My Search for Beta Readers Begins

So, good news, everyone. I finished that book I was writing. Here are some obligatory celebration gifs:

cheer hooray happy excited celebration

excited seinfeld happy dance exciting celebrate

FOX International Channels reaction dancing happy simpsons

celebration will ferrell paul rudd steve carell anchorman

Alright. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. What’s the book about, you ask? Well here’s a synopsis I wrote in ninety seconds:


Fifteen year old Rosie is dead, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. She lives in an underground facility with the rest of the discovered mutants. It’s not so bad. She’s made herself a favorite of the man in charge, and hopes to take his place when he retires. Then she’ll be free to come and go whenever she pleases.

Nick Slater’s never heard of mutants. He’s just coasting by in a world with constant surveillance and a strict national curfew. He has no friends or self-confidence or any real aspirations, until a fight with another schoolmate opens up some unexpected opportunities.

Charles Nolan is a killer. A kidnapper, really, but in his case there’s not much of a difference. He gives each of his victims to his boss, and none of them ever make it out alive. When Nick ends up on his list of targets, the lives of these three strangers begin to intertwine. The results are world-changing.


(I’m really trying to figure out another way to end that summary besides, “The results are world-changing.” I almost went with catastrophic, but that doesn’t quite apply.)

A few other things about the book:

  • The Anomalies,” is the current title.
  • It’s the beginning of a trilogy, and I’m afraid it feels like too much of a “part one.” I know you’re generally supposed to pitch a book like this as “a stand-alone with series potential,” but that sounds like a lie in my case. We’ll see how it goes.
  • I’m never really sure what genre to label it as. It’s Young Adult, sure, but I don’t know if it’s Sci-fi or Fantasy, or Urban Fantasy, or a combination of them both. Or if it would be classified as Dystopian. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out some time soon.
  • Of course, I should probably make sure the book’s actually, y’know, good, before I start worrying about trying to get published.
  • It’s currently clocked in at at 81,000 words, which would be about 324 pages in paperback form. 
  • I’m also concerned that my characters aren’t interesting enough. think they’re interesting, but I’m biased. 
  • There is a lesbian character in this novel who wasn’t quite important enough to be mentioned in that synopsis above, but is nevertheless very important. (And only gets more important in the next two books.) So if there’s any LGBTQ+ beta readers out there who’d like to help make sure I don’t mess anything up, that would be great.
  • Edit: in retrospect, I should warn that the level of violence and profanity is kinda pushing it a bit for the YA genre. It’s never gratuitous, (IMO, at least) but yeah, it is there.

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit nervous to start sending a whole manuscript out to people, even though I shouldn’t be. After all, I sent the first three chapters of this out to Destructive Readers, a subreddit designed to mercilessly critique samples of your writing. These people did not hold back, and not once were my feelings hurt or my dreams crushed. I know I can handle criticism. I’ve just never had to deal with it on this large of a scale.

Anyway, I’m looking for beta readers. I’ll plan on looking at other sites for them too, but I figured I’d start here. And if anyone wants to send me their own manuscript, I’d be willing to swap critiques with them, too. (As long as it’s a reasonable length.) If you’re interested, please either comment below, or message me at mboyle988@gmail.com.

(Also, what’s the deal with Wattpad?)

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Young Adult Tropes I’m Actually Okay With

People like to bash on the YA genre, and for good reason. I mean, have you read Twilight? I haven’t, but I heard it’s awful.

There’s been a lot of criticisms of the genre that I agree with — the overemphasis on love triangles, the dark and brooding love interests, the Chosen One prophesies — but there are a couple common complaints that I can’t help but feel aren’t actually bad ideas. Such as:

Image result for why you little

1) The Bad/Absentee Parents Trope

“Why can’t we have good, normal, loving parents for once?” people say. “Parents who aren’t dead or abusive or mysteriously disappeared?”

To which I respond: “Now how is that interesting?”

