Shawnda Currie's Blog
February 21, 2016
I have been working on my latest young adult novel about zombies for the past year and a half. Without giving too much away, it starts at the beginning of an outbreak and follows a group of characters that quickly realize the world as they know it is crumbling and they must embrace survivor mode. From a reader’s standpoint, I put myself in their shoes and thought “What would I do if this actually happened?” and so is the reason for this post. Feel free to agree or disagree (and yes, it is meant to be lighthearted), but if the zombie apocalypse ever does happen here are a few things to think about.
1. Round up family and friends: Once the world clues in that the dead are not really dead and craving your meaty body, there will be mass exodus and chaos. Emergency services will become overwhelmed and phone availability will be limited as people attempt to contact loved ones. Don’t even get me started on what will happen when jobs are abandoned (think nuclear power plants!). Have a primary and secondary meeting place in case you are or become separated. Try to avoid main roads.
2. Have an emergency bag: If you have to leave your home or workplace in a hurry, make sure you have an adequate amount of required medications (and a first aid kit), some water and non-perishable food, along with at least one change of clothing. It wouldn’t hurt to have a flashlight, batteries, a blanket and fire starter items. During a zombie apocalypse, you don’t want to be near highly populated areas so you may have to seek refuge elsewhere (ie. forest, mountains, etc.). Pack lightly and a backpack is preferable. Suitcase wheels don’t exactly travel well over uneven surfaces. Makeup is not an essential item.
3. Always carry a weapon: This is where survival mode really kicks in – it’s either YOU or them so you can’t hesitate. No one will know how the virus/bacteria/illness is spread so try not to get any icky parts in your eyes, mouth, or open wounds. And of course, aim for the head or even better, decapitate the zombie. If you have time, burn the bodies for good measure. Be crafty. The whittled end of a toothbrush makes a great shank. Don’t ask me how I know that.
4. Travel in pairs: We’ve all watched those movies where the guy/girl goes off on their own to investigate the noise from inside the dimly lit house or other area, and nine times out of ten they’re killed. This is where a partner is essential especially if you’re overrun by a mob of zombies. Even better, have a dog with you, unless it’s a really yappy dog then it’s just a beacon for the undead. For some reason, zombies are attracted to noise.
5. Be leery of strangers: Of course human nature is to help others but the end of the world doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Lack of laws and accountability may allow the “psychopath” in some individuals to flourish. Enough said.
These are just a few suggestions. As I write more of my novel (I’m on chapter eighteen), I will add to the list. For now, I’m going to go work on my cardio just in case. Be safe everyone.
November 4, 2015
May 10, 2015
I am always thinking of new ways to get The Evolved Trilogy noticed. Since I periodically have free download days on amazon for Altered – Revelations of the Evolved, Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved & Choices – Complications of the Evolved, I thought it would be fun to start at the beginning and post one chapter at a time. I have posted the first chapter of Altered on my blog on Goodreads:
My intent is to post one chapter every Saturday; however, if I get 10 or more requests to post the next chapter earlier, I will. This will apply to the release of each subsequent chapter. I have posted my little game in ten discussion groups on Goodreads, so only one person from each group is needed to get to the next chapter.
Altered – Revelations of the Evolved: Chapter 1
Goodreads Authors/Readers: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2361619-altered—revelations-of-the-evolved-posting-by-chapter
Never Too Old For Y.A. & N.A. Books: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2362106-altered—revelations-of-the-evolved-posting-by-chapter
♥!The Young Adult Book Club!♥: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2362111-altered—revelations-of-the-evolved-posting-by-chapter
I will update this post with requests received for the next chapter beside each group for tracking purposes and I will also post the numbers on my two facebook pages:
P.S. Happy Mother’s Day!!!!!
May 9, 2015
I knew why I was going. I just couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
My father kept one hand on the wheel and used his other to turn down the radio to a low humming noise, all the while keeping his eyes focused on the road ahead. “Give this place a chance, Lacey,” he urged. “The program at Clear Waters produces really good results and has helped a lot of kids.”
I didn’t respond. My father hated the silent treatment. If I learned anything from my stepmother Judy, I learned the power of the silent treatment. Instead, I continued to stare out the passenger window of my father’s black Ford truck. It had been almost an hour since we drove past the sign “Thank you for visiting Covington.” That was the town where I grew up and was now leaving only to be placed in a rehabilitation center for troubled teenagers.
I had an idea of what Clear Waters looked like by the shiny pamphlet my father gave me when he came into my room one night a week ago. As I thumbed through the pamphlet, he sat with me on my bed, placed one hand on my shoulder and told me I was being sent away. Of course he didn’t use the words “sent away” – that sounded too close to “get rid of.” Instead he was very diplomatic and used terms like “this is for your benefit” and “it’s because we love you.”
In the end it didn’t matter what terms he used, because it ultimately wasn’t my choice as I was only sixteen. No, it was up to my father – which meant it was mainly Judy’s decision. They had made a deal with the prosecutor in charge of my case to send me here instead of being formally charged with a crime and possibly going to jail. Judy finally found a way to pawn off the disappointment in the family – now she could have her “happy” and “non-dysfunctional” family that only included my father and her son, Josh.
“The Judy,” as I liked to call her in my lame “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” voice, never liked me from the beginning. The feeling was mutual. She pretended for my father’s sake but I could see straight through her. I was part of the package that came with marrying my father and he was too blind to see her game.
I was always suspicious of their marriage – it happened way too fast in my opinion. They married three years ago, only a year after my mother died. Though I knew my father could not possibly be involved in the death of my mother, I still had a lingering, uncertain suspicion. My dad and Judy said they had only been together a short time before their marriage, but I always felt as if they had known each other longer than that – and maybe, just maybe, they had been having an affair all along. After all, while they were still in the dating phase, Judy and Josh moved into our three bedroom brick bungalow. She immediately redecorated each room, even turning my bedroom on the main floor into an office after she convinced my dad to build me a bedroom in the basement. She insisted that every teenage girl needed a space of their own for privacy. While I was wise to her plan of slowly alienating me from the only real parent I had left, I did enjoy the privacy of my room. I would do anything to be back there right now instead of driving to an isolated facility for the next year. I was saddened by the thought that I would be spending my upcoming birthday surrounded by strangers.
