Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

I’ve had one brand new book, one short story, and two reissues out within the past several months with two more reissues and a brand new book (Fangdemonium, the 5th and final novel in the Vamped series) coming soon. With all of that and my already more than full-time job as an agent, I haven’t gotten around to posting the excerpt from my young adult suspense novel Faultlines, which is a book very near and dear to my heart. I hope you’ll all read, enjoy, share, comment or do whatever the except inspires you to do!

faultlines-front-cover-final

Excerpt intro: Lisa has committed suicide. Her best friend Vanessa, struggling to come to terms with her friend’s death and piece together what led up to it, now faces another mystery. Someone is taking revenge against those they perceive drove Lisa to her death. Vanessa might even approve…if the pranks weren’t growing more and more serious and if everyone didn’t assume it was her taking revenge and act accordingly. As the danger level of the pranks and retaliations mount, it becomes clear that no one is safe. In this scene we first encounter the work of the vigilante Poetic Justice.

Excerpt:

When the bell rang, I took forever gathering up my things so that Rachel would be gone when I looked up. I wouldn’t give her the chance to “accidentally” hip bump me or any of the other stupid, petty things she was likely to do on any given day. Today I didn’t see any way I would stand for it. My emotions were too close to the surface.

I didn’t have to worry about her once I got through the door. Rachel was more an opportunist than an ambusher. That required forethought, and I wasn’t sure that was really in her wheelhouse. Unfortunately, she’d have another chance at me. Lockers were assigned alphabetically like our seats in homeroom, and hers was directly across the hall from mine. Usually it didn’t bother me. I wasn’t her favorite whipping girl. But today, I was vulnerable and just like a shark, she could smell blood on the water.

Luckily, Rachel was busy chatting with Shelby and Ashley when I reached my locker. They were preoccupied enough that I felt okay to turn my back on them. It was a huge mistake.

Everything happened in an instant. A huge pop, high-pitched screams, and something splattering against me like sudden raindrops out of a clear sky. Freaked, I whipped around, wondering what Rachel had done this time . . . and stopped cold, frozen in shock.

Across from me, Rachel’s locker had exploded, and the terrible trio stood covered in blood. It dripped from them in dark rivulets like from horror-film extras, but they didn’t appear hurt. Just shocked. My brain struggled to process what I was seeing. It was like some kind of dye pack had gone off, but what would something like that be doing there in the first place? And anyway, it didn’t look like dye. It looked like blood.

Rachel spat a thin stream of the stuff out of her mouth and started shaking uncontrollably. She went to wipe the residue from her mouth with her sleeve and dropped the arm like a live snake when she noticed it too was covered in blood.

“Get it off, get it off, get it off!” she chanted in rising panic.

Shelby yanked her shirt over her blood-soaked head, revealing nothing but a thin tank top underneath. She used her inside out clothing to wipe her own face before going for Rachel, who reared back and shrieked, “You’ll just rub it in!”

Ashley had been the least hit, but seemed frozen like me, her almond eyes wide, her mouth clamped shut to avoid any of the stuff getting in.

Marianne raced over to me, but stopped short of touching. “Are you okay?”

Wouldn’t she have been at the locker right next to mine? Hadn’t she been hit by the blood?

I shook myself out of my paralysis. “Fine. You?”

She looked down at herself as if to check. “I stopped off at the restroom. Good thing, I guess.”

She glanced around at the carnage, at the other kids watching but staying well away, at Mrs. Kerringer and Mr. Donally pushing their way through the crowd of students to take charge.

“Look,” Marianne said.

I followed the path of her pointing finger, straight to Rachel’s locker. Inside, painted on the wall in red paint or more fake blood, because it had to be fake, were the words IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT, all in caps.

Rachel saw the teachers coming and tried to throw herself into Mrs. Kerringer’s arms, but the teacher backpedaled, and Rachel got the message. Her arms dropped despondently. She stood, looking forlorn, great big teardrops starting to fall from her eyes, creating track marks in the red goo.

