Tags: before/after

unquiet cover

Kindle Holiday Special: Before, After, and Somebody in Between

BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN is an Amazon pick for the Holiday Big Deal. So if still you haven't met Martha, you can get her on Kindle for $2.99 from now through 12/22 from AMAZON.

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AMAZON description: One hour into her first day of tenth grade, Martha Kowalski knows she’s really in trouble. The school bully, Chardonnay, has already threatened her life—and at home, things are even worse. Martha’s mom, fresh out of rehab, is shacking up with a total jerk in a run-down two-family in the ghetto.

More than anything she’s ever wanted, Martha wants to play the cello. But even music becomes a danger—because nothing is what it seems in this place. With her mother’s willpower dissolving, Martha watches helplessly as her own dreams slip farther away.

But in an exhilarating twist that would stun even Cinderella, everything changes. A wealthy lawyer invites her into his family’s home, and Martha is given a chance to start over. The warm, caring Brinkmans treat Martha like one of the family, and even though it feels so right, she knows they can’t be as perfect as they seem. And she knows this fairy tale can’t last forever...

One of my personal favorite scenes--Martha's first Ala-Teen meeting:

marthas church photo marthaschurch.jpg

People are crammed like pigs feet in the basement of a church so incredibly medieval, it’s not even air-conditioned. Kids in one room, adults in another, and slogans, slogans, everywhere I look: Let Go and Let God. One Day at a Time. Live and Let Live... Bite me, I think.


In BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN, Martha, the victim—after being harassed, threatened, and assaulted on a near-daily basis—turns into the aggressor. She wrangles a knife away from the bully, jumps on her, holds the blade to her face, and confesses to a teacher who tries to break up the fight: “I just want her to stop.”

When I wrote that scene, I remembered how I’d wished I, at fourteen, had possessed that kind of courage. How I'd wanted my tormentors to be afraid of ME for a change. How I'd wanted to hurt them the way they hurt me. Yet I was too afraid to stick up for myself.

Like Martha, all I wanted was for them to leave me alone.

I wasn’t raised in a family where you “talked things out.” Nor was I raised in a family that fought back against injustices. In a family with substance abuse issues, you learn to suck it up, keep quiet, and ignore your problems.  Supposedly that's easier than facing them and then having to deal.

When I wrote that scene, in my heart I was Martha--same age, similar circumstances. I felt her confusion, her thirst for revenge, and her incredible pain. I understood her rage more completely than I’d ever admit to anyone. Till now, that is.

I remember what it's like to want to be left alone. To be able to survive a simple bus ride without insults and ridicule. To not have to hide out in the library at lunchtime. To be able to walk through the school halls without burying my face in my books, praying no one will notice me. To sit through a class without suffering abuse that, more often than not, was ignored by the teachers.

Only years later did I realize that being ignored, left alone, cloaked in a miserable cloud of non-existence, really wasn't what I craved after all.

I  wanted one other thing, one far more important thing: I wanted people to like me.
tea cup lady

How Do You Name Your Characters?

--and how many names did they have? Did you change them as you were writing, or are you still searching for the perfect name? How do you choose them?

SAY THE WORD: Shawna was originally Jena Gallagher. Then I wanted a female derivative of a male name so she could be named after her father. I changed it to Erica (and made her father an Eric). She was Erica Gallagher for a couple hundred pages before I changed it to Shawna and turned Dr. Eric Gallagher into a John.

Susan was an Olivia, and Devon was something else, too, but I forgot already (Pam/Holly/Char: do you remember?)

LeeLee was always LeeLee, which is my niece's nickname. I took her last name from Jane Velez Mitchell. Her real name, Ophelia, is the name of friend's mother. I also had an Ophelia in Before/After which I eventually cut out entirely. Guess I missed her.

Penny was always Penny, though I had to hit a baby name book to come up with her given name, Sonia. Sorenson was a classmate from high school. Fran was always Fran, and I took Goodman from one of my favoite childhood books. I had to ask for suggestions from a friend to come up with Nabil.

Shawna's father's girlfriend, Julie, had about a dozen names (she started out as a Mary) till I found one that fit.