When Harry Potter was battling dementors in The Order of Phoenix, not once did I think to myself, “Man, I really wish his parents were here to sort this all out for him.” Not once throughout Eleanor and Park did I think, “this would be so much more exciting if Eleanor’s stepdad was not an abusive, misogynist jerk.” And yes, I am simplifying the argument for the sake of comedy, but hear me out:

I don’t want to read about normal parents, especially in a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I mean, have you met most parents? They nag. They worry. When I tell them I’m going out in the middle of the night to investigate the nearby haunted house where that one girl was found murdered by a mysterious unnamed entity, they’re never okay with it. Whenever I read a story with normal parents, I always find those scenes — you know, the scenes where’s there’s that inevitable conflict between the parents’ concerns and what the main character knows is right — to be such a drag on the story. I just want to skip over it and get to the good stuff.

And there’s a reason this trope is so popular to begin with. Teenagers don’t like their parents. Sure, they love them, but only because they have to, and they certainly don’t want to spend more time with them than absolutely necessary. (Note: cases may vary.) And whether wrongly or not, by the time a kid gets into their teen years, they start to see their parents more as obstacles to get around, rather than the larger-than-life role models they used to be. When I was a young, angsty fifteen year old, (as opposed to the strong, knowledgeable eighteen year old I am now), I identified with stories where the parents were antagonists, because that’s how I saw myself.

2) Insta-Love

“Sup girl,” said Devin Devinsky, sitting on his totally bitchin’ leather motorcycle. “Wanna make out?”
Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love?

I used to hate this trope, but then it happened to me in real life, so now I’m more forgiving. The heart wants what it wants, people, and sometimes it wants a douchey guy on a motorcycle.

The key, in my humble-as-fuck opinion, is that the Insta-Love has to be forbidden in some way or another. Like if one of them is engaged to someone else, of if it’s an LGBT relationship in a non-LGBT+ friendly environment, or why not both?

Lisa was engaged to that douchey guy on the motorcycle when she met Ruth, a douchey girl on a motorcycle. “Sup,” said Ruth.

Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love? But … she had never felt that way about a girl before, and yet this was stronger and more passionate than anything she had felt for her fiance. But her wedding was next month! Did I mention this takes place in the 1950s? Plus she had a bomb strapped to her chest that would explode if she left Devin, so that’s another source of conflict right there.

I’d read this story. Presumably it ends with Lisa and Ruth shooting their way out of a courthouse and stabbing Devin Devinsky with the American flag, like this. (Just replace Mel Gibson with Lisa and Homer with Ruth, and it’ll be a perfect representation of how I imagine this story to end.)

3) School is Seemingly Nonexistent.

I feel like every time there’s a YA book set during the school year, people complain that none of the main characters ever have to study or deal with homework. This complaint has never resonated with me, for a few reasons:

First off, this complaint always seems to be made by straight A students, students who take AP classes and actually open the textbooks to study. And good for them and all, but this does not represent the majority of students, or at least those in the U.S. public school system. You know how many times I studied in high school for more than twenty minutes, outside of finals? Literally not once, and I was one of the good students. I was taking the hard classes. The normal students taking the normal classes always seemed to have free time, and they never seemed to be doing any work outside of school. And when I think back to my high school years, I rarely think about all the assignments I had to do, because those aren’t interesting. One of the big rules of writing is to skip the boring stuff, and Rosey Evergreen’s trigonometry homework is included in that category.

And secondly, if my love interest died in a car accident, or if I discovered I was the chosen one in a world that I never knew existed, I would immediately stop caring about high school. Compared to fighting the Dark Lord, or stopping a vampire from killing all your friends, or any of the other crazy plots from so many YA novels, high school does not matter

(But seriously, stay in school, kids.)


And that’s all for me. I could only think of three things, because my noggin’s been a bit wobbly as of late. If you agree, feel free to comment below, and if you disagree: get lost, you filthy commie!

But for real, comment below. I’d appreciate it.

My Weaknesses and Strengths as a Writer (This should be fun.)

The TCWT blog chain is back! Admittedly it’s been back for a long time, but I didn’t do last month’s prompt because reasons. But I’m turning seventeen in four days (mark your calendars, people) and I realized that I only have thirty-six months of the blog chain left, so I better make them all count. This month’s prompt is an easy one:

“What is your greatest weakness as a writer? What’s your greatest strength?”

Sorry, did I say this was an easy prompt? Well, by easy I meant “harder than trying to avoid getting spoiled for Avengers: Age of Ultron.” I mean seriously, is anyone not talking about that movie? Even my dog is talking about that movie, and I don’t even have a dog.

