voice cracks.
Leesie squeezes my hand, and i put my arms around her, hold her tight like she’s a living, breathing mangrove buddy.
    “Why didn’t i go to Mom? Grab her? Bring her with me.”
    Leesie’s thin body presses against mine. Is that her heart? Can’t be me. i don’t think i have one left.
    “Hey, hey. Hush.” Her voice is soft, kind of mewing. “No one blames you. It was a hurricane. She knows you didn’t mean it.”
    Knows? Right. Maybe she knew. Maybe when she was fighting for her life in the water Mom thought of me, knew i loved her, even though i’m an ungrateful idiot who saved himself while she drowned. What did she think when she couldn’t get free? When the oxygen ran out and her lungs filled with salt water? She would have blacked out before that. i did when i was ten—she saved me. It wasn’t even scary. Not for me. Still, all i can see is Mom terrified, under the water, breathing it in, sinking, dying.
    Leesie’s wrong. Mom doesn’t know anything anymore.
    i can’t stop the erratic shudders that capture my breathing, the salty drops that seep from my eyes. i fight for control. i don’t want to dissolve into the crazed, tortured sobs that poured out of me when i woke up in the hurricane shelter with Isadore howling again outside. i take a long breath. “i begged them to search the swamp for her.”
    “Hush, now, hush.” Leesie mews into my neck. “It’s not your fault.”
    “It took three days for the helicopter to spot her pink sundress.” Inhale Leesie’s hair, exhale her leather jacket, hold her tighter.
    “Just let it go.” Leesie arms tighten around me and her hands smooth over my back.
    i surrender my cheek on her head and cry.
    She stops with the “shushing,” holds me, and rocks the swing.
   i finally let go of her, move away. i wipe my face with my hands. Hot snot and tears all over me. Pretty gross. “Sorry for that.”
    “It’s okay.” She seems relieved to back off, doesn’t take my hand again.  
    We rock apart, silent, except for the creak of the porch swing. We both jump when the horn honks.
    “Shoot. I gotta go.”
    Not yet. “Online later?” i beg her like a puppy after a bone.
    “Sure.”  Her jerk brother honks again, and she runs to the car.

    Do you think i can get Leesie to move in with me and Gram? She can sleep on the couch or i’ll give her my room. Then i could sit by her all the time and feel her arm pressed against mine, her leg touching mine, her hands holding mine. i could wrap her up in a ball against my chest like a borrowed heart. Inhale her all the time. If Isadore tries to take me, Leesie can bring me back.

Cut Scene #2 - Light of Day
My editor at Razorbill, loved the impossible romance between Michael and Leesie, but she wasn’t all that into scuba diving, so I had to cut a lot of those scenes. You can push back to a certain extent and fight for what you think is important. I revised and saved a few crucial ones.

There are a few things, though, that almost every editor or agent out there dislike.

Moralizing. You can't tidy up all the loose ends and pin a didactic lesson onto your story. The major ends must be knotted. Don’t confuse the reader. But leave how the character grew or what the character learned to your reader to decide. Devise scenes that test your character and shows how they’ve changed. Readers--and editors--love that.

Prologues. This is kind of a myth. Kind of a truth. Some editors loathe prologues. Some love them. I don’t write prologues. But take a look at both of my novels first chapters. What do you see? They both start with a prologue. My editor likes prologues. The truth is, sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. I think it’s best to leave them out and start in media res with a first chapter scene that gets things moving with a bang. That’s just my preference. Not right or wrong.

Pancakes Scenes. Almost every writer sticks a scene where the characters eat pancakes into his/her novel. It’s kind of a universal reflex--like the campfire scene in Western movies. They are so ubiquitous that they’ve become an industry shibboleth. Books with pancake scenes will not be invited to the party. So, beware, if writers have a cozy breakfast scene where the characters delve deeply into life and love and the meaning of the universe over pancakes, waffles, French toast, or even eggs and bacon, they need to cut it quickly. Even if they love it to death. Save the meat of the scene and put that heart and poignant dialogue into a different time and setting. (Like a campfire! They are still fine.)

