Working Title: Stoneway
This Book Is In Development
Haunted by a boy named Riley Grayson, twelve year-old Wesley is suddenly confronted by three things he fears the most in life: Love, Bullying and Ghosts. While on a grade eight camping trip at Lake Stoneway, Wesley struggles with his fears, trying to find ways to get the attention of Michelle Heartly while stopping his best friend from picking on a new boy named Simon.
I did. I hated the teachers who were tough on me. But, it wasn't until years later that I respected them more than the others. Wesley doesn't see it yet. He doesn't see how the 'tough love' is making him stronger. But the question is, now that I'm a teacher, what kind of respect is more valuable? The kind of respect that is earned over time, through structure, and rigidity. Or the kind that requires listening, and hearing the student's voice? I think it's both.
When you think of your childhood teachers, who do you think of first? What was it about him/her? For Wesley Longhorn, Coach Mackleby was a 'listener', and an 'adviser' - two qualities teenagers need as they struggle through the peer pressures and social pyramids of elementary and secondary school. Who is Coach Mackleby? He is the qualities in the teachers I admired and hated growing up. Some of my hardest teachers, I grew to respect, mostly because they cared - mostly because 'tough-love' was something I needed at times.
I originally wrote this story as a 15 chapter short, for the Hamilton Spectator Newspapers in Education Series. It's so hard to get a strong message across to the readers while buying into the character's emotions and actions. Character development is huge...I'm learning this more and more as my writing career develops.
At 13 years...I felt the pressure. I totally made the wrong choices. I never stepped over big boundaries, but I was influenced a fair bit by my peers. Fortunately, I had a positive group, but there were times where I felt I had to say something, or do something, just to maintain that 'status'.
If I could go back in time and talk to my first crush. There would be so many things I would say. I would not hide behind the fears,and insecurities I had.
What made someone popular when you were a kid? Was it because they were attractive? Acted cool? They were mean to others? Dressed well? I'm a teacher and still see this today. Somehow, kids feel it's important to label each other, and to find any way possible to bring themselves up the ladder of 'popularity' - even if it's at someone else's expense.
I wanted the reader to begin seeing how 'odd' Simon Partridge really is. Not so much with his personality yet, but his actions - his behaviors. Where did he go? Why did he disappear?
I grew up in a private community surrounded by acres of woodland. I loved to explore the forested areas with my friends. Sometimes I would venture out alone. One day stands out when I was walking down to the creek by myself. This moment is brought out in the chapter...
If I could go back in time, I'd talk to myself - my teenage self and give him advice. I'd tell myself to just be...well...'me'. I'd speak my mind, I'd talk to the people I wanted to talk to, not to the people I felt I had to. I'd tell myself that being cool is being 'real'. I look at the MC in this story, and write 'him' as a balance between the 'me' now and the 'me' when I was thirteen.
My grade eight students go to a camp about three hours north of Toronto each year. It's an adventure camp where they participate in sport activities like kayaking, canoeing, archery, mountain biking etc. This is the 'back-drop' to the location painted through words in this story.
Simon Partridge is that kid who you knew in school - the one you didn't talk to - the one who was socially awkward - different. If I could go back in time, I'd get to know Simon. I would treat him differently....
Working Title: Alex Was here
This Book Is In Development
When a door is opened in the sky above Screaming Ridge, the people of Timpleville become infected by unsettled spirits. Blinded by his love for Daisy Darlington, twelve year-old Alex Thomas is unable to see his social life, school, and town fall apart around him. While preparing for the school's annual Entrepreneurial Fair, Alex learns about the infamous Wesley Stone Sabotage: A student with paranormal connections who disappeared after an embarrassing practical joke ruined his project. Alex and Daisy soon realize his disappearance is connected to the strange outbreak that is destroying the town. With Daisy's help and a few unlikely acquaintances, Alex risks everything in an attempt to bring order back to Timpleville.
When I was a kid, I was convinced there were ghosts lurking about, watching my every move - observing, analyzing, judging. I wondered what they thought of me? What would they say? Do you ever think you hear people talking to you? Do you ever hear strange voices and wonder?