I looked around at the gathered kids. Could this be a prank? Or could the sign mean that someone else felt like I did, wanting to strike some kind of blow for Lisa. What was all Rachel’s fault? Was it the bullying or something more? I tried to see whether anyone looked smug or satisfied over the exploding locker. I didn’t know whether I wanted to thank the prankster or . . . or what? He or she’d had the courage, the strength, to do what I hadn’t. Using blood might be over the top, but it had made an impression.

Fear crept in. What if it was real blood? What if it was contaminated or diseased? What if this was more than a prank? I always had some kind of scrape from soccer dives or paper cuts or even hangnails. A thousand little ways to die of infection.

Panic started to rise and my heart to pound. I felt a freak-out coming on.

Marianne must have seen it too. “Mr. Donally, can I get Vanessa to the nurse? I think she’s in shock.”

He turned from the bloody girls to look at me in surprise. From the front, he could see no reason to concern himself with me.

“Why don’t you take all the girls to the nurse?” he said, realization dawning. “Anyone else get hit?”

A couple of nearby kids raised their hands tentatively. I saw fear in their eyes as well.

“All of you to the nurse,” he said. “And don’t touch anything along the way. The rest of you, I need your names. Officer Garza may want to talk to you. Then I want everyone to get to class. The janitor will have to get through with his crash cart. If you need to get past this spot, go around—outside the school and back in through another door. This area is closed.”

I was torn. Part of me wanted to stay and talk to Garza, even though I didn’t have anything to offer. But Marianne took her job seriously, and herded us down the hallway toward the nurse’s office. I didn’t fight her, but I could have broken my neck craning it to see back the way we’d come. I wasn’t the only one. A couple of times Marianne reached out to get one of the other girls moving and stopped herself before actual contact. The second time, Rachel reacted anyway, as if Marianne had not only touched her, but tasered her. She jolted her back to herself, as though someone had flipped her ‘on’ switch.

Rachel wheeled on me with fire in her eyes. “You,” she shrieked. “You did this.”

I glared back at her. “In case you didn’t notice, I got hit too. If I’d set this up, I’d have made sure to be outside the blast zone.”

“No, you’d be smart enough to get splattered to throw off suspicion.”

“Maybe that’s the way your twisty little mind works, but not mine.”

“Liar,” she accused.

Shelby glared at me in solidarity with her friend.

“According to the sign in your locker, it’s all your fault,” I responded. “So, what did you do? Maybe bully Lisa to death?”

Rachel hissed and came at me, nails out like they were talons that could rip me to shreds. I reared back, throwing my hands up to defend myself, anticipating the pain.

Ashley stepped between us.

“That’s enough,” she said, shocking us both. Her voice shook, but her glare said she meant business. “Lisa’s dead. You’re both covered in blood and you want to spill more? Are you crazy?”

Rachel craned her neck to see me over Ashley. From the rage on her face, I think she seriously considered knocking Ashley out of the way and coming for me anyway, crazy or not. With those baby blue eyes flashing, she looked like a possessed Barbie come to life. I think it was only the blood that stopped her.

“This isn’t over,” she spat at me.

“It is for now,” Ashley said. She gave Rachel a significant look that I hoped didn’t mean we’ll get her later.

“Well, here we are,” Marianne cut in, trying to break the tension.

She pushed open the door to the nurse’s office and led the way. Nurse Henning met us just inside. Her eyes widened as she saw us.

“The VP said blood, but I had no idea— Behind the screens, all of you,” she said. “There are sponges, sanitizing soap and nail brushes back there. Do your best. Hit everything.”

Her concern wasn’t exactly doing wonders for my panic, but she’d gotten a lot set up in a short time. The screens she waved us toward were like the ones they used for scoliosis screening back in elementary school. There were tubs there of sudsy, antiseptic-smelling liquid. Not comforting. A minute after we’d stepped behind the screens, the nurse tapped on the metal framework. “I’ve got a bin here of emergency clothes.” She pushed it behind the screens with her sensible white shoes. “You should all pick something to replace what got bloody. I’ve put plastic bags in the bin as well for your dirty clothes.”