I knew this. But still. My scene wasn’t actually a breakfast scene. It was lunch. And they ate Gram’s signature French Toast. (Let me know if you want the recipe!) And it was so achingly tender. My editor’s reaction, “Cut the pancakes with grandma.”  Ah, my poor beautiful scene. I hated to see it go.

So here it is, in all it’s glory. It would have gone somewhere around Chapter 17--first time they see each other after their first kiss turned into a first make-out. The dialogue in this scene became a chat. I like it so much better with French Toast!

Michael’s Dive Log – Volume #8
Dive Buddy:  Leesie Date:  10/8 Dive #: six with her
Location:  Teacup
Dive Site:  Gram’s
Weather Condition: partly cloudy Water Condition: dry
Depth:  shifting Visibility: murky Water Temp.: warm  
Bottom Time: didn’t look at my watch

    i felt so strong with Leesie trembling in my arms. Stan would be proud. At school she comes off as ultra-confident Miss Perfect, the Ice Queen. She’s anything but. i told her i’d look out for her. From now on, no guy will touch her. i promised. She’s got all that screwy religious crap to deal with. i don’t even care. i can hardly believe i made out with her. A few days ago, i couldn’t even take her hand.
    When i got home last night, i slept forever. Sleeping Beauty in reverse. My mind filled with empty water. No rays flying by, no morays snapping slow motion. Not even a grunt or two darting through coral ledges. Just deep, blue water.
    Bodies floated up from the abyss—my dad bloated and strange, my mom wrapped in her sundress shroud, Dive Dog and the other club guys, even the waitress. i was in there on scuba, took a drag on the reg. No air. i searched for a buddy, and Leesie swam towards me wearing her funky leather jacket and faded jeans, holding out her hand. i reached for her and woke up.
    Almost lunch time. Too late for school. i try to go back to sleep, find where Leesie and i go in that dream. No chance. i lay in bed thinking about her. It felt so good to make out with her, hold her, care about something, someone, but maybe it’s weird to be doing that. Where does losing yourself with a girl come in the grief cycle? It’s a hell of a lot better than Mr. Frozen, but still. Maybe she’s right.
    She could shave her head and gain twenty pounds. Then that might work. i ache for her, physical. Normal. Is that fair? Should i be allowed the soothing, safe feeling i get with her? The—what’s her word for it—frustration. Why do i get to be safe, turned on, maybe even happy? My parents are dead.
i finally give it up, get out of bed, stand in the shower, get dressed. Gram is at it again with the French toast.
    i wander into the kitchen. It smells great. Maybe i’ll try a slice. Leesie’s pie sits on the counter. Her fingers created all those perfect pinch marks around the edge. Her hands sprinkled sugar on the top.     Maybe she breathed magic Leesie dust on it.
    The telephone rings.
    Let it be her.
    Gram picks it up. “He won’t be in class again today. That’s right.”
    School secretary.
    “I don’t care what you think. He’s grieving, young lady.”
    She hangs up, but the principal calls right back. Gram goes into the other room, talks for a few minutes, and then comes back to the kitchen, throws a piece of bread into the egg mixture. “He says you should try to go on with your normal life.”