Arye and Schmule had those names from the beginning (although Arye was originally the little one--till I decided I couldn't picture Shawna sucking face with a "Schmule" ha-ha). I knocked the final H off "Aryeh" because my crit group harassed me.

I have a friend named Charles. Hence the dog. :)

There's a Dr. Felker, named after a wonderful doctor I used to know. He died in an accident, so I immortalized him.

Jonas Dunn is a name very close to the name of my first crush.

BEFORE/AFTER: Martha was a Martha from the start; I was following the Michael Skakel/Martha Moxley trial when I first started writing it which shows you how frigging long it took me. I wanted a plain, old-fashioned, not-too-popular name. Agnes, Blanche, and Beulah were OUT.

Chardonnay was always Chardonnay (it's one of those names that just "come to you') but her best friend Shavonne started out as Sharnelle. Then I decided Char(donnay) and Shar(nelle) were too close, so I changed it to Shavonne (I was watching Ryan's Hope reruns at the time and changed the spelling from "Siobhan") because I couldn't have a Shavonne and a Yvonne, which was Aunt Gloria's original name.

Jerome was always Jerome. His cousin Anthony started out as Andre, but I changed it when I decided Bubby's real name should be De'Andre (Bubby told me this himself, so who was I to argue?).

I took the names Mario and Zelda from my kids' favorite video games.

I named Wayne after a total CREEP I met in real life. In fact, he was a composite of several creeps I knew.

Nikki and Rachel Brinkman started out as Melissa and Hanna, and Richard was a George, but Claudia and Danny named themselves, too.

Professor Moscowitz was named after someone I once knew. Well, the last name, anyway. I never knew a "Leopold."

I often use names of real people, e.g. Danielle WALSH and Jerome LINDSEY, named after coworkers; GALLAGHER is a relative's maiden name; Mr. TWOHIG, after a teacher--he was originally a Cruickshank (after a patient) but my agent wondered if that was a reference to Harry Potter; the answer was "no" b/c I never read HP or saw the films, but I changed it anyway. Likewise, Schmule's headmaster Mr. DICKERHOOF was named after a patient ( I swear).

I'm sure there are others, but this is off the top of my head.

OK, your turn. Play along! Give examples!

Next: Killing off characters

Contest: Two for One

Ohhh, God. Keep me away from Twitter--it's more addictive than blogging which is "one" reason I haven't, um, been blogging much. Not Blogging is ba-a-ad. Bad, baaaaaaaad, BAD! Down, girl. Play dead. Go eat a worm.

Today, hubby said: "You need to figure out how to work your writing back into your schedule." I guess he realized I'm actually hanging around here lately.

"Dad! Dad! Who's that stranger in our living room!" "That's your mom, son." "My what?" "Your MOM. And be nice to her--she's cooking dinner tonight."

I am, too: a meatloaf...though I might trade it in for a mixing bowl-sized portion of Coco Puffs. Have I mentioned how much I dislike meatloaf?

OK, for lack of any excitement in my life at the moment, I'll self promote: For a chance to win a copy of both Say the Word and Before/After, please check out BOOKS BY THEIR COVER and leave a comment. This contest will run through the end of the week. Say hi to Yan!

Friday 5

ETA: HAHAHAHA! I am so hosed. I posted my Friday 5 today, and not because everyone ELSE is doing it--because I'm confused! I am leaving it as is. :)

1. I slept 14 hours last night. had a headache for 4 days. I took 4 Motrins 4 hrs ago. So far the headache is gone. "4" seems to be my number today. Now if I can just spend 4 hours writing...

2. I have a hair appointment at 5 (not 4) today. Goodbye, hillbilly roots!

Nikki’s hair is now chin-length, pale and smooth. And get a load of mine: tangled, overgrown, with an inch of dark roots. I should be standing in flip-flops in front of a trailer, roasting wienies over a rusty oil drum.

Like I said, I put everything in my stories.

3. I think when you're stuck in a hospital on a pysch ward, you should be allowed to eat whatever you want to eat. No special diets. Double portions, if you like. Unless you're a very brittle diabetic--which we rarely get--why NOT? High blood pressure? Big deal. Eating 2 hot dogs instead of one won't throw you into a stroke. These people are hungry, dammit! So what if you weigh 300 lbs? You're gonna go home and eat what you want anyway. What's with these low fat, low sodium diets and skimpy portions? I bet if we didn't force them to walk around hungry all day, their' moods would improve at least 50%.

