Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't Touch the Cotton Candy!

As you read this, I'm moving into my dorm at the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics. (Phew, that's a mouthful!) So in the spirit of starting a new school year at a brand new school I figured I should share a fun, if embarrassing, moment. And a brief warning about school pep rallies. Mainly the ones where kids are mixing the cotton candy.Don't touch the cotton candy at the pep rallies. Seriously. Do. Not. Touch. Not only was my tongue dyed purple until the next morning when it was merely a hint at the tip of my tongue, but my fingers had a nice tint as well. Oh, and your spit is also brilliantly hued. And believe me, when the cotton candy is that vibrant, you won't be able to taste anything but bitterness for a few hours. And soda-of any kind-doesn't fix it. Trust me. Luckily I was around friends of several years. But that didn't save me when the teacher who took this picture showed it to all the kids in all his classes the next day.

New schools can be scary, but they can be a great opportunity to grow. Yes, I know that's what parents are always saying, but it's true. Whether you are moving up to high school or going on to college, don't be afraid to stretch your comfort zone. Meet new people who share your interests by joining a club or sport. For those musically inclined, marching band is a great option. These people can help you find your classes, warn you about the really strict teachers, and save you a seat at the lunch table. Marching band did a lot to help me through my freshman year of high school because I met people who were already familiar with the surroundings and were willing to help out the geeky flute player. So don't be afraid to try new things!

Good luck to all of you students bracing for school! And don't forget to pick up you copy of
Just One of the Guys* to help ease the transition!

*now on Kindle!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One time at Band Camp...

Most of my friends are currently in various stages of summer band camp. The percussionists and color guard are at their super-focused camps without the regular band crazies to distract them. The regular band crazies are bracing themselves for their camp starting next week.

And this is the south, so everything is hot and humid- and it's worse because everyone is working on super hot asphalt. And it's not even nice and smooth hot asphalt, its old rocky, bumpy asphalt. (And for accident-prone people like me, this leads to tripping and stumbling, the likelihood of which is only increased by the aforementioned heat.)

So it occurs to me that I have 2 years worth of stories to share with you, my faithful readers. Hm. Now which one should I feature today? That's it! Dragonflies!

(This involves a section leader who will now be called SL for the sake of privacy.)
We had to learn lateral slides- which are painful and awkward until you get the hang of them. The idea is that your feet always face the direction you are moving in while your instrument (a.k.a. arms and face) is parallel to the sidelines at all times. See below. On the left of the field are normal, easier directions of travel. On the right is a lateral slide.Now, SL was trying to teach us how to do these while walking in a straight line, playing our flutes, and marching the prescribed distance. We only escaped when a crippled dragonfly became stuck to SL's shoe and hung on for a good 5 minutes while she danced around. But then she executed a kick worthy of an international soccer star and flung him onto somebody's windshield, where he promptly died.

But she didn't lose the dragonflies that easily. No, two weeks later at an after-school practice, SL had another one fly into her sports drink. The next week there was another dragonfly stuck to her shoe. At our first game, one flew into her hair. The list of encounters is endless.

I don't know if the curse has been broken, as she left for college. But it makes you wonder... Do dragonflies have some sort of psychic connection to each other? Is earth populated by Jedi dragonflies? And does anyone else know of other band camp curses?

And don't forget to see what I've got cooking at Teen-Seen today!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet." (Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii, lines 43-44)

But is it really true? When in the process of creating a character I know his or her, well, character long before I know his/her name. I know how they act, their strengths and weaknesses, and their history.

For me, naming a hero or heroine can be the toughest part- after all, their names should mean something or nothing. The name has to represent the person to the readers who will meet him/her.

Example: Samantha is the star of Just One of the Guys. According to "Samantha" is a common English name that may be the female version of "Samuel." It's not super feminine and it's common, so it isn't particularly flashy. It's a down-to-earth name for a down-to-earth girl. There's also the added plus that it can be shortened to "Sam" which is the name she chooses to go by. Her name allows her to blend with her guy friends, and lends a credibility to her character.

Now, imagine her name is Isobel. Sure, maybe Isobel's a tom-boy, but her name doesn't really fit that fact. So if I were to use that name, I'd have to justify it by turning it into a conflict. She'd be likely to make comments such as: "I hate that name." and "Why did my parents have to be so old-fashioned?" Things like that. Isobel's looks and history would also be different because "Isobel" is obviously foreign (Italian to be exact). Instead of having auburn hair she'd have darker, Mediterranean looks. Her grandparents may be immigrants, so maybe she's fluent in Italian in addition to English.

Maybe if rose bushes were instead called thorn bushes, they'd smell just as sweet, but how many people would stop to smell them? Would you risk getting cut by a thorn bush in order to smell its flowers? I'll admit, I'd avoid a thorn bush like the plague. But a rose bush? Those are known for their beautiful flowers, so maybe I'd actually approach one.

So written by an author currently naming new characters,
Iris Black

Just One of the Guys is now available for Kindle and can also be found in other formats at Quake. For more updates on what's going on in my head, go to my Facebook, my Fan page, or follow me on Twitter (@IrisBlack).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why I'm Almost Ready for School to Start

Yep. I'm almost ready for school to start. How am I almost? Why am I waiting? You will find two short lists below: "Ready and Waiting" and "Not Quite Ready."

Ready and Waiting
  1. When school starts, I'll probably have more blog material to choose from.
  2. I really want to be a Governor's School student in the Governor's School.
  3. I want to meet all of my classmates and find out what my schedule's like.
  4. Oddly enough, I like school. My summer has been lacking in science material.
  5. I just want to get started.
Not Quite Ready
  1. I still have required reading to do.
  2. I haven't seen much of my friends this summer.
  3. Nerves.
  4. I actually do like my family and pets.
  5. Goofy reason: I want to see the new G.I. Joe movie before I leave =)
So anyways, that's what's been floating around in my head. Now it's floating around on the internet.