Okay, the prompt isn’t that hard. Though I can see how it would be. Most writers aren’t too great at pointing out their weaknesses, which is why they have people like beta readers and random people they find on the street to point them out for them.

Note: I said most writers. I am not like most writers. For one thing, I’m significantly better looking (ladies? *wiggles eyebrows*) and am completely aware of all my strengths and weaknesses. I’m just too lazy to fix them.

The Weaknesses:

  • I abuse semi-colons; like, a lot.
  • I have two default tones: goofy and angsty. Romantic and extremely emotional scenes are always nearly impossible for me to do, unless it’s related to emotional experience I’ve had in my life. (See: The strengths.)
  • I’m still not entirely sure what it means to split an infinitive, so for all I know I’ve been doing this for years and have been driving my reader’s crazy. Don’t get me wrong, people have explained the “Never split infinitives!” rule to me before, but it never seemed like an important rule and I quickly forgot about it.
  • I’m bad at coming up with names. And once I’m set on a name, I don’t like to let it go. For instance, in one WIP (I’m still working my 550,000th draft of it, by the way. There was a minor character named Matthew Black. He was a really smooth-talking guy with nice hair, and was in charge of this mutant training organization. A real stand-up guy. When I was thinking of a pseudonym for this blog, I went with the same name. (The fact that I took a smooth-talking character from my own novel as a pseudonym, make of that what you will.) However, in my latest drafts, the character of Matthew Black has evolved into a significantly darker character, responsible for at least eight deaths and not afraid to commit more if it serves his cause. And I still haven’t changed his name, or mine.
  • Am not particularly good when it comes to writing villains.
  • I don’t write nearly as often as I should. This right here is my greatest weakness. In pretty much any writing guide you’ll ever read, “Write a lot,” and “Read a lot” are the two tips that are always there. And yet I am wildly inconsistent with both of them. I’ll go through long periods where I’ll write a lot but not read, or I’ll read a lot but not write. And then there are those sad little periods where I do neither. I’m in a writing period right now, but I’m not sure how long that’ll last.

The Strengths:

  • I like to think I’ve gotten a lot better at writing female characters. Back when I was like, twelve years old, there’d only be one girl, and she’d be the stereotypical Strong Female Character. But now there are multiple well-written characters with their own agencies and personalities with a proportional effect on the plot. I know, this should be normal and not a big deal, but I think twelve year old me would’ve been impressed.
  • I’m good at writing angsty characters.
  • I am fantastic at portraying the sheer awfulness that middle school students are capable of. While not all middle school students are bad, this is the age where pretty much everyone is at their worst. At best they are awkward and self-conscious. At worst they are a bunch of whiny entitled brats with next to no concept of empathy whatsoever. I know this because I was stuck with the worst kids ever for two years, and their shitty antics always manage to pop up in my stories, one way or another.
  • Also, I’m good at writing middle school kids, the good and the bad.
  • I’m good at pacing.
  • I’m good at writing beginnings.
  • The first third of all my stories are always the easiest to write (and easiest to read, I’m told).
  • “I no longer rely too much on adverbs,” I whispered very very quietly.
  • My comic relief characters have a weirdly high mortality rate.
  • I always manage to resist the urge to plagiarize.
  • I’ve mastered the art of understatement.
  • I’ve been told I’m funny.

And that’s all for this post. There’s probably more to the list, but I’m too lazy to think of them all. And besides, for most of the important parts of writing, I fall somewhere in the middle, where I’m not consistently weak or strong in said area.

Now if you excuse me, the ice cream man is driving by my house for the first time in nine months. I will go and enjoy a sour apple flavored snow-cone.

