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  • Stephanie Cardel

'Tis the Season (To Let Go)

Updated: Mar 25, 2019


Last December, my Young Adult Contemporary manuscript went out on submission to publishers. I had such high hopes. We had a couple of bites, but no offers. I knew it would be a hard sell. It has a Christian main character with an atheist boyfriend. It's not clean enough for Christian publishers and too Christian for mainstream publishers. This December, we have decided to shelve it and prepare a different manuscript for submission. Maybe once I have a fan base, a publisher will be willing to take a chance on this one. I wanted to give you a taste before I let it go.


Please enjoy the first page of This Isn't Shakespeare:

I sit between Cal’s legs on the warm hood of my green Taurus and gaze at the endless summer sky. My back rests against his chest, but my heart sticks in my throat when I remember it’s our last night. We watch the heavens fade to black, a darkness that could swallow us whole if gravity reversed. I feel like it will reverse when he leaves tomorrow.

“Make a wish,” I say, when the first star of the night winks at us. I wish for him to have a great first week at college and turn my eyes to the pale crescent moon.

Twenty-one days before I see him again. Four hours away.

Maybe it wouldn’t seem so awful if we hadn’t spent every spare minute together since we made up in July. Or if he had a real cell phone and not the crappy one without a plan that I gave him as a going away gift. At least, I’ll get to hear his voice until the minutes run out.

Senior year is looking bleak.

I can’t think about that though. I can’t even imagine it. I close my eyes against the tears and focus on right now. My body rises and falls as he breathes and I lose myself in the perfectness of being here in this moment, his heat flooding my back. A moment that tastes of forever and happily-ever-after.

Then I ruin it.

“How can you look at that sky and not believe in God?”

He twirls a strand of my long brown hair around his finger. “Stace…” There’s a tiny warning there. He won’t be dragged into that conversation again.

The reminder starts to crimp the edges of the perfectness.

Before the frown has time to fully form on my face, he presses his cheek to mine and hums the old Journey song that was playing when we met. A peace offering. I relax back into him and smile. We are completely in sync in so many other ways. He kisses my shoulder, then slips his hands beneath my shirt to my bare stomach and the moment is all poetic again.

Then he ruins it by sliding his fingertips inside the waistband of my blue jean shorts.





This Month's Writing Tip: Of Commas and Semi-Colons

Which one to use, a comma or a semi-colon? It’s simple, really. You only use a semi-colon when the second half of the sentence can stand alone. In other words, if both halves of the sentence have their own subject and verb but are related, you can use a semi-colon. You can also split it into two sentences with periods. Example: Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow. If you use a conjunction (and, but, for, or, so) you use a comma. Example: Mary had a little lamb, and its fleece was white as snow. Or if the clauses can't stand alone, then the conjunction acts like a comma. Example: Mary’s lamb had fleece white as snow and a nose as black as coal. What makes this grammar rule confusing is that there is an exception to this rule. If the clauses are short and conversational, it’s okay to use a comma instead of a semi-colon. Example: Mary loved him, he was so sweet. (When in doubt, do what I do, re-write the sentence! Ha!)


QUERY TIP:

In your closing, list your social media and/or website links. Agents want to see the types of things that you post. An agent relationship is a partnership and friendship. If they can relate to your posts, or they make them laugh, maybe your writing will too. They also want to know how well you have begun to market yourself. It’s okay if you don’t have a website yet, but you probably should have a Twitter or Instagram account. Publishers perk up to writers with large followings.


Book Reviews:

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

GLITTER By Aprilynne Pike

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Aprilynne Pike comes a truly original new novel—Breaking Bad meets Marie Antoinette in a near-future world where the residents of Versailles live like it’s the eighteenth century and an almost-queen turns to drug dealing to save her own life.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play, and blackmails the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny.

Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates. Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Dani can sell Glitter for more money than she ever dreamed.

This setting is so unique. It’s futuristic science fiction juxtaposed with historical French court of the 1800’s. What a concept! Robot maids dress Danica in her corset and wigs. At first, the clear villain is the king, Justin. Danica watches him murder a young girl as he rapes her. She wants no part in being his Queen, but the social status perks for her family make her at least consider it. And we do see a nicer side to Justin. But then, Danica discovers how much it will cost to escape and willing gets her friends addicted to this drug. It flips the narrative. Danica becomes the self-seeking villain. I was kind of hoping she’d get caught. I’m hoping she redeems herself in the sequel, but I haven’t read it yet to find out. Even though this ends on a cliffhanger, by the end, I was angry with her, which gave me mixed feelings about reading the sequel. Aprilynne Pike is one of my favorites, so I suspect I will read the sequel if only to marvel at her clever plot twists!


ADULT FICTION

SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE

By Lauren Graham

Set in New York in the 1990’s, twenty-something Franny Banks is a struggling actress trying to land a decent audition and an even more decent part. Like most actors, she pays her rent by waitressing. Franny lives the typical life of a struggling actor as she tries to balance finding a good agent, going to auditions, standing out in her acting class, and keeping her disliked, if much-needed, job while worrying about the looming self-imposed deadline of three years to make it on Broadway.

I am a big fan of Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. I felt like she put a lot of her own personality into Franny and that’s why I enjoyed this book. It was funny and light--a quick read. I was rooting for her success in acting and in the romance department. It had a realistic, satisfying ending. I recommend it for anyone looking for a light, romantic comedy.


Writer Joke: (Do you get it?)

The sentence was written in the active voice by the boy.

The boy wrote the sentence in the passive voice.


May the joy of the Christmas season overflow in your hearts and lives.