Read Just One of the Guys, a much more interesting approach to summer vacation and all of the little adventures that entails when you're in high school. Available now at Kindle and Quake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

War of the Pages

Some of you may be aware that I have been posting reviews/guides to commonly assigned summer reading books. (Whew! That's a mouthful!) And actually, none of those books are ones that I have been assigned this summer. A new school means new books and new focus. So while most of my old classmates are reading Beowulf and other British classics I am reading a motley assortment of craziness (literally!) and global classics.

Also, I had to go on the hunt via for specific editions with loooong forwards by other authors, etc.

Assigned to me (in my intended reading order):

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (American, pub. 1962)
Status: Completely Finished
Enjoyment: Mild- good book, tough topics, want to see the film
Dubliners by James Joyce (Irish topics/published in London, pub. 1914)
Status: Finished Preface, Midway in Intro, yet to see author's work
Enjoyment: Wish the boring stuff was shorter, looking forward to the stories
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (American, pub. 1920)
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: No intell to influence opinion, mostly curious
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (American, pub. 1947)
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: Looking forward to it- was meant to be in the curriculum last year
How Good People make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living by Rushworth Kidder
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: Facing the reading with great dread- luckily, it's short

And just a disclaimer: I know that summer is not forever and have a plan to reduce the pile of looming pages. I have a plan, I have time to implement it, and am resigned to my fate.

So have any of you read any of these? Opinions?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I march...

Or should I say marched? While I am moving to a new school (one without a marching band) I will never forget the times spent on the football field with over 100 of my peers. I marched in the Stratford Bands for 2 years and have learned so much in such a relatively short time.

Those 100+ peers I mentioned? Yeah, I knew all of their names and faces- and was able to match the right face to the right name for the most part. We were all odd, quirky, and downright crazy at times. Particularly on the bus or during a rainy-day indoor rehearsal. But the laughs weren't really the reason I continued to march with them for a second season.

No, it was about the family. The sense of community. We shed sweat, tears, and the occasional blood, together from July until December. From heated band camp to windy parades. When a band member was hurt, you helped. When a band member was struggling in class, you helped. When a band member needed help piling their hair into their hat, you took joy in knotting their hair into wacky pigtails and other twisted hairstyles. (Sorry boys, but dress code is dress code. No hair on the collars!)

My first season of marching ended with knee surgery after I stepped in a pot hole at our very last parade. My second season started with knee surgery. Because I couldn't march, they put me on the front line with the mallet percussion. Even though I had no CLUE what I was doing, they managed to fit me in and I didn't mess up too bad at competition. And I never once felt left out.

But that's the thing. An organization like band has so many different types of people. Injury-prone persons, tie-died hair persons, geeks, nerds, the works. And the only thing we all have in common is music. But its enough to start. And by the end of the season? We're family. That's why I marched.


top right: Show shirt from 08 season. We made State finals for the 1st time in 6 years!
middle left: Me marching at State my freshman year. The show was Musicology 101

Want to know what it's like to be part of the band? Read Just One of the Guys available on Kindle and other formats now!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am pleased to say that The Great Gatsby has arrived at Sam's Space!
Book Summary: This classic novel is set in Long Island, NY during the 1920s and Prohibition. The story is told by a young man, Nick Carraway, who has just moved to the East Coast from the Midwest. There, he meets his neighbor, Jay Gatsby- a man who is full of money and doesn't have the class to go with it. Nick also finds his distant cousin, Daisy, her husband Tom, and Daisy's friend, Jordan. This is the point when everything devolves into a messy soap opera drama. Gatsby is in love with Daisy, Daisy loves money and stuff, Tom cheats on his wife with a married woman named Myrtle, Nick has an affair with Jordan, and everyone is getting drunk at Gatsby's parties illegally. A definite recipe for disaster- as Tom knows Gatsby loves Daisy and Myrtle wants Tom to get a divorce so she can leave her husband (George Wilson). And Nick is the unfortunate observer caught in the middle.

Review: This is not my favorite book in the world, but I did enjoy it. The characters involved in the story will have you frustrated, indignant, and shaking your head at turns. But each has some sort of endearing quality- Daisy is so innocent of the world, George knows nothing of Myrtle's infidelity, Gatsby just wants the love of his life, etc. The book addresses the immorality of society and the injustices dealt to the lower classes without being dry or boring.

What to Look For/Impress Your Teacher: The use of color is extremely important in this novel. The green light that Gatsby sees (no, I won't tell you what it is) represents hope. When Nick first visits Daisy, all the white articles represent her almost child-like innocence and her fleeting nature. Abstractly, using the terms West and East Eggs to refer to the different neighborhoods by Fitzgerald was deliberate. An egg is white on the outside, but yellow at the core. (The appearance of innocence at the surface, but a rotten heart lies beneath.) Also, pay attention to Tom's dialogue when he buys Myrtle a puppy. Read it with the thought that he isn't really talking about canines, but women. Tom had no respect for the fairer sex. And pay attention to the season. Spring is full of hope and budding dreams, Summer is hot and passionate and full of life, Autumn represents death and decay. Hmm. Something to consider when watching Gatsby's actions...

Author Facts: F. Scott Fitzgerald's full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. He coined the term "Jazz Age" in reference to the 20s and sometimes found himself nearing bankruptcy- forcing him to work in Hollywood. (He found this distasteful.) His wife, Zelda, was in and out of mental institutions and Fitzgerald himself was an alcoholic. For more, go to Wikipedia.

And after you finish reading The Great Gatsby, be sure to find a copy of Just One of the Guys on Kindle or Quake!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sam's on Kindle!

Guess what: Sam and the guys are now available from for Kindle! The best part? Now, you can read Just One of the Guys anywhere, anytime.

Amazon also has a format for your iPhone or iPod touch. So now your music player can be an e-book reader too!

Buy it now! At only $2, who can resist this tantalizing read? It's the perfect way to break up your summer reading, relax over a coffee break, or just have fun!

P.S. The Great Gatsby will be joining us tomorrow- sorry for the delays.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I Foster Greyhounds

Today's post is the first in a random (no-schedule) series "Why I ___." The first-edition feature?
Why I foster greyhounds.
Yep. Usually you hear about foster kids- children without a legal guardian who have to move between families and homes while looking for adoptive parents. It's the same basic concept with the dogs- racing retirees in need of a forever home. My family's job is to help train these racers to be home-friendly pets when they've never even been inside a house before.