May 2015 blog chain prompt/schedule:

Tuesday May 5th — The Little Engine That Couldn’t

Wednesday May 6th — Ariel Kalati, Writer

Friday May 8th — Galloping Free

Saturday May 9th — Miriam Joy Writes

Sunday May 10th — The Ramblings of Aravis

Wednesday May 13th — Light and Shadows

Friday May 15th — Musings from Neville’s Navel

Saturday May 16th — The World of the Writer

Tuesday May 19th — Butterflies of the Imagination

Wednesday May 20th — Introspection Creative

Friday May 22nd — Spellbound

Sunday May 24th — Unikke Lyfe

Monday May 25th — The Long Life of a Lifelong Fangirl

Wednesday May 27th — Against the Shadows

Friday May 29th — Teens Can Write, Too, announcing June’s chain

In Which I Can’t Think of a Proper Title for this Post (TCWT)

Huzzah! January’s TCWT Blog Chain is here, and this month’s prompt is:

“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”

Well, if I had to pick one thing that bugs me, it’s the young adult genre’s tendency to romanticize or overlook creepy behavior. An obvious example is Twilight, where Edward watches Bella while she sleeps and this is considered perfectly fine, but I’m not going to bring that up because 1) bashing Twilight is so 2009, and 2) I haven’t actually read it; everything I know about the series I’ve heard from other people. So instead I’m going to talk about another terrible young adult novel, The Fifth Wave.

Now, I originally gave The Fifth Wave a three out of five stars, but my opinion of it has slowly but surely decreased over time, to the point where it’s now a one out of five. I tried reading its sequel, but I got roughly fifteen pages into it before being forced to light the book on fire, whilst chanting “Burn, demon, burn!” the whole time.

(Warning: There are spoilers. But The Fifth Wave isn’t worth reading anyway so it’s fine if you read ahead.)

Anywho, the main character (Cassie) falls in love with Evan, a guy who is actually an alien from outer space sent to help murder all of mankind. And that’s not even the worst thing about him. No, he continues to do creepy things like:

  • Bathe Cassie while she’s unconscious.
  • Read Cassie’s diary without her permission.
  • Not allow her to leave his house. “If you try to leave, I’ll just follow. You can’t stop me, Cassie.”

Yet Cassie falls in love with him anyway. Why? Because he’s hot. He’s like, super muscular, and his eyes are all warm and chocolatey. The fact that he is attractive (we know this because the author/Cassie constantly feels the need to let us know how hot he is) apparently makes up for his unhealthy behavior. This all leads up to a contrived love triangle where Cassie is stuck deciding between creepy stalker Evan and boring, perfect Ben. Which leads us to. . .

Love triangles. Young adult books are terrible at them. At best they feel like a waste of time and at worst they make me want to steal candy from a baby. (Because why the hell would you give a baby candy anyway? It’s not like s/he’s going to remember it.) I hate young adult love triangles so much that in my current WIP, I purposely set up the beginning of a love triangle just to kill off two sides at once. Why? Because fuck triangles, that’s why. Triangles are for squares.

[Exception: The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stievfater. All the character dynamics in that series feel natural and realistic, which is just one of the things that makes it the best ongoing young adult series I’ve ever read.]

Now, to abruptly change the subject: let’s talk about dialogue. Specifically, dialogue in fantasy novels, and how it has a tendency to feel overly clever and fake, as if the author is trying way too hard to be witty. Take this little snippet from The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson:

”I can see you are a woman of discriminating taste.”

“I am. I do like my meals prepared very carefully, as my palate is quite delicate.”

“Pardon. I meant that you have discriminating taste in books.”

Oh snap!

The book is filled with lines like that. I assume they are meant to lighten the mood and they do, sort of. (I always end up cringing, and said cringe makes me forget about all the bloodshed and death.) At first I thought that the character was intentionally written with a bad sense of humor and that no one else wanted to tell her this because they didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But having read Mistborn and half of Words of Radiance, I’ve come to the conclusion that the author is simply not that great at this whole “humor” thing, and that’s okay.* After all, not everyone can be as hilarious as me.

But I feel like this is a consistent problem in the fantasy genre, at least of what I’ve read of it, which admittedly isn’t much. Even A Song of Ice and Fire, which has the highest hit-to-miss joke ratio of any fantasy series I’ve read, occasionally includes a line or two that made me think, “No one would ever say that, or if they did, they would be immediately punched in the face.” This needs to stop.

On the bright side, I believe that epic fantasies are great when it comes to getting the reader invested in the characters. I’m pretty sure this has to do with the sheer amount of time you get to spend with the main characters. If you spent over a thousand plus pages with a character and don’t at least form some sort of attachment with him or her, you are either a terrible person incapable of empathy or the writer is simply not that good.