My dad turned off the main highway onto a dirt road. In the distance I saw a grey brick building just like in the pamphlet. It was a four storied U-shaped building with a fence along back to create a contained area. As we neared the facility I saw a concrete sidewalk that led to two clear glass doors for the entrance and a foot wide window on each side; both were painted with bright blue trim. Two large potted trees stood in front of each window, the pots decorated with various symbols painted in red, yellow and orange.
The grass was still very green and perfectly maintained. A small flower garden in a variety of colors enriched the front of the building with small pruned shrubs placed artfully every couple of feet. I was surprised they were still in bloom at the end of September although we had been receiving warmer weather than usual. Forest encircled the area in the distance for privacy and seclusion. From the outside Clear Waters appeared to be clean and bright. I knew from recent experiences that outward appearances could be deceiving.
It was just after three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. My dad steered the truck into the small parking lot for visitors. Ours was the only vehicle there. About a dozen vehicles were parked in the employees’ lot. My dad carried my black duffle bag as we followed the sidewalk up the slight incline that led from the parking lot towards the building. The wind blew slightly allowing the flowery scent to blow in my direction. I inhaled deeply, enjoying my last moments of freedom while I held the door for my father. I looked back at the forest in the distance and a thought crossed my mind: Run. Run as fast as I can. But I knew it would be futile. Besides, I had already caused enough trouble these past few weeks and maybe this was the retribution I deserved. Instead of bolting, I followed my dad across the brown marble floor towards the reception area in the center. I took inventory of the lobby. To the left was an office, a set of elevator doors along the back wall and a brown door to the right.
An older woman with short silver hair sat behind a ledge. I could hear her typing quickly on the keyboard. She looked up from the computer screen and greeted us.
“Hello. How can I help you?” she asked politely.
“I’m David Bennett. I’m here to admit my daughter Lacey.”
“Oh yes, we’ve been expecting her.”
The woman picked up her phone and dialed four numbers. “Lacey Bennett is here,” she said to the person on the other end. She turned to my father and handed him a clipboard and pen. “Mr. Bennett, you’ll just need to fill out some paperwork,” she said, pausing for a moment and then looking over to indicate someone behind me. “Steven will show Lacey to her room and then you can go up afterwards to say your goodbyes.”
I turned to see who she had been glancing at. A young man wearing a dark blue shirt and pants that looked like hospital scrubs had come out of the brown side door. He had an identification card clipped to a lanyard that hung around his neck which read Steven Norton. His unshaven face was expressionless. I hesitantly picked up my bag to follow him to the same door he came out of. As I walked by my father, I glanced at him, hoping the look in my eyes would get his sympathy and he would change his mind and take me home. But he did not look at me; he was too busy filling out mandatory forms. Steven swiped his ID card across a small black box attached to the wall beside the door. A small red light turned green and he pushed open the door.
I followed him down a narrow white colored hallway with white speckled tile to another brown door. This one had a small window on the upper half. Again he swiped the black box and pushed the door open. Once through the door I saw another reception desk.
“That’s the duty desk,” he informed me. “Don’t get any ideas, it’s manned 24 – 7.”
I hadn’t even made it to my room yet and this guy was already accusing me of plotting my escape. Was there a reason I should want to run away if I could?
Another young man sporting the same dark blue scrubs sat behind the desk sorting through paperwork. He looked up for a moment and then continued with his task. As we walked by I saw four small screens flicker. I glanced towards the ceiling and noticed a surveillance camera. Considering all the doors that had to be swiped within the last twenty feet, I was sure this whole place was outfitted with cameras.
Beside the duty desk was an office that had the white blinds drawn. A golden rectangle shaped sign etched “Dr. A.L. Ryder, Clinic Psychiatrist” hung on the wall beside the door. Slightly to the right of the door was a short hallway with a door at the end that had an EXIT sign above it. To the far right was another hall that posted a green sign with black letters that read “Maylard’s Hall” with an arrow underneath pointing left. An open area behind me housed six chairs and a long table that was placed in front of a huge glass window. The table had a variety of magazines and brochures on it. The walls were covered with posters advertising drug free lifestyles, safe sex, don’t drink and drive, and stop abuse.
Steven stopped at a door adjacent one of the waiting room walls and swiped the black box in order to gain access to a stairwell. I followed him up two flights of black metal stairs to the next floor. He squeezed the latched handle and pulled the door open without having to swipe. I followed him down the hallway that had numbered doors on each side. We stopped at number fourteen. I didn’t know why I was registering every detail. Maybe I would need to know them if I was ever going to get the hell out of here.
The rooms did not require a swipe card but an actual key to unlock the door. Steven unclipped a large ring of keys from a loop on his pants. They jangled as he searched for the number and placed the key in the lock of the door knob and pushed. He latched it up top in order for the door to remain opened.
“Wait here while I go get your dad,” he ordered as he flipped on the light switch.
I took a few steps inside to look around the room and dropped my bag at the end of the twin bed. Again, it was just like the pictures in the pamphlet. The walls were painted a light beige color. A small closet and a white porcelain sink were in the corner and a mirror that hung above it along the right wall. A window was in the center of the long wall decorated with white lace curtains. A purple comforter covered the bed; the headboard was pushed against the far wall. A small dresser was centered along the closest wall that housed a black lamp. It wasn’t as big as my room back home but it would do.