So why do I do it? Here are two good reasons:
Meet Boo (left) and Brody (right), my two current retired greyhounds. Brody is about 7 y/o and Boo is about 4 y/o. Both dogs raced, but neither was very good and both retired early without being bred.

"Fly Bye Brody" was my family's second foster dog, arriving while I was in 6th grade. He fit in with the female grey we had at the time and was such a goofball we couldn't bear to let him leave. Boo was one of our first fosters after my 8th grade year- two of our dogs had passed away that spring. "Sweet Crunch" was her racing name (how do you shorten that?) and had the adorable habit of perking up her ears like the little girl in Disney-Pixar's Monsters Inc.

The dogs that come through our home naturally a bit confused- not only are they in an actual house, but they've been transported from the Florida kennels to stay with complete strangers. One foster was terrified of hardwood floors and hopped from the carpeted floors to the rugs. We've had others that were terrified of the cats, the stairs, or both. Each dog is different, but every single one just wants to make people happy.

The dogs on the track are fed the worst sort of meat on an irregular basis. The beef that's deemed unsuitable for humans and that isn't even used in commercial dog food. Most of them have bald spots on the backs of their hips from the kennels and others have scars from scrapes and fights with other dogs.

And yet, the greyhounds still enjoy life and human attention. They still run in circles- often leaving tracks in their owner's backyards. They beg for attention, treats, and a good scratch. These dogs have a resiliency that few humans possess. While the laws in Florida are changing so that the dogs don't have such a long career, they still need people who (with great patience) can teach them how to live off the track. And if I can help place these dogs in a loving, permanent home, then that's something I want to be doing.

I work with the Greyhound Pets of America Charleston chapter. For information on greyhounds and racing stats, go to Greyhound-Data.

Look and see some cool pics/stats/pedigrees of greyhounds I have owned/do own: Faithful Message (Faith), Levi Rider (Levi), Fly Bye Brody (Brody), and Sweet Crunch (Boo) are a few.

Did you know that while they are called greyhounds, breeders and trainers believe grey, or blue, colored greyhounds are unlucky?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Mice and Men

Book Summary: This novella takes place in California during the Great Depression and focuses on two migrant workers with a dream for a better life- tending their own plot of land, complete with a rabbit farm. George Milton guides his mentally-disabled friend, Lennie, through life; Even when Lennie causes problems, George refuses to abandon him. When the pair find work at a ranch, their dream seems closer than ever, until the ranch-owner's daughter-in-law begins to cause trouble.

Review: This book addresses several controversial topics due to the time period and the type of men depicted in the story. It is an excellent book, but it is extremely sad. It's pretty hard to make someone cry in DisneyWorld, but I was tearing up at several points in the book. Still, an excellent book, but heartwrenching. So grab the tissue box and start reading!

What to Look For/Impress Your Teacher: Look at the description of the dream itself. What's unrealistic about it? Answer: Rainbow rabbits. In literature, if something sounds unrealistic, that generally means it can't happen. Also, the dogs involved in the story are key to Lennie's journey/fate. (The author points the fact that Lennie doesn't have much thinking capacity past that of a young child and often is more George's pet than peer.) Also, look up Robert Burn's poem To A Mouse. Steinbeck took his title from these lines in the second-to-last stanza: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." In english, that's "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Go oft awry."

Author Facts: Steinbeck isn't a source of juicy gossip like Ernest Hemingway was, but here are some relevant facts. During World War II, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He even went on some commando missions! He also won the Pulitzer prize for his novel, The Grapes of Wrath. In 1962, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. For more info on John Steinbeck and his other works, go to Wikipedia.

Next week, meet The Great Gatsby. And while you're waiting, don't forget to read my short story, Just One of the Guys, available now!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Old Man and The Sea

Okay, this was actually meant to be a Monday post. But we had some weather and traffic issues down here, so I was kept pretty busy yesterday.

Some techincal info/disclaimers:

Please understand that for the sake of this blog, some information is revealed that depicts the plot of the book under discussion. However, it is nothing like actually reading the book itself and is not enough to pass a test or write an essay! Also, throughout this series, there will be religious and sometimes sexual themes discussed. Everything will be PG unless specifically stated at the beginning of a post. Now, without further ado, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway!

Book Summary:
The book takes place in a small Cuban fishing village. The main character, Santiago is an impoverished old man believed to be cursed with bad luck because he has not caught a fish in 84 days. A village boy, Manolin, is forbidden from helping Santiago in his old age due to this unluckiness. So on the 85th day, Santiago sails out to try and catch a fish. A prime marlin catches his eye, and Santiago sets out to catch him. It takes 3 days for him to finally catch the marlin, and he suffers greatly for his prize. Thus, he sets sail home, only to be beset by sharks that rip his prize to pieces.

Review: This recieves 4 out of 5 stars from me. I loved this book for its simple, yet tasteful writing as well as its thorough detail. Hemingway describes his characters and his setting so well that you can taste the salt of the ocean and feel the coastal breeze. The story is a true man vs. nature plot and it truly shows that man must survive against all odds, or he is not a man. (This was Hemingway's thinking, represented by Hemingway's Code Hero.)

What to Look for:
This novella is a perfect example of Hemingway's typical writing. He uses very simple words, yet they fit the meaning and point perfectly. Also, the plot is practically a direct parallel to Jesus' journey as depicted in the Christian bible.

Impress Your Teacher: The novella sets Santiago up as Jesus, with Manolin as his disciple. (Santi means "saint" in Spanish) Also notice the eighty-___ days he went without catching a fish. These can be matched with Jesus's time in the desert where he went without food or water. While he was battling the marlin, the injuries Santiago suffered are stigmata (representations of Christ's injuries). He also spent 3 days fighting the Marlin (Jesus rose 3 days after his death). Other details can also be compared- pay attention to the end, when Santiago reaches his port. Hey, you didn't think I'd tell you everything did ya?