Because the twelfth of January is about to pass, this post must come to a premature end. Sorry if I rambled too much in this post, or if it was incoherent. Rest assured that it will be edited and revised the moment after I get some sleep. Here’s a list of all the other participants:

5thhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

6thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/

7thhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/ andhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/

9thhttps://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

10thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/

11thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

12thhttps://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

13thhttp://maralaurey.wordpress.com/

14thhttp://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/

15thhttp://theedfiles.blogspot.com/

16thhttps://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/  

17thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

18thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/

19thhttps://gallopingfree.wordpress.com/

20thhttp://www.alwaysopinionatedgirl.wordpress.com/

21sthttps://deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com/

22ndhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/

23rdhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

24thhttps://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/

25thhttp://wanderinginablur.blogspot.com/

26thhttps://anotefromthenerd.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com

28thhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

29th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

*I mean, Sanderson is a boss when it comes to everything else.

Why Splitting Mockingjay was for the Best

(Caution: spoilers galore for the events of Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins)

So I just recently watched Mockingjay: Part One, and I’ve come to two conclusions:

1) I don’t usually condone murder, but someone needs to kill that guy behind me who kept clapping every ten minutes. Yes, Katniss shooting down a plane with a bow and arrow is cool and all, but it is not cool enough to warrant an obnoxious clap while people are sitting right in front of you. What is the point of “clapping” anyway? Who exactly thought that smacking your hands together loudly should be a good way of expressing your approval? Oh, and also:

2) While splitting Mockingjay was almost definitely a decision motivated by greed, that doesn’t matter much because it all worked out perfectly.

I liked the book and all, but the last third of it was a tiny bit rushed and confusing. If Mockingjay was made into one single installment, it would’ve made an even more rushed and even more confusing movie. Katniss’s PTSD would not have been explored to nearly as much an extent, every single one of Effie’s scenes would’ve been cut, and that whole Hanging Tree segment probably never would’ve happened, which would suck because that song was quite possibly the best scene in the whole series, if measured in the amount of chills it gave me. I mean seriously, I’m listening to it right now, and I just shed a mockingjay-shaped tear.

If Mockingjay was made into one two and a half hour movie, at least half of Part 1 would’ve had to be cut. I can only think of two, maybe three scenes from that Part 1 I’d be willing to get rid of, let alone an entire hour’s worth. Not to mention the sheer amount of character development we’d lose in a single adaptation. Prim, Finnick, and Johanna barely get enough screentime as it is. Their deaths would be utterly meaningless* to those who haven’t read the books, and disappointing to those who have, if their screentime was limited to a single movie.

But really, the one thing everyone on the internet seem to be forgetting is that the book itself is split into two very distinctive parts. Katniss’s entire motivation in the first half is to do what she can to save Peeta, while she spends the second half getting to grips with his condition as Peeta slowly heals. And the first half focuses on the use of war propaganda as both sides try to manipulate the districts into joining their cause, while the second half focuses on the war that results. In the words of producer Nina Jacobsen, “Mockingjay 1 is about the propaganda war, Mockingjay 2 is about war.”

Not to mention, if Mockingjay was only made into one movie, Natalie Dormer never would’ve been casted. And that would be a tragedy.

*Prim and Finnick’s deaths, I mean. Not Johanna’s.

More Than I Can Chew: The Final Chapter (Probably)

Sorry this is late. I blame it on technological difficulties. 

To end this lackluster year of 2014, I give you the final chapter of More Than I Can Chew. I might write an epilogue, but only if this chapter gets enough hate that writing an epilogue is the only way to stop the death threats. (Also: no death threats!) 

Click here for the last seventeen chapters. Enjoy.

Wyatt

Kathy was the first person to call 911, and the paramedics came about six long minutes later. James was still alive at this point; still coughing and gurgling up blood; no one in the room knew what to do. They asked us to clear the room when we got there, which we did. Kathy and I helped Adrien upstairs and left him sitting in the truck where he was being cared for.

According to the paramedics, James wasn’t going to die. He was, however, going to be breathing through a tube for a while and wouldn’t be able to talk too well. Adrien, meanwhile, didn’t have a concussion, and his nose was only sprained. I didn’t think it was possible to sprain your nose, but that’s what they said, and I assume they knew they were talking about. But the bigger thing we had to worry about weren’t the physical effects; apparently Adrien was in shock. Almost murdering someone can do that to you, as it turns out.