Working Title: Respecting Mr. Ravi
This Book Is In Development
How far would you go to teach your school a lesson? If you’re 11 year-old Alex Thomas, you would risk embarrassment, humiliation, and even your life. When Alex learns how poorly the school’s custodian, Mr. Ravi, is being treated, he comes up with a brilliant plan. With help from his friends, Alex decides to make Mr. Ravi the focus of an upcoming Multi-Cultural Project. Alex’s goal is simple, to get the entire school to start respecting Mr. Ravi. However, as Alex begins his blundering, yet noble journey, he discovers an extraordinary secret, a secret that changes the lives of everyone in his school.
Storms are exciting. Most of the time. I think I was only scared once when I was younger. I was out in the middle of a field when large chunks of hail blasted a group of us. We all scattered looking for shelter. I remember it felt like I was being shot (not that I have ever been shot before. But man did it kill). I was fascinated by storms afterwards - just like Alex in this story. I can remember exploring the forest near our house and looking at all the trees that had toppled down. I still remember the welts on my back and legs. I'll likely only ever see storms through windows in the safety of my home, car or work. There would have to be something really important for me to want to venture out into one again. Perhaps it was naivety, or maybe it was something else, but the protagonist, Alex Thomas has one such experience he will never forget.
About three or four years ago, our town was hit by a huge storm, ripping apart barns and farmland. This opening chapter is based on some of the experiences from people who went through this as well as some of my own. What's your storm story?
Working Title: Solving Damian Dermite
This Book Is In Development
How would you stop the most feared bully in school from humiliating your new best friend? An impulsive 11-year-old boy named Alex Thomas has a simple solution: you hurl your left over pizza at him. Although it does mean he will have to spend the sixth grade finding clever ways to escape a vengeful bully. Alex soon discovers that hiding in the boy’s bathroom, stinking up the cafeteria, pulling the fire alarm ,and running away are not the answers. When he finds himself standing with no clothes on in front of the entire school, Alex quickly realizes things have gotten way out of hand. With help from his brother, and a calculated plan in place, Alex faces his greatest fear...and finally solves Damian Dermite.
For some, making friends doesn't come naturally. I had a student in one of my classes who struggled making friends (much like the protagonist in this story). Learning how to socialize, act, talk, behave are all skills that children pick up from adults, each other and of course the media. What were you like growing up? Was it hard to make friends?
Every school in every town has a 'Damian Dermite'. There's that one kid who can sniff out the weak - the fragile - that kid who is just begging for people like Damian to attack. Whether it's physical, emotional, social, or indirect - there are hunters and hunted everywhere you turn. The question is - what are YOU going to do about it? This is a popular theme - for obvious reasons. I'm a teacher and I see it - not the way I did when I was a kid - but it's still there. Bullying comes in many different shapes and sizes now, but what is essential in this ongoing struggle, is how we educate those who are around it - those who see it - witness it - live it.
There was always that kid in school who we loved to hate. I don't know what it was exactly - maybe this person was smarter than you, funnier than you...whatever it was, We found reasons to detest them. We'd even consider getting our friends involved too - maybe we'd lie, like fabricate some story about the kid, just to get everyone to hate him or her as much as you. Was it jealousy? Was it our way of trying to make friends? Absolutely. Al of the above. Thankfully this wasn't me...and maybe this isn't you, but it doesn't mean we're not guilty of some of these thoughts or behaviors.
Personally, I hated going back to school after a couple months off at summer. For me it was mainly because I didn't handle changes in routine very well. I needed routine - I still do - but hated the break in routine as well. The smallest things would quickly come to the surface for me, and I often found myself feeling quite negative about shifting into a totally different setting. Who wouldn't? I sometimes wonder if students should 'ease' their way back into school...perhaps a few hours for the first week and build up to a full day. Funny I should think that, seeing that I'm a teacher...
When writing this story, I focused more on pacing than on emotive writing. As the story progresses, the descriptions and emotions of the characters are pulled out, but through the eyes of a young reader, I always wonder which is more important?
While 11 year-old Alex is being pushed to the brink of social disaster by little Kaylee Cooper, he learns about a mysterious legend. Discovering the legend is real, Alex embarks on an adventure with the girl of his dreams and the school's meanest bully. When they find Kaylee Cooper is at the core of the mystery, Alex stares death in the face and helps save her from an eternal life of misery and confusion.