Cool Author Stuff: Hemingway was a very neat, and very crazy guy. He basically lived the life of his heroes. (See link above) He was a veteran of WWI, serving in the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps as a driver because his vision wasn't good enough to be a soldier. He loved to hunt, and traveled the world to do so. Hemingway collected six- and seven-toed cats. His Key West house is still used as a shelter for his own pets' descendants! Also, he was a very depressed man. Suicide ran in his family, and he eventually killed himself as well. That's all the really weird stuff. For more, see Wikipedia.
Oh, and Spain hated him! When he wrote The Sun Also Rises he romanticized the bullfighting festival in Pompolona (that race you always hear about). After his book was published, the festival became flooded with drunk young men and other tourists eager to try their luck. Needless to say, the deathtoll rose significantly and the "not-so-smart" non-Spainish people at the festival irritate the Spaniards of Pompolona no end. Hmm.

This concludes this entry in the summer series. Come back next Monday- yes, I mean Monday this time- to learn about Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Latest Updates- Emphasis on Late!

First of all, I'm not trying to ignore all of you guys who read my blog! Secondly, the end of the school year has been pretty crazy!

Update on my last post: When I got there for orientation, all of my name tags, folders, and other paraphernalia read "female." Phew! Disaster avoided.

Anyways, I've just been busy with physical therapy (going great, by the way) and the end of school. I've been studying for finals (got a 100 on my science end-of-course exam) and cleaning out my locker in varying stages. Who knew the smallest possible band locker could hide so much junk?

Great news! I'm starting work on the sequel to Just One of the Guys today! So if you're behind the times, better catch up quick, because who knows what kind of hot water Sam will land in next?

Also, I'm pleased to announce a new Monday feature focusing on required reading. Don't groan yet- in addition to a brief summary of a commonly required book, there will be tips on how to impress your teacher, what it's really talking about, and other cool facts about the book and the author! So come back on Monday for a view of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

See ya later!
Iris and Sam

P.S. Visit Teen-Seen and find out where I like to spend my summers!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Literally One of the Guys...

So everybody knows that I got into the Governor's School of Science and Mathematics. And I'm really excited.


In the daily world I go by my gender-neutral middle name. Every form I have ever filled out for any form or camp has required the inevitable Male/Female checkbox. Needless to say, I always check female. FEMALE. As in, not male.

The Governor's School left a phone message today saying how glad they were that "Jordan would be joining the school. We are so excited to have him join us. If he has any questions or concerns, we will be happy to answer them. We cannot wait to see him tomorrow at the orientation."

I am not a HE!
Grumble. I'm sure they will figure it out tomorrow. All of my pictures are of a teenage female. They have my records as a female. It's an honest mistake, and not the first time this sort of thing has happened. It just happens to be the most important case! But for now, I'm Just One of the Guys. Lol.

Friday, May 1, 2009

And its Out!

I am pleased to announce the end of the countdown
Just One of the Guys is now available!

Sam may be a girl, but all of her friends are guys. Not to mention, they're all in the school marching band! Juggling friends and the various perils of band camp has Samantha running ragged. Add in a summer crush- which none of the gang can possibly find out about... This just might be a recipe for the all-time number one 'band camp' story.

If you have nothing to do this weekend, are looking for some new reading material, or just want to find out how Sam will survive her summer, go to now! Best of all, after you read my story, you can go back to the site and write a review. Or post your comments here.

You can get your own copy of Just One of the Guys right now!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Day Left!

We approach the clock with one day left...
My Family

I believe that family is important under any circumstances. And my family deserves a whopping two-thumbs up for awesomeness. My mom, my dad, and my brother Robert have been highly supportive of all of my goals. Especially my pursuit of publication! Mom, Dad, and Robert have always been there for me, no matter what. Just One of the Guys would never have happened without them! Muchas gracias!

Mom- You got me into reading and put up with me- even when I had to read every sign and label at Petsmart. You taught me not only how to tell a good story, but how to write one. Thanks for all the writer days you put in at my schools and for all the conferences you drove me to! Your guidance, confidence, support, and editorial revisions have been invaluable to me. Hugs, kisses, and love!

Dad- You have been a major part of everything I do. You revealed to me the amazing world of real rollercoasters and you taught me how to fire a pistol. You listen to Mom and me brainstorm about our stories- and you help me brainstorm about my engineering projects! Thanks for your patience, love, and great taste in cool t-shirts!

Robert- I may call you my annoying little brother, but you have been a huge contributor to everything. You've been incredibly helpful during my most recent recovery- even when it meant getting up from a Time Warp episode. You help me keep my Marvel comic history straight and its always fun to hear you get excited about band. Thanks for everything- except maybe the annoying stuff! =)

Just One of the Guys is coming out TOMORROW! You'll be able to get your copy here. And don't forget that the countdown continues here at Sam's Space. There's one last person that deserves a BIG thank-you!

And guess what! It's my sixteenth birthday today! I'm having some friends over for pizza, cake, and gaming. I'll post pictures of everything on Saturday. Yay!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And the Gals...

The thank-yous continue with...
My Girlfriends

Every girl has at least one really close girlfriend. I am fortunate to have several, but I'm only going to pick on, err, thank, the two who have been most involved with Just One of the Guys. All of my girlfriends have been there for me when I most needed them, gone shopping when we've had cash, and watched movies at home when I'm hooked up to an ice machine. I love all of them, and I am very lucky to know such strong, compassionate, and beautiful young women. So thanks Chelsea and Ashley!

Chelsea- You have known me longer than anyone else (aside from my family). Your a sister of the heart, and I'm so glad that you and I met. We've been there for each other through thick, thin, and freshman year.
I don't know many people who could be as patient with my craziness and many injuries as you. Nor do I know many people who visit their friend's home in order to clean their room... I love you!
P.S. We really need to go to the beach sometime!

Ashley- Thanks for being so amazingly awesome. You've been to hockey games with me, helped me live through your brother's visits to see my brother, and supported me through two seasons of marching band. You've dealt with my competition hyperactivity and my untimely nacho cravings. Truly, you deserve an award. But all I can say is this... I love you like Tuesday!
P.S. Don't you love Hallmark's Hoops and Yoyo?