I walked to the sink and looked at my pale reflection in the mirror. My brown hair was dull and my blue eyes sullen. I hadn’t been sleeping well and looked borderline sickly. I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face, using a small white towel that hung across a silver bar to pat my face dry.
“This is nice,” I heard my father say as he walked towards me. “The woman at the front desk said no visitors for the first month but you can call after the second week.”
He hugged me with one arm. There was no warmth or love in that arm; it was stiff and firm like he was holding it around a pile of brush he was taking to the garbage. As he held me in his one arm, he checked his cell phone with the other hand. Then he turned to me, his lips tight as if doing a dirty job, and he tried to look at me for a moment. But his eyes dropped to the floor and he turned around and walked away. He didn’t even say goodbye. He was abandoning me. He didn’t hesitate. I didn’t believe any sign of regret he may have tried to give. All he did was harden me. He hardened my resolve to never forgive him or The Judy for sending me here.
I grabbed my bag from the floor and placed it on top of the bed. I pulled back the black plastic zipper in order to grab my things.
“Don’t unpack your bag,” interrupted Steven. “Follow me.”
I was puzzled. Did he get the room mixed up? What kind of game were these people playing? After he turned off the light and locked the door, I followed him down the hallway, through another door and up four more flights of stairs leading to the top floor. You would think they would at least let me use the elevator on my first day.
“That may be your room eventually,” explained Steven.
“Depending on how well you conform to the program.”
“What’s the program?” I asked shyly.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” He smirked and his sinister look did not sit well with me.
We walked straight down the hall and turned a sharp right. Steven stopped at a solid metal door, unlocked it with a large key and held it open with his arm for me to go inside. He yanked my bag from me as I passed by.
“You have to earn your personal items as well. Don’t worry; they’ll be locked up for safe keeping.” From the way he said that, I knew I made the right decision to leave my memory box at home as I more than likely would not see my bag or items again.
It only took a second to realize it was never intended for me to stay in a nice room that I had just been shown. It was only for my father’s benefit that I was ever placed there – the old bait and switch. This new room was half the size and a tiny window with bars was located so high up that the only way to see out would be to stand on a chair and pull myself up with the bars. That would be somewhat of a challenge. I was athletic but never could do a pull up and most girls I knew weren’t capable of doing one either. Grey paint peeled off the concrete block walls. A small cot was pushed against the left wall with about two feet of room at the end of the cot and the wall. A black binder was on top of a stained pillow alongside four orange colored t-shirts, four grey colored jogging pants, four grey colored shorts, four pairs of white sports socks and one grey hooded sweater with a zipper that were neatly folded on top of a dark grey blanket and white sheet set. This place should have been called Grey Waters instead of Clear Waters.
Centered along the other wall was a small stainless steel sink with scratches on it and a stainless steel circle that had been screwed to the concrete wall above it. I guessed that was supposed to be a mirror. To the left was a three boxed wooden shelving unit with an ugly pair of black runners on the top shelf and a yellow plastic chair beside it. An army green mesh laundry bag with my last name written on it with black marker hung from a large hook that was screwed into the wall beside the sink. It was just like a cell in an old prison only with a door and not bars. It had the faint smell of mildew. I didn’t recall seeing this room in the brochure.
“Change into the orange t-shirt and grey jogging pants, make your bed and start reading the binder. You’ll have a better understanding of how things work around here.” Then Steven closed the door and locked it. I took a moment to absorb my new surroundings. I recalled the shiny pamphlet my father had given to me. Talk about false advertising – this place was absolute bullshit. I regretted my decision not to make a run for it while I had the chance. Living in a shelter of branches and surviving off berries and bugs would almost be better than staying in here. At least I would have fresh air. Now there would be no escape. I was under lock and key and video surveillance.
I did as instructed and changed into the orange t-shirt and jogging pants. I sat on the cot and put on the ugly black running shoes with white laces. I threw my shirt and pants into the laundry bag and also made the bed. I covered the stained pillow with a white pillowcase – so gross. The dark grey heavy blanket was actually softer than it appeared. I organized the rest of my new clothes neatly onto the boxed shelving unit, placing my runners I wore here on the floor beside it. I sat on my freshly made cot and started to read through the typed pages of the binder:
Welcome to Clear Waters. Throughout this binder you will be provided with the rules as well as the schedule of activities for this establishment. Embrace the structure and your time with us will be pleasant. You will also be rewarded for your good behavior. If you do not follow the rules you will be punished and certain privileges will be taken away.
I rolled my eyes but I turned the page and continued reading:
As a newcomer or “newbie” you are to wear the orange t-shirt for a minimum of one month. After this time period is complete, you will be evaluated to see if you have met the requirements to move up to the next level.
The next level is intermediate. Intermediates wear the green t-shirt. The green t-shirt is to be worn for a minimum of three months. After this time period is complete, you will be evaluated to see if you have met the requirements to move up to the final level.
The final level is senior. Seniors have the great honor of wearing a black t-shirt. The black t-shirt requires complete conformity to the program. Once a black t-shirt is achieved it is important to maintain this level of standard or you will revert back to a green t-shirt. Seniors have increased responsibilities as floor supervisors. They also have the pleasure of having a room on the second floor.
It made perfect sense to me after I read the last statement. They made you think this place wasn’t so bad and then immediately took it away from you to manipulate you into conforming to the program. I continued to read the daily schedule which consisted of detailed timings for waking up, meals, chores and classes. The weekends had group therapy sessions and visiting hours in lieu of classes.
This was a rehabilitation center/prison/boot camp. I wasn’t even sure a place like this was legal. I looked at my watch. It was almost five o’clock, supper time – my first meal at Clear Waters. I heard my door click as it unlocked. When it opened I saw a woman in the same blue scrubs. Obviously the blue scrubs were for employees. “I’ll show you to the mess hall,” she said.