    i let out a snort.
    “They’re getting a counselor to come down from Spokane to talk to you.”
    Great. Some pushy, prying loser i’ll have to spill my guts to.
    A soft knock comes from the kitchen door. i beat Gram to it. “Hey, it’s the Leesie fairy.” i’m actually smiling. Should i be smiling?
    Leesie freezes, blushes, drops her eyes. “I brought your homework.”
    Gram’s silver head peaks around my shoulder. “Come in, dear. We’re having breakfast for lunch. French toast. Or maybe you’d like a nice tuna sandwich.”
    Leesie smiles at the tuna, agrees to join me for French toast. We sit at Gram’s tiny melamine table for two. i stare at Leesie’s dolphin necklace.
    Gram bustles around the kitchen with her apron on. She comes to the table and sets a plate of toast in front of each of us.
    i douse my plate with maple syrup.
    “Tea for you, dear?” Gram asks Leesie.
    “No thank you. I can’t drink tea.” i can tell Leesie feels bad checking Gram’s bustle. Leesie smiles politely. “Would you have any mint for an infusion?”
    “Mint tea?” The bustle’s back. “I’ve got cubes down in the freezer. I’ll just be a minute.” Gram bustles right out of the room.
    “What are you two talking about?” i put a forkful of French toast in my mouth.
    “Best way to save fresh mint.” She stares at her plate. Deep flush. “Thought maybe you’d be at school this morning.”
    i swallow and cut another piece.
    “i got to go this afternoon. Come with?”
    “Maybe next week.” i tell her about the snotty secretary and the principal with his counselor. “Guess i should be dressed in black or something. ‘Get on with my normal life.’ That’s rich.”
    “He’s not the brightest principal on the block. i know that counselor. She visits the small schools around here. She gives the IQ tests, too.”
    A drop of buttery syrup oozes down my chin. Leesie reaches across the tiny table, wipes it off with her napkin. i catch her hand.
    She laces her fingers through mine.
    i lean across the table and kiss her. She tries to kiss me back, but i dodge it. “And you’re supposed to be the prissy one.” i untangle my hand from hers and tip back in the chair, balancing on two legs, fold my arms across my chest.
    “What’d I do now? Is my breath gross?”
     “i’ve been thinking about last night.”
    “Me, too.” She sighs. “I can’t stop thinking about last night.”
    i let my chair drop back onto four legs and lean my elbows on the table. “Do you think it’s sick that my parents are dead, i can’t eat, i’m so wasted that i lie in bed staring at a crack in the wall too tired to sleep, too tired to get up, and all i want to do is make out with you?”
    The smile fades from Leesie’s face. “You make it sound nasty.”
    My face drops into my hands. i look back up at her. “You are the only thing i’ve really wanted since Isadore. Is there something wrong with that? Do you think it’s”--i search for the right word-- “disrespectful?”
    She pushes away her plate. “I get the hint. Light of day. Second thoughts. You pressed me, you know.”
    “That’s not—”
    Gram walks in holding up a bag of green ice cubes. “They were clear at the bottom, but I found them.”
    “I’m sorry, Mrs. Walden.” Leesie stands up. “I have to go.”