“I’m not wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs,” Rachel protested.

“Well then, you can stay in what you’re wearing until your parents bring you something else. I’m calling all of your parents now. If you want to talk to them, please let me know.”

“Don’t worry,” Rachel said, shooting me a look. “They’ll hear all about it.”

I was sure they would. Rachel was not the kind to suffer in silence.

I couldn’t see the gunk on my back, but I could feel it when I moved and my clothes didn’t, stuck to me like glue. It made me want to tear them all off. I did the best I could with the clean up, contorting myself to reach what I could and then sanitizing my hands to within a layer or two of skin. I kept my shirt on, leaving the bin for those who’d received the bulk of the splatter, so I was the first one to the nurse’s desk. Instead of using her phone, I took my cell into the bathroom. I felt like a little girl calling for her mommy, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I was suddenly feeling fragile. If one more thing went wrong today, I might just break. I didn’t want to do it in front of witnesses.

“Mom,” I said, when she answered. “I was wrong. I’m not ready. Please come get me.”

Then I waited on the clinic couch. I thanked Marianne as she left, but aside from that I sat in my own little world trying not to think or feel or cry. By the time Mom came to gather me up, I was sure the other girls thought I’d lost my mind, but I couldn’t seem to care. I ignored their looks and the accusations they threw my way—all except for Ashley, who stayed eerily silent after her earlier intervention. The only thing I reacted to was when Mom and I had to pass close to my locker on the way out of school—close enough to see the janitor’s sandwich boards connected to each other with orange plastic ribbon, cordoning off the area like a crime scene. And in the center, all that blood, looking eerily real, maybe awaiting evidence collection before clean up.

It made me think about Lisa’s death. Supposedly there’d been no blood. When she broke the news, Mom said Lisa had hung herself. In her garage. Over a tarp. Which I didn’t get at first, until I thought of all the cop shows where the bowels loosened in death. Then I could almost see it. Lisa wouldn’t want to leave a mess. Not a physical one, anyway.

It was that “almost” that screwed with me. I still couldn’t imagine Lisa killing herself. Not Lisa.

______________

Buy links:

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I must have started today’s blog a dozen times, because it’s difficult to think of much else right now beyond concern over the direction our country is headed. (For the record, I’m choosing activism over acceptance. For those like-minded, I’m happy to supply this link of “pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-Earth, anti-bigotry organizations” you might consider supporting.)

But there is something else front and center of my mind today, and that’s the release of my new novel FAULTLINES. This is a book very close to my heart, perhaps even more so right now given the new wave of hopelessness and abuse many are suffering in the wake of the election. FAULTLINES is a young adult suspense novel – fiction but dealing with issues that are unfortunately all too real.  This weekend I talked with Books, Coffee and Craft News about the need to create. Today I’m over on the Slippery Words blog discussing my need to write this book in particular and talking about some of the themes.  I hope you’ll read along and check back here frequently (or follow me on Twitter or Facebook) for other blog stops, some with giveaways!

I’m also pleased to post up here the cover, quotes, copy and buy links in case you’d like to grab your own copy of FAULTLINES, which releases tomorrow from Bella Rosa Books!

faultlines-front-cover-final “Vivid, suspenseful, and charming, Diver creates a world where anything can happen in this must-read page-turner.” —Carrie Jones, New York Times bestselling author of the Need series

“Faultlines blew me away! A tense, suspenseful read that will break your heart and keep you guessing right up until the very end.” —Amy Christine Parker, author of GATED and ASTRAY

Six months ago Vanessa Raines lost her best friend.

