David and Jazz in high school

Someone on tumblr asked me if I’d write a bit about how things might have gone if  David and Jazz had met in high school. At first I was thinking school trip to DC or something, but then I moved David to Duckler because I’m a terrible person and he’d hate it. A lot.


An unseasonably cold wind whistled through the gap where David’s bedroom window wouldn’t shut all the way. David hung over the side of the bed, quilt wrapped around him, to dig through a nearby moving box for jeans and a sweater. It was Monday, his first day at Duckler High School. Classes had started three weeks ago, but he and his aunt hadn’t arrived in Duckler until late Friday afternoon.

When he got downstairs, his aunt was making coffee. She offered him a mug. He ignored it. She sighed but got out of his way so he could reach the cereal boxes.

“How long are you going to keep up the silent treatment?” she asked.

Until they moved back to Maine, where he knew people, where he could go to the stable and ride, where there were things to do and places to see instead of cornfields, cornfields, and cows. He poured himself a bowl of Cheerios and didn’t answer.

His aunt took her coffee into the room at the back of the house where she’d set up her office. She closed the door. She’d always been good at knowing when to leave him alone.

The tight bar of anger in David’s shoulders eased. He poured himself a cup of coffee. At least he had his own car. The bus had been bad enough when he knew everyone and had someone to sit with. Here, with nothing but strangers and unknown school politics, the idea made his skin crawl.

After breakfast, he got into his Jeep, bought from a neighbor when his aunt still had money for that kind of thing, and turned out of the driveway toward Duckler. He passed mainly cornfields on the way, but also a boy about his age with a backpack slung over one shoulder and dirty blond hair shielding his face.

David frowned at him in the rearview mirror for a second. He couldn’t be walking all the way to school. He must be older than he looked and on his way to work, although — David glanced around. To work where? Maybe he was a professional cow milker.

A few minutes later, David saw his destination. It was a low, square building, made of old brick with metal letters over the door that said simply: HIGH SCHOOL. The parking lot held only a handful of other cars. He’d been told to get there early to pick up his class schedule and locker assignment and all the usual crap. The school office, just to the right of the entrance, held a water cooler with a spidery plant on top, some filing cabinets, a strong smell of coffee, and desks for the principal and the school secretary.

Both of them were women with dark hair and matching perms and hoop earrings. David wasn’t sure which was which until the principal took a phone call at the desk with her name plate on it. The school secretary gave David his paperwork and told him how to find his first class and his locker. Given the size of the school, David didn’t think he’d have much of a problem.

Finding the locker was simple. Getting it open wasn’t. As he dialed in the combination for the third time, the halls were filling up. He had a cluster of girls applying lip gloss on one side of him and a knot of jocks actually literally tossing around a football on the other. David had gone to private school all his life. His last school hadn’t even had a football team.

One of the jocks, a big guy with red hair and freckles, leaned toward him. “You’re new here?”

“No, you just failed to notice me for three years.” David yanked at the locker, but it only rattled, loudly enough that one of the girls looked over at him. She took in his predicament, didn’t quite roll her eyes, and turned back to her friends.

The jock leaned against his own locker, arms crossed over his chest and probably flexing his biceps on purpose. “Did they not teach you how lockers work at your last school?”

There was some light snickering from the others.

“The lockers at my last school actually worked. I imagine this one’s jammed with cow shit. At least I’ll assume that’s where the smell is coming from.” He looked down at the jock’s boots.

The jock leaned into David’s space. “If you want your locker filled with cow shit, asshole, I can make that happen.”

“Hey, Bud, move your ass.”

The jock and David looked up. Another boy was standing slumped in front of them. David recognized him — the boy from the road. Not, apparently, a professional cow milker after all.

“What do you want?” Bud said, sulky but not actively hostile toward the newcomer.

“I want my locker, dumbass. You think it moved from yesterday?”

Bud grunted. “Fine. Watch out for this weirdo though. See you at practice.” The look he gave David said he’d be seeing him later as well.

David ignored the new guy and dialed the combination in one more time. His hands were a little sweaty now, and he had an unpleasant knot in his stomach. One more try and he’d just leave it and hope this wasn’t one of those schools were you weren’t allowed to bring your bag to class.

“Hey. I’m Jazz,” the boy next to him said.

“Good for you,” David muttered.

“I had that locker last year. It’s weird. You gotta, like, sort of push in and up on the lock? There’s something loose in there.”

David paused. He dialed in the last number. He pushed in and up, and the lock clicked open. He glanced over. Jazz was just watching him, neither particularly friendly or hostile. He’d pushed his hair behind his ears, and David could see his eyes, which were an odd blue-gray color. Unlike Bud, he wasn’t trying to flex, but he didn’t need to try. David blinked and looked away from the curve of his bicep where it pressed against the sleeve of his thin white T-shirt. “Thanks.”

“What’s your name?” Jazz said.

“David.”

“Where are you from?”