Cut Scene #3 - "Replacement Gear"
When I was at VCFA getting my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and Tim Wynne-Jones used to tell another writer in workshop, “What we have here is an embarrassment of riches,” I was always so jealous. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful problem to suffer from? I thought Tim meant this piece is so wonderful the rest of you should be embarrassed because you have no riches whatsoever, but Tim was trying to teach us an important lesson.

When I was cutting Taken by Storm with Lexa, his point finally hit home. You CAN have too much of a good thing. These are the hardest "darlings" to kill.

I gave Michael two invested objects to remind him of his mother--the gardenia perfume that those of you who have read Taken by Storm will remember from the ending and a lone white sandal with gold seashell charms sewn across the toe. Michael’s mother can only find one when they are in Belize. Michael found the other when he returned to their FL Keys condo with Leesie. Both were great details. But one could do the job. Having two objects made them both less powerful. I had to choose. I loved the sandals--especially when Michael carried around the one he found all day and slept with it on his nightstand, but scents were so integral to Michael’s feelings for Leesie, that I chose the perfume.

I also had Michael receive two separate mysterious shipments after his parents were killed. A shipment of replacement scuba gear from his parents dive insurance policy and the two white boxes that Michael finds in Gram’s basement that bring him and Leesie back together. Those mysterious white boxes had to stay, so this scene that shows Michael grieving got axed. (Yikes, I also have a second shower scene--this poor scene had competition coming and going.) When one of my reviewers wrote that Michael’s mourning wasn’t authentic, I mourned for this scene! “Replacement Gear” fits in after Chapter 23. For the Razorbill revision, I rewrote 24 and 25 pretty much from the ground up. This was part of the old chapters.

Michael’s Dive Log – Volume #8
Dive Buddy: Gram and Leesie Date: 11/11 Dive #: 1 in the shower
Location:  Teacup
Dive Site:  Gram’s
Weather Condition: Snowing Water Condition: showers
Depth:  1” Visibility:  inward Water Temp.:  started out hot
Bottom Time: all evening