With both James and Adrien under medical care, that just left me, Sean, Kathy and Fiona sitting on the porch, contemplating the events of the day. Somehow it was only four thirty in the afternoon.

“This was so stupid,” said Fiona, after a short silence. She was crying, yet neither me nor Kathy or even Sean made an effort to comfort her. In fact, both Sean and Fiona were making a conscious effort not to talk to even acknowledge each others’ existence, leading me to wonder exactly what went on in the phone call between them. Meanwhile, Kathy was busy calling Mom and Dad, trying so very hard to get a word in.

“. . . Mom, just— Mom. Do you want to know where we are or not?” There was a pause, and Kathy reluctantly filled her in on the current situation, being cut off every few seconds as she continued to yell at her. To Kathy’s credit, she managed to stick through the entire conversation without hanging up once. She even got all the vital information through: Adrien was being taken to the hospital (“He’s going to be fine,” Kathy said over and over again, though Mom kept interrupting her with questions and demands to talk to him herself), and Kathy offered to drive me either to the hospital or back home, depending on what Mom thought was best. Except Mom didn’t trust Kathy to drive me anywhere, instead deciding that Dad would drive me to the hospital and that Kathy could just “go away.” Her words.

“Fucking gum,” she said afterwards. I muttered in agreement. Hard to believe someone almost died because of a fight over gum.

“So, what do we tell them?” said Fiona, as the paramedic truck drove off. In a few minutes all of our parents would come over, along with that detective and maybe a few policemen. I wasn’t sure exactly. 

“We could say it was an accident,” I said. “That we were all just hanging around in your house and Adrien accidentally shot James in the neck. Teenage recklessness, or something.”

Kathy shook her head. “That doesn’t explain Adrien’s injuries, or James’. Or yours.”

“Okay, how about this: Adrien and James’ got in some sort of argument, they started fighting and I tried to break it up for a few seconds. After getting punched in the face a few times, I gave up, and then Adrien somehow accidentally shot James’ in the neck.”

“Okay, but they’re also going to be questioning you about the kidnapping incident. What do you say about that?”

“That I have no idea about any of that.”

“Okay. . . and what about the ten thousand dollars worth of gum?”

“I don’t know anything about that either,” I said. “I was suspended for selling a few packs, but I never made ten thousand dollars worth of it. That’s just ridiculous.”

“Okay,” said Kathy. “What else are we forgetting?”

“They’re going to ask what James was doing at my house to begin with,” said Fiona, quietly. “My parents will, at least. And no matter what you say, you can’t count on Adrien or James saying the same thing.”

I sighed. “What if we just told the truth?”

Fiona looked disgusted. “What? No!”

“Not the whole truth, anyway. Not the parts that could get us in serious trouble. Speaking of which, how involved in that kidnapping were you, exactly?”

“It was all James’ idea.” She refused to make eye contact with any of us. “I just told him to find out where you hid the money and the gum, and he said he’d handle it. I didn’t think he’d actually drive a van onto school grounds or anything. Why would I agree to do something like that?”

“Assuming James doesn’t die,” said Kathy, “he’s not going to go along with that.” Fiona sighed, looking down at her feet. It was quiet for a few seconds.

“Who owned the van?” I said suddenly. “The van they drove onto the school yard.”

“Diesel, I think.”

I smiled. “Then we have our scapegoat. Everything was Diesel’s fault. He drove the van into the school, organized the kidnapping and stole all of my money. He also beat up Adrien and shot James in the neck. Then immediately after shooting James in the neck, he took the money and left.”

“Yes,” said Kathy. She was getting excited, all of a sudden, like she would back in her younger years when she was planning one of those crazy stunts she liked to pull. “You, Adrien and James tried to stop him from taking the money, so he beat up all of you and took it anyway. He’s big enough to pull that off, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I thought he was an adult the first time I saw him.”

“So where does that leave me?” asked Fiona. All things considered, she seemed surprisingly accepting of this whole plan. I guess she realized she wasn’t in any position of leverage.

“It was all Diesel’s idea, and anything you did, he forced you into it,” said Kathy. “That’s what you say, okay?” Fiona nodded.