I placed the binder on the bed and stood up to follow her down the hall towards the loud bustle coming from behind two large black doors. She pulled on the large metal handle and motioned for me to walk through. A uniformed security guard stood watch. A large crowd of teenagers wearing an assortment of orange, green and black t-shirts intermingled at a few dozen metal picnic tables. They chatted with one another while eating from yellow melmac plates on brown plastic trays. The banter quieted for a minute as heads turned to gawk at me. I immediately felt uncomfortable. To my relief, their curiosity in me was soon sated and most of them returned to their conversations. A few faces continued to stare. It probably wasn’t unusual for newcomers to periodically show up here – it was a revolving door, so to speak.
For all intents and purposes it looked like a normal high school cafeteria at lunch time: friends catching up with each other and planning for the weekend – though I doubted the weekends here would be anything to write home about. Two older women wearing black hair nets served the grub. I walked to the start of the line and grabbed a melmac plate, mug, and silver fork and placed them on a brown tray. I slid the tray along the ledge passing in front of the two women who placed a scoop of macaroni salad, a scoop of coleslaw, a scoop of baked beans and a slice of ham on my plate. At the end of the line on a larger table were open cartons of various juices and milk. I grabbed the milk and poured some into my mug with shaking hands. It wasn’t like this was my first day at a new school; this was my first day at a place for disturbed teenagers and/or criminals where there was no obvious means of escape.
My fingers tightly clutched the plastic tray, preparing myself to use it as a weapon if need be. I had never been in a physical fight in my life and prayed that I wouldn’t be in one today. I took a deep breath and searched frantically for a vacant table. Another uniformed guard stood along the far wall and eyed me curiously. In my nervousness, I opted for the closest table with two girls, both wearing orange t-shirts. I chose not to engage them but rather sit at the end away from them.
As I ignored the curious faces of the crowd, I felt the strong gaze of one person in particular staring at me from a few tables away. That was the first time I saw him. A boy with wavy blond hair whose brilliant green eyes met mine. He looked like the stereotypical beach bum: all he needed was a surfboard. He laughed slightly as I thought this, almost as if he could read my thoughts. Paranoid, I looked down at my plate of food and picked at it with my fork. I didn’t have much of an appetite these days.
I thought about the guy. I was positive I had never met him before, yet somehow he seemed familiar. Maybe we had met in passing. Strange, I would have remembered meeting someone that cute.
My thoughts were interrupted by a voice near me. “You get used to the food after a while,” said the girl beside me.
Surprised, I looked towards her. She had short black hair and a spider tattoo on her neck. She smiled at me. “I’m Triona. That’s Rachel,” she introduced looking across at a girl with thick red streaks in her blond hair.
“First day sucks the most,” Rachel said, not unkindly.
“Welcome to Shawshank,” added Triona.
I let out a small laugh. “Ah, thanks,” I said as I dipped my fork into the macaroni salad. I repeated their names over and over in my head as I chewed. I was never good with names and read somewhere to use word association when first introduced to someone. Tarantula Triona and Red Rachel – I would keep their new names to myself. I couldn’t afford to offend the first peers I met.
Triona stared over Rachel’s shoulder. “Great, here comes Bossy Brenda,” she mumbled under her breath. Maybe they used word association too.
I leaned slightly to the left so I could see behind Rachel. I saw a rather large teenage girl wearing a black t-shirt coming towards us. Her bright red hair was in a French braid and she carried a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. She stared at me.
“Lacey Bennett I presume,” she stated flatly. “I’ll be your floor supervisor Brenda Smith.”
“Hi,” I replied.
She did not return the greeting. Instead she wrote something on the clipboard.
Then she started reading aloud from the clipboard. “Your chores today are dish duty. It will change tomorrow. For now, Rachel is dish duty as well so just follow her lead,” she ordered. She sharply turned her head to glare towards Triona. “I’ve had complaints about the bathrooms you’re in charge of.”
“Brenda, I refuse to scrub those pissy smelling urinals. They’re disgusting,” Triona responded.
“With that attitude you’ll never get a green t-shirt.”
“Whatever, keep your fucking green t-shirt,” Triona retaliated.
Brenda’s cheeks turned red with anger. Rachel tapped my hand from across the table and motioned with her head to leave. It was probably best that I was not part of a fight on my first day. I placed all bets on Triona. I grabbed my tray and followed Rachel towards the dish pit glancing towards the table where the green eyed boy had been sitting but he was already gone. I looked back to Triona and Brenda to see if fists were flying but that was not the case. Brenda was writing furiously on her clipboard and Triona was being escorted by one of the security guards towards the big black doors.
Before we entered the dish pit we had to sort our dishes into large grey plastic bins – one for plates, one for mugs and one for forks. The security guard eyed us closely to make sure we sorted all our dishes.
“He has to check to make sure no one tries to steal a fork or something,” explained Rachel. After the fight I thought was going to happen, I was somewhat relieved we were being checked. A fork in the throat was never a good thing.
Two other girls were already in the kitchen doing their dish duty. One girl in green carried over a large bin with soapy water and exchanged it for one filled with dirty dishes. She in turn dumped it into the sink and refilled it to exchange for some more dirty dishes. The girl in orange stacked the dishes as quick as she could onto large dish racks. Then she slid the rack into an industrial dishwasher and pulled the black handle on the side to pull down all four sides. The sound of water pressure splashed from the inside.
“This is Lacey,” introduced Rachel.
“Ya, I’m Lisa and this is Abby,” introduced the girl in green. Lippy Lisa and Angry Abby.
I followed Rachel’s lead as instructed and gathered pots on the stove and carried them over to the large stainless steel sink. They were too big to fit inside the industrial dishwasher so we had to scrub them by hand. I filled the pots with soapy water and put a little elbow grease into removing the dried baked bean residue. I scrubbed the noodle pot next. Once all the dishes were washed, dried and put away, Rachel brought out a pail of soapy water and a mop.
“Being your first day and all, I’ll mop,” volunteered Rachel.
“You can go with Abby for an hour of free time.” “Thanks,” I replied.
“I’m going to the courtyard for a bit,” said Abby.
We passed two boys in orange who were sweeping the mess hall towards the two black doors I entered through. Only one security guard remained against the wall. The other one had moved to the door that required a swipe card in order to gain access to the stairwell.
“We’re going to the courtyard,” explained Abby.
The security guard swiped the black box and held the door open as we started down the six flights of stairs. As we passed the third floor Abby pointed out that the boys were located on that floor directly below the girls and the classrooms were located on the second floor where the nice rooms are. This gave me a mental picture of the layout of each level of the building since I couldn’t depend on the false pamphlet. Once we arrived on the main floor Abby pulled the door open. I recognized the duty desk as we walked down the short hall to the EXIT sign and Abby pushed the horizontal bar to open the door.
The fenced in courtyard was half of a grass area that accommodated four wooden picnic tables. The other half was a paved portion with a basketball net on each end. I could see the roof of a storage shed located outside of the fence.
Four teenage boys were playing basketball, one in green and the remaining three in orange. Mixed colored t-shirts made up groups of two or three lingered in the corners and along the fence line. Two other boys wearing orange t-shirts sat at one picnic table while two greens sat at another. Sadly I did not see the boy who looked like a surfer anywhere.
Abby walked towards the two boys wearing green that sat across from one another. “This is Lacey,” introduced Abby.
“Hi,” they replied in unison.
“I’m Sean,” the curly brown haired boy said.
“I’m Evan,” the short straight brown haired boy with glasses and a large nose said in a quieter voice.
“You guys didn’t want to go to Maylard’s Hall tonight?” asked Abby.
“Nah, too crowded,” replied Sean.
Abby sat down beside Sean and I sat down beside Evan. Everyone shared their story of why they were at Clear Waters. I learned Abby and Evan were from Covington as well and Sean was from a city four hours from Clear Waters. Abby’s father was a lawyer and to rebel she enjoyed shoplifting – she said she was actually a kleptomaniac and just couldn’t help herself. Evan was artistic and liked to spray graffiti on the side of buildings and bus stops. He also damaged some police cars and broke store windows. Sean had issues with violence and got into a lot of fights. He seriously injured the last guy he fought with. Rachel showed up just in time to hear my story. I told the group the quick version of stealing a car with some friends. I didn’t want to give too much of myself away; after all, these people were still strangers to me.
The hour passed by quickly and it was time to go inside. I didn’t get to hear Rachel’s story. We headed up the stairwell to our respective floors. Once on the top floor Abby, Rachel and I went left down the hallway where Bossy Brenda stood in front of a group of other girls holding her clipboard. She was giving everyone their new chores and shower timings. My new chore was cleaning the bathrooms. Brenda made a comment that I was expected to do a better job than Triona.
Rachel whispered to me, “See ya in an hour, we’re locked in our room until then.”
Once back in my room – dungeon, I saw two beige t-shirts and two pairs of beige boxers neatly folded on my cot with a yellow sticky note that read “these are for sleeping in.” There was also a pair of black plastic flip flops for showering. Thankfully my bras and panties that I had packed in my bag reappeared. I placed the items on my shelving unit and grabbed the black binder. I noticed my runners had been taken along with my clothes in the green laundry bag. I read through some more pages, the only source of entertainment in this room:
Throughout the day, there are numerous security guards located at various locked doors around the building. Security cameras are located on each level of the building including the courtyard. This is for ease of tracking our current residents and also allows for more flexibility for you to travel unaccompanied. These doors and the doors to all the rooms are kept locked for security and safety reasons of all personnel and residents. Please keep in mind; at the sound of the fire alarm ALL of these doors automatically unlock to enable evacuation from the building.
I supposed that made me feel a bit better knowing that in case of a fire I wouldn’t be trapped in a raging inferno of impending doom. I read another page:
At Clear Waters we believe that a strong work ethic is the cornerstone of a successful future. It is also physically and mentally beneficial. There are a variety of everyday chores that require attention such as:
Lawn Maintenance (summer months)
Snow Removal (winter months)
None of these chores require over exertion. Chores are assigned and alternated every two weeks in an effort of fairness. These chores also enable team building which is an important life skill.
Between the lines I could catch all the “this is for your benefit” crap. I had enough; I threw my reading material down in disgust. This was a prison for teenagers and their carefully manipulated wording was not going to change my opinion. I decided to lay on my cot and stare at the ceiling. I stared at all the etched names of people like me who had stayed in this room over the years. “Tammy was here,” “this place sucks,” “I hate my life,” – were just a few examples of other things carved into the ceiling and walls.
I decided to drag the yellow chair over to the window to see my view. Using my feet against the wall, I was able to pull myself up. From behind the bars I could see the dirt road leading here and nothing but trees beyond that. A small patch of red caught my eye. Was that a barn? I heard the door unlock and quickly jumped down from the chair.
The woman in the blue scrubs did not utter a word. I grabbed a beige t-shirt, boxers and a clean pair of underwear, quickly slid on the black flip flops and exited my room. I walked down the hall, grabbing two white towels from the shelf on the way to the showers. Rachel was there.
“Hey,” she said as she undressed.
“Hey,” I replied back.
I bashfully undressed and turned on the taps feeling the water with my hand to ensure it was an adequate temperature. After stepping inside the stall and pulling back the plastic curtain, I used the liquids from the plastic dispensers and lathered my hair and body. Once rinsed, I grabbed my towel and dried off. To my surprise, Brenda was standing there.
“Here are your toiletries,” she said handing the clear bag to me. It contained deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss sticks and a small brush. “When it’s time to shave or cut your nails come and tell me. Those are done under supervision,” Brenda explained.
“Okay,” I replied, wrapping my body in the towel. I hoped she wouldn’t be supervising me as she freaked me out a little.
Brenda furrowed her brows at Rachel who returned the awkward stare. She huffed and walked away.
“Did I miss something?” I asked Rachel as I put on my shirt.
“Rumor has it that Brenda had Triona sent to the basement rooms,” she said getting herself dressed as well.
“You’re joking, right?”
“The basement is for those who won’t conform,” she explained in a low voice. “They put them on meds to keep them mellow.”
“How do they get away with that? And explain it to the parents?” I quizzed as I brushed my hair.
“They have the doctor tell the parents that their kid was diagnosed with some disorder and that medication was a mandatory treatment. Then they keep them here all drugged up for as long as the parents keep forking out the dough.”
If her story was indeed true and not just something she made up to scare the new girl, my feelings about running away from this place resurfaced. I swallowed dryly. “I guess Brenda’s comment about doing a better job than Triona was a warning to me.”
Rachel looked around the showers than back at me, “I’ve only been here a few weeks but my advice to you is to play their game if you want to survive here.”
The serious tone in her voice made me shiver. I felt like she wanted to tell me more but was scared to. Since it was my first day I didn’t pry. There would be plenty of time and more opportunities to find out about this scary place.
After our showers, we went back to our respective rooms. I placed my toiletry bag under the sink. Soon after, the lights automatically turned out. Although I was exhausted I couldn’t fall asleep. Haunted by Rachel’s words, I forced myself to think of anything else but this place – especially the basement.
I thought back to the night my best friend Kate showed up outside my basement window. I remembered it all so clearly. I was cramming for an upcoming test when I heard a light tapping on my window. With a whisper Kate told me to meet her outside at our usual place and that Alex and Marcus were with her. Alex was Kate’s boyfriend and Marcus was his best friend. From previous conversations with Kate I knew Marcus had a slight crush on me. However, the feeling was not mutual.
After I performed my usual sneaking out of the house routine, I met my friends in the back alley behind my house. I had no idea what we were going to do that night until I saw Alex reach into the side of his jacket and pull out a long thin piece of metal that looked sort of like a file. When I confronted Kate, she told me Alex owed a guy some money and he wasn’t a patient guy either. Marcus couldn’t loan him any money because after the last time the cops had driven him home, his father, the dentist, had cut him off.
Knowing that trouble seemed to follow Alex and Marcus, I should have stopped right then and there. I could have easily turned around to go back to my house and crawl back through my bedroom window. Nobody would ever have to know I went out for a midnight stroll – except the four of us and the guy on the bicycle that drove by, his face partially covered by the hood of his dark sweater. I remembered him so vividly because I couldn’t shake the peculiar feeling he gave me – like he was a stranger yet I knew him at the same time. Obviously, I didn’t turn around. It was like an invisible force guided me along and I was no longer in control of my own will. Maybe I just didn’t want to look like a pussy in front of my friends. They didn’t avoid me like the rest of my so called friends did. They were the only ones who didn’t shun the girl whose crazy mother had committed suicide.
Alex spotted a car he liked and squeezed his metallic contraption down the base of the driver’s side window and door. He lifted a latch and the three remaining doors became unlocked. Kate jumped into the passenger seat giggling like a little school girl. I hopped in the back with Marcus and gave him a look of ‘keep your filthy paws to yourself.’ Alex got the car started with little effort and I was officially involved in my first car theft.
Kate turned on the radio and dance music blared from the speakers. Her blond pony tail swished as she bounced around sputtering out random lyrics. She leaned towards Alex and started kissing his right ear. Things were fine until Kate tried to squeeze her tiny frame closer to Alex’s body. He jerked the wheel so hard that a recycling bin flew up on top of the hood. No one saw the parked car until it was too late.
After my brief stay in the hospital for observation, I learned Alex had died instantly and Kate was paralyzed from the waist down. Marcus was unscathed and turned out to be no friend of mine.
Haunted by terrible memories and my current situation, I cried myself to sleep my first night at Clear Waters. Sleep provided me with no relief. In my dreams I was back home. Mom was sleeping in bed and I floated away over the town and across the highway to a roadside motel. I walked up to the door to one of the rooms and heard a man and a woman moaning inside. I thought I recognized them but – I woke up. I was back in Clear Waters. Moonlight shone dimly out the window above me, little solace in this sad, lonely place.
I drifted back to sleep. I vaguely remembered dreaming about a train. Again. I was dreaming about trains again.
February 11, 2015
I wrote my first novel, Altered – Revelations of the Evolved, in 2009 while living in Winnipeg. There, I met the man behind Flea Circus Books, Dave Culhane, a fellow author who had previously self published and decided to assist others that were overwhelmed by the publishing industry. We spoke briefly about his new website but I didn’t contact him until after I moved to Ontario in 2011 as I wasn’t yet ready to put my work out there for the world to read. He had explained that Flea Circus Books was a venue for members to gather such as writers, editors, cover designers, beta readers and other collaborators to complete projects with no money up front as payment would be based on royalties from book sales. At the time, this was the best option for myself as I was finally ready and quite anxious to get my book out. After months of doing my own rewrites and edits, there was still much to do. I had to accept or reject the suggestions from my editor, reread the book a few more times, come up with some descriptions for Amazon and provide the front and back covers which was an adventure in itself. Dave tweaked the formatting, fiddled with the covers and added the bar code so they would pass the CreateSpace upload process, obtained the ISBN and uploaded the kindle version to Amazon (March 2012) and paperback to CreateSpace (Sep 2012). Then we both put up our feet and placed our hands behind our head and watched the money roll in……………..just kidding. We decided to repeat the process two more times by publishing the remaining two books of The Evolved Trilogy: Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved (kindle Dec 2012, paperback Jul 2013) and Choices – Complications of the Evolved (kindle Nov 2013, paperback Jan 2014). All the time and effort to publish the trilogy (young adult books about time travel and psychic abilities) was just the beginning. With millions of books available to readers, how does one go about getting noticed? Below are just a few things that I have done or am contemplating trying in the future that may be of interest to you. These are only suggestions so take what you want and leave what you don’t. Writing is your own personal journey and it may take some trial and error to find out what works for you. Don’t give up!
1. Create your own blog: This involves some research. I ended up going with FatCow which was fairly easy to use. I followed the prompts and created a domain in a few hours. There is a yearly subscription cost to this so if you don’t want to fork out the money, there are some free avenues you can try. I knew absolutely nothing about having my own blog so it was a bit overwhelming at first finding a theme, making pages and publishing posts. I didn’t even know what a widget (sidebar) was but now I add and delete them all the time. Every couple of months I download a new theme just to mix things up a bit.
2. Create a Facebook page: Again, after a bit of research, I created a Facebook page called Shawnda Currie Books that is managed by my main profile. That is where I put all sorts of random stuff not necessarily related to my trilogy but pics of what I’m currently reading or quotes I enjoy. It was quick to make and a few months later I decided to make another page dedicated specifically to The Evolved Trilogy where I post things like free download days and my book trailers.
Altered – Revelations of the Evolved book trailer
Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved book trailer
Choices – Complications of the Evolved book trailer
3. Join Twitter: Twitter is real time so it’s a good place advertise free download days. I actually have my Shawnda Currie Books Facebook page linked to my twitter account. I work full time, have a family and am currently working on a fourth book so anywhere that I can save a bit of time is a blessing. It won’t take you long to figure out hashtags or current trends. Like all social media, be cognizant of what you post. It only takes one distasteful comment to ruin you.
4. Join Goodreads: I absolutely love Goodreads. This is a place for book lovers to get together, review and recommend books. There is also the Goodreads author program you can sign up for to promote yourself. I have completed an autographed paperback copy giveaway for Altered, Broken and Choices. I don’t think the giveaways actually helped with book sales, but they did help getting my books added to members’ “to read” shelves. There are many groups you can join and some offer Read to Review options (you provide the ebook for free and state a timeline reviews are to be posted by) which is also another great way to advertise. A lot of reviewers will cross post their reviews on sites like Amazon or Shelfari or even their own blog.
5. Contact Reviewers: This one is probably the most time consuming but may very well be the one that pays of the most. Reviews get you established. I write Young Adult Fiction so I seek out bloggers that review my genre. Carefully read their review policy to see if they’re accepting requests (especially from self published or indie authors) and follow the procedure they set out so you’re not wasting their time or your own. Explore their blog. Get their name right when you contact them. Don’t despair if you don’t hear back from them right away or ever. Many of these reviewers are bombarded on a daily basis for requests and have a huge TBR pile. Instead of reviews, some bloggers did interviews instead which was a fun way to connect with readers. They may also advertise giveaways such as one I did through Rafflecopter.
6. Learn to Accept Criticism: This one is the most important tip. Not everyone will enjoy your book. Some will actually hate it. And that’s okay. We are all entitled to our own opinion. After all, they’re not criticizing you as a person, they are stating their reasons of why your story just wasn’t for them. Some of it is just personal preference. For example, I use some swear words in my books because I feel that in today’s society, cursing seems to be the norm especially where teens are concerned. Of course, not all teens and adults swear. I on the other hand swear like a trucker. Also keep in mind that even bad reviews can be helpful. What someone else didn’t enjoy might catch another reader’s attention. Whatever you do, NEVER EVER comment on a bad review. I’m even leery of commenting on good reviews. All you have to do is google “Authors Behaving Badly” and you can read all sorts of craziness such as one author going so far as to show up on a reviewer’s doorstep. Bloggers/reviewers are a close knit community and as stated in number 3, once you post or do something offensive, you might as well kiss your writing career goodbye.
7. Carefully Select a Cover: My original cover is not the one I ended up going with for Altered – Revelations of the Evolved. I worked for months piecing together a really neat cover only to decide at the last minute not to go with it as I used pictures from the internet and was terrified of possible copyright infringement. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the cover for Altered that I have now but it isn’t necessarily appealing to those that read Young Adult. Some have even gone as far as to call it ugly or say they hate it. Again, this is personal preference. But I do value all feedback I receive so I am actually contemplating creating new covers. I opted to keep the nature them for all three covers and each cover represents a scene from each book.
Below are some ideas for new covers I’m toying with:
8. Make Business Cards or Book Marks: I will be the first to admit that I’ve let long periods go by where I haven’t done any marketing whatsoever. If you check out my books on Amazon or Goodreads, you’ll see that Altered – Revelations of the Evolved has quite a few more reviews than Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved and Choices – Complications of the Evolved combined. Another thing I will mention is that it was suggested to me to choose longer titles (originally the books were Altered, Broken & Choices) so “key words” would get picked up during internet searches. I’m not sure how effective that is but I don’t think it hurt any either. I decided to order some business cards through Vistaprint. They were relatively cheap and I put a few in with my paperbacks for giveaways and hand them out to friends and colleagues. I’ve even left a few on community boards. I may order book marks at a later date and drop them off at local libraries and bookstores.
In the beginning, I joined almost every site I came across but quickly realized that it was impossible to dedicate the required time to them to make any valuable connections. Now that I’ve limited myself to just a few, I have met some awesome people from all over the world. So far my publishing experience has been a positive one. I just have to make it a point to request some more reviews in between working on my latest project to keep the momentum going.
I would love to hear about your experiences with publishing (self or traditional). Please leave a comment below or just say hi! To avoid spam, all comments are moderated so they may not appear right away. Best of luck to you all
August 13, 2014
So, a while back I contacted various military newspapers and was lucky enough to have two of them feature me in their papers:
May 19, 2014
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I just wanted to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking. Work has been super busy and I’ve got a few personal issues I’m dealing with right now. I have just started a marketing campaign and am hoping to get a few interviews published simultaneously to gain some momentum now that The Evolved Trilogy is finished. As well, I have decided to get started on my next book project about zombies! I have it all laid out in my mind but now I have to start putting pen to paper. In the meantime, I’m hoping my Authormercial will get a few more views and shares:
Happy Monday everyone!
April 14, 2014
I am so excited to be part of the Extreme Couponing Mom’s 40,000 Facebook Fan Giveaway Celebration. Check out her blog and facebook page to enter and win some awesome prizes!
Best of luck to everyone….
April 3, 2014
Now that the third book of The Evolved Trilogy is finished, I am looking for reviews for all three books:
Formats available: Pdf & Kindle - Amazon (gifted)
Thanks so much!
February 28, 2014
I have always been a writer whether it was creating short stories in school or sending family members personalized hand written letters (I grew up before computers and cell phones were in practically every household). When I was a teenager and we discussed what we wanted to do for a living, I told my friends I wanted to be an author.
Friend 1(as she flipped through a teen magazine): “You should totally write a book about your life.”
Me (as I picked at a piece of thread dangling from my jean jacket because everyone wore a jean jacket back then): “Hmmm. Ya, maybe I will.”
I should note that most teenagers feel that their lives are full of drama, that they are alone in their woes of suckiness and basically their lives should be a book or a movie. At the time, my friends and I felt this way but now that I am through that stage of my life, things were not as bad as it seemed at the time (but you still couldn’t pay me enough to go through adolescence again). The point is, I did not write a book about my life though I do draw from some of my personal experiences when writing a scene.
Moving along into my twenties, I joined the military where I met my husband. I released from the military just shy of serving a year, we got married and started a family. We moved many times and were pros at adapting to change and making new friendships. My tag line at the time whenever a friend did or said something I felt should be documented was, “That’s going in my book.”
This turned out to be a great conversation starter. People would ask me if I was really going to write a book. I responded with, “Yep. I plan on publishing before I’m 35.”
Friend 2: “Well, if you’re putting me in your book, I want a really cool name.”
Me: “Ya, I’ll totally give you a cool name.”
At the time, 35 seemed so far away. I can tell you now that I’m over 35, and it went by fast. Too fast. But I did publish before I said I would (pats self on back).
One day I decided to get back into the military since we moved to a place where I could take my training only a few hours away from where we lived. This way I could come home on weekends so I wasn’t apart from my family for months on end. I completed my training, started a new job and eventually we moved to yet another base. The good thing about moving around so much, is that you meet a variety of people.
Me (talking to Friend 3): “So I watched a really good movie last night called ____________.”
Friend 3: “My husband bought me the books. I can lend them to you.”
This is the part in my post where we play a little game. What movie am I talking about? Hint: it rhymes with “bye fight” and yes, I turned into one of those obsessed fans eventually buying my own set of books. And movies. And the collector’s set.
Me (to my husband one night before going to sleep): “So, I’m going to start writing my books.”
Husband: “That’s nice, dear.”
By morning I had a rough draft in my mind of the trilogy I was going to write.
Me (to my groggy husband even though I should have been the groggy one since I rolled around most of the night): “While you were sleeping all snug in our bed, I came up with an idea. I’m going to write a story about time travel and psychic abilities. It’s going to be a trilogy actually. Isn’t that awesome?”
Husband: “Ya, that sounds totally awesome.” I think he was being sarcastic. He claims he was being supportive.
I went to work and told Friend 3 (the same one that lent me her “bye fight” books) about my idea and she volunteered to be a beta reader. It took me nine months to write a rough draft of Altered – Revelations of the Evolved. I passed it around to coworkers and basically anyone else I could guilt into reading it but then I shelved it for a year or two.
Another move later, I finally started the ball rolling by contacting someone I had met years earlier to assist with self-publishing. I was ecstatic. My book was going to be polished by an editor and published for anyone to read. Once I realized how much competition was out there, my balloon deflated a bit knowing that writing the book was the easy part, getting it noticed was going to be a bit more difficult.
I researched ways to publicize. I needed a blog even though I didn’t know the first thing about how to get started. More research, and now you can see, I have a blog complete with widgets and a constant changing theme (though I really like this one so I’ll keep it for a while).
Shawnda Currie Books: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shawnda-Currie-Books/357335524296184
The Evolved Trilogy: https://www.facebook.com/TheEvolvedTrilogy
The biggest challenge was contacting book bloggers for reviews and interviews. I highly enjoy reading people’s thoughts about my stories and value everyone’s feedback (positive & negative). One point that came up a few times was my cover for Altered (some felt it was less than flattering). I love nature, so I happen to like my covers and each cover is from a scene in each book. They’re different and original, though not as detailed or eye popping as ones created by a professional. The good news is, I plan on writing many more novels and have a family member who is a graphic artist!
I made some book trailers and even came up with the concept “authormercial” that I thought would draw some attention. The authormercial was a blast to create but a little nerve racking to put it out for the world to see. Nobody wants to be seen as foolish or made fun of. But I also happen to be comfortable in my own skin and this is the way I roll………………
Altered – Revelations of the Evolved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td-brREUzgE&list=UUwhl9J119Sk6vZ6QDEml_Qg&index=4
Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvSVlkXFwLU&feature=share&list=UUwhl9J119Sk6vZ6QDEml_Qg
Choices – Complications of the Evolved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_kI4rWdSHQ&feature=c4-overview&list=UUwhl9J119Sk6vZ6QDEml_Qg
I also made up some business cards. Now I just have to start putting them up everywhere. I have also recruited my friends to do the same. And yes, I have more than three friends.
That basically sums up my road to publishing. Thank you so much to my friends, family and fans for taking the time to read my books and supporting me with your kind words and helping me put myself out there.
I am Shawnda Currie. I am an author. I will never stop writing.