    Leesie has church again. She asks me if i want to go. Again. “We’re working at the food bank tonight.”
    “Good for you, babe.”
    “Well, it is. And a nice service project would be good for you, too.”
    “We try to do service projects like this regularly. Wouldn’t you like to come help us next time we mow an old lady’s lawn?”
    “i’ve got my own old lady to look out for.”
    “Good idea. Let’s clean up her garden in the spring. Shoot, we could get started Saturday if the snow doesn’t stick. You want me to bring reinforcements?”
    “No.” i don’t want her churchy friends crawling all over the place, giving me dirty looks. “i’m not a gardener.” A great Mexican family used to keep our Phoenix desertscape yard trimmed and tidy. i wonder if they still do. They were like part of the family. At Christmas they always brought us great food. i’d like to see them again.
     “i’m good with pools,” i call after Leesie as she heads out the door. “Next time you have a pool cleaning project count me in.”
    Not long after she takes off to find Phil, Gram’s front door bell rings. No one ever uses that entrance. Gram opens it to a delivery guy dipped in brown. She directs him to bring his dolly loaded with boxes to the kitchen door. Gram signs. i ferry them into the living room, notice the return address is Stan.
    Gram counts them up. “Seven. What do you suppose it is?” She goes into the kitchen to get something to cut through the packing tape.  
    i don’t want to open anything. Maybe Stan had our cleaning girl pack up my room. i picture her emptying my closet, bookcases, trying to sort through the garbage under the bed.  My desk. i don’t want anybody in there. Even worse, it could be Mom and Dad’s stuff. Dad’s sweat-stained baseball caps. Mom’s clothes with her gardenia perfume still on them. i’d need more than my stupid itinerant counselor for that. Please pass a big bottle of tiny blue pills.
    It could be CDs and books. Family pictures. Mom’s dive log. Her logs are more like scrapbooks. She wrote up every detail about each dive, listed the coral formations, fish species. She made Dad print photos for her and taped them to the page—worked on the thing for hours. i tried to get her to go completely digital with it, but she liked writing it out by hand. Seeing her handwriting again, touching the letters—that would be cool. i really want her dive logs to be in those boxes.
     i wander around the room trying to figure it out. Sit on the couch. Stare. When i go into the kitchen to get a knife, Gram is on the phone.
    “Don’t use that.” She takes a big butcher’s knife away from me, rummages through her junk drawer, hands me a box cutter. She hangs up the phone. “Why don’t you wait.  Leesie’s on the way.”
    So she can watch me dissolve into a sniveling wimp when i can’t handle what’s in the boxes? “Thanks.”
    i choose the biggest one first, slit the tape, pry open the flaps. Packing peanuts spill all over Gram’s rug when I lift out a huge Mylar vest with Velcro straps, hoses, and belts hanging off it. It’s exactly like my dad’s B.C. XXL. Weight-integrated. Black. All it needs is the jumble of clips and gadgets Dad collected so he could rig his gear just so. The next one is Mom’s. Pink pockets. Shaped for a woman. Tiny. Easy to pack. The last B.C. is a new version of the basic vest i dive with. Nothing fancy. i barely use a B.C. when i dive. Lean body. Breath control. Keep the thing simple. Like my weight belt.
    i open the remaining boxes one after the other. More and more gear. Giant Sporasub free dive fins for me. Dad’s heavy split fins. His prescription mask. Mom’s pink gloves. Her wet suit with the hot pink V down the front. Booties. Dive computers. An ocean of white packing foam.
    “What’s all this?” Leesie stands in the doorway from the kitchen, surveying my mess.
    “Thought you had church.”
    “I’m skipping. My mom’s ticked.” She walks into the middle of the room “What’s happening?”
    “i’m not sure. i need to call Stan.”
    “You bought new scuba stuff?”
    “No. Why would i do that here?”
    Gram comes in from the kitchen. “Stan’s working on all the insurance claims.”
So she did talk to him behind my back. If Leesie weren’t there, i would have had it out with Gram. What else does she know? What else is Stan doing? Is the news about Dad gruesome? Stupid Stan. If he thinks it’s too gruesome for me, it’s way too gruesome for Gram. No wonder she still breaks down a dozen times a day.
    “What does gear have to do with insurance? i’m still calling him.” i search my wallet for Stan’s card. Leesie brings me the phone, holds my hand when i finished dialing.
     i rub my thumb across the four scars on the back of Leesie’s hand, fit my fingernails into them. The phone rings three times and then goes to voice mail. i hang up. What was i thinking? It’s too late for the office on the East coast. i toss Stan’s card on the coffee table.
    Leesie squeezes my hand. Gram slips back into the kitchen.
    i press my face into Leesie’s hair, pack her tropical fruit spiked essence into my gut and chest, throat and head. i let go of her, move away, pick up Dad’s giant scuba vest, and cradle it in my arms. “This was my dad’s B.C.” i swallow hard, fight to keep my voice steady. “That was my mom’s.” i point. “It’s not really their gear, but it’s all the exact same stuff.”