Just One of the Guys would not have happened with the support that I have received from both of these chicks. Get your copy starting Friday!

Sam might be one of the boys, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have her girlfriends. Or her girl perspective... And that can lead to some interesting conversations when the boys get involved. Or start asking questions. This summer's band camp will never be forgotten...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

To My Guys...

And the countdown continues with:

The Guy Friends

No, I didn't forget, Bertrand! I did promise to mention you by your first name. So here are my thanks to my own guy gang: Preston, Bertrand, Jacob, Eddie, Scott, and the rest. This story would never have happened if I hadn't met all of you. I have had tons have fun in all the years that I have known you guys. No one's mind could possibly imagine half the stuff we've gotten ourselves into- thanks for all the awesome ideas! And yeah, I have contemplated shipping one or two of you overseas every once in a while... but only when you really got on my nerves. Lolz =)

Bertrand- Ta-da! Your name is at long last on my blog in as official a dedication as I can make for you. Thanks for all the hugs and for finally cleaning out the locker. But it is looking a bit cluttered again...

- You're just going to have to read the story on Friday- no more inside info. No matter how many times you ask me in the middle of Spanish class! Thanks for all the computer advice and for teaching me math for two years. Governor's School is gonna rock!

- I know you don't like my blender metaphor, but it's okay. I'd never really put you in one. Don't give up yet- one day the tennis team will beat Wando. I'll miss you next year, and I promise to visit! Here that? I promise.

- You've been one of my best friends since 1st grade. Thanks for going to summer camps with me and for teaching me how to fish. Most especially, thank you for not laughing at that bat that once got stuck in my hair! A true gentleman...

- Thanks for making me laugh at myself and for attempting to teach me leet-speak. Even though I'm hopeless. Did you notice my 'lolz' earlier? Also, thanks for showing me that sleep definitely is the best policy for any situation. And don't you DARE torrent my story... >=[

Just One of the Guys is coming out this Friday. Find your copy at!

Sam may be a girl, but she's always been one of the boys. Now she and her friends are at band camp- and the heat is the least of Sam's worries. Giant bugs, crazy musicians, and boys? This may just be a recipe for the perfect "One time at band camp..." story!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Countdown Begins!

In case you didn't see my Saturday post or the note in the Latest Updates on the sidebar...
Just One of the Guys is coming out
May 1st!

I am officially announcing the countdown to launch (5...4...3...2...1), and thanking a new group of people each day. There have been several people involved with this story, and my writing in general, and it would be unfair to leave them unmentioned. I'd never have been able to do it without them. So, in the spirit of the countdown, I bring you:
School Groups and Teachers

Creative Writing Club:
particularly Jon, Amanda, and Ms. Halloran.
Jon- you've been listening to me since your first meeting- and correcting my grammar and spelling since your second! I've enjoyed reading your work, just as I have enjoyed sharing my own. Good luck at college- and don't forget to continue your writing in that lab!
Amanda- you may be a more recent addition, but you have been amazing! You are so funny- and thanks for taking my side when Jon got into his English professor mode. Hooray for slang! Keep up with your werewolves- don't let them run you ragged!
Ms. Halloran- I'm going to miss you and our brainstorming sessions next year. Thank you for listening to everything and for providing such a great outlet for students to express themselves. The club meetings have long been a highlight of my week!

Teachers past and present: I have appreciated your guidance and support and I don't have enough words to thank all of you, I want to mention a few by name:
English Teachers- Mrs. Young, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Neese, Ms. Milligan, and Mrs. Richardson
And Also- Mr. Ward (cuz he rocks, and he always wanted me to write about band!)

Stratford Marching Knights: I have greatly enjoyed being a part of this organization. Especially this year- we made state finals! I am going to miss you guys when I leave next year, but I am never going to forget the time I spent with you guys. The extra practices, the snack trips, the shared colds... The list goes on and on, and you can rest assured that Sam and the gang will never experience a dull moment so long as they are marching through their stories!

I am so glad to have met all of you. Your faith that one day I would be published has kept me strong. I am pleased that I have finally achieved that goal- and none of it would have happened but for you guys. Now all we have to do is work on my becoming a bestseller...

On May 1st, get your own copy of Just One of the Guys at

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Furry... Saturday? Oops!

Yeah, yeah, I know today's Saturday. But I forgot to stick this up on Friday, so we'll just have to pretend. And yes, I know I've kept you guys waiting for like, forever. But, I promise, Alex's doberman is well worth it! Boo-Boo, Boo for short, is a true sweetheart!

Age: 4 years

Gender: Female

Height: 24 inches

Weight: 85 lbs

Origins: Boo-Boo is the Wilson's family dog. They got her from the local rescue shelter as a puppy. While she was (and when nervous is) a tenacious chewer of all things chewable, the family stuck with her. No, they never messed with her ears or bobbed her tail. Isn't she so very cute this way?

Favorite Game(s):
Boo loves to wrestle with Alex and play tug-o-war with whatever is handy. She loves it when she gets to play with Sam's Tolkien, and the two will roughhouse and run until they collapse. She also likes to trip people up at the door and pull other mischievous pranks. Her absolute favorite toy is one she's had since puppyhood- a ratty old teddy bear that Alex calls "the mutant." The mutant is, however, a cuddle-only toy and is not up for the ravages of tug-o-war.

More info: Boo-Boo may be a fierce looking doberman, but she has a huge and somewhat cowardly heart! Thunderstorms, fireworks, and even a loud rainstorm will send her to her "den"- a mess of blankets, old toys, and stolen shoes tucked into a back corner of the family TV room.

I hope you enjoyed finally learning about Alex's dog. But I have some completely, totally, amazing news that can't wait any longer:

Just One of the Guys is coming out May 1st!

You can find my first short story at Sam and the guys are at band camp, a place of work, trouble, sun, and fun. But which will Sam find herself in? Marching, guys, bugs, music, guys... It's enough to make a girl's head spin! Read the story to find out just what it means to be one of the guys!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Blog Status

Hey! I had a major knee surgery last week that's really kicking my butt right now. They didn't tell me two screws would give me this much trouble! So I'm putting whatever I can off until next week- which means all the usual posts will resume then.