“Anything else we’re missing?” I said. “Any loose ends, or anything?”

“The BB gun,” Sean said, startling me. I’d almost forgotten he was there.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” I said. “I took it from my neighbor’s house without his permission.” Sean nodded. I looked out at the three of them to see if there was anything else that needed to be said. Nothing.

“Well,” Kathy stood up. “My mom wants nothing to do with me at the moment, so I’ll drive over to the hospital. Let Adrien in on it all before they get to him. Sean, want me to drive you back to your car?”

“Yes, please.” Sean got up and followed her back to the car, not looking at Fiona at all. The two of them left, leaving Fiona and I alone on her porch, both savoring these last moments before our parents came and we’d have to deal with the actual consequences of the last six hours.

“Sean broke up with me on the phone,” Fiona said, quietly. “You told him what I did?” She didn’t say it in an angry, accusing way; she was just curious.

“He was with me when I found out. You okay?”

She shrugged. “We were barely dating, anyway.”

I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but I didn’t press. “You think this whole idea will work?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Well that type of attitude won’t do. “I think we have a good chance. James will live, Adrien never meant to kill him anyway, and it’s not like any of us are going to press charges. And I’m sure you know this already, but you’re an amazing liar. You’ll be fine.”

For once she seemed hopeful, which surprised me. I didn’t think she’d actually buy into my drivel. Maybe it wasn’t drivel after all.

My parents’ car pulled into the driveway, followed by a police car. When he stepped out I could see it was that detective guy, Roy Thompson, the guy who suspected me of selling drugs. I couldn’t wait to see his face when he found out that everything that happened today—from the kidnapping to the possible manslaughter to the multiple break-ins and the excessive violence, was all because I decided to sell some gum.

More Than I Can Chew: Chapter 17

In this chapter, stuff happens. Like, a lot of stuff. Click here for the last sixteen chapters.

Adrien

I was pretty sure I didn’t have a concussion, or a broken nose. I’d had both before, and I remember the pain being a bit worse than this. I’d never had a tooth knocked out, though, so that was new.

The whole fight that put me in this state was a bit of a blur; all I knew was that Diesel threw the first punch and that James took over from there. I think it was Diesel’s involvement in the whole thing that stung me the most. Or maybe it was just that familiar feeling of complete and utter failure.

I had tried to seek revenge, only to get beaten up for the third time in one day. My gums were now throbbing and I could taste the blood in my mouth. Take that combined with my nose, and I thought there was a slight chance I could pass out due to blood loss, but hopefully not.

I wondered if Fiona would ever let us out of the basement. I mean, she had to, eventually. She had to have had parents, or some sort of family that would come home soon and see all of this. No matter, Fiona was now standing in front of us and holding the gun with one hand and calling Diesel with the other. Unsurprisingly, Diesel didn’t pick up. “I can’t believe him.” She put the phone back in her pocket.

“Me neither,” said Wyatt. James took this as an excuse to kick him in the shin, a move that he managed to dodge. Fiona yelled at James to stop and Wyatt kept talking, as usual. “You know what I just realized? Diesel is the real enemy here. We’re just his victims. He’s been lying and manipulating all of us all day. And you know, now that there’s no money for me to take back, there’s really no point in me being here. Or Adrien, for that matter.”

“I don’t know,” Fiona said, sounding honestly distraught. “What exactly did Diesel say to you? To make you think he was on your side?”

Wyatt filled her in, truthfully, on most of the details; he just neglected to mention Kathy or Sean’s part in the plans, or y’know, the counterfeit money. So he basically bullshitted his way through the whole story, not that either of them seemed to notice.

“So you were just here for the money, that’s all?” She was watching him cautiously.

“Yep,” he said, except James clearly didn’t believe him, so at my expense he added, “Well, Adrien was here for revenge, but you can’t really blame him for that, really.”

Fiona nodded hesitantly, while James just made an impatient groan from behind. “Okay, how about this,” she said. “I’ll let you both leave, but you need to promise me you won’t try to get revenge, or call the police or anything, okay?”

“They’re going to be talking to the police no matter what,” said James, in a very pissed off tone. “Just look at his face!” He pointed at me.

“He doesn’t have to say it was us—”

“WHO ELSE COULD HE BLAME IT ON?” He was screaming at her now, and I don’t think he was aware of the fact.