Lisa had changed, pushing away everyone close to her, even Vanessa. She had quit soccer. Started wearing dark and dismal clothes. She refused every offer to talk and suffered whatever she was going through in silence. Now she’s really gone. Suicide they claim, but Vanessa knows that isn’t right. It can’t be.

Vanessa blames herself for letting Lisa chase her off. She wants answers, so that she can put to rest the rumors surrounding Lisa’s death and so that she can move on, heal. But Lisa left no note and the journal she was always scribbling in—which might tell all—is mysteriously missing.

As Vanessa struggles to come to terms with the loss of her friend and to reconstruct the last months of Lisa’s life, someone calling themselves “Poetic Justice” begins taking revenge against those he or she thinks drove Lisa to suicide. Everyone at school believes Vanessa is this mysterious “Poetic Justice”. It’s easy to blame the former best friend, and Vanessa makes an obvious target.

Struggling with her own guilt, Vanessa is determined to ignore the threats and allegations aimed her way. But as Poetic Justice’s vengeance takes a darker turn, retaliation against Vanessa begins to escalate, from cyber bullying to violence, putting both her and the little sister she adores in the line of fire. To protect them both, she has to find out who’s behind the attacks before things turn deadly. And hope she can survive the truth.

Buy links:

Amazon

Kindle

Nook

Books-a-Million

Indiebound

 

I was planning to write a post on victim-blaming and shaming some time soon because of what’s going on in the world and because they’re issues at the forefront of my mind and my upcoming novel. I wasn’t planning to write that post today. Until I saw the piece on MSN this morning about comments Donald Trump Jr. made a few years ago on the Opie and Anthony show. To quote, “I’m sure I’ll get myself in trouble one of these days — but like, if you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, like you don’t belong in the workforce. Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position.” That “basic stuff” he’s talking about is harassment.

So, let me get this straight, Trump Sr. and Jr., men should be allowed to harass women. They should be allowed to walk in on them naked, grope them, force their verbal and physical attentions on them simply because they’re out and about where these things can happen and if they don’t like it they shouldn’t be out? Certainly not in the workforce where they might interact with men? Um, no.

Not just no, but HELL no.

This has gone on long enough. From rapists like Brock Turner (notice I did NOT call him the Stanford Swimmer, as the media persisted in doing) getting only six months for his crime to his father, who thought that was “a steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action” to the judge who worried that a harsher penalty would have a severe impact on the poor lad, it’s clear that rape culture is alive and well. Let’s be clear, it was not “twenty minutes of action”. It was rape. It was a violation. One that will have physical and emotional repercussions throughout the woman’s life.

Let me continue to be clear: drunkenness is not consent. Fashion choices, location, time of day or night are not consent. NOTHING BUT CONSENT IS CONSENT. Anything else is assault or rape, depending on how far it goes. It is not okay.

Neither is intimidation. If you creep someone out by standing too close, blocking their exit or making unwelcome advances, no matter how flattered you think we should feel, we’re not being oversensitive, YOU’RE BEING AN ASS. At best. At worst you’re an actual creeper and we’re absolutely right to be concerned. All the best men understand this. Luckily, I know a lot of amazing men. But I’ve encountered the creepers, more times than I’d care to count.

And that bullying, that intimidation, that blaming the victim, is what keeps so many from speaking up. All of the sudden it becomes the victim on trial, the implication being “what did you do to provoke the attack?” Does anyone ask what someone did to provoke a mugging? Or a hit and run? Or identity theft? Do we villainize or doubt the people who report those crimes? No, we don’t.

Unfortunately, so many people, men and women, who are victims of assault don’t speak up. They’ve already been abused. They don’t want to invite more. They don’t want to relieve the experience. They certainly don’t want the continued abuse of the haters and deniers.

We don’t need to retire ourselves from the public eye so that we never risk being abused. We need to fight back. We need to speak and support. And we need to reject rhetoric like this and the underlying assumption that it’s anywhere in the vicinity of okay.

