Just found out this morning that Off Leash passed round 1 in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel. Now, I'm with 1,000 other authors but so what! I'm still totally excited. March 22 is the 2nd cut and that will narrow down to 250 authors.
Here's what I love about Off Leash - it's real. It's a story about a 15 year-old boy, Jay Walker, who has to fake his life in order to just get through the day. Honestly, tell me how many of you don't do that? Jay is poor. I could talk about being poor but I tried to convey his angst, because when you're a teen being poor is embarrassing and that makes you angry. Being poor means not fitting it with those designer jeans and hoodie, being poor means you will forgo the lunch crowd
embarrassed that you can't afford food today and brown bagging it isn't going to happen because there is no food at home.
I also wanted to introduce his sister, Fay. I love Fay. I hard a really hard time writing about Fay because she was so close to me. My best friend died of a brain tumor and watching her fight that battle for four years did shape my life. She made me stronger because I learned not to complain about my day because when I looked at her, I just knew her day was worse. So the relationship Jay has with his sister is loving, all-encompassing and in he'd do anything to save her - even take up dog fighting - so he could put food on the table.
I also created Jay's mom. She's an addict. Writing about her killed me. I wanted to show the reader that she was loving at first but life's circumstances, taking the wrong path, do have a way of taking over a person. And, then there's the strange relationship Jay has with his mom. He thinks he hates her, but deep down, he's just a kid looking for motherly love. When Jay enters the world of dog fighting, he learns first hand how easy money can consume a person and that enables him to better understand his mom.
Dog fighting. Oh.My.God. I learned so much about this it made me sick. I love dogs but don't have one - maybe some day. It broke my heart writing about dog fighting, but people will always do things like this, easy money, thrill ride, power trip, if they can get away with it. I hoped to convey the cruelty of it. One of my critique readers cried when she read this part. I cried a lot writing this book but the dog scenes took me days of writing/editing.
And, for the two endings. So many teens expect the Hollywood ending. I wrote that and then went back and said, 'Wait a sec. That's not reality. That's not how life works." So I wrote the nitty-gritty ending because as much as a teen wants the happily-ever after ending, life does not always work that way.
Anyway, that's my rant for today. I'm excited to make it to round 2 in this contest. I'm working on Off Limit. This is even harder to write. It's about all those "topics" teens don't want to talk about - molestation by a step-father, poverty, dealing with a mom who has MS, pregnancy and trying to fit in with the in crowd when you really are a fake. Stay tuned for more on that in the months ahead. I've got 4,000 more words to finish this story and honestly, it's killing me. I had to take a break and get my red pen out to start editing it. It's a sad story but again - ain't nothing I don't know.