All things considered, Fiona held her ground remarkably well, yet she still shaking a little. She said quietly, “I was going to say, he could blame it on Diesel.”

“And Diesel’s going to immediately blame us. Goddamnit, Fiona. Use your fucking head!” One look at James’ face told me that there was a good chance he was about to get violent.

Luckily, in what could only be described as perfect timing, Fiona’s phone rang. She looked at it and after a few seconds’ thought, decided to answer.

Her voice changed to the chirpy, bubbly Fiona that I had known at school. “Hey Sean, what’s up?”

She handed the gun to James, whispered something to him and walked upstairs, leaving us alone in a basement with this crazy, armed, dangerous maniac. I was starting to think having Sean call her was a bad idea.

Wyatt and I sat completely still, for about a minute or two, both of us afraid to say anything. Then Wyatt decided to test the waters. “So Fiona’s pretty hot, huh?”

James kicked him in the leg again, but didn’t say anything. After about fifteen seconds Wyatt decided to try a newer, slightly more blunt approach. “You know Fiona has a boyfriend?” I cringed.

“Why would I care?”

“No reason.” Wyatt’s voice rose an octave as he said this. James glared at him. “His name is Sean, you know. I’m pretty sure she’s on the phone with him right now, making plans and whatnot.”

“I don’t know why you’d think I’d care.”

“Never said you’d care, just thinking outloud,” he said, and then he shut up, because James was glaring at him with his crazy eyes. 

Wyatt’s phone started ringing. Without a moment’s hesitation he began to reach for it, but James had other ideas.

“I’ll shoot if you answer it,” he said, his gun aiming directly at Wyatt’s face. He held out his other hand. “Take it out and give it to me.”

Wyatt seemed to consider this for a moment, and then he shrugged and took the phone out. He moved it towards James’ hand—I saw that it was Kathy calling—and then with no warning whatsoever, he tossed it towards me and simultaneously kicked James in the shin, taking him by surprise.

James collapsed to the ground, as Wyatt struggled back to his feet, and within seconds they were fighting for the gun again. While this was going on, I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Adrien? What’s going on?”

“Thingth went wrong. Diethel took the money. I think I’m going to need an ambulanthe or thomething.”

“Diesel took the— why are you talking like that?”

“They knocked out thome of my teeth.”

“Oh my God. I’m coming over.” She hung up before I could say anything else.

Fiona rushed down the stairs and then stopped, not sure what to do with herself.

Wyatt and James weren’t fighting to the extent they were before. They were fighting to take control of the BB gun, with Wyatt wrapping himself around his body with his hand wrapped around it.

I looked back at the phone. Wyatt’s was locked, obvious, but I could still use the emergency dialpad. I could’ve called 911. No, this isn’t an emergency.

Wyatt kneed James in the back of the leg, and with one arm he started choking him around the neck and with the other he kept on struggling for the gun. Then the gun fell out of James’ hand and onto the floor. James tried to grab at it, but Wyatt threw him to the side and, not letting him go, kicked the gun blindly with his foot.The gun skidded toward me.

I hesitated.

James elbowed Wyatt in the mouth, making him finally let go and fall back on the couch. James eyed the gun and started to run towards it.

Now I was in full blown panic mode. I picked up the BB gun, reminding myself that this was the guy who broke my leg and knocked out my teeth and may have broken my nose and who would definitely pull the trigger if the situation was reversed. So I did just that.

I pulled the trigger.

The tiny BB was a lot more effective than I would have guessed. James collapsed to the ground awkwardly, clutching his neck. The whole room fell silent as we all watched him struggle. James started gasping for air, but it was clear from the sound that he wasn’t getting any.

Fiona was the first to go into action. She rushed over to his side, almost in tears, and she moved James’ hand from his windpipe and I saw it was covered with an excessive amount of blood.

Oh my god oh my god oh my god.

I heard a door slam open upstairs, and Kathy shouted “Hello?” Wyatt responded in a far off voice, “We’re down here!” And both she and Sean were in the basement now, and Kathy had her hand over her mouth and I heard her say, “What the fuck happened?” and I don’t remember what she said next because the room was spinning and my vision was blurring and everything felt like it was happening far, far away.