    i stare at the expensive mountain that overwhelms Gram’s small living room. “Brand new force fins.” i put down Dad’s B.C and pick them up. “Yellow. Only thing my mom had that wasn’t pink. She loved those.” i sniff, swipe at my nose with the back of my hand, meet Leesie’s puzzled eyes. “What am i going to do with three sets of scuba gear in a wheat field?”
    “Let’s just pack it back up.” She picks up Mom’s B.C. and drops it in a box. “Gram probably has room in the basement.”
    “No. Don’t touch it.”
    Leesie steps back.
    i take Mom’s B.C. out of the box, place the vest gently on a chair, stroke the pockets. “i want to see it for awhile.” i kneel on the floor in front of it and arrange the hoses.
    Leesie sits on the couch and watches me for a few minutes. She squats down beside me, kisses my cheek and leaves.
    i hear quiet murmurs in the kitchen, the pickup starting up, and the sound of its motor disappearing in the night. i notice Stan’s card lying face down on the coffee table. He wrote his home and cell numbers on the back. i dial the home number first. No answer. Try the cell. It rings five times before i hear Stan’s familiar Brooklyn-ite turned Floridian accent. “Hello. You found me.”
    “Hey, Stan. It’s Michael.” i sink down into the chair by the phone table.
    “Walden.” Great. This guy’s managing my life.
    “Oh, Mikey. i’m sorry. It’s late this side of the country.”
    Good cover, Stan. i clear my throat. “We got the boxes. What’s going on?”
    “Your parents?”
    “And my gear, too.” i stare out at the equipment strewn around the room. “What gives?”
    “Remember last year when the airline lost your dad’s gear bag?”
    “The trip to St. Lucia?” Dad was furious. He had to rent gear. The only XXL B.C. the resort owned hissed air.
    “Exactly. Apparently, Mike added automatic gear replacement to your dive insurance policies. Probably doubled his payments. When i put in a claim for repatriation expenses—”
    Repatriation? i wish Stan would just say what he meant. “You mean transporting their bodies?”
    “Right. You’re a smart boy, Mikey. i found out about the replacement clause and claimed that, too. A cash settlement would have been better. Perhaps you can sell some of it. You need new gear, so i shipped it all. Take what you want and the rest—”
    “i live in a wheat field, Stan.”
    “Aren’t you close to Vancouver? Great wreck diving up there. Dry suit stuff. You should get in to that. Take a friend. You’re not strapped for cash, buddy.”
    Leesie? Could she do it? Dive? Would she?
    Stan didn’t stop talking, “And you’ll be back to the condo.”
    “Don’t sell it.” If Stan sells the condo, i’ll kill him.
    “The condo? We’re not selling anything until the will’s been probated. That’ll take at least a year—nine months if we’re lucky.”
    So the house in Phoenix will just sit there? i stand up, drift to the center of the room. i put a hand on Dad’s B.C, pick up Mom’s yellow flipper.
    “Mikey, are you still there?”
    i close my eyes. “Stan, what about my parents?”
    “Did that shipment get there?”
    Stan doesn’t get it. “There were seven boxes. Their gear came, too. i told you that.” But where are my parents?
    Stan interrupts before i can nerve myself to ask again. “I need to talk to your grandmother.”
    i walk into the kitchen and give Gram the phone. “Yes.” Her lips begin to tremble. “That shipment arrived.” Her face slides out of her control. Why would dive gear tear her up like that? It’s just a mound of strange equipment to her. Why is Stan doing this?
    i take the phone. “It’s all here, okay.” And hang up.
   Gram disappears into her room to cry. i’m alone with all that gear and still have no clue about what Stan did with my parents. At least he “repatriated” Dad. No more fish food. So, now, where are they?
    i start sifting through the boxes, searching. i attach Mom’s snorkel to the mask, hook her regs to the B.C. i blow gently into the inflator hose, fill the vest so it stands by itself. i assemble all her gear—the wet suit, gloves, booties, goofy yellow duck fins. Is Leesie’s poem right in front of me? She comes to me?  i activate Mom’s dive computer thinking all our dives from Belize will be in the electronic log. But it’s brand spanking new empty.
    i organize Dad’s gear, too. His big blue and black wetsuit, long split fins. The B.C. and his mask. I put his B.C. on and stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. XXL. Way big.
    i put on my replacement wetsuit, gloves, booties, B.C., mask and snorkel and stand in the shower. Soak it good. My dive computer’s a state-of-the-art air-integrated model, water activated. So i take it into the shower, too. Let the water run over me while i scroll through the empty logbook.
    Standing wet in that shower dressed out in scuba gear, i want my mom to come to me. i want my dad to pick us up in a tangle and toss us on the bed. i want six-year-old me to laugh. “Again. Again.”
    i want our life.
    i stand there, waiting.
    Until the water runs cold.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Q & A with Michael LIVE!!!