(*If you or anyone you know needs help or support due to any sort of abuse or PTSD from this election, here’s a page of resources.)

Bullying

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Brace yourselves…my blog post today is about neither books nor travel.  It’s about bullying.  Far too many really good kids I know are getting beaten down and bullied and the schools are not getting a handle on it.  Zero tolerance policy is a fallacy.  But I don’t blame the schools entirely.  Mostly, I blame the parents.  I don’t generally like to play the blame game, and feel free to shout me down, but whatever else you do, let’s discuss.

When I was a kid, we tended to think of bullies as kids who were bullied themselves and passed it along to others.  What I actually see behind most of the bullies are parents who make excuses for their kids, don’t rein them in or even pay much attention to what they’re doing, don’t draw boundaries or create consequences. From here I see two divergent things: those parents who immediately deal with their kids when they realize what’s going on, in which case the behavior is often nipped in the bud, and those who don’t, in which case it isn’t.  Many of the former and even some the latter are good people, some so nice you hate to bring things up and hurt feelings; you wonder how their kids’ behavior ever became an issue.  But silence doesn’t solve the problem.

The kids who are an ongoing threat are often those whose parents when confronted with their child’s behavior tell the person talking that they must be mistaken.  In some cases, they go a step farther.  Since their child would never do such a thing; yours must be a liar…or an instigator.  Yes, let’s blame the victims.  If by some miracle, they’re convinced there’s some fault, their reaction is not determination to get to the root of things or teach tolerance and empathy or offer up concrete consequences, but to give the kid a slap on the wrist and maybe take away video games for a night.  Really?  Children are getting emotionally scarred, some to the point where they’d rather not face another day, and you’re taking away video games?  I’m not saying one serious punishment will change the behavior.  Not at all.  But awareness, interaction, teaching tolerance and conversing with your kids might make a difference.  I’m talking about not spouting vitriol that the kids might adopt or creating an environment in which anything goes.  About not being blind to your child’s faults or creating such a buffer to protect them from the consequences of their actions that they never feel there are any.

Last week I heard that there were kids up at our lodge throwing stones, damaging cars and a five year old girl.  I wish I could say this surprised me.  A few weeks before Christmas (or maybe a bit more), two boys in our neighborhood were out shooting bb guns…at my son.  When a mother came to collect them and Ty told her what had happened, she said she’d deal with it.  However, based on the fact that her boys are constant problems in the neighborhood, I don’t have any faith in the response.  Ty likes to handle things on his own.  If he’d called me when it happened, I’d have called the police.  I told the kids exactly that the next time I saw them, but I doubt it will stop them from attacking the next kid.  In fact, I don’t think they’re going to stop or their mother will have her blinders knocked askew until the police actually come knocking at her door.  Even then….

I found out about No Name-Calling Week when Rob Neufeld did a piece on it and the DEAR BULLY anthology to which I contributed in this weekend’s Asheville Citizen-Times.  The No Name-Calling Week website has planning kits and some great resources for parents, teachers and students.  I encourage people to check it out.

I do wish, though, that we had all the answers.  I wish we could reach the parents who really need to be reached and that we could truly stop bullying before it happens and not just deal with the aftermath.  Please, please, if anyone has further ideas, resources, links, I’d love to hear them and to help spread the word.

DEAR BULLY: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories

edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

HarperTeen

Trade Paperback

September 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0062060983

I can barely even talk about this wonderful anthology and the terrible events that sparked it without a tear in my eyes.  I’m touched and amazed by the generosity of the contributors, who were willing to open their hearts and bare their past pain to give kids inspiration, hope and the understanding that it gets better.  I’m inspired by the anthologists, Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, who put this all together and started the Dear Bully website and Facebook pages to continue the community and information tapped into with the collection.  But enough of my words, let me let them tell you about it in theirs….