We all need outlets. We all need to vent or find a way to 'release'. Sometimes, if we don't have the social skills, or the control, we end up taking our frustrations or 'weight' out on others. Bullying can be a prime example of this. When writing about Damian Dermite, the bully in this story, it was important to give the reader a sense of who he was. I wanted to dig a little deeper in this chapter, but I didn't want to take away from the momentum and pacing of the story. Instead, I felt I would bring out Damian's character...his mental health challenges... more in the sequel, titled, "Alex was Here."
How often do you step out of your comfort zone? How often do you take a risk, so big, that it scares you?
I used to watch a lot of nature programs as a kid - mostly because my brother and dad tuned into them and I had no other choice. I never admitted it at the time, but I enjoyed the shows. Somehow, it was the curiosity of the struggles and conflicts that nature seemed to deal with, that always peaked my interest.Watching animals fight to survive, or submit when death was imminent. From insects to lions, I often wondered what went through the minds of the hunter and the hunted. I suppose this chapter brings out a bit of that wonderment.
It's hard to be cool. It's hard to act like you don't care - like you're just...'whatever.' I see it every day as a teacher. The young adolescents swarm the lockers between classes and put on their 'cool act'. Alex Thomas tries to be cool. He has to...he's talking to Daisy Darlington, the prettiest girl in the sixth grade. I loved writing this chapter, as it helps build on the awkward relationship between these two curious kids.
Your adrenaline is pumping through your veins, you've just seen a ghost chase off two kids from your school. Would you be afraid? Terrified? Or curious?
Adrenaline, peer-pressure and love often blur logic. In this case, Alex experiences all of them. I like this scene as it sets up the reader for the rest of the story. It's like climbing the roller coaster and we are now at the top waiting to see what happens when we start plummeting downwards in an unpredictable journey.
Writing Maddy Featherton into this story was the icing on the cake - the missing puzzle piece. Her personality, her eeriness brings a sense of wonderment, curiosity and mystery to the story. Who is Maddy Featherton? Or...sorry, Madelyn Featherton. She is the girl you didn't know in school - the one you didn't talk to. Perhaps you were afraid of her, or just uneasy around her. I don't think I would have been friends with Maddy, but I would have liked her.
When has curiosity gotten the best of you? When have you given in to temptation and regretted it?
It's amazing to think back to how we saw the world - how we believed everything we were told, giving little thought to the construction of the idea or thought behind it.
Fact # 4 - Alex continues to make his list of facts about Kaylee Cooper. At this point in the story, he begins to realize she isn't like the rest of the kids.
Alex makes a list of facts about Kaylee Cooper to help him understand her - to find a way to get her to leave him alone. The list becomes important to him as the facts begin to turn into qualities...unique qualities - qualities that build a clearer understanding of just who Kaylee Cooper really is.
Kaylee Cooper - a little girl in the first grade. She was different, and somehow Alex needed to make sense of it. He needed to find out why she behaved the way she did - he needed his social life back. Accepting differences is sometimes difficult if we don't understand them. In this case, there were some very good reasons why Alex needed to know more about her. Reasons that started touching on the paranormal...
Part of me wonders if I am just like the protagonist in this story. I thought of myself as a leader growing up, but man, there were times I would cave to peer-pressure. In this situation, the one where Alex decides to go to the House on Screaming Ridge - I think about myself in this situation. Would I go? Would you?
There was a kid in my sixth-grade class who always kept to herself. She was shy, quiet and really never spoke to anyone. I remember sitting with her on the bus once, wondering why she didn't like to talk - why she seemed to hate everyone. This girl...the girl reminds me of Madelyn Featherton - I picture her being the one telling Alex the story about Screaming Ridge.
I wanted Kaylee Cooper to be innocent but confident - cute, but annoying, funny but a royal pain in the butt....
This opening chapter gives you a glimpse into the heart of the story. I wanted the reader to know there is a serious, mysterious side, in contrast to the first few chapters which are lighter and humorous in it's tone.
Growing up I loved to camp. My neighbors and I would find the most remote spots in our community away from the comforts of our backyards. We'd spend hours sharing ghosts stories, convinced some of the local legends were real. This chapter introduces one of the narratives I recall my neighbor Danny telling, about the abandoned house at the end of our road. Every time he told us the story, we'd hide under our sleeping bags, nervous that 'someone' or 'something' was out there.
Many readers have told me this chapter is where the story takes it's first major shift from humor to mystery.
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