This week's Furry Friday, featuring Alex's dog, will appear next Friday. Other weekly features and material will also show up starting Monday-ish.

In the meantime, you can check out my first post at Teen Seen, which will appear tomorrow- Saturday! I will be returning to the Teen Seen blog every other Saturday after that.

Thanks for understanding! Can't wait to see you next week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who's Who Wednesday?

This week features Alex Wilson!

Age: 16

: Alex is usually found in a standard t-shirt and jeans. His shirts are usually music-related, ranging from concert souvenirs to marching show shirts to guitar shop freebies. Alex's longish blond hair gives him a carefree air, which is magnified by his worn jeans and grungy gym shoes. Alex always has his iPod plugged in when he isn't carting his own acoustic guitar around. Alex is a friend's friend and is a lively member of any gathering.

Driving Status: Restricted with his own Jeep. Has a lot of freedom on the road- after suffering through multiple driver's ed classes.

Favorite Class(es)
: Chemistry and Band- gotta love the rhythms

: Tenor saxophone for band class, guitar for jazz band and personal use

After-School Activities
: Alex is usually wrapped up either in marching band practice or jazz rehearsal/performances. For him, its all about the music. Alex also likes to compete in spring science competitions- outlets for his interest in wacky science facts.

: Alex enjoys teaching himself how to play various guitars- so far he has mastered acoustic and electric. Right now, Alex is learning electric bass. Alex also likes to endanger his parent's kitchen and backyard by replicating interesting experiments he sees on television (i.e. Discovery channel).

Weekend Stuff: When Alex isn't crashing with the rest of the crew, he's usually off performing with the school jazz ensemble. Or maybe he's just at home spending some quality time with his television set. Either way, you can bet Alex is having fun and relaxing before heading back to school on Monday.

Come back on Friday to meet Alex's furry companion!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Furry Friday

Prepare to meet Matt's scaly friend: Smaug!
A real bearded dragon!

(Photos from Scott Kinmartin's flickr site)

Age: 2.5 years

Gender: Male

Length: 22 inches (most of it tail)

Weight: ? Smaug hates the bathroom scale- he hisses uncontrollably whenever it's in sight.

Origins: Smaug is the result of much begging and pleading on Matt's part. Just after his 14th birthday, Matt began his campaign for a pet of his own- one that could be kept in a controlled environment. And voila! A few months later, Matt successfully converted his mother to buying Smaug!

Favorite Game(s): Smaug and Matt are often found on the floor with Matt pretending to be another lizard. This allows Smaug to "fight" Matt as he would another member of his species- no one harmed, its the same in the wild. Smaug also enjoys riding on Tolkien's back whenever the german shepherd comes to visit.

More info: You may have noticed that Smaug is the name of the dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Sam's dog is also named Tolkien. Coincidience? Sort of, but not really. First of all, Tolkien's works are favorites of Sam and Matt. In eighth grade, they both re-read his books as part of a school project. They got pets within a few months- and the names just kinda happened.

Come next week to meet Alex's furry friend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Results Are In!

It's official! My first sidebar poll ended earlier this week and I'm here to tell you what's up!

The Question: It's high school and its Friday night: What are you most looking forward to?
Responses: Tailgate with 12% of the vote Game time with 0% of the vote The marching show with 62% of the vote Wendy's after the game with 0% of the vote A late night movie with friends with 25% of the vote
(Apparently the computer can't add to 100... it cuts off at 99...)
Hurray! The majority of Sam's Space viewers can't wait for the marching band to take the field at halftime! Can you hear the gang's applause from backstage?

Sam and the guys (Matt, Alan, Alex, and Colby) are all in the marching band, and, of course, are glad most of you can't wait to hear them. They spend the entire first half of the football game building up to the moment when they are the center of attention. But it takes a lot of work to get to the point that they can march an entire 7.5 minute show, with music, from memory...
JUST ONE OF THE GUYS is my new short story title, coming out later this month. It's the first week of summer band camp, and Sam's already getting into plenty of trouble- with the guys' help of course!
Keep checking back for updates on the story, the characters, and the release

And don't forget to check out the new poll to the left...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who's Who Wednesday

This week features Matthew (Matt) Collins!

Age: 16

: Matt is in possession of short, dirty blond hair topping his 6 foot plus frame. This makes him about a foot taller than Sam, much to her perpetual annoyance. His baggy jeans, t-shirts, and ripped up sneakers are a constant. His hand-held gaming system and iPod are always stuffed into his pockets when they aren't in his hands.

Driving Status: Learner's permit. He's been too busy to take the driver's ed class so far.

Favorite Class(es)
: Physics and band- composition's the name of the game.

: Marches lead bass drum on the battery and plays any drum part he can get during concert season.

After-School Activities
: Marching band keeps Matt pretty busy, but he's still managed to maintain a decent presence at the computer club meetings. There's nothing like web page design and learning java script and html code to pass the afternoons by.

: Matt is a master gamer and a major computer junkie. Always up-to-date on the latest games, platforms, and software, Matt's the go-to guy for technology. He makes a decent buck helping teachers and small businesses set up web pages. On occasion, he has been known to enter himself in video game tournaments and delights in gaming online.

Weekend Stuff: Matt is either hanging with the others or is camped out on his sofa with his various gaming parephenalia. He loves poning his Sam and the rest whenever they game together, but is usually a decent sport. If he's watching movies, they're action and if he's feeling musical, it's usually classic or soundtrack instrumental. Or anything with a piano.

Next week will feature Alan, so don't miss out! And this Friday, meet Matt's beastly buddy!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Write Good Weekend

Okay, who doesn't have a good weekend when they don't have to attend school on Friday? Anyways, I got a lot done on my free day.
1. I got my first round of editing done on Just One of the Guys!
2. I went to a nice dinner with my family and some old friends.
3. I raided Barnes & Noble for some fresh reading material.