Day Two of our Anniversary Party! The response so far has been phenomenal. It's fantastic to hear again from so many of you. If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, get on it!  Remember, Taken by Storm's Kindle ebook is only $ .99Also this week only, Unbroken Connection (Book 2) and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The free promotion ends Friday, July 20th. Don't own a Kindle? Download free Kindle apps for your laptop, tablet, iTouch, or phoneTomorrow is the whirlwind 50 blog promo blast. But today, brace yourselves, Michael is here to answer questions. 

Angela: Welcome to the blog, Michael. Thanks for dropping by.
Michael: Least I can do. You're throwing this party for us. Guess I should show up.
Angela: The first question we have from a reader is, "Are you still as cute as ever?"
Michael: Uhhh . . . freak, what am I supposed to say to that?
Angela: He's blushing, girls. And it's very cute. Okay, next question. Taken by Storm has had three different covers. Which one is your favorite?

Michael: Leesie loves the new one. I don't know. The pink sky isn't really me. Have you guys ever seen the first cover design from Razorbill? No? Here. Take a look. 
Leesie really hated this one. We both liked the water-stained chapbook idea, but she threw a fit because the girl is wearing a sleeveless top. The wimpy guy looks like he starred in a 70s sit-com. And we both thought the scrapbook elements were way too cartoon for our story. 

Angela fought for changes. She thought the picture on the final hardcover jacket was so much better than the first one that she shut up when they sent that one. I don't know. I just have way better hair than that guy. And the chick has bleached blonde hair and a receding hairline. Seriously. Leesie is way prettier than that. 

I liked the blue one with storm clouds best. You've never seen it? Take a look. It still has that freaky couple and you can see that the girl's shirt is nothing that Leesie would ever wear, but I love the dark clouds and the smoky gray blue of it. We thought this was going on the paperback. Big surprise when that purple thing showed up. 
Angela: Remember the picture I wanted for the paperback cover?
Michael: Yeah. That was sweet. Do you have it?
Angela: Of course. This is the first time I've ever showed it on the blog. 
Michael: Cool. Drum roll . . . 

Michael: Add the clouds from the blue one and that would have been perfect. Why didn't you use it for the new cover?
Angela: I tried. I emailed the photographer, and he never wrote back. Then I found the new picture and liked it even better. It reminded me of you and Leesie at the lake on your first date. Ready for another question?
Michael: Shoot.
Angela: Readers keep asking me to write another book about you and Leesie. Would you like that?
Michael: No way. People, this woman is maniacal. Did you see what she did to us in the other books? We've had enough drama, thank you. Leave us alone!
Angela: Okay, this next question is from a reader who just finished Unbroken Connection. She's kind of mad at you. Here it is in her words. (Minor spoiler alert!) She says, "I would like to ask Michael...WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!!" 
Michael: Nice.
Angela: Shhh. She's just getting started. "From what I read in Unbroken Connection Leesie is trying to have you converted so that you guys may get married in the temple but nooo . . . URG!! Would you do it over again? If you love her so then why don't you at least try to read up on her religion not just go listen to the missionaries because she asked but for yourself??" 
Michael: Freak, she totally nailed me. I admit it. I was a huge jerk. Give me a chance to make up for it. Read Cayman Summer
Angela: Readers, this next question is a major spoiler alert! Don't read it unless you've finished reading Cayman Summer and are dying to hear about Michael and Leesie's plans for the future. This reader wants to know how many kids you have and where you are living.
Michael: I refer all baby questions to Leesie. Who knew she was so obsessed with them?Every time she sees one she goes nuts. She wants like twenty. I like kids, but 20? When I was in Brazil on my mission, I taught the music to kids at church. Yeah, I was a disaster, but the kids were fun. Leesie and I are still at school in Provo. Leesie will graduate from BYU in April. Then I'm going to transfer to a school in Florida so I can do marine biology. We'll be close enough to the condo to zip down to the Keys weekends and dive. I'm going nuts landlocked. On my mission, I couldn't even swim. At Christmas, I'm taking Leesie back to the Caymans so we can see Aunty Jazz, all our friends at the branch, and dive our brains out with the guys at East End. Three years later and they are all still working there. Freak. So much has happened to Leesie and me since then.
Angela: Okay, enough questions for now. We'll give you a break. Readers, if you have questions for Michael, ask them in the comments, and he'll drop by all this week and answer them.
Michael: All this week? 
Angela: Right. It's the least you can do, remember?
Michael: Sure. Okay, later then.

Monday, July 16, 2012

10th Anniversary CONTEST!!!

Welcome, welcome to my 10th Anniversary Celebration. It's going to be a blast! Ten years ago this week, Taken by Storm's scuba-diving hero, Michael, swam out of my brain and onto my page.  

I'm kicking off the party today with a big contest for US Readers and a separate contest for my international readers. (See details below. This one is huge!!)