WHY THEY DID IT
Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones formed the group YAAAB (Young Adult Authors Against Bullying) in April 2010 when they both coincidentally blogged about the Phoebe Prince case on the same day. Megan reached out to Carrie expressing her frustration with this case and the fact that bullying that seemed to be growing at a ridiculously fast rate. As a Massachusetts resident and having already spoken about bullying in schools, Megan was horrified after hearing about the bullying that took place in the Phoebe Prince case. While writing her books, SISTERS OF MISERY and THE LOST SISTER, she had to dig deep to make “mean girls as evil as she possibly could. When she heard about all the bullying and bullycide stories in the news, she felt like the bullies had jumped off the pages of her book and into real life. She was also disheartened by the numerous times she’d done book signings and would say to readers, “I hope you never meet girls as mean as the ones in my book.” Shockingly, they almost always said, “We already have.” Carrie Jones was also moved to do something, as she was the target of bullying as a young child due to a speech impediment. Together, they felt that they owed it to teen readers to discourage bullying — to make it “uncool.” Megan Kelley Hall started by creating a Facebook page that kicked off an entire “movement” to end bullying.  This was the day that Megan, Carrie and other authors decided to use their platform as Young Adult authors to actually facilitate change and to be a voice for those kids who cannot speak out or are too afraid to be heard.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Right away, a large number of authors jumped on board of this cause — wanting to be involved in any way possible. The Facebook group jumped from 5 to 1500 members in one weekend and is now closing in on nearly 5,000 members. Carrie and Megan were thrilled when HarperTeen offered to put all of the stories into an anthology. The thought of having 70 authors – well-known, highly successful writers – sharing their personal bullying stories with their fans was something beyond what they had ever hoped for.

The stories in DEAR BULLY come from all angles: from the point of view of the victim, the mother, the friend, the sibling, the classmate – even a few from the actual bully. Some of the stories are light-hearted, while others are raw and emotional.  All of them drive home the point that bullying is something that almost everyone has experienced. And while that is a sad fact, they want to prove that it’s not a rite of passage. It doesn’t make you stronger, wiser, or better. But it is something that can be overcome, something that can be changed, something that is relatable, and something that one should never be ashamed of. Through these stories, the authors want to show that they understand what teens are going through today. It is important to encourage bystanders to speak up and make bullying unacceptable. Parents and adults must get involved. Bullying is something that people no longer have to endure–at least, not by themselves.

Though quite a lofty mission, the goal of DEAR BULLY is to help just one person get through a difficult time, and hopefully make bullying a thing of the past.

Don’t forget to join the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dearbully, visit the website at www.dearbully.com, or follow DEAR BULLY on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dearbully.

IN THE NEWS:

“FIGHT BACK WITH WORDS. Better Homes & Gardens recommends DEAR BULLY: Remind youngsters heading back to school that getting picked on is tough—but that words can also heal as much as they can hurt, as one anthology proves.”  – Better Homes & Gardens

“This anthology of personal essays provides empathetic and heartfelt stories from each corner of the schoolyard: the bullied, the bystander and the bully himself are all represented. Their words will be a welcome palliative or a wise pre-emptive defense against the trials of adolescent social dynamics.”           –New York Times

“Two of them, both authors of novels for young adults (Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones), have drawn on the power of the written word to focus attention on the problem and offer solace to the bullied.” – —The Boston Globe

“You’ll love it if… You know someone (or are someone) who’s ever been involved in any type of bullying incident. There’s something in it for everyone, on all sides of the spectrum. You’ll love it even more if you can find a story that inspires you to help someone else.” – Seventeen.com

“With authority often turning a blind eye and cyber-bullying rampant, this timely collection is an excellent resource, especially for group discussion, and the appended, annotated list of websites and further reading extends its usefulness.” – Booklist

“Powerful…All of these stories feel authentic and honest, and readers will find a story or a person to identify with, to look to for comfort or guidance.” School Library Journal

“Bottom line is this anthology is a terrific tool for the counselor who can customize the entries to the needs of the victimized student.”  — Harriet Klausner