And Saturday was pretty great too! I went to a young writers' conference hosted at a local high school. It wasn't a huge, super organized event, but it was fun and it was nice. There were two local authors there who hosted the classes that the high school kids attended.

I learned a lot about writing warm-ups and rediscovered the key points to building a character. Dabbled in some poetry and some short, high-detail snippets. So I'm going to take some time and share the highlight activities with you.

Writing warm-up ideas:

1. Go through the classified ads. Look for cases where someone is posting an ad to find someone they met briefly. What details do they offer? Now try and create your own. How many unique details can you pinpoint to locate this person or item?
2. Read some thematic poetry. (We used a collection of muse poems.) What types of information and/or emotions are most common between each piece? Write your own and try to incorporate as many of those key elements as possible.
3. Divide your paper into two columns that run halfway down the page. Head one column: Famous People and the other Verb+ing Nouns. (Verb+ing Nouns are phrases such as: running with scissors, walking to a church, jousting with a samurai, etc.) Be as crazy and wacky as possible. Let nothing limit what you put in the lists. For example, Mickey Mouse counts as a famous person. Now, at the bottom of your page, start playing around with names and phrases. Write a paragraph or a short story using as many listed items as possible, or just focus on one person or action. What can you come up with?

Key points to character building:

1. Credibility. What makes your character reliable? What experiences have they had that make their actions believable? You can't have a rich guy from Boston show up in Texas and start talking in an authentic southern twang. Unless you have a really good reason for why. Maybe Mr. Boston got amnesia or was kidnapped at a young age. But remember, if you have to work too hard to justify something, then your reader isn't going to buy it- you've just lost your audience.
2. Purpose. Why is your character doing what he/she is? What drives them? Batman is a great example. Why does Bruce Wayne stalk the night as a superhero? Because his parents were murdered in a back alley robbery. He wants justice. In order to identify with a character, a reader must know what motivates the character. An air of mystery is fine- in the beginning. If a character's actions aren't justified, the reader will grow confused. If we didn't know why rich Mr. Wayne acted as Batman, we might put it down to playing god, arrogance, or boredom.
3. Complexity. What makes your character human? How is it possible to relate to your character? Superman and Harry Potter both work well here. Superman may not be a human, but he is human: there are times when he has to choose between his girl and the world. Harry Potter is the Chosen One, but he is still a typical teen: he has to go to school, deal with bullies, and has family issues. Mistakes and bad decisions are what make a character real. No one is absolutely perfect in real life- your character is no exception.

So what do you think? Try out some of the exercises and see what they do for you. Is your character credible, motivated, and complex?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Teen Seen Has Been Hijacked!

Everybody, duck and cover!

Gus has come down from Cynthia's Attic and taken over Teen Seen! And she's not leaving until people start reading! Go there now to find out what you can do to help the Quake authors regain their blog! Quick, Ms. Cunningham needs her character!

To get your own copy of Gus's first adventure, click here or go to Amazon.
To get a copy of Gus's most recent escapade, Curse of the Bayou, go to Quake or Amazon.

Please- we need your help!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Furry Friday

Thanks for visiting this most recent Furry Friday! This week features Alan's Maine coon cat, Artemis!

: 14 weeks

Gender: Female

: 8 inches, not including the tail- Artemis will keep growing until she is close to 5 years old!

6 inches at the shoulder

: 2 lbs.

Origins: For Christmas, Alan was told that he could choose a kitten from one of the litters at the local animal shelter. As he walked by Artemis's enclosure, she reached out, snagged his jeans, and refused to let go. He has been hers ever since. Her name is a by-product of Alan being required to read Edith Hamilton's Mythology for his English class. Her coloring and attitude put him in mind of the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt.

Favorite Game(s): Artemis loves to wrestle and teeth on Alan. She is also fond of chasing the fish-shaped laser pointer he bought for her. Recently, Artemis has discovered her power of intimidation- and enjoys employing it against Tolkien whenever he comes for a visit. She is very proud of her canine mind-control powers.

More info: Artemis is an indoor-only cat, but whenever Alan is home they are attached at the hip. It often seems that Artemis is just a very small puppy the way she trails after her person. While she is suspicious of strangers, she will warm to them if they are patient and friendly to Alan.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Alan's fluffy companion. Next week, prepare to meet Matt's animal counter-part!

Algebra or Algeblah?

No, this is not a request for a spell-check. Those of you reading this are reading this at a time when I am either:
a. studying for my Algebra 2 test today,
taking the test while glaring at my calculator, or
c. recovering from the horrors of said test.

The Lolcat sez- I mean says- it all. Granted, Algebra is preferable to Geometry's painful proofs, but really. When am I ever going to need to know how to reduce a square root discriminate in a quadratic function while using imaginary numbers? See? It's a whole different language! And really, imaginary numbers? Hello- imaginary means that they don't exist- why do I need to know how to use them in equations? Humph! Math.... Sam agrees with me- Why does she need to know about quadratics, and parabolas, and imaginary numbers when all she wants to do is cook? Alex is of a different opinion- he loves solving numerical puzzles. The geek.

Not that I'm bitter or anything, because based on what I want to do (other than be a fabulously famous author) I might need to know that x is equal to negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a! All you math geeks out there should be able to follow- for those of you not yet in Algebra, it's the quadratic formula and it can be sung to "Pop Goes the Weasel." And then it gets stuck in your head... LOL

However, math does come in handy and quadratics are mostly fun-they actually make loops on the graph! Sorry, me and Sam are so ADD. Anyways, its only when you start tossing in weird stuff like the axis of symmetry and imaginary numbers that things start to get more annoying than alluring.

So have fun, study hard, and wish me luck on my test! And don't forget to come on over tomorrow and meet Alan's furry pal!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who's Who Wednesday

Welcome to Triple W Numero 3! Get ready for the low-down on Alan Mackes!

Age: 15 1/2 (only 1 month younger than Sam)

: Alan has short, curly brown hair and slightly dorky wire-frame glasses. His height is right around equal to Sam's, slightly short for a boy, but not by much. Alan's standard street clothes are a regular t-shirt and a pair of almost-but-not-quite beat up jeans. His worn-out sneakers and Letterman's jacket complete the look.