Plus, this week you can snag Taken by Storm's Kindle ebook for only $ .99
Also this week only, Unbroken Connection (Book 2) and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The free promotion ends Friday, July 20th. Don't own a Kindle? Download free Kindle apps for your laptop, tablet, iTouch, or phone.

Free bookmarks for all!! I just ordered updated bookmarks. Everyone who enters the contests will receive some to share with blog followers and friends.

In Taken by Storm, Mormon girl Leesie has life figured out until devastated Michael lands in her small town high school. He needs her like no one has before. A rare journey into a faithful LDS teen’s intimate struggle. 

from Taken by Storm . . .

I’m lost to his firm chest,
his slender fingertips, his long wavy hair,
his mouth sucking my bottom lip—
The world spins, the stars shift,
and I can’t see anything except his smoky
gray eyes gazing into mine.
You scare me, whispers
from my mouth across his.
Good, he breathes into me.
I need you to save me.

"[Morrison] handles the topics of religion and premarital sex gracefully without passing judgment. The message has less to do with religion than learning to respect and cherish others while staying true to one’s own beliefs.”  – Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Brand new paperback and reformatted ebook with fully scalable fonts. Includes bonus, never-before-published scene, "Airport Good-bye!"

To walk away with super swag or a book of your own, all you have to do is post about the contest or celebration or my books on FaceBook, Twitter, GoodReads, your blog, Pinterest or wherever you hang out online. 

If you don't hang out online anywhere, text, email or phone your friends. Or even talk to them, face to face. Word of mouth still works! 

You'll receive one entry for every different place you post.

Then using the comment section below, enter your email address and tell me where you posted, paste links if you can.

Anyone who posts a review on the Kindle Store page of TAKEN BY STORM, UNBROKEN CONNECTION, or CAYMAN SUMMER gets a huge hug, thank you, and an extra entry for each review.

I'm having a live Q&A with Michael on Tuesday and Leesie on Thursday. Everyone who asks a question in the comments below or shows up and asks a question sometime this week (before July 20) gets an extra entry. (They promised to stop back in and answer new questions throughout the week.)

You can also score an extra entry if you like my FaceBook page! Or, for those of you who are already loyal fans, like a post. Be sure to tell me about it in the comments.

I know many of you have all the books already, so for this contest I got lots of great swag. I hope everyone wins something. The books do make great gifts and blog prizes. One prize per person. I'll draw the book prizes first. Let me know if you want all your entries to go for swag prizes.

Everyone who enters will get bookmarks. I'll email you for your address.


8 will win TAKEN BY STORM T-Shirts

8 will win TAKEN BY STORM Keychains

4 will win TAKEN BY STORM notebooks

5 will win TAKEN BY STORM Posters

1 will win TAKEN BY STORM Tote bag


10 will win signed new TAKEN BY STORM paperback

2 will win signed UNBROKEN CONNECTION paperback

2 will win signed CAYMAN SUMMER paperback

1 will win signed THREE BOOK STORM SET
(with new paperback)

1 will win signed First Edition hardcover TAKEN BY STORM

International Contest
I love all my international readers and have always included you in all my contests, but the postage to send prizes around the world has become too expensive, so I'm holding a separate contest for you.

The rules to enter and get extra entries are the same as the US Contest.

BOOKMARKS - I'm happy to mail everyone who enters bookmarks to share!

10 winners will receive coupon for a FREE TAKEN BY STORM ebook.

2 winners will receive TAKEN BY STORM paperback shipped from Book Depository. (Please check the list of countries they ship, too. This prize is only available to readers in those countries.) 

Please tell me that you are an international reader in the comments below. If you have an international address and don't tell me, you will be disqualified from both contests. If you have an US address I can ship to, you can enter the US contest.


To give lots of time for your friends and followers to enter, the contest will run through July 31st, midnight AZ time. Winners will be announced August 2.