“Maine,” David said, going for most recent state rather than where he’d been born. He had a hard time remembering New York anyway.

“What are you doing here?”

“My aunt lost her job and decided to move us to the ass end of nowhere.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s in Idaho,” Jazz said. “This is more like the armpit of nowhere.”

David was too startled to react at all, and then the bell rang and Jazz was gone. David smiled into the depths of his locker for a second before he slammed it shut and headed for math class.


I’m also considering a Patreon for short stories. The contributions would be per story, not per month, and probably only a buck or two per story. I have a poll here, let me know if you’d be interested! :)

October 2015

reading

All the Way by Tsukizubon Saruko
illustrated by by Sakana Sara

Since Halloween is coming up, I thought I’d share with you the scariest fucking piece of fiction I’ve ever experienced. It’s free, you can read it online, and it’s f/f. It contains references to suicide, so avoid if that’s an issue for you, but that is not a complete set of warnings.

The fact is, I don’t remember it well enough to warn for it. I read it once when it was posted in 2008, and I didn’t sleep for three nights because I couldn’t stop thinking about the tall men coming out of my walls. I am never reading it again. Ever. Everyone I’ve recommended it to feels the same way.

If you enjoy being terrified, this is the story for you. If not, run fast in the opposite direction. Happy Halloween! <3


links of the month

  • Weird lights in the sky 30 minutes before the 2008 earthquake in China (this is the email of stuff from 2008 I guess? Welcome to the past, spoiler: Obama wins)
  • William Carlos Williams writes home to his mom from college and is an adorable nerd
  • Subterranean Rome (I don’t know how to describe this, but it’s amazing, just trust me okay, at least go look at the pictures)

2015-10-15 09.13.16

heloise

Posing dramatically on…some kind of bone. It’s not a hippo bone. As previously discussed, she is not a hippo serial killer, that was just poor phrasing on my part, honest.

self publishing

I’ve had a few questions recently about how to start self publishing, so I thought I’d make a page for it. The following is an email I sent someone a little while ago, and I’ve added a few links after it that I’ve found since. I’ll keep updating this with things I find useful. I hope it helps.


WHERE I PUBLISH

Amazon is the big dog, obviously, though Apple is starting to catch up a bit. I publish at Amazon with their self publishing portal, Kindle Direct Publishing. (That will put it in all the various Amazon stores all over the world, but if you make an author page through Amazon’s Author Central, you will have to add pictures and your bio, etc., to each country’s Amazon store individually.)

To publish everywhere else, I use Draft2Digital – they take a cut, but they distribute it for you to basically everywhere and it’s worth it not to do it yourself. Also note that if you want to write under a pen name on the Apple store, going through D2D or Smashwords or another distributor is the only way to do it. If you go direct, they will use your real name. I use D2D because they let you pick the sellers you want to send your books to; with Smashwords, it’s all or nothing.

HOW TO MAKE EBOOKS

I use Guido Henkel’s ebook formatting guide. He also has a book called The Zen of Ebook Formatting, which I’ve bought but not yet read. I’ll try to remember to report back here when I’m done.

The guide is designed for people with no knowledge of HTML and CSS, but it will still probably come off as a bit intimidating if you have no familiarity with them. I do it that way because I like the control and I like knowing exactly what’s going into my ebook. Even if you don’t go this way, I’d suggest you read it so that you have some idea of the issues involved.

Most places will also let you upload a Word doc and convert it to ebook format for you. If you do this, I would check the ebook they produce VERY CAREFULLY, especially for things like backwards smart quotes and weird line breaks and accent marks.

Scrivener will also make ebooks for you, and a lot of people go that way, though there are some issues you should be aware of. I write in Scrivener, but I don’t use its ebook compile feature because frankly I found it super complicated. I seem to be the only one having a problem with it though.

Whatever method you use, check it to make sure it looks right, and not just on your computer.

You also need a cover, obviously. You can make it yourself if you’ve got the skills. If you want to pay someone (and if you have the money, you probably should), there’s 99Designs and Covertopia and Inspired Cover Designs. I haven’t used any of them, but I have heard good things about them.

Once you have the ebook and cover, the actual uploading is quite simple – you just fill out a form and hit submit, basically, and then they ask for you how you want to be paid and all that.


RESOURCES

PODCASTS
  • ​The Self Publishing Podcast is a good source of info. If, like me, you tend to want to listen to ALL of a podcast, don’t take the advice they give in the early episodes. They’re worth listening to for the evolution of their business strategy, but they say themselves that they would give vastly different advice now. They’ve recently (as of August 2015) archived their older episodes and I think are planning to launch a new site for the revamped podcast. I’ll put that link here when they get it up.
  • The Author Strong Podcast is pretty good also, both for craft and publishing, but particularly for goal setting. ETA: And this 3 part series on Amazon keywords.
  • Writing Excuses is the best podcast I’ve found for craft, and they’re doing season 10 as a sort of masterclass on how to write a book from beginning to end.
BOOKS
OTHER