Driving Status: Alan can drive, just not legally. He's been to lazy to take the permit test and catches a lot of grief for it.

Favorite Class(es)
: Woodshop and Band- where he practices his woodshop talents on the lockers, equipment, etc.

: Trumpet. He shares a band locker with Sam and her piccolo and flute. Although sharing may not be the best word... the locker makes a convenient 2nd closet...

After-School Activities
: Marching band, marching band, and marching band repair. If marching season's over, then he's always helping the other school groups build things for various events. (Think stage sets, props, pep rally displays, etc.)

: Alan is always building or fixing something- or planning how/when to fix something. When he isn't marching on the field, he's usually on the sidelines fixing the drum major's podium, the golf cart, the trailer, the sound system, whatever. Lego bricks have always been of a build-able and collectible interest to Alan. He is also a major sci-fi and fantasy nerd. Star Wars trivia and vampire fascination practically ooze from his pores.

Weekend Stuff: If Alan isn't busy with band or the rest of the crew, he's probably watching re-runs on the Sci-Fi channel. Or weird history shows on History Channel. Or Mythbusters on Discovery. Or... Well, the list is endless. Alan usally has some sort of mechanical project going on in the middle of the backyard or is assembling some weird little gadget on the dining room table... Hang on, Sam wants to say something- "Seriously. If Alan didn't know the rest of the gang, he'd never leave that house but for school and the hardware store! He's just techno-crazy. And to hear him go on about Darth Vader..."

Thank you, Sam for that errm- nice message. Check back next week to meet Matt and don't forget to stop by on Friday to meet Alan's fuzzbomb companion!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Marching Orders...

No, it's not what you think. It's just that time of year again when my band directors are busy finalizing the music arrangements for our new marching show in the fall. This year has consisted of a battle between classical sixteenth-note craziness Henry V and amazingly cool theme songs in Video Game Suite. Hmm... not much of a choice says the high school students. There is a choice! shouts the band director. That much classical isn't very march-able says the second-tier band staff. Needless, to say, I'm very much in favor of the Video Game Suite.

You see, it isn't just Atari "beeps" and Pong "bloops". It's music. Good, solid music that is feasible for a marching field. (20 beat-long 16th and 32nd note runs are not!) First movement is the Halo Theme (from "Halo Suite") by Marty O'Donnell. Second movement is from Civilization IV: Coronation and Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin. And all of this is wrapped up by the epically awesome Kingdom Hearts by Yoko Shimanura. The whole she-bang is arranged by Ralph Ford. And it sends chills up and down my spine whenever I hear it. I just know this is the piece for my band. Problem is, the piece is almost 3 minutes too long for the limited time we have on the field.

So, today we were trying to figure out which measures (units of music) to cut from the music without comprimising the integrity of the arrangement itself. You can listen to a professional recording of the whole arrangement here. Tell me what you think. What you like, what you don't. It's pretty much a shoe-in for the show, but I'd like to know your opinion, since the whole point is to entertain the audience. (Please remember, we high-schoolers are far from being pros, will be marching on a field, and have only 7-7.5 minutes. So give a lil' grace.)

And tomorrow, don't forget to look out for Alan's Triple W interview!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Furry Friday!

Welcome back to Furry Friday. Today we will travel to Colby Ryan's bedroom to meet his not-so-furry companion Firecracker

Age: 1 year

Gender: Male

: 2 1/2 inches

: ??? how do you weigh a fish?

Origins: Firecracker the fish is of humble origins... Colby picked him out at the local pet store after heavy negotiations with his mother. (Seems Mrs. Ryans isn't too fond of pet mess.) Luckily, Colby convinced his mother that fish just don't make a mess.

Favorite Game(s): None. He's a fish.

Habits: Firecracker has a habit of flaring out his tail in warning whenever Colby's door opens, someone taps the glass, or Tolkien gets too nosy. As Colby is fond of saying, he makes an excellent silent alarm system.

Thank you for tuning in to our second Furry Friday. Next week, meet Alan's beastly buddy. And don't forget the next Who's Who Wednesday, featuring Alan himself!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who's Who Wednesday

It's that special time again! Welcome to the 2nd Triple W! This week will feature a closer look at Colby Ryans.

Age: 16

: Colby's short, curly black hair tops a brown head and equally brown eyes. He's never seen without his basic black-and-white Chuck Taylor's. Colby may not dress fancy, but he dresses conciously. With all of his clothes meticulously spotless, he may be mistaken as slick. However, his charm quickly corrects any misconceptions. He's fun, flirty, and loyal. He's always laughing- and is ALWAYS keeping an eye on any guy not in the gang that comes anywhere close to Sam.

Driving Status: Restricted license with extra parental limitations...

Favorite Class(es)
: P.E. and Band- by far the most interesting thing on the schedule!

: marches on the battery as a snare drum, plays all over the percussion section in concert band

After-School Activities
: Marching band. Colby has a job at the local ice cream shop whenever he doesn't have practice. Until marching season is over, Colby won't be receiving much of a paycheck. However, the gang takes shameful advantage of Colby's employee discount by choosing the shop as a favorite pre-practice hang-out. Whenever a school dance comes around, you can count on Colby helping out with the decisions. (No one is going to mess up his chances for a girlfriend.)

: Colby loves to turn any surface available into the surface of a drum, including his friends' heads. He enjoys testing his skills in multi-player shooting games such as Halo.
Also, if flirting with every hot girl in orbit counts as a hobby, Colby is definitely at the top of his game. Nearly every moment between classes sees Colby hanging out by some girl's locker, chatting up a storm. Sam considers this embarrasing, but the rest of the gang sees it as blackmail fodder.

Weekend Stuff: Colby usually spends his weekend mornings working and/or practicing for band. The afternoons and evenings are dedicated to his friends and his date. (Sadly, there hasn't been a steady girlfriend...) The movies and the mall are preferred hang-outs. They are far away from work, provide plenty of chics, and there is plenty of visual (cinema/arcade) entertainment. Weekends are the escape from school!