Hey, if I have to be in "charge" of something--why can't I be in charge of this?

4. I've been bounced off AOL at least 10 (not 4) times in the past 2 (not 4) hrs. It's not even raining outside. Gray, breezy, cool, but dry.

5. I see Ryan and Redmond O'Neal were officially charged with possession of methamphetamines and...PEPPER SPRAY?

Wait! *I* have pepper spray, attached to my key fob. I work in the ghetto, for God's sake. I walk to my car in the dark. Since when is pepper spray against the law??? (I bought it at True Value Hardware) Or is this only in California?

Fine. Arrest me. Publicity rocks!

Lost in Translation

Cracking up here! I got a Google alert for Before/After and this is the excerpt and book description:

"My kinship (smile) fades dominion (as) Chardonnay twists close to to spreading her lips in a disturbed grinning (demented grin). Her long-distance (lol) yellowish complex body part (teeth! jeez...) plausibly haven’t seen a toothbrush in months. I take a pass (chance) and facial gesture gage (smile), and what do I get? A pudgy region (middle) finger jabbed low my nuzzle (under my nose) .My close content (next thought) is: Wow. I crataegus laevigata not change surface exist homeroom (huhhhh?) . One unit of time (minute) into her offset daytime of rank slope (?), Martha Kowalski knows she’s truly in disturb (trouble). Martha’s mama, unused (fresh) out of rehab, is shacking functioning (up) with an unpleasant hitch (lol, a creep) in a neighborhood that tail sole be delineate dominion (can only be described as) a “ghetto .”More than thing she’s ever yearned-for, Martha wants to play the bowed stringed instrument (cello! cello! does that word not exist in other languages?) . But change surface punishment (well...THAT's weird)becomes vulnerable (dangerous) to her health—because naught is what it seems in that site. With her mother’s self-control dissolving, Martha watches unable to help dominion her possess dreams slip far off .But in an exciting crease (twist) that would stun change surface (i just figured out that "change surface" means "even") Cinderella, everything changes. A affluent professional person (wealthy lawyer) invites her into his family’s house and Martha is acknowledged a pass to turn over. The schoolhouse strong-arm, (bully) Chardonnay, has already vulnerable (threatened?) her life—and halogen house (at home), thing ar change surface worst. And she knows that this faerie substance (tale) can’t last forever… An haunting perform, Before, After and Somebody in Between is fashionable, moving, and identical literal (?) .. The change, change Brinkmans nutriment Martha want matchless of the kinsperson (treat her like family) and change surface though it feels so change by reversal (right), she knows they can’t be dominion mint (perfect).

Plus the sentences are all out of sequence. I guess this is what happens when you depend on those automatic foreign language translators. :)

Has anyone else found anything like this for your stuff? If so, please share.

A Grapemo Thankful Thursday

Again, thanks to all of you who participated in last month's Grapemo. The amount of writing/revising/illustrating/plot-tweaking/world-building/outlining, etc., is amazing, and I find myself more inspired than ever to seriously get my own (rapidly-growing) butt into gear. For those of you planning to do NaNo, my user name is JenG. Be sure to contact me when the November "fun" begins!

Remember that one lonely, extra ARC of Before/After I dug up? For those of you who participated in Grapemo, I'll (okay, not me--I'll make Beth do it) draw a name at random. If you're picked, YOU WIN IT!. The winner will be announced tomorrow with my Friday 5.

Final quote, this time from Gloria Steinem: Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.

Isn't this all of us?

PS: Thanks for all the kind thoughts about Grandma. She's doing well! I'm off to visit her now. :)


I have not been online in 2 days. After doubling back to work day shift, I came home last night and crashed. I am slooowly catching up on blogs.

I threw a hint out a few months ago that I may have some good news. Now it's official. It's true that most books that are optioned for film never get made into movies--but at least the possibility exists because Before/After has just been optioned by screenwriter Steve Zaillian (who, I'm told by my agent, loved the story) and Mandate Pictures. Per contract, they have a year to decide